Australian Priest To Vote “Yes” for Marriage Equality

A high-profile priest in Australia has come out in favor of marriage equality amid a heated national debate over the issue, and his comments have been well received by Catholics.

Fr. Frank Brennan, SJ, endorsed marriage equality in the lead up to Australia’s non-binding plebiscite that will be conducted by mail this fall. Speaking at a lecture delivered in memory of famed Labor politician Lionel Bowen, himself a Catholic, Brennan told attendees:

“Though a committed Catholic, I could vote ‘yes’ in a survey on same sex marriage while hoping and demanding that the parliament do the hard work on religious freedoms when considering amendments to the Marriage Act. I am one of those Australians who will be pleased when same-sex marriages are recognised by Australian law but with adequate protection for religious freedoms.”

Brennan, who heads Catholic Social Services Australia and is a law professor, offered three observations to critics of his position. First, he noted that civil marriage is a contract that is already inconsistent with Catholic sacramental marriage because it is not permanent and does not need to be open to children.

Second, he said:

“With civil marriage being expanded to include same sex couples as contract partners in countries like UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand, there will be an increasing number of couples civilly married in those countries living in Australia. It will be more and more difficult to deny recognition of those civil marriages here in Australia when the couples are ageing and needing spousal rights and recognition in hospital etc.”

Third, children raised by same-gender couples deserve “a society where there is a public commitment to respect and affirmation of their family arrangements.” Brennan concluded his remarks on marriage equality with these words:

“Those of us who are Catholic have multiple affiliations. We are members of the Catholic Church affirming the sacramentality of marriage as defined by our Church and we are citizens of a pluralistic democratic society under the rule of law affirming the legitimacy of committed relationships which are solemnised at law in the hope of contributing to the well-being of the couple and of their children.”

Brennan has been outspoken on LGBT issues, including his 2015 foresight that any vote on marriage equality like the current plebiscite would be “very nasty” and would “unleash torrents of hate on the gay and lesbian community.” This year, negative campaigning has appeared which denigrates LGBT people. In Melbourne, hate speech quoting the research of a Catholic priest appeared on a poster. The possibility of church worker firings has been raised by at least one bishop [Editor’s note: The church worker firings story was initially reported as a direct threat, but was later clarified to be more general].

Brennan also supported civil unions for same-gender couples as early as 2011, and later argued for the separation of civil and sacramental marriage.

In contrast to Brennan’s well-received endorsement of marriage equality, students and alumni at a Catholic school in Melbourne reacted negatively when the local pastor encouraged parents to vote against equality. Fr. Joseph Abatu made his opposition to marriage equality public in the newsletter for St. Peter’s College Cranbourne. Critics reacted strongly on social media against Abatu’s intervention in the school community, reported TenPlay:

“[Alum Nate Bicey said,] In the class of 2004. . .there is at least 7 that have come out LGBTQI. It’s really disappointing to see you dishonour not just past students but today’s and tomorrow’s. . .I just hope for your sake no one in this school becomes a statistic of youth taking there [sic] life for not feeling equal and the school announcing that they are not.”

While the school includes sexuality in its non-discrimination statement, alum Val Bucky Barbosa said there was much bullying when they attended and “the school chose to do nothing.”

Polling shows Australian Catholics’ opinions are very much in line with Fr. Brennan’s “yes” vote, and few Catholics support LGBT-negative church officials like Abatu. Indeed, Queering the Church reported that two-thirds of Catholics were supportive of marriage equality. As usual, such support is because of Catholics’ faith, not in spite of it. Fr. Brennan’s comments during the lecture helpfully enrich the public reasons for why Catholics are so supportive when drawing from our faith tradition’s riches.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 6, 2017

 

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Hate Speech in Australia Marriage Debate a Moment for Catholic Reflection

The Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry (RCIA), a coalition of LGBTI affirming Catholic groups and pastoral organizers, this past week released a statement of concern about harsh messages that have begun appearing in the lead up to the nation’s non-binding plebiscite on marriage equality this fall.

rcia-logo-official-v1On last Thursday, Bondings 2.0 reported on a neo-Nazi poster bearing hate speech that appeared in Melbourne. The poster cited a Catholic priest’s discredited research that claims children with same-gender parents suffer disproportionately higher rates of abuse and addiction than those raised by heterosexual parents.

We also reported on Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart’s threat that he would fire church workers who entered civil same-gender marriages should that become a legal option. Archbishop Timothy Costelloe has since clarified those remarks, though not before a major Catholic healthcare provider released a statement affirming its LGBT employees.

Though Australians overwhelmingly support marriage equality, the plebiscite has instigated an increasingly harmful debate. That is why RCIA released both a peaceful guide for forming one’s conscience on the issue, and appealed for civility and respect especially from church leaders. Its statement said, in part:

“We are acutely aware that suggestions that LGBTI people are in some way campaigning against the rights of other Australians is both deeply hurtful and victimizes the already marginalised. Because of this, some LGBTI Catholics feel disheartened. They are disappointed and confused that some of their spiritual leaders seem not to realise the pain they cause by their language.

“Many have expressed shock and distress over the disturbing collaboration by some church leaders with the Coalition for Marriage whose position implies LGBTI people are to blame for demanding their civil rights. For many this has been very difficult and has caused harm. As is always the case, harm experienced by LGBTI people is also reflected in their families, friends, colleagues and allies.”

The voting guide asked Catholics to form their consciences by thinking about church teachings on inclusion and non-discrimination. It also rejected claims that marriage equality would threaten the church’s teaching on sacramental marriage or impair religious freedom. The guide included these points as well:

“v)  To reflect on what social justice means in the context of the appalling history of violence and abuse against LGBTI persons both in the church and in civic society. . .

“vii)  Consider the human rights of LGBTI people to have equal access to society’s civil institutions including civil marriage.

“viii)  To consider as Catholic Christians how you can protect and support LGBTI persons and their loved ones from discrimination, prejudice, harm and abuse.”

At least one bishop has endorsed the idea that Catholics should vote and follow their conscience. Bishop Michael McKenna of Bathurst said, as quoted in the Daily Liberal:

“Catholics will be informed by their beliefs in marriage according to their faith and that will lead some to vote no but others might say that this is what I believe as a Catholic but for various reasons vote yes. . .I think there are different opinions about changing the law on marriage among all people.”

Two weeks agoBondings 2.0 reported on the central role which Catholic voices are playing in Australia’s ongoing debate over marriage equality. In a moment when right-wing extremism is resurgent in the world, these damaging incidents in Australia are a moment to pause for reflection, and focus on appeals to conscience.

Church officials like Archbishop Hart, along with other prominent Catholics like former prime minister Tony Abbott, a marriage equality opponent, should ask what their impact is on LGBT people’s lives when they promote harmful misinformation and discredited science. They should consider the message of Bishop McKenna that respects the agency of Catholics who properly form and live by their conscience.

All Catholics should consider whether the Church’s mission is to stymie equal human rights for all people or to firmly resist hate in every place and in every moment where it surfaces. Do we really want to be a church where bishops threaten devoted LGBT church workers while remaining silent about hate speech targeting LGBT people?

As we reflect on these questions, and as Australian Catholics form their consciences on marriage equality, the Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry gives us these words to pray for Australia and every place where extremists are a threat to LGBT people:

“We pray that the weeks leading up to the survey will be a time when respect and listening for the guidance of the Holy Spirit will reign over rhetoric and ideology that can damage the human spirit in each person.”

Amen.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 28, 2017

Australian Archbishop Walks Back Church Worker Remarks

It seems the center of Catholic LGBT news right now is Australia, where a non-binding plebiscite over marriage equality has ignited an intense debate in which Catholics are heavily involved.

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Archbishop Timothy Costelloe

Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 reported that Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart had threatened to fire church workers who entered same-gender civil marriages, should marriage equality be legalized in the future. Now, a fellow archbishop has clarified the archbishop’s comments.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission, claimed Archbishop Hart’s comments had been misreported. Costelloe said individual bishops would decide how to handle such cases should marriage equality become legal. He continued, according to The Christian Post:

“Normally such issues would be addressed, in the first instance, in discussions between the staff member concerned and the local leadership of the school. The aim would be to discover a way forward for the school and the staff member that preserves the Catholic ethos of the school.”

