Three Cheers for Bishop Paprocki’s Wild Imagination

Much has been made over the past week or so about a recent article by Bishop Thomas Paprocki titled, “Imagining a Heretical Cardinal.”

Presumably, nearly all readers have already read, or otherwise know all that they need to know about its contents, so I will not repeat them here. Please click the link provided above and give it a read if this doesn’t describe you. 

Initially published on February 28th by First Things, the article has since been linked, shared and reposted countless times, very often with accompanying commentary suggesting that its publication is a momentous event signaling that the conciliar church (b. 1962-1965, d. not soon enough) may be entering into an unprecedented phase in its tumultuous history.

Eric Sammons, for example, declared :

I’m not sure if Catholics realize what a big deal this is: A sitting bishop calls out a Cardinal as a heretic and suggests he is excommunicated and shouldn’t sit in the next papal enclave. This is a Middle Ages-level smackdown.   

Alejandro Bermúdez, Executive Director of ACI-Prensa (acquired by EWTN in 2014 along with Catholic News Agency) said:

[Paprocki] drops the bomb that needed to be dropped. In an impeccable essay he calls Cardinal McElroy a *heretic* and explains why. 

Prolific commentator, Peter Kwasniewski, weighed in on the article stating:

Breaking News – An Unbelievable Moment in the Escalating Battle. A sitting bishop in the USA, in fact the Chairman-Elect of the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance of the USCCB, has just published an article at First Things that all but names McElroy and Cupich as self-excommunicated heretics.

This is just a sampling of the tradservasphere’s breathless reaction to Paprocki’s article.

From the tenor of these comments, it’s as if these men envision a time in the future when Catholics will reminisce:

Where were you when you first received news of Bishop Paprocki’s article accusing Cardinal McElroy of heresy? 

For the record, Kwasniewski is correct, Paprocki all but names McElroy and Cupich. He actually names no one. 

He did, however, quote McElroy and his heresy verbatim. As such, Bermúdez and Sammons, et al. are most certainly justified in reporting that Paprocki called Cardinal McElroy out as a public heretic and, furthermore, suggested that he incurred latae sententiae excommunication.

But not so fast.

Paprocki promptly covered his hairless hind parts by denying that he ever intended to do anything other than conduct an innocent mind experiment. 

Speaking with The Pillar (and other outlets), Paprocki insisted:

I didn’t intend this to be taken as an accusation against anyone in particular. I didn’t mention names because I didn’t want this to focus on a personal debate, or a feud between bishops. I wanted to focus on the issues that were being brought up here. That’s why I started out with ‘Imagine if,’ or ‘What if?’ In that sense, it’s not exactly hypothetical, because there are references to some recent statements. But I think I intended the discussion to be more rhetorical.

At another point in his conversation with The Pillar, he said: 

I think the reason I did this is because this debate has become so public at this point that it seems to have passed beyond the point of just some private conversations between bishops.

Get that? Paprocki thinks… In other words, he’s not entirely sure why he wrote that article, much less what he intended to say.  Better stated, the newest tradservative rockstar has neither the cojones nor the spine to own his very own words. 


No, not in the least. Paprocki is a man of the Council, an assembly that – along with producing a host of heresies of its own – mastered the art of ambiguity and doublespeak.

I’d like to point out that there is a difference between accepting the validity of the Second Vatican Council and believing that it has failed in its objectives. – Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Catholic World Report,  27 July 2021.

Despite his pathetic, half-hearted, and fleeting moment of militancy, Paprocki was widely hailed for his valor by the usual suspects.

Crisis Magazine, for example, tweeted: 

God bless Bishop Paprocki for being a true shepherd who wants to protect the flock from the wolves – even when the wolves are dressed as other shepherds!  

In light his backtracking, it is perhaps more accurate to say that Bishop Paprocki thinks he wants to be a true shepherd who thinks he wants to protect the flock.

In any case, Michael Matt, just as expected, promptly picked up his neo-con pompoms to lead a cheer of his own for Paprocki, saying:

In this case, what we’re talking about is not some retired bishop, in Bishop Paprocki we’re talking about the Chairman of the U.S. Bishops Conference Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance. It’s kind of a big deal … We gotta jump on the bandwagon with Paprocki and say thank God, Your Excellency! 

As for Paprocki’s alleged target, Matt made it clear that he’s no small fish in the Bergoglian sea: 

One of the Cardinals he’s talking about is a favorite of Pope Francis. We’re talking about Cardinal Robert McElroy. This character says that the Church should not bar people from receiving the Eucharist just because they’re in unrepentant mortal sin. That’s what this heretic says. So … [Paprocki, a canon lawyer] says hang on a second hang: A cardinal who says that embraces heresy and is subject to automatic excommunication. God bless Bishop Paprocki!

Tom Paprocki, he’s our man, if can’t do it, nobody can! 

It gets better.

Michael Matt went on to state a truth so obvious that even he couldn’t avoid it:

[McElroy] is in fact parroting Amoris Laetitia by saying, ‘Oh they should all be allowed to go to communion even if they’re unrepentant adulterers.’ Right? He’s simply parroting Francis!

I know… Mike did a lot of cartwheels in a short period of time, so let’s recap the gist of his routine:

– McElroy repeats what Francis taught in Amoris Laetitia.

– Paprocki calls him out (or thinks he might have meant to call him, but not really) as a heretic who has incurred latae sententiae excommunication.

– Michael Matt clearly agrees, saying, “We gotta jump on the bandwagon with Paprocki!”

Now, for those capable of thinking logically, the unavoidable conclusion is plain:

Francis is a heretic and an anti-pope. 

If you’re a guy who makes a living straddling the tradservative fence, however, saying so would be tantamount to professional and financial suicide. As such, one may not be shocked to discover Michael Matt’s assessment of Amoris Laetitia vis-à-vis its author, Jorge Bergoglio:

In conclusion, the tradservative circus actors cited above are, unwittingly or not, demonstrating beyond all doubt that the church they call “Catholic” is merely a counterfeit, its head, Francis, is a fraud, and they themselves are either ignorant in the extreme or charlatans unwilling to pay the price for speaking the truth.

The bottom line here is simple:

In the Catholic Church, when an issue arises that is so contentious that one finds high ranking prelates at odds with one another, with the laity thus misled and confused, the Holy Roman Pontiff is the one toward whom all must turn for clarity. 

The Vicar of Christ is, after all, our rule of faith. If there’s a crucially important lesson to be learned from this entire affair it is this: 

We do not have one.