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Diocesan-Blog
Tuesday, 24 December 2013 11:11

Merry Christmas from Bishop Paprocki

Merry Christmas from Bishop Paprocki

Homily for Prayers of Supplication and Exorcism
in Reparation for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage

November 20, 2013

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Springfield, Illinois

† Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki
Bishop of Springfield in Illinois

pdfClick here to download a printable version of Bishop Paprocki's homily

​My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are gathered here today in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for a special Holy Hour before the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament to participate in "Prayers of Supplication and Exorcism in Reparation for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage." I wish to preface my reflections by saying that I am conducting this prayer service and am speaking to you now with great reluctance. I did not seek to enter any controversy and I don't relish being part of one. But I have given this matter a great deal of thought and prayer, which has led me to the conviction that God is calling me to speak out and conduct these prayers.

In our prayers, we must be open to hear where God is leading us and to embrace the path that He offers. That is a much different starting point than beginning with our own wants, desires, and conclusions. That is why we pray every day, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

Our prayers at this time are prompted by the fact that the Governor of Illinois today is signing into Illinois law the redefinition of civil marriage, introducing not only an unprecedented novelty into our state law, but also institutionalizing an objectively sinful reality.

It is not hateful to say that an immoral action is sinful. On the contrary, the most compassionate thing we can do is help people to turn away from sin. To ignore another person's wrongful actions is a sign of apathy or indifference, while fraternal correction is motivated by love for that person's well-being, as can be seen by the fact that our Lord Jesus himself urged such correction. Indeed, the call to repentance is at the heart of the Gospel, as Jesus proclaimed, "The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Good News"(Mark 1:15).
​The Good News is that God's mercy and forgiveness extend to those who repent. Mercy does not mean approving of something that is sinful, but does absolve the wrongdoer after a change of heart takes place in the sinner through the gift of God's grace. It is not the Church that must change to conform its teachings to the views of the world, but it is each individual who is called to be configured to Christ.
As we heard in the Gospel passage that was just read, Jesus tells His disciples, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. . . . Signs like these will accompany those who have professed their faith: they will use my name to expel demons" (Mark 16:15-17). Thus it is through the power of Jesus that evil is displaced from our hearts and is replaced by divine love. This change of heart involves a spiritual battle that is not easily won, but in which we receive the assistance of angels, under the leadership of Saint Michael the Archangel (cf. Daniel 12:1-3). We need not fear this battle, for Christ has conquered sin and death, and in Christ rests our hope of final victory.

​As such, I do not stand here before you as a self-righteous saint who has achieved spiritual perfection, but as a sinner who has received Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Savior. To acknowledge one's sinfulness is indeed the starting point of what it means to be a Christian. However, our Christian identity does not end with this admission of sin, but finds its salvation in accepting the saving grace of our Most Holy Redeemer, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on the cross to forgive our sins and rose from the dead to lead us to the reward of eternal life in His Kingdom. Our second reading from Saint Paul's Letter to the Ephesians affirms this: "It is in Christ and through His blood that we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven, so immeasurably generous is God's favor to us" (Ephesians 1:7).

Pope Francis expressed this essential message in his recent interview published in various Jesuits publications in these words: "The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all. The confessor, for example, is always in danger of being either too much of a rigorist or too lax. Neither is merciful, because neither of them really takes responsibility for the person. The rigorist washes his hands so that he leaves it to the commandment. The loose minister washes his hands by simply saying, 'This is not a sin' or something like that. In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds."

This is a key point which the secularists are missing: they think that stressing God's mercy means that sins are no longer sins. On the contrary, God's mercy is a great gift of grace precisely because sins are sins and they call for repentance and forgiveness.

Note from the interview, when he was asked to describe himself, Pope Francis said simply, "I am a sinner." After a brief pause, he amplifies this self-identity in the understanding of a Christian who has been saved by Christ, saying, "I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon."

