Friday, February 7, 2014

Discipline of the Faithful v. Disciplining the Faithful

A long time ago we here at the office learned how important it is to check our in-boxes daily for emails, for we receive many.  A significant amount of email we receive, like most of us, tends to come under the category of spam.

Towards the end of January 2014 the office took note of a number of emails coming to us with written in the subject line, “Shameful Behavior,” “Meanness,” “Discipline Yourselves,” and several others with headings that one should not quote in the public forum.

The common objective of these emails was to take the Evangelical Catholic Church and our Bishops to task for our advocating that any gender common couples seeking marriage “should be disciplined like a child.”

After reviewing about 30 of these emails, I choose seven of the most angry and emotional emails and replied to them asking why the Evangelical Catholic Church was receiving such emails.  From the four who responded, I leaned that their indignation had been ignited by recent comments of Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Roman Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of Springfield Illinois, during a recent radio interview defending his obsession and opposition to equal rights for LGTB citizens.

Bishop Paprocki, one may remember, gained national notoriety in 2013 when he conducted an exorcism service on the day the Illinois Marriage Equality Bill was signed into law.  In attempting to justify his actions, Bishop Paprocki said he wasn’t being hateful — he was performing a “loving” act of discipline, like a parent correcting a child. And he has reiterated his belief same-sex marriage is “the work of the devil.”

Since the signing of the Marriage Equality Bill, Bishop Paprocki has remained obsessed in his opposition to Marriage Equality.  In a recent video interview with LifeSite News, Bishop Paprocki stated that “Any good parent will tell you that sometimes you have to discipline your children,” and also adding that "Sometimes you have to say ‘no,’" and "Sometimes you even have to punish.”

In his concluding remarks on LifeSite, Bishop Paprocki said “When a parent does those things, they’re not being hateful towards their children; they’re actually being very loving by correcting them and showing them the right way to do things.”

Upon realizing the genesis of the angry emails sent to us, our office responded with a clarifying disclaimer stating that the words and pastoral positions of Bishop Paprocki on marriage equality does not reflect the ecclesiology and pastoral theology of the Evangelical Catholic Church.

I fully understand the hurt expressed in these emails sent to the Evangelical Catholic Church.  I understand the fact that these are good people who are hurting as a result of their systematic marginalization by their Catholic jurisdiction and have incorrectly assumed that all Catholic jurisdictions shares Bishop Paprocki’s words, actions and attitudes tells me that much works needs to continue in order to education the general public of the fact that there does exist more than ONE Catholic jurisdiction in the world.

Let me emphasize my recognition and compliments to Bishop Paprocki for being a loyal member and bishop to the Catholic Church of Rome.  There is in my mind no doubt that Thomas
Paprocki embraces and supports the theological and ecclesial disciplines of his Catholic jurisdiction.

Today most of the Catholic Jurisdiction shares common views on many theological and ecclesial matters.  With regards to matters of equal rights and human rights, the Catholic Church of Rome and the Evangelical Catholic Church embraces opposing secular and theological views.  I am also prepared to state that when it comes to “disciplining” the laity which God has called us to serve, the views expressed by my brother Thomas and the pastoral theology of the Evangelical Catholic Church could not be more diverse.

I believe that the common liturgical, sacramental, ecclesial, spiritual and theological “disciplines” shared and celebrated by the various Catholic jurisdictions are those things which draw us together as communities of faith to deepen our intimacy and love of and with God.  These disciplines should appeal to the heart and spirituality of people and invite them unconditionally to become part of a jurisdiction and not be viewed as flypaper in disguise. 

Scripture continues to teach us that in the calling of the Twelve, Jesus extends to His chosen the simple, yet profound invitation to “Come, follow me.”  Jesus made his invitation unconditional and without putting anyone under any form of duress. 

The words and model of Church being used by my brother Thomas are top heavy with duress and absolutism – a model the theocratic rule to which all persons (Catholic or not) must submit.

Thomas’ words and model of Church being expressed reminds me of a scene from the movie “Roots,” in which the slave Kunta Kinke is being whipped because of his refusal to accept his slave name of Toby.  Jesus invites us to follow him based on unconditional love, not via submission from torture. 

I have always used the image of Catholicism as a tree with many branches sharing the same trunk and roots.  I also believe that each of the Catholic jurisdictions much equally share in the many historic episodes of torture and pain inflicted upon those deemed in need of “discipline” by Holy Mother Church.  The blood of so many from ages past which continues to stains our hands most not be further stained by the emotional and spiritual blood of the marginalized of those of this generation.

While I must acknowledge Bishop Paprocki’s rights to advocate his strongest objections to marriage equality or any other secular matter which he feels threatens the Roman position of the Sacrament of Marriage, such as the secular right to divorce or the right to secure a prescription for birth control.  Maybe these are demographics which Thomas cannot financially afford to upset.

For myself, I simply wish to not have my Catholic jurisdiction clubbed over the head because of Thomas’ obsession.

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