Whoa! Peoria, Illinois Bishop Daniel Jenky’s homily to the “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith” Mass this past Saturday may or may not “play beyond Peoria”, but if there’s anything to Peoria’s reputation as a testing ground for mainstream American culture, President Obama’s appeal among American Catholics may be at an irreversible low.
Bishop Jenky used a good portion of the homily to rail on the HHS contraception mandate. He used pretty strong and direct words, words that leave no doubt as to how he feels, and believes all Catholics should feel, about the issue:
In the late 19th century, Bismark waged his “Kultur Kamp,” 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 judgement 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 instrinsic 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.
One can argue with Bishop Jenky as to whether President Obama is really following a path walked on by Stalin and Hitler and whether the comparison is truly just. That’s fair game. Perhaps the occasion – an annual men’s march in Peoria signaling a defense of the Catholic faith – lent itself to a “rallying cry” theme which was indulged upon by the bishop. I’m not familiar with him so I can’t say if this is consistent with his overall style and character.
What isn’t arguable, IMO, is the central theme of the homily which must be read in its entirety in order to grasp the context in which the above statements are made. The HHS contraception mandate may be only a small step, but it’s a step entirely in the wrong direction. A step that limits the religious freedom of individuals. Contraception and abortion-causing drugs aren’t “preventive medicine” aimed at improving one’s health. They’re not necessary to the maintenance and improvement of one’s health (if anything, they’re detrimental). It’s a legal choice that people are free to make and is easily available just about anywhere. It’s also something that the Catholic Church teaches as being wrong, for very good reasons. Forcing someone to choose between cooperating in materially providing for contraception against their conscience or not offering insurance and paying penalties – risking their livelihoods – is plain wrong. There’s no other way to state it.
All those Catholics in Congress who willingly support this measure – you know, the same ones who don’t take true stands against abortion – Bishop Jenky’s homily was directed right at you.