This is not the first time that I have offered prayers of repentance here in our Cathedral. On December 12, 2011, I offered a service of "Repentance and Prayer for those Harmed in the Church," at which I said, "I express repentance for the sins of the members of the Church who have harmed others. Sometimes these harms were evil in themselves, such as the sins of racism and the sexual abuse of minors, as well as other forms of unchastity. At other times, the harms may have been done in the context of actions that were in themselves not sinful and may even have been necessary for pastoral or economic reasons, such as the closing of a church or school, but nevertheless were done in a way that was insensitive to the feelings of those who would be affected. Therefore we pray for all those who have been harmed." This prayer service was modeled along the lines of Pope John Paul II's "Day of Pardon" held on the First Sunday of Lent, March 12, 2000, as part of the observation of the Great Jubilee of the new millennium, in which Pope John Paul II said that the Church "should kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters."

While prayers of supplication in reparation for sin may be easily understood as our pleas and entreaties to God for forgiveness of sins and deliverance from temptation, the meaning of the term "exorcism" in the title of this prayer service is not so readily apparent and requires some explanation. Indeed, some have ridiculed our Church's use of this ancient religious practice. We must remember the encouragement of Pope Saint Leo the Great, who said over 1,500 years ago, "The Church is not diminished by persecutions, but rather increased." It should also be noted that the bill that the Governor is signing today is called the "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act," which purportedly provides that "the Act does not interfere with any religious beliefs about marriage."

Perhaps a large part of the negative reaction is because most people don't know what the Church teaches about exorcism, since they get their misleading information and sensational ideas on this mainly from Hollywood. The fact is that a "minor exorcism" takes place in every Baptism and Confirmation ceremony when we renounce Satan and all his works and empty promises. This prayer service will be along those lines. I'm not saying that anyone involved in the redefinition of marriage is possessed by the devil, which, if that were the case, would require the remedy of a "Major Exorcism," but all of us are certainly subject to the devil's evil influences and in need of protection and deliverance from evil.

​Our prayer service today and my words are not meant to demonize anyone, but are intended to call attention to the diabolical influences of the devil that have penetrated our culture, both in the state and in the Church. These demonic influences are not readily apparent to the undiscerning eye, which is why they are so deceptive. A helpful resource in this regard is a recent book by Father Louis J. Cameli, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, called The Devil You Don't Know: Recognizing and Resisting Evil in Everyday Life. While the popular tendency may be to identify the devil only with his extraordinary activity, which is diabolical possession, Father Cameli writes about the ordinary work of the devil: deception, division, diversion and discouragement.

The deception of the Devil in same-sex marriage may be understood by recalling the words of Pope Francis when he faced a similar situation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010. Regarding the proposed redefinition of civil marriage in Argentina, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wrote on June 22, 2010, "The Argentine people must face, in the next few weeks, a situation whose result may gravely harm the family. It is the bill on matrimony of persons of the same sex. The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children. The life of so many children who will be discriminated beforehand due to the lack of human maturity that God willed them to have with a father and a mother is in jeopardy. A clear rejection of the law of God, engraved in our hearts, is in jeopardy. . . . Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a 'move' of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God."

The Pope's reference to the "father of lies" comes from the Gospel of John (8:44), where Jesus refers to the devil as "a liar and the father of lies." So Pope Francis is saying that same-sex "marriage" comes from the devil and should be condemned as such.

Another major deception or distortion of marriage is the view that it is not ultimately about generating life, but rather is mainly about a romantic relationship designed for individual (not even mutual) fulfillment. That distorted understanding cuts across opposite-sex marriage and same-sex marriage proponents in our culture. We are all summoned to reflect more deeply on the truth of marriage.

It is also a deception to say that there will be no adverse effects on children being brought up in the household of a same-sex couple.

The division brought about by the Devil due to same-sex marriage may be seen in the way our society, our families and our friendships have become so divided and polarized over this issue.

The diversion of the Devil in same-sex marriage may be seen in the fact that so much of our time, energy and resources are being spent in addressing this issue, when there are more pressing needs facing our state and our Church.

The work of discouragement by the Devil in same-sex marriage is apparent in the message being conveyed to defenders of traditional marriage that the universal redefinition of marriage is unstoppable, so we might as well just stop trying. But the legalization of abortion on demand forty years ago did not silence those who believe that abortion is contrary to God's law. On the contrary, Roe v. Wade only heightened the need for more concerted efforts to protect all human life from conception to natural death. So, too, the legal redefinition of civil marriage does not put an end to the need for discourse and action to defend natural marriage in accord with God's plan, but only serves to heighten the need for greater efforts in this regard.

