Cardinal Schönborn Says Church Must Meet All Families Where They Are

A top cardinal has endorsed the idea that the church support all families, including those not considered traditional by the Magisterium’s standard.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna made his remarks while attending a conference in Ireland entitled, “Let’s Talk Family: Let’s Be Family.” He told journalists, per The Catholic Herald: 

“Favouring the family does not mean disfavouring other forms of life – even those living in a same-sex partnership need their families. . .[Family is] the survival network of the future [and] will remain forever the basis of every society.”

Before the conference held in the city of Limerick, Schönborn addressed the idea of family as it relates specifically to Ireland, reported The Independent:

“‘Ireland is synonymous with family, a country that traditionally has had family at its core. . Second unions, divorce, same-sex unions; these are all part of a new narrative around the family in Ireland. So there is a lot of change and the church must show mercy in the context of that change. It must be willing to meet families where they are today.

“‘Ultimately, and this is certainly the case with Ireland, for all the crises in the institution of marriage the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people.'”

Schönborn added that “the weakening of family” threatens society and, as such, “Reinvigorating family is perhaps our great mission today.”

Schönborn’s comments are grounded in his understanding of moral theology. He expounded on this topic during his Irish visit, and Crux quoted the cardinal as saying, “Moral theology stands on two feet: Principles, and then the prudential steps to apply them to reality.” The report continued:

“The problem, he said, was that conscience came often to be seen merely as “the transposition of the Church’s teaching into acts” but in fact “the work of conscience is to discover that God’s law is not a foreign law imposed on me but the discovery that God’s will for me is what is best for me. But this must be an interior discovery.”

“He was ‘deeply moved’ when he read the famous paragraph 37 of Amoris, which complains that too often the Church fails to make room for the consciences of the faithful, and that the task of the Church is to ‘form consciences, not replace them.’

That meant understanding that people operated within constraints. . .’The bonum possibile in moral theology is an important concept that has been so often neglected,’ said Schönborn, adding: ‘What is the possible good that a person or a couple can achieve in difficult circumstances?'”

Grounding his remarks in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the cardinal summarized the document’s message as “marriage and family are possible today,” and said it was noteworthy that even when “everybody can get married. . .so many choose not to get married.”

About pastoral care to families, Schönborn said the reception of Amoris Laetitia is “a long process.” He criticized both rigorists and laxists “who have rapid, clear answers.” Accompaniment, the cardinal said citing St. Gregory the Great, “is an art and it needs training.” Indeed, he admitted the Synod on the Family and Amoris Laetitia were not a set of rules that would be applicable in all cases.

What is refreshing about Cardinal Schönborn’s remarks in Ireland is his willingness to admit reality, and then do theology from it amid life’s messiness rather than dictate from idealized models. Being the child of divorced parents likely helps his more merciful understanding of so-called irregular families. His desire to seek the good that is possible in all situations, including same-gender relationships, is too rare among church leaders.

Schönborn’s visit comes a year before Ireland hosts the 2018 World Meeting of Families, which could be accompanied by a papal visit. There may be no more fitting backdrop for the Catholic Church to consider family than Irish society, given its rapid changes, but this will only be true if church leaders are honest about the realities around them.

Hopefully, the next World Meeting of Families takes up Schönborn’s approach, and focuses on how the church can support all families instead of just those which fit the strict parameters of the Magisterium.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 21, 2017

Cardinal Tobin and Cardinal Dolan: Opposite Sides or Complex Figures?

The New York Times recently profiled two cardinals as representatives of “opposite sides” in the church.  The story notes that their opposition is symbolized by the fact that the cardinals are separated by the Hudson River:  Cardinal Joseph Tobin in Newark, NJ, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan in New York City, NY. Though several differences exist between the two men, their stances on LGBT issues have been among the most notable.

The Times opened the report by highlighting the books on homosexuality whic Tobin and Dolan chose to endorse. Tobin described Fr. James Martin, S.J.’s new book, Building a Bridge, as “brave, prophetic and inspiring.” For Dolan, the book to read was Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay,  a memoir of a celibate gay man, which the cardinal describes as an “honest account of the genuine struggles faced by those with same-sex attraction.” The Times commented:

“Neither man is out of step with church tenets, and both believe in a kind of ‘big tent’ Catholicism that reaches out to all, church experts said. As bishops, their beliefs are more alike than different.

“But comparisons are inevitable because Pope Francis placed Cardinal Tobin in the same major media market as Cardinal Dolan when he appointed him to Newark in November. There had never been a cardinal in Newark.”

