Springfield Bishop Reprimands Jesuit Father James Martin

Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America Magazine, poses for photos at the publication's offices, in New York, Monday, May 21, 2018. Pope Francis' reported comments to a gay man that "God made you like this" have been embraced by the LGBT community as another …
Richard Drew/AP

Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki has issued a public correction of Jesuit Father James Martin for his insistence that pro-abortion Catholic politicians have the right to receive Holy Communion.

“Father James Martin contradicts basic Catholic moral principles and theology in his case against denying communion to those who persist in manifest, grave sin,” Bishop Paprocki writes in a brief essay in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) this week.

“Jesus broke bread with sinners, but he called them to conversion,” declares Paprocki, who is also a Canon lawyer. “He didn’t leave them in sin. He required that they choose between following him and rejecting his call.”

The bishop goes on to underscore that no one is truly “worthy” to receive communion, but not all sins constitute an obstacle to the worthy reception of the sacrament, which is why the Church distinguishes between grave (mortal) sin and lesser (venial) sin.

“Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance,” Paprocki cites from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, adding that to receive absolution, the penitent must have sincere contrition, which includes “the resolution not to sin again.”

“Typically, such matters are private and impossible for the minister of holy communion to know,” Paprocki states. “But with a public figure who publicly and obstinately persists in promoting grave evil, the matter is laid bare for all to see, adding scandal and confusion of the faithful to the weight of the sin.”

In his article defending the distribution of Holy Communion to politicians who advocate for abortion rights, Father Martin (pictured, top) insisted no one should be denied Communion, since Jesus broke bread with sinners, a position seemingly at odds with universal church law, which mandates that persons who persist in manifest, grave sin “are not to be admitted to Holy Communion” (Code of Canon Law, 915).

Bishop Paprocki has supported Sen. Dick Durbin’s pastor, who said he would be “reticent” to give Sen. Durbin Holy Communion because his pro-abortion position placed him outside of unity with the Church’s teachings on life.

“Because his voting record in support of abortion over many years constitutes ‘obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin,’ the determination continues that Sen. Durbin is not to be admitted to Holy Communion until he repents of this sin,” Paprocki wrote in 2021.

“This provision is intended not to punish, but to bring about a change of heart,” he added.

One of the issues frequently proposed as morally equivalent to abortion is the death penalty, Paprocki noted.

“But capital punishment is not in the same moral category as abortion,” he wrote. “Whereas abortion is an intrinsic evil, the death penalty has been called ‘inadmissible’ by Pope Francis — a different moral judgment, reflecting a kind of prudential judgment about the penalty’s efficacy.”

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