Bishop Daniel Jenky
An Illinois bishop's mention of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin in an April 14 homily calling Catholics to "heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism" has stirred widespread controversy.
After listing several governments throughout history that "have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches," Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky said President Barack Obama "now seems intent on following a similar path."
He warned that Catholic schools, hospitals and Newman centres "could easily be shut down" rather than comply with the government's mandate that most health plans cover the cost of contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can induce abortion.
In the ensuing days, many have strongly objected to Jenky's linking of Obama's political actions to those of figures with genocidal policies such as Hitler and Stalin.
By April 23, more than 90 faculty members at the University of Notre Dame had signed a letter calling for Jenky to "renounce loudly and publicly this destructive analogy" or resign from the university's board of fellows.
Statements the Diocese of Peoria has issued since the homily was delivered said Jenky's comments were being "taken out of context."
"Bishop Jenky expressed concern that our country is starting down a dangerous path that we have seen before in history," Patricia Gibson, diocesan chancellor, said an April 19 statement. "History teaches us to be cautious once we start down the path of limiting religious liberty."