The Times compares the cardinals on a range issues, which you can read in full here. In today’s post, I want to highlight more extensively their records on LGBT issues.

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Cardinal Joseph Tobin

On one side, there is the pastoral approach of Cardinal Tobin who was appointed to his current position by Pope Francis a year ago. Tobin recently welcomed a group of LGBT pilgrims to Newark’s cathedral, telling them in a message before the event, “I am delighted that you and the LGBTQ brothers and sisters plan to visit our beautiful cathedral. You will be very welcome!” He then greeted the pilgrims on the day of their visit, an experience one attendee said “felt like a miracle.

In 2016, asked about the spate of LGBT-related church worker firings, Tobin said employment concerns should be charitably dealt with on a case-by-case basis. While not ideal, his willingness to even comment on and show some concern with the firings far surpassed the ongoing silence of his episcopal colleagues.

Tobin’s involvement with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) also reveals his divergent approach on LGBT issues. He publicly challenged the USCCB’s decision this spring to change an ad hoc committee on religious liberty into a permanent one.  Religious liberty lissues often entail LGBT questions. Last year, he criticized the USCCB’s priorities, focusing on marriage and religious liberty, as being inconsistent with Pope Francis’ vision.

When a referendum banning same-gender marriage was proposed in Indiana, Tobin’s response avoided the hyperbolic and pastorally harmful language of so many bishops. Indeed, the archdiocesan spokesperson said Catholics “have the right to make their own decisions on these issues.” He also defended U.S. women religious when the Vatican launched its investigations against them, in part for their support of LGBT equality.

While Tobin defended the church’s teaching on marriage as a heterosexual institution and celibacy as the path to holiness for lesbian and gay people, he also said that he does not presume that anyone who presents themselves as lesbian or gay is sexually active.

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan

On the other side is Cardinal Dolan, whose record on LGBT issues is far more negative. He once wrote an odd anecdote on his blog about having to wash one’s hands before coming to dinner as a child. He then applied that story to lesbian and gay people who should “wash their hands” before coming to church because there should be “no dirty hands.”

Cardinal Dolan has been ambivalent about Pope Francis’ welcoming remarks to  LGBT people. When the pope offered his famous “Who am I to judge?” comment, Dolan parsed that by saying it was acceptable to judge people’s actions even if not their person.

In a 2013 interview, Dolan rejected claims that church leaders were anti-gay because they opposed marriage equality. He added that the hierarchy had just been “out marketed,” and that is why LGBT rights were expanding. That year he also remained silent about a sharp rise in anti-LGBT hate crimes that happened in New York City.

In 2012, Dolan led an apostolic visitation of an Irish seminary that he criticized for being “gay-friendly.” It was under his leadership that year that the USCCB launched its first “Fortnight for Freedom,” which attempts to defend religious liberty, but it also undermines LGBT equality.

But Dolan’s record is not all bad. When the St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York first accepted LGBT groups in 2014, the cardinal defended their inclusion, and he withstood criticism from conservative Catholics for marching in those events. On television, Dolan said it was good that NFL draft prospect Michael Sam came out as a gay. In other appearance, he told lesbian and gay people, “I love you, too. And God loves you.

What may be most significant going forward is not their existing records, but this crucial difference noted by The Times:

“Informed by their views and personalities, the two took different paths to the highest reaches of the church. Cardinal Dolan took the route of the institutional insider, becoming a diocesan priest, which does not require a vow of poverty, then earning a doctorate in church history. He served at the Vatican’s embassy to Washington, and later he became the rector of the main seminary for American priests in Rome. . .

“Cardinal Tobin, in contrast, wanted to travel the world as a missionary. He took a vow of poverty and joined the Redemptorists, the religious order that ran his home parish in Detroit and focuses on ministering to those on society’s margins. He became an administrator and ultimately superior general of his worldwide order, based in Rome.”

By elevating Tobin to a cardinal in such close proximity to Dolan, Pope Francis clearly indicated his preference for the cardinal who “smelled like the sheep,” a phrase the pope has used to express the kind of bishop he prefers. It is noteworthy that, this article aside, Cardinal Dolan has not been making national headlines when at one time he was the voice of the U.S. bishops.

