A really interesting story came to my e-mail.
H.E. Most Rev. Daniel Jenky, Bishop of Peoria, ordered that a letter of his composition be read in all churches on Sunday. Some parishes did not comply.
The issue? His concern over anti-Catholicism.
Background: A court recently reinstated lawsuits that were previously dismissed because the statute of limitations had passed. Article on the reinstatement is found here. Executive summary: Illinois law required lawsuits to be filed by the time the (alleged) minor victim was 30 years old, with the statute of limitations expiring afterwards. The reinstatement has revolved around the rediscovery of repressed memories.
Here is a story from the Quad City Times
Let’s see the story and then Bishop Jenky’s letter with my emphases and comments.
Illinois bishop’s letter: Media has ‘intense hatred’ of Catholics
By Edith Brady-Lunny | Sunday, February 8, 2009 10:03 PM CST
PEORIA, Ill. — Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky is lashing out [Interesting word choice. Don’t only extremists or right-wingers "lash out"?] at the news media and Illinois courts over the handling of sexual abuse allegations made against priests.
In a letter dated for distribution over the weekend to Catholic parishes throughout the Peoria Diocese, Jenky expresses concern over media coverage and court rulings he thinks have been unfair to the diocese. At least two parishes [! out of how many?] in the Ilinois Quad-Cities published the letter in its bulletin.
Barbara Roedel, pastoral associate at St. Pius X in Rock Island, said the letter was not read aloud during St. Pius services, which observed World Marriage Sunday and Scout Sunday.
“In our parish at Saint Pius, we printed in our bulletin the full text from Bishop Jenky,” she said. Likewise, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Moline also printed the letter, said the Rev. Dale Wellman.
The Illinois Quad-City parishes are part of the Peoria Diocese.
“Amid all the tensions of our nation’s culture wars and in the face of the media’s intense hatred for our Catholic faith, I am increasingly concerned that our Church in effect no longer enjoys equal justice under the law,” Jenky wrote.
The diocese did not respond Friday to a request for comment on the letter. [Isn’t the letter then comment?]
Jenky defended the church’s policies and track record for dealing with abuse cases, saying credible claims have been settled while allegations unsupported by facts are rejected. He thinks measures put in place in recent years have made the church a safe environment for children.
The Catholic Diocese of Peoria has not allowed abusive priests to move from parish to parish, said Jenky, who also vowed not to be intimidated by “choreographed demonstrations or the abuse that is sometimes personally directed against me” by victims’ support groups.
The bishop questioned the motives of attorneys representing some victims and groups supporting them, saying, “Obviously (they) have a significant financial stake in trying to overturn our Diocesan policies.”
Jeff Jones, Peoria leader of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, responded Friday to a copy of the letter provided to the organization.
“It’s a sad day when the bishop has to use these kinds of tactics to make sure innocent victims receive no reparations. He will stop at nothing,” said Jones.
In his letter, Jenky also assures area Catholics that he will be a “prudent steward of the money you offer for the work of Christ” and warned that difficult days may lie ahead as the diocese faces the potential of more than a dozen abuse lawsuits.
A recent ruling from the 3rd District Appellate Court could reinstate cases dismissed in June 2007 on the grounds that the alleged victims waited too long to file charges. Among the priests named in the civil actions are former Monsignor Norman Goodman and former priest Louis Condon, both of whom served in Lincoln.
Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s outreach director from St. Louis, also took issue with the letter.
“At least 18 current or former Peoria priests are admitted, proven or credibly accused predators. Is Jenky actually claiming the church handled every one of these cases promptly, openly and honorably? That defies common sense and painful history,” she said. [Note how this story ends? Bp. Jenky’s case is made in this story!]
(The Bloomington Pantagraph is a Lee Enterprises newspaper.)
The following letter was supposed to be read in churches throughout the Peoria Diocese over the weekend:
MOST REV. DANIEL R. JENKY, C.S.C.
OFFICE OF THE BISHOP
DIOCESE OF PEORIA OFFICE OF THE BISHOP
607 N.E. MADISON AVENUE
PEORIA, ILLINOIS 61603
February 7-8, 2009
Dear Priests, Deacons, Religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Peoria,
My greatest responsibility as your bishop is to preach the Gospel, celebrate the Sacraments, and to try my best to be a good shepherd for this local church. The saddest part of my ministry has been to deal with our part of the immense societal issue of sexual misconduct with minors. Where there have been credible accusations made against individuals and with the advice of my Review Commission, I have not hesitated to remove them from all active ministry. I have also tried to attentively follow the charter adopted by the American bishops that deals in a comprehensive manner with this painful subject. I have not discovered any evidence in this Diocese that priests guilty of misconduct were ever moved from assignment to assignment. Our Diocese normally offers counseling to victims rather than paying out large cash settlements. Not every allegation has been found to be credible by our Review Commission, and so our Diocese resists supporting those claims that simply cannot be sustained by the facts. I take very seriously my responsibility to protect all the children entrusted to our care, and I am absolutely convinced that today the programs of our Church now provide the safest possible environment in America for your children.
In these perilous economic times, I will work to be a prudent steward of the money you offer for the work of Christ. Attorneys representing some claimants and some "victims groups" obviously have a significant financial stake in trying to overturn our Diocesan policies. Recent decisions in the Illinois courts may make our legal situation even more difficult in the future. It should be noted that the sexual abuse of minors cuts across all socio-economic lines, ethnicities, ministries, and religions. It is important to remember that the State basically exempts its own institutions from civil litigation. Amid all the tensions of our nation’s culture wars and in the face of the media’s intense hatred for our Catholic Faith, I am increasingly concerned that our Church in effect no longer enjoys equal justice under the law. I will not be intimidated by choreographed demonstrations or the abuse that is sometimes personally directed against me. I remain immensely proud of the zealous and holy priesthood of our Diocese. May God guide and protect his Holy Church and bless us all in his service. Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C. BISHOP OF PEORIA
Well done, Bishop Jenky.