Although the legislation in question was introduced in Connecticut, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver has issued a statement on a bill that would effectively sever the relationship between a bishop and his pastors and parishes. Archbishop Chaput says in his statement, "What Happens in Connecticut Matters Here," that the bill is "bad public policy in every sense."
The Senate Bill 1098 was introduced last Thursday by the chairs of the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature: Senator Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Representative Michael Lawlor of East Haven.
Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor are both homosexual activists, who have opposed the local Church’s efforts to defend marriage between a man and a woman.
The bill’s supposed purpose is to increase financial oversight of the Church, following two recent embezzlement cases.
However, the proposed legislation also reorganizes the internal structure of the Church, removing the bishop as the head of the board of the parishes in his diocese and requiring the pastor to report to a board composed of laity instead of the bishop. Under the bill, the bishop is also relegated to being an "ex officio" member of the board, without voting rights.
Addressing the perception that outsiders have of the Church as "a monolith," Archbishop Chaput said that "the opposite is true."
"Her real structure is much closer to a confederation of families. Each diocese or ‘local Church’ is accountable to the Holy See and in relation to one another within the Catholic faith," the archbishop explained.
"Bigoted legislators," Chaput said in reference to Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor, "including some who claim to be nominally or formerly ‘Catholic,’ are thankfully uncommon. Most lawmakers, whatever their convictions, sincerely seek to serve the common good.
"But prejudice against the Catholic Church has a long pedigree in the United States. And rarely has belligerence toward the Church been so perfectly and nakedly captured as in Connecticut’s pending Senate Bill 1098, which, in the words of Hartford’s Archbishop Henry Mansell, ‘directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.’"
"In effect, SB 1098 would give the state of Connecticut the power to forcibly reorganize the internal civil life of the Catholic community. This is bad public policy in every sense: imprudent; unjust; dismissive of First Amendment concerns, and contemptuous of the right of the Catholic Church to be who she is as a public entity," the archbishop criticized.
"If Catholics want Caesar telling them how they’re allowed to live their civil life as a community, this is exactly the kind of legislation to make it happen.
Archbishop Chaput closed his statement by warning that the "legislative coercion directed against the Catholic community in one state has implications for Catholics in every other state. If bigots in one state succeed in coercive laws like SB 1098, bigots in other states will try the same."