My biggest takeaway from The Times piece and reviewing their records is this: though clearly divergent approaches, there is complexity in each cardinal, and in that complexity the possibility that both can grow to become more welcoming of LGBT people. Maybe the best next step for them is to cross the Hudson and to dialogue with one another, sharing the wisdom they have gathered through different paths and finding an approach together for the good of the people of God.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 19, 2017

Related article:

Crux: “Real story on Dolan and Tobin in NY? Try ‘America Past Acrimony’ “

Cardinal: Focus on Church’s Failure to Defend Gay Rights, Not Marriage Equality

In contrast to many Catholic leaders, a ranking German cardinal has said the church should be more concerned with the way lesbian and gay people are discriminated against than with marriage equality.

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Cardinal Reinhard Marx

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, who heads the German Bishops’ Conference, made his remarks in an interview with Augsburger Allgemeine , a major Bavarian newspaper.

Marx rejected conservative church voices who have claimed that marriage equality will have dire social consequences in Germany after legislators approved lit earlier this month. While upholding the Magisterium’s heteronormative teaching on marriage, Marx chided critics, according to La Croix:

“‘[It is worth recalling] that the Church has not exactly been a trailblazer as far as the rights of homosexuals are concerned. We must express our regret that we did nothing to oppose homosexuals from being prosecuted. The law (which made homosexuality a crime) was not rescinded until 1994 (in Germany) and we, as a Church, did not concern ourselves with it.'”

Marx, who is a close advisor of Pope Francis, also commented on the key distinction between church and state, as it relates to lawmaking:

“‘The Christian position is one thing. It’s another thing to ask if I can make all the Christian moral concepts (state) laws. . .Whoever fails to understand that the one does not automatically lead to the other, has not understood the essence of modern society.'”

Pressed on this question by the interviewer, Marx reiterated his point that the church does not “simply want to mold our opinions into laws.”  Marx explained:

““We live in an open society in which there are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and non-believers. In a secular society, the state must make laws that are valid for everyone.”

The interviewer also asked whether the passage of marriage equality proved the church had lost its influence in the public realm. Marx replied:

“‘Surely Christian influence doesn’t show itself only in laws, but in the everyday values that are lived in society. It is not merely a case of our influence but of those concerns, the Gospels oblige us as Christians to carry out. . .We don’t only lobby for the Church!'”

Marx did express support for a legal appeal before the nation’s Supreme Court, but interestingly his welcome of the appeal was so that it would “be good for legal peace in Germany.” This statement could imply that he would accept whatever the Court’s ruling might be.

The German bishops’ overall response to the legalization of marriage equality has been quite nuanced, and in such a way that it is a sign of positive change in the church. In his statement on the issue, Archbishop Heiner Koch disapproved of marriage equality while recognizing a need to protect same-gender couples who exhibit “mutual responsibility and care” in their relationships.

As for Cardinal Marx, his record on LGBT issues has been somewhat ambivalent but is increasingly positive. Last year, Marx said history had treated gay people badly, such that “as church and as society we have to say sorry.” During the Synod on the Family, he was one of the leading voices for greater welcome and pastoral outreach to lesbian and gay people. He has also called for a re-thinking of sexual ethics around homosexuality which takes into account the reality of people’s lives and relationships.

At the same time, including in these most recent comments, Marx has continued to advance heterosexual couples as having a “special relationship, and firmly rejected the idea that same-gender relationships could be blessed in the church.

Nonetheless, it is very good news that a church leader as high-ranking as Cardinal Marx would publicly voice what so many Catholics have lived by for years: the church’s primary treatment of LGBT issues should come not from sexual ethics, but from social justice.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 18, 2017

On New Catholic LGBT Book, Jamie Manson and Archbishop Chaput Find Common Ground

Fr. James Martin, S.J. seeks to build bridges with his new book on Catholic LGBT issues. While it may not be a bridge, in two new reviews, he has certainly brought together two very different Catholics: lesbian Catholic advocate Jamie Manson and Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput.

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Jamie Manson

Manson reviewed the book, Building a Bridge, in her column at National Catholic Reporter. She opened by describing the book as a “storybook” which looks inviting but, she added, for LGBT activists it “may also read like fiction.” In the review, she criticized Martin for his more positive portrayal of the hierarchy:

“Martin is hardly the first Catholic, nor the first Jesuit, to write about the LGBT experience in the church. But he may be the first to write about the topic from such a privileged position inside the institutional church. . .His remarkable access to church leaders prompts him to make one of the boldest claims in the book:

‘Many in the institutional church want to reach out to [the LGBT] community, but seem somewhat confused about how to do so. Yes, I know it seems that there are some who don’t seem to want to reach out, but all the bishops I know are sincere in their desire for true pastoral outreach.’

