Connecticut moving to regulate the Catholic Church?

posted at 8:11 am on March 9, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

According to the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause, the government has no business dictating to religious organizations how they should structure themselves.  In Connecticut, though, some lawmakers seem to have skipped over the Constitution.   A new bill will require Catholic parishes and dioceses — and only Catholics — to organize their parish leadership in a way that pleases the Connecticut legislature (via The Corner):

The Lawlor-and-McDonald-controlled Judiciary Committee has introduced Raised Bill 1098, a bill aimed specifically at the Catholic Church, which would remove the authority of the bishop and pastor over individual parishes and put a board of laymen in their place. You can read Rep. Lawlor’s defense of this bill, Bridgeport Bishop William Lori’s response and more here.

We need as big a turnout as possible for the public hearing on Wednesday, especially from non-Catholics. As Ben Franklin told the Founders while they were signing the Declaration of Independence, “either we hang together or we will all hang separately.” Legislators need to understand that this bill is an attack on everyone’s religious liberty.

Lest you think this is a joke, American Papist has Lawlor’s response to criticism.  He admits that the state legislature wants to dictate the structure of this volunteer organization, but says he’s got his reasons:

… the current state statutes governing Roman Catholic corporations … were enacted in 1955. SB 1098 is a proposal to make changes in that law, which was suggested by parishioners who were the victims of theft of their funds in several parishes, and these parishioners feel that the state’s existing Roman Catholic Corporate laws prevented them from dealing with the misuse and theft of funds.

I agree with you that the whole notion of having a statute governing the church seems like an intrusion on the separation of church and state, but the current law does that already. Perhaps we should repeal the whole thing, but if we are going to have a corporate law of this type, it probably should make sure there cannot be deception of parishioners.

It more than seems like an intrusion on separation of church and state, Mr. Lawlor.  It’s the real deal.  The church’s defenders note that the state legislature in Connecticut currently runs on a $1.5 billion deficit and hardly has any room to talk about how private organizations handle their money.  But even apart from the hypocrisy, fraud and theft laws already apply to religious organizations.  If theft or fraud occurred, then parishioners already have recourse in the law.  “Misuse”, though, is an awfully broad lever for government intervention in a religious organization’s hierarchy.  No one collects donations to a parish at the barrel of a gun, unlike the state legislature.  If parishioners don’t like the way a parish spends its money, they can find another parish or simply stop donating money to the one they attend.

The bill itself is a piece of work:

(a) A corporation may be organized in connection with any Roman Catholic Church or congregation in this state, by filing in the office of the Secretary of the State a certificate signed by the archbishop or bishop and the vicar-general of the archdiocese or of the diocese in which such congregation is located and the pastor and two laymen belonging to such congregation, stating that they have so organized for the purposes hereinafter mentioned. [Such archbishop or bishop, vicar-general and pastor of such congregation and, in case of the death or other disability of the archbishop or bishop, the administrator of the archdiocese or diocese for the time being, the chancellor of the archdiocese or diocese and the pastor of such congregation shall be members, ex officio, of such corporation, and, upon their death, resignation, removal or preferment, their successors in office shall become such members in their stead. The two lay members shall be appointed annually, in writing, during the month of January from the lay members of the congregation by a majority of the ex-officio members of the corporation; and three members of the corporation, of whom one shall be a layman, shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business.]

(b) The corporation shall have a board of directors consisting of not less than seven nor more than thirteen lay members. The archbishop or bishop of the diocese or his designee shall serve as an ex-officio member of the board of directors without the right to vote.

In other words, bishops would no longer have power over the actions of the parishes.  That’s the Connecticut legislature’s vision of Roman Catholicism, but in America, government doesn’t get to structure religious organizations to suit itself.  That, in fact, is a form of fascism that we routinely decry in other countries.  The State Department objects to China’s insistence on picking Catholic bishops itself to suit their political oppression of religion, and Lawlor’s motion would find a welcome in Beijing as another means to the same end: state control of Catholicism.

And why only the Catholic Church?  If Lawlor wanted to improve the lives of Connecticut residents, why not impose this structure on every religious organization?  I thought we’d fought the Know-Nothing anti-Catholic bigotry battles a long time ago, but apparently Lawlor is a nostalgic bigot as well as a fascist.

What happens when a Catholic Church defies this order?  Does the legislature send the police to the parish to shut them down?  Toss the pastor in prison?

The people of Connecticut should instead act to remove the lunatics who reported this bill out of committee.  In the meantime, follow the links to see how you can get your voice heard on this un-American piece of legislation.

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Liberals soon will need to decide
1. stay with obama and the democraps and start wearing the new
Green SS obama uniforms

2. abandon obama and the democraps and join the resistance movement

yes you heard me right

We are now having to form our own resistance movment
Because everyone knows that obama and the dems
are more worried about Arresting
Americans who cling to their bibles and their guns
than the islami nazis who murdered 3000 amerians..

How much you wana bet obama and peloze want to regulate the catholic church so they can place bugs in the confessional booths..

Never mind the fact that across the street at your neiberhood mosque they are stock piling ak 47’s

No obama and the dems all want one thing

jcila on March 9, 2009 at 10:35 PM

Please keep in mind the Lutherans are defending the RCC. I have read pro posts from at least three other Lutherans in this thread and my fellow Missouri Synod Lutheran parishioners are also vocally concerned about this. We Lutherans got your backs, RCC brethren.

OmahaConservative on March 9, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Thank you OmahaCon. I joined this thread late, but genuinely appreciate your kind support. Our Catholic parish, in the early 80’s, attended (with many of other faiths) a wonderful seminar with Rev. Kenneth Hauck of the Missouri Synod. We began a Stephen Ministry of our own and opened many of our parish classes to members of other local churches, who then started their own programs. We trained over 100 people in our Catholic parish alone and it is still a vibrant and flourishing ministry.

Catholics and particularly MS Lutherans are truly, even if divided by dogma, bound together in this regard as faithful Christians.

marybel on March 9, 2009 at 10:42 PM

Can they regulate or establish an official state religion?

esblowfeld on March 9, 2009 at 6:32 PM

No, not since the passage of the 14th amendment:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The 14th is what requires the States to abide by the entire Constitution in their own laws. Prior to the 14th, your argument would have been correct.

unclesmrgol on March 9, 2009 at 11:17 PM

So am I.

Tomblvd on March 9, 2009 at 8:47 PM

Every bird his own turd.

unclesmrgol on March 9, 2009 at 11:20 PM

Usually, I try and not bring political issues into my church. But this…this is something I’ll be showing to my pastor, specifically requesting he ask our (non-Catholic) congregation to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’ll also ask that he start considering plans for if/when our church finds it necessary to go ‘underground’ in some capacity. Very seriously.

I haven’t got any resources to fight the looming tyranny with violence, but I’ve still got a healthy body and the ol’ noodle God gave me. Those are still good for something!

Dark-Star on March 9, 2009 at 11:22 PM

unclesmrgol on March 9, 2009 at 6:01 PM

I always enjoy reading your posts and I thank you for them. I understand what you are saying (the whole point of this thread) and I agree totally. Well said.

I was only responding about celibacy because tom said, “The very fact that Greek Orthodox churches don’t require celibacy, which was initially the exact same institution as the Catholic church, should suggest that it was a later addition, and certainly not part of the early church.”

It wasn’t a later addition. So I wanted to explain why for anyone reading here.

Thanks again and God bless you.

Elisa on March 9, 2009 at 11:24 PM

requesting he ask our (non-Catholic) congregation to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Dark-Star on March 9, 2009 at 11:22 PM

That really touches my heart and I’m sure many here feel the same way. Thank you.

Prayer is the most important weapon. We must all pray daily for God’s help in this battle.

Elisa on March 9, 2009 at 11:26 PM

Elisa on March 9, 2009 at 11:26 PM

Thank you. I disagree quite strongly with some Catholic doctrine and practices, but just reading about 1098 is making my heart pump ice water. This is the kind of horror that begins with ‘oversight’ and ends with reeducation camps, torture, and a hundred different kinds of tyranny.

