Bishop Paprocki Responds to Fr. Martin (with Video)

“Father Martin gets a lot Wrong in Those Tweets”

By Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Catholic Times:

There has been quite a bit of consternation since I sent an internal communication to my clergy and staff last month that was unfortunately leaked to the public concerning my “Decree Regarding Same-sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues.” While the underlying doctrinal issues are not new, these norms were necessary to address situations in the pastoral context arising from the new reality in the law and in our culture, given that same-sex marriage is now recognized by legislative action and judicial decision as legal throughout the United States. This decree prohibits same-sex weddings to be performed by our diocesan personnel or to take place in Catholic facilities, restricts persons in such unions from receiving the sacraments or serving in a public liturgical role unless they have repented, and says that deceased persons who had lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death.

There has been quite a bit of consternation since I sent an internal communication to my clergy and staff last month that was unfortunately leaked to the public concerning my “Decree Regarding Same-sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues.” While the underlying doctrinal issues are not new, these norms were necessary to address situations in the pastoral context arising from the new reality in the law and in our culture, given that same-sex marriage is now recognized by legislative action and judicial decision as legal throughout the United States. This decree prohibits same-sex weddings to be performed by our diocesan personnel or to take place in Catholic facilities, restricts persons in such unions from receiving the sacraments or serving in a public liturgical role unless they have repented, and says that deceased persons who had lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death.

At the same time, the decree says that a child with a Catholic parent or parents living in a same-sex marriage may be baptized if there is a well-founded hope that he or she will be brought up in the Catholic faith and that such a child who is otherwise qualified and properly disposed may receive first Eucharist and the sacrament of confirmation. Moreover, the decree states that children living with persons in a same-sex marriage are not to be denied admission to Catholic schools and catechetical and formational programs on those grounds alone. However, parents and those who legally take the place of parents are to be advised that their children will be instructed according to the church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality in their fullness and they must agree to abide by the Family School Agreement.

In the decree I also remind all who exercise a ministry within the church that, while being clear and direct about what the church teaches, our pastoral ministry must always be respectful, compassionate and sensitive to all our brothers and sisters in faith, as was the ministry of Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd and our everlasting model for ministry. People with same-sex attraction are welcome in our parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois as we repent our sins and pray for God to keep us in his grace.

All of this is totally consistent with Catholic teaching about the sacraments and the understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman that has prevailed for millennia in all of society, not just in the church. The fact that there would be such an outcry against this decree is quite astounding and shows how strong the LGBT lobby is both in the secular world as well as within the church. People have been quick to quote the famous in-flight statement of Pope Francis in 2013 when he said, “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?” But the pope quickly added, “The problem is not having this [homosexual] tendency, no, we must be brothers and sisters to one another, and there is this one and there is that one. The problem is in making a lobby of this tendency: a lobby of misers, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of masons, so many lobbies. For me, this is the greater problem.” So while we certainly leave the eternal judgment of one’s soul to God, we still must deal with objective realities here on earth and even Pope Francis recognized that the gay lobby is a great problem.

Critics have been urging me to rescind my “Decree Regarding Same-sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues.” However, this decree is a rather straightforward application of existing Catholic doctrine and canon law to the new situation of legal marital status being granted in civil law to same-sex couples, which is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church. All clergy before they are ordained take an Oath of Fidelity which includes the statement, “In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of faith in its entirety; I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it. I shall follow and foster the common discipline of the entire Church and I shall maintain the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially those contained in the Code of Canon Law.” Pastors and bishops repeat this oath upon assuming their office to be exercised in the name of the church. Thus, deacons, priests and bishops cannot contradict church teachings or refuse to observe ecclesiastical laws without violating their oath, which is a promise made to God.

My Response to Fr. James Martin

Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest who lives in New York, posted my decree on Twitter and said in a series of tweets, “If bishops ban members of same-sex couples from funeral rites, they must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics without annulments … women who have children out of wedlock, members of straight couples living together before marriage, anyone using birth control … To focus only on LGBT people, even those in same-sex marriages, without a similar focus on the sexual or moral behavior of straight people is in the words of the Catechism a ‘sign of unjust discrimination.’” Father Martin gets a lot wrong in those tweets, since canon law prohibits ecclesiastical funeral rites only in cases of “manifest sinners” which gives “public scandal,” and something such as using birth control is a private matter that is usually not manifest or made

public. Moreover, my decree does not focus on “LGBT people,” but on so-called same-sex marriage, which is a public legal status. No one is ever denied the sacraments or Christian burial for simply having a homosexual orientation. Even someone who had entered into a same-sex “marriage” can receive the sacraments and be given ecclesiastical funeral rites if they repent and renounce their “marriage.”