The Prayers for "Supplication and Exorcism Which May Be Used in Particular Circumstances of the Church" are taken from the Appendices to the 2004 Latin edition of the Rite of Exorcism, the introduction to which explains, "The presence of the Devil and other demons appears and exists not only in the tempting or tormenting of persons, but also in the penetration of things and places in a certain manner by their activity, and in various forms of opposition to and persecution of the Church. If the Diocesan Bishop, in particular situations, judges it appropriate to announce gatherings of the faithful for prayer, under the leadership and direction of a Priest, elements for arranging a rite of supplication may be taken from [the texts provided in these appendices]."

Same-sex marriage is contrary to the plan of God, as described in the Bible, when Jesus cites the Book of Genesis in asking the Pharisees, "Have you not read that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and declared, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and the two shall become as one?' Thus they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined."

Since the legal redefinition of marriage is contrary to God's plan, those who contract civil same-sex marriage are culpable of serious sin. Politicians responsible for enacting civil same-sex marriage legislation are morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin. We must pray for forgiveness of these sins and deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our Church. The Church stands ready to extend God's mercy to those who confess their sins with true repentance and a firm purpose of amendment in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We must also affirm the teaching of the Catholic Church that homosexual persons "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." The Church loves homosexual persons and looks upon them with compassion, offering assistance through support groups such as the Courage Apostolate to live in accord with the virtue of chastity. Indeed, all people all called to chastity, which for a man and woman united in matrimony means for the husband and wife to be faithful to each other.

In conclusion, I quote from a homily given in the second century: "Let me say also that when we are given a warning and corrected for doing something wrong, we should not be so foolish as to take offense and be angry. There are times when we are unconscious of the sins we commit because our hearts are fickle, lacking in faith. Futile desires becloud our minds. We need to pull ourselves up, therefore, because our very salvation is at stake. Those who keep God's commandments will have reason to rejoice. For a short time in this world they may have to suffer, but they will rise again and their reward will endure for ever. No one who holds God in reverence should grieve over the hardships of this present time, for a time of blessedness awaits him. He will live again in heaven in the company of all those who have gone before him; for all eternity he will rejoice, never to know sorrow again."

May God give us this grace. Amen.

Pope Francis has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the entire Mideast region, and throughout the whole world to be held this coming Saturday, September 7th, 2013. Speaking ahead of the traditional Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square this past Sunday, Pope Francis said, "On [Saturday] the 7th of September, here [in St Peter's Square], from 7 PM until midnight, we will gather together in prayer, in a spirit of penitence, to ask from God this great gift [of peace] for the beloved Syrian nation and for all the situations of conflict and violence in the world."

This period of prayer designated by Pope Francis translates to our time zone as 12:00 noon to 5:00 PM Central Standard Time. Realizing that weddings and anticipated Masses for Sunday may be already scheduled during this time, it would be appreciated if churches could otherwise remain open during these hours on Saturday afternoon for people to come to pray for peace in the presence of our Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

The Holy Father also invited non-Catholic Christians and non-Christian believers to participate in ways they feel are appropriate. "Never again war!" said Pope Francis. "We want a peaceful world," he said, "we want to be men and women of peace."

Pope Francis also issued a forceful condemnation of the use of chemical weapons. "There is the judgment of God, and also the judgment of history, upon our actions – [judgments] from which there is no escaping." He called on all parties to conflicts to pursue negotiations, and urged the international community to take concrete steps to end conflicts, especially the war in Syria. "Humanity needs to see gestures of peace," said Pope Francis, "and to hear words of hope and of peace."

Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Bishop Paprocki

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2013

For more information:
Kathie Sass: (217) 698-8500

 

I wish to commend the efforts of all those who helped to dissuade the Illinois House of Representatives from voting on the so-called Religious Freedom and Marriage Restoration Act. This outcome respects the fact that a re-definition of marriage to include same-sex marriage is beyond the competence of the state, because marriage both precedes the state and is a necessary condition for the continuation of the state. Since the very notion of marriage between people of the same sex is contrary to natural law, continued efforts to re-define marriage should be resisted by all those concerned for the common good.

