By Mark Wachtler
April 22, 2012. Peoria, Ill. (ONN) There’s a very old political saying in America – ‘Will it play in Peoria?’ It’s typically a reference to the Illinois town, and thousands like it, and its citizens’ no-nonsense, common sense ability to see through political bologna. So, perhaps its no surprise that when the US media blasted a Catholic Bishop for comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin this week, his congregation, Peoria’s Catholics and the Church leadership rushed to his defense.
Catholic Bishop of Peoria, Illinois - Daniel Jenky. Image courtesy of ctpost.com
Many Protestant churches throughout Illinois have a track record of merging ‘Church’ and ‘State’, especially in Chicago’s inner city communities where services are often little more than political rallies complete with campaign speeches by the Minister-endorsed candidates. But that’s not the case in Illinois’ Catholic parishes. Electioneering has always been frowned upon inside the Church, even more so during mass.
But every few years, in very rare circumstances, local parish priests put tradition aside and rally their congregations for political battle. That was the case this past weekend at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria, Illinois. It was there that the Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, Catholic Bishop of Peoria, delivered a homily during mass that raised warnings for the Obama administration while sending shock waves through America’s left-leaning media outlets.
Bishop Daniel R. Jenky was delivering a homily - the part of the mass where the priest speaks to the congregation in a casual, regular, everyday manner - during the Church’s annual event titled, ‘A Call to Catholic Men of Faith’. Typically, the priest will choose a Bible passage and use modern day examples to draw correlations. That’s exactly what the Bishop did this past weekend. During Bishop Jenky’s homily, he cited the service’s reading of Mark, chapter 16. That’s when he raised a warning to the parishioners gathered at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
“Barack Obama” and “Hitler and Stalin”
With liberal news outlets declaring their outrage and publishing small snippets of the Bishop’s speech, the Church has accused the media of taking Jenky’s comments out of context. Below, is the section of Bishop Jenky’s homily that drew a correlation between President Obama, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin. A transcript of the entire homily can be found at The Catholic Post:
‘Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room. In the late 19th century, Bismarck waged his “Kulturkampf,” a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.
Clemenceau, nicknamed “the priest eater,” tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century. Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care. In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
Now things have come to such a pass in America that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgment seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral. This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries -- only excepting our church buildings – could easily be shut down. Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the intrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb.
No Catholic ministry – and yes, Mr. President, for Catholics our schools and hospitals are ministries – can remain faithful to the Lordship of the Risen Christ and to his glorious Gospel of Life if they are forced to pay for abortions.’
Peoria Diocese stands behind Bishop
In the face of mounting criticism from Democratic Party spokesmen and supporters of President Obama’s re-election effort, the local Catholic Church has firmly stood behind Bishop Jenky. As mentioned above, The Catholic Post – ‘the newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois’ – has reprinted the full text of the Bishop’s speech. And the Diocese’ website even offers a podcast of the now famous sermon.
Immediately after media outlets released a barrage of negative press, leaders of the Catholic Church’s Diocese of Peoria released a statement in support of Bishop Jenky, a popular Catholic Bishop and graduate of Notre Dame University in neighboring South Bend, Indiana.. Part of the statement read, ‘With respect to national legislation, particularly the much debated Department of Health and Human Services requirements, there is genuine fear that this will force the Church to exit from various ministries in the face of being forced to violate Church teachings.’
The statement went on to proclaim, ‘The proposed legislation would require Catholic institutions to provide abortion inducing drugs, or other services considered immoral, as a condition of continuing services. This would apply not only to Church employee health plans but also healthcare delivery. Some beliefs are fundamental and non-negotiable to Catholics and there is no permissible compromise with an intrinsic evil.’
Chancellor of the Peoria Catholic Diocese, Patricia Gibson, added her thoughts as well. “It is unfortunate that many of Bishop Jenky’s comments in his homily at our Men’s March were taken out of context,” she said, “Bishop Jenky is concerned that Catholic institutions may not be able to continue in ministry if they are required to violate their religious beliefs.”
Responding to criticism from the Democratic Party and the national media, Gibson explained, “It is beyond the scope of government to define Church ministry without limiting the free exercise of religion as guaranteed in the First Amendment. Based upon the current government’s threatened infringement upon the Church’s religious exercise of its ministry, Bishop Jenky offered historical context and comparisons as a means to prevent a repetition of historical attacks upon the Catholic Church and other religions.”
Chancellor Gibson even picked-up the torch and repeated the Bishop’s warning, “Bishop Jenky is concerned that our government is treading on one of our most dear freedoms - religious liberty. In his homily on April 14th, Bishop Jenky expressed concern that our country is starting down a dangerous path that we have seen before in history. Bishop Jenky gave several examples of times in history in which religious groups were persecuted because of what they believed. We certainly have not reached the same level of persecution. However, history teaches us to be cautious once we start down the path of limiting religious liberty.”
For the transcript of Bishop Daniel Jenky’s speech before the parish’s annual, ‘Call to Catholic Men of Faith’ event, visit The Catholic Post.
Also, be sure to read the Whiteout Press 4-part series titled, ‘Naming Names’.