A number of Notre Dame University faculty members are calling on an Illinois bishop who compared President Obama’s policies to those of Stalin and Hitler to renounce his comments or step down from the university’s Board of Fellows.
In a letter sent Friday to University President Rev. John I. Jenkins and Board of Trustees chairman Richard C. Notebaert and published in full at the Peoria Journal Star Sunday night, the faculty members argue that Bishop Daniel Jenky demonstrated an “ ignorance of history, insensitivity to victims of genocide, and absence of judgment” with his comments during an April 14 homily.
“We accept that Bishop Jenky’s comments are protected by the First Amendment, but we find it profoundly offensive that a member of our beloved university’s highest authority, the Board of Fellows, should compare the President’s actions with those whose genocidal policies murdered tens of millions of people, including the specific targeting of Catholics, Jews, and other minorities for their faith,” they wrote.
The faculty members added that if Jenky does not renounce his comments he should resign from the 12-member Board of Fellows, which Notre Dame describes as “successors and associates in office of the original founders of the University.” Jenkins, Notebaert and Jenky are all members of the Board.
During the April 14th homily in question, Jenky said that Obama is “following a similar path” as Hitler and Stalin, specifically in regards to the White House’s HHS contraception mandate.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The Diocese of Peoria defended the Jenky in a response to the letter, reported the Peoria Journal Star.
“Bishop Jenky has received this news with surprise,” said James Kruse, vicar general of the Diocese of Peoria. “They must have not actually heard or read what was said and only what people have misquoted.”
Last week a Patricia Gibson, chancellor of the Peoria Diocese, told the Chicago Tribune that Jenky’s comments had been taken out of context.
“Based upon the current government’s threatened infringement upon the Church’s religious exercise of its ministry, Bishop Jenky offered historical context and comparisons as a means to prevent a repetition of historical attacks upon the Catholic Church and other religions,” Gibson explained.
The Anti-Defamation League has also requested an apology from Jenky, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State has complained the Internal Revenue Service, accusing the diocese of violating campaign laws by encouraging parishioners to vote against Obama.
The letter bears the signatures of more than 50 faculty members.