Father Martin also misses the key phrase in the decree that ecclesiastical funeral rites are to be denied to persons in same-sex marriages “unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death.” This is a direct quote from canon 1184 of the Code of Canon Law, which is intended as a call to repentance. Jesus began his public ministry proclaiming the Gospel of God with these words: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). In other words, those living openly in same-sex marriage, like other manifest sinners who give public scandal, can receive ecclesiastical funeral rites if they gave some sign of repentance. This does not mean that unrepentant manifest sinners will simply be refused or turned away. Even in those cases where a public Mass of Christian Burial in church cannot be celebrated because the deceased person was unrepentant and there would be public scandal, the priest or deacon may conduct a private funeral service, for example, at the funeral home.

Father Martin’s tweets do raise an important point with regard to other situations of grave sin and the reception of Holy Communion. He is right that the Church’s teaching does not apply only to people in same-sex marriages. According to canon 916, all those who are “conscious of grave sin” are not to receive Holy Communion without previous sacramental confession. This is normally not a question of denying Holy Communion, but of people themselves refraining from Holy Communion if they are “conscious of grave sin.” While no one can know one’s subjective sinfulness before God, the Church can and must teach about the objective realities of grave sin. Speaking objectively, then, one can say the following:

Those who have sexual relations outside of a valid marriage, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives. This includes the 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 who have had an abortion or have assisted in performing or procuring an abortion should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives.

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.

Those who use artificial contraception should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives.

Those who miss Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, unless it would be impossible due to a grave cause such as serious illness, should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives.

These are just a few examples, but in fact all those who are conscious of any grave sin should not receive Holy Communion unless they repent, go to confession and amend their lives. Those who do receive Holy Communion while conscious of grave sin compound the moral offense by committing the sin of sacrilege.

My recent decree did not address all these various other situations because they have long been part of Church teaching. The decree was needed to add the novel concept of same-sex “marriage” to those instances considered to be objectively grave sins.

The truths of the faith revealed by our Lord in Scripture and Tradition are not always easy to accept, especially in a world that seeks to make all truth subjective. The fact is that some truths are objective and unalterable. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). There is no greater happiness than to see God. Saint Paul reminds us that we are all in need of daily conversion in that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” Let us pray for each other, that each of us may come to an ever deeper understanding of God’s call to discipleship in our lives, the same God who “wills everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2: 4).

May God give us this grace. Amen.

Catholic Controversy

Who Can Receive a Catholic Funeral?

By Trent Horn; Catholic Answers

Last week, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois issued a decree forbidding persons in “same-sex marriages” who cause public scandal from receiving Communion or from being received into the Church through RCIA if they choose not to end their relationship. Pastors are to meet with such individuals in private and call them to conversion through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Some, like Fr. James Martin, have criticized the decree as an example of the Church’s judgmentalism and lack of inclusion. But when we examine the Church’s teaching on celebrating funerals we see that it’s not intended to bring condemnation to sinners but rather prayerful support for the deceased and solace hope for the living.

Who can receive a Catholic funeral?

According to the Code of Canon Law, “Deceased members of the Christian faithful must be given ecclesiastical funerals according to the norm of law” (1176.1). This also includes catechumens who died before they received the sacraments of initiation like baptism and confirmation (CIC 1183.1). If a bishop deems it appropriate, a funeral can also be given to children who died before being baptized or even, in some cases, to a baptized non-Catholic (CIC 1183.2-3).

The inclusion of catechumens and unbaptized children shows that the Church wants to provide funerals for as many believers as possible. However, canon 1184 stipulates that:

Unless [the deceased] gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:

1. Notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;

2. Those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;

3. Other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.

The Catechism teaches that “The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection” (2300). This means all people, including non-Christians, should receive honorable burials. But in the context of a Christian funeral we recognize that “the Church who, as Mother, has born the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey’s end, in order to surrender him ‘into the Father’s hands’” (CCC 1683).

