CV NEWS FEED // In a new essay published by First Things on Tuesday, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, surprised many by stating directly what other bishops and Catholic commentators have only insinuated: that Cardinal Robert McElroy has espoused “heretical” doctrines against those of the Catholic Church.
Responding to a controversial essay published by Cardinal McElroy by the Jesuit magazine America, Bishop Paprocki wrote that “Until recently, it would be hard to imagine any successor of the apostles making such heterodox statements” as McElroy’s. Here Paprocki was referring to the cardinal’s proposal to “radically” change the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, marriage, and – most importantly – the Holy Eucharist.
“[I]t is deeply troubling to consider the possibility that prelates holding the office of diocesan bishop in the Catholic Church may be separated or not in full communion [with the Catholic Church] because of heresy,” wrote Paprocki, a Canon lawyer by training and chairman-elect of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance.
Paprocki acknowledged in his essay that the term “heretic” has been abused in some Catholic debates, but by carefully quoting several canons of the Code of Canon Law, he made the case that calling McElroy’s proposals heretical is not hyperbole, but a sad and worrisome reality – especially when it comes to the conditions necessary to receive Holy Communion clearly established by the Church. The main condition for reception of the Eucharist is not being in mortal sin, and McElroy has rejected that principle.
After citing Church law to make his case against McElroy’s positions, Paprocki stated that “a cardinal of the Catholic Church, like any other Catholic who denies settled Catholic teaching, embraces heresy, the result of which is automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church.”
To highlight the gravity of a cardinal being in a state of heresy, Paprocki pointed out that the pope must take that action. If “he does not do so, the unseemly prospect arises of a cardinal, excommunicated latae sententiae (automatically) due to heresy, voting in a papal conclave.”
In a previous response to McElroy’s call for “radical inclusion,” Paprocki wrote that
it appears that for Cardinal McElroy it is Catholicism’s judgmentalism that leads to exclusion, and not the committed sins. But it has always been the practice of the Church to exclude those actively engaging in grave sin from Communion until they have repented, confessed their sins to a priest, and received sacramental absolution. This is not a demand for perfection (despite the Cardinal’s insistence otherwise), nor is it a punishment; it is a consequence of those chosen actions.
Another opponent of the teachings of the Church highlighted by Paprocki is Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, the Jesuit Archbishop of Luxembourg, who recently said of the Church’s teaching on homosexuality: “I believe that the sociological-scientific foundation of this teaching is no longer correct.”
Hollerich’s statement contributed to the mounting concerns surrounding the upcoming Synod on Synodality, since Hollerich was appointed by Pope Francis as Relator General, a key position in conducting the synodal process and its conclusions.
“We must pray that the Holy Spirit will not let this happen, and will inspire anyone who espouses heretical views to renounce them and seek reconciliation with our Lord and his Church,” Paprocki concluded in his article at First Things.