A Bishop Speaks: “The Assault Upon Our Religious Freedom is Simply Without Precedent”

If you’re not Catholic–and, come to think of it, if you’re not only Catholic but of a certain age–this may not mean much to you. But there are a lot of us Catholics around who can recall the way American bishops played politics back during the nineteen-eighties. I’m talking about political games that proved blatant, ignorant, and naive. The bishops issued one pastoral letter that opposed Reagan’s military policy–even as Reagan was in the process of winning the Cold War–and another that opposed his economic policy–even as he was setting in place the conditions that would lead to the longest peacetime economic expansion in American history (an expansion, incidentally, that benefitted the poor even more dramatically than it did the middle class). Economics? Nuclear policy? What in their training or canonical standing qualified the bishops to utter a peep about either? Nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

How times have changed.

Today, there are bishops who limit their pronouncements to matters that lie within their competence–but who speak on such matters incisively and courageously. Men such as Charles Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia, and Timothy Dolan, the cardinal archbishop of New York.

And Daniel Jenky, the bishop of Peoria, Illinois.

Herewith, the pastoral letter that Bishop Jenky has just released:


Election AD 2012

By virtue of your vow of obedience to me as your Bishop, I require that this letter be personally read by each celebrating priest at each Weekend Mass, November 3/4.

Dear Catholic Believers,

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. 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. Contrary to the guarantees embedded in the First Amendment, the HHS mandates attempt to now narrowly define and thereby drastically limit our traditional religious works. They grossly and intentionally intrude upon the deeply held moral convictions that have always guided our Catholic schools, hospitals, and other apostolic ministries.

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, 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.

I therefore call upon every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to your Catholic Faith. May God guide and protect his Holy Church, and may God bless America.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C.


As I say, I’m unsure how this letter might strike you, particularly, of course, if you’re not Catholic. But I myself find it bracing, even thrilling.

God bless the bishop of Peoria.

  1. Britanicus

    “As I say, I’m unsure how this letter might strike you, particularly, of course, if  you’re not Catholic.  But I myself find it bracing, even thrilling.”

    Couldn’t say it better myself.

    This bit is as forceful as it is refreshing to hear:

    “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.”

    Doesn’t beat around the bush, does he?

  2. Southern Pessimist

    My parish priest is a saintly man in many ways. He gives the most thoughtfull and well prepared homilies that I have ever heard. He never reveals his political leanings, even in social contact, but I suspect he must be liberal because he has never addressed abortion from the pulpit. I respect the man greatly but that saddens me.

  3. Duane Oyen

    This is exactly what I was talking about in this post.  There is something going on just below the surface that the NY-centric folk are not seeing.

  4. Frozen Chosen

    As a non-Catholic let me say that I welcome this sort of letter from the church and hope that we see more of them!

  5. Schrodinger

    The Green Bay Bishop pulls no punches as well.

    These are areas that are “intrinsically evil” and cannot be supported by anyone who is a believer in God or the common good or the dignity of the human person.

    They are:

    1. abortion

    2. euthanasia

    3. embryonic stem cell research

    4. human cloning

    5. homosexual “marriage”

    These are intrinsically evil. “A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program that contradicts fundamental contents of faith and morals.” Intrinsically evil actions are those which have an evil object. In other words, an act is evil by its very nature and to choose an action of this type puts one in grave moral danger.

    But what does this have to do with the election? Some candidates and one party have even chosen some of these as their party’s or their personal political platform. To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally “complicit” with these choices which are intrinsically evil. This could put your own soul in jeopardy. (emphasis added)


  6. Think So

    Not Catholic, but love it. We can attribute much of our slide to the American church having become increasingly silent on moral issues. Not wanting to offend anyone, we’ve become no voice at all. It’s refreshing to hear the voice of an unashamed shepherd.

  7. dittoheadadt

    Not Catholic, not even particularly religious (though I never miss Christmas Eve Mass from St. Peter’s Basilica…there’s just something about it), but I too found it bracing and thrilling.