Other Catholic leaders have weighed in on the issues surrounding Australian marriage equality.

The St. Vincent Health Association responded to Archbishop Hart’s comments with its own statement. The Association, sponsored by Sisters of Charity of Australia, appealed to those people it served through its healthcare ministries:

“We want to acknowledge this may be a difficult time for many of our staff, their families and friends. We want to be absolutely clear: all our LGBTQI employees have the full support of St Vincent’s Health Australia. We value you. We recognise you and are grateful for your contribution and care. This will never change.

“St Vincent’s has a long tradition of embracing diversity in our workforce. We will continue to support all our staff in whatever marriage choices they make in the future. All of our staff, whatever their life experiences and backgrounds, have a significant part to play in helping us serve the people who come to us for care. Our staff from the LGBTQI community are no exception.”

Elsewhere, the Edmund Rice Centre published a guide to aid Catholics in their participation in the plebiscite. The Centre is a ministry of the Christian Brothers, who also sponsor many schools in Australia. The guide  begins:

“The survey [a.k.a. plebiscite] asks only one question: ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’ It is not about freedom of speech, freedom of religion, gender identity, ‘Safe Schools’ or political correctness.

“For the Edmund Rice Centre, an organisation inspired by Catholic Social Teaching and the Charism of Blessed Edmund Rice, the issue of marriage equality is about human rights and anti-discrimination. Rights for all people, including those who identify as LGBTQI, are guaranteed in various United Nations human rights conventions.”

The guide continued by debunking myths about marriage equality, and concluded succinctly:

“Marriage equality is not a threat to freedom of religion or freedom of speech. It is simply a question of whether same-sex couples can enjoy the same rights as opposite sex couples. Love is love. It is as simple as that.”

Finally, historian and writer Paul Collins authored an open letter to Sydney’s Archbishop Anthony Fisher who has opposed marriage equality. Collins, who serves on the advisory board for Australian Catholics for Equality, wrote:

“Like many Australian Catholics, I am disturbed by your identification of your personal views on marriage equality with those of the Catholic Church. No one questions your right to hold such views, but many are concerned when you identify them—or allow others, such as journalists—to identify them with the teaching of the Church.”

Collins proceeded to detail how church teaching on marriage has developed over time. He said the archbishop’s thoughts on marriage “are really drawn from an early-twentieth century, bourgeois notion of marriage which found a slightly more modern, post-World War II expression, in the nuclear family.” Collins concluded the letter:

“The saddest thing is that you have linked Catholicism with some of the most reactionary and unattractive political forces in the entire country. You may agree with such people, but please don’t identify our church with them. . .My request is that you take these issues into consideration before you go on the record again claiming that your views represent those of Australian Catholicism. They don’t.”

To reading Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of how Catholics have been involved in ongoing Australia’s marriage equality debate, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 26, 2017

Neo-Nazi Poster Targeting LGBT People Linked to Catholic Priest

[Editor’s Note: Today’s post includes an anti-gay slur that may be difficult for some readers.]

8828212-3x4-700x933Hate speech against LGBT people has appeared in Australia’s intensifying debate over marriage equality, which Australians will vote on in a non-binding plebiscite this fall. ABC is reporting that in Melbourne, a poster had apperared which contains language that  is linked to both neo-Nazis and a U.S. Catholic priest who is a university scholar:

“The anti-LGBTI poster, seen in Heffernan Lane [in Melbourne], says ‘Stop the fags’ with an image of two hands holding rainbow coloured belts and a child sitting with its head down.

“The poster includes statistics credited to Donald Paul Sullins, a priest at Catholic University of America whose research has been widely discredited.

“The sign, which has been shared widely on Twitter, includes claims: ’92 per cent of children raised by gay parents are abused. 51 per cent have depression. 72 per cent are obese.'”

Only one such poster has appeared in the city, according to the Melbourne City Council, which promised to remove any offensive material that may appear in the future.