Dark-Star on March 9, 2009 at 11:31 PM

The relevant passage against a requirement for celibacy would be 1 Tim 4:1-6, where a warning is given against those “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.”

tom on March 9, 2009 at 7:47 PM

A priest may marry in the Eastern Rite, and in the Latin Rite may marry if he leaves the priesthood. There is no forbidding. One of my brothers-in-law has an ex-priest as his father. And the phrase is not “commanding to abstain from meats” but instead abstaining from foods God created to be received with thanksgiving. The Tradition of abstainance from meat one day a week during Lent is there to remind us of how Jesus fed the multitude, as well as to remind us of our obligation to the poor. These acts are not the doings of demons in the last days as Timothy would put it.

In fact, not abstaining is not a sin, and in fact the Church states that one must NOT do so if it would result in damage to one’s health.

We do many things under Tradition to remind ourselves of what Jesus went through for us. The Stations of the Cross, Mass, the Sacraments — all these things are rooted in Jesus’ acts during his life. None of them are forbidden by the Bible — they stand next to the Bible as visible discriminators of God’s People from any other. Every Sign of the Cross takes us back into the Catacombs to remember the day when being a Christian meant the possibility of death (as, in some parts of the world, it still does — imagine an ex-Muslim making the Sign of the Cross and you get the idea).

unclesmrgol on March 9, 2009 at 11:42 PM

tom on March 9, 2009 at 7:47 PM

The point of my post on celibacy was to show that it was an ancient practice,
that there are good reasons for it both in the 1st century and now,
that it is a good thing, not a bad thing and it helps the Church,
and that it doesn’t cause homosexuality, pedophilia or sex with adolescent boys (these things are found in very small percentages in the Catholic clergy, as well as in Protestant clergy, rabbis, teachers, coaches, etc.

It is not “mandated for all,” and it is a gift and vocation only for some. Those who are called by God to be Western/Roman Catholic priests. It is voluntary for a man to become a priest. They are not forced to and it is not necessary to their salvation. So they become celibates voluntarily and God gives them the graces they need, if they rely on Him.

1 Tim 4:1-6 is talking about the sects and cults in that day who had strange beliefs. Paul was warning Christians about in the future falling into heresy. The Gnostics heresies especially. They believed that everything physical was evil and only the spirit was good. This lead to 2 extremes that they would practice. Some of them thought that all sex was evil, even in marriage. Others were extremely promiscuous because they believed that anything they did with their bodies didn’t count. They also did not believe in the resurrection of the body. There were many Christian teachings that they changed and rejected and they were called heretics because of it.

There were also sects that thought that meat was evil and forbade eating it ever. Obviously that is not the same thing as periodic fasting from meat. Catholics are not forbidden to ever eat meat. lol And we are not taught meat is evil. (the fasting disciplines in the Eastern Catholic Churches are different and align with the fasts in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.) If the Church didn’t have disciplines on fasting in order to shepherd the flock for their own wellbeing, how many Catholics would fast? Probably as many as the small number of Protestants who fast. Jesus fasted and the Bible says it is a good thing. Hand in hand with prayer. And we gain a powerful spiritual benefit from it.

The Church doesn’t “forbid marriage,” as that passage warns against. That scripture passage does not apply to the Catholic Church. Because a man becomes a priest voluntarily.

It is not “mandatory” for all Catholics. Obviously you know the faithful are all allowed to marry. Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church and considered a sacred vocation. And it is only a discipline for the priests in the Western Church. The priests of the various Eastern Catholic Churches, fully Catholic, can be married.

Jesus was fully man and fully God. There are a lot of things that Jesus did as a man, that God doesn’t do. Sex in marriage is not sinful and it would not have been if Jesus married. He had reasons why He chose not to. Some we can speculate on and others are far above our abilities to understand right now. But I’m sure we can all agree it was a good decision on His part. Knowing human nature the way we do and what men would do to Jesus’ physical descendents, either making them God or killing them.

God bless you, tom, and good night.