A Christian funeral can serve as a reminder to those who have separated themselves from God through mortal sin that they should reconcile with God as soon as possible, since the time of our earthly departure can be sudden and unexpected. But a funeral for someone who engaged in manifest, unrepentant sin could cause those in attendance, or even those who merely hear about the funeral, to think that certain mortal sins are not a big deal. “After all,” they may ask, “If the morally certain hope of eternal life is preached at this person’s funeral, then why would it be wrong to live just like he did?”

This part of canon law does not forbid funerals for Christians who struggled with sin (otherwise no one would have a Christian funeral). It also does not forbid funerals for people whose struggle with serious sins had become public knowledge. It only includes “manifest sinners” whose funerals could cause the faithful to think their unrepentant, mortally sinful behavior was not a serious matter. It prohibits liturgies that distort the truth that “all who die in God’s grace and friendship [emphasis added], but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation” (CCC 1030).

A less-controversial example that illustrates this point involves refusing funerals to members of organized crime families. Notorious gangsters such as John Gotti and Paul Castellano, for example, were denied Catholic funerals because of their potential for scandal.

Inconsistent discrimination?

In response to Bishop Paprocki’s decree, Fr. James Martin—who recently published a book on how the Church can build bridges with the “LGBT community”—wrote this on his public Facebook page:

If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. They must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received annulments, women who has or man who fathers a child out of wedlock, members of straight couples who are living together before marriage, and anyone using birth control. For those are all against church teaching as well. Moreover, they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a “sign of unjust discrimination.”

The problem with Fr. Martin’s response is that it fails to make a distinction between gravely evil, public displays of sin that can cause scandal, and other types of sin against which the faithful struggle.

Take, for example, his claim that someone like Bishop Paprocki should also deny funerals for people “who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful.” According to James 3:2, “we all make many mistakes,” so we should expect the deceased at Christian funerals to have failed at times to be loving or merciful. But there is a difference between being a sinner and being a cause for scandal. A person’s “failure to love” would only involve the latter if it was exceptionally grave, publicly known, and unrepented (as with the mafia bosses we discussed earlier). To equate any failure to love or forgive with remaining in a disordered, publicly recognized sexual union reveals an ignorance of the Church’s teachings on the gravity of sin (CCC 1854).

What about failing to care for the poor, the environment, or prisoners? These failures to act only become gravely sinful under certain conditions, such as by causing serious harm. They are not like specific actions, such as murder or sexual activity outside of marriage, that are always wrong and can become mortal sins if a person who knows they are gravely wrong freely chooses to commit them anyway. Likewise, the conditions for these sins to become objects of scandal are also fairly rare. A public advocate of social Darwinism who wanted the poor to “die off” might engender enough scandal to deny him funeral rites, merely being lax about contributing to a second collection would not result in a similar ecclesial sanction.

Having conceived a child outside of marriage is not an ongoing source of scandal, since a person could repent of that sin and still live out a holy vocation of parenthood. Contraception use is not a publicly known matter, so a priest could not know with certainty if a person repented of this sin before death. A same-sex union, on the other hand, is a matter of public record and it would be known if someone remained in such a union until death. Unless a pastor made it known that the deceased had vowed to remain chaste and repented of his behavior, a funeral for such a person would be a cause for scandal. The sin of contraception might only reach a similar level of scandal if a Catholic publicly and notoriously advocated for its use: such as by being a director of a Planned Parenthood or similar organization.

Finally, there is the issue of allowing funerals for Catholics who remain in invalid marriages. Some theologians hold that funerals for Catholics in invalid marriages are scandalous and so they should not be celebrated. But other theologians and bishops believe that funerals in this case can be offered in a way that does not lead to scandal. The Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, for example, allows funeral masses for Catholics in invalid marriages who upheld Church teaching (by living as brother and sister, for example) but recommends the “Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass” for those who neglected the Church’s teaching on marriage in this regard.

We must also remember that the fact that the deceased was in an invalid marriage would only be known by a select number of people and so it would have a low potential for generating scandal. If the deceased were in a same-sex union, however, the invalid and disordered nature of therelationship would be known by anyone who heard about the funeral. Given the unique political climate surrounding the issue of homosexuality, such a funeral could attract widespread attention and be used as a platform to misinform people about the Church’s teachings on this subject or a rallying cry to change the teachings and undermine the Church’s authority in the process.