Sky News reported that the poster seemed to originate from a neo-Nazi website. It cited a 2016 study by Sullins entitled “Invisible Victims: Delayed Onset Depression among Adults with Same-Sex Parents.” That study is considered illegitimate and has “little or no credibility” as the work of a “noisy fringe,” according to sociologist Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University. The Week reported further:

“Of 79 studies looking at children raised in same-sex households gathered by Columbia Law School, all but four found no significant difference in outcome for children of gay parents compared to their peers in heterosexual households.

“Nathaniel Frank, the head of the Columbia project, says that the four dissenting studies – including Sullins’ 2016 paper – were all authored by religiously motivated authors. ‘Their transparent efforts to commandeer an entire social science field to advance a religious agenda makes their scientific claims – and them – into laughing stocks. . .'”

While Sullins stated, “I strongly denounce the pejorative language and fearmongering in the poster,” Sullins defended his research by saying “the statistics it cites are essentially accurate.” The journal in which the study was published is, however, greatly distancing itself from Sullins. On the journal’s website, the editors highlighted an extensive and critical Letter to the Editor which the journal had published against Sullins’research.  The journal’s publisher also included a disclaimer about the research on their webapge.

The New York Times reported that in Sydney a pamphlet in Chinese and in English was distributed which claimed, “Homosexuality is a curse of death in terminating the family line” and included a number of damaging myths about the LGBT community and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Government officials and campaigners on both sides of the issue quickly condemned the hate speech. Bill Shorten, head of the Labor party, said opponents of the plebiscite “feared exactly this kind of hurtful filth would emerge” and that “[t]his kind of garbage isn’t ‘debate’, it’s abuse.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a Catholic who is pro-marriage equality but chose to continue with the questionable plebiscite, condemned the posters saying, ” I deplore disrespectful, abusive language” and that this is a time to “put your arms around” distressed friends.

Former PM Tony Abbot, also a Catholic and a key opponent of marriage equality, urged Australians to not be “distracted by a handful of extreme and unpleasant posters or flyers.”

Thus far, Australia’s bishops have been silent. Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart last week threatened to fire church workers who entered into civil same-gender marriages. The question is why is he not now condemning hate speech against LGBT people, given that such harmful language is strongly condemned in church teaching.

Though the bishops may remain opposed to marriage equality, they should follow recent advice from Munich’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx. He said the church focus more on the ways it has failed to stop discrimination against lesbian and gay people rather than stopping marriage equality. With hate intensifying in the debate leading up to this plebiscite, this would be a very good shift in focus for all Catholics .

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 24, 2017

Bishop Doubles Down on Denying Communion to Gays, Lesbians, and Others

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield has doubled down on his June decree barring married lesbian and gay people from the life of the church. In a video responding to critics, he said there are also many other people who should not present themselves for Communion.

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Screenshot from Bishop Paprocki’s video

The video, released July 9, applied Canon 916 from the Church’s Code of Canon Law to a number of groups the bishop considered to be “conscious of grave sin.” Catholic News Service reported that groups targeted by Paprocki include:

“[T]he divorced and remarried without an annulment. . .An exception would be where the couple agrees to live as brother and sister, as long as there is no public scandal. Similarly, if there is no public scandal, two men who live chastely with each other as friends or as brother and brother, or two women who live chastely with each other as friends or as sister and sister, may receive Holy Communion if there is no public scandal.”. . .

“Those politicians and judges who helped to make same-sex marriage legal and who aid and abet abortion, for example, by voting for taxpayer funding for abortion, should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives.”

Paprocki’s video is a response to critics of his “Decree Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues,” which bars married lesbian and gay people from parish and liturgical ministries and even says ecclesiastical funeral rites should be denied to them (though not if, in Paprocki’s words, such a Catholic were to “repent and renounce their marriage”).

The bishop said it was “astounding” that “there would be such an outcry” about the Decree. which  That outcry, Paprocki said, shows “how strong the LGBT lobby is” in society and in the church. The Decree was released on the first anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando in which 49 LGBT people were killed.

