This week, Illinois passed the most extreme pro-abortion state legislation in America — with some Catholic lawmakers taking the lead in pushing forward this anti-life bill.
In response, Bishop Thomas Paprocki
of Springfield, Illinois, today issued a public decree
communicating to his priests that all Illinois Catholic lawmakers who voted for the state’s new Reproductive Health Act, or for an earlier 2017 bill that legalized taxpayer funding of abortions, should not present themselves to receive Holy Communion in the Diocese of Springfield “without first being reconciled to Christ and the Church.” The decree, and an accompanying letter, were mailed earlier in the week to all of the Catholic lawmakers who voted in favor of the bills.
And the new decree
singles out by name House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, stating that because of their important leadership roles in the passage of the pair of pro-abortion bills, they “are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois because they have obstinately persisted in promoting the abominable crime and very grave sin of abortion.”
In this interview with the Register, Bishop Paprocki discusses why he felt impelled to issue the decree, the harm being caused to the faith nationwide by U.S. Catholic politicians who continue to ignore their bishops and pastors by supporting extreme pro-abortion laws like the one just passed in Illinois, and the Church’s unequivocal and unchanging teachings regarding the intrinsic evil of abortion. This is a decree that will be of great interest in Illinois, but also nationally, as the entire abortion debate continues in the United States. How did we reach this moment where it is necessary for a decree like this?
It seems to me that we’ve arrived at a point where we really need to be clear about the teachings of the Church, and an action like this is really designed to protect the integrity of our sacraments and the clarity of our teaching.
It wasn’t too long ago where you had the so-called pro-choice politicians at least saying abortion needed to be “safe, legal and rare,” and we’ve unfortunately come to the point where the politicians are celebrating the fact that abortion legislation is passing that allows for abortions right up until the moment of birth; that declares abortion to be “a fundamental right”; that requires taxpayer funding of abortion and additional measures like that that are really quite extreme.
And so now we’ve got politicians, Catholic politicians
who are saying that they think the Church is wrong. They think the Church is wrong about abortion and euthanasia and our teachings on marriage and family life. And I think that cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. We have to be clear that you cannot be pro-abortion and be a Catholic in good standing. And that’s what this is really intended to do. Have you been surprised over the years at the shift of a number of Catholic politicians in support of abortion — 14 Catholic U.S. senators voted against an important bill just last year [the Pain-Capable Unborn Children’s Act] and that involved Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois — and so many other acts the Church considers intrinsically evil?
Yes, it is somewhat surprising, but it’s especially disappointing because you have politicians who have publicly embraced their Catholicism and have made it made known that they considered themselves to be Catholics, and they want Catholic voters especially to know that they’re Catholic; but they seem then to have taken this position that they know better than the Church. And, in fact, it seems to be the goal of some of them, that they’re going to force the Church to change her teaching on these matters.
And I think that we have to be quite clear, as I [am] in my decree on this matter. I’ve got several paragraphs in there that try to trace the history of this matter going back to the first century of the Church, where you had the declaration and the document called the Didache — “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion.” “You shall not cause the newborn to perish.” So it goes back all the way from the earliest beginnings of Christianity.
But even for those who want to say, “Well, you know, times have changed and we’re in the post-Vatican II era and we have to adapt to the times ...,” I also have in my decree a statement from the declaration from the Second Vatican Council document on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et Spes
; in Paragraph 51, it says, “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: Abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” This is the Second Vatican Council calling abortion and infanticide “abominable crimes.”
And, even more recently, Pope Francis has used very similar language. In 2016, he used the terminology such as abortion is “a very grave evil.” He called it “a horrendous crime.”
So we can’t have politicians today saying, “You know what? The Church is wrong. It was wrong 2,000 years ago. It was wrong at the Second Vatican Council. Pope Francis is wrong. The Church needs to get with it and start accepting the reality of abortion.” And we have to be clear that if that’s their intent then that’s simply not acceptable. Pope Francis, I think just a few days ago, used the somewhat-colorful image of that you’re essentially hiring a hitman, stressing again that this is beyond simply a medical procedure, that this is the taking of a human life. But to go back to your pointing out, the Didache and others, can we explain, for those who may not be that familiar with the Church’s teachings on this — and it always bears worth repeating: why we consider abortion and euthanasia in particular, but other things, to be intrinsically evil. And what do we mean as a Church by intrinsically evil?http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/bishop-paprocki-communion-prohibited-to-catholic-lawmakers-who-voted-for-il