For the past few days, my inbox has been overflowing with emails about Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky.
The Roman Catholic prelate last week wrote a letter that he ordered all priests in his Peoria, Ill., diocese to read during services over the weekend. The missive purports to offer guidance about tomorrow’s election.
Jenky’s message was just a tad hyperbolic. It began, “Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present.”
Jenky went on to assert, “Neither the president of the United States nor the current majority of the Federal Senate have been willing to even consider the Catholic community’s grave objections to those HHS mandates that would require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception. This assault upon our religious freedom is simply without precedent in the American political and legal system.”
It continued: “Nearly two thousand years ago, after our Savior had been bound, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns, a pagan Roman Procurator displayed Jesus to a hostile crowd by sarcastically declaring: ‘Behold your King.’ The mob roared back: ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ Today, the Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord. They are objectively guilty of grave sin. For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life. God is not mocked, and as the Bible clearly teaches, after this passing instant of life on earth, God’s great mercy in time will give way to God's perfect judgment in eternity.”
Jenky concludes by calling on “every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to your Catholic Faith.” (You can read the entire letter here.)
Note that Jenky never mentions any politicians by name. But you’d have to be beyond dense not to get his message: voting for President Barack Obama and the Democrats is a sin and doing so will put your very soul in jeopardy.
What’s especially frustrating about this is that Jenky is a repeat offender. AU reported him to the Internal Revenue Service in April after he gave a sermon comparing Obama to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
As I said, many people have reported this new Jenky incident to Americans United. Several of the people who sent it to us took pains to point out that they are Catholic and are weary of this type of hardball politicking in their sanctuaries. They want the focus to be on prayer, not politics.
AU can report Jenky to the IRS again, but we could use some help. We need to turn up the heat on the federal tax agency. The IRS website contains a form that anyone can use to report tax-exempt entities that violate the law by wading into partisan politics. I encourage you to use it.
If you’re Catholic (and especially if you live in Jenky’s diocese), you have a special role to play. Write to him and let the bishop know that you are capable of making up your own mind about which candidates to support and don’t need his advice. Remind him that the “Political Activity Guidelines” published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warn against partisan political intervention and pulpit politicking.
The good news is that heavy-handed efforts like this (and Jenky is not the only bishop engaging in this kind of conduct) could backfire. A recent poll found that 86 percent of Catholics say voters don’t have an obligation to follow a Catholic bishop’s recommendation on how to vote.
Still, it is important that Catholics – and indeed all Americans who oppose pulpit politicking – speak up. We need to directly confront those misguided clerics who won’t play by the rules. At the same time, we must let the IRS know that we’ve had enough of this and we want to see the laws of the land enforced.