Saturday, June 25, 2011

Six Months After Christmas: Still Praying That Bishop Paprocki Will Reject Prejudice Against Muslims

Today is the half-way mark on the calendar between Christmas 2010 and Christmas 2011.  We're six months out from Bishop Thomas John Paprocki's choice to promote prejudice against Muslims in his 2010 Midnight Mass celebration at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield, Illinois.  We have six months until Bishop Paprocki gives his next Christmas Eve homily.

Since he is the bishop in charge of the diocese in which I live, I am praying each day that Bishop Paprocki will turn away from the serious sin of bigotry that he demonstrated in his Christmas Eve homily.  Here's a link to that homily.  The bishop began that homily by celebrating (not noting, not explaining, but celebrating) the execution of a Muslim general on Christmas Day in 1683.  He then went on to lament that Muslims today "wish to move in legally and peacefully" to the United States and Western Europe in order to  "impose Islamist values and sharia law with little or no resistance."  That's right, folks.  The way Bishop Paprocki sees it, you can't even trust Muslims who come in peace.  They all, evidently, have something awful up their sleeves.

When someone is in the habit of prejudging others--particularly a large group of individuals--we call that prejudice.   People who are proud of their prejudice are bigots.  People who encourage other people to become bigots are...well, do we have a word for that?  Some would call such folks hate-mongers.  I'm sure the bishop would not call himself that.  After all, he would point out, he never said anyone should hate Muslims.  Just reject them out of hand.  Including the ones who come "peacefully and legally."  And, oh yes, he also says--more out of rhetorical obligation than heartfelt belief, I suspect--that "not every Muslim is a terrorist."  But he only makes that point once, and very briefly, and it's the same sort of thing that every bigoted person says when he hopes that non-bigots will take him seriously.  It rarely works.

Catholic Christians are called by the church to go the Sacrament of Reconciliation and confess their sins in private, before only God and a priest.  We are not, under normal circumstances, obliged to repent of our sins in a public forum--although we are, most certainly, expected to repent with a sincere heart, if perhaps only in private.  It's entirely possible that Bishop Paprocki has already repented of the sin of bigotry privately, that is, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It's not my business, obviously, to know whether he has or not.

In this case, however, it sure seems that Bishop Paprocki should supplement any sacramental confession of the sin of bigotry with a public apology and repentance.  For he did not just engage in bigotry--which, sadly, most of us have struggled with in one form or another in our own hearts.  No, what Bishop Paprocki did was much worse.  He used the Holy Mass to encourage others to adopt his prejudice.  In other words, he encouraged every person who attended that Mass, and every person who read the homily thereafter, to engage in sin.  He encouraged others to prejudge individuals as having evil intent when he knows nothing of those individuals.  And, once again:  he used the Mass--Christmas Eve Mass--to do this.

We are all sinners; we are all in need of conversion and acceptance of God's mercy.  With regard to the bishop's very public sin last Christmas, let's hope that the bishop is able to come to terms with this sin and turn from it.  Let us hope he will encourage his flock to reject prejudice and bigotry in all its forms.  (Think about it.  The bishop's example of showing the faithful how one recognizes sin in his own life, turns from it, and seeks to make things right would be inspirational for every Catholic in the diocese.)  And let's also pray that the bishop will remember to celebrate Jesus' love at Midnight Mass six months from now.  (Is it not a shame for a savior to be born--a savior who leads us deeper into God's love--and for a bishop to miss the point of that event?  How sad for those people who went to Mass to celebrate God's love on Christmas Eve.)

The good news for Bishop Paprocki, on the off chance (the incredibly minuscule chance) he stumbles across this blog entry:  God can help you turn away from your sin--even one as drastic as the homily you gave last Christmas.  (Who knows?  You might even have a chance to sit down and get to know a few Muslims as friends, as people.  Don't be afraid, sir.  They might be praying for you as well, for all you know.  Open your heart to God's love, Bishop Paprocki.  You're better than the sin you committed last Christmas in front of all those people.)

(For what it's worth, here's a link to my original post on Bishop Paprocki's homily--from this January.)


Thom, SFO said...

I'm thoroughly disgusted. Have any letters been written, etc?

Steve said...

Thom, a priest from the Chicago area (outside of Bishop Paprocki's diocese) wrote a letter to the Springfield State Journal-Register, and it was published in January. The J-R then gave the bishop a chance to respond directly to the letter, and the bishop said simply that the priest (who had encouraged the bishop to read a wider range of sources on Islamic history) was just plain wrong. Soon thereafter, the bishop used his column in the diocesan newspaper to take the priest letter-writer to task and to thump his chest about how very right he had been in his denunciation of Muslims in his Christmas Eve homily.

As a struggling sinner myself, I realize it may be difficult for Bishop Paprocki to come to terms with his sin and the scandal he has caused (whether he realizes he caused scandal or not). He needs prayers. (As do we all!)

progressive Catholic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kkollwitz said...

Thanks for the link to the Bishop's homily.