NOTRE DAME – A group made up of members from the infamous “ND 88,” people who were arrested and charged with trespassing when President Obama spoke at the university's 2009 commencement, did not hold back during a demonstration outside Notre Dame's campus Thursday.
They defended the remarks from Bishop Daniel Jenky, who serves at the Peoria Diocese in Illinois. During a mass last week, Jenky compared the actions of President Obama to Hitler and Stalin.
"Here's a bishop standing up for the faith – defending the church and the teachings of Jesus Christ," said Andrew Beacham, "We will stand with any bishop and defend them tooth and nail to our death. No matter what."
Strong words from a group made up of four men, all anti-abortion advocates led by Randall Terry.
"He [Bishop Jenky] has come forward courageously, like no bishop has in recent memory," said Gary Boisclair, one of the anti-abortion advocates. "We will not sit back and watch him be pummeled by people who pretend to be catholic on a catholic campus."
University spokesperson Dennis Brown said Notre Dame supports the first amendment rights, but he said the university would not comment on the personal views of our trustees.
Brown also confirmed two members of this group delivered letters. One of the recipients was University President Father John Jenkins.
"Father Jenkins must respond," said Boisclair.
The group, led by Boisclair, wants Notre Dame to take immediate action against at least 100 faculty members who called on Bishop Jenky to apologize for his remarks and resign from his post on the university's Board of Trustees.
"We cannot sit still," said Boisclair.
Of the four members in attendance, only one anti-abortion advocate lives in Indiana.
Boisclair and advocate Ed Faddoul currently reside in West Virginia.
David Lewis is from Cincinnati
While Beacham grew up in Elkhart.
After their appearance at Notre Dame, the group was scheduled to hold a similar demonstration outside the Diocese offices in Fort Wayne, with hopes of receiving support from Bishop Kevin Rhoades.
A spokesperson from the Fort Wayne Diocese said he did not receive a letter from the advocates and he is not aware of any demonstration with Terry's group.
The Catholic Diocese of Peoria issued the following statement on April 19:
The Diocese of Peoria provides this additional information regarding the homily of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, C.S.C. on April 14, 2012, at the Annual Men’s March Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Diocesan Chancellor Patricia Gibson stated, “It is unfortunate that many of Bishop Jenky’s comments in his homily at our Men’s March were taken out of context.”
With respect to national legislation, particularly the much debated Department of Health and Human Services requirements, there is genuine fear that this will force the Church to exit from various ministries in the face of being forced to violate Church teachings. Gibson stated, “Bishop Jenky is concerned that Catholic institutions may not be able to continue in ministry if they are required to violate their religious beliefs.” The proposed legislation would require Catholic institutions to provide abortion inducing drugs, or other services considered immoral, as a condition of continuing services. This would apply not only to Church employee health plans but also healthcare delivery. Some beliefs are fundamental and non¿negotiable to Catholics and there is no permissible compromise with an intrinsic evil.
“Furthermore, it is beyond the scope of government to define Church ministry without limiting the free exercise of religion as guaranteed in the First Amendment. Based upon the current government’s threatened infringement upon the Church’s religious exercise of its ministry, Bishop Jenky offered historical context and comparisons as a means to prevent a repetition of historical attacks upon the Catholic Church and other religions.”
Gibson added, “Bishop Jenky is concerned that our government is treading on one of our most dear freedoms: religious liberty. In his homily on April 14th, Bishop Jenky expressed concern that our country is starting down a dangerous path that we have seen before in history. Bishop Jenky gave several examples of times in history in which religious groups were persecuted because of what they believed. We certainly have not reached the same level of persecution. However, history teaches us to be cautious once we start down the path of limiting religious liberty.”
Bishop Jenky made his comments in a religious ceremony in which he spoke as a shepherd to his flock. Bishop Jenky spoke as any religious leader with a responsibility to challenge his people to lead lives of faith with a strong sense of conviction for his or her beliefs. Religious leaders have always called their people to live their faith courageously. Bishop Jenky hopes that people of all faiths will stand up for religious liberty now before our freedoms are eroded.