Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois has announced that he will conduct prayers of exorcism at the city’s cathedral on November 20, the date when Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will sign into law a bill recognizing same-sex marriage.
In a statement released by the Springfield diocese, Bishop Paprocki explained that the ritual of exorcism is designed not only for cases of demonic possession, but also for circumstances when the work of the devil is evident in public activities “and in various forms of opposition to and persecution of the Church.”
I’ll bet there’s not a bit of difference between my view of SSM and Bishop Paprocki’s. But I wonder if Bishop Paprocki has publicly exorcised his chancery. From a 2006 investigation then-Bishop Lucas ordered into his predecessor’s behavior:
Bishop Ryan engaged in sexual misconduct with adults and used his authority to conceal this misconduct. Although denied by Bishop Ryan, this behavior did occur and caused scandal in the Church by leading others to do evil. It resulted in feelings of hurt and anger, as well as thoughts of doubt and mistrust both in the Church as an institution and in its leaders. There is anecdotal evidence of local Catholics abandoning the faith as a result of that behavior. Bishop Ryan no longer resides in the diocese and no longer participates in public ministry.
From the Catholic News Service’s report on the results of the investigation:
Retired Springfield Bishop “engaged in improper sexual conduct and used his office to conceal his activities” when he headed the diocese, said an investigative report released by the diocese Aug. 2.
It said Springfield’s bishop from 1984 to 1999, fostered “a culture of secrecy … that discouraged faithful priests from coming forward with information about misconduct” by other clergy in the diocese.
The investigation did not address sexual abuse of minors by church personnel, for which the diocese has a separate process. But it found evidence of other misconduct in a few parishes and of inappropriate use of church-owned computers.
Stephen Brady of the reform activist group Roman Catholic Faithful, which had been very active in trying to force the Catholic hierarchy to address Bishop Ryan’s “misconduct,” had this to say about the 2006 report:
The sexual misconduct mentioned includes Bishop Daniel Ryan sodomizing teenage boys he picked up off the street. In some cases he would hear the boys’ confession in order to ease their young consciences. This information was made available to Cardinal Francis George of Chicago in 1997 and to Bishop George Lucas in 1999.
Neither showed concern for victims or took action until Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF) repeatedly — for more than ten years — made this issue public through mass mailings and our publications. Both men continued the culture of secrecy fostered under Bishop Ryan. The information gathered by RCF was taken to Rome by the late Father John Hardon, SJ. RCF’s report is available to those who request it.
All Catholics who placed their trust in Bishop Daniel Ryan, Bishop George Lucas, Bishop Joseph Imesch or Cardinal Francis George can now realize they were lied to for years by ‘men of God’ whose only interest was in protecting their ‘good name.’ They showed no concern for the faithful or the children raped by Ryan and monsters like him. These men attempted to destroy the credibility of RCF and of me personally. Bishop Lucas went so far as to tell me to ‘disband RCF.’ Why should anyone trust them now?
A lot of people found Stephen Brady and RCF (which disbanded in 2010) to be rough in their methods, but when I was paying attention to the Catholic abuse scandal, I found RCF to be an invaluable source of information. It was founded by orthodox Catholic laymen who were sick and tired of the cover-ups. I looking over old issues of their newsletter this morning, I found in this 2006/2007 issue a warning about Bishop Robert Finn, who was at the time being thought highly of by conservative Catholics (like Brady), who took him to be the sort of solidly orthodox bishop they had been hoping and praying for. Brady wasn’t fooled. He told his readers about a case in which Bishop Finn covered for a priest investigated by state police on child porn allegations. The priest was cleared of those, but investigators found a huge trove of gay porn in the rectory. Bishop Finn removed the priest, and reassigned him to another parish, where the bishop kept the priest’s past secret. RCF undertook to let the people of the new parish know what state police had discovered about their new pastor, and what their bishop had decided to conceal from them. Bishop Finn was then backed into a corner, and removed the gay-porn pastor.
In 2012, Bishop Finn was convicted of failing to report a priest, Fr. Shawn Ratigan, after the diocese discovered lewd photographs of children on Ratigan’s computer. Ratigan will be spending the next half-century in prison. Bishop Finn remains the bishop.
The point is, Stephen Brady had this bishop’s number years before anybody else did. And he knows where the bodies are buried in the Diocese of Springfield. If I were Bishop Paprocki, I would be mighty frightened that Stephen Brady would show up at his exorcism ceremony and demand to know why the bishop hasn’t done the same to his own chancery, given what his predecessors did, and allowed to happen.
[H/T: Reader CNY]
UPDATE: I suppose I should make it perfectly clear that I don’t oppose Bishop Paprocki’s position on the issue, or even his plans for a prayer service in opposition to the legislation — at least not in principle. But I think the recent history of his own diocese and the gay derring-do among clergy, including the retired Bishop Ryan, serves to make him look foolish when he speaks out against same-sex marriage. This is why these guys have little or no credibility, even when they preach the truth on same-sex issues. He ought to be conducting a prayer service of penance, not exorcism. The point is that we Christians — all of us, not just Catholic bishops — had better get our own house in order if we want our witness to the rest of the world to have credibility.