Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield has issued a decree barring Catholic Illinois lawmakers who support pro-abortion legislation from Holy Communion. In a decree issued on June 2nd, Bishop Paprocki wrote:
“In accord with canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law…Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan, who facilitated the passage of the Act Concerning Abortion of 2017 (House Bill 40) as well as the Reproductive Health Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 25), 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 as evidenced by the influence they exerted in their leadership roles and their repeated votes and obdurate public support for abortion rights over an extended period of time.”
The Illinois Senate recently passed a law that removed nearly all restrictions and regulations on abortion. It is this law, and its Catholic supporters in the legislature, that prompted Bishop Paprocki to bar some politicians from Holy Communion. Bishop Paprocki stopped by A Closer Look™ this week to explain why he issued this decree, and how these lawmakers can return to communion with the Church.
Bishop Paprocki told A Closer Look host Sheila Liaugminas, “What my decree does is remind any Catholic legislator who has voted for abortion that that is a very serious sin. And therefore, they should not even present themselves for Holy Communion.”
“Since canon 915 talks about this obstinate persistence in manifest great sin, I have singled out the two leaders of the Illinois General Assembly. The President of the Senate, John Cullerton, and the Speaker of the House, Michael Madigan. Because they have persistently acted in this way, not only voting for but for pushing and facilitating both House Bill 40 in 2017 and then this bill that just passed last week, Senate Bill 25.”
Bishop Paprocki explained that this was not done as a personal attack or a political move, but as a way of confirming the teachings of the Church and of preventing scandal among the faithful.
“One of the things that I have tried to do with this decree, with this action, is to be providing a very clear statement about the Church’s beliefs, and also to refute the notion that some of our Catholic politicians are coming forward saying they are Catholic politicians, but then saying the Church is wrong about abortion,” he explained. “They say the Church is wrong about marriage and family life, the Church is wrong about euthanasia. And basically what I’m saying is, no, you can’t do that. You can’t reject Church teaching and then stand there and say that you’re a Catholic in good standing.”
The bishop also pointed out that politicians who vote in favor of abortion and still present themselves for Holy Communion are doing harm not only to their souls, but to the Body of Christ.
“The other objective here is really with protecting the integrity of the sacraments,” Bishop Paprocki said. “To receive Holy Communion is a very sacred act, one of the most sacred aspects of our Catholic faith. And so people should not take that lightly.”
“I also cite in my decree from the Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote that whoever eats unworthily of the bread and drink from the Lord’s cup makes himself guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord. … So my concern here is for the salvation of the souls of these politicians who are indeed putting their own souls in danger. But also for the scandal that they’re giving to the faithful, who are wondering how they can do this without any consequences.”
Bishop Paprocki acknowledged that some may see this as a political move, but he rejected that notion, recognizing the reality that his decree would likely have no impact on the governor of Illinois signing the bill into law. Still others may see this as punishment for ‘breaking the rules’ of the Church, but Bishop Paprocki expressed his hope that his decree would help these Illinois lawmakers change their views and make amends for their actions.
“This is not intended as a political statement,” he said. “My purpose here is really to protect the integrity of the sacraments and the clarity of our faith. And also, ultimately it’s for the conversion of sinners and for a change of heart. I’m not looking to be punitive here. I’m not looking to punish anyone. I’m looking for them to have a conversion. I didn’t take this lightly. I gave this a lot of thought and prayer, and what I hope to see come out of this is that the legislators would reconsider. That they would come to the conclusion that what they’ve done is wrong, that it is sinful, and then be sorry for that.”
Though the actions of these lawmakers has excommunicated them from the Church, there is still hope. Saints like St. Paul and St. Augustine once participated in grave sin, but went on to do great things for Christ and His Church. It is still possible that these lawmakers who have promoted abortion would experience a conversion, and then work to make amends for the good of the Church and the good of the world.
Bishop Paprocki explained, “In order to be readmitted to Holy Communion, which would be my hope here, they would have to have some public act, an act of repentance, and then some measure to take to reverse this.”
Listen to the full conversation with Bishop Paprocki below: