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Bishop blasts secularist intolerance, calls for ‘assertive action’ to defend Church

January 27, 2012

Noting that “American Catholics have in recent decades become remarkably passive even in the face of relentless hostility from the media, the entertainment industry, and now from some politicians,” Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria has issued a pastoral letter on secularism.

The letter, issued on January 8, received a wider audience when it was published in the January 26 issue of Origins.

“The Catholic Diocese of Peoria now exists in a political reality that is increasingly secular in outlook and today is often specifically hostile to the convictions of our Faith,” the bishop wrote. “Atheists and secularists have long realized that the Church of Rome is perhaps the largest single institution that still stands in the way of a completely secularized society. In Illinois where politics are notoriously corrupt and whose governmental agenda is so singularly ineffective, intrenched political power happens to be concentrated in a single region that for generations has been immune to reform. This situation has given determined special interest groups a unique opportunity to impose their views on everyone else as they endeavor to exclude faith from any role in the public forum.”

Bishop Jenky continued:

As your Bishop, I now believe it is critically necessary to raise an alarm among the faithful regarding growing threats to our religious freedom due to theincreasing steps toward radical secularization taking place in Illinois. Beside the abrupt exclusion of Catholic Charities from childcare and adoption services and increasing attempts to intimidate Catholic healthcare, I am also concerned about possible future moves that could be made against the independence of our Catholic schools and other public ministries of our Diocese. Eventually it may come to pass that our fidelity to the Gospel of Christ and to Catholic tradition may place us in direct conflict with recent legal definitions of the State of Illinois. There are certainly some in our state whose commitment to [atheistic] secularism is so intense that they may well try to restrict the Church’s role only to the sacristy and sanctuary.

I am especially scandalized by some “Catholic” politicians who willingly collaborate with efforts to restrict the civil liberty of the faith tradition from which they were originally sprung. Many of those in office who were taught to read and write in Catholic schools, now seem entirely indifferent to the consciences of those Catholics who live their faith. On Ash Wednesday, they like to be conspicuous with crosses on their foreheads, but the true Cross of Christ seems far from their hearts and minds. They enjoy parties on March the 17th and wearing green sweaters but in effect are ashamed of Saint Patrick’s unwavering zeal for the Catholic Christianity. They like photo opportunities with the hierarchy, but break their word to them without a moment’s hesitation. They may still use the rituals of Catholicism to mark their happy and sad occasions, but apparently would sell their soul for a vote or a dollar. What does it benefit a person to gain the whole world but lose their soul (Mark 8:36), but eternal loss for the sake of public office in Illinois is an extraordinarily foolish deal with the devil. Such people certainly need our prayers, but they should no longer be able to take our friendship or our support for granted …

Even when our institutions are attacked and our most sacred beliefs held up for scorn, many Catholics sadly remain silent. As your Bishop, it is therefore my duty before God to call faithful Catholics into more assertive action in defense of our religion and those public ministries which we hold to be the work of Christ.

“Loyal believers are called upon not only to defend the Faith but even to defend the very concept of faith in the face of aggressive secularism and increasingly intolerant atheism,” Bishop Jenky concluded. “It now seems to be the unbelievers who apparently hope to initiate some new kind of inquisition designed to entirely exclude God from the public forum. In the face of growing hostility, practicing Catholics need to recognize that the choices we make and the witness we either offer or withhold will have both temporal and eternal consequences for each one of us. Christ the Lord has promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church he founded on the rock of Peter’s faith (Matthew 16:1), but he also warned that at the end of time he will deny those who deny him (cf. Matthew 10:33).”

“Catholicism is filled with enormous spiritual richness, a cohesive intellectual tradition, and a remarkable commitment to charity and service. It is the Faith for which we should be ready and willing to give our hearts and even to offer up our lives. It is also the Faith by which we all certainly will be judged before the throne of Almighty God.”


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  • Posted by: Gregory108 - Jan. 28, 2012 11:06 PM ET USA

    If action is taken on this from every pulpit in the diocese and in every diocese, relentlessly, Sunday after Sunday, some value may come of it. But the Church has been so derelict on teaching their people facts political and current, with priests' homilies centered on "being nice to one another" instead of the Rising Evil in our political and social systems! You don't marry with the hope of changing him/her! You don't elect Evil with the hope of bargaining or reasoning with it!

  • Posted by: Ken - Jan. 27, 2012 10:56 PM ET USA

    All Catholics must send this letter to their Bishops and challenge them to stsnd with Bishop Jenky! Do it today!

  • Posted by: Antigone - Jan. 27, 2012 9:44 PM ET USA

    God bless this bishop for being a true shepherd and having the courage to speak the truth! I wish more were like him!

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jan. 27, 2012 6:12 PM ET USA

    Dear Bishop Jenky--Start disciplining these so-called Catholic politicians, and stop asking the faithful to do the job only you can do as Bishop.

  • Posted by: spledant7672 - Jan. 27, 2012 2:18 PM ET USA

    This is the clear-sighted, articulate leadership we always need, never more than now. Glory to God for such a bishop.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jan. 27, 2012 11:45 AM ET USA

    Sent to Potentate Obama on 21 Jan: Your march to dismantle the U.S. military and destroy the Catholic Church in the U.S. continues unabated. You have been aided for the past year by the Republicans in Congress, clearly your bedfellows. Sebelius proclaims recent coercive actions as your version of religious liberty. You can continue to fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. Stop destroying the U.S. military, and stop persecuting my Church.

  • Posted by: New Sister - Jan. 27, 2012 11:40 AM ET USA

    YAY - Bravo! We all ought to write this bishop to thank him!