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Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 12:20 am

Paprocki vs. unions

The Holy Goalie shoots and scores

 Bishop Thomas Paprocki has curious ways of looking at the world.

Homosexuality is sinful. Muslims are the enemy. Exorcism works.

These sorts of stances have earned Paprocki plenty of WTFs since he came to Springfield eight years ago. He’s a hardliner’s hardliner, the sort who, if he managed in the American League, would send the pitcher to the plate because the designated hitter rule is fundamentally wrong.

The bishop has a remarkable capacity to accommodate, as he did when he allowed a priest to resume churchly duties after the reverend, gagged, handcuffed and clad in an orange jumpsuit, somehow called 911 from a rectory and was rescued by Springfield cops. Then again, Paprocki is a stickler, refusing to let U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin participate in communion because the senator supports abortion rights. Furthermore, the bishop says, parishioners who are denied communion or even excommunicated remain obligated to attend Mass, if not pony up when the collection plate comes around. Talk about a welcoming church.

It would be wrong to call the bishop a blind hog, but you should gather acorns when they fall. And Paprocki lately has been served a plateful of nuts by the head of the Illinois Education Association.

Characteristically, the bishop lit the fuse by writing a column in the diocese newspaper, reprinted last month by the State Journal-Register, stating his opposition to a United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ decision to support unions in the case of Mark Janus, the Springfield man who won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ends mandatory contributions to public-sector unions by government workers. Paprocki’s stance was clear: He differed from his colleagues on grounds that unions, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, defendant in the Janus case, have given money to Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions and campaigns for abortion rights via the organization’s political action committees.

“Forcing public employees to subsidize unions that promote such immoral policies and activities is just not right,” the bishop wrote.

I hadn’t been aware that unions, public sector or otherwise, had given money to Planned Parenthood, so I combed New York Times archives. Nothing. But the internet otherwise is filled with articles, nearly all published by Christian or politically conservative websites, about AFSCME and other unions giving big money to Planned Parenthood or its various PACs. During the 2016 election cycle, the American Federation of Teachers gave $350,000 to Planned Parenthood Votes, a political action committee that can raise and spend unlimited amounts to further the goals of Planned Parenthood per se, a nonprofit organization that isn’t supposed to dally in politics. The difference is negligible, as unions acknowledge.

“(T)he American Federation of Teachers stands with Planned Parenthood and the millions who depend on its health care services, including contraception, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and legal, safe abortions,” the union declared in 2016 resolution that condemned “the decades-long assault on Planned Parenthood by anti-abortion groups.”

I’m a fan of unions and Planned Parenthood. I’ve read A Narrative of Hosea Hudson: His Life As A Negro Communist In The South (if ever a labor organizer had it tough, Hudson did), and I voted in favor of unionization at a newspaper where I once worked. I’ve also donated money to Planned Parenthood. But I can’t fathom what Planned Parenthood has to do with labor unions. An op-ed piece by Kathi Griffin, Illinois Education Association president, written in response to Paprocki’s column and published last week by the SJ-R, was not enlightening.

It was more dogmatic than didactic, with Griffin scolding Paprocki for parting ways with other bishops and defending unions as guardians of everything that’s good about America. “As someone who has embraced the official title ‘The Holy Goalie,’ you should be able to appreciate unions as the last line of defense for the middle class,” Griffin ranted. Not once did she mention the “a” word or otherwise address Paprocki’s points about abortion and unions giving money to Planned Parenthood. I’m guessing she had no good answer.

We live in fractured times. I’m supposing this might be why unions, called out by the bishop, ended up with Griffin mounting the defense. After all, neither the Illinois Education Association nor the National Education Association has given money to Planned Parenthood, insofar as I could find out – it’s not us, it’s those other guys, Griffin can say. On the other hand, the NEA has given money to the Sierra Club, also a fine organization, but one that would seem to have little to do with battling right-to-work laws or negotiating collective bargaining agreements.

It’s one thing for unions to give money to Democrats – they’ve shown a propensity to support organized labor and negotiate contracts that unions hold up as examples for the world to emulate. That’s a justifiable quid pro quo. But giving money to organizations – be it Planned Parenthood or the Sierra Club or the Boy Scouts -- that aren’t within a sneeze of the bargaining table is ripe fish. As deeply as some support abortion rights, other good people believe that abortion is murder, and no one wants their money going to killers. It’s a debate that doesn’t belong in the labor movement, and for union officials to sidestep the question merely shows that, even after Janus, some folks still don’t get it.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.


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