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June 26, 2013

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As in the case of Roe v. Wade striking down abortion laws forty years ago, the United States Supreme Court has again usurped its legitimate prerogative through a raw exercise of judicial power by giving legal protection to an intrinsic evil, this time by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in the case of U.S. v. Windsor and in refusing to take up the defense of Proposition 8 in California in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.

These hollow decisions are absolutely devoid of moral authority. It is becoming increasingly and abundantly clear that what secular law now calls “marriage” has no semblance to the sacred institution of Holy Matrimony. People of faith are called to reject the redefinition of marriage and bear witness to the truth of Holy Matrimony as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between one man and one woman.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 13, 2013

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Text of Statement

Today the Church throughout the world rejoices in the election of Pope Francis I to be our new Supreme Pontiff. Here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, we are united in prayer with Catholics everywhere in giving thanks to God for this newest successor of Peter the Apostle.

The election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is an historic moment in the history of the Catholic Church. This 76-year-old Jesuit is the first pope from the New World. As a native of Argentina, he comes from Latin America, the region with the world’s largest number of the Catholics. Now as pope, he will bring a new perspective to his task of shepherding the 1.2 billion Catholics world-wide.

The new pontiff is said to be a humble man, who lives simply and is dedicated to the poor. To many in his flock in Argentina, he has been known simply as “Padre Jorge.” He is known as a very spiritual man with a talent for pastoral leadership.

Yet he is also known as being fearless in upholding Church teaching and engaging the secular culture in order uphold the sanctity of human life and dignity of each person.

We congratulate Pope Francis I, and offer him our humble allegiance. We ask the Holy Spirit to guide him as he begins his role as head of the Catholic Church.

I will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the election of our new Holy Father tomorrow, Thursday, at 12:05 PM in our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception here in Springfield. I invite all those who are able to join me in praying for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the Vicar of Christ on earth.

And now, if you have any questions about these historic events, I will try my best to answer them.

Video of Statement

Tuesday, 12 March 2013 16:39

Tell Us Your Faith Story!

video-clapper-boardWhat better way to celebrate the launch of Bishop Thomas John Paprocki’s new book, Holy Goals for Body and Soul, than with a contest? Or better yet, how about a contest we have NEVER held before? But more on that in a minute!

In Holy Goals for Body and Soul, Bishop Paprocki links lessons from the world of sports and fitness—especially his experiences as a Catholic bishop who plays ice hockey—with concrete ways to live a holy life. Throughout the book, Bishop Paprocki weaves his own unique personal story with eight steps commonly associated with participation in athletics, personal fitness and team play, and connects them with a path to wholeness and holiness.

Holy Goals for Body and Soul links lessons from the world of sports and fitness—especially the experiences of a Catholic bishop who plays ice hockey—with concrete ways to live a holy life. These eight steps help the reader navigate a life of holiness: fear, frustration, failure, fortitude, faith, friendship, family and fun.

The Contest

So back to the contest. Bobby Hull, Hall of Fame Left Winger for the Chicago Blackhawks, said that “Holy Goals for Body and Soul is the perfect reminder that the lessons of sports apply to every aspect of life.” So we want to know: What lessons from sports and/or physical activity have you been able to apply to your life? Has participating on a team helped you overcome a fear or taught you how to handle frustration and failure? Have you seen your faith and fortitude increase as you have worked out on your own to achieve a personal goal? Has your family grown closer together as you rally around a common sports team or sport? We want to hear your story!

Grab a video camera, smartphone, tablet — anything that will record video and let us know how sports and/or physical activity have played a role in your life. The videos do not have to be professionally produced but we do suggest that you write out what you want to say prior to recording. And if you wish, there are websites that will provide a free teleprompter for you to read from. We use this same approach when we record Bishop Paprocki’s Catholic Times column. If you are recording your video outside, have a friend hold notes written on poster board. Above all, just have fun with this and let YOUR story be the star!

One video will be chosen out of all those submitted and the winner will receive a personalized, signed copy of Holy Goals for Body and Soul and maybe a few other surprises.

The Details

Here’s the fine print of the contest.

  • Video submissions need to be submitted by 11:49 p.m. on April 14.

