Father Miscamble Defends Bishop Jenky

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Father Wilson Miscamble, a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross and a history professor at Notre Dame defends Bishop Jenky from the attacks of members of the Notre Dame faculty:

Do you know Bishop Jenky?

I do, indeed. He’s, of course, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross,  and I’ve known him since I came to the order as a seminarian 30 years ago. He’s  a terrific priest and a great bishop.


Have you worked with him closely?

He was the rector of Sacred Heart Basilica in my younger days as a priest  here on campus and was the superior of the Holy Cross community here during my  early days on campus. That was in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when I was part  of the community of which he was local superior.

But then he was taken away from us and made auxiliary bishop here in Fort  Wayne-South Bend, and then was made bishop of Peoria about 10 years ago. So, for  the last 15 years or so, I’ve seen him periodically. He comes back to visit, and  so on.


What do you think of this brouhaha over his remarks?

I have found the reaction of my faculty colleagues quite embarrassing — embarrassing because these academics disgracefully misused Bishop Jenky’s words  by taking them out of context. It has been a little disappointing, to say least.  Bishop Jenky was making remarks about the religious-liberty issue, and some of  my colleagues implied that Bishop Jenky was suggesting that President Obama was  on his way to adopting the entire Hitler-Stalin agenda. It’s a  mischaracterization that is unworthy of supposedly serious scholars.


You’re a historian, albeit your specialty is American history.

I am a historian, and I challenge the signatories to this letter criticizing  Bishop Jenky to point to one part of his homily that is historically  inaccurate.


Is he historically accurate?

Absolutely. By the way, Bishop Jenky was a history major when he was an  undergraduate here at Notre Dame. He’s read quite a bit of history in his day.  And he is a good student of it.


Why do you think they would take his remarks out of context?

Well, this is to engage in speculation, and I probably shouldn’t go down  this path myself; one should be cautious. But I think this very poorly crafted letter says  more about the rather predictable and ideological bias of the signatories than  it does about Bishop Jenky’s courageous homily.


But do you feel that he might have overstepped any kind of line?


No. His homily was a courageous homily which pointed to a pattern of  behavior of a number of regimes to limit religious freedom and to attack  religious institutions.


Go here to read the rest of the interview at the National Catholic Register.  I like Father Miscamble’s use of the phrase “rather predictable and ideological bias” which sums up not only what is wrong at Notre Dame but throughout most of American academia.  Academia purportedly is about the pursuit of knowledge.  Instead, today most academics seem to be chiefly concerned about ideological purity and attacking ideas that offend their preconceived prejudices.  This is a direct betrayal of the very purpose of higher education and is part of a goal of too many in academia to replace education with indoctrination.



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  1. God bless Bp. Jenky. Its great to see courageous bishops speaking up in defence of the Church and people, and what is right.
    We are due for a new bishop in our diocese this year, by September all going well.
    Most of the NZ bishops (6 of the 7) are quite liberal – affected with the liberalism that came post V2. Ealier this year, probably the most liberal Bp. of Palmerston North diocese retired, and the new bishop had spent time at the Vatican, writing some of B XVI homilies – he is good and orthodox.
    Our bishop, Dennis Brown, is a good man but quite liberal, and was preventing our younger priests who wished to do the Traditional Latin Mass from doing so – that has recently changed, and we have the TLM in our parish once a month. Only a few attend, but the number is growing slowly. As an institued Acolyte, I enjoy serving at Mass, and its amazing how quickly the Latin has come back to me from my youth as an alter boy, and my 5 years of Latin at college.
    Rumour has it that our new bishop is one of Cdl.George Pell’s auxiliaries, from Sydney, Australia. He is quite an academic – has written several books, and is strong on Catholic education and proper evangelisation – both of which are desperately needed in our diocese. It’ll also be interesting to have an Aussie bishop – but he follows rugby, instead of rugby league, so that’s a point in his favour 🙂
    Time will tell, fingers crossed.

  2. It just occured to me: he’s one of the very few Latin Rite bishops sporting a beard. As a fellow member of the Fraternity of Facial Fur I’ll bet it’s the beard that makes him brave!

