A newspaper column written by Catholic Bishop Thomas Paprocki condemning Pride Month and praising a Ugandan law criminalizing homosexual acts has raised the ire of progressive Christians in Springfield.
At issue is a June 8 piece in the Catholic Times in which the bishop wrote, "The Catholic Church teaches that pride is the deadliest of the deadly sins, so it is something to be avoided, along with lust, not celebrated."
The cleric took issue with the rainbow flag flying over the Illinois Capitol and the Governor's Mansion as well as President Joe Biden's condemnation of a law in the African nation of Uganda that creates criminal penalties – including death or life imprisonment – for engaging in homosexual acts.
"Our government is also promoting the LGBTQ+ movement, not only here in the United States, but around the world," Paprocki wrote. "President Joe Biden recently scolded the President of Uganda for signing legislation that imposes criminal penalties for homosexual acts. President Biden also threatened to withdraw American financial assistance to the east African country unless Uganda repealed the law.
"Such threats are quite ironic coming from the man who has called white supremacy the 'most dangerous threat to our homeland security.' Apparently, President Biden does not see that it is inherently racist and arrogant for the white leader of the United States to lecture an African nation on what laws are right for their country."
Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice, a national organization for progressive Catholics based in Washington, D.C., said Paprocki's position is contrary to the one espoused by Pope Francis.
"My first reaction was that Bishop Paprocki is in direct contradiction to Pope Francis and his recent statement that countries should move to decriminalize homosexuality and homosexual acts. ... The official Catholic teaching in the catechism says that homosexuals – gays and lesbians – are supposed to be treated with dignity and respect. And it makes it very clear people do not choose to be gay or lesbian and no one is to suffer any kind of oppression because of that identity."
Paprocki's outspokenness on the issue is nothing new. In 2013, he held a service of "Prayers of Supplication and Exorcism in Reparation for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage" at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield on the same day Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois.
Manson, whose group advocates for reproductive freedom, including legal abortion, also is involved with LGBTQ rights.
"No. 1, I'm openly lesbian. So, I am gay," Manson said. "I have been out since 2008. I came out in my first column in the National Catholic Reporter. The church's teaching on abortion, on contraception, on homosexuality, on trans rights, are all rooted in this particular understanding by the hierarchy of gender and male and female roles. ... So, there's tremendous intersection in these issues."
Manson said Paprocki's conservatism is known nationally.
"He wrote an autobiography years ago, and on the cover of the autobiography was him playing ice hockey. So, he really wants to promote a very hyper-masculine image of himself. And that hyper-masculinity is very often used by people who espouse homophobic ideas and who try to make an argument that our church has become too feminine. They're trying to promote a priesthood of masculinity."
Paprocki takes exception to the rainbow being used as a symbol in the gay rights movement.
"The rainbow was first used as a symbol in the Bible, when God told Noah following the flood that the rainbow 'is the sign of the covenant that I am making between me and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come' (Genesis 9:12). This rainbow was not a symbol for a license to sin nor was the covenant a one-sided promise on God's part, since the Lord said that He would 'demand an accounting' for the actions of every creature on earth... Humility and chastity: these would be more fitting themes to promote during this month," Paprocki wrote in his column.
Dan Frachey, a Springfield-area Catholic, said his first reaction to Paprocki's column was anger.
"The first emotion was anger and just a deep frustration. I felt this deep sorrow. He's a shepherd of souls who is at odds with his flock at a deep level. As far as Christianity is concerned, Jesus wants us to see, encounter and value," Frachey said.
Frachey belongs to a splinter group supportive of women in the priesthood, the Holy Family Inclusive Catholic Community. He added that he believes Paprocki adheres to a "remanent theology" that calls for a smaller and what he would consider a "more pure" theology."
When contacted by Illinois Times, Paprocki did not make himself available for an interview but offered this clarification: "While respecting the sovereignty of the Ugandan people to pass their own laws, the Church's teaching against the death penalty is clear. The Church also clearly teaches that, while homosexual acts are gravely sinful, homosexual people must be 'accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity' and that 'Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.'"
Frachey said a group of Springfield church leaders supportive of LGTBQ rights will meet June 25 to discuss Paprocki's message.
Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at [email protected].