Last Friday in Phoenix, Arizona, Thomas Paprocki -- the infamously homophobic bishop of Springfield, Illinois -- spoke about marriage equality alongside LGBT rights hero Sr. Jeannine Gramick, providing the "con" to Sr. Gramick's "pro."
The event, called "Two Catholic Views of Gay Marriage," was organized by author, journalist, and Catholicism expert Robert Blair Kaiser and hosted by Shadow Rock United Church of Christ. About 150 people -- most of them pro-equality Catholics, and many of them parents of LGBT children -- attended.
According to the National Catholic Reporter and Sr. Gramick's New Ways Ministry, Paprocki was in attack mode from the very beginning, blasting the "gay activist lobby" in his opening remarks and callously citing the murder of Matthew Shepard as evidence of alleged pro-LGBT bias in the media:
Paprocki told the audience that the murder of his former church secretary, Mary Stachowicz, whose killer was a gay man, got little media attention compared to the 1998 homicide of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teen killed in a hate crime. Paprocki said the power of the gay lobby and favorable media reaction accounted for the difference.
Take a couple deep breaths before continuing on -- I know I needed to after reading such repugnant remarks. (Earth to Tommy: if you're trying to come across as loving and compassionate, pretty much the worst thing you can do is verbally urinate on the grave of a hate crime victim. In fact, I'm pretty sure that makes you a vile human being.)
The prelate also warned the audience that if marriage equality is legalized, sexual activities like sadomasochism will be allowed too. (Earth to Tommy, volume II: those activities are already happening.) Bp. Paprocki condescended to Sr. Gramick, stating that her position was an "emotional" one while his position came from a place of "faith and reason." "My position is not a question of anecdotal stories," he said. (Earth to Tommy, volume III: seriously, turn down the smarmy misogyny.)
Sr. Gramick, by contrast, spoke about her personal change of heart on LGBT issues, which led to a decades-long career of challenging institutional Catholic bigotry, and about the widespread support for equality among lay Catholics.
In the question-and-answer portion that followed Paprocki's and Gramick's point-counterpoint, every single question from the audience was aimed at the anti-gay Paprocki. And the criticism was stinging.
In response to a question from Kaiser, the event organizer, Bp. Paprocki claimed that the Catholic Church would just love to welcome LGBT people, but "activists pushing an agenda" have forced it into a defensive position. (Silly gays, casting off the shackles of religion-based bigotry and demanding to be treated like everyone else. The nerve!) Anne Gray, an attorney with a gay son, wasn't having any of it. "Here I am," she said. "The big scary gay agenda."
Gray later admonished Paprocki for dismissing the stories of LGBT Catholics and their families. The NCR reports:
"It is all about anecdotal stories," she said. "My son is a perfect human being. There is nothing intrinsically disordered about him. I know because I am his mother."
She said if bishops wanted to argue for traditional marriage because the sexes are complementary, then the bishops ought to invite women to their deliberations.
"You need to listen to mothers," she said.
When an audience member challenged the bishop's assertion that marriage is defined by "the potential to bring forth human life" by asking why the elderly should be able to marry, Paprocki reportedly recommended they read the story of Abraham's wife Sarah, whom the Bible claims gave birth at the age of ninety. (Earth to Tommy, volume IV: that story is what's called a myth. Or are you prepared to tell me the Earth is 6,000 years old too?)
And when a young woman asked Paprocki whether supporting her lesbian sister and aunt would make her a bad Catholic, he demurred, saying, "It is a struggle to be a good Catholic while supporting gay marriage. It strains your relationship with the church."
In the end, Paprocki's advice for the majority of Catholics who oppose the church hierarchy's rabid homophobia and worldwide crusade against LGBT rights was simple: leave. He suggested they become Protestants instead, saying "They do a lot of good things too."
Here's hoping that instead of listening to the Stone-Age sexual strictures of prelates like Paprocki, pro-LGBT American Catholics instead choose to continue their noble tradition of ignoring the bishops' bullshit and doing what's right instead.