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Catholic bishop writes decree barring same-sex couples from receiving Holy Communion, funeral rites

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is under fire for implementing a policy barring individuals in same-sex marriages from receiving Holy Communion or funeral rites. (2015 file photo/Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois is under fire for implementing a policy barring individuals in same-sex marriages from receiving Holy Communion or funeral rites.

In a decree obtained by the Washington Post, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki wrote that members of the clergy, as well as other employees or representatives of the diocese should not participate in or assist with same-sex marriages, nor should diocesan property of facilities be used to host them. Catholic Church teaching states that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

Paprocki also wrote that individuals living publicly in a same-sex marriage should not receive Holy Communion.

“Pastors aware of such situations should address these concerns privately with the persons in such circumstances, calling them to conversion and advising them not to present themselves for Holy Communion until they have been restored to communion with the Church through the Sacrament of Reconciliation,” Paprocki wrote.

He said that a person living publicly in a same-sex marriage who is “in danger of death” may be given Holy Communion “if he or she expresses repentance for his or her sins.”

He added that individuals in same-sex marriages should be denied funeral rites unless they repented before death.

In the document, Paprocki explained that it is his responsibility as diocesan bishop “to guide the people of God entrusted to me with charity but without compromising the truth.”

“Finally, I 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,” he wrote. “They are also warned that culpable violation of any of these norms can be punished with a just penalty.”

Some media outlets and activist groups criticized the decree.

The Chicago Tribune chastised Paprocki for issuing the decree “four years after same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois and two years after it became legal in the U.S.”

Christopher Pett, the incoming president of DignityUSA, a group that says it is committed to “full inclusion of LGBTQI Catholics in the Church and society” blasted the decree in a statement.

“Bishop Paprocki’s decree makes it very clear why so many LGBTQI people and their families feel unwelcome in the Catholic Church and why so many leave it,” Pett said. “Although some other bishops and dioceses have instituted similar policies in part, this document is mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme. It systematically and disdainfully disparages us and our relationships. It denies us the full participation in the life of our Church to which we are entitled by our baptism and our creation in God’s image.”

Pett also argued that “Pope Francis has issued no such decree for the Catholic Church, and has in fact called for a much more pastoral and respectful approach to LGBTQI people, our families, and our relationships.”

In a statement provided to The Washington Post, Paprocki said: “These norms are necessary in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues.”

One last thing…
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