But what should a parish do if a member of a same-sex couple approaches them seeking a funeral? They should show, contra critics like Fr. Martin, that it is possible to be compassionate towards those who suffer without scandalizing others and leading them into sin.

A pastor or parish staff member faced with this request should remember that the surviving member of such a couple will certainly be experiencing a deep sense of grief. He or she may also be suffering from loneliness, depression, or financial hardship. Catholics should reach out to such a person, who is created in the image of God and loved by him, and strive to meet his or her basic human needs through empathy and acts of charity, especially to help alleviate the financial burdens and emotional tolls that accompany burying a loved one.

This person may be hurt by the denial of a Catholic funeral, but by offering an olive branch of compassion this person can have a genuine encounter with Christ, who always calls us to conversion and gives us the grace to follow him in any circumstance.

Bishop Paprocki: Catholics, Marriage and Holy Communion

“Every Catholic Must Sacramentally Confess All Serious Sins”

By Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, The State Journal Register

An Associated Press story that ran in the State Journal-Register July 7 is misleading in saying that Roman Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput in Philadelphia “is closing the door opened by Pope Francis to letting civilly remarried Catholics receive Communion, saying the faithful in his archdiocese can only do so if they abstain from sex and live ‘as brother and sister.'”

As I explained in my statement about the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis on April 8, the date it was issued, “There are no changes to canon law or church doctrine introduced in this document.” I addressed this conclusion in greater detail in my column in our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Times, on May 1, explaining that in-flight press conferences on an airplane, apostolic exhortations and footnotes “by their very nature are not vehicles for introducing or amending legislative texts or making dogmatic pronouncements.”

The Bible clearly teaches about the proper disposition to receive Holy Communion in the First Letter to the Corinthians, where Saint Paul wrote, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:27-29). This biblical teaching is reflected in canons 915-916 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law.

All Serious Sins Must Be Confessed

Thus, the Philadelphia guidelines issued by Archbishop Chaput are certainly correct when they say, “Every Catholic, not only the divorced and civilly-remarried, must sacramentally confess all serious sins of which he or she is aware, with a firm purpose to change, before receiving the Eucharist. . . . With divorced and civilly-remarried persons, Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy. This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist.”

This applies not only in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but also here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, as it does elsewhere in the Church.

Our Sex-Saturated Culture

Catholics in these circumstances thus have a free choice: if they persist in sexual activity outside of valid marriage, they must refrain from taking Holy Communion; if they wish to receive Holy Communion, they must refrain from sexual activity outside of valid marriage. The latter may seem impossible to those steeped in our sex-saturated culture, but “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki leads the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Bishop Paprocki: We Ask You to Use the Correct Bathroom

Bathrooms Now Legislated? Who knew?

by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Catholic Times:

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Once again common sense has been turned on its head in our culture, this time by transgender activists agitating for people to be able to use the bathroom that they feel corresponds emotionally to their self-identified gender rather than the anatomical gender of their biological sex. The issue has emerged prominently in recent national and local news.

Obama and the Civil Rights of Transgender People

In North Carolina, in response to an ordinance adopted in Charlotte that would have allowed transgender people to use whatever bathroom they wanted, the state legislature passed a law in March blocking local governments from enacting rules that grant such privileges to transgender people. A similar law recently passed in Mississippi allows people to withhold services from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals on religious grounds. In response, President Barack Obama has said that these laws in North Carolina and Mississippi are “wrong” and “should be overturned.” The Obama administration used the Department of Justice to warn the state of North Carolina that its new law limiting bathroom access violated the civil rights of transgender people.

Here in Illinois, in response to a federal complaint, the Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 in suburban Chicago earlier this year granted a transgender student, who was born male but identifies as female, limited access to the girls locker room at Fremd High School. Similarly, a transgender student at a Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 school has been granted access to a locker room designated for the opposite sex. The Chicago Public Schools have announced that their students, teachers and staff could use whichever restroom matches their self-selected gender identity.

Nearby in central Illinois, a transgender student at Williamsville High School who was born with female anatomy but identifies as a male recently resolved a complaint filed in October with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. The school had previously provided a private bathroom for the transgender student, who complained that this was unacceptable, saying, “It made me feel like I was being treated differently and ostracized.” So now all transgender students at Williamsville High School will have access to the restroom and locker room facilities of the gender they identify with emotionally, not the biological gender that they were born with.

