Bishop Paprocki Responds to Newspaper Letter on Communion Distribution

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John Freml

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, has implicitly critiqued the recent comments by Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago on the matter of conscience and the distribution of communion.

Paprocki responded to a letter to the editor of a local newspaper which had supported Cupich’s inclusive approach.  The supportive letter, written by John Freml, coordinator of the Equally Blessed coalition, was published by The State Journal-Register.  Freml praised Cupich’s advice that Catholics, including LGBT ones, must make their own conscience decision about whether or not to receive Communion and added that the church must respect this decision. You can read more about Cupich’s remarks by clicking here.

Freml noted further that, despite conservative opinions to the contrary, a properly formed conscience is not necessarily a conscience in harmony with magisterial teaching. Inviting more Catholics to communion, Equally Blessed’s coordinator concluded:

“In fact, the church has a rich history of saints who have stood up to church leaders in good conscience, including St. Joan of Arc and St. Catherine of Siena. . .I hope that local Catholics who have previously refrained from participating in communion will take to heart Jesus’ message: ‘Take this, all of you, and eat it.’ Remember that Jesus welcomed everyone to the table without condition, even Judas.”

Bishop Thomas Paprocki cropped

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Bishop Paprocki, known for his strong negative rhetoric on LGBT issues, including exorcism against marriage equality, responded in The State Journal-Register with his own letter.

Paprocki contradicted Archbishop Cupich’s claims about conscience. He suggested that only those who “recognize and repent of their sins” through the Sacrament of Reconciliation are actually in good conscience. He cited Canon 915 in his advocacy to deny Communion to those who are in same-gender marriages to, in his words:

“protect both the Sacrament from the risk of possible sacrilege and the faith community from the harm of scandal caused by someone’s public conduct that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Paprocki cited the new English translations of the Mass which state that Jesus died “for you and for many” in his conclusion to suggest that, while Jesus welcomes all, “not everyone accepts what Christ offers” like Judas. On a technical note, the “for many” cited is a disputed change in those new Mass translations, as the Latin phrase used for “many” actually implies an uncountable multitude synonymous with the “for all” in older translations.

While Bishop Paprocki’s argument challenged Cupich’s, his comments can also be seen as opposed to Pope Francis. Actions like zealously citing Canon Law to deny the sacraments are precisely what the pope has repeatedly criticized.

Catholics’ response to Bishop Paprocki should be precisely what Freml suggested: to answer Jesus’ call for all to come and be nourished regardless of who we are, from where we are coming, or how we ended up at the altar.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

14 Responses to Bishop Paprocki Responds to Newspaper Letter on Communion Distribution

  1. Rudy Bullman says:

    Please, good Bishop, tell us specifically what Jesus teaches us about homosexuality.

  2. This whole matter of conscience, raised at the Family Synod in the context of remarriage after divorce, is of immense importance. The synod assembly did not in any way change the doctrine on divorce, nor on the question of communion. Bishop Paprocki is absolutely correct that doctrine says communion should be denied to anyone in a state of “grave sin”. The real question here is, who and how are we to judge what constitutes grave sin? He is wrong to assume that this applies to anyone not in conformity with the Catechism. The simple fact is, that in terms of doctrine itself, an action which is taken in good conscience cannot be sinful.

    In a recent interview with Lifesite News, the theologian to the papal household discussed this in some detail, and also the core issue of the formation of conscience. Essentially, he said that this requires the application of reason, taking “all factors” into account. That certainly includes the formal teaching of the catechism, but it also takes into account the findings of science, and personal circumstances – such as inherent affectional and sexual orientation. For my report at Queering the Church on his interview, see “What is the formation of conscience?” ( http://queerchurch.com/?p=46380 )

  3. Tom says:

    A recent comment in the New York Times, speaking about the Church, said: ” If they do believe the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ, they shouldn’t be denying communion to anyone.”

    • Friends says:

      Which is pretty much the ideological tenet of our sibling Anglican and Episcopal Churches. Who exactly does Paprocki think he is — to sit in rash judgment over the good faith and good conscience of baptized, confirmed and professing Church-attending Catholics? Something is clouding and compromising his pastoral attitude and judgment. I really wish Pope Francis would deal with this man’s pastoral dysfunctions, just as he dealt with those of Cardinal Burke.

      • Brian Kneeland says:

        Sadly – I know where you are coming from! I prefer the local Episcopal parish that is totally welcoming! Part of that also has to do with this new translation that is so foreign! But the year of mercy has turned into the year of judgment for this bishop!

  4. Brian Kneeland says:

    sadly the bishop misses what a well-formed conscience is! Because one who disagrees with a clear conscience from church teaching does not need to “confess” anything! I guess the bishop was absent from that class while in seminary!

  5. FRANTHONY says:

    I believe the Mass is God’s celebration and God is inviting us to the party. It would be an insult to say no.

  6. brianmhager says:

    I am a “catholic-in-exile,” by my own choice. As long as there are bishops like this man speaking for the church in America, I will not be a part of the “normative” church. I see no charity there.

  7. pjnugent says:

    Shortly after the “new” Roman Missal was published, the German bishops reacted to this precise item – Christ died for “some” or “all”. They argued that it is “all”. Benedict XVI responded, if I remember correctly that they were right. Our theology says Jesus died for all, but the Missal was intended to reflect what the authors believed to be a better translation from the Latin. So even the untra-conservative Benedict opined that the theology we hold and teach says he died for all. Paprocki is out of sinc even with the conservative pope emeritus.

    • johnkeenan says:

      Christ died for “all” in the sense that His Sacrifice opened the doors of Heaven for all. In other words, the Redemption. Christ died for the “many” in the sense that He ultimately died for those who choose to obey His commandments and to do His will.

      • Friends says:

        Great points, John. I’d simply highlight that Jesus Himself never said a single word about faithfully-partnered same-sex relationships. All of this “midrash” — i.e., the Hebrew word for “scholarly commentary on the Scriptures” — represents the cultural opinions of the commentators themselves. And when those commentators attempt to impose their own private social opinions (or prejudices) upon the words of Jesus, without any New Testament foundation for doing so, they have no inherent credibility. Burke and Paprocki are “QED” in that regard. Their private and personal opinions are THEIR OWN — and have nothing to do with the recorded teachings of Jesus Himself.

      • FRANTHONY says:

        Seems to me that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John put their own spin on the words of Jesus. Are they his or are they theirs. In any case I believe this is what God wants us to know.

  8. FRANTHONY says:

    De Gustibus non disputandem

  9. Austin says:

    It is too bad Bishop Paprocki has not evolved his thoughts on GLBT individuals. He otherwise has done some commendable work, and he wrote a book in 2013 about Catholic teens and sports, which I own. In the last chapter of that book, he quotes two other priests who talk about how important it is to lighten up, and how one of the most special things about Catholicism is that it brings together an incredible range of people and has a rich intellectual tradition. Your eminence, part of intellectual tradition is the ability to have diverse opinions and to be open-minded toward the opinions of others. GLBT people are part of the grand diversity of the church. We are part of our parishes and our faith for many of the same reasons as you cited in your book; maybe we have even traveled a harder road to stay committed to our faith. Please have an open mind and release your hardened stance on this.

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