Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Peoria's Beleagured Bishop...a Moral Dilemma (Revised)

(In a world far away from courageous Father Gerry Jean-Juste, we have the Catholic Diocese of Peoria...)

I believe that Bishop Daniel Jenky was probably a much happier fellow at University of Notre Dame (UND). And I think he would go back to South Bend in a minute.

When I met with Bishop Jenky in his Chancery office in Peoria in February 2003, I felt like I was talking to a man who was very afraid.

I thought he was afraid of Peoria’s local politics.

I thought he was afraid of OSF and Caterpillar Inc., Peoria's largest employers.

I thought that he was afraid for the financial future of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.

I thought he was afraid to support dying Haitian children.

And even though Bishop Jenky threatened me in the Chancery, I thought he was angry at himself and others, not at me.

I had picketed OSF in January, 2003 after OSF had notified the American Consulate in Haiti. This action stopped my Haitian patients from coming to OSF in Peoria for medical care and cost some of them their lives. The sign I carried in front of OSF questioned OSF's respect for life.

OSF needed to get Bishop Jenky involved because OSF was causing a public relations nightmare. They saw no way out without Bishop Jenky at their side.

At that time I did not know that OSF had a contraceptive accommodation or that Bishop Jenky was going along with OSF’s policy of allowing OSF physicians to write prescriptions for oral contraceptives. This policy had been approved under Bishop John Myers in the mid-90's. Bishop Jenky had inherited this local scandal, and behind the scenes, was allowing it to continue to flourish to help OSF's pocketbook. It was simply money over morality.

According to Catholic teaching, OSF’s contraceptive policy and Bishop Jenky’s acquiescence are not pro-life. My sign questioning OSF's respect for life for Haitians hit them harder than I expected.

So what has happened at OSF and with Bishop Jenky since I picketed the hospital in 2003?

Some of my Haitian kids have died. And OSF is still contacting the US Consulate in Haiti and Cleveland Clinic in Ohio regarding confidential information about my Haitian patients that they have no right or need to know. Bishop Jenky remains silent about this.

OSF’s contraceptive practice continues, and Bishop Jenky maintains his silence regarding this too.

Bishop Jenky is a Fellow and Trustee at the University of Notre Dame (UND). Any comments he had regarding the UND scandal allowing President Obama to give the commencement address was kept below the media radar.

And since 2003 I have learned much about how dysfunctional the Church hierarchy really is.

Is Bishop Jenky conservative or liberal? It totally depends upon where the money is.

Trying to stop President Obama from speaking at UND would not have been good for Bishop Jenky, so he took a silent, safer, and liberal approach.

And he took a conservative approach with his public silence regarding OSF’s abandonment of Haitian Hearts patients. What OSF is doing, allowing their Haitian kids to die, is against moral and ethical standards, and Bishop Jenky has said nothing in the media. (If he is talking to OSF privately, it isn't working.)

As mentioned above, Bishop Jenky has been silent about OSF’s contraceptive practice, which obviously would be a liberal approach. I wonder how much OSF contributes to the Diocese?

His "flip-flop" approaches are consistent only in that they do follow the money each time.

Cardinal Francis George, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was described by George Weigel as “one of the most articulate critics of Notre Dame’s decision to honor a president who manifestly does not share what Notre Dame claims is its institutional commitment to the Church’s defense of life.” Interestingly, Cardinal George requests Temporary Protected Status for Haitians.

Cardinal George's statements in Chicago seems world's away from what is happening just down the interstate from him in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria.

My Catholic pro-life friends say how we need to pray for the culture of life in Peoria. This is true but we need to pray that Bishop Jenky finds the courage to demand that his Catholic hospital respect the culture of life, which they are not doing. And that includes Haitian lives.

In conclusion, quoting from a pro-life friend of mine who quotes from this link:


To hearten and encourage us all, when we find ourselves confronting bishops, archbishops, and even cardinals:

Laypeople are not merely the clergy's collaborators, but rather share in the responsibility of the Church's ministry, says Benedict XVI.

"There should be a renewed becoming aware of our being Church and of the pastoral co-responsibility that, in the name of Christ, all of us are called to carry out," the Holy Father said. This co-responsibility should advance "respect for vocations and for the functions of consecrated persons and laypeople," he added.

The Pontiff acknowledged that this requires a "change of mentality," especially regarding laypeople, shifting from "considering themselves collaborators of the clergy to recognizing themselves truly as 'co-responsible' for the being and action of the Church, favoring the consolidation of a mature and committed laity."

