Peoria bishop urges ‘heroic Catholicism’

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Catholic News Service

PEORIA, Ill. — “Heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism” is required to confront state and federal threats to religious liberty and the church’s public ministries, Peoria Bishop Daniel R. Jenky told more than 500 Catholic men who marched through the city’s downtown in a steady rain April 14 in a public defense of the faith.

“We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction,” said Bishop Jenky.

He warned participants in the “A Call to Catholic Men of Faith” rally that Catholic schools, hospitals, and Newman Centers the fall of 2013 “could easily be shut down” rather than cooperate with the government’s mandate that most health plans cover the cost of contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can induce abortion.

“Because no Catholic institution, under any circumstance, can ever cooperate with the instrinsic evil of killing innocent human life in the womb,” the bishop said.

After joining the men on a silent, mile-long walk from the Peoria riverfront to St. Mary’s Cathedral, Bishop Jenky used some of the strongest language yet by a church official in protesting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptive mandate.

The bishop mentioned President Barack Obama three times in his homily at the rally Mass.

“In clear violation of our First Amendment rights,” said Bishop Jenky, “Barack Obama with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda now seems intent on following a similar path” as other governments throughout history who “have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches.”

The Obama administration’s contraceptive mandate includes a religious exemption, but leaders of various Catholic and other faith-based organizations say it is too narrow and they will still be forced to provide coverage they oppose. The administration has defended the mandate as “preventative care,” but religious groups that oppose it say it infringes on their religious liberty.

A new federal proposal issued March 21 suggested third-party administrators pay the costs of contraceptives for religious employers who object, but the U.S. bishops said even with that, the mandate remained flawed.

To sustained applause, Bishop Jenky said no matter what happens in this passing moment, “Christ wins” and the church will survive current threats, just as it has endured persecutions from the Roman Empire through Nazism and communism.

“In the power of the Resurrection,” Bishop Jenky said forcefully, “the church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry.

“The church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government,” he continued, “and even the calculated disdain of the president of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of current majority in the federal Senate.”

Bishop Jenky said “this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.”

Dermody is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Post in Peoria.