Troubles continue to mount for a Catholic Bishop who drew parallels between President Barack Obama, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin during a recent homily. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky in Peoria, Illinois, ignited a firestorm when he took to the pulpit earlier this month with some harsh words for the president.
The drama commenced on April 14, after Bishop Jenky called for his followers to embrace “heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism,” especially when it comes to addressing contemporary religious liberty issues in the United States. Catholic News Service has more about his controversial words:
After listing several governments throughout history that “have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches,” Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky said President Barack Obama “now seems intent on following a similar path.”
He warned that Catholic schools, hospitals and Newman Centers “could easily be shut down” rather than comply with the government’s mandate that most health plans cover the cost of contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can induce abortion.
So far, the reaction has been fierce, with more than 90 faculty members at the University of Notre Dame signing a letter calling for a renouncement of his comments or — a resignation from the university’s board of fellows. He had served at the educational facility, as Catholic News Service notes, for two decades before becoming bishop. The Chicago branch of the Anti-Defamation League, too, has called for an apology.
The diocese in Peoria, though, is claiming that Bishop Jenky’s words have been taken out of context. In an April 19 statement, Patricia Gibson, who serves as diocesan chancellor, wrote:
“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.”
Here are some of his words, in detail, that were delivered to some 500 men who were participating in the annual “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith” event earlier this month:
“As Christians, we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but as Christians we must also stand up for what we believe and always be ready to fight for the faith. The days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction.
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.”
Clearly, these comments are both politically-charged and, in the eyes of some, plainly offensive. The portion where the bishop claims that Obama is intent on following the paths of Hitler and Stalin is what seems to be most aggravating to those who are speaking out on the matter.
You can hear audio of these words (at 3:30), below:
In addition to the aforementioned reactions, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed an IRS complaint against the local diocese charging “illegal election intervention.” An April 19 release on the group’s web site reads:
The Internal Revenue Service should investigate the Catholic Diocese of Peoria for illegal electioneering after Bishop Daniel R. Jenky compared Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin as part of an election-year appeal, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Americans United today filed a formal complaint with the IRS over Jenky’s intervention in the presidential campaign. Federal law prohibits churches and other tax-exempt nonprofits from endorsing or opposing candidates, said AU, and the bishop’s April 14 sermon amounts to an order to vote against Obama.
It seems the controversy shows no signs of simmering, despite the diocese’s attempts to clarify Bishop Jenky’s statements. What do you think? Did the bishop go too far or were his words within proper bounds? Take the poll, below:
(H/T: Catholic News Service)