A downstate Illinois Catholic bishop has come under fire after he said in a message at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria that President Barack Obama is on "a similar path" as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, according to the Right Wing Watch blog, likened Obama's "radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda" as violating the First Amendment and proving the president's "intent on following a similar path" as Hitler and Stalin in a Saturday address.
Jenky went on to claim that American Catholics are currently in a "war" due to the Obama administration's ruling on birth control and other issues:
"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."
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria aimed to clarify Jenky's comments Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"Based upon the current government's threatened infringement upon the Church's religious exercise of its ministry, Bishop Jenky offered historical context and comparisons as a means to prevent a repetition of historical attacks upon the Catholic Church and other religions," Patricia Gibson, Peoria Diocese chancellor told the Tribune.
Rabbi Daniel Bogard of Peoria's Anshai Emeth congregation told the Peoria Journal-Star that "casual use of the Holocaust and tragedy in general is really inappropriate."
"It's demagoguery. These are very serious things," Bogard told the Journal-Star. "The Holocaust is not his to use."
The Anti-Defamation League, meanwhile, is demanding an apology from Jenky for remarks its regional director Lonnie Nasatir deemed not only "outrageous, offensive and completely over the top," but also historically inaccurate, the Tribune reports.
Jenky's comments are only a slightly ramped-up version of previous remarks Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George -- as well as a number of other Roman Catholic leaders -- made on the Obama administration's birth control mandate. George wrote earlier this year that the policy will have the long-term effect that "the Catholic church would be stripped of the institutions that are her instrument for public service" -- such as hospitals, universities and social service organizations.
The birth control policy, set forth by the Affordable Care Act, allows most women employed in the U.S. to have the cost of their birth control covered with no co-pay. The ruling "jolted" conservative religious groups and the Obama administration announced a new "accommodation" in February that would pass the cost of contraception coverage onto health insurance companies in the event that a religious institution objects to footing the bill.
That compromise has not satisfied Catholic leaders, however.
CORRECTION: This story previously stated that the ADL is demanding "a policy" from Jenky. Instead, they are demanding an apology. Since this story was published, hundreds of individuals agree with the group and have signed an online petition with a similar request.