Well this probably isn’t the kind of bishop the pope’s liaison to the United States imagined when he asked the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to consider appointing more pastoral leaders to top leadership roles.
The Catholic bishop of Springfield, Illinois, Thomas Paprocki, announced that he would lead a prayer service next week to exorcise the gay-loving demons there that helped bring same-sex marriage to Illinois.
According to the State Journal Register of Springfield, Paprocki said “he will offer ‘prayers of supplication and exorcism’ on Wednesday, the same day Gov. Pat Quinn is scheduled to sign the same-sex marriage legislation into law.”
Paprocki, who holds a JD from DePaul and an MBA from Notre Dame, is a huge fan of exorcism, having led a conference on the subject attended by 100 bishops and priests in 2010. He slammed Catholic legislators who voted for the law:
It is scandalous that so many Catholic politicians are responsible for enabling the passage of this legislation and even twisting the words of the pope to rationalize their actions despite the clear teaching of the church.
While Paprocki vowed to fight for repeal, in Hawaii, which will adopt same-sex marriage next week, the Catholic Church seemed to admit defeat on the issue, perhaps signaling a shift away form the culture wars. The bishops’ top anti-same-sex marriage crusader, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, released this statement:
My prayers are with the many people who helped defend marriage in Hawaii in a spirit of charity and truth, and by so doing, helped defend a culture of the family. Their efforts were not in vain, and their witness will continue to bear fruit.
Paprocki, of course, is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this year, he banned supporters of same-sex marriage from praying in the cathedral, calling their beliefs “blasphemous.” In the run up to the 2012 election, he suggested that voting for Democrats could send one to hell:
Because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.
He compared the relationship between people of faith and modern values to the persecution faced by early Christians, suggesting that today’s environment “is really much more akin to where the early Christians found themselves in the Roman empire.” He also suggested that Islam was unique among religions in inspiring violence.
Paprocki, it goes without saying, is a culture warrior at heart, the kind of mind that rose to positions of leadership under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. As Pope Francis calls for a different kind of leader, one who engages the world and “smells of sheep”, it will be interesting to see how Paprocki’s colleagues receive his extreme rhetoric. Do these kinds of statements embarrass them or are they glad someone is saying what they’re thinking? Will new leadership at the USCCB try to quiet these inflammatory words or will they let it continue unabated?