As you know, last week Bishop Jenky issued a directive to all the priests in the Diocese of Peoria to read a letter at each of the weekend Masses. I have some observations about the letter, but first, here’s what Bishop Jenky wrote:
MOST REV. DANIEL R. JENKY, C.S.C.
OFFICE OF THE BISHOP
DIOCESE 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
Do you think that Bishop Jenky’s letter is going to change anyone’s mind as to how they’re going to vote? For those of us who are devout Catholics, we are already acutely aware of the danger the current administration poses to the Catholic Church and religious freedom in America. Because we view the bishop as a representative of Jesus Christ and the shepherd who presides over our diocese, we are open and responsive to his leadership and direction.
The Cafeteria Catholics do not view the bishop as their shepherd and leader. At one point in their lives, they made a choice to abandon one or more of the teachings of the church (most likely related to premarital sex, contraception, and/or divorce). Because they believe they can pick and choose what church rules they will follow, they have no problem rejecting the leadership of our Lord’s chosen representatives.
So why would Bishop Jenky write a letter and require that the priests of the diocese read it when he knows that the Cafeteria Catholics will most likely reject what he has to say? He knows from his previous experience that the last time he spoke out against the policies of the federal government concerning the HHS mandate, he was viciously attacked by the media, his peers at the University of Notre Dame, and members of his own flock.
In my opinion, Bishop Jenky wrote the letter because as a true apostle of Jesus Christ, he knew he had no other choice but to courageously speak out, even though he knew he was opening himself up to the hatred and ridicule of many of his own peers and fellow Catholics. Bishop Jenky understands that we are engaged in a battle for the soul of our church and the soul of America. He knows that the battle is being waged on multiple fronts, which exist in both the spiritual and physical realms.
His directive earlier this year that the “Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel” be recited at every Mass showed that he understands that the first line of defense against the forces of evil is prayer. But ultimately there can be no victory without bold and courageous leadership. Fortunately for us, Bishop Jenky is a leader who has the courage to stand up to the forces of evil in our country.
Bishop Jenky is showing us that in addition to having the courage to proclaim the truth (like Jesus Christ), he also practices the virtue of humility. Before anyone can manifest true courage, he must first practice humility. From an earthly standpoint, Bishop Jenky has nothing to gain by speaking out against the current administration. Why speak out when he knows that there will be a wave of criticism, hatred, and ridicule that will be directed toward him?
The primary reason we don’t see other leaders in our church openly challenge the administration is because they are more concerned about the opinions of their peers than with what our Lord wants them to do. It is because of their pride (and other lesser important reasons) that they refrain from defending the teachings of the Catholic Church.
It was pride (along with fear that he could lose his position as governor) that preceded the decision of Pontius Pilate to turn our Lord over to His murderers. It was pride (along with fear that he would be arrested) that prompted St. Peter to deny our Lord three times. It was pride (along with fear) that kept all of our Lord’s apostles, except for St. John, away from Calvary.
It was humility (along with love and courage) that brought our Lady, St. Mary Magdalene, and St. John to the foot of the cross. It was humility (and love) that preceded Veronica’s bold and courageous act of disregarding the orders of the soldiers so she could approach our Lord (while he was struggling to carry His cross) to wipe the sweat and blood from His face. It was humility (and courage) that prompted the penitent criminal to come to our Lord’s defense while they were both dying on the cross. Humility always precedes true courage. It is not enough to love. It is not enough to have faith. All of the apostles except Judas loved our Lord, but only one had the humility and courage to risk his life by standing in the midst of our Lord’s enemies.
This past week the Bishop of Peoria stood in the midst of our Lord’s enemies and courageously spoke out against them. I’m going to offer up a holy hour for him and send him a personal note of thanks. I would encourage you to do the same.