Bishop Bars Madigan, Cullerton From Receiving Communion Over Abortion Bills

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, both Catholic Democrats from Chicago, were banned Thursday from receiving communion in Springfield because of their support for legislation expanding abortion rights.

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki issued the decree, according to a statement from the Diocese of Springfield, specifically in response to the leaders' role in the passage of two measures, one from the most recent legislative and another that was signed into law in 2017.

"The Eucharist is the most sacred aspect of our Catholic faith," Paprocki said in a statement. "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."

One of the measures Paprocki mentioned in his decree is the Reproductive Health Act, which passed both chambers last month and which Pritzker has indicated he will sign. Once law, it will establish a woman's right to an abortion, rescind prohibitions on some abortions and remove criminal penalties for doctors performing the procedure.

The bill was introduced as a response to some states across the U.S. passing laws to restrict abortion rights, with its sponsors warning that the protections would be necessary should the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade be overturned.

The other is House Bill 40, which was signed into law in 2017 and also addressed Roe v. Wade by repealing language in Illinois' 1975 law that would criminalize abortion should that decision be overturned. It also expanded insurance programs for state employees and Medicaid recipients to include coverage for abortion.

Madigan said in a statement Thursday that Paprocki notified him that he would no longer be allowed to receive communion if the House passed the Reproductive Health Act, but "after much deliberation and reflection," he chose to allow debate and a vote on the measure.

"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's statement continued. "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."

When asked about Paprocki's decree, a spokesman for Cullerton said in a statement, "to the best of my knowledge he has never attended services there."

Madigan and Cullerton are not the first Illinois politicians to be barred from communion in Springfield. Sen. Dick Durbin has not been allowed to receive communion in the Archdiocese of Springfield, including his home parish, since 2004, over Durbin's stance in support of abortion rights, according to the State Journal-Register

Paprocki made headlines in 2013 for performing an exorcism as Illinois moved to make same-sex marriage legal across the state. 

His order Thursday warned that in addition to Madigan and Cullerton, any Catholic lawmakers who voted for either measure on abortion should not present themselves for communion.

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