No stumping our bishop on this Theology on Tap evening

Photo Caption: Bishop Jenky visits with the crowd at Kelleher’s Irish Pub during a “Stump the Bishop” evening July 27 concluding the Theology on Tap series.

By: By Terry Bibo

PEORIA — Depending upon the question, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, was affable, furious, philosophical or just plain funny last Wednesday.

But he was never stumped, or even off-put, by the dozen or more questions lobbed his way at this year’s final Peoria-area Theology on Tap at Kelleher’s Irish Pub.

“There is nothing you can ask me that is going to offend me,” Bishop Jenky told those who packed tables and booths at the back of the bar. “I spent a lot of time in college dorms.”

“Stump the Bishop” is always the most popular session in a well-attended monthlong series designed to help young adults connect with their faith, said coordinator Craig Dyke. Indeed, most of the crowd seemed to be in their 20s or early 30s, including a handful of seminarians.

“I always enjoy hearing what the bishop has to say,” said 22-year-old Michael Pica, who hopes to be ordained in five years, “God willing.”

And while it may be called Theology on Tap, the majority of the people who braved a sweltering July evening seemed to be drinking soda, not beer. They were a bit shy about asking questions until the bishop implored them to pitch in.

They started with softball: What were your most beautiful moments as a priest? (A: Most of them. “If people knew what a joy it is to be a priest, we’d have to build ten hundred thousand more seminaries.”)

What’s it like to belong to the Congregation of Holy Cross? (A: Great. “Have I mentioned I was at Notre Dame the last time they won a national championship? I’m a little fanatic about that subject.”)

What do you think of the upcoming changes to the Mass? (A: Theologically richer. “I would say it may take a week or two to adjust. Not you guys, you’ll get it immediately, it’s more trouble for your bishop . . . I am getting new glasses because I don’t think I can do it with the glasses I have.”

What’s the point of fasting if you can eat fish? (A: It’s an outward sign. “Some of it is arbitrary. I love fish. If I abstain from hamburger, but I’m having lobster, then. . .?”)

Then the bishop appealed to the crowd to try hardball.

“Get tougher! Craig this is the nicest — or the wimpiest — group ever,” he cracked.

But once they got in the game, the young crowd’s questions came straight down the middle: Who are the present-day Chosen People? (A: Israel and the Jews. “God does not break his promises . . . How could any Catholic be anti-Semitic?”)

Has the Holy See accepted responsibility for the priest scandal in Ireland? (A: Slowly. “No one understood 25 years ago . . . (The thinking was) ‘It shouldn’t happen, therefore it didn’t happen.’ Always a mistake.”)

How do you uphold traditional marriage, yet still be compassionate to the struggles of others? (A: Love. “It is never about prejudice. It is never about making people feel bad about themselves. Our teaching can not and will not change . . . . That does not mean we despise or demean or treat other people with disdain.”)

Breaking off on a tangent, the bishop had tough words for some authorities in Illinois who have cast doubt on the future of services supplied to thousands of foster children while the legislative intent of the state’s Freedom of Religion and Civil Unions Act is determined. Among other things, the bishop took umbrage at the implication the diocese makes money off these services.

“Out of the sacrificial giving of our parishes we MAKE UP for the state’s contribution that it is supposed to pay, but isn’t,” he thundered, pounding the podium for emphasis.

“We are not prejudiced about anybody. But don’t ask us to stop being Catholic,” the bishop said.

Returning to the running theme of love, he said those accused of pedophilia and other forms of child abuse should be treated with mercy — but treated. He believes the Catholic Church has been unfairly targeted, partly because it is more difficult to get information about multiple smaller denominations, but the problem of child abuse is real and should be addressed.

“You have to have compassion for even the worst crimes, but you cannot tolerate it,” he said. “Not in the classroom. Not in the sanctuary. Nowhere.”

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