  • Once you have recorded your video, you will need to upload it to a video sharing site such as YouTube or Vimeo, or if you have your own personal website, you can upload it there. We just need to be able to view the video online.

  • After you have uploaded your video, head on over to www.dio.org/videocontest and fill out the submission form.  That’s it! You’re video has been submitted to the contest!

  • On April 15, a panel of volunteers will start to review the videos and will select their top five videos. The top five videos will be selected by the average vote of all individuals.

  • On April 22, voting will open for anyone to view the top five videos and vote on which one they like the most. Voting will remain open until 11:59 p.m. on April 28.

  • The winning video will be announced Wednesday May 1.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 12, 2013

For more information:
Kathie Sass: (217) 698-8500

 

This Valentine’s Day the Illinois State Senate is scheduled to vote on redefining marriage. As the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, I strenuously object to this legislation and hope our elected officials will see the value marriage contributes to the common good of our society.

We would do well to remember the color red is associated with St. Valentine’s Day because Valentine died as a martyr on February 14, about the year 270. Valentine was a holy priest in Rome, who assisted the martyrs in the persecution under Emperor Claudius II.  This Valentine’s Day we would also do well to focus on a more authentic understanding of the word “love.”  Love never encourages sin or leads a person further into sin, but seeks instead to help others live a holy life.  As St. Valentine demonstrated, love seeks to lead us further away from sin and closer to the truth.

In this spirit, the Church defends true marriage because she knows that such marriage is a fundamental human good that has God—not the state, not human convention—as its author.  The Church has always, does now, and will forever proclaim and defend true marriage as a fundamental human good that unites one man and one woman in a unique sharing of the whole of their lives.  True marriage has been recognized from time immemorial as worthy of recognition and support from civil society, but such support in no way makes the definition of marriage dependent upon politics or civil law.

The Church hopes all civil servants will serve the common good and avoid acting contrary to that common good, especially in regard to basic institutions that, like marriage, are fundamental to the well-being of the whole society and her members.  In a special way, the Church expects this of Catholics who have been called to the dignity and responsibility of public service. Catholics who propose or promote the legal establishment of marriage as something other than the union of one man and one woman harm the common good of society, as known by reason, and set themselves against the settled teaching of the Church.

The Catholic Church has great love and compassion for those who experience same-sex attraction and offers pastoral help for people dealing with this condition to help them live a life of chastity.  This is a separate issue, however, from the definition of marriage as a natural institution between a man and a woman committed to an exclusive and life-long relationship open to the potential to bring new life into the world.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 11, 2013

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Kathie Sass: (217) 698-8500

 

Text of Statement

Today we join Catholics and all people of good will in thanking His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, for the gift of his ministry to the church and the world.

Though this morning’s announcement of his resignation was a surprise, we can surely understand and admire the pope’s courage in facing his frailties. His humility and concern for the people he has pastored are a sign of great love for the church.

Throughout his life, he has been a defender of the truth and a voice for the poor. He has been an advocate for peace among nations as well as a promoter of respect for God’s creation in nature. His writings have moved us and his words have inspired us.

On a personal level, I am particularly grateful to Pope Benedict for his having appointed me to serve here as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.

To our Holy Father, I join with the people of this diocese in offering our prayers and best wishes during these last days of his pontificate and for a tranquil retirement.

We also ask that the Holy Spirit guide the church in the coming weeks as we prepare for the election of the new pope.

Thank you.

Video of Statement

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 3, 2013

For more information:
Kathie Sass: (217) 698-8500

 

SPRINGFIELD — Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois released a letter concerning the proposed Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act. This letter has been sent to priests, deacons and pastoral facilitators in the 131 parishes of the diocese.

In his cover message, Bishop Paprocki said: "In light of the urgency and importance of the matter, I ask that my attached letter be read from the pulpit at all Masses this weekend (January 5-6), either incorporated appropriately with the homily or at the announcement time after Communion. Copies may also be reproduced for distribution with the parish bulletin. Your cooperation and prayers will be appreciated."

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Video of Letter

Text of Letter

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Our state's elected lawmakers will soon consider a bill called "The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act." A more fraudulent title for this dangerous measure could not be imagined. The proposed law is, in truth, a grave assault upon both religious liberty and marriage. All people of goodwill, and especially Christ's faithful committed to my pastoral care in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, should resolutely oppose this bill and make their opinions known to their representatives.

