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Illinois Catholic Bishop: No Communion or Church Funerals for Those in Same-Sex Marriages

Illinois Bishop Decrees Gay Catholics Should Not Get Holy Funerals

Such unions are "objectively immoral," says Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield.

Thomas Paprocki, the Roman Catholic bishop of Springfield, Ill., has issued a decree to all the clergy under him to limit the participation of same-sex couples in the church. It includes "necessary guidelines" that instruct clergy to deny Holy Communion and Catholic funeral rites to people in same-sex marriages unless they have repented of the "sin" of being gay.

Because this decree isn't from the Vatican, the hostile approach is limited to his diocese, which covers a population of 140,000 Catholics in 28 counties in central Illinois, but critics say it is typical of the church's anti-LGBT policies. "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," Christopher Pett, president of DignityUSA, an LGBT Catholic advocacy group, said in a statement about the guidelines. Its executive director, Marianne Duddy-Burke, echoed the sentiment, saying, "It is simply cruel and shameful to refuse burial or Communion to those who seek the grace and comfort that our Church offers at some of the most difficult moments of life."

This decree comes amid Pope Francis's more conciliatory approach to LGBT Catholics, but church doctrine has not changed, as it officially states in catechism that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered" and that it expects people with an "inclination" to homosexuality to be celibate. Paprocki's degree cites "the objectively immoral nature of the relationship created by same-sex marriages."

This is not the first time the Paprocki has stood against LGBT people. He performed an exorcism in protest of marriage equality in the state in 2013 and gave a speech this month at the Northwest Regional Canon Law Convention telling fellow clergymen not to be so encouraged by the pope's more welcoming words toward gay people as to invite them to join in Catholic sacraments.

There have been incidents of LGBT individuals being denied Communion or other sacraments, but the decree by a bishop is unusual, though not unprecented. Philadelphia's Catholic archbishop said in 2016 that people in same-sex relationships should not receive Communion or participate in other church activities unless they refrain from sex.

Some gay Catholics are not disheartened by homophobic clergymen like Paprocki. When discussing the decree, Dan Walden, a gay Catholic and graduate student at the University of Michigan, told Vox,"My Catholicism has been deeply shaped by my gay identity and vice versa. ... I've got a very Catholic way of being gay and a very gay way of being Catholic." Walden added that "no sensible gay Catholic expects radical changes in doctrine" from Francis or any other pope, but Francis has nonetheless brought many back to the faith .

In the DignityUSA statement, Duddy-Burke said Paprocki's decree goes against the tenets of the faith. "This Decree completely fails to live up to its own standards," she said. "It is unchristian and demeaning. It is totally unworthy of our Catholic faith. Our Church's founder, Jesus Christ, practiced a ministry of radical inclusion and welcome. The Bishop's Decree is also totally incompatible with the much warmer welcome some LGBTQI people are experiencing in dioceses like Newark, New Jersey, San Diego, California, and more."

And Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, another Catholic LGBT group, issued an open letter calling on Paprocki to rescind the directive. "I hope and pray that you will reflect not only on the harm that this decree will cause but also the good that can occur if you withdraw it," he wrote. "Please welcome lesbian and gay families back into the Springfield Diocese's Catholic parishes."

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