Target: Daniel Jenky, Catholic Bishop from Illinois
Goal: To get Illinois Catholic bishop to stop requiring priests in his district to endorse political candidates
Daniel Jenky, a Catholic bishop from Illinois recently sent out a letter to all of the priests in his district ordering them to read his sermon to their congregations before the upcoming election. In the sermon, Jenky implies that voting for political candidates who support abortion rights should be considered a sin, in addition to giving false information about the consequences of voting for Democratic candidates. Jenky is abusing his authority as a bishop and attempting to influence the votes of not only his own congregation, but all of the churches within his district. He must retract his order that all priests read this message to their churches and allow Catholics in Illinois to vote however they choose.
Jenky’s sermon falsely accuses Democrats of requiring all Catholic organizations to offer abortions, and labels anyone who would vote for them as sinners. The health care law that he seems to be referring to only applies to Catholic hospitals, and it requires those hospitals to offer contraception but does not require them to provide abortions. While Jenky considers the use of contraception immoral, most Catholics no longer agree with him on that issue and would be willing to vote for a candidate whose health care plan requires medical institutions to provide it.
The sermon also attempts to scare Catholics into voting for Republican candidates by claiming that allowing the current administration to stay in power would threaten religious freedom, without any evidence to support that claim. Although his biggest concern seems to be attempting to limit reproductive rights, most Catholic leaders agree that poverty is the most important issue facing Americans. With that in mind, it would not be contradictory for a Catholic to vote for a Democratic candidate, since the Republican Party is currently working hard to ensure that poor Americans remain that way.
Jenky is not the only religious official to illegally endorse a candidate and attempt to persuade his congregation to agree with his political beliefs, but in this case, Jenky is misusing his power by requiring all of the priests in his district to politicize their sermons. Catholics must be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not their religious beliefs will influence the way they vote in the upcoming election, and it is inappropriate for a bishop to manipulate those in his district into agreeing with his political beliefs. Jenky must withdraw the requirement that priests in his district read his sermon and make an attempt to keep his politics separate from his religion.
Dear Daniel Jenky,
If the priests in your diocese follow your order to read the letter you wrote endorsing your preferred politicians, you will not only be promoting your political beliefs to your own congregation, but to hundreds of churches in your state.
Many Catholics are in disagreement with your stance on contraception, and it is wrong to accuse those Catholics who vote for Democrats of being sinners. While Democratic candidates may disagree with you on the issue of abortion, many Catholics see poverty as the most critical concern in this election and they should not be prohibited from voting for the candidates who are most likely to address this issue.
While you are entitled to express your political opinions, it is inappropriate to require priests to express those beliefs on your behalf. Please inform the priests in your diocese that they are no longer required to read your letter to their congregations so that the members of those churches will have the freedom to choose whichever political candidates they prefer.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: jikatu via Flickr.