In the Connecticut Legislature, a bill is pending to usurp the power of Catholic parishes to govern themselves and to impose a state-mandated structure whereby a board of lay members would govern the internal affairs of each parish and the diocese-at-large. The Diocese of Bridgeport’s response is here.
The bill–sponsored by two openly gay members of the Legislature–seems to be a retaliatory attack for the Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Two thoughts come to mind:
1. If the bill passes in the Legislature, it seems so repugnant to the First Amendment that it would be ruled unconstitutional. The sponsors may be able to argue that there is no infringement on the Church’s Free Exercise–the Legislature is not regulating what the Church can believe or teach, just its internal structure. But at that point, you run into the problem of the Establishment Clause. If the State outlines the internal structure of a church, it is coming dangerously close to a church-state connection that makes federal judges leery. In addition to its First Amendment claims, the Church (or bishop, individually) could argue a violation of his rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (a deprivation of rights under color of state law). Whatever route is taken, I think the Church will win any legal battle.
2. The second thought I had regards the proposal of the bill itself. Simply, the Church must be doing something correct if legislators and others are willing to attack the Church for proclaiming the Gospel. This reminded me of a passage in St. Paul: “Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring.” (2 Thes. 1:4) In an odd ideal sense, we should all be joyful when we are persecuted because we are living out our Faith to the full. We do not intend to offend–we hope to educate and persuade–but if some cannot receive the truth, then persecution may come.
For anyone in Connecticut, there is a public rally tomorrow (Wednesday) in Hartford at 10:30. Please do what you can to kill this bill.
UPDATE: The bill has been tabled for the rest of this legislative session, though it may return in the future. See the news story.