“There are a lot of ‘seems’ in those two sentences, and they seem to suggest that LGBT Catholics, in their lack of access to the power center of the church, are simply ignorant of what’s really going on in the hearts of these men.”

Manson noted evidence to the contrary, including bishops’ silence after the Pulse Nightclub massacre which Martin said in part prompted him to accept New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building award which led to the book’s publication.

Manson also queried Martin’s treatment of homosexuality in the priesthood and religious life. The author sets up what Manson described as a “catch-22” in which he claims both that many priests and bishops are themselves gay, but also that this same group of clergy do not know LGBT people. Manson commented:

“Martin should be applauded for speaking so forthrightly about the prevalence of gay men among the clergy, but he doesn’t really reckon with the fact that it is precisely the clerical closet that makes the hierarchy’s oppression of LGBT people so outrageous and intolerable. So many bishops and priests lie about their own sexualities, some even carry on same-sex relationships, while sitting in judgment over LGBT people who are trying to live their lives honestly.”

She then addressed Martin’s encouragement for LGBT people to improve relations with clergy by  showing church leaders respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Manson responded that church leaders’ actions are too often “an abuse of power” by which, despite LGBT Catholics and their families good faith efforts, bishops have frequently dismissed Catholics’ concerns. She continued:

“More than 40 years of struggle should have taught us by now that compassion, respect and sensitivity are not enough to bring about a truly just relationship between bishops and LGBT Catholics. Even with these three virtues in play, bishops still have the power to judge and negatively impact the lives of LGBT Catholics, while operating in secrecy and lying about their own sexualities. And LGBT Catholics are expected to bear their souls to their religious leaders and beg to be heard, while also, ultimately, remaining voiceless and officially condemned by their church.”

Manson was not hopeful about the proposed bridge because she believes that even though it was most likely unintended to do so, Martin’s book shows “just how radical the lack of mutuality is between LGBT Catholics and the bishops.” She concluded:

“[F]or reconciliation to take place, it would require not simply compassion, respect and sensitivity, but a mutuality of vulnerability, self-disclosure, honesty and authenticity. . .As long as that imbalance persists, it’s hard to imagine how these roads can ever truly meet and how the bridge can possibly hold.”

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Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Chaput is also critical of Building a Bridge. Though his appraisal is not the same as Manson’s, he likewise questions the text for not dealing more substantively with the what he understands to be the real issues involving homosexuality and the church.

Writing at CatholicPhilly.com, Chaput said the book is “written with skill and good will,” and that Martin’s exhortation for both sides to be respectful “makes obvious sense.” He then explained:

“But what the text regrettably lacks is an engagement with the substance of what divides faithful Christians from those who see no sin in active same-sex relationships.  The Church is not simply about unity – as valuable as that is – but about unity in God’s love rooted in truth.

“If the Letter to the Romans is true, then persons in unchaste relationships (whether homosexual or heterosexual) need conversion, not merely affirmation.  If the Letter to the Romans is false, then Christian teaching is not only wrong but a wicked lie.  Dealing with this frankly is the only way an honest discussion can be had.”

It is safe to say that Jamie Manson and Charles Chaput almost always find themselves on opposite ends of the ecclesial spectrum. What is interesting in these reviews is their agreement that the book has some good points, but also that the book failed to address key substantive issues, thereby weakening any attempt to build bridges.

The similarity between these reviewers raises two questions: Does attempting to build a bridge mean that both opposing camps will be dissatisfied?  How do you build a bridge that makes opposing camps both feel that their concerns are addressed fairly?

Bondings 2.0 will continue to provide more reviews of the book as they appear.

y450-293If you have reading Building a Bridge, what do you think? Leave your thoughts in the “Comments” section below. You can read our coverage of previous reviews in the following posts:

Fr. James Martin Responds to Critics of New Book on LGBT Issues

David Cloutier, a theologian, on “The Ignatian Option”

Lesbian Catholic Eve Tushnet’s review in The Washington Post

New Catholic LGBT Book is Praised by High Church Leaders

To read Bondings 2.0’s full coverage about Fr. James Martin’s involvement on LGBT issues, click here.

