US Catholic Faith in Real Life

An exorcism? Let's hope this one doesn't get made into a movie

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

I don't think William Peter Blatty will be worried that any cinematic version of planned prayers of "exorcism in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage" will reduce the luster of his 1973 classic (which I never ever want to see again, by the way), but I am a little worried that news footage of the event won't be good press for Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki (but I don't think he cares either). The leader of the Illinois state capital's Catholics is planning a service in Springfield's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception next week when Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signs Illinois' same-sex marriage legislation into law.

Paprocki is particularly angry about Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan's use of Pope Francis' now famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) "who am I to judge" remark regarding gay priests on his way back from Rio last summer. Madigan's out-of-context use of the pope's words was meant to "help" (or provide cover for) some Catholic House Democrats vote in favor of the bill. "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 Paprocki in a statement. It's worth noting that Gov. Quinn is also Catholic.

Paprocki goes on to point out that then-Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio also used the language of the demonic in opposing same-sex marriage legislation in his native Argentina, calling it a "a 'move' of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God"; of course, Bergoglio also supported a parallel civil institution for same-sex couples, just not one called marriage, admittedly as the "lesser of two evils"--though he was unable to convince his fellow Argentine bishops to go along.

Either way, I'm not sure what is to be gained by this church service, except to further alienate the church from its gay and lesbian members. Catholic dioceses have understandable concerns about how expanding recognition of same-sex marriage affect their ministry and the church's role as an employer. I have argued in the current Sounding Board posted on this website for a more robust distinction--a separation, actually--between civil and sacramental marriage, though I doubt the bishop would agree. But I do think it's particularly unkind to characterize anyone's partnerships as demonic, and I don't think it will do anything to advance dialogue or healing on this matter. I hope at least the bishop can find some way to affirm the dignity of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people and encourage LGB Catholics--but I fear styling his liturgical response an "exorcism" is not going to leave much room for that message to be heard even if he attempts to offer it.