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On Wednesday, the Catholic bishop of Illinois, Thomas Paprocki, will perform an exorcism for the state of Illinois. That’s right, an exorcism – for the entire state. According to the teachings of the Catholic Church, entire places can become possessed by the devil, not just individuals. Paprocki is convinced that Illinois is now one such place, as the state legislature has passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, and Governor Pat Quinn plans to sign it on Wednesday.
Same-sex couples in the Land of Lincoln will soon be wallking down the aisle, exchanging rings and saying their vows. Paprocki is convinced that Satan is the wedding planner. Perhaps even the ring bearer, or the flower girl. Indeed, if you happen to be one of those Illinoisans throwing rice at the newlyweds, perhaps you ought to keep an eye out for horns spontaneously popping out of your head and the heads of your fellow rice throwers.
Outrageous –and perhaps even a bit comical –as many might find the use of the rite of exorcism to make a political statement in the culture wars, the entire body of U.S. Catholic bishops has, in fact, implemented a far less theatrical, yet ever more serious plan in their attempt to sully the love and commitment of same-sex couples, along with their civil marriage equality, in the minds and hearts of lay Catholics. This is no laughing matter.
Though dismissed by rightwing ideologues as “Cafeteria Catholics,” the modern reality is that most lay Catholics navigate their relationship with institutional church, the priesthood, with great thought, care and self-respect. No doubt, this capacity among lay Catholics to employ their God-given human reasoning skills mystifies, and disappoints, many of the bishops.
For example, the bishop of the Diocese of Saint Augustine, Felipe Estevez, rose at one point during last week’s annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to ask aloud why so many young Catholics “get” the Catholic Church’s message about abortion, yet don’t “get” the church’s message against homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Evidently, Estevez can’t conceptualize the fact that the reason so many young people respect the lives of the unborn while simultaneously respect the lives, and commitment, of same-sex couples is that their moral conscience is informed by authentic love; authentic love is compelled to distinguish between instances of human disregard, like elective abortion, and instances of human regard and devotion –like same-sex marriage.
I’ll leave it to God whether those bishops who view their fellow human beings as robots, as opposed to thinking and feeling individuals, will ever connect the dots of authentic love.
Last year around this time, after the string of ballot box victories for same-sex marriage equality, the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, announced a nationwide Catholic Church prayer initiative: Eucharistic Holy Hours for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty. The intent of these prayer services was to gather Catholics before the Blessed Sacrament, which we Catholics believe is the flesh of Jesus, in churches and cathedrals around the nation to pray for an end to abortion, an end to government mandates for abortifacient drug coverage, and yes, and end to same-sex marriage equality.
Let’s get real: The elective taking of a baby’s life in the womb, surgical or chemical, bears no moral resemblance to two people of the same sex falling in love and building a life together.
At this year’s USCCB conference in Baltimore, the bishops voted overwhelmingly, 203 to 17, to extend the Eucharistic Holy Hours for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty for another year.
The Catholic bishops of the United States are attempting to make their own conflation of two polar opposite issues, abortion and homosexuality, a permanent feature of American Catholic prayer life. And they are using the Blessed Sacrament, the body of Jesus, to do so. To me, this is despicable.
As has been widely reported, Pope Francis has mandated a nationwide survey of American lay Catholics on their attitudes toward church teachings on the whole array of modern-day moral issues.
In addition to filling out that survey, I hope my fellow Catholics of all ages who recognize the sanctity of the lives of our unborn brothers and sisters and who also recognize the God-given love and warmth being brought into our society when two souls of the same sex tie the knot, will pen letters, write e-mails, and use their voices, to boldly tell their parish priests that any prayer services attempting to conflate the gift of human love with the tragedy of human disregard have nothing whatsoever to do with God.
Image courtesy of Jim Capaldi.