  3. Greg, he is a great jovial bear of a man with a loud booming laugh. I have always thought of him as Friar Tuck come to life, and recent events have underlined that thought for me. Prince John of course is obvious!

  4. I’m just thinking… Bishop Jenky was right in pointing out the murderous regimes that denied religious freedom to their citizens. I would like to see the ND signatories point out all of the instances in the 20th century when religious freedom was denied in a country and other freedoms increased. There is a reason why those who want to take all of our freedoms need first to silence religion, especially Christianity. They need to silence the country’s conscience.

  5. This is a direct betrayal of the very purpose of higher education and is part of a goal of too many in academia to replace education with indoctrination. <<< Well said! How disingenuous for supposedly learned professors to indoctrinate rather than educate intelligent students. Anyone's assumption that they can is hysterically funny and…for this parents are expected to pay handsomely? The leaning heavily on an institution's reputation while not meritoriously adding to it is one successful way of stealing, is it not?

  6. “I have always thought of him as Friar Tuck come to life”

    Looks to me like he’d make a great Santa Claus… come to think of it, the real St. Nick WAS a bishop!

  7. Well, Don, beardliness is often a sign joviality.

    On a more serious note, I hope he starts talking about the importance of subsidiarity and its direct impact regarding the whole HHS mandate issue. I know I have played this like a broken record, but unless Catholics understand this principle and our bishops start articulating it, we might as well surrender to lord Barry O right now. Paul Ryan’s injecting it right in the middle of the whole economic problem (a stroke of brilliance on more than one level) gives us and them a golden opportunity. Unfortunately, Ryan is already getting blow back from some individual bishops and apparatchiks in the USCCB.

    Now is the time that we as Catholic faithful citizens take back our responsibility to help our neighbors in need and push back against federal usurpation. And the bishops need to lead that fight.

  8. The Church in this country Greg got way too comfortable with Caesar and Caesar’s coin. I trust now that most of the bishops understand what Church history tells us over and over again that Caesar is never to be completely trusted and that the more the Church depends upon Caesar the weaker the Church becomes.

  9. The problem is Don that all indications thus far point to the opposite of what you are saying and that the bishops still don’t get it. I think your trust is misplaced. By the way, it isn’t Ceaser’s coin that’s getting wasted by greasing the palms of political cronies, it’s ours, especially the most productive among us.

  10. What evidence are you speaking of. Can you provide any documentation? Give me one quote from one bishop who says ANYTHING regarding the importance of subsidiarity, especially as it applies to the HHS problem? The only thing we find is had wringing about religious liberty, an important issue, but that’s beside the point. Documentation as to my assertions are plentiful in that you have some bishops as well as USCCB mouthpieces already going after Ryan’s legitimate proposals.

  11. Archbishop Naumann and Bishop Finn in 2009:

    “This notion that health care ought to be determined at the lowest level rather than at the higher strata of society, has been promoted by the Church as “subsidiarity.” Subsidiarity is that principle by which we respect the inherent dignity and freedom of the individual by never doing for others what they can do for themselves and thus enabling individuals to have the most possible discretion in the affairs of their lives. (See: Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, ## 185ff.; Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1883) The writings of recent Popes have warned that the neglect of subsidiarity can lead to an excessive centralization of human services, which in turn leads to excessive costs, and loss of personal responsibility and quality of care.

    Pope John Paul II wrote:

    “By intervening directly and depriving society of its responsibility, the Social Assistance State leads to a loss of human energies and an inordinate increase of public agencies, which are dominated more by bureaucratic ways of thinking than by concern for serving their clients, and which are accompanied by an enormous increase in spending.” (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus #48)

    And Pope Benedict writes:

    “The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person—every person—needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. … In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est #28)

    While subsidiarity is vital to the structure of justice, we can see from what the Popes say that it rests on a more fundamental principal, the unchanging dignity of the person. The belief in the innate value of human life and the transcendent dignity of the human person must be the primordial driving force of reform efforts.”


  12. Bishop Aquila in 2009:

    “There is a danger in being persuaded to think that the national government is the sole instrument of the common good. Rather, according to the classic principle of subsidiarity in Catholic social thought, many different communities within society share this responsibility,” Aquila wrote. “These various strands of community life within society build up a strong and cohesive social fabric that is the hallmark of a true communion of persons.

