Thomas John Joseph Paprocki is a prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who serves as bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, and a strikingly unsavory fellow. Paprocki is primarily famous as a tireless opponent of contraception and giving people access to contraceptives, but also drew attention to himself when he said that the devil was the principal force behind lawsuits related to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church (that is: the devil wasn’t behind the abuse, but behind the victims’ attempts to seek redress for the abuse): “This attack is particularly directed against bishops and priests, since the most effective way to scatter the flock is to attack the shepherd. We must also use our religious discernment to recognize that the principal force behind these attacks is none other than the devil,” said Paprocki. In 2007 he also told a group of judges and lawyers in Michigan that monetary awards to victims of sexual abuse by priests were excessive and that the legal system needed reform, because such awards affected the wealth of his church: “the law is being used to undermine […] the religious freedom of the Church,” said Paprocki, suggesting some interesting and novel views about what kinds of actions should fall in the category of religious practices with which society should not interfere. He also apparently, in all seriousness, believes that no one has dealt with sex abuse scandals “as responsibly as the Catholic Church has.” Criticisms of the church’s handling of the scandals, however, reflect “anti-Catholic bigotry” and “profound ignorance.”
He also made some waves in 2010, when he – during the Christmas Eve midnight mass – castigated airport security personnel for not profiling Arabs and warned that Muslims would impose Islamist values in the United States by moving here until they constitute a majority. In 2012 he also warned his parishioners against voting for Obama, “a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”
Paprocki is a staunch campaigner for the practice exorcisms, organizing for instance a conference on exorcism in 2009 with the goal of ensuring that someone in every American diocese could at least screen potential candidates for exorcism. He assured us, though, that exorcisms were only to be “used in those cases where the Devil is involved in an extraordinary sort of way in terms of actually being in possession of the person.” For instance, doctors should rule out mental illness before a patient is sent to exorcism. Homosexuals, however, is another matter.
No, Paprocki doesn’t like gay people. In 2013, he said that Satan was behind the recent Illinois legalization of same-sex marriage, and responded by arranging an exorcism ceremony, during which he read the exorcism rite “in reparation for the sin of same-sex marriage”. According to Paprocki the prayer service was “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. These demonic influences are not readily apparent to the undiscerning eye, which is why they are so deceptive,” which certainly sounds like he is quite literally demonizing someone. The debate over gay marriage, says Paprocki, “is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a ‘move’ of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.” Then he said that “the division brought about by the Devil due to same-sex marriage may be seen in the way our society, our families and our friendships have become so divided and polarized over this issue,” which is hard to read as anything but an admission that he himself is doing the work of the devil. Apparently he also hoped that the exorcism would show gay people that he and his church love them, which suggests a serious level of confusion concerning relatively central issues.
In 2017 Paprocki instructed priests in his diocese to deny communion, last rites and funeral rites to people in same-sex marriages (unless they repent and seek conversion, no less). Similarly, Catholic politicians who have been involved in making gay marriage legal in the United States should refrain from Holy Communion until they had sought forgiveness in the confessional.
The fact that gay marriage has popular support has been referenced by Paprocki as demonstration that the United States is now a “pagan” culture no different from the era of the Roman Empire when Christians were oppressed and martyred, since there is no difference between disagreement and persecution. Apparently the First Amendment is being sorely tested, too, since people are allowed to disagree with and criticize him for being the horrible person that he is, and he is not always getting his will in political matters. It’s persecution, no less.
Diagnosis: Angry and confused, but Paprocki also wields a lot of influence with a lot of people. Dangerous.