The governor of Illinois is set to sign into law tomorrow a bill giving legal recognition to gay marriages, and the local Bishop of Springfield, Thomas John Paprocki, is ready to fight back spiritually in one of the boldest ways any bishop has before.
His Office of Communications issued a press release last week announcing that Bishop Paprocki would be leading a service to offer “Prayers of Supplication and Exorcism in Reparation for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage” at his cathedral close to the time the bill would be signed into law.
If you’re like most people and unfamiliar with what “prayers of supplication and exorcism in reparation” entails, the press release explains more about the service:
Bishop Paprocki says he takes inspiration from Pope Francis. “The context for this prayer service may be understood by recalling the words of Pope Francis when he faced a similar situation as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010.”
In June of 2010, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio said regarding a proposed law to give legal recognition to gay marriage in Argentina, “At stake is the total rejection of God's law engraved in our hearts. … 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),” Bishop Paprocki explains, “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.”
Is this an appropriate response to the gay marriage bill in Illinois?
“It very likely is,” says Fr. Joseph Fessio, founder of Ignatius press and founding provost of Ave Maria University. “Appropriateness would depend to some extent on what takes place in the service.”
“Certainly homosexual unions are objectively gravely sinful. […] [T]he most charitable thing a Christian can do is to help these people see the objective disorder in these unions. For a bishop to do so in the context of prayer and supplication could well be the most compassionate way to do that.”
Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington D.C. Fr. C. John McCloskey points out that prayers of reparation have also be done for abortion. “Similar prayers are at least offered yearly in reparation of Roe vs. Wade.”
Robert Fastiggi, professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary and Vice President of the Mariological Society of America, says he thinks the misuse of Pope Francis by some legislators to justify supporting gay marriage may have been what inspired Bishop Paprocki to hold the service. “In this particular context, I think Bishop Paprocki might have been motivated to make use of this application of the Rite of Exorcism because some Catholic legislators in Illinois were invoking Pope Francis out of context to support same-sex marriage. The Bishop wanted to remind them and the faithful that Pope Francis, as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, had referred to ‘the father of lies’ as the motivating force behind same-sex marriage.”
Fastiggi supports Bishop Paprocki’s plan but also expects the mainstream media to report on it unfairly. “I think this is a bold and courageous gesture of Bishop Paprocki, though I anticipate some segments of the secular media will twist this out of context and say that the Bishop is labeling people with same-sex attractions as ‘diabolical’. This, of course, is not what the Bishop intends. He reminds us to pray for God's mercy and forgiveness for those who fall into error or sin.”
Author John Zmirak agrees Bishop Paprocki’s plan is bold but doesn’t think it’ll win hearts. “I think Bishop Paprocki has chosen a powerful gesture, which will resonate spiritually with those who already believe. [But] what powerful gestures would help those who do not share the Church's vision of marriage?”
“That's really what [the Church] is about – reaffirming marriage, not condemning particular sins of the flesh, however grave. The worst threats to marriage come from the laxity of Catholics and their pastors – from marriages too carelessly contracted with deficient catechesis, marriages corrupted by the use of contraception, marriages easily (and often rightly) annulled because one or both parties entered with defective intent. Fixing those things, diocese by diocese, would make a much more powerful, though subtler, impact.”
Professor of History at the University of Dallas Thomas Jodziewicz thinks Bishop Paprocki’s citing of Pope Francis is important for helping people to understand Pope Francis correctly. “[T]o connect this… with Pope Francis will perhaps, ironically, help to dispel the illusions associated with his pastoral style….”
“[T]he pope’s pastoral posture is quite traditional, but always sensitive and prudential in its exercise: to hate the sin but to love the sinner. The modern translation, and preference, is to engage the latter and accordingly to privilege non-judgmentalism as to the former (how can I “force” my “values” on others, and “hate,” unless the action or words violate some modern, politically correct norm endorsed by our sophisticated public celebrities?).”
Fastiggi encourages Catholics to support Bishop Paprocki’s plan and wonders if other bishops may be quietly supportive. “I think we should join in spirit with Bishop Paprocki and the prayers of supplication on November 20, 2013. I don't anticipate many other bishops doing this in their dioceses, but I'm glad Bishop Paprocki is taking this initiative. I suspect many bishops also are happy he's doing this even if they might be reluctant to do this themselves.”
The following Aleteia Experts contributed to this article:
Robert Fastiggi is a professor of Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, MI and and Vice President of the Mariological Society of America.
Fr. Joseph Fessio is a Catholic priest of the Jesuit order and the founder and editor of Ignatius Press. He was the founding provost of Ave Maria University until March 2007.
Thomas Jodziewicz is a Professor of History at the University of Dallas.
Fr. C. John McCloskey is a Church historian and Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington DC. His personal website is www.frmccloskey.com.