The pending bill would, for the first time in our state's history, redefine marriage to legally recognize same-sex "marriages." But neither two men nor two women - nor, for that matter, three or more people - can possibly form a marriage. Our law would be lying if it said they could.

The basic structure of marriage as the exclusive and lasting relationship of a man and a woman, committed to a life which is fulfilled by having children, is given to us in human nature, and thus by nature's God. Notwithstanding the vanity of human wishes, every society in human history - including every society untouched by Jewish or Christian revelation - has managed to grasp this profound truth about human relationships and happiness: marriage is the union of man and woman.

The bill's sponsors maintain it would simply extend marriage to some people who have long been arbitrarily excluded from it. They are wrong. The pending bill would not expand the eligibility-roster for marriage. It would radically redefine what marriage is- for everybody.

It would enshrine in our law - and thus in public opinion and practice - three harmful ideas:

  1. What essentially makes a marriage is romantic-emotional union.
  2. Children don't need both a mother and father.
  3. The main purpose of marriage is adult satisfactions.

These ideas would deepen the sexual revolution's harms on all society. After all, if marriage is an emotional union meant for adult satisfactions, why should it be sexually exclusive? Or limited to two? Or pledged to permanence? If children don't need both their mother and father, why should fathers stick around when romance fades? As marriage is redefined, it becomes harder for people to see the point of these profoundly important marital norms, to live by them, and to encourage others to do the same. The resulting instability hurts spouses, but also - and especially - children, who do best when reared by their committed mother and father.

Indeed, children's need - and right - to be reared by the mother and father whose union brought them into being explains why our law has recognized marriage as a conjugal partnership - the union of husband and wife - at all. Our lawmakers have understood that marriage is naturally oriented to procreation, to family. Of course, marriage also includesa committed, intimate relationship of a sort which some same-sex coulples (or multiple lovers in groups of three or more) could imitate. But our law never recognized and supported marriage in order to regulate intimacy for its own sake. The reason marriage is recognized in civil law at all (as ordinary friendships, or other sacraments, are not) is specific to the committed, intimate relationships of people of opposite-sex couples: they are by nature oriented to having children. Their love-making acts are life-giving acts.

Same-sex relationships lack this unique predicate of state recognition and support. Even the most ideologically blinded legislator cannot change this natural fact: the sexual acts of a same-sex couple (regardless of how one views them morally) are simply not of the type that yield the gift of new life. So they cannot extend a union of hearts by a true bodily union. They cannot turn a friendship into the one-flesh union of marriage. They are not marital. This is not just a Christian idea, but one common to every major religious tradition and our civilization's great philosophical traditions, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome.

The pending bill is not only a dangerous social experiment about marriage. It is also a lethal attack upon religious liberty. This so-called "religious freedom" would not stop the state from obligating the Knights of Columbus to make their halls available for same-sex "weddings." It would not stop the state from requiring Catholic grade schools to hire teachers who are legally "married" to someone of the same sex. This bill would not protect Catholic hospitals, charities, or colleges, which exclude those so "married" from senior leadership positions. Nor would it protect me, the Bishop of Springfield, if I refused to employ someone in a same-sex "marriage" who applied to the Diocese for a position meant to serve my ministry as your bishop. This "religious freedom" law does nothing at all to protect the consciences of people in business, or who work for the government. We saw the harmful consequences of deceptive titles all too painfully last year when the so-called "Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act" forced Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoption services in Illinois.

These threats do not raise a question about drafting a better law, one with more extensive conscience protections. There is no possible way - none whatsoever- for those who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of husband and wife to avoid legal penalties and harsh discriminatory treatment if the bill becomes law. Why should we expect it be otherwise? After all, we would be people who, according to the thinking behind the bill, hold onto an "unfair" view of marriage. The state would have equated our view with bigotry - which it uses the law to marginalize in every way short of criminal punishment.

The only way to protect religious liberty, and to preserve marriage, is to defeat this perilous proposal. Please make sure our elected representatives understand that and know that they will be held to account.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki
Bishop of Springfield in Illinois

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