We are habituated to hyperbole, disingenuousness, dishonesty, deceit, falsehoods and deceptions of every kind from Catholic bishops (like child sex abuse, even more inexcusable when done by men who claim to be moral authorities) during this presidential election year in order to bring about a Republican victory. But blasphemy is something new.
Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky (who made headlines in April comparing Obama to Hitler and Stalin) wrote a letter which he ordered all his priests to read at all masses this weekend. He asserts:
Nearly two thousand years ago, after our Savior had been bound, beaten, scourged, mocked, and crowned with thorns, a pagan Roman Procurator displayed Jesus to a hostile crowd by sarcastically declaring: “Behold your King.” The mob roared back: “We have no king but Caesar.” Today, 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.The Bible states: “The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’” (John 19:15)
Jenky shows utter contempt for what he claims to be the Word of God by altering the Gospel to elect Mitt Romney, claiming it is Democrats and not highly-placed religious leaders like himself who “reject Jesus.” Jenky is also “washing his hands” of the guilt of “chief priests” like himself in killing Jesus. “Our Savior” was tortured by a civil official but Jesus’ passion and death was instigated by clerical treachery and mendacious manipulation of their followers.
Jesus had called the religious leaders “hypocrites,” “a brood of vipers” and “whitewashed tombs - beautiful on the outside, but inside full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.” They paid tithes but neglected “judgment, mercy and fidelity;” were clean on the outside, “but inside full of plunder and self-indulgence.” (see Matthew 23)
So “the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.” (Luke 22:2) They arrested Jesus, brought charges against him using “many false witnesses” (Matthew 26:60, Mark 14:56), and turned him over to Pontius Pilate, the governor, to be tortured and crucified.
“Now Jesus stood before the governor, and he questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus said, ‘You say so.’ And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer.” (Matthew 26:11-12)
“Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find this man not guilty.’ But they were adamant and said, ‘He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.’” (Luke 23:4-5)
When Pilate offered to release either Barabbas or Jesus, “The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.” (Matthew 27:20, Mark 15:11) “The chief priests, the rulers, and the people…together shouted out, ‘Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.’” (Luke 23:18)
For Christians, Jesus’ death and resurrection is the foundation of our religion and, for many, the source of our spirituality. The cross stands over and above all other events in world history. The actions and dialogue in the Gospel are scenes and words we have committed to memory for reflection and study. It is appalling that a Church official would subvert these sacred details to elect Republicans.
To paraphrase Jenky, today, it is the Catholic chief priests and their supporters who callously enable the destruction of the innocent human lives whom Jesus blessed - “the poor, the hungry, the weeping” - in order to elect their "kings" - the “rich and filled” (see Luke 6) vulture capitalists - thereby rejecting Jesus as their Lord.
The broader lesson is that whenever church and state have been united, as in Jesus’ crucifixion, people suffer. While rapacious neocons constructed the Religious Right to duplicate the historical role of churchmen coercing their congregants to support civil leaders in return for the same officials’ support and protection of the Church, the religious leaders who know the Gospel should have foreseen the certain disaster for humanity which lay ahead.