Bishop Jenky's False Equivalences
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Apr 22, 2012 at 05:01:37 PM EST
In a recent sermon, Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, managed to embarrass himself and the Church by engaging in some of the most incendiary acts of false equivalence by any religious leader in recent years.

The primate of Peoria distinguished himself by equating non-dogmatic Catholics with Judas Iscariot, and President Obama's policies with those of Hitler and Stalin.

Here is the key part of Bishop Jenky's troubling homily:

Jenky claims that many American Catholics treat the Church the way that Judas betrayed Jesus leading to his arrest and crucifixion.

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."

Jenky was at once directing his ire at Catholics who do not wish to impose their faith's subjective dogmas on all other Americans and at Catholic elected officials who decline to impose a form of religious supremacy upon non-Catholics.  (I'll guess that he wasn't thinking of Speaker of the House, John Boehner who has embraced Rep. Paul Ryan's Ayn Rand-inspired federal budget proposal.)  Jenky is playing the eternal anxiety card:  Damnation awaits if your views do not square with his views of what Catholics should do.  He is also playing a political card in threatening Catholic pols who will not do his bidding.

Indeed. But his most controversial comments were made moments before when he unloaded on President Obama:

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."

Jenky was alluding to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that religious employers provide women with insurance coverage that pays for contraception. He called it "a direct assault on the First Amendment, not only a direct assault on the freedom of religion, by forcing people specifically to do things that are against their religious teachings."

As I previously noted, there is hardly a better example of hierarchical hypocrisy, when it invokes religious freedom to exempt itself from providing insurance coverage for birth control to employees who do not share its view on the subject, including employees who are not even Catholic.

But beyond that, 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?

Many of my Jewish friends when I was growing-up had family murdered by the Nazis. Their loved ones' homes were plundered, their friends and relations made slaves, their bodies tattooed with serial numbers like cattle.   I can only imagine how Bishop Jenky's homily made them feel.  

Unsurprisingly, the enormity of Jenky's  false equivalence caught the attention of the regional director of Chicago's Anti-Defamation League, Lonnie Nasatir.  He noted, "There are few, if any, parallels in history to the religious intolerance and anti-Semitism fostered in society by Stalin, and especially Hitler, who under his regime perpetuated the open persecution and ultimate genocide of Jews, Catholics and many other minorities."

But the blowback from the Bishop's remarks doesn't end there. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church has complained to the IRS that the bishop's comments violate the federal tax code provision that bars churches and other non-profits from intervening in political campaigns.

The president is not disdainful of Catholic Americans.  If anything, he is pursuing policies that most Catholics support.  If anybody is not listening to American Catholics it is the culture warriors in the hierarchy who serve as role models.  Chief among these is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

The end result of such polarizing rhetoric and political behavior may be a smaller Church with less actual influence, smaller attendance and perhaps a forfeited tax-exempt status.

But many in the hierarchy and other influential leaders say that smaller but purer is exactly what they want.




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The tone set at the top, trickles down.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun Apr 22, 2012 at 05:35:13 PM EST
He is right to demand an apology from Jenky. Jenky would not know what real persecution is (just ask Chinese religious believers!) Jenky's slam against the President doesn't tell us anything about President Obama, but it tells us a hell of a lot about Jenky. Jenky is small-minded, petty, and has a very ugly soul.

by khughes1963 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 12:52:58 PM EST
Parent


How did this guy get to be a bishop?

by Hirador on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 10:03:39 PM EST
In all seriousness though, the Vatican prefers men who would rather scrap with critics while ostentatiously obeying Vatican edicts. The Vatican and the flock don't share the same mindset, and the Vatican has been courting our religious right for some time, hence the spectacle of Daniel Jenky.

by khughes1963 on Mon Apr 23, 2012 at 10:32:07 PM EST
Parent



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