This is quite a hysterical screed, and by hysterical I do not mean that it is funny. It is not funny in the least.
It is hysterical because is driven by hysteria. It is also historically ignorant and irresponsible.
The speaker is Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, head of a Catholic diocese in Illinois. Here’s what he had to say during a weekend Mass:
“The Church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of Jihads. The Church survived the age of revolution. The Church survived Nazism and Communism. And in the power of the resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry.
The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the president of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate.
May God have mercy especially on the souls of those politicians who pretend to be Catholic in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.
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 be ready to fight to defend our 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.
In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work – like that very first apostolic generation – we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation.
Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like those first disciples before the Resurrection locked together in the Upper Room.
In the late 19th century, Bismark waged his “Kulturkamf,” 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, President 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 our beloved country that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgment seat of Almighty God this is not a battle where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.”
I was raised to believe that religious leaders deserve a great deal of respect and even deference, and I hope I have raised my children with those same values. Jenky, however, deserves neither respect nor deference, because he is talking like a fool.
After all, only a fool would try to equate insurance coverage for contraception to the brutalities that were inflicted upon tens of millions of people by the likes of Stalin and Hitler. The bishop’s comments are deeply insulting and disrespectful, less to President Obama than to the many victims of the tyrants to whom Jenky attempts to link him. His comparison trivializes true human horror.
St. Peter, after all, was crucified upside down by the Romans, who also fed Christians to the lions. Hitler attempted the physical eradication of an entire religious tradition. Stalin starved millions to death in an attempt to force them to worship the state rather than a God of their own choosing.
And “President Obama, with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path”?
The suggestion is obscene.
(Given the bishop’s claims, it is also relevant to point out that the Catholic Church did not fight heroically against the evils of Naziism. To a large degree, it legitimized, collaborated and cooperated with it. While individual clerics of conscience sometimes spoke and acted with heroism, the church as an institution did not. It stood in silent acceptance of the murder of Jews and voluntarily surrendered its moral credibility. By that behavior, it did no worse than many other human institutions in that time and place. But it also did no better.)
While Jenky has seemed to abandon all sense of proportion, it’s important to keep in mind what’s really at issue here. The administration does not propose and has never proposed that the Catholic Church or other religious groups be forced to provide insurance coverage for contraception to their staff. Church staff members are expressly excluded from such a mandate out of respect for religious liberty.
The law does, however, require that church-affiliated institutions that perform secular functions in the secular world — schools, universities, hospitals, etc. — provide such coverage to their staff, many of whom are members of a different faith, just as every other provider of such services must do.
You would never know it from the hysteria offered by Jenky, but many Catholic-affiliated institutions have been offering contraceptive coverage to their secular staff for decades without controversy. For example, Georgetown University, which drew national attention through the Sandra Fluke controversy, is a Jesuit college that already offers contraception coverage to its faculty and staff, but not to its students. Many states, including Georgia, have also had similar laws on the books mandating such coverage for decades, again without controversy.
The administration proposal is also well within the constitutional confines established by the Supreme Court. As Justice Antonin Scalia, himself a stalwart Catholic, wrote in “Employment Division v. Smith” (1990):
“We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the state is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition.”
Jenky, on the other hand, argues that church law must take precedence over civil law even when the church is operating in the secular arena, and he seems eager to engage in battle to ensure that happens. He would apparently classify Scalia as just another Judas Iscariot, ready to “betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.”
As I said, he has exposed himself as a fool.
– Jay Bookman