“This is Why LGBTQI Catholics and Families Feel Unwelcome in Our Church.”
June 21, 2017. Boston, MA. Leaders of DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality and full inclusion of LGBTQI Catholics in the Church and society, decry the “Decree Regarding Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ and Related Pastoral Issues” recently promulgated by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois. The Decree outlines policies for all Catholic institutions in the Diocese when dealing with people in same-sex marriages.
The policy bans priests and diocesan employees from participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies, and forbids such weddings or receptions from taking place at Catholic facilities. It also says that people in same-sex marriages “should not present themselves for Holy Communion, nor should they be admitted to Holy Communion.” Further, it instructs that gravely ill people in same-sex marriages may be given Communion only “if he or she expresses repentance for his or her sins.” In addition, they may not be given Catholic funerals.
The Decree also says that people in same-sex marriages cannot be admitted to the Rite of Christian Initiation, which prepares adults for the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. Furthermore, they may not be allowed to serve as readers or Eucharistic ministers during Masses.
“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,” said Christopher Pett of Chicago, the incoming President of DignityUSA. “Although some other bishops and dioceses have instituted similar policies in part, this document is mean-spirited and hurtful in the extreme. It systematically and disdainfully disparages us and our relationships. It denies us the full participation in the life of our Church to which we are entitled by our baptism and our creation in God’s image. We note, by contrast, that Pope Francis has issued no such decree for the Catholic Church, and has in fact called for a much more pastoral and respectful approach to LGBTQI people, our families, and our relationships. ”
DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke said, “Along with many other Catholic leaders, members, and theologians, DignityUSA strongly opposes withholding our Church’s sacraments from anyone as punishment. 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 is reminiscent of the appalling practice of denying Communion, funerals, and burial to people dying of AIDS at the height of the epidemic. We want to say to Catholics of the Springfield Diocese or others whose parishes or Dioceses do not welcome them as fully who they are, there are Catholic communities that will welcome and affirm you, in the true spirit of our faith.”
In 2015, DignityUSA endorsed an effort to work for “sacramental equality” in the Church. Along with many other groups and a majority of Catholics in many cases, the organization believes that the Church’s sacraments should be open to all, regardless of gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or marital or relational status. Statements like Bishop Paprocki’s Decree only amplify the need for this effort.
Duddy-Burke continued, “One of the most troubling aspects of this Decree is the Bishop’s statement that ‘our pastoral ministry must always be respectful, compassionate, and sensitive to all our brothers and sisters in faith.’ This Decree completely fails to live up to its own standards. 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.
DignityUSA urges Catholics to write to Bishop Paprocki to express their objections to these policies, and to copy their letters to Bishop Kurtz, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Feedback on how Catholics perceive such statements may help prevent their spread to other areas.