You can order Fr. Martin’s book by clicking here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 16, 2017

QUOTE TO NOTE: How Gay Bars and Churches are Safe and Sacred Places

When Orlando, Florida newspaper columnist Justin Mitchell visited the Pulse Nightclub memorial this past June, it stirred him to remember the 49 victims who were killed there. It also stirred him to reflect on how gay nightclubs and churches can be quite similar spaces.

club-church-amsterdamMitchell, writing in the Sun Herald, described his journey as a gay man who was raised Catholic. There were positive moments in youth group when church elevated him in prayer, and there was also “the moment I fell out of love with mass” as pastors criticized marriage equality. There was the progressive church in college that welcomed him, and then the rejection by a former parishioner in his hometown. All of this came back to Mitchell as he watched prayer candles burn at the Pulse memorial. He reflected:

“The point of all of this, though, is that I lit that prayer candle and was brought back to my days in church. Because what many don’t realize is that a gay bar is exactly like church in many ways for the LGBTQ+ community. They both are safe spaces where its members can let go and be vulnerable. They can share their most suppressed feelings, whether it’s holding a man’s hand or praying to the man upstairs. It’s a place where, above all, you don’t feel like anything bad is going to happen to you.”

Many people around the world remembered the Pulse anniversary last month. Catholics lamented one bishop’s decree released on that very day which bans married lesbian and gay people from the most important aspects of church life.

As we move forward, these violations (and others that come to mind) of safe and sacred places are our propellants to work even harder so that there will be places like clubs and churches where all are welcome to be who they are.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 15, 2017

Malta, an Officially Catholic Nation, Passes Marriage Equality Law

In yet another LGBT equality advance for the officially Catholic nation of Malta, that nation’s parliament legalized same-gender this week.

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A celebration of marriage equality’s passage in Malta.

Legislators passed the Marriage Act in a 66-1 vote, building on the 2014 passage of civil unions for same-gender couples.

The new law’s language says it seeks “to modernise the institution of marriage and ensure that all consenting, adult couples have the legal right to enter into marriage.” The Washington Post reported:

“[Prime Minister Joseph] Muscat had said it would be ‘discriminatory’ to have separate laws for mixed and same-sex couples. So the amendments to existing laws included eliminating any reference to ‘husband and wife.’ In its place is now the gender-neutral term ‘spouse’ to cover all situations.

“The law also calls for the removal of the terms ‘father’ and ‘mother,’ to be substituted by ‘parents.’ Lesbian couples who have children via medical interventions are distinguished by the terms ‘the person who gave birth’ and ‘the other parent.'”

Passing the law allows Maltese society to affirm that now “we are equal,” said Muscat, who made passage of marriage equality a hallmark of his party’s campaign in elections this past June.

Gabi Calleja of the Malta Gay Rights Movement said this victory was particularly meaningful because, for most same-gender couples, marriage, and not civil unions, is “the institution that best expresses the commitment and love they have for each other.”

Unlike in many other nations where civil marriage equality has been considered, Malta’s bishops remained relatively quiet about the issue. Last month, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta did speak  in defense of a heteronormative understanding of marriage, saying marriage equality would be “lamentable.”

But the nation’s bishops failed to include the issue in their 2017 election letter, and even publicly distanced themselves from a newspaper ad from anti-equality Catholics that used extreme rhetoric. These actions build on their LGBT-positive record, which includes apologizing for initial support of conversion therapy and not punishing a priest who blessed a same-gender couples’ relationship.

The bishops have also listened closely to members of the Catholic LGBT groups Drachma and Drachma Parents. Indeed, Bishop Mario Grech said his encounter with parents helped him understand the urgent need for new pastoral care of LGBT people.

Marriage equality’s passage is but the latest step for LGBT equality taken by the small island nation: it passed a law on transgender and intersex rights that is considered the gold standard in Europe; it was the first nation in Europe to ban conversion therapy; it has welcomed an openly transgender legislator; and it has witnessed true dialogue happen between the bishops and other Catholics.

More than 90% of Maltese citizens identify as Catholic, including the prime minister, and Roman Catholicism remains the state religion in the nation’s Constitution. What happened in Malta is historic not only for the people of that nation, but for Catholics worldwide. Celebrating marriage equality in another highly-Catholic nation is a reminder, once again, that Catholics support LGBT rights because of and not in spite of their faith. In February, I wrote about the lessons Malta can teach other Catholic nations, which you can find here. This week, those lessons are doubly true.

Congratulations to Maltese LGBT Catholics, their families, and allies–and, indeed, to all in Malta!

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 14, 2017

Catholic Groups Object to Bishop Paprocki’s Anti-Gay Decree

Weeks after an Illinois bishop announced pastoral guidelines that bar people in same-gender marriages from church life, Catholics continue to object while the bishop has begun responding to critics.

