By Claire Chretien
March 2, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Thomas Paprocki says it’s “shameful” that Georgetown University honored pro-abortion Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, this week.
Paprocki spoke to LifeSiteNews on Thursday after news broke that he had publicly barred Sen. Durbin, who lives in Paprocki’s Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, from receiving Holy Communion.
Paprocki told LifeSiteNews that the decision was merely a continuation of previous clerics’ approach to Durbin.
“In a sense it’s nothing new,” said Paprocki. In 2004, Durbin’s pastor, Monsignor Kevin Vann – now the bishop of Orange, California – said he would be “reticent to give him Holy Communion because his pro-abortion position put him outside of Communion, or unity, with the Church’s teachings on life.”
“And then my predecessor, Bishop George Lucas – who is now the archbishop of Omaha – said that he would support that decision,” said Paprocki.
But “what is new is” Durbin, who early in his political career identified as being pro-life, voting against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This bill would have stopped most abortions on babies 20 weeks and older.
The bill passed the U.S. House, but 14 Catholic senators voted against it, preventing it from reaching President Trump’s desk.
“If those 14 Catholic senators had voted in favor of it, it would have passed, the President would have signed it, [and] we would have had protection for unborn babies after the fifth month of pregnancy,” said Paprocki.
Canon law has “very stringent qualifications” for denying a Catholic Holy Communion, he explained. “It has to be obstinate, it has to be persistent, it has to be manifest, and it has to be a grave sin. And in Senator Durbin’s case, I think all of those provisions have been met.”
This is because he’s “persisted” in publicly voting for abortion for years now, “and his most recent vote just indicates [the] continuing of that obstinate persistence.”
The point of prohibiting Durbin from Holy Communion is to provide him with “an incentive to have a change of heart,” said Paprocki.
Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law addresses the barring of “manifest grave sinners” from Holy Communion, but canon 916 addresses how people should not approach for Holy Communion if they are in a state of serious (mortal) sin.
“In some ways I wish that the canons were ordered the other way around, because that’s really the first step,” Paprocki told LifeSiteNews. “A person should examine their own conscience and if they’re conscious of grave sin should simply refrain from going to Holy Communion.”
“We shouldn’t even need to get to that second point” of having to deny people Communion because they should deny it to themselves if they are not properly disposed to receive it, he said.
The bishop said as far as he knows, Durbin has not presented himself for Holy Communion since being instructed not to receive it.
If one goes to Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin “not only are you not receiving the graces of the Sacrament, but…you are committing a sacrilege,” he explained.
The Catholic Church teaches that Holy Communion (the Eucharist) is the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ.
“That principle [about committing sacrilege] comes from the Bible. [In] St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11 verse 27, he wrote, ‘Whoever therefore eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord,’” recalled Paprocki.
Honoring an abortion supporter is like honoring a racist
Just days after Paprocki reminded Durbin of Church teaching and told him he may not receive Holy Communion, Jesuit-run Georgetown University awarded the Democrat its “Timothy S. Healy, S.J. Award for exemplary public service.”
The university’s president presented Durbin with the award, which is “conferred upon Georgetown alumni who have rendered outstanding and exemplary service to his/her profession or community in support of humanitarian causes.”
Paprocki said he wrote Georgetown’s President DeGioia to oppose this, but DeGioia responded by saying technically the award came from the alumni association and not Georgetown.
“I said it’s sad to see them giving this award despite the Senator’s disgraceful and strident support for abortion rights over the course of many years,” Paprocki revealed. “I said it’s shameful that they’ve ignored the clear teaching of the Church in honoring a Catholic politician. And there, too, that referred to the 2004 statement of the USCCB, Catholics in Political Life.”
That document makes a “very clear statement” about Catholic institutions not honoring those “who are in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.” It says they should not be “given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions,” Paprocki explained.
DeGioia’s response “misses the point” because Georgetown is still “suggesting they approve” of Durbin.
“I think that no matter all the good things [Durbin has] done… his pro-abortion record unfortunately detracts from all that and disqualifies him,” said Paprocki. “You could have someone who does very wonderful humanitarian things, but if he were a very vocal racist, I doubt that they would give someone like that an award.”
Red Rose Rescuers taking ‘a very admirable stand’
The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’s failure has largely faded from mainstream media coverage of U.S. politics.
The media have now focused on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which says children whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally may remain in the country as adults.
On Tuesday, a group of Catholic priests, nuns, and lay people were arrested at the U.S. Capitol protesting in favor of immigration and DACA.
“On the one hand you’ve got people who are supporting [DACA] protests and even getting arrested to show their support for immigrants,” said Paprocki. “Some of those same people would [likely] be critical of our peaceful prayers” outside abortion centers.
“And in most cases I wouldn’t even say they’re protests,” he added. “They’re very peaceful situations where people are praying in front of abortion clinics.”
“There’s no way that you can really make a comparison between” abortion and immigration because the former is a moral issue and the latter is a prudential one, he said.
Regarding the Red Rose Rescues, which consist of pro-life activists peacefully entering abortion centers with red roses to give to the mothers inside and then refusing to leave, thus risking arrest, Paprocki said, “I think that’s an individual’s decision, that a person makes if he or she wants to do something like civil disobedience and risk getting arrested.”
“Certainly, the Church does not expect people to do that [or say] you have to do this,” and saints like St. Thomas More tried to avoid getting arrested for as long as possible, he said.
“But if someone says, as a sign of protest, that I wanna make a public stand here and I’m willing to risk getting arrested, I think that’s a very admirable stand to take,” said Paprocki. “Again, not something that the Church would say you have to do…but if somebody wants to do that of their own free choice, I think that could be very admirable.”
All Catholics called to repentance
Unfortunately, the problem of Catholic politicians voting for abortion is not limited to those in federal office.
Paprocki said that “even more disgraceful” than Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, breaking a promise and voting for taxpayer-funded abortion is that Catholic legislators voted for that law.
“The Church’s opposition to abortion should not be seen as something that’s partisan,” said Paprocki, and it’s incorrect to say he’s just “attacking the Democratic politicians.”
“No, we’re attacking politicians who are promoting abortion,” the bishop clarified. “My criticism of Republican Governor Rauner is just as strong as my criticism of the Democratic leaders of our Illinois general assembly.”
During Lent, Paprocki said, pro-abortion politicians aren’t the only ones who need to examine their consciences.
“We’re all called to examine our hearts and see where we need to change our lives in order to grow closer to the Lord,” he explained. Catholics should go sacramental Confession, repent of their sins, make a firm purpose of amendment, and then receive Holy Communion.
“I would love to see Senator Durbin and the other Catholic senators have a change of heart and be pro-life,” said Paprocki. “I’m praying and I hope other people are praying that he will indeed repent and return to being pro-life.”