An Illinois Catholic Bishop plans to perform prayers of “supplication and exorcism” in response to the state legislature’s approval of marriage equality legislation last week and demands that lawmakers repeal the measure immediately.
“It is scandalous that so many Catholic politicians are responsible for enabling the passage of this legislation and even twisting the words of the pope to rationalize their actions despite the clear teaching of the church,” said Rev. Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of the Archdiocese of Springfield, Ill., in a statement.
“All politicians now have the moral obligation to work for the repeal of this sinful and objectionable legislation,” said Paprocki, a longtime opponent of LGBT rights in the state. “We must pray for deliverance from this evil which has penetrated our state and our church.”
The prayer service is scheduled for Nov. 20 — just as Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn plans to sign the bill, the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, into law. With his signature, same-sex couples will be eligible for marriage licenses beginning June 1, 2014.
The “exorcism” service is not what it may sound like, said Kathie Sass, director of communications at the diocese. “This is obviously not a major exorcism, it’s a prayer service,” she told BuzzFeed. According to the Appendices to the 2004 Latin edition of the Rite of Exorcism, passages from the text can be used for other purposes at the discretion of the bishop, she explained.
But even so, the service has raised some eyebrows.
“As a practicing Roman Catholic, I find it not only insane but embarrassing,” said Rick Garcia, who has advocated for LGBT rights in Illinois for decades and serves as the policy director at The Civil Rights Agenda, a Chicago-based LGBT rights group.
“[Paprocki] is complicit in promoting the great sin of discrimination and intolerance of his brothers and sisters,” Garcia told BuzzFeed. “There is blasphemy happening in our state and that blasphemy comes from Bishop Paprocki. When you demonize and disparage gay and lesbian people, you are demonizing the body of Christ and this is blasphemy.”
In addition, Garcia found Paprocki’s attacks at lawmakers who quoted Pope Francis laughable.
During the long debate over the bill in the Illinois House of Representatives on Nov. 5, some lawmakers cited recent remarks by Pope Francis in which the pontiff faulted the church for focusing too much on social issues like abortion, marriage equality and contraception.
Even the powerful democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, an Irish Catholic from the Southwest Side of Chicago, quoted Francis, closing the debate.
“My thoughts regarding this legislation were formulated before the quote that I am offering to all of us,” Madigan said. “The quote that I offer is a quote from Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church, who is quoted as saying, ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and he has good will, who am I to judge?’ … My personal thought is for those who just happen to be gay, living in a very harmonious, productive relationship but are illegal, who am I to judge that they should illegal? Who is the government to judge that they should be illegal?”
Paprocki, however, points to Francis’ — then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio — 2010 comments opposing proposed marriage equality legislation in Argentina as evidence his quotes were misused.
“The Argentine people must face, in the next few weeks, a situation whose result may gravely harm the family. It is the bill on matrimony of persons of the same sex,” Francis said at the time. “The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children.”
As bishop, Paprocki leads 130 parishes in 28 counties in central Illinois and has consistently condemned the marriage of same-sex couples. On Oct. 22, Paprocki warned banned LGBT proponents from visiting his Springfield, Ill., church to recite the rosary.
Praying the rosary for marriage equality is “blasphemous,” Paprocki said at the time, according to The State-Journal Register.
However, Garcia was there and prayed without incident.
“The bottom line is that he lost,” Garcia said. “He should get over it.”