LOCAL GROUPS TO PROTEST BISHOP’S POLITICAL REMARKS
Secularists criticize bishop on advocacy against Democratic Party
A local secularist group will protest in front of the Cathedral of the
Immaculate Conception in response to remarks made by Bishop Thomas
John Paprocki on September 23.
The protest, which will take place on Sunday, October 21st, before,
during, and after 10:00 mass, will be led by the Springfield Area
Freethinkers. Also participating will be the CUFree, a similar group
based in Champaign-Urbana, and the Peoria Secular Humanist Society.
The bishop’s remarks, published in the Catholic Times, the official
newspaper of the Springfield diocese, have garnered national attention
because of its warning that voting for Democrats could put one’s
eternal salvation “in serious jeopardy.”
In his column “Lex Cordis Caritas,” Bishop Paprocki noted that this
year’s Democratic Party platform includes support for abortion rights
and for same-sex marriage, saying that these planks “explicitly
endorse intrinsic evils.” Mr. Paprocki also remarked that the
Republican Party platform contained no such promotion of “serious
Janet Factor, the group’s leader, said that “In attempting to compel
his parishioners to vote as he sees fit, Bishop Paprocki has set
himself up in direct opposition to a sacred American value: full
separation of church and state. Other bishops have threatened Catholic
politicians with excommunication for failing to vote on policy as the
Church would dictate.
“We intend to remind the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
that the wall of separation has deep foundations. They seem to have
forgotten that walls are intended to prevent trespassing from either
side. Paprocki wants to chase the government off his own lawn, while
he sees no problem setting up a picnic on theirs—and telling them how
to mow the grass while he is at it.”
Nick de Trempe, leader of the Peoria Secular Humanist Society, also
noted that the diocese, which owns a substantial amount of property in
the Springfield area, benefits greatly from the automatic tax-exempt
status granted to churches and is skirting the legal boundaries for
non-profit entities, who are permitted to engage in issue advocacy but
not endorsement of candidates or parties.
“Bishop Paprocki is likely breaking the law when he uses tax exempt
resources to attempt to influence votes,“ deTrempe noted.
“Unfortunately, our society has a history of turning a blind eye to
instances of law breaking by religious organizations. With our
participation in this protest, we hope to send a message that in order
to have religious freedom not just for some but for all, churches must
be held accountable to the law.”
In fact, the Catholic Conference of Illinois has issued a series of
church bulletin inserts intended to influence the choices made by the
faithful at the polls. These essays tell parishioners that the only
true conscience is a conscience in conformity with the teachings of
the church. This Sunday the protesters hope to remind Catholics that
they have every right to ignore the Bishops’ advice.
“Telling people they must abandon their independent moral judgment and
meekly follow the path laid out for them, especially when backed up by
the threat of hellfire, is totally anti-democratic,” Factor said.
“That’s not respecting freedom of conscience: that’s saying ‘Obey or
you will be punished.’ It’s unacceptable in the USA. We are all equal
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