What happened to those homilies about the prodigal son and rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s? Parishioners were surprised with this Sunday’s homily by Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky comparing President Barack Obama’s health care policies to policies of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
During the Sunday homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral Jenky noted that previous governments that “tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches . . . 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 First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda – now seems intent on following a similar path.”
Some have objected that the church should lose its tax exempt status over such advocacy. However, this is less political as hysterical. Churches are allowed to sermonize on public issues and condemn what they view as attacks on their faith.
What is more interesting is the response by Diocese Chancellor Patricia Gibson who insisted that Jenky had merely “offered historical context and comparisons as a means to prevent a repetition of historical attacks upon the Catholic Church and other religions.” A “repetition of historical attacks upon the Catholic Church”? That sounds like reaffirming this bizarre analogy. Gibson assured people, however, that “[w]e have currently not reached the same level of persecution. But Bishop Jenky would say that history teaches us to be cautious. … (He) is concerned that our government is truly treading on one of our most dear freedoms, which is religious freedom.” Well Jenky sure found his audience.
I would venture to suggest that there is a little distance between a squabble over health care and genocidal authoritarian regimes. But that is just me.