Bishop Jenky Gets the Coveted Coughie!
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 29, 2012 at 08:23:49 PM EST
Yes, it's that time of the year, folks. It's time for the presentation of the annual Coughlin Award.  The competition was stiff, but one Catholic Right mover and shaker stood out out from the crowd, head and shoulders above the rest.
The Coughlin Award -- affectionately known as "The Coughie" -- is our way of recognizing the person who has best exemplified an exclusionary, strident interpretation of the Catholic faith in the preceding year.  The award is named for Father Charles Coughlin, the notorious radio priest of the 1930s who is the role model for today's Religious Right radio and television evangelists, and other conservative media personalities.

This year our judges had a small but distinguished field of candidates from which to choose. Of course there was last year's winner, Catholic League head honcho Bill Donohue.  He,  along with 2011 honoree, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, used the occasion of the indictment of Kansas City-St. Joseph Bishop Finn for failing to report a priest of suspected pedophilia to launch a war of attrition against a victims' advocacy group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).  For their efforts, the dynamic duo were awarded (dis)honorable mentions.

The winner of this years' Coughlin Award is Bishop Daniel Jenky, of Peoria, Illinois for his outstanding achievements in fanning the flames of the culture wars.  But before we discuss the words and deeds that catapulted him over the dynamic due, a few words about the coveted Coughie itself are in order.

The award's namesake, Catholic priest and anti-Semitic broadcaster Fr. Charles Coughlin is best known for his diatribes against FDR, Judaism and his open sympathy with the racist policies of Adolph Hitler.  Such advocacy was clearly antithetical the very definition of the word "catholic," which, according to Webster's Unabridged Dictionary means:

   

Catholic Cath"o*lic\ (k[a^]th"[-o]*[i^]k), a. [L. catholicus, Gr. kaqoliko`s, universal, general; kata` down, wholly + "o`los whole, probably akin to E. solid: cf. F. catholique.]

    1. Universal or general; as, the catholic faith.

    Men of other countries [came] to bear their part in so great and catholic a war. -Southey.

    Note: This epithet, which is applicable to the whole Christian church, or its faith, is claimed by Roman Catholics to belong especially to their church, and in popular usage is so limited.

    *Not narrow-minded, partial, or bigoted; liberal; as, catholic tastes.

    *Of or pertaining to, or affecting the Roman Catholics; as, the Catholic emancipation act.

In order to win a Coughie, a candidate must successfully complete three qualifying tasks: 1) Make the faith decisively less inclusive 2) Engage in incendiary behavior and 3) Thereby ultimately embarrass the Church.

Now let's take a look back at the pugnacious Peorian's 2012 award winning performance.

Hands down, Bishop Jenky did his darned best to make Catholicism less inclusive.  Last April in a homily-screed aimed at the Affordable Care Act's requirement that religious employers provide women with insurance coverage that pays for contraception he compared with Judas Isacariot who betrayed Jesus to the Romans, American Catholics who disagree with the hierarchy on the issue

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.

He then claimed that President Obama is following in the footsteps of Hitler and Stalin.

Hitler and Stalin at their better moments would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care, in clear violation of our constitutional rights, president Obama with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.

Such language easily satisfies award-winning requirements two ("engages in incendiary behavior") and three ("ultimately embarrasses the Church").  As I noted at the time:

...comparing President Obama to Hitler and Stalin is not merely a violation of Godwin's Law, it is hurtful to those suffered at the hands of two of the worst tyrants of the twentieth century, not to mention their descendants. It is hard to beat Adolf Hitler when it comes to unspeakably brutal religious intolerance. Not only did he direct the murder six million Jews, but also he also similarly persecuted other people of faith. Jehovah's  Witnesses and Christians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe and Father Bronislaw Komorowski immediately come to mind. The Nazis destroyed untold numbers of Churches and synagogues.

On a smaller scale Stalin initiated his own ruthless  war on faith. The Soviet leader used the League of Militant Atheists as a mechanism to decimate churches, mosques and synagogues. Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders were often murdered or imprisoned in Siberian gulags.

And to these examples of barbarity Bishop Jenky equates President Obama's health care policy?

Judas. Hitler. Stalin. Jenky is a master of the classics. But his comments didn't play well in or out of Peoria.   "There are few, if any, parallels in history to the religious intolerance and anti-Semitism fostered in society by Stalin, and especially Hitler,"  the director of Chicago's Anti-Defamation League responded, "who under his regime perpetuated the open persecution and ultimate genocide of Jews, Catholics and many other minorities."  Americans United for Separation of Church filed a complaint with the IRS that the bishop's comments violate the federal tax code provision that bars churches and other non-profits from intervening in campains for elected office.

These episodes alone might have clinched the Coughie, but Jenky was not done. After all, it was an election year.

On October 31, 2012 Bishop Jenky released a letter that he ordered read at all Masses within his diocese the weekend before Election Day.  Among other things he alleged, he claimed, "I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present" because "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."

Dennis Coday of The National Catholic Reporter dryly noted, "If I am reading this right, I think he is ordering all Catholics to vote." And knowing to which political party both the president and "the current majority of the Federal Senate" belong, you don't have to be Fellini to figure how he wanted his flock to vote!

Bradley University political science professor Emily Gil pointed out in thePeoria Star Journal;  "the Catholic Church can do whatever it wants to do with its own money, but not with the public's money" -- particularly when hospitals and other Church-affiliated agencies are using federal funds.

I give you the winner of this year's Coughlin Award:  Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Illinois.




Display:
My parents remember Jenky when he said Mass at Notre Dame's church, Sacred Heart Basilica. Jenky belongs to the Holy Cross order. I can't think of a better winner. Jenky should consult some of his fellow European bishops who survived Communism and Nazism. He couldn't hold a candle to those men, and he borrows the Religious Right's hyperbolic rhetoric to disguise the fact that they are angry that they don't hold the upper hand over our religious or political systems. Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison might be a possible contender for future Coughie awards.

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