Andrew Sullivan Blasts an “Intellectually Challenged” Bishop

Bishop Daniel Jenky

Bishop Daniel Jenky’s recent comments linking the HHS contraception mandate to 19th-century European suppressions of the Catholic Church:

“In the late 19th century, Bismark [sic] waged his “Kulturkamf,” [sic], a culture war against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany. Clemenceau, nicknamed “the priest eater,” tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century. 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,” – Bishop Daniel Jenky.

Andrew Sullivan responds:

Words fail. It is not encouraging when a reference to nineteenth century Germany cannot get the spelling of Bismarck or Kulturkampf right. But this is the current hierarchy. They weren’t selected for their intelligence, which, after all, could be a liability. They were selected for their subservience to their superiors.

And the good, if intellectually challenged, Bishop is comparing a deliberate policy of minority Catholic persecution in Germany in the nineteenth century, when thousands of Catholics were thrown in jail, with a tiny provision in the first universal healthcare law in America (a longstanding Catholic goal) that would include contraception in health insurance paid for by the insurance company. No woman would be forced to use it. And yet 98 percent of Catholic women still consult their consciences and do. The Vatican’s own commission on the subject came to the same conclusion as these Catholic women – only to be vetoed by one celibate man, Pope Paul VI. If this is a totalitarian attack on religious freedom, then I am a proud heterosexual.

What it actually is is a dyspeptic eruption from an all-male “celibate” hierarchy about the loss of its power over its employees, Catholic and non-Catholic. And it is a terribly depressing sign that the Catholic hierarchy, like much of the evangelical leadership, is now in danger of becoming a front for one political party.


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