Thomas Paprocki, the infamously homophobic Catholic bishop of Springfield, Illinois, got his cassock in a bunch earlier this week when he heard that a group of pro-LGBT Catholics planned to pray the rosary for marriage equality inside the city's cathedral after rallying at the state capitol.
As soon as Paprocki got wind of plans by members of the Rainbow Sash Movement to pray for marriage equality before the 5:15 p.m. mass on Tuesday, he issued a statement calling such prayers "blasphemous" and warning that anyone who attempted to enter the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception while wearing a rainbow sash or otherwise identified themselves as a pro-equality Catholic would be blocked from entering and turned away. Anyone who prayed for same-sex marriage inside the cathedral would be asked to leave.
"It is blasphemy to show disrespect or irreverence to God or to something holy," Paprocki said. "Since Jesus clearly taught that marriage as created by God is a sacred institution between a man and a woman (see Matthew 19:4-6 and Mark 10:6-9), praying for same-sex marriage should be seen as blasphemous and as such will not be permitted in the cathedral. People wearing a rainbow sash or who otherwise identify themselves as affiliated with the Rainbow Sash Movement will not be admitted into the cathedral and anyone who gets up to pray for same-sex marriage in the cathedral will be asked to leave."
And just to show those queer-loving Catholics that he meant business, Bishop Paprocki called the police. Details, and video footage of the bishop's statement, after the jump.
Springfield's State Journal-Register reports that Paprocki enlisted the help of law enforcement: squad cars were parked near the church, and at least one police officer could be seen standing in the doorway, apparently ready to physically prevent pro-equality Catholics from entering the cathedral.
Rick Garcia, political director for Civil Rights Agenda, an Illinois equality group, was able to slip into the church before Mass because he wasn't wearing a rainbow sash. He told reporter Lauren Leone-Cross that it was the bishop, not pro-equality Catholics, who were committing blasphemy. "This is the first time in all of my years of coming here that I see police officers in front of this church... It angers me because I'm a life-long Catholic. That a bishop would say this about me or my people is outrageous."
It's not just outrageous, it's completely tone-deaf: as I've written time and time again, almost two-thirds of American Catholics reject the homophobic teachings of their bishops and support marriage equality. I wonder, does Bishop Paprocki really think that all those good people are committing "blasphemy?"
Sadly, given his long history of homophobia, I wouldn't be entirely surprised. In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, for example, Paprocki released a video message where he enumerated what he called the "intrinsic evils" in the Democratic Party platform (choice and marriage equality) and implied that Catholics who voted for Democratic candidates were going to hell. This year, Paprocki bashed marriage equality on Valentine's Day and said that same-sex relationships were based on sin rather than love. And at a debate this summer with Sr. Jeannine Gramick, a pro-equality Catholic nun, Paprocki callously cited the murder of Matthew Shepard as evidence of alleged pro-gay bias in the media and said that pro-LGBT Catholics should leave the church.
Paprocki is a spiritual bully of the highest order, but his hateful rhetoric and cowardly use of law enforcement to enforce his homophobia shows that deep down, he's nothing but a scared little man. I can't wait to see his epic meltdown when -- either by an act of the legislature or an order of the court -- marriage equality becomes law in Illinois.
If you can stomach it, you can watch Paprocki's latest anti-gay video message threatening to evict pro-equality Catholics from the Springfield cathedral below.