National Catholic Register

Opinion

3 Ways Connecticut Co-Opts the Church

BY The Editors

March 22-28, 2009 Issue | Posted 3/13/09 at 9:05 AM

 

Connecticut has begun a bizarre and aggressive war not so much to defeat the Church as to control the Church. There are three fronts in this war:

1) Parish control. The state Legislature’s Judiciary Committee attempted to enact legislation that would promote a new kind of parish: one whose structure bishops and priests had no say in.

2) Student re-education. In a separate action, legislators are trying to rewrite Connecticut law so that kids can be indoctrinated in a “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered” world view.

3) Reinterpreting the Bible and usurping parents’ role. The state’s website already features a section that re-interprets the Bible in a way amenable to homosexuals and “transgendered” activists and advises kids in some cases not to talk to their parents about their homosexual lives. (Find the links at NCRegister.com.)

Let’s look at each in turn.

Parish control

Connecticut’s parish-restructuring fight should put Catholics nationwide on notice that members of Voice of the Faithful and other groups are willing to use civil power to push their “change the Church” agendas — and that willing officials in legislatures will help.

The strange saga of “Raised Bill 1098” played itself out in Connecticut this month.

According to news reports, a man named Tom Gallagher worked up a legislative idea with Connecticut Judiciary Committee cochairs Mike Lawlor and Andrew McDonald. When he wrote about his idea two years ago, Gallagher titled his article “A Proposal: Look to Civil Law to Reform Parishes.”

When Lawlor and McDonald’s committee introduced that proposal this year as a bill, they called it, “Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Corporations.”

“Certain religious corporations” in the title means only one thing: Roman Catholic parishes.

Says the bill: “A corporation may be organized in connection with any Roman Catholic church or congregation in the state by filing in the office of the Secretary of the State. The corporation would have a board of directors consisting of not less than seven nor more than 13 lay members. The archbishop or bishop of the diocese would serve as an ex-offico board member, but could not vote on issues. The board members would be elected from among the lay members of the congregation.”

In other words, laypeople could set up an alternative Church structure that bypasses bishops.

No one knows the motivations of those involved, but, in Connecticut, support for the idea came from prominent members of Voice of the Faithful, an organization in which several Connecticut leaders dissent from Church teaching on issues from women’s ordination to homosexual acts to abortion. The two chairmen of the Judiciary Committee are leading an effort to make the state’s homosexual “marriage” laws even more far-reaching — an effort that would be helped if Church opposition were neutralized.

The bill provoked a firestorm of opposition from Catholics.

Hartford Archbishop Henry Mansell wrote a letter calling for action. The letter was read at Sunday Masses across the state. Bridgeport Bishop William Lori denounced the bill as payback for the Church’s defense of marriage. The Knights of Columbus got involved, and about 5,000 people rallied at the state Capitol, scaring the bill’s backers so badly that they tabled the measure in order to avoid being crushed by the opposition.

But, unfortunately, Senate Bill 1098 was just the most recent instance of coercion of the Church by the state of Connecticut.

Student re-education

The Register has been one of the few in the media to expose the anti-religious liberty agenda of S.B. 899, another Connecticut bill. This one would:

• Condone homosexuality or bisexuality or any equivalent lifestyle, putting Catholic beliefs at odds with the law.

• Authorize promoting homosexuality or bisexuality in schools, whether parents like it or not.

• Permit the use of quotas of homosexuals, bisexuals or "transgendered" in affirmative action.

• Establish “sexual orientation” as a separate cultural classification.

This is where the real battle for religious liberty in Connecticut is being fought. But it gets worse. One battle is already lost, for now.

Connecticut reinterprets the Bible and usurps parents’ role.

Connecticut is already using tax money from citizens’ paychecks to co-opt religion on the CT.gov website:

• It uses a “rainbow fish” Christian symbol as if homosexual sex acts are compatible with Christianity, though most Christian denominations reject that notion.

It provides “For the Bible Tells Me So: A Study Guide and Advocacy Training Curriculum,” which reinterprets the Bible in a way favorable to those who want to engage in homosexual sex acts.

• It gives advice to kids behind parents’ backs that includes telling them in some circumstances not to tell their parents about their homosexual lives.

The separation of church and state is a central tenet of American democracy, embraced by the Church. But there are two extremes that need to be avoided: On the one hand, too strict a “wall” between church and state can lead to a silencing of legitimate religious expression, as when a town’s Christians are not allowed to celebrate Christmas in public spaces.

On the other hand, the state or church can try to co-opt one another. Whenever the church tries to assume the mantle of political power, or the state tries to take religious tasks onto itself, trouble lies ahead.

If any of Connecticut’s three attacks on religious liberty is successful, trouble lies ahead — and not just for Connecticut.