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Courageous Bishop Paprocki Shows Us How To Contend for the Truth About Marriage

By Deacon Keith Fournier
June 15th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Bishop explained the truth about marriage. He presented the Natural Law basis for the defense of true marriage as normative for every society and culture. As well as being a good Bishop and top shelf theologian, he is a good lawyer. He explained the Civil and Canon Law issues surrounding the defense of marriage and defended our right to contend for this position in the publlic square.  This was a textbook example of apologetics, defending the faith, in the classical sense, for the contemporary age. It was done in an easily accessible manner which could be understood by all present and proved the truth of the old adage often attributed to Augustine that truth is like a Lion. No one has to defend it. Just set it free and it will defend itself.

PHOENIX, AZ (Catholic Online) - On May 31, 2013, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki , the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, gave an extraordinary address entitled Marriage, Same Sex Relationships, and the Catholic Church. It can - it SHOULD - be read in its entirety here. He also debated Sr. Jeannine Gramick on marriage, and won.

Everything about the speech and the debate which followed is instructive to anyone who takes the Catholic Christian faith seriously, knows the challenges we face, and wants to actually do something about it and not just curse the darkness. He demonstrated how to contend in the culture for the truth and bring about its conversion by apostolic activity and Catholic action.

This courageous Bishop accepted an invitation from the Jesuit Alumni Society of Arizona to participate in a debate with Sr. Jeannine Gramick of the notorious New Ways ministry. Yes, I said notorious. New Ways Ministry has actively and aggressively opposed efforts to defend marriage in direct opposition to the formal support of the defense of marriage by the Catholic Church and the crystal clarity of the teaching of the Church.

The Bishops of the United States formally denounced the dissident organization in 2010 and stated publicly 'in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization'. The entire text of the denunciation can be read here. The Bishops also publicly denounced the book the organization published andstill  promotes entitled Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach the following year.

The debate took place at the Shadow Rock United Church of Christ Church and was moderated by journalist Robert Blair Kaiser. This was not the Bishop singing to the choir. The crowd was decidedly against marriage as solely between one man and one woman and was not inclined to agree with the good Bishops position of defending that truth, as revealed by the Natural Law and taught without any equivocation by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

He knew it and rose to the moment.He was not afraid because he knows that the Truth has power to persuade hearts and minds. He also understands what is at stake. Finally, he obviously believes that all men and women have a Right to hear that truth. In fact, it alone will set them free to be fully human and to flourish. Do we?

Regrettably, I was not at this event.However, when I read his address days later I was reminded of one of my great heroes, Justin, Martyr, whose Feast we celebrated in the Liturgical Calendar just a few days ago. I wrote an article entitled Remember Justin Martyr: This a Pre-Christian Age and We are the New Missionaries In that article I said:

"We need new apologists, defenders of the faith, who are unafraid to contend in the marketplace of ideas for the heart and soul of the people of our age. We live in a new missionary age. The Third Millennium of the Christian Church calls us, in the midst of a Western Culture which resembles a new Rome, to defend the faith like Justin did.  May the Holy Spirit inspire men and women who, like Justin and his companions, possess the heroic courage this mission will require."

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki fits the bill. He began by telling the story of Mary Stachowicz, who served as his parish secretary. "Mary, the gentle, devout 51-year-old Catholic mother of four urged her co-worker, Nicholas Gutierrez, 19, to change his gay lifestyle. Infuriated by this, as he later told police, he allegedly beat, stabbed and strangled her to death and then stuffed her mangled body in a crawl space in his apartment, located above a Chicago funeral home, where they both worked." 

He then made these preliminary comments, "Before I get into the substance of this topic, I wish to note that the original announcement for this program billed the presentation as "Two Catholic Views on Gay Marriage."  I corrected that, since there is only one authentic Catholic view. There are two views being presented here tonight by two people who are baptized Catholics, but only one of those views, the one I will present, is consistent with Catholic teaching, while the other view clearly dissents from Catholic teaching."

He continued, "The dissenting nature of the other speaker's views was clearly identified as such by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith fourteen years ago today, on May 31, 1999, saying these views were "clearly incompatible with the teaching of the Church."

Then the Bishop, in a clear, convincing, and extraordinarily effective manner, explained the truth about marriage. He started by stating the premise of his interlocutor and then exposing its fallacy. He presented the Natural Law basis for the defense of true marriage as normative for every society and culture. As well as being a good Bishop and top shelf theologian, he is a good lawyer. He explained the Civil and Canon Law issues surrounding the defense of marriage and defended our right to contend for this position in the publlic square. 

This was a textbook example of apologetics, defending the faith, in the classical sense, for the contemporary age. It was done in an easily accessible manner which not only could be understood by all present but proved the old adage that is often attributed to Augustine that truth is like a Lion. No one has to defend it. Just set it free and it will defend itself. It was done by a Catholic Christian in love with the Lord, informed by the true teaching of the Church, and emboldened by the courage and compassion that such a defense of the faith requires.

His presentation in defense of marriage should be studied by anyone who has the courage to imitate him, wants to contend for the culture - and wants to learn how to do it well. We are living in a Pre-Christian age. I long ago stopped participating in the ongoing debate about whether this is a post-Christian or post-modernist age. In fact, I think it is a waste of time.

We would all use our energies and time better if we just accepted the obvious; this is a new pagan age. However, we cannot stop there. Our task is to do what the early Christians did, proclaim in word and deed the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and transform it from within. Even if should means the shedding of our blood. If it does, God will give us the grace.  

I make it a regular task to call attention to the wonderful Bishops we have in the Catholic Church in the United States. To borrow an expression from my recently deceased mother, I have a pet peeve. A pet peeve is an annoyance which one finds vexing. It concerns my fellow Catholics who spend much of their time in the blogosphere, or in other integrated media venues such as face book, taking pot shots at Bishops. 

I refuse to join with these folks. In fact, I have referred to them as a sort of "Catholic circular firing squad". They seem perched and ever eager to blame the bishops for every challenge we face in the Church and the culture.

From the very beginning of the Church, the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops had the primary task of teaching the faithful so that they could fully live the Christian faith and give it away to others. The Church has always been blessed with good teaching Bishops, especially at critical times in her history.  We are living in just such a time.

Some of the most profound teaching on the Christian Faith and way of life is found in the Apostolic Fathers. We have letters which circulated from the first few centuries written by giants like Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch. We also have sets of instructions and catechetical teaching to the early church such as the Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve).

Throughout Church history the teaching of Bishops has helped the faithful to mature in their faith, apply that faith to their daily lives and grow in their capacity to influence their age and progress in holiness. So it so it must be in our own day. So too, has the witness of their courageous apostolic actions in the midst of the fire of persecution.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki is just such a courageous and holy Bishop. He was set over the faithful of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2010. What a gift. He writes a regular column for the official newspaper of the Diocese, the Catholic Times.His columns are always excellent. They are a regular feature of this fine newspaper and grouped under the theme of Lex Cordis Caritas - The law of the heart is Love.

Pray for Bishop Thomas Paprocki. He challenges all of us to contend for the truth in a Culture enslaved by lies. If you see him, thank him. And, by the way, if you have allowed yourself to join that catholic circular firing squad, step outside of it. It is not only counterproductive, but your energies could be used far more effectively by following the lead of this Bishop, no matter what your state in life, by focusing on contending for the faith and engaging a culture which has lost its way and deserves to hear the truth.

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