Earlier this month, a group of Illinois students and parents sued the Obama administration over its stance on transgender students’ access to school bathrooms and locker rooms, arguing that the U.S. Department of Education is illegally forcing local authorities to let children use facilities that correspond to their subjectively chosen gender identity. The complaint alleges that the federal government has violated students’ fundamental right to privacy and parents’ constitutional right to instill moral standards and values in their children.

It is a Mental Illness

The transgender activists would have you believe that their politically correct ideology is based on science; however, the American College of Pediatricians has pointed out that transgenderism is classified as a mental illness and therefore has warned legislators and educators that conditioning children to accept transgenderism as normal is child abuse. They advised, “When an otherwise healthy biological boy believes he is a girl, or an otherwise healthy biological girl believes she is a boy, an objective psychological problem exists that lies in the mind, not the body, and it should be treated as such.”

Dr. Paul McHugh, psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, was so concerned about the psychological origins of gender-identity disorder that he halted the practice of sex-reassignment surgery at his institution. He concluded that the research demonstrated that Johns Hopkins should no longer participate in what he called “unusual and radical treatment” for “mental disorders.”

Destroying the Very Essence of the Human Creature

The Catholic Church has some clear teachings on transgender issues. Catholics are called to treat everyone with compassion. Yet the church maintains that people may not change what Pope Benedict XVI called “their very essence.” In a speech at the Vatican on Dec. 23, 2008, Benedict directly addressed transgender issues by cautioning Catholics about “destroying the very essence of the human creature through manipulating their God-given gender to suit their sexual choices.”

Your Gender is a Gift from God

Similarly, in his encyclical Laudato Si, issued last year on the environment, Pope Francis called for men and women to acknowledge their bodies as a gift from God which should not be manipulated. “The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home,” the pope wrote, “whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation” (no. 155).

In his recent apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis warns that gender ideology “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences … It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality. Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator. We are creatures, and not omnipotent. Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift. At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created” (no. 56).

Here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, we ask that people respect these teachings of the Catholic Church in their use of facilities in our churches and schools. People who are confused about their gender identity — especially children and adolescents — should be treated with compassion and provided counseling rather than being further confused by activists promoting their political ideology.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

Bishop Paprocki: “The New Intolerance”

“Intolerance in the name of ‘tolerance’ must be
named for what it is and publically condemned.”

Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois:

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

ToleranceThe late Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, once said, “Our society permits everything, but forgives nothing.” There is great irony is this statement in that society often criticizes the Church for saying that certain actions are sinful and not morally permitted, yet, unlike society, the Church is willing to forgive everything through God’s grace.  The refusal on the part of some in our society to forgive certain things that they consider to be wrong has been called “the new intolerance.” In an essay entitled, “The New Intolerance,” published in the March 2015 issue of the journal First Things, Mary Eberstadt, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, expressed her hope that people will hear and heed the message of God’s mercy repeated so frequently by Pope Francis. “For there is no mercy, “she writes, “in putting butchers and bakers and candlestick makers in the legal dock for refusing to renounce their religious beliefs—but that’s what the new intolerance does. There is no mercy in stalking and threatening Christian pastors for being Christian pastors, or in casting out social scientists who turn up unwanted facts, or in telling a flight attendant she can’t wear a crucifix, or in persecuting organizations that do charitable work—but the new intolerance does these things, too.”  True mercy in our society would not only tolerate but even respect and protect these exercises of religious liberty.

Another current example of the new intolerance can be seen in the “Guidelines for Inclusive Seasonal Holidays” issued by Cornell University, which state that winters scenes with snowflakes, trees and holly are acceptable, but the following are NOT consistent with the University’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusiveness:

  • Nativity scene
  • Menorah
  • Angels
  • Stars on top of trees
  • Crosses
  • Star of David

Apparently these religious symbols are not to be tolerated or included in the modern secular, tolerant and inclusive university!

Thus, Bishop Mario Toso, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was right when he said, “Intolerance in the name of ‘tolerance’ must be named for what it is and publically [sic] condemned.”  Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, phrased it slightly differently in referring to “selective tolerance,” saying that tolerance if it is to be authentic and true cannot be selective.

