Bishop Bars Gay Activist Protest from Cathedral

A plan by the Rainbow Sash Movement to pray the rosary inside Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Springfield, Illinois was derailed when Bishop Thomas Paprocki issued a statement that prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede on behalf of gay “marriage” was a sacrilege.

LifeSiteNews reported on October 23 that gay activists cancelled their demonstration, scheduled for the previous afternoon before the evening Mass, after Paprocki said he would not tolerate prayer that the Illinois legislature would pass a bill to legalize same-sex marriage on church property.

The Rainbow Sash Movement, a group dedicated to protesting Catholic teaching on homosexuality, announced on its website its plan for both a march and then prayer at the cathedral and asked for Catholics committed to “the Social Justice Teaching of the Church” to join them:

The Rainbow Sash Movement is calling for silent prayer to begin 4:30PM just before the 5:15PM Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. A rosary for Marriage Equality will be said in silence. By standing up in the Cathedral you will indicate you are there to pray the rosary for Marriage Equality. Let us come together as a spiritual family in prayer after the March.

However, Bishop Paprocki warned Christians not to profane God by asking Him to publicly degrade holy matrimony.

“It is blasphemy to show disrespect or irreverence to God or to something holy,” Paprocki said, citing Gospel passages that show “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,” the bishop warned. “People wearing a rainbow sash or who otherwise identify themselves as affiliated with the Rainbow Sash Movement will not be admitted into the cathedral, and anyone who gets up to pray for same-sex marriage in the cathedral will be asked to leave.”

Paprocki added, “Of course, our cathedral and parish churches are always open to everyone who wishes to repent their sins and ask for God’s forgiveness.”

Outraged gay activists turned to the media.

“We’re not committing blasphemy. The bishop’s committing blasphemy,” said Rick Garcia, political director of the Civil Rights Agenda, an LGBT pressure group founded by attorney Jacob Meister

According to the State Journal Register, Garcia said Paprocki’s statement was a stark contrast to Pope Francis’ recent comments calling for the need to make the Catholic Church a more merciful, welcoming place.

Police cars were parked near the cathedral as the time of the evening Mass approached, and a police officer was seen standing within the main entryway.

“This is the first time in all of my years of coming here that I see police officers in front of this church…” Garcia said. “It angers me because I’m a life-long Catholic. That a bishop would say this about me or my people is outrageous.”

Bishop Paprocki was hailed as a courageous leader in June when he agreed to debate dissident nun Sr. Jeannine Gramick on the topic of gay marriage before a pro-gay crowd. During his opening comments, Paprocki made a shocking revelation, telling the crowd that his former secretary was brutally murdered by a gay activist simply for suggesting that he change his lifestyle.

Paprocki observed the discrepancy between the media’s coverage of the murder of Matthew Shepard and that of his former secretary, a mother of four:

A Google search on the Internet for the name “Matthew Shepard” at one time produced 11,900,000 results. Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old college student who was savagely beaten to death in 1998 in Wyoming. His murder has been called a hate crime because Shepard was gay.

A similar search on the Internet for the name “Mary Stachowicz” yielded 26,800 results.  In 2002, Mary Stachowicz was also brutally murdered, but the circumstances were quite different. 

Mary, the gentle, devout 51-year-old Catholic mother of four urged her co-worker, Nicholas Gutierrez, 19, to change his gay lifestyle. Infuriated by this, as he later told police, he allegedly beat, stabbed and strangled her to death and then stuffed her mangled body in a crawl space in his apartment, located above a Chicago funeral home, where they both worked.

I know about Mary Stachowicz, not from the Internet, but personally, because Mary was my secretary at the parish where I was pastor before I was named a Bishop.

She worked part time at the funeral home and part time at the parish. One afternoon, she didn’t show up at her usual starting time. This was unusual because she was always on time. A call to the funeral home disclosed that her car was still in their parking lot and her purse with her car keys was still at her desk, but there was no sign of Mary.

As Mary’s family and friends prayed and worried about her disappearance, Gutierrez prayed with them. Three days later, her mutilated body was discovered in a crawl space in his apartment.

Both murders were senseless and brutal, and I condemn them both unequivocally. However, the fact that there are over eleven and a half million more Internet stories about Matthew Shepard than Mary Stachowicz indicates where popular sentiment lies today on the question of same-sex relationships. Shepard’s story has received such widespread attention because his homosexuality was the chief motive for his murder.

Mary’s murder was widely ignored by the media, despite the fact that she died as a martyr for her faith. 

Recalling Pope Benedict XVI’s warning about a “dictatorship of relativism,” Paprocki said, “The Church’s teaching on homosexuality and marriage is Catholic because it is true, not true because it is Catholic.”

The full text of Bishop Paprocki’s address can be found here.


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