At approximately the same time Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the marriage-equality bill into law in Chicago, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, the head of Springfield's Catholic Diocese, presided over a prayer service of "Supplication and Exorcism for the Sin of Same-Sex Marriage."
That this service took place in the state capital no more than 10 blocks from the site of the defining march and rally for marriage equality less then a month ago could not be lost on anyone. (Recording devices were not allowed during the service.)
Paprocki called for a recall of the bill while saying that politicians who helped enact it are "morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin."
Just after the passage of the bill, Paprocki stated in the Chicago Tribune, "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."
Presiding over the service at the Cathedral Church of the Immaculate Conception before an estimated crowd of 300 church members (senior citizens, school children, parents, and many who seemed to have run in from work) Paprocki managed to soften what had appeared in print as an anti-LGBT hard-right conservative standpoint. At the start of his address he stated, "I did not seek to enter any controversy and I don't relish being part of one."
Although the wording and language of his recent press releases have made him appear harsh, the Nov. 20 service was all about "mercy" and "compassion." "Our prayer service today and my words are not meant to demonize anyone, but are intended to call attention to the diabolical influences of the devil that have penetrated our culture, both in the state and in the Church," Paprocki said in his opening remarks.
During the service, Paprocki attempted to justify his perspective with history. He made a point of quoting Pope Francis in 2010 when he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentinawhen that country was facing a similar same-sex legislation. Said Bergoglio at the time, "The Argentine people must face ... a situation whose result may gravely harm the family. The identity of the family, and it's survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children. Let us not be naive; it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is destructive] of the plan of God." Paprocki did not elaborate on just how same-sex marriage would destroy the institution of marriage.
Paprocki during his address also stated, "It is also a deception to say that there will be no adverse effects on children being brought up in the household of a same-sex couple," while likening this battle with the church's fight against abortion and a woman's right to choose. Again, Paprocki did not elaborate on the "adverse effects" that would effect said children or how gay marriage and abortion could be related as "evils."
"The Church loves homosexual persons and looks upon them with compassion, and [we encourage] through our ]services] to live in accord with the virtue of chastity," he added.
While Paprocki led his followers in a "non-demonizing prayer" (which included the refrain, "I exorcise you, every unclean spirit, every power of darkness, every incursion of the infernal enemy..."), a small group of protesters stood for hours outside the church in the rain waving placards, quietly singing songs and speaking about a church that can find room for everyone.