Unfortunately what we see too often in our country today under the guise of political correctness is selective intolerance.  We have recognized in our country in recent years a strong lack of tolerance for Christians, Catholics in particular and the Catholic Church. This is evident when it comes to our faith, our religious freedom and Bible based teaching. We hear of college campuses where authorities seek to ban Christmas on the grounds that recognizing Jesus’ birth would be divisive. This claim seems particularly out of place in a land where we Americans have never found the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day divisive. The Catholic Church’s appeal to the Scriptures to explain the definition of marriage as a commitment between a man and a woman is regularly decried by some in our country even at the highest political levels as discrimination, not to say bigotry.

Cardinal Wuerl has also asked why “all of the voices that so regularly decry intolerance and violence” have been silent “in the face of the ISIS persecution of whole communities and villages of Christians and other minorities and the televised execution of Christians. He noted that this “holy season should be a time for all of us to review in our hearts how selective is our tolerance? We should also, as citizens of this great nation, question why our nation is so selective when it comes to religious persecution and religious freedom.”

Five years ago, at our Cathedral here in Springfield, I called attention to the attacks on Christians in the Middle East. I said that “we should count our blessings that we enjoy the freedom to [celebrate Christmas] in relative safety. But we should not forget our Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world that are not so fortunate and for whom Christmas is not so joyful.” But I also added, “Nor should we be so complacent or naïve as to think that only people in the Middle East or other parts of the world need to be concerned about attacks by Islamist extremists against Christians.” Sadly, the deadly attack by Islamist terrorists in San Bernardino, California, now shows how close to home that concern has now become.

This Year of Mercy is an opportunity for us to have a renewed encounter with God’s love for us, an encounter which awakens us to our constant need for conversion, casting off those burdens which slow us down on that journey leading to eternal life. This prospect of undergoing a life-altering change due to our encounter with God’s mercy should stir in our hearts a feeling of
excitement and hope. We might ask how we should live this Year of Mercy in order to draw from the rich blessings that flow so abundantly from “God’s merciful heart made accessible through the open side of Christ on the cross” (cf. Jn 19:34).

The first step is to ensure that our hearts are prepared to receive this gift of mercy. While His mercy is indeed powerful, He will not force it upon us. We have to be willing to accept that mercy by first of all recognizing that we are in need of mercy, that we are all sinners. Admitting that we are sinners makes us aware of our need for mercy in order to remedy the illness caused by our sin. The Church, in her motherly tenderness for her children, offers us that assistance in a most extraordinary way in the sacraments. In a particular way during this Year of Mercy, we are encouraged to rediscover the powerful gift of healing that is made available to us through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

A key symbol of the Jubilee Year of Mercy is the Holy Door designated in each cathedral of every diocese around the world. The faithful may receive a plenary indulgence when they pass through the Holy Door under the usual conditions for obtaining an indulgence, that is, reception of sacramental confession and Holy Communion, prayers for the Holy Father, and renunciation of all attachment to sin. Walking through the Holy Door should not be understood as some sort of magic or superstition. Going through the Holy Door should be understood as a symbol of passing from sin to grace, that is, we leave being a sinful way of life in order to enter into the richness of God’s mercy and love. We should have that in mind each time we walk through the Holy Door.

Those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, particularly the sick and people who are elderly and alone, often confined to the home, can obtain the Jubilee Indulgence by living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication. Prisoners may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons.

It is not a mere coincidence that the Holy Door here in our cathedral is located right next to the primary place where confessions are heard each day in this church. The Holy Door reminds us that the privileged place to encounter mercy is in this great sacrament of renewal, reconciling us to God and one another through a power that only Christ can exercise. Yet, so many people stay away from this sacrament. One of the reasons for doing so is that so many people are convinced that they do not have any sin. Even when that lie has been exposed, people still avoid this sacrament due to a variety of fears that they harbor in their hearts.

During this Year of Mercy, I invite you to implore God’s grace to overcome your fears and make frequent use of this sacrament of love and mercy. Maybe it has been several years since you last came to confession.  As Jesus said so often in the Gospels: “Do not be afraid!” (Matthew 14:27).  The Lord rejoices to grant you forgiveness. Maybe you are in the habit of going to confession only during Advent and Lent. This could be a wonderful opportunity to approach the sacrament with greater regularity and see how doing so can make a profound impact on your spiritual life. Countless numbers of the faithful throughout the history of the Church have experienced a remarkable change in their lives thanks to a personal rediscovery of the power of this great sacrament. The Church is inviting each of us to that rediscovery in our own way. We have absolutely nothing to lose, but everything to gain!

