What was at issue was The Connecticut Senate's S.B. 1098: a sweet little bill aimed at the Roman Catholic Church. If it had passed, the 'financial reform' would have stripped Catholic bishops and priests of their governing roles.
Henry VIII would have been proud.
It's a bit complicated, as things tend to be, but essentially the State of Connecticut wanted the Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut to stop having parishes directed by a board that includes the bishop, two clergy, and two lay people. The Connecticut legislature's bill replaced that Popish system with a parish board of seven to 13 democratically elected lay people.
Actually, "would have replaced" is more like it.
Just a Little History HereThe Roman Catholic Church, Connecticut, and being 100% American goes back a long way.
Connecticut's original 1866 state law on religious corporations demanded that all church boards, including Roman Catholics, be elected by congregations. Then, in 1902, the law was revised - but kept the congregational elections. Fine for 100% American churches, not so hot for a global outfit like the Roman Catholic Church. In 1903, the Bishop of Connecticut asked permission for church leaders to appoint the two lay members on each parish board.
That didn't go over too well.
"...At the time, the legislation had been approved by the General Assembly, but had been recalled for further debate, amid complaints from French-American congregations that it was 'un-American' because it would have concentrated power in the top church officials...." (TCP)
The Roman Catholic Church: Un-American?In a way, it's true: The Catholic Church is un-American. Most Catholics aren't Americans. Our founder, Jesus, isn't even an American citizen. And, let's be honest here: the Roman Catholic Church isn't a democracy.
The Catholic Church isn't anti-American, though. As I wrote last year, part being a Catholic is to be a good citizen. Which, in my case, means being a good American citizen.
And, as an American citizen, I'm expected to participate intelligently and diligently in the decision-making process of this constitution-based federal republic, with its strong democratic tradition.
As far as I can tell, the Roman Catholic Church isn't partial toward democracy, or any other political system. The Church will deal with any form of government: all the Church asks is that the government do the right thing by the governed.
Nice Try, But Not This TimeConnecticut's Catholics paid attention when the bishop and priests filled them in on what was going down in Hartford. They raised a stink, and Connecticut's Senate has stopped defending the state from the Roman Catholic church. For now.
I think democracy is nice, and has its place. But, since nobody has to stay connected with the Roman Catholic Church, I don't see why we can't be allowed to run our church business the way the Roman Catholic Church runs its church business.
"Bridgeport, Conn., Mar 13, 2009 / 04:55 pm (CNA).- Declaring that the defense of religious liberty is 'genuine patriotism,' Bishop of Bridgeport William Lori has thanked the Catholics of Connecticut for helping derail a senate bill he called a 'legislative attack.' The bishop also rebuked the bill's sponsoring senator and said he has no business interfering with the Catholic Church or any other church...." (CNA) (emphasis mine)
I'm with Bishop Lori on the probable motive behind S.B. 1098 - Roman Catholics have been getting positively uppity, claiming that chopping up babies for parts isn't nice, for example.
No wonder the Connecticut Senate wanted to do something about those bothersome clerics.
I also agree with Bishop Lori's claim that the Connecticut political establishment's attempt to silence critics isn't over.
"...He said believers and citizens should remain 'alert' and 'on guard' against other legislation unfriendly to the Church or efforts to silence the Church on current issues.
" 'Religious freedom may have dodged a bullet, but the struggle isn't over. Other salvos are coming,' he warned, defending the constitutionality of existing Connecticut religious corporation statutes...."
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- "Elections and Citizenship, Catholic Style"
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- "How Catholics, bishops checkmated bill"
The Connecticut Post(March 14, 2009)
- "Bishop Lori thanks 'patriotic' Catholics for thwarting 'legislative attack' "
Catholic News Agency (March 13, 2009)
- "Catholics protest Connecticut church finance bill"
Reuters (March 11, 2009)
- "Connecticut Catholics Protest State Interference"
Zenit (English) (March 11, 2009)