Monday, March 9, 2009

UPDATE: Letter to Sen. Andrew McDonald and Rep. Michael Lawlor

Dear Senator McDonald and Representative Lawlor,

We write to you today very upset about Bill #1098 raised in the CT Judiciary Committee this past Thursday. This bill represents an unconstitutional attack that targets the Roman Catholic Church alone and threatens religious freedom for all. This bill was specifically written with one organization in mind and interferes with the internal governance of an autonomous religious body. Not only is it irresponsible that such a consequential bill was thrust upon the public with such short notice, but it seems that this legislation is one move in a hidden agenda that seeks to silence the voice of opposition to the immoral direction that our Legislative branch has taken in recent years. This bill, as you well know, if it passes, will create a confrontational relationship between the bishops, the pastors, and the lay faithful in the Catholic Church in Connecticut. While heralded as an attempt to afford more transparency in financial matters due to a small number of misappropriation cases, this bill goes far beyond any such apparent need and interferes with the very structure of authority and guidance for Catholic parishes. The state has no vested interest in this. There is no reason why the legislature of the State of CT should be interfering in this arena. Please be aware that this bill is not only an affront to all Catholics, but poses a frightening precedent for the freedom of other religious institutions. While the Catholic Church does not have elected officials, the State of CT does and we will oppose any representative who supports this unconstitutional bill.

cc: Rep. Kevin Ryan, Sen. Edith Prague, Gov. M. Jodi Rell

UPDATE: Rep. Ryan responded very cordially and then forwarded the press release of the cancellation of the hearing.

Below is the response I received from Gov. Rell's office. I have yet to get a response from Sen. McDonald or Rep. Lawlor.

Thank you for your correspondence to Governor Rell regarding Senate Bill 1098. The Governor appreciates the time you took to send your correspondence to her office. Please accept this response on her behalf.

Governor Rell believes that it is extremely important for citizens to voice their opinions to their elected officials. The Governor was pleased to hear the bill was pulled and stated the following: “The co-chairs absolutely made the right decision by canceling the public hearing on the bill. This proposal was blatantly unconstitutional, insensitive and inappropriate.”

Thank you again for sharing your comments and concerns with Governor Rell. Please do not hesitate to contact our office in the future, should the need arise.

Kelley Jacobson
Staff Assistant
Office of Governor M. Jodi Rell


Anonymous said...

I'm not clear exactly what this bill is trying to do. It sounds terrible, but I'm not clear.
They talk about corporations, do they mean the actual parishes? Churches aren't corporations, they are tax exempt, it sounds so bizzare to me. So they want lay people to handle all of the church's finances and not let the pastor have a say? Is that what this is? Most parishes have councils and discuss the budget and whatever needs the parish has.
How is that even right? How can the gov't interfere with religious organizations? Which way do they want it? They don't want religion interfering with them. This seems unconstitutional. I'm confused, but I'll pray for you guys. Strange times.

Mike in CT said...

Here is what I posted as a comment to another lady on Creative Minority Report yesterday:

From what I can see, this legislation is not "usurping" the authority of the bishop, just going around it.

As the Church has to deal with temporal issues like church buildings, capital assets, etc., there has to be a legal framework to regulate it. Currently, parishes have a board consisting of the bishop, the vicar-general, the pastor and two lay trustees. Day to day activities of the parish are led by the pastor who is aided by a finance committee or parish council. However, those bodies answer to the pastor, not the other way around.

Under this legislation, the bishop would be able to serve on the board, as would the pastor, but they would have no vote. In other words, they can "do their spiritual stuff," but the parish assets, payroll and other financial decisions would be completely decided by the lay board of trustees.

This would take away the bishop's authority to make final decisions about the parishes.

For instance, the lay board might decide to break off from the diocese. Or it may decide it doesn't like what the pastor has to say and move to stop paying his salary. Or they could move to sell off the rectory. Or they could operate the parish like a business, cutting off the charitable work that the parish does. Dare we even consider membership dues?

And the bishop and pastor would have no LEGAL authority to stop it.

You can

Anonymous said...

wow. ok, so what you say makes perfect sense. I read those articles Patty posted, it sounds like there was some embezzlement issues in a couple of parishes. But how would this stop further embezzlement? Yeah right, look at Enron! What are the guidleines already in place for religious organizations and non-profits when they have to deal with dishonesty? There have to be rules already in place and checks and balances. how does the gov't getting involved solve that problem?

From the points you make, it could create bigger ones.
Thanks for responding.
Keep us posted.
PS cute picture of the kids!