While the news cycle has started to relax it's focus on the controversial (but really, not controversial at all) decree issued by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL on the pastoral care of those homosexual persons in state sanctioned marriages, it seems that there are those within the Church who are still making comments about it. A few days ago, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath of the Diocese of San Jose released the following statement:
Recent news reports of policies and practices related to members of the LGBT community in other dioceses can be confusing.
I take this opportunity to assure you that the pastoral response in the Diocese of San Jose remains just that: compassionate and pastoral. We will not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith.
Finally, let us remember and be guided by the words of Pope Francis: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”This is disheartening.
It's extremely sad to see, at almost every turn, bishop against bishop, pastor against pastor, and even Bishops' Conference against Bishops' Conference on several issues.
Frankly, this whole controversy that's erupted around Bishop Paprocki's decree (which is simply a reiteration of Catholic teaching) is ridiculous. As Bishop Paprocki commented in a recent interview, "[T]he decree is a rather straightforward application of existing Church teaching and canon law. The Catholic Church has been very clear for two thousand years that we do not accept same-sex “marriage,” yet many people seem to think that the Church must simply cave in to the popular culture now that same-sex “marriage” has been declared legal in civil law."
I find Bishop McGrath's statement to be very troubling, however. This is what I mean about bishop being against bishop: by him saying that "the pastoral response in the Diocese of San Jose remains just that: compassionate and pastoral", this implies that what Bishop Paprocki has done in his diocese is not compassionate, nor are his directives pastoral. What are we to make of this?
I truly believe that Bishop Paprocki's decree was compassionate and is indeed very pastoral. He cares about his flock, and does not want Catholics in his diocese (or anywhere) to be scandalized at a Rite of Christian Burial for an unrepentant person who openly dissented from Church teaching by living in a state sanctioned same-sex marriage. Of course, one can certainly have Masses offered for such a person, as one can do for any person living or dead. But a public funeral, a public Rite of Christian Burial (especially in the context of the Holy Mass), for an unrepentant person living in a state of manifest grave sin is indeed scandalous. One of the nine ways of assisting in the sin of another is to remain silent. In his pastoral and compassionate judgement, Bishop Paprocki has decided to not remain silent.
Furthermore, it seems that Bishop McGrath has made the same mistake that Fr. Martin and many others (Catholic or secular) have made regarding Bishop Paprocki's decree. In his statement, Bishop McGrath mentions that "Recent news reports of policies and practices related to members of the LGBT community in other dioceses can be confusing." Also, the original Instagram post of Bishop McGrath's letter (since removed) had this as part of the caption: "However, our bishop just put out a letter saying that our diocese (a collection of 52 churches in Santa Clara County) will continue providing these services to ALL people, regardless of their sexual orientation. Go, Bishop McGrath!!"
It's clear that they did not understand what Bishop Paprocki's decree was getting at. The decree was specifically aimed at those who have contracted a state sanctioned same-sex marriage. From Bishop Paprocki's own mouth, in that same interview I linked above, emphases mine:
A lot of people seem to have missed the [decree's] whole point of the call to repentance and conversion. They seem to think that the decree is a blanket condemnation of people who are gay and lesbian. It is not. 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.”
Bishop McGrath also quotes Pope Francis: "The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.” That's awesome! I totally 100% agree with this! But we also have to remember what St. Paul said, and realize that it doesn't contradict in any way what Pope Francis said:
Whoever, therefore, 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 any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Cor 11:27-32)I really do think Bishop Paprocki has been one of the most compassionate bishops by firmly articulating what the Church teaches. As a pastor of souls, he has a duty to his flock, especially the duty that he is required to obey in Canon 843 §2:
Pastors of souls and other members of the Christian faithful, according to their respective ecclesiastical function, have the duty to take care that those who seek the sacraments are prepared to receive them by proper evangelization and catechetical instruction, attentive to the norms issued by competent authority.Bishop Paprocki is doing his job. It's sad to see Bishop McGrath knock him for doing so; that is, to dismiss him so quickly in such an ambiguous comment. Robert Cardinal Sarah made a powerful point in his new book The Power of Silence, and I believe it is particularly salient here in this case. God bless Bishop Paprocki for defending Christ and the teachings that have been transmitted by Him to the Church:
Christ is certainly distressed to see and to hear priests and bishops, who ought to be protecting the integrity of the teaching of the Gospel and of doctrine, multiply words and writing that weaken the rigor of the Gospel by their deliberately confused, ambiguous statements. It is not inopportune to remind these priests and prelates who give the impression of saying the opposite of the Church's traditional teaching in matters of doctrine or morality, of Christ’s severe words: “Therefore I tell you every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come. [He] is guilty of an eternal sin”.
...Every priest and every bishop out to be able to say, like St. Augustine: "Voce Ecclesaie loquor (I speak with the voice of the Church).One last thing to keep in mind: I've seen several people claim that Bishop Paprocki is effectively saying that we aren't allowed to pray for a seemingly unrepentant sinner, or ask whether God is displeased if an open and unrepentant sinner receives the same Christian burial as a lifelong devout Catholic. I want to strongly emphasize the following:
|Triumphant Christ Forgiving Repentant Sinners- Jan Boeckhorst|
As some have pointed out, we're only dealing with very small numbers of people who are affected by this decree. Bishop Paprocki has merely made provisions for such uncommon cases. To suggest that anyone who agrees with Bishop Paprocki's reaffirmation of Church teaching is like the Prodigal Son's older brother (as I've seen done recently) is a bit unfair. I appreciate the compassion that the Bishop shows towards his flock, and the compassion he shows towards the deceased in not disallowing a Mass Intention to be offered for the repose of the soul of the deceased.