Bishop Jenky: Obama directives could close Catholic institutions
Calling it a “bigoted and blatant attack on the First Amendment rights of every Catholic believer,” Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, is urging vigorous opposition to new Obama administration regulations requiring Catholic institutions to offer insurance programs providing abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptive services.
In a strongly worded letter to be read at all parishes in the diocese this weekend, Bishop Jenky wrote that if the regulations – announced Jan. 20 – are put into effect, “they could close down every Catholic school, hospital, and the other public ministries of our church, which is perhaps their underlying intention.”
“I am honestly horrified that the nation I have always loved has come to this hateful and radical step in religious intolerance,” said Bishop Jenky. Until the “grave issues” are favorably resolved, he asked all Sunday Masses in the diocese include the Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America.
The Obama administration has turned down repeated requests from Catholic bishops, hospitals, schools and charitable organizations to revise its religious exemption to the requirement that all health plans cover contraceptives and sterilization free of charge.
Instead, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced Jan. 20 that nonprofit groups that do not provide contraceptive coverage because of their religious beliefs will get an additional year "to adapt to this new rule."
The decision ignited a firestorm of reaction from church leaders nationwide, with Bishop Jenky saying that Jan. 20, 2012 will now stand out in U.S. history as a “moment of enormous peril for religious liberty.”
He called the new regulations “an unprecedented governmental assault upon the moral convictions of our faith.”
“Under the Constitution, no president has the authority to require our cooperation with what we consider to be intrinsic evil and mortal sin,” writes Bishop Jenky. “We must therefore oppose by every means at our disposal this gross infringement upon the rights of Catholic citizens to freely practice our religion.”
The bishop’s letter was released to news media on Jan. 26. It was accompanied by a diocesan statement providing further background.
The requirement that church-related institutions will have to provide contraceptive coverage for employees in their healthcare plans “will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to continue to offer healthcare coverage for their employees” because of moral and religious objections.
While the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claims there is a religious exemption, “it is so incredibly narrow that the exception will fail to protect most religious employers,” according to the diocesan statement.
Following is the full text of Bishop Jenky’s letter:
January 24, 2012
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In this history of the United States, Friday, January 20, 2012 will certainly stand out as a moment of enormous peril for religious liberty. On that day, the Obama administration announced regulations that would require Catholic institutions to offer insurance programs providing abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptive services. If these regulations are put into effect, the could close down every Catholic school, hospital, and the other public ministries of our Church, which is perhaps their underlying intention. What is perfectly clear is that this is a bigoted and blatant attack on the First Amendment rights of every Catholic believer. Under no circumstances, however, will our Church ever abandon our unshakable commitment to the Gospel of Life.
I therefore call upon all the faithful of the Diocese to vigorously oppose this unprecedented governmental assault upon the moral convictions of our Faith. Under the Constitution, no president has the authority to require our cooperation with what we consider to be intrinsic evil and mortal sin. We must therefore oppose by every means at our disposal this gross infringement on the rights of Catholic citizens to freely practice our religion. This country once fought a revolution to guarantee freedom, but the time has clearly arrived to strongly reassert our fundamental human rights. I am honestly horrified that the nation I have always loved has come to this hateful and radical step in religious intolerance. I hope and pray that all people of good will would support the faith based resistance of us their Catholic neighbors.
While it is primarily the laity who should take the leading role in political and legal action, as your Bishop, it is my clear responsibility to summon our local church into spiritual and temporal combat in defense of Catholic Christianity. Have faith! Have courage! Fight boldly for what you believe! I strongly urge you not to be intimidated by extremist politicians or the malice of the cultural secularists arrayed against us. Always remember that the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (I John 4:4).
Until these grave issues are favorably resolved, I ask that every parish, school, hospital, Newman Center, and religious house in this Diocese insert the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel into the Sunday General Intercessions just before their concluding prayer. It is God’s invincible Archangel who commands the heavenly hosts, and it is the enemies of god who will ultimately be defeated. This prayer should be announced as: A Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America.
May God guide and protect his Holy Church.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, CSC
Bishop of Peoria
A Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel for the Freedom of the Catholic Church in America
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host –
by the Divine Power of God –
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.