In a letter to be read at all diocesan Masses this weekend, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria is urging the Catholics in his diocese to be faithful to Christ when they vote.
“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,” Bishop Jenky wrote in his letter for the Nov. 6 elections.
The letter concerns “how a person should vote their conscience, and keep in mind different things concerning Catholic faith and our values when you vote,” Patricia Gibson, chancellor of the Peoria diocese, told EWTN News Nov. 2.
The first portion of the letter is Bishop Jenky's “explanation about what is the current status of the HHS mandate. He is very unwavering in the fact that he thinks it violates the fundamental rights of religious liberty and ministry in the Church,” Gibson said.
Bishop Jenky described the contraception mandate as an unprecedented “assault upon our religious freedom … in the American political and legal system.”
He said the mandate “drastically limits” religious works, “contrary to the guarantees embedded in the First Amendment.”
“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,” he wrote.
The Chicago Tribune called the letter an “anti-Obama message,” a characterization which Gibson said the diocese “disagrees entirely.”
“It's important to remember the bishop drafted this, as he does every election year, as the primary teacher and preacher of the faith in our diocese … it does not mention any politician by name, nor does it instruct a person on how they should vote. It is not seen at all as any kind of partisan proclamation,” she said.
Bishop Jenky’s letter also touched on defending the unborn.
“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,” he wrote.
Mindful of God's judgment, “I therefore call upon every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to your Catholic Faith. May God guide and protect His Holy Church, and may God bless America,” the bishop’s letter concludes.
“Those are important guidelines,” Gibson remarked, “which is what prompted him to write this letter as he's done in the past, not unlike a lot of other bishops across the country.”
Gibson added that news reports that said priests were “ordered” to read the letter are “inflated.”
She said Bishop Jenky regularly writes letters to instruct Catholics in his diocese because he is “our primary teacher of the faith,” and that this is “nothing out of the ordinary.”
Typically, these letters have flexibility about how they are distributed to the faithful, and the bishop merely wanted to ensure that in this instance “the avenue would be from the pulpit.” Gibson noted that Bishop Jenky “has overwhelming support from his priests and laity.”
He “will not remain silent during what he thinks is a critical time and an unprecedented attack on our religious freedom,” Gibson stated.