Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of the Catholic diocese of Peoria, Illinois, likened President Obama to Adolf Hilter and Joseph Stalin, along with past French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, on Sunday while condemning Obama’s “radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda.” He said that Catholics in America are in a “war” as a result of the administration’s mandate for religiously-based institutions to cover contraceptives, and compared politicians who back the mandate to Judas Iscariot.
For 2,000 years the enemies of Christ have certainly tried their best. But think about it. The Church survived and even flourished during centuries of terrible persecution, during the days of the Roman Empire.
Well, for sheer BS the good bishop is beyond compare. Centuries of persecution? Seriously? The Pagan Roman empire only lasted until the reign of Constantine – three centuries after Jesus’ execution in 30 CE. Like so many Christians, he wants to believe these were centuries of unremitting persecution of the Church. The trouble is, history doesn’t support this claim.
There are two presuppositions made of the so-called persecutions. These are that 1) the persecutions took place, and 2) that they were unjustified. In other words, that the Christians were persecuted not because they broke any laws but simply because they were Christians.The question is often asked, “Why did the Romans persecute the Christians?” and “why did the persecutions fail?” but perhaps a better question would be “Did the Romans persecute the Christians?” And perhaps as a corollary, we might ask, “in what ways might Christianity have found itself in conflict with Roman law and the imperial authorities?”
The answer to our first question is that there is very little evidence that the Romans did persecute the Christians. Thomas Jefferson noticed this fact, as any person not slave to blind faith would, that “had not the Roman government permitted free enquiry Christianity could never have been introduced.”
Modern scholars agree. Maurice Sartre points out that “The spread of Christianity did not encounter any pronounced opposition from the Roman authorities, except in brief and violent crises…In general…until the middle of the third century we find no general persecution. On the contrary, like other members of Christian community, bishops were able to lead their lives quite openly.” In other words, as Sartre elsewhere notes, “until the general persecution under Decius in the third century, there is no evidence that Christians were subject to harassment or oppression.”
The so-called Decian persecution, usually seen as the first empire-wide persecution, was not aimed specifically at Christians at all, but at all those seen as subversive malcontents and that the only possibility of a “real” persecution of Christians came quite late, during the reign of Diocletian and for that our sources are so muddled and tendentious that it is difficult to know what to make of them. So even then the form it took (if it happened at all) is far from cut and dried, as our apologists would have us believe.
Sartre is seconded by J.E.A. Crake: “As most scholars recently have argued, there was no law, either existing section of criminal law, or special legislation directed against the Christians, under which Christians were prosecuted in the first two centuries.” In other words, where Christians ran afoul of the law it was because they were guilty of criminal offenses and prosecuted just as any other criminal would have been. The fact that they just happened to be Christians was entirely beside the point. The so-called persecutions were just another Christian myth and the so-called martyrs nothing but criminals according to the already existing laws of the land. Christianity was allowed to establish itself and to grow unfettered and unhampered by the Roman authorities.
Acts presents Roman officials as being uniformly neutral if not outright friendly towards Paul; nor are they presented as being in any way opposed to the Jewish Community.  As T.D. Barnes notes, “no Roman official in the Acts of the Apostles regards Christianity as a punishable offence, still less as an offence which has been the object of recent legislation.”
The Christian scholar Origen, living in the third century (whose teachings were later condemned as heretical, by the way), would be surprised by the bishop’s claims: he has little to say about any persecutions, saying only that “a few, whose number could be easily enumerated, have died occasionally for the sake of the Christian religion,” and Eusebius satisfies himself with the remark that Nero was “the first of the emperors who showed himself to be an enemy of the divine religion” but makes no mention of “multitudes” of believers suffering martyrdom. In other words, the silence from the early Christian sources is deafening.
So a few – a very few years of persecution at the hands of Rome. In return, the Christian church persecuted Pagans for centuries without let up, first in the Mediterranean where pockets of Paganism were still being ferreted out in the 10th and 11th centuries, and then into Western, Northern, and finally Eastern Europe, and finally the Middle East with the Crusades. These persecutions, too, lasted centuries.
