SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., rebuked a group that tried to organize a Rosary in the diocesan cathedral in support of a bill to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, saying the prayer contradicts Christ's teachings.
“It is blasphemy to show disrespect or irreverence to God or to something holy,” Bishop Paprocki said.
His actions came in response to the activist group Rainbow Sash Movement’s announced plans to say a Rosary for “marriage equality” before an Oct. 22 evening Mass at Springfield's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The group said it intended to show a “loud Catholic presence for marriage equality” in Illinois’ capital after a rally in support of Senate Bill 10. The proposed state legislation would recognize same-sex unions as civil marriages.
Following the bishop's defense of marriage, the proposed demonstration failed to materialize.
“Since Jesus clearly taught that marriage as created by God is a sacred institution between a man and a woman, praying for same-sex marriage should be seen as blasphemous, and as such will not be permitted in the cathedral,” stated Bishop Paprocki.
He said that those wearing a rainbow sash or otherwise identifying themselves as affiliates of the group would not be admitted to the cathedral. Those who would stand to pray for the redefinition of marriage “will be asked to leave,” he added.
Bishop Paprocki stressed that the cathedral and all churches are “open to everyone who wishes to repent their sins and ask for God’s forgiveness.”
The Illinois Catholic Conference on Oct. 23 held a “Defend Marriage Lobby Day” to encourage legislators not to pass Senate Bill 10.
Zach Wichmann, the conference’s director of government relations, said that Bishop Paprocki is “a strong defender of marriage.”
Wichmann said the marriage-redefinition bill passed the Illinois Senate last February. The vote tally in the Illinois House has been “very close,” and advocates of redefining marriage have been very active.
“They continue to push for their bill; we continue to fight it. They’re short the votes, as of this day. They need 60 votes; they’re probably in the low 50s, I think,” he said. “They continue to push, and we continue to work, and it’s very close.”
Wichmann said the bill, if passed, would create significant problems for religious freedom.
The push for legal recognition for same-sex couples has already had consequences for the Catholic Church in Illinois.
After the state Legislature’s civil-unions bill took effect in 2011, the state government required Catholic adoption agencies and foster services to place children with same-sex couples and unmarried couples or lose state funding. The change forced the decades-old services to close.
Fourteen U.S. states and the District of Columbia now recognize “gay marriage.” The state of New Jersey began recognizing the unions on Oct. 21, after Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration withdrew its appeal of a state Supreme Court decision that ordered the unions to be recognized.
Wichmann said that marriage between a man and a woman is “the foundation of our society.”
“It’s how we take care of each other; it’s how we have and raise children; it’s how we organize all society. Children need their mother and their father,” he said. “A man needs a wife; a woman needs a husband. Those aren’t roles that you can swap and not expect there to be some serious consequences.”
He cited studies showing the important benefits for children raised in homes with both a mother and a father.
He said, “Children do very well when they have a mother and a father and less well when they don’t. We want the law to support the ideal.”