It is not enough, however, just to receive this great gift of mercy.  With the gift comes an expectation. The expectation is that we will share this gift of mercy with others through a committed life of discipleship. We should strive to spread the good news of God’s mercy to others by the way that we live our lives. There is never a situation in which we cannot live our faith visibly and so be a sign of hope for others to do likewise.  As we continue our celebration, we turn our attention to Bethlehem, which in Hebrew literally means “house of bread.” We are reminded that the Word becomes flesh in a very real and powerful way each time we celebrate the Eucharist, for He comes to us in His Body and His blood. By our partaking of this great gift of His love, we welcome His light into the dark places of our hearts, pointing out the way for us to follow Him. In this bread of life, we are also nourished and strengthened for the journey that lies ahead, and with that strength from on high, we have great confidence that no matter how challenging the circumstances may be or how dark the future may seem, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5), and the darkness will not overcome it.

May God give us this grace. Amen.

1 Mary Eberstadt , “The New Intolerance,” First Things, March 2015, p. 34.
2 “Notable and Quotable: Inclusive Holidays at Cornell,” THE WALL STREET JOURNAL,
December 24, 2015, p. A9.
3 Ibid.
5 Ibid. See also


Edited for length and removed Christmas references.


Bishop Paprocki To Abp Cupich, “Set the Record Straight”

by Christine Niles  •

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. ( – In a rare move, the bishop of Springfield, Illinois is publicly correcting fellow Illinois prelate Abp. Blase Cupich of Chicago and his false notion of “conscience.”

In a letter to the editor published over the weekend in The State Journal-Register, Bp. Thomas Paprocki responded to a local dissenting Catholic who had praised Abp. Cupich for his erroneous remarks about Holy Communion. John Freml, author of the letter and local leader in the dissident groups Call to Action and Equally Blessed, had written on December 20:

As Archbishop Cupich said, “I think that when people come for Communion, it’s not up to any minister who’s distributing the Eucharist to make a decision about a person’s worthiness or lack of worthiness. That’s on the conscience of those individuals.”

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.

Freml was referring to Cupich’s recent remarks made during and after the 2015 Synod on the Family, where he implied that Holy Communion should be open not just to the divorced and remarried, but also to others in “irregular unions.” At a Synod press briefing in October, Cupich had said, “When people come to a decision in good conscience, then our job with the Church is to help them move forward and to respect that. The conscience is inviolable, and we have to respect that when they make decisions, and I’ve always done that.”

In response, Bp. Paprocki wrote that “[it] is important to set the record straight,” and that, contrary to Cupich’s claims, “Canon 916 directs those ‘conscious of grave sin’ to refrain from receiving Holy Communion.” He continued:

Individuals must form their consciences in accord with Church teaching. Conscience assesses how a person’s concrete action in a given situation accords with Church teaching — not to determine whether one agrees with or accepts Church teaching in the first place.

The bishop went on to clarify that Canon 915 mandates clergy to withhold Communion from manifest, public, grave sinners. This includes those joined in invalid, non-sacramental marriages, considered adultery in Catholic teaching. Refusing Communion to such people is not about “assessing personal worthiness,” Paprocki explains, but rather meant to protect the Sacrament from sacrilege as well as prevent the harm of scandal “caused by someone’s public conduct that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

It is true that Jesus welcomes everyone. But as Jesus said at the Last Supper, so we say in the eucharistic prayer at Mass, Jesus poured out His blood “for you and for many,” since not everyone accepts what Christ offers, just as Judas did not accept what Christ offered him.

Bishop Paprocki has headed the Springfield diocese since 2010, and during his tenure has developed a reputation for orthodoxy. Archbishop Cupich, on the other hand, has developed a more questionable reputation during his brief time as head of the Chicago archdiocese, and has a history of willingness to offer the Eucharist to those not in communion with the Church.