Paprocki pushed back specifically against Fr. James Martin, SJ, who used social media to publicly criticize the Decree. The bishop said Martin “gets a lot wrong” because his Decree is a “rather straightforward application of existing Catholic doctrine and canon law,” not discrimination.

In addition to those listed above, Paprocki named several other groups who should not present themselves for Communion. These include people who have “sexual relations outside of a valid marriage,”  people who have had or assisted in abortions, people using artificial contraception, and anyone who misses Mass on Sundays. He added:

“These are just a few examples. . .Those who do receive Holy Communion while conscious of grave sin compound the moral offense by committing the sin of sacrilege.”

The Decree is not Bishop Paprocki’s first damaging act against LGBT people and their families. Last year, he implicitly criticized Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich for suggesting that reception of Communion is to be determined by each person according to their conscience. When Illinois passed marriage equality in 2013, Paprocki held a public exorcism because of the law, and he had previously suggested that supporters of marriage equality should be disciplined like children.

As expected, Catholics have continued to implicitly and explicitly criticize Paprocki.  In San Jose, Bishop Patrick McGrath released a memo to pastoral ministers in the diocese saying their response to the faithful should be “compassionate and pastoral,”and that they “will not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith.”

Elsewhere, Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry wrote an open letter to Paprocki; fourteen church reform organizations sent him a letter expressing their shock and disappointment; and Women-Church Convergence sent a pastoral letter to the faithful in the Springfield diocese.

Bishop Paprocki’s Decree has already done tremendous damage, and caused the very scandal he ostensibly sought to avoid. He should not be doubling down on harming people. His words har not only people in the Diocese of Springfield affected directly by them but many people across the United States who hear about them. It is time for church leaders to follow Bishop McGrath’s example and publicly, even if indirectly, join Paprocki’s critics.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 28, 2017

Related Article

New Civil Rights Movement: “Catholic Bishop Decrees Lawmakers Who Voted for Same-Sex Marriage Should Not Receive Communion

 

 

German Bishops Offer Nuanced Response to New Marriage Equality Law

Germany’s bishops have said they are “deeply saddened” by the legalization of equal marriage and adoption rights for same-gender couples in their country, but their response is more nuanced than what is being reported.

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Brandenburg Gate lit up for Pride

Early last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced she was dropping her opposition to marriage equality. Legislators passed the law Friday, including several who are members of the lay-run Central Committee of German Catholics.

After the law’s passage, Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin released a statement in his role as chair of the German Bishops Conference’s Commission on Marriage and Family. Koch said, in part:

“I regret the fact that the legislature has given up the essential content of the marriage concept in order to make it fit for same-sex partnerships. At the same time, I regret the fact that today’s decision gives up a differentiated perception of different forms of partnership in order to stress the value of same-sex partnerships. Differentiation, however, is not discrimination. A valuation of same-sex cohabitation can also be expressed by another institutional arrangement. It does not have to appear in the opening up of the legal institute of marriage for same-sex partnerships. The fathers of the constitutional law (Grundgesetz) have given marriage such a prominent place in our constitution, because they wanted to protect and strengthen those who as a mother and father want to give their children their lives. If, above all, the protection of relationships and the assumption of shared responsibility as a justification for the opening of the marriage are brought forward, this means a substantial re-balancing of the content and a dilution of the classic marriage concept.”

Koch said that a conversation about “the strengthening and promotion of the diverse communities of responsibility” was necessary, adding:

“As a church, we have respect for those same-sex partnerships in which mutual responsibility and care are taken over for many years.”

In light of marriage equality’s passage, Koch said the bishops would need to “present [their understanding of marriage] invitingly in public” and promote sacramental marriage as a separate entity.

Archbishop Stefan Heße of Hamburg echoed this sentiment, according to PinkNews, saying, “I regret that our understanding of marriage and the state’s understanding are moving yet further apart.”

Before the vote, reported The Tablet, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the German Bishops Conference, called the snap vote “absolutely inappropriate” and said marriage must remain defined as it is in the German constitution.

These statements need to be read in a very important context. German bishops have been some of the most supportive voices in the church for LGBT people. Indeed, both Archbishop Koch and Cardinal Marx attended Catholic Day festivities in Germany last year as LGBT groups were welcomed to participate for the first time.