    “States, towns, fraternal organizations, businesses, cooperatives, parishes and especially the family have not only legitimate freedom to provide the goods they are rightly capable of supplying, but often times do so with far greater efficiency, less bureaucracy and, most importantly, with personalized care and love.”


  13. Bishop Doran of Rockford in my state:

    “4. The fourth principle is subsidiarity which commands us to seek the most effective approach to solving the problem. Our federal bureaucracy is a vast wasteland strewn with the carcasses of absurd federal programs which proved infinitely worse than the problems they were established to correct. It perhaps is too extreme to say that competent government is an oxymoron, but sometimes it seems that way. The moral principal of subsidiarity implies decreasing the role of government and employers in health care when lower order groups can better serve individuals and families. We need to think of health care as more of a market than a system.

    The Catholic Medical Association has warned that: “The clear historical experience in the United States assures that a unitary, or a single payer, system of health care financing and administration would profoundly subvert the sanctity of human life” (from the Association’s publication, “Health Care in America: A Catholic Proposal for Renewal” in Linacre Quarterly, 2004, available at http://www.cathmed.org/publications/health%20CARE.pdf).

    It was observed by the ancients that usually the problem with totalitarian governments is not that they do not love their people; the problem seems to be that they love them too much — they just do not trust them. To establish control, these governments have always tried to control food. Remember why Jacob’s sons went down to Egypt in the Book of Exodus. But since homo sapiens is an omnivore, this proves increasingly difficult.

    Modern socialist governments like to control not food but the means to protect and extend life. Some have called the current efforts of our federal government “senioricide” or “infanticide.” That perhaps is too severe, but we as Catholics should take care that health care does not morph into life control.”


  14. First of all, Don. These quotes from these bishops are from 2009. None of them are recent regarding the present crisis. But yet, you will find that the bishops, as we are seeing with their attacks on Paul Ryan, try to undermine any even modest attempt to put into practice what the quotes from Bp Aquila speaks of. Nice try though.

  15. Bishop Nickless:

    “Third, in that category of prudential judgment, the Catholic Church does not teach that government should directly provide health care. Unlike a prudential concern like national defense, for which government monopolization is objectively good — it both limits violence overall and prevents the obvious abuses to which private armies are susceptible — health care should not be subject to federal monopolization. Preserving patient choice (through a flourishing private sector) is the only way to prevent a health care monopoly from denying care arbitrarily, as we learned from HMOs in the recent past.

    While a government monopoly would not be motivated by profit, it would be motivated by such bureaucratic standards as quotas and defined “best procedures,” which are equally beyond the influence of most citizens. The proper role of the government is to regulate the private sector, in order to foster healthy competition and to curtail abuses. Therefore any legislation that undermines the viability of the private sector is suspect. Private, religious hospitals and nursing homes, in particular, should be protected, because these are the ones most vigorously offering actual health care to the poorest of the poor.

    The best way in practice to approach this balance of public and private roles is to spread the risks and costs of health care over the largest number of people. This is the principle underlying Medicaid and Medicare taxes, for example. But this principle assumes that the pool of taxable workers is sufficiently large, compared to those who draw the benefits, to be reasonably inexpensive and just.

    This assumption is at root a pro-life assumption! Indeed, we were a culture of life when such programs began. Only if we again foster a culture of life can we perpetuate the economic justice of taxing workers to pay health care for the poor. Without a growing population of youth, our growing population of retirees is outstripping our distribution systems. In a culture of death such as we have now, taxation to redistribute costs of medical care becomes both unjust and unsustainable.”


  16. “Nice try though.”

    Nice attempt not to admit Greg that you were speaking in ignorance after I cited chapter and verse. Religious liberty is the key argument against the HHS mandate, but more than a few bishops were arguing against ObamaCare on the grounds of subsidiarity. I could go on citing several more, but you would simply pooh-pooh those too.

