In a June 6 press release, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois stated that Catholic politicians who voted in favor of the extreme abortion legislation in the state last week should not present themselves for Holy Communion at Mass at any church in the diocese. The decree mentioned House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton by name, due to their role in directly facilitating the bill, but also applies to any Catholic politician who voted for the most recent bill or House Bill 40 in 2017. HB 40 allowed Medicaid-funded abortions in the state and has led to a significant increase in out-of-state women coming to Illinois to receive abortions.
Bishop Paprocki called the politicians’ actions “gravely immoral,” stating that they have “acted in a seriously sinful manner unfaithful to the 2,000-year-old Christian teaching against abortion,” meaning they are “outside of the full communion of the Catholic Church.” Paprock added, “Such persons are not to receive Holy Communion until they have celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation and displayed a public conversion of life.”
Paprocki anticipated some backlash, given the Catholic church’s own “failings with regard to the abuse of children,” but says that this “same justifiable anger… should prompt an outcry of resistance against legalizing the murder of innocent children. The failings of the Church do not change the objective reality that the murder of a defenseless baby is an utterly evil act.”
He also noted the need for society to support and help pregnant mothers in need. “… [M]any unplanned pregnancies come with fear and difficulty. It is our obligation, as a society, to be there for these pregnant mothers, help them in any way possible, and empower them to make life affirming decisions. This also includes continued support for the mother and her child after birth. We must acknowledge a child in the womb is not a problem. He or she is a gift from God.”
As Bishop Paprocki stated in a minute-long video to the Catholic faithful of his diocese, this directive is meant to be pastoral, not punitive.
Contrary to what many think, it is not like a “religious jail sentence” in retaliation for committing certain serious sins. Instead, this type of directive from a Catholic bishop to members of his flock is meant to indicate that their behavior is seriously wrong, and to encourage them to change direction. That is, a Catholic politician being forbidden by a Catholic bishop to receive Holy Communion is meant to arouse him from a stupor, to encourage a return to right relationship with God.
Bishop Paprocki elaborates further on why this decree was necessary at this time in our nation here.
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