The Bishop of Rome suggested that "there is still a tendency to unilaterally identify the Church with the hierarchy, forgetting the common responsibility, the common mission" of all the baptized.

The following is my comment to Ti Bre's comment. (My comment would not be accepted by Blogspot Comment, because it was too long. So I posted it here...its my blog and I can do what I want...)

Ti Bre,

The short answer to your question is "No to President O".

But first of all, congratulations on your great accomplishments at UND. And may your passion for medicine and for the people in the world that need you most continue the rest of your life. May you be unflinching in your resolve to help others even when it is not “the thing to do”.

Fr. Jenkins was indeed eloquent in his speech. He said we need to understand each other to enter into dialogue. We need to acknowledge what is honorable in the other person.

Fr. Jenkins said that UND is supportive of the Church’s view on the sanctity of life and that UND opposes policies on abortion and embryonic cell research. Even though he stumbled over this sentence, I assume he meant it.

However, Fr. Jenkins disregarded the advice of the U.S. bishops who state that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.” This would include inviting and honoring President Obama at UND at your graduation.

President Obama’s speech looked for common ground. His words and sentences were calming and equally as eloquent as Fr. Jenkins. But President Obama’s actions regarding abortion speak for themselves and need no summary by me.

Frederick Zarf wrote in St. Louis Post dispatch shortly after President Obama’s speech at Notre Dame:

Quotes on the subject of abortion rights attributed to President Barack Obama are voluminous and consistent. However, none states his position as clearly and succinctly as his statement made in July 2007, while addressing Planned Parenthood, when he avowed, "There will always be people, many of goodwill, who do not share my view on the issue of choice. On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield."

This quote is in sharp contrast to his disingenuous outreach at Notre Dame last weekend, where he called for "open hearts, open minds, fair-minded words" in the ongoing debate. For those who viewed Mr. Obama's comments as an attempt to bridge the chasm between pro-life and pro-choice, don't focus on his well-honed words or delivery. Instead, look at his consistent message through the years. And look at his current positions in areas such as overseas abortion funding, stem cell research, Roe v. Wade and on and on.

These positions and his declaration to "not yield" on his viewpoint paint the picture in abject clarity; "common ground" is nothing more than a political safe haven, not a desired state.

I agree that dialogue is a good thing. I think that both Fr. Jenkins and President Obama would agree that dialogue is a good thing. However, why couldn’t the dialogue have been between between President Obama who is pro choice and Fr. Jenkins, UND faculty, and UND students who are pro life? Couldn’t that have been held in a nice spacious comfortable auditorium somewhere on the UND campus? That would be real dialogue rather than giving the President of the United States a “bully pulpit” and an honorary degree.

Kathleen Parker wrote:

One needn't be a dedicated pro-lifer to understand the consternation Obama's invitation has caused. He is more radical than all previous presidents on the life issue, with his loosening of federal funding for abortion and embryonic stem cell research, as well as his campaign promise to pass the Freedom of Choice Act.

And what seems apparent to me regarding issues like Haiti and abortion, are that people who are “right leaning” will come toward the middle and people who are “left leaning” will come toward the middle if their health insurance, job, friends, or social status are touched in any negative way. I don’t think the liberals are all that liberal or the conservatives are all that conservative when the rubber meets the road. Generally speaking, individuals in both groups can and do become very fickle and weak.

My thoughts on Bishop Jenky are the same. Even though his silence (and maybe actions as a Trustee and Fellow at UND) regarding President Obama being honored at UND was “liberal”, just a few hours away in Peoria, he played his “conservative” card by turning his back on Haitian children and supported our very large, powerful, 1.6 billion dollar Catholic hospital industry who have abandonded these Haitian kids to die.

Doesn’t seem right to me.



Ti Bre said...

Dr. John,
From your comment in this post, I can't tell, so have to ask: what did you think about President Obama speaking at Notre Dame.

Here is a link to Fr. Jenkins' remarks, which discuss the issue eloquently and passionately: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqwfNBOC-FI&feature=channel


David Volk said...

Dear Ti Bre,

Obviously, not everyone was enamored with Fr. Jenkins' remarks as you. Take a number of our prelates, e.g., Bishop Finn, and outstanding Catholic thinkers such as George Weigel. Here is a link to an interview Bishop Finn gave: