PEORIA, Ill. -- Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky has ordered all priests in the Peoria Diocese to read a letter at weekend Masses which says Catholic politicians are guilty of "grave sin" if they support President Obama's Health Plan.
Bishop Jenky's Letter in full:
Dear Catholic Believers,
Since the foundation of the American Republic and the adoption of the Bill of Rights, I do not think there has ever been a time more threatening to our religious liberty than the present. Neither the president of the United States nor the current majority of the Federal Senate have been willing to even consider the Catholic community's grave objections to those HHS mandates that would require all Catholic institutions, exempting only our church buildings, to fund abortion, sterilization, and artificial contraception.
This assault upon our religious freedom is simply without precedent in the American political and legal system. Contrary to the guarantees embedded in the First Amendment, the HHS mandates attempt to now narrowly define and therby drastically limit our traditional religious works. They grossly and intentionally intrude upon the deeply held moral convictions that have always guided our Catholic schools, hospitals, and other apostolic ministries.
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 roard back: "We have no king but Caesar." Today, the 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. They are objectively guilty of grave sin. For those who hope for salvation, no political loyalty can ever take precedence over loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel of Life. God is not mocked, and as the Bible clearly teaches, after this passing instant of life on earth, God's great mercy in time will give way to God's perfect judgement in eternity.
I therefore call upon every practicing Catholic in this Diocese to vote. Be faithful to Christ and to yoru Catholic Faith. May God guide and protect His Holy Church, and may God bless America.
Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, CSC
Catholic Bishop of Peoria
Critics of the Bishop say he's implying that voting against Mitt Romney is a sin.
The Bishop's letter, which can be read in full at the bottom of this story, says Health and Human Services mandates would require all Catholic Institutions to fund abortion, sterilization and artificial contraception.
Jenky called it an "assault" on Catholic religious freedom that's unprecedented in the American Legal system, "a gross intrusion" into catholic moral convictions.
James Salt, leader of "Catholics United", a liberal Catholic organization, said Jenky was jeopardizing the tax-free status of his church.
Federal laws forbids religious groups from endorsing a candidate or engaging in outright partisan activity.
A spokeswoman for the Peoria Diocese says the Bishop didn't refer to Barack Obama by name, only as "the President".