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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Illinois legislature's recent passage of one of the nation's most radical abortion laws has prompted the diocese of Springfield to take the extreme measure of denying Holy Communion to nominally Catholic House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and rank-and-file legislators.
"The Eucharist is the most sacred aspect of our Catholic faith," Springfield's Bp. Thomas Paprocki said in a diocesan press release, continuing:
As sacred Scripture warns, "Whoever eats unworthily of the bread and drinks from the Lord's cup makes himself guilty of profaning the body and of the blood of the Lord." To support legislation that treats babies in the womb like property, allowing for their destruction for any reason at any time, is evil. It's my hope and prayer these lawmakers reconcile themselves to the Church so they can receive Communion.
In a statement to WGN News, Madigan, a Democrat, acknowledged Bp. Paprocki warned the politician beforehand that he'd be denied Holy Communion if he continued to support the bill.
Rather than yielding to the bishop's admonition, however, he stated: "The Reproductive Health Act is a recognition that women across Illinois deserve access to health care without intrusion of government."
The television news station also interviewed Fr. Michael Pfleger. The pastor at St. Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago indicated he didn't think it was the place of clergy to determine who should or shouldn't receive communion.
"You are really entering a very dangerous area," he said, asserting that forbidding Holy Communion to politicians who openly advocate for passage of abortion is the moral equivalent of denying Communion for any sinner, adding that all humans are sinners, "including priests."
In the same segment, Fr. Thomas Hurley of Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago concurred with Pfleger, saying abortion is unfortunate while stating Paprocki's decree is also unfortunate because it, in effect, weaponizes Communion.
Cardinal Blase Cupich was unavailable to speak with the WGN reporter, but issued a statement that the "Eucharist is an opportunity of grace and conversion to bring people to the truth."
Anticipating the unsupportive, uninformed and lackluster responses of his fellow clergy, Bp. Paprocki, a canon lawyer, consulted other canon lawyers across North America when he drafted the decree.
Citing canon 915, his decree states individuals "who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion."
He continues, citing canon 916:
[A] person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible.
In view of their gravely immoral action to deprive unborn children legal protection against abortion, it must be said that any Catholic legislator who sponsored, promoted, advocated or voted for these pro-abortion bills has acted in a seriously sinful manner unfaithful to the 2,000-year-old Christian teaching against abortion and, therefore, would place themselves outside of the full communion of the Catholic Church. Such persons are not to receive Holy Communion until they have celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation and displayed a public conversion of life.
The so-called Reproductive Health Act passed the Illinois House last week by a 64-50 vote and the Senate by a 34-20 margin. All told, only seven Democrats voted against the bill, and only nine either voted "present" or abstained from voting.
In a Facebook video posted June 7, Paprocki elaborated on the decree: "I am speaking to you, the faithful, of the diocese of Springfield in Illinois regarding the action I have taken to deny Communion to lawmakers who voted in favor of legislation that fundamentally and directly assaults the dignity of human life."
He assures viewers that his decree is "not politically motivated" and he doesn't "enjoy taking this action" that resulted "after much prayer and deliberation."
He goes on to express his "concern for the souls of the legislators involved, for the scandal and confusion it causes you, the faithful, and for the integrity of the Holy Eucharist" and assure the decree is "a pastoral measure, not a punitive measure."
He concludes: "My great hope is that eyes and hearts will be opened to the gravity of disregarding the inherent dignity of human life and that those who have gone astray in their practice and understanding will repent and return to the truth."
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has indicated he will sign the bill that reconciles House Bill 40 and Senate Bill 25 and is considered the most permissively liberal abortion law in the United States.
Among its provisions are codifying abortion as a fundamental right, allowing the killing of the unborn up to the moment of birth, requiring private insurance companies provide coverage for abortions and waiving waiting periods and spousal notification requirements.
Madigan and Cullerton join the ranks of other politicians identifying as Catholics whose legislative votes explicitly contradict Catholic doctrine. Among them are former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, former Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).