Diocese of Springfield refuses communion to Catholic Illinois lawmakers who backed ‘evil’ abortion bill

A statement from Bishop Paprocki singled out House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, but said any Catholic Illinois lawmaker who supported the two bills will be affected.

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Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Springfield Catholic diocese, left; House Speaker Mike Madigan, right.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Springfield Catholic diocese, left, testifies during a Senate Executive committee hearing at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield in 2013; House Speaker Mike Madigan, right, speaks at an Illinois House committee in Chicago in 2017. File Photos.

Seth Perlman/Associated Press; Rich Hein/Chicago Sun-Times

The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois issued a decree Thursday to refuse Holy Communion to House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, and any other Illinois Catholic lawmaker who supported “extreme abortion legislation” this most recent session and in 2017.

According to a statement from the diocese, the decree is a response to Madigan and Cullerton’s “leadership roles in promoting the evil of abortion by facilitating the passage” of Senate Bill 25, also known as the Illinois Reproductive Health Act (IRHA), and House Bill 40, which was passed in 2017, and extends to any Catholic lawmaker who voted for either bill.

Madigan responded with a statement Thursday morning defending the legislation, saying the diocese had informed him in advance that he would be barred from taking communion if he supported it, but “after much deliberation and reflection, I made the decision to allow debate and a vote on the legislation.”

“I believe it is more important to protect a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, including women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest,” Madigan said. “With women’s rights under attack in an increasing number of states across the country, Illinois is now a leader in making sure women are protected and their rights are upheld.”

Madigan has said previously that though he was once “a regular attendee,” he does not currently belong to any church or parish, including the neighborhood Catholic church less than half a mile from his West Lawn home.

The Illinois Reproductive Health Act, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker supports and is expected to sign, protects the right to choose an abortion and requires private insurance companies to cover abortion costs. House Bill 40 removed a provision that excluded abortions or induced miscarriages or premature births from the list of services provided under the State’s medical assistance program.

Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, a canon lawyer, cited Canon 915 and 916 in his decision, and consulted with other canon lawyers in North America before making the decree, according to the statement issued by the diocese.

On June 1, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich called the passage of the Senate bill “a sad moment in our history as a State.” But in a statement issued Thursday about the decree from Springfield, the Archdiocese of Chicago noted that “Bishop Paprocki’s edict applies to his diocese only.”

“Cardinal Cupich has had a longstanding position over his 20-plus years as a bishop that it is important to place the emphasis on teaching what the Church believes about important issues of the day, all the while maintaining an unshakable confidence that the Eucharist is an opportunity of grace and conversion to bring people to the truth,” the Archdiocese statement said.

In the Catholic faith, Holy Communion, of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, occurs when a member of the clergy blesses the bread and wine served at mass, turning them into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Catholics receive communion each week, and it is considered the “most sacred aspect of our Catholic faith,” according to Paprocki.

“To support legislation that treats babies in the womb like property, allowing for their destruction for any reason at any time, is evil,” Paprocki said. “It’s my hope and prayer these lawmakers reconcile themselves to the Church so they can receive Communion.”

Paprocki hasn’t been shy about speaking out against bills he argues conflict with church teachings.

In 2013, Paprocki opposed the same-sex marriage bill and warned that anyone wearing rainbow sashes would be barred entrance to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception because their defiance against church policy on marriage amounted to “blasphemy.”

He held a public exorcism after then Gov. Pat Quinn vowed to sign the marriage equality bill.

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