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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:

MOST REV. DANIEL R. JENKY, C.S.C.OFFICE OF THE BISHOPDIOCESE OF PEORIA

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.

BISHOP OF PEORIA

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.