I've been away from my computer and the outside world for three days, so am trying to catch up on a number of things, including the news. The one piece of news that jumps out is the incredible and audacious assault on the Catholic Church by the State of Connecticut. Hopefully you already know about this story, but just in case, here are the basics from Catholic News Agency:
"If this bill were to be enacted, your bishop, would have virtually, virtually no real relationship with the 87 parishes…they could go off independently, some of them could break off from the Church if they wished, and go their own way as has happened, for example, with the Episcopal Church. And the pastors would be figureheads, simply working for a board of trustees," Bishop Lori explained at a meeting of Catholic school principals.
The bill, which was introduced last Thursday by the chairs of the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, Senator Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Representative Michael Lawlor of East Haven, attempts to radically restructure the way that the state allows the Catholic Church to incorporate.
Both lawmakers, who are prominent homosexuals, have been vociferous advocates of same-sex marriage in Connecticut and have spoken out against the Catholic Church’s opposition to both civil unions and same-sex marriage.
(UPDATE: Here is a link to the proposed bill, PDF format.) So much for the sacred "separation of Church and State." So much for the benign and supposedly high-minded intentions of "same sex marriage" zealots. The aim, it seems quite evident, is to strip the bishop of all power and to eventually take over control of the finances and properties of the Catholic Church in Connecticut.
And yet, the bill is strikingly similar to the dissident group Voice of the Faithful’s guidelines for working to change the structure of the Church.
Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport reacted to the legislation, calling it "a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.
"The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church," Bishop Lori stated.
The head of the Church in Bridgeport pointed out that the bill "is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion."
An essential source of more information about this bill is the "Fight 1098" page created by the Diocese of Bridgeport. It has links and breaking news, as well as video of Bishop William E. Lori talking about the bill and what can be done to fight it.
Tom Hoopes of National Catholic Register has additional information and links.
The Catholic Key blog argues that the bill is part of a game plan created, in part, by the dissident group "Voice of the Faithful."
Senator Michael McLachlan (R), responds to the bill:
This legislation seeks to eliminate bishops and pastors from all financial decisions of the Church. Currently, local parish corporations are governed by the bishop, diocesan administrator, pastor and two lay trustees as required in Canon Law. Senate Bill 1098 will change this to an elected board of directors of seven to thirteen lay members and will exclude the bishop and pastor. The pastor of the parish corporation will report to the board of directors.
This proposal turns the Catholic Church of Connecticut into a congregational church structure. The proponents claim this is necessary because of financial impropriety of two pastors from Darien and Greenwich in the past several years. McDonald and Lawlor claim the parishioners approached them for assistance making changes to the Catholic Church to hold the bishops accountable for their decisions.
Some would say this is an incredibly bold move by McDonald and Lawlor but the constitutional scholars say their proposal is a clear attack on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Republican Party of Connecticut has released a statement, which reads in part:
"Democrats have crossed the line between church and state," said Healy. "Mike Lawlor and Andrew McDonald are now saying that the state knows best when it comes to being church member. Every citizen of Connecticut, no matter what faith, should be frightened by this legislation."