  8. Tom Meyer, Ed.

    Some thoughts:

    1. I’m always happy to welcome allies, so I’m glad to see the Catholic Church take a stronger stance for liberty.

    2. Though I don’t share Catholic beliefs on these matters, it’s maddening to see their consciences’ treated so cheaply.  Look, it bothers me when we force families to get genuine, life-saving medical care if it violates their conscience, but I can live with it for the good it does.  But for contraceptives?
    3. Regardless, there’s a bitter part of me that wants to say “Whatever a Church shall sow, that also shall it reap.”  I’ve yet to see anything from the Bishops acknowledging how the HHS mandate is a direct consequence of the kind of socialism the Catholic Church has been pushing for decades.  Maybe this and gay marriage will wake them up to the fact that government isn’t their friend, and that those who play with fire shouldn’t complain when they get burned.
  9. Chris Hurtubise

    Thanks for posting this, Peter!

    I’ve always been struck by the pharisees’ response during the trial of Christ, when they respond, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’ Since, for the Jews, God is the only true king and there is no greater blasphemy than ascribing ultimate authority to Caesar.

    For Christians, Christ is the one, true king. The Joe Bidens of this world — pandering to and aligning themselves with the spirit of the age– ignore the authority of Christ. And through their actions cry out with the pharisees, ‘We have no king but Caesar!

    Bishop Jenky is demanding more of his flock. Praised be Jesus Christ!

  10. Nick Stuart

    Having just been spanked by the pastoral staff at my Evangelical Protestant theologically conservative (but oh so seeker friendly) church for sending an email to an impermissibly large circle of people in the church directory on the subject of abortion, debt, defense and same sex marriage, I’m glad to see some church leaders demonstrating leadership.We have to look to the Catholics because, with some exceptions that stand out because they are so few, those Protestants who haven’t defected are AWOL.

  11. KC Mulville

    What’s astonishing is that perhaps half of Catholics will vote for Obama. 

    I’m sorry, but as nonsensical and weak as the bishops have been, they can’t be any clearer now – so if half of the Catholic population does vote for Obama, the fault will lie with the people. The ball is clearly in the pews, not on the pulpit.

    I sincerely hope that on Election Night, the analysts read the numbers and say that it was an overwhelming Catholic turnout that made the difference against Obama. One can hope.

  12. Sister

    Nick, good for you! I’ve been considering doing the same, and I expect I’ll be reprimanded as well.  I’d like to send out the front page of the National Right to Life Committee Fall 2012 newsletter. How can I include the page, not just a link, in an email?

  13. Keith

    I’m not Catholic, either, but I find too find it heartening.

  14. Mollie Hemingway

    Here’s how it’s being treated by the Washington Post:

    Catholic bishops make last-minute pitch for Romney

  15. BrentB67

    Not Catholic, but it is a fine letter.

    The only way to make it better and have more credibility is for the Church to issue a mea culpa for supporting the expansion and overreach of government in the name of generosity for the poor.

  16. Duane Oyen
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: Here’s how it’s being treated by the Washington Post:

    Catholic bishops make last-minute pitch for Romney · 12 hours ago

    And here is Andrew Malcolm at IDB.

  17. raycon and lindacon

    Perhaps the Catholic and Protestant churches alike are guilty of having mocked God for many decades now.  The national leadership of far too many church organizations have long had their eyes blinded by their allegiance to power and influence.  It is the zeitgeist, the spirit of the world, not the Holy Spirit, who speaks into their ear.

    If ones spirit does not bear witness with the pronouncements of Bishop Jenkey, then perhaps it is time to examine our own consciences, to know what spirit is leading each of us.

  18. Frederick Key

    Let’s hear it for the ol’ Bish! (Been reading a lot of Wodehouse lately.) That’s the kind of spirit we need if we’re going to beat back the freedom-loathing progressives.

  19. ConservativeFred

    This would have been great in 2008.  But back then, I had to listen to half-dozen sermons extolling the welfare state and pushing for nationalized health care.

    As a dispirited Roman Catholic, I have to acknowledge Schadenfreude is a sin.

    I humbly repent, and pray the Church has learned he errors of its way. 

  20. Cornelius Julius Sebastian

    God bless him, indeed.  Thank you for posting that Peter.  Very heartening to see the mettle of the John Paul II generation of Bishops being made plain for all to see.

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