Now, as the 2012 election approaches, Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria has reportedly ordered “every priest in his diocese” to read an anti-Obama letter to their congregations.
According to Think Progress, Jenky sent out the letter on Wednesday, telling priests that “[b]y 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.”
In the letter, reprinted in full on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website, Jenky writes:
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.
“It is important to note that Jenky’s description is wrong or incomplete on several points,” writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jay Bookman in response to Jenky’s letter. “The health-insurance coverage requirement does not apply to churches or church employees involved in its religious mission. It applies only to any secular operation by the church, such as hospitals and universities, just as it would apply to any other business.”
Bookman adds that the policy also “does not require coverage of abortion,” though it “does require that policies include contraception methods that block implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb, which the church considers abortion.”
Jenky’s opposition to birth control also “puts him wildly out of step with his flock.” As the political news site points out, a recent Gallup poll shows that “82 percent of Catholics say birth control is ‘morally acceptable.’”
Jenky, however, is not the only religious leader to offer guidance to voters in recent weeks. In fact, as the South Bend Tribune notes, Jenky is the third Catholic leader in Illinois to do so.
In September, Springfield Bishop Thomas Paprocki “offered a commentary on the Democratic and Republican parties’ platforms,” the newspaper writes.
“There are many positive and beneficial planks in the Democratic Party platform, but I am pointing out those that explicitly endorse intrinsic evils,” Paprocki told the Springfield Diocese newspaper, according to the Tribune.
In Rockford, Vicar General Eric Barr “compared Obama’s support of religious freedom in Muslim countries with his lack of support for Catholic liberty,” the Tribune reports.
Elsewhere, a Wisconsin Catholic bishop implied that voting for Democrats puts one’s “soul in jeopardy.”
Last week, Bishop David Laurin Ricken informed the 300,000-plus members of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., that voting for candidates whose positions contradict any so-called “non-negotiables” of Catholic teaching “could put [one's] soul in jeopardy,” HuffPost blogger John Becker notes in his piece.
Those “non-negotiables” include abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and gay marriage, according to a letter Ricken wrote and posted on the diocesan website. The letter was reportedly also emailed to the offices of every parish.
“Ricken has forgotten that we live in a republic, not a theocracy, as separation of church and state is clearly established by constitutional law,” wrote the Green Bay Press Gazette’s John Reiman in response to Ricken’s letter. “Simply put, it is ethically wrong for the bishop to connect one’s salvation through participating in the civic act of voting, ostensibly, against church doctrine.”
It is important to note that Jenky’s description is wrong or incomplete on several points. The health-insurance coverage requirement does not apply to churches or church employees involved in its religious mission. It applies only to any secular operation by the church, such as hospitals and universities, just as it would apply to any other business.
More importantly, the policy does not require coverage of abortion. It does require that policies include contraception methods that block implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb, which the church considers abortion.
Jenky is not alone in such statements. Nicholas DiMarzio, a Catholic bishop in New York, expressed similar sentiments last week, warning parishioners that “It is inconceivable to me how Catholics could support such policies. Indeed, Roman Catholics who support abortion rights and vote for a candidate because of those policies, place him/herself outside of the life of the church. In so doing, they also place themselves in moral danger.”
“Is it possible to vote for somebody despite their support for these policies?” DiMarzio asks. “To my mind, it stretches the imagination, especially when there is another option.”
* Note: WithinStatutes of the Diocese of Peoria
1.2.1 The Bishop of Peoria alone may alter or add to these statutes by further legislation in
whatever legitimate canonical form he may select. He alone may give authentic
interpretations that carry the force of law (c. 16 §1).
Nor are such statements confined to the Catholic leadership. For example, the Rev. Randy Mickler, head pastor of Mount Bethel United Methodist Church in Marietta, touched on multiple political topics in his Oct. 21 sermon:
In his message, Mickler tells his congregation (9:20 in the posted video) directly accuses President Obama of showing “great hostility toward Christianity, and at times an encouragement toward Islam,” rattling off a long list of alleged such actions, many if not most factually questionable.
For example, Mickler claimed that in June of 2012, the Obama administration banned the use of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps emblems on Bibles to be distributed by the government to our troops. He did not mention that it did so under threat of a lawsuit by a group making the reasonable point that imprinting U.S. government symbols on Bibles could be interpreted as government approval. The Bibles are still being distributed, just as they always have been, but absent the military emblems.
‘I’m not telling you whom to vote for,” Mickler says. “I don’t think God cares who wins this election as much as he cares about how we reflect Christian integrity in a voting booth. It is ridiculous to think that we can divorce our faith from our actions and say, this is secular and this is sacred.”
He also tells the congregation that they face a quandary. “I’m not telling you to vote for the Mormon,” he says. “The Mormon is not a Christian. According to the National Council of Churches, that is a sect, not a religion.”
Technically, federal law still prohibits churches and other groups that enjoy tax-free nonprofit status from engaging in partisan politics. In practice, though, that law is seldom if ever enforced because the political cost of doing so would be prohibitive. And while I don’t have a major problem with that turn of events and accept it as inevitable, I think violating federal law was always one of the more minor risks that religious leaders take when they so flagrantly entangle their churches with the sordid world of partisan politics.
Once you step into that political world, the rules change significantly, and I’m not talking federal or state law.