After Illinois marriage equality activists rallied in the capital city of Springfield Tuesday, some of them planned to pray the rosary for their cause at the city’s largest Roman Catholic church — but the local bishop said they weren’t welcome.
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the diocese of Springfield said people wearing a rainbow sash, which is a symbol of a Catholic movement for LGBT equality, or otherwise identifying themselves with the movement would be barred from entering the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, The State Journal-Register reports.
“It is blasphemy to show disrespect or irreverence to God or to something holy,” reads a written statement from Paprocki. “Since Jesus clearly taught that marriage as created by God is a sacred institution between a man and a woman (see Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9), praying for same-sex marriage should be seen as blasphemous and as such will not be permitted in the cathedral.”
The Journal-Register had no figures on how many marriage equality supporters planned to enter the cathedral. At least one, activist Rick Garcia, came in for 5:15 p.m. Mass without incident, but he was not wearing a rainbow sash.
Garcia, political director for the Civil Rights Agenda, said it’s the bishop’s action that was blasphemous, plus out of touch with Pope Francis’s call to make the church more welcoming.
“We’re not committing blasphemy,” he told the Journal-Register. “The bishop’s committing blasphemy.”
He also objected to the police presence at the church to keep activists out. “This is the first time in all of my years of coming here,” he said, “that I see police officers in front of this church. ... It angers me because I’m a lifelong Catholic. That a bishop would say this about me or my people is outrageous.”
On Wednesday, the day after an estimated 5,000 marriage equality supporters gathered at the capitol building, a few dozen opponents rallied, Windy City Times reports. Speakers included Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, radio host Stephanie Trussell, ministers, some state legislators, and an “ex-gay” activist.
Trussell denounced, among other things, gay-straight alliances in schools, saying, “The enemy is hunting our children,” according to Windy City Times. Linda Jerrigan, who calls herself an “ex-homosexual,” claimed Christianity can help people change their sexual orientation. “All we need to do is send the homosexuals to Jesus,” she said.
The Illinois Senate has already passed a marriage equality bill, but it has yet to come to a vote in the state House. It may come up in the so-called veto session, in which the legislature met three days this week and will meet again November 5-7. Gov. Pat Quinn has pledged to sign the bill.