Political Animal


November 01, 2012 11:42 AM Two Catholic Voices Weigh In

By Ed Kilgore

It’s that time of the cycle where various people and institutions, for reasons ranging from simple partisanship to conscience to opportunism to irresponsible whim, officially weigh in on candidate preferences. Up until now the most striking phenomenon of the endorsement season has been the significant number of newspapers encouraging a vote for Mitt Romney on grounds that he has been systematically lying through his teeth from the moment he announced his first presidential campaign back in 2007 until the evening a few weeks ago in Denver when he revealed himself as Moderate Mitt, the man who awakes each morning full of joy at the prospect of productive and pragmatic compromise with Democrats. Today two prominent voices from self-consciously Catholic perspectives have something to say that reflects the deep divisions in that community despite its aura of monolithic solidarity.

The most predictable voice was that of the Most Reverend Daniel Jenky, Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, who issued an encyclical that he ordered to be read at every weekend Mass in his diocese more or less instructing the faithful to vote for Mitt Romney and Republican congressional candidates on pain of eternal damnation. Not a practitioner of nuance or of the sweet reasonableness of Jesus (he first achieved national notoriety earlier this year with a sermon that extensively compared Barack Obama to Hitler and Stalin), Jenky offered these sensitive pastoral observations in his pre-election letter:

Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present. Neither the president of the United States nor the current majority of the Federal Senate have been willing to even consider the Catholic community’s grave objections to those HHS mandates that would require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception. This assault upon our religious freedom is simply without precedent in the American political and legal system….

So much for the argument from the perspective of American history. Jenky then moves on to the argument from the perspective of God Almighty, for whom he confidently speaks:

Today, Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord. They are objectively guilty of grave sin.
For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life. God is not mocked, and as the Bible clearly teaches, after this passing instant of life on earth, God’s great mercy in time will give way to God’s perfect judgment in eternity.
I therefore call upon every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to your Catholic Faith.

That’s about all Jenky could do without risking the tax-exempt status of his diocese.

But meanwhile, the National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters, who has at times been as exercised in opposition to the contraception coverage mandate as Jenky, announced he could not in good conscience vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan:

Mr. Romney, the weathervane, with Mr. Ryan, the ideological warrior, at his side. This scares me. I think repealing the Affordable Care Act would be a tragedy of historic proportions. I think further tax cuts for the super-rich would be a scandal. I worry that, in an effort to appear moderate, a Romney-Ryan administration would stay far, far away from their commitment to the cause of the unborn, but make sure their radical economic agenda gets pushed through Congress. I worry that Medicaid and Medicare, two pillars of the common good in our otherwise hyper-individualistic culture, would not survive the changes Romney and Ryan propose. I worry that these two men, neither of whom have demonstrated much interest in foreign affairs, would listen too easily to the neo-con advisors who surround them, and not just the neo-cons who are at least principled, but the military-firsters, those who think the first course of action, provided there is a strategic or economic interest at stake, is to send in the Marines, but who also saw no value in coming to the aid of Bosnia and Kosovo as some neo-cons rightly supported. In short, I do not think that Mr. Romney’s resume, nor anything we have learned about his worldview, gives justification for voting him into such high office. And, more importantly, that same resume and his rhetoric and his party, suggest that he would govern in such a way that the rich would get much, much richer, the poor would have an even harder time of it, the middle class would continue to tread water at best, and and ideas about the common good would be set aside. That is not an America I can vote for.

Last January, in a long, long essay tellingly entitled “J’Accuse!”, Winters vowed he could never again vote for Barack Obama. Since he doesn’t strike me as anyone likely to support the Libertarians or the Greens, I guess he’s going to stay home, unless he’s issued (or is about to issue) a recantation of his earlier pledge. Lucky for him he doesn’t worship in Peoria.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Peter C on November 01, 2012 11:57 AM:

    People who vote solely on the recommendation of their spiritual leaders fail in their responsibilities as citizens.

  • Ron Byers on November 01, 2012 11:59 AM:

    Ed, you remain a Catholic because? You don't have to be a Catholic to be a follower of Christ.

  • c u n d gulag on November 01, 2012 11:59 AM:

    "Jerky" Jenky and I have something in common!
    We're both worried about religious liberty.

    He, for idiotic, fictional reasons.
    I'm worried about it if people like him, and the Dominionist Evangelical Christians, ever get near the levers of power.

    And, if I were you, "Jerky," I'd be worried, too.
    'Catholics is heretics,' "Jerky" - and the wrong flavor of ice-cream in the Lord's shoppe, according to your Protestant brethren.
    They may force you to tear Christ from the cross, have you take off your golden vestments, and shove that mitre right up your ass - you know, the spot the Priest in your youth liked to stuff his flesh mitre in.