Elisa on March 10, 2009 at 12:16 AM

Thanks, unclesmrgol. Didn’t see your post before I posted my last one.

and I love making the sign of the cross. :) I think I do it a dozen times a day. (trying my best to “pray unceasingly”) Like you said, this is from the catacomb days of the Church, an ancient Christian practice.

For those reading here who never read this around 200 AD Tertullian wrote:

“We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross” and

“In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our forehead with the sign of the cross.”

Elisa on March 10, 2009 at 12:24 AM

What a surprise — two gay liberal Obama Party legislators putting up a bill designed specifically to punish and emasculate the Roman Catholic Church.

People, if you want to know what the motivation of the gay left is and what they intend to do, it’s all right here. Make your decisions accordingly.

northdallasthirty on March 10, 2009 at 1:27 AM

Let Conn try it. Go ahead-pass a law which will be struck down by the state Supreme Court.
If this is what it takes for people to wake up and realize how dangerous Obama and the Dems are to their Freedoms…sign the bill! Make it law, and stir up the electorate which will boot you out of power!

Doug on March 10, 2009 at 3:39 AM

Mt favorite comment from this thread –

One thing I love about being Catholic is how all of the right people hate us.

Notice how they’ve not gone after all religious institutions – then they would have to include Judaism and Islam – two groups they don’t want to tangle with.

I see this as an attempt to dictate policy within the church, not doctrine. If you dictate where the money goes, you are subverting the doctrine. And if you bankrupt and/or cause them to divert funding from programs the church, as they fund the legal fights against all these attacks, you’ve also won.

The Catholics are first because of the recent demonization of the church by the MSM – cause we’re all pedophiles, ya’ know.

I say we “hang together”.

gopmom on March 10, 2009 at 10:30 AM

The primary thing that makes a Baptist church part of the Southern Baptist convention is their voluntary contribution to the Southern Baptist convention’s cooperative giving programs.

tom on March 9, 2009 at 4:07 PM

I guess you missed reading my whole post, not unusual when someone is so invested in making his point, you ignore the real arguments.
First, you admit that most churches are part of a hierarchy…you may call a pastor, but that pastor is placed on a call list by whom? Your “master” organization, whether it is a synod, or university, or “convention”.
Second, to be a Christian church, you must mission…if not then you are not following Christ.
So in a mission, you support other churches, financially, and spiritually, and with your expertise…you become a mother church. If that doesn’t happen, you don’t set up or support mission churches, then why are you there?
You can bark all you want, but you must sit down and look at your Southern Baptist roots, if a Southern Baptist minister started doing terrible things, the Southern Baptists would step in and force him out…or remove the charter, get it the charter. Your church couldn’t be a Southern Baptist…try using that name in a commercial without their consent.
Name me your Southern Baptist church that is independent and not in any way related to the “system”.
You’re welcome for the education…

right2bright on March 10, 2009 at 10:58 AM

Elisa on March 10, 2009 at 12:16 AM

I love the Catholics, but this priest thing not be able to be married is one thing I just can’t cope with.
No where does it say, in the bible, that one should be celibate.
I don’t know it if encourages “wrong” actions, I suspect it does in some way.
Popes were married, Popes had children, but now it isn’t right?
But then I can hardly understand why women can’t have leadership roles in most churches…just because Paul had a problem.
But the strangest thing of all is why a Politician would even think of identifying a specific church and make laws against them…that really makes no sense. It shows they have no idea of how their constituents really live.

right2bright on March 10, 2009 at 11:06 AM

Holy Catholic SH**!

As a school teacher reading this article for the first time today, I am without words other than the profanity expressed above.

Are they coming for our guns this Wednesday or next?

mathscience41 on March 10, 2009 at 8:49 PM

What happens when a Catholic Church defies this order? Does the legislature send the police to the parish to shut them down? Toss the pastor in prison?

NOTA. In the unlikely event that a law like this one passed constitutional muster at all, the only practical effect would be that a parish created in violation of the statute would be disregarded as a corporate entity, which could come in handy for any plaintiff lawyer looking to sue the Vatican over the misdeeds of an individual priest.

Xrlq on March 11, 2009 at 10:44 PM