The Church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of Jihads. The Church survived the age of revolution. The Church survived Nazism and Communism. And in the power of the resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry.
The Church didn’t have to survive barbarian invasions. Most of the barbarians, including the dreaded Vandals who sacked Augustine’s Hippo and the Goths who sacked Rome, were Christians already. The truth is that it was the barbarians who failed to survive contact with the church, which wiped them out with apostolic glee, killing them in he tens of thousands when they refused to convert.
And after forcing everybody in the empire to become good orthodox Christians over a period of some 200 years, an event that can only be described as a holy war against Pagans and heretics and Jews, the Church has very little right to complain about a holy war (jihad) directed against it. The Muslims didn’t invent the idea, after all. And the truth is, after centuries of persecution, even the Christians welcomed the Muslims as liberators. And who wouldn’t? The Muslims didn’t care about what kind of Christian they were – they were all taxed equally.
May God have mercy especially on the souls of those politicians who pretend to be Catholic in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.
Since Judas was, theologically speaking, doing God’s will, isn’t this more of a compliment than an insult? Perhaps the good bishop should brush up on his theology as well as his history.
After comparing Obama to Judas, Bishop Jenky launches again into the persecuted Christian meme:
As Christians we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, but as Christians we must also stand up for what we believe and be ready to fight to defend our faith. The days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism. We can no longer be Catholics by accident, but instead be Catholics by conviction.
Nobody is persecuting you, Bishop. It is you, rather, who wish to persecute us, depriving us of needed healthcare, even if it means our death, because you say your beliefs have more value than ours. But he isn’t about to stop there:
In our own families, in our parishes, where we live and where we work – like that very first apostolic generation – we must be bold witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We must be a fearless army of Catholic men, ready to give everything we have for the Lord, who gave everything for our salvation.
Remember that in past history other governments have tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches like those first disciples before the Resurrection locked together in the Upper Room.
This is really just too much. Actually, it’s usually the rest of us hiding from Christians. Check out the history books, Bishop Jenky. Really. Christianity has spent far more time being the persecutor than the persecuted.
He finally arrives at his ultimate comparisons:
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.
No mention, eh, of Hitler being a tithe-paying Catholic till the day he died, never excommunicated by your precious Pope?
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, President Obama – with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
Now things have come to such a pass in our beloved country that this is a battle that we could lose, but before the awesome judgement seat of Almighty God this is not a war where any believing Catholic may remain neutral.
This is completely over the top. Bishop Jenky, like his fundamentalist allies, insist that his rights of belief outweigh our rights, but they do not. Healthcare is not a religious issue – it is a healthcare issue. If Jenky wants to impose his religious beliefs on the rest of us he is in clear violation of the First Amendment, which forbids the government from favoring one set of religious beliefs over another. The best solution to the problem would be for the Catholic Church, if it doesn’t like taking care of people, to get out of the healthcare industry and stick to churches, but I suppose that would interfere with their God-given right to get ungodly rich at the expense of the people they’re supposed to be ministering to.
 For example, W.H.C. Frend, “The Failure of the Persecutions in the Roman Empire,” Past and Present 16 (1959), 10-30.
 Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 265.
 Maurice Sartre, The Middle East Under Rome (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 338.
 Sartre (2005), 298.
 J.E.A. Crake, “Early Christians and Roman Law” Phoenix, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Spring, 1965), 70.
 Gallio, proconsul ofAchaea defended Paul against accusations made by Jews inCorinth, Sergius Paulus, proconsul ofCyprus is portrayed as converting and finally when Paul is attacked by the Jewish mob inJerusalem it is a Roman tribune who saves him. Nor are the Roman governors willing to try him. This is hardly a hostile picture of Christianity’s first three decades. (cite passages)
 T.D. Barnes, “Legislation against the Christians.” The Journal of Roman Studies 58, Parts 1 and 2 (1968), 33.
 Origen, Contra Celsum 3.8.
 Eusebius, EH 2.25.