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Bishop Paprocki sees heresy in Cardinal McElroy’s views

February 28, 2023

An American bishop has taken the extraordinary step of charging another American prelate—a cardinal, in fact—with heresy.

In a provocative article posted by First Things, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, has suggested that an American cardinal is guilty of heresy and has separated himself from communion with the Catholic Church.

Although he does not mention Cardinal Robert McElroy by name, Bishop Paprocki opens his essay by quoting two passages from a recent article that the cardinal published in America magazine. “Until recently,” Bishop Paprocki remarks, “it would be hard to imagine any successor of the apostles making such heterodox statements.”

The bishop goes on to say that “it 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 because of heresy.”

Bishop Paprocki explains that the statements he quotes from the McElroy article—saying that the Church should not bar people from the Eucharist, regardless of their behavior or beliefs—appear to conflict directly with perennial Church teaching. He then cites #750 of the Code of Canon Law, which says that “anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

Someone guilty of heresy, the bishop continues—citing Canon 1364—separates himself from the Church. He reaches the sobering conclusion: “Thus 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.”

Although a heretical cleric can be stripped of his office, a cardinal can only removed from office by the Roman Pontiff, the bishop writes. But in the case of a heretical cardinal, Bishop Paprocki says that the Pope must take that action. “If he does not do so, the unseemly prospect arises of a cardinal, excommunicated latae sententiae due to heresy, voting in a papal conclave.”


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  • Posted by: Retired01 - Mar. 01, 2023 2:47 PM ET USA

    Wow! it is nice to see a bishop showing this type of courage. Let's hope that the good bishop does not end up in the Vatican's list of Pharisees, rigid, fundamentalist and traditionalist clerics. After a minute of reflection I change my mind, it will be an honor for the good bishop to end up in such a Vatican list.

  • Posted by: feedback - Mar. 01, 2023 4:09 AM ET USA

    In order to have any effect, the criticism of heretics in the Church must come from the bishops. Thank God for Bishop Thomas Paprocki.

  • Posted by: kdrotar16365 - Feb. 28, 2023 8:59 PM ET USA

    More bishops need to speak up/out against shepherds leading the flock astray; the salvation of countless souls could well depend on it. Even though such fraternal correction was common in the early Church, our modern approach to life of always being "nice" and not wanting to offend has effectively neutered many.

  • Posted by: Gramps - Feb. 28, 2023 8:03 PM ET USA

    Outstanding article by brave Bishop Paprocki!

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Feb. 28, 2023 3:19 PM ET USA

    I had commented in a previous post that this conflict was almost assuredly to end in "violence." Bishop Paprocki has now stepped forward as I think he or someone like him must. God will preserve His church through time, but it does require us speak and do what we can in our own time to save souls. It is so sad to me, a man of 74yrs, to come to grips with a schism of ever growing proportions. Violence is perpetrated on the laity world-wide by the McElroys, Martins, and Cupiches of the church.