We may have just crossed some lunatic fringe. But as when a fever breaks, perhaps this may help to move us towards sanity and real healing.
The lunacy was the “minor exorcism” conducted by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Illinois to drive out the demons that he believed prompted legislators and lay Catholics to enact legislation allowing same sex marriage.
Bishop Paprocki’s sermon lays out his case for what he sees as being behind the same sex marriage laws: “the ordinary work of the devil: deception, division, diversion and discouragement.” His sermon bears a remarkable resemblance to a letter I received in the mail from “A concerned Catholic.” My anonymous correspondent believes the devil was “grinning from ear to ear” at my public support for marriage equality. This apparently was “scandalizing the Catholic Church” and causing some, like my nameless, faceless letter writer to “cringe.”
But thinking Catholics who take Pope Francis at his word and follow their conscience, cringe at the blatant hypocrisy of too many Church leaders. There’s the real scandal to the church. Did Bishop Paprocki ever conduct an exorcism to rid parishes of sexual predators? Or achieve the same end by reporting their crimes as required by law?
The alchemy of marriage
Bishops should also really stop expounding about the alchemy of marriage. Bishop Paprocki says that marriage is “ultimately about generating life” and wants to counter what he identifies as “a distorted understanding that it is mainly about a romantic relationship designed for individual (not even mutual) fulfillment.” This is not a “deception” of the devil. It is simply cringe-worthy nonsense.
I did not get married simply to make babies. I got married because I found a soul-mate. I got married to share my life with someone I love and admire, whose values chime with mine. Marriage allows us both to keep growing and giving till the end of our days, in the light of each other’s affections and beliefs. For us, it also happened to be true that a very important part of that sharing of our lives was raising a family.
How is that different from what LGBT couples want? I feel not one iota of harm to my marriage because a same-sex couple wants to attest to their union through the mechanisms of the law available to me. I welcome the possibility of happy homes for children adopted into such families. What a discouragement to children to see the church work against their interests again.
The church’s investment in fighting same sex marriage is a worthless diversion of funds that could be better spent alleviating pain and suffering. This on top of the millions in lawsuits and compensation for harm done to children through years of crimes committed under cover of the cloth. If one were looking for the work of the devil, we can see it in those crimes, their concealment and the complicity of those who should have known better but who professed bewilderment. As Bishop Paprocki points out, “sins are sins.” And crimes are crimes. We punish a juvenile offender from a bad neighborhood for petty crimes. But we are supposed to understand the cluelessness of highly educated clerics who should also be law-abiding citizens– but who use the money and power at their disposal to hide far graver crimes? It wasn’t enough then to pray away crimes. And it isn’t possible now to pray away parity for LGBT families and the solidarity of those who stand with them.
Pope Francis says ”The church is the totality of God’s people.” Yet exorcisms, visitations and the continuing second-class status of women point to continuing discrimination. We are a church divided. And the chasm is greatest between the Bishops in their palaces and the people in the pews. Perhaps it is the mitered splendor of the bishops that makes them want to joust with demons. But it is in the quiet ministries of service by thousands of sisters to those in need that we see the compassion of Christ and feel the touch of the angels.
The words and actions of Pope Francis have brought hope of a return to a Vatican II church. He has made even fallen away Catholics think of returning. What a study in contrasts: an exorcism conducted by Bishop Paprocki in Illinois and in Rome, Vatican recognition of a young science prodigy, Jack Andraka who is openly gay.
We are forced to ask: Where exactly are the exorcisms and visitations needed?