Earlier this year, a Roman Catholic bishop came under fire from the Anti-Defamation League and others for comparing President Barack Obama to Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler during a sermon delivered at an Illinois church.
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."
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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly called the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the "Atlantic Journal-Constitution." The error has been fixed.
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