  17. Notice the obscurity of these bishops you are quoting. None of these are well-known. I will admit that I was speaking a bit too broad brushedly. However, the overwhelming number of the most influential bishops, other than then-Bp Lori of Brideport, Conn., actually seemed to support Obamacare, sans the abortion coverage. In fact, Cdl. George, who was president of the USCCB at the time of the Obamacare debate, urged republicans to support the version of Obamacare that contained the Stupak amendment.

    But my main assertion that the bishops, in practice, still don’t get it as far as the where the real problem here lies stands on solid ground.

    Where are these very same bishops reiterating these statements in light of recent events? Yes, religious liberty is the most serious violation here, but this would not have come about if the bishops have spoken half as loudly for subsidiarity as they did for big government interference in the economic sphere. And the bishops need to speak, and speak very loudly, to that point.

    Furthermore, do not be surprised if you find statements from these very same bishops supporting taxpayer funded welfare for illegal aliens or similar things like that. Square tht with the principle of subsidiarity.

  18. P.S. I would love to be absolutely dead wrong about what I say about the bishops not getting it. But I am afraid it seems I’m not.

  19. If one may dodge this pissing match and return (sort of) to the subject: I wonder if the Notre Dame signers would, back in the day, have showered praise on the many, many, many German bishops who remained silent when Hitler did start encroaching on the liberties of the Church and did start enforcing public policies contrary to good morals.

  20. I wish Catholics would step back from their hysterical paranoia and read WHAT the Bishop said and analyze it to judge if it is correct:

    “Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care,” the bishop said at an annual Catholic men’s event in Peoria. “In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama — with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.”

    Is President Obama “intent on following a similar path”? Which path? “Barely tolerate some churches remaining open”? NOT true. “Not tolerate any competion with the state in education, social services and health care”? Also NOT true.

    Please – THINK before you write something. DON’T make a fool of yourself. Anyone in their right mind knows that the President is NOT tolerating and allowing only “some” churches to remain open. Likewise, he has NO desire or plan to restrict any [religious] “competion with the state in education, social services and health care”. You know that if he even attempted any of those actions the Supreme Court would prohibit it. The President is too intelligent and moral a man to do that.

    The Bishop was wrong to make those comparisons, and he should be man enough to admit it. For our part, we should be honest and sincere and criticize him for his mistake.

  21. From another thread when I answered Don Maswell when he made a similar statement:

    Don, argument is so much more convincing when one uses facts rather than bluster. Go to the link below where the Bishops cite chapter and verse:


    Go to the link below to read an address by Pope Benedict where he cites his concerns about religious freedom in the US:


    Go here for an explanation of the distinction between freedom of religion and freedom of worship:


  22. “The President is too intelligent and moral a man to do that.”


    Thanks for the morning laugh. The irony is also delicious, given that such a view of the man would naturally prejudice you and prevent you from being able to see all the ways in which he is pursuing a viciously anti-Catholic policy.

    Of course, as I said before, I’d liken him more to Bismarck than Hitler.

  23. As Don Maswell knows, when the entire section of the speech is presented rather than the truncated Hitler and Stalin section, it is clear what the Bishop is referring to:

    “Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like the first disciples locked up in the Upper Room.

    In the late 19th century, Bismark waged his “Kultur Kamp,” a Culture War, against the Roman Catholic Church, closing down every Catholic school and hospital, convent and monastery in Imperial Germany.

    Clemenceau, nicknamed “the priest eater,” tried the same thing in France in the first decade of the 20th Century.

    Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.

    In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.”

    We have already seen this in Illinois, Obama’s home state, where the State government has gotten the Catholic Church out of adoptions by mandating that homosexuals must be given an equal right to adopt. Other states have implemented legislation mandating the morning after pill be provided at Catholic hospitals. The HHS mandate is part of a pattern of liberal Democrats attempting to control what the Catholic Church does in direct defiance of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  24. (Guest comment from Don’s wife Cathy:) Bonchamps, Bismarck’s Kulturkampf probably would be a closer analogue to the current situation. However, I suspect most members of the general public probably only recognize “bismarck” as a type of filled doughnut. 🙂 (While on the other hand, everyone’s heard of Hitler, so his name tends to get invoked as “close enough,” even if some less well-known historical figure would make a better analogy with whichever politician is being criticized.)

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