Saturday, November 23, 2013

Bishop Paprocki's Failed Exorcism Stunt and Moral Arc of History: More Commentary

Fred Clark thinks that Bishop Thomas Paprocki's recent exorcism failed. It was set up to prove the superiority of his episcopal power over, well, the entire state of Illinois, insofar as its elected officials chose marriage equality over the bishops' party line. In particular, it was set up to assert Paprocki's episcopal authority over the Catholic laypeople of Illinois, a majority of whom support the human rights of gay folks, including marriage equality.

And so,

Thus Paprocki’s experiment was not a test of the relative power of Christ and the church vs. Satan. His experiment, rather, was a test of the relative spiritual and moral authority of Archbishop Thomas Paprocki as opposed to the spiritual and moral authority of the Catholic laypeople of Illinois. 
And the experiment confirmed that the laypeople were right and Paprocki was wrong. No fire fell from Heaven to signal that God heard or approved of Paprocki’s attempt to invoke divine authority. But the will of the people prevailed and the governor of Illinois signed marriage equality into law.

Fred's point appears to be decisively confirmed by the responses to Paprocki's exorcism ceremony that the Springfield State Journal-Register published yesterday in its letters column. It's not clear to me if all these letters are by members of Bishop Paprocki's flock. What is clear is that they're from local citizens who frame the moral issues quite differently than Paprocki does, and have come to an entirely different moral judgment about marriage equality than he has--a judgment that his exorcism didn't and can't overturn.

Cary Houston of Springfield writes,

I have taught my children, as I was taught, that the word "evil" better describes bigotry, hatred and prejudice, which Bishop Paprocki is clearly displaying in his words to the public. I feel that this behavior is a poor representation of the church and should not be tolerated.

Lynn A. Morris of Sherman says,

The real sin he should be concerned with is the acknowledged number of pedophile priests who hid behind the altar while continuing to abuse children. Were these robed pedophiles subjected to the bishop's exorcism rituals?

Nathan Maddox of Springfield underscores the same point: 

The great, institutionalized sin of the Catholic Church over the last many decades has been the systematic rape of children by priests, and the perpetuation of those acts of rape by the hierarchy of the Church. This unholy tragedy came to light through the lawsuits filed against the Church by the victims of this solemnized sodomy. 

As I say, these letters demonstrate to me that Fred Clark is precisely right: if Paprocki's point in staging his exorcism stunt was to silence alternative moral voices, and especially those of lay Catholics who frame the moral issues of the marriage equality debate differently than he and his fellow bishops do, his stunt failed miserably.

Since those voices continue to present their moral insights about marriage equality loudly and clearly, and they were in no way silenced by the "Begone Satan!" commands of Paprocki's exorcism. . . . If anything, he has only provided them an occasion to make their point more incisively against the background of his embarrassing, futile medieval show.

(Thanks to Dennis Coday in his "Morning Briefing" column in National Catholic Reporter for the link to the State Journal-Register letters.)

The graphic: I find this photo of a church sign announcing a gay exorcism ceremony at a number of blog sites online, including this Queerty article. I don't see any indication at any of these sites of its original source.

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