In November 2014, when asked point blank on CBS’ “Face the Nation” whether he would give Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, Cupich answered, “I would not use the Eucharist or, as you say it, the Communion rail as a place to have those discussions or a way in which people would be … excluded from the life of the Church” — this in spite of the fact that his position contradicts canon 915 of the Catholic Code of Canon Law, which states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

And in a televised funeral Mass in April over which Abp. Cupich presided, the Protestant governor of Illinois, in violation of the norms of the Church, was given Holy Communion — a sacrilege. When reached out to the archdiocese to ask whether it had contacted the governor’s office ahead of time to advise that non-Catholics should not approach to receive Holy Communion, the archdiocese responded by saying that “when any person presents himself or herself for Holy Communion, the Minister of Communion presumes that the person can receive Communion.”

Bishop Paprocki on Pope Francis’ Annulment Reform

Statement by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki
Pope Francis’ Reform of Canonical Procedure for the Annulment of Marriage

Pope Francis issued a document, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (“The Gentle Judge, The Lord Jesus”), on Sept. 8 calling for reform of canonical procedure for the annulment of marriage in the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. These modifications address the procedures to be followed when a person petitions for a declaration of nullity of marriage.  I, along with the college of Catholic bishops throughout the world, am happy to see to it that these modifications will be put into effect in our diocesan tribunals on Tuesday, December 8, 2015, the opening day of the “Year of Mercy” proclaimed by Pope Francis.

The Catholic Church continues to teach that a marriage, once validly entered, is permanent and cannot be dissolved by the mere will of one of the parties.  We understand that marriage comes to be through the spouses’ act of consent to bind themselves to one another in a marriage bond which is in accord with God’s plan for a permanent, exclusive union, open to the possibility of the generation of children.  We presume in favor of the validity of all marriages, but we recognize, in our theology and law, that a party’s marriage consent may have been insufficient in some fundamental way.  Therefore, we enumerate reasons for possible nullity of marriage, and we apply legal procedures by which a party, following a civil divorce, might seek to prove the nullity of a marriage and, having proved this fact, proceed to enter a new marriage which can be recognized by the Catholic Church.

Our current procedures are designed to allow parties to proceed carefully toward determining the truth about a marriage which has broken up, and with the protection of the rights of both parties.  In our diocesan tribunal, we have for over thirty years made use of a provision which is now being made normative for the whole world: that cases are usually to be judged by a single judge who is an ordained person, instead of by a panel of three judges.  Our procedures are to be streamlined further as the directives of Pope Francis take effect.  One outstanding new provision is the sufficiency of one decision in favor of nullity; no longer will there be a requirement for two decisions in favor of nullity from two Church courts.  Our system of courts of appeal will, however, remain in place.

Pope Francis has directed local tribunals to provide their legal services at no cost to parties.  We are happy to do this.  Formerly, we have had the custom of asking petitioners, as far as they are able, to contribute to the meeting of the expenses of the diocesan tribunal, and we have never delayed the administration of justice because of non-payment on a petitioner’s part.  We rely upon the continued generosity of Catholic Christians so that we may meet the expenses associated with this judicial work.

The directives of Pope Francis will require careful study by our tribunal officials as we prepare to put them into effect. As we do so, we recognize and hold in prayer the numerous people who have endured great pain as the result of the break-up of a marriage.  We pray that the whole People of God will be dedicated to the task of fostering healthy marriages and encouraging the healing which we all require, as we rely upon the Lord Jesus, the Judge who gently leads us into growth as human beings.

Bishop Paprocki: Planned Parenthood Selling Body Parts

Bishop Paprocki on Planned Parenthood videos: “We should be shocked and appalled at this moral depravity”

Recently, the Center for Medical Progress released undercover videos and documentation showing how people at the highest levels of Planned Parenthood are negotiating the sale of body parts and adjusting the way they perform abortions so that the body parts are more accessible. New undercover footage shows Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, describing how Planned Parenthood sells the body parts of aborted fetuses, and admitting she uses partial-birth abortions to supply intact body parts. In the video, Nucatola is at a business lunch casually sipping a glass of red wine with actors posing as buyers from a human biologics company. As head of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Services Department, Nucatola has overseen medical practice at all Planned Parenthood locations since 2009. She also trains new Planned Parenthood abortion doctors and performs abortions herself at Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles.



 Please watch his video and listen carefully to his words:   Email subscribers please click here to watch video.

How anyone can watch what Planned Parenthood does in its clinics and not be disgusted and heart-broken is quite beyond me. Let us join our prayers to those of Bishop Paprocki.