    Tax every religion!
    They might as well pay for all the evil they've done do now, and will continue to do, until people finally come to their senses. And THAT ain't ever gonna happen!

  • bigtuna on November 01, 2012 12:04 PM:

    I recently had to attend a mass at St. Paul's in Pittsburgh, and I could not get out of my mind while there the horrific record that the church, its priests, etc., have on the abuse of kids, I cannot understand how anyone can consider these statements to have any value what so ever.....
    The record of institutional coverup and moral failings is so great and the lack of real repair so obvious that no catholic official has any credibility with me.

  • jd--Central Florida on November 01, 2012 12:04 PM:

    An "encyclical" can only be issued by the pope, supposedly speaking infallibly. No bishop can issue more than a pastoral message. As a lapsed Catholic, I would question whether Bishop Jenky is a Christian. Certainly most of the "faithful" in his diocese have been busily using contraception for many years and, likely, other methods (e.g.,in-vitro fertilization) that the Church in its un-wisdom condemns.

  • Barbara on November 01, 2012 12:18 PM:

    This is why I no longer consider myself to be Catholic. Even MSW reflects what I can only call the institutional narcissism of a Church that thinks it ought to have the right to have the weight of government at its back in bullying women over the use of contraception, even when 90+% of people who actually call themselves Catholic use or approve the use of contraception.

    I can't take the institutional hypocrisy anymore.

  • DJ on November 01, 2012 1:06 PM:

    They may force you to tear Christ from the cross, have you take off your golden vestments, and shove that mitre right up your ass - you know, the spot the Priest in your youth liked to stuff his flesh mitre in.

    Victor, are you specifically accusing that Bishop Jenky was the victim of sexual abuse by a priest in his past (who could be identified with some detective work), or are you just being your typical offensive blowhard self?

  • Daniel Buck on November 01, 2012 1:22 PM:

    Bishop Jenky needs to bone up on American history. In the good old days (irony alert), public school readers were larded with anti-Catholic propaganda, Catholics were denied the right to vote, the 1920s KKK was huge & vitriolically anti-Catholic, and a certain presidential candidate named Al Smith was subjected to withering anti-Catholic abuse. Oh, a topic near & dear to me heart, the beer, whiskey & other refreshments of an alcoholic nature were banned -- the horror! -- as the result of a movement driven in part by anti-Catholic sentiments. Dan

  • TCinLA on November 01, 2012 1:37 PM:

    Jenkey would be a great character in "The Borgias". He could walk through fire with his soul-mate Savanarola.

  • Dabodius on November 01, 2012 2:02 PM:

    Michael Sean Winters not voting Republican is a man-doesn't-bite-dog story.

    (Wonder what Rick Santorum could do with that...)

  • C. TerMaat on November 01, 2012 2:03 PM:

    Jenky: Be faithful to your Catholic Faith. Vote for the Mormon.

  • LJL on November 01, 2012 2:18 PM:

    Since the 1920s the Roman Catholic Church has been a supporter of Nazism. Since the 50s they have lied about their symbiotic relationship but they cannot rewrite history. Jenky lies about abortion since he knows that the Nazis were unfailingly anti-abortion. He knows too that his boss, Herr Benedict was and still is an unrepentant Nazi who twice pledge personal allegiance to Hitler. Even now the Catholic Church espouses Nazi sentiments ranging from anti-abortionism and anti-homosexuality to third-wayism that rejects both laissez-faire capitalism and outright socialism.

  • schtick on November 01, 2012 4:11 PM:

    Not only is it disgusting they are using the pulp-pit to preach politics, but these same "men of God" think they either ARE God or that God speaks to them personally. Glenn "I am now selling God instead of Gold" Beck is an example of where they come from. And Catholics? They've been on the dark side for years and they are just being noticed now.
    They preach politics, that days tithe from from their parishoners should be taxed to the max.

  • Sean Scallon on November 02, 2012 1:43 PM:

    "Today two prominent voices from self-consciously Catholic perspectives have something to say that reflects the deep divisions in that community despite its aura of monolithic solidarity."

    That "aura" hasn't existed since 1960-64 and I really wish people who talk or write about politics for a living please stop referring to the "Catholic Vote" for reason, as you see by these two pieces describe why. It's no difference how anyone else approaches the election.

  • TooManyJens on November 02, 2012 1:55 PM:

    Anytime they want to stop lying about the HHS mandate forcing them to fund abortions, that would be great.