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Reform organizations’ letter to Bishop Paprocki

Catholic Church reform organizations sent a letter to Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield to express their disappointment about his decree which would, among other prohibitions, bar Catholics in same-gender marriages from having funerals. The letter read, in part:

“As communities of Catholics, we were shocked and gravely disappointed at the decree you recently promulgated. . .The Church, at its best, is a haven, a source of spiritual nourishment in a sometimes harsh world. In times of confusion, loss and grief, the Sacraments are especially valued for the strength and grace they provide to all who wish to avail themselves of them. It is disheartening to us as Catholics that our family would forego such cherished ideals in favor of mean and unkind policies.”

The organizations wrote they “decry the rancor and derision that has become such a pervasive part of public life and community,” and expect the church to be a refuge in troubled times. The fourteen organizations include Call to Action, DignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry. Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, who has written an open letter to the bishop which you can read here, commented to WGLT 89.1:

“The reaction has run the gamut from anger to shock to real disgust at such a Draconian prohibition against lesbian and gay people, especially in this era of Pope Francis where more and more Catholic leaders are making gestures of welcome. . .People feel there are so many other areas the church declares as sin that are not included in this prohibition, such as greed, militarism, racism and support for the death penalty.”

Women-Church Convergence, a coalition of Catholic feminist groups, released its own pastoral letter to the people of Springfield to “offer words of comfort” to LGBTQI persons and their families. The letter read, in part:

“The Decree misses the signal importance of public, joyfully celebrated baptisms of babies, young people, and adults as they become part of our community. It ignores the welcome table that is the Eucharist. And, it dishonors the dead who are denied church funerals not because of sin but because of love. Let especially your young people hear us sing atop our voices, ‘All are welcome.'”

In a statement, Deborah Rose-Milavec of FutureChurch said Paprocki’s “harsh tactics defy the Gospel and deny the God’s own people the love, care, and acceptance that we are called to offer one another.”

While the National Catholic Reporter noted that few bishops are willing to offer criticism of another publicly, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego did support San Jose’s Bishop Patrick McGrath who released a communique to pastoral ministers in his diocese that said all Catholics would be welcome to the sacraments. McElroy commented:

“‘I think that is the appropriate policy that I would hope the priests would observe, especially in the times of funerals, but more broadly in the sense of regular pastoral action in support of men and women who are in all states of lives and who have all sorts of challenges. . .Our fundamental stance has to be one of inclusion in the church, especially during a time of burial.'”

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Contact Bishop Paprocki about his decree

In the face of criticism from many quarters, Bishop Paprocki is speaking out in defense of his decree through a diocesan statement, a column in the diocesan newspaper, and an interview. NCR reported about the interview:

“. . .Paprocki states that he was surprised by the attention the decree received as it is ‘a rather straightforward application of existing Church teaching and canon law.’ He also said he has ‘received many supportive comments and assurances of prayer,’ including ‘positive reactions’ from the priests in the diocese.

“When the online news magazine asked about Martin’s Facebook post, Paprocki said, ‘Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those remarks.'”

Paprocki also clarified that his decree applied not to lesbian and gay people generally, but specifically to those persons who had entered into civil same-gender marriages. He added that even someone in such a marriage could be fully admitted to the sacraments “if they repent and renounce their ‘marriage.’ ”

Responding to DeBernardo’s open letter, which suggested people would leave the church because of such exclusive policies, Paprocki told Catholic World Report “the real issue is not how many people will come to church, but how to become holy, how to become a saint.” The bishop added, “It is disappointing when people leave the Church, just as it surely must have been disappointing for Jesus when people walked away from Him.”

Such clarifications are doing little to pacify the bishop’s critics. The look to his lengthy LGBT-negative record for proof that this decree is but one instance among many harmful actions. You can read about Paprocki’s full record by clicking here.

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John Freml

John Freml, a married gay Catholic in Springfield, told WGLT 89.1 he was “disappointed and very hurt” by the decree. But, Freml added, the church is not simply the bishops but the entire people of God. He was supported while coming out at a Catholic high school, and he and his husband have found welcome at their parish where “we didn’t make any effort to hide who we were.”

To read more Catholic reactions to Paprocki’s decree, click here and here.

New Ways Ministry continues to recommend you contact Bishop Paprocki, and we encourage you to communicate honestly, personally, and civilly with him. 

Contact information:

Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Catholic Pastoral Center

1615 West Washington Street

Springfield, Illinois 62702-4757

Phone: (217) 698-8500

Email:  tjpaprocki@dio.org

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 13, 2017