Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill. has asked parishes, schools, hospitals and religious houses to insert the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel into the intercessions at Sunday Mass to pray for Catholics’ freedom.
The move comes in response to a new federal requirement that will force many Catholic organizations to provide insurance coverage for sterilizations and contraceptives.
“It is God’s invincible Archangel who commands the heavenly host, and it is the enemies of God who will ultimately be defeated,” the bishop said in a Jan. 24 letter to the Catholics of his diocese.
The prayer should take place in the general intercessions before the concluding prayer, Bishop Jenky said. He asked that the intention of the prayer be announced as “for the freedom of the Catholic Church in America.”
The St. Michael prayer was authored by Pope Leo XIII, and was once commonly said in U.S. Catholic parishes as part of a petition for the freedom of Soviet Russia.
He said it is his duty to summon the local Church into “spiritual and temporal combat in defense of Catholic Christianity.”
“If these regulations 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,” Bishop Jenky said. “What is perfectly clear is that this is a bigoted and blanket attack on the First Amendment rights of every Catholic believer.”
Bishop Jenky’s comments add to the continued reaction to the Department of Health and Human Services ruling that requires insurance coverage of procedures which Catholic teaching recognizes as sinful. The rule’s narrow religious exemptions only include institutions which hire or serve their fellow believers and have the inculcation of religious values as a primary purpose.
The requirement will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to continue to offer health care coverage for their employees, the Diocese of Peoria said. The institutions could be forced to drop healthcare coverage for employees because of their moral and religious objections.
Bishop Jenky stated that the president does not have the authority under the U.S. Constitution to “require our cooperation with what we consider to be intrinsic evil and mortal sin.”
“I am honestly horrified that the nation I have always loved has come to this hateful and radical step in religious intolerance.”
The bishop pledged that the Church will never abandon its commitment to the Gospel of Life and called on the faithful to “vigorously” oppose what he called an “unprecedented governmental assault upon the moral convictions of our faith.”
Bishop Jenky also struck an encouraging note.
“Have faith! Have courage! Fight boldly for what you believe!” he said. “I strongly urge you not to be intimidated by extremist politicians or the malice of the cultural secularists arrayed against us.”
Invoking the First Letter of John, he said Catholics should always remember that “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”