I’d like you to look back to November 20, 2013. Did you perchance feel a shock of pain and fire, followed by a sudden release, and by “release” I mean a release of all the gay you had inside you that was now suddenly gone in favor of a previously untapped vanilla straightness, and perhaps a desire to wear more plaid or a desire to no longer wear plaid, depending upon any prior plaid-related feelings you may or may not have had.
You, my friend, were exorcised. And the man who “saved” you was Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.
Bishop Paprocki has been in the news several times over the course of his tenure as bishop. He has a penchant for going viral through hateful rhetoric and ghastly attention grabs, despite once laughably saying he did not “seek to enter any controversy and I don’t relish being part of one.” I’m frankly amazed he hasn’t been given a cabinet seat in the Trump White House.
In 2012, he urged Catholics not to vote for Barack Obama because of the “intrinsic evils” of the Democratic Party. Or, to be fair, he didn’t say you shouldn’t vote Obama, just that your soul would be plunged into damnation if you did.
“I am not telling you which party or which candidates to vote for or against but I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”
This next part may be unrelated, but I believe the timing is important. Because one event took Paprocki from a Breitbart reject to the David Blaine of Catholicism.
In January of 2013, a Springfield priest called 911. He had been “playing” with handcuffs and was trapped. When responders arrived, they found him in a prison jumpsuit with a gag in his mouth. He insisted he had been alone. Sure.
After that, Paprocki issued a statement insisting the now viral event was “nonsexual” (lol) and that the priest had been sent to clinical therapy (presumably of the conversion kind; no lol). Following the embarassment, Paprocki’s anti-gay rhetoric went from the occasional written word to a major stunt. Later that year is when Paprocki held his “exorcism.” It was the same day Illinois signed same-sex marriage into law.
“Be gone Satan, father of lies, enemy of human salvation,” Paprocki said at the Wednesday ceremony, in front of a crowd of some 500, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “Give way to Christ, in whom you found no trace of your works. Give way to the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church, which Christ himself won by his blood.”
And then no one was ever gay again. Amen.
Until 2015, that is, when a couple who somehow didn’t get the sin properly removed from their souls attempted to enroll their children in a private Catholic school. At that point, Paprocki drafted a release form that basically assures all parents in the diocese know that even though they’re sinful and gross, their children will be taught how to be good (straight) Christians (straight, basically).
And then there was this whole blog on how being transgender is a mental illness and your assigned gender is a gift from god and apparently god doesn’t do gift receipts.
And now, just this week, he’s done it again. This time calling upon priests to deny funeral rites for people in same-gender relationships unless they “repented” before death.
While this all reeks of a confusing kind of desperation for a brand of attention that is ultimately dismantling the entire system of the man’s religion, it’s also relatively par for the course, Catholic-wise. So why do I care?
Because he’s my hometown bishop. That guy in the handcuffs? He officiated my wedding.
Springfield, Ill., should be known for two things: Abraham Lincoln and that thing we do where we put toast, meat, fries, and cheese sauce on a giant plate and call it a normal lunch. Instead we have this clownshoe mucking around with the bible and a Wordpress account like a middle-aged Milo of the cloth. And perhaps I’m not the right person to address him and his unspeakable acts against my hometown. On my most spiritually optimistic days, I’m agnostic at best. But I was raised Catholic. My whole family is Catholic. I went to Catholic school for 14 years. I went to confession and wore a plaid skirt and sang in the choir. And sure, I don’t know what if anything I believe in, but if something exists, I refuse to believe it’s steeped in hate, that it’s something that cares more about signs on a bathroom than the lives of the people in the stalls and the dangers they face by just being themselves.
My religion is ultimately this: Don’t be an asshole. And you, sir Bishop, are excommunicated.