Being a Notre Dame graduate is a little like being an American traveling in Europe: no matter what the controversy, and no matter how far away you are, you’re going to get grilled about it. I’ve been out of the country for two weeks and hadn’t been back more than an hour when someone texted, asking about the newest controversy at Notre Dame.
At first, I thought it was about Fr. Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame. But no, it said “Jenky.” Dan Jenky? The much-admired former rector of the basilica at Notre Dame who is now bishop of Peoria? Dan Jenky, who was responsible for restoring the Notre Dame chapel to its former glory and gaining for it “basilica” status?
His impact on the liturgical and spiritual life of the campus has been incalculable. He is always received with honor on campus. His picture still hangs in honor in the basilica next to the pictures of Pope Benedict and the superior of Holy Cross. What could Dan Jenky have done, I wondered, to make anyone angry? He’s the nicest man you’ll ever meet.
I found out online that he had (it was said), “compared Obama to Hitler and Stalin.” Well, not exactly, as it turns out. You can read his entire homily here, but this is the purportedly “offensive” paragraph in context:
In the late 19th century, Bismarck waged his ‘Kulturkampf,’ a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.
Although the homily was actually on the resurrection of Christ, who is mentioned twenty-five times, the only thing the press mentioned was part of one sentence. It’s “gotcha” journalism at its worst and ends up cheapening political discourse by deliberately taking someone’s words out of context and construing them in the worst possible light.
Bishop Daniel Jenky
One member of the Notre Dame faculty penned an angry letter and sent it around for signatures. And of course the letter got signatures because Americans will sign almost any petition about anything. Petitions are not really about voting your conscience, they’re about getting annoying people to leave you alone. In any case, here is the relevant part of the letter:
Fair enough. But how about all the times liberals have called conservatives “fascists” and compared them to Hitler? Just last year, the citizens of Wisconsin were treated to scores of signs comparing Scott Walker to Hitler, along with several that said “Hitler outlawed unions too”. Were they invoking the death camps? How many of the people now excoriating Bishop Jenky for his “unhelpful” tone has ever actually stopped a faculty colleague from describing conservatives as “fascists” or “Nazis”?
We have an important issue to discuss: namely the scope and limits of federal power and unbounded presidential authority, no matter which party controls the presidency. What’s at stake is the very nature of our constitutional system. Let’s have a real conversation about real issues. What’s going to happen when these HHS mandates kick in?
Are Catholics going to be forced to go to jail rather than violate their consciences? If so, then we’ll be needing the “heroic Catholics” that Bishop Jenky calls for in his homily. And which side will those complaining about Bishop Jenky be on then?