At the Synod on the Family, Koch said the German contingent sought to advance the conversation on homosexuality as much as possible despite resistance from other regions. The German-speaking group of bishops at the synod stated that the church should apologize to people it has harmed, including lesbian and gay people. Cardinal Marx has also said the church should apologize.

But when lay Catholics in Germany called for the church to bless same-gender partnerships outside of marriage, bishops including Marx rebuked them sharply. Marx himself has both affirmed the love found in such partnerships, and also spoken strongly against understanding them as equal to marriage. Meanwhile, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabruck said such couples should be blessed.

The bishops’ response to Germany’s new marriage law is equally nuanced, yet it should be seen as a positive change in the church. It would be too far at this point to expect they would affirm marriage equality, but their statements reveal three noteworthy advances.

First, they recognize the need to legally protect same-gender couples even if they desire differentiated means of doing so. Second, Koch’s statement acknowledges the lasting “mutual responsibility and care” found in such relationships. Third, they admit the difference between civil and sacramental marriage. Going forward, Koch is clear that the bishops’ role is not to fight the new law, but to invitingly propose their understanding of marriage and hope it attracts people.

I await the day when bishops, recognizing the goodness and love which mark same-gender relationships, celebrate with their fellow Catholics when marriage equality laws are passed. Until then, I hope more bishops will look to Germany and try for less caustic, more nuanced responses.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 5, 2017

San Jose Bishop Counters Paprocki’s Decree Against Married Lesbian/Gay Couples

A California bishop has written a letter instructing clergy and religious in the diocese to be compassionate and inclusive when it comes to pastoral care. a direct repudiation of last month’s alienating directives from an Illinois bishop.

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Bishop Patrick McGrath

Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose sent the letter on June 29, 2017. While it doesn’t specifically mention Springfield, Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s decree that bars people in same-gender marriages from participation in certain forms of pastoral care, sacramental life, and leadership, from the language of the text, it seems this recent development was on McGrath’s mind . According to the blog Proper Nomenclature, McGrath wrote:

“Recent news reports of policies and practices related to members of the LGBT community in other dioceses can be confusing.

“I take this opportunity to assure you that the pastoral response in the Diocese of San Jose remains just that: compassionate and pastoral. We will not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith.

“Finally, let us remember and be guided by the words of Pope Francis: ‘The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.'”

Paprocki’s decree drew strong reactions from Catholics, especially his instruction that pastoral ministers deny funerals to Catholics in same-gender marriages. You can read a report on his decree here, along with reactions here and here.   While other bishops (notably Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput and Newark’s former Archbishop John Myers) barred married gay and lesbian people from communion and liturgical roles, only Paprocki went so far as to forbid funerals for them.

This letter is not Bishop McGrath’s first step to be more welcoming of LGBT people. Last year, after the massacre at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, he was among the handful of bishops who explicitly mentioned the victims’ sexual and/or gender identities in a statement.

The Diocese of San Jose also hosts the Catholic LGBT Ministry Council, which sponsors monthly “All Are Welcome” Masses at parishes and provides pastoral ministers with welcoming resources.

Criticism of Paprocki has continued from other quarters. A MoveOn.org petition asking Paprocki to reconsider his decree is gaining signatures, and Jim Ketchum wrote in The Times Herald of Michigan:

“Does this mean the church now can bury only saints? Should there be any doubt, it sounds as if you should get your requests for forgiveness in well before your last breath. . .Nobody dies sinless.”

Thankfully, Bishop McGrath has recognized that every person is welcome to pastoral care. His instruction to welcome everyone to the sacraments who “requests them in good faith” echoes Jesus’ invitation in the Gospel, and it mirrors a more merciful tone in the church sought by Pope Francis.

But beyond that, his letter is significant because, even if indirectly, he is publicly challenging a fellow bishop. This development is a sign of health in a church where there is too often silence from bishops when their peers act inappropriately. More U.S. bishops should follow McGrath’s example by issuing guidelines of welcome and inclusion.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 2, 2017