The proposed legislation, S.B. 1098, aims to reorganize 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 finances 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.
Dr. Lakeland believes, in this specific case, that it’s appropriate to use local and state legislation to “put the subject out there for discussion,” and further explained that the Voice of the Faithful developed out of “frustration with the Institutional Church.”
Claiming that he was not responsible for drafting the bill, Dr. Lakeland echoed comments made by Sen. Andrew McDonald, who introduced the bill. “This bill doesn’t have anything to do with Catholic faith. It’s got to do with organization of the parish community…I would certainly be deeply opposed to any efforts of the legislature to throw off legislation on the Catholic faith.”
Describing the two Congressmen that wrote the bill, Andrew McDonald and Michael Lawlor, Dr. Lakeland strangely claimed, “I don’t think they support the bill, I think they just wrote the bill. If they didn’t write it, then I don’t know who [in the legislature] would.”
Supporters of Senate Bill 1098 argue that the proposed legislation is only about transparency and openness of financial matters. Yet, Anthony Picarello, General Counsel of the U.S. Conference of Bishops described the bill as “blatantly unconstitutional” and that it “targets the Catholic Church explicitly and exclusively, and attempts to use the civil law to alter Church governance.”
When questioned about how the bill would sever a bishop’s ties to each parish and strip him of his voting rights, Dr. Lakeland conceded, “The legislation as it stands is a little extreme. I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets here, I don’t think most people, even those in favor of it imagine it becoming law in its present form.”
Asked if there would be implications for the entire U.S. Catholic Church, he confidently responded, “Oh, I think it would, and I think if passed in Connecticut, the pressure to pass it in many of the other states in the union would be enormous.”
In the wake of the bill’s introduction last Thursday, negative responses from Catholics and bishops around the country have been heard.
But Dr. Lakeland responded by defending the bill, saying, “I think legislation that moves in this direction frees the bishop and the pastor from a whole lot of stress producing tasks and managerial responsibility…and I think it will be good for them. If I were a bishop, I’d welcome it!”
At the root of the issue, he explained, is that “Bishops don’t see or get, for whatever reason that grownup adults, active, committed laypeople, provide pretty much all the financial resources to their Church and have no say in how that money is spent.”
Both Voice of the Faithful and Dr. Lakeland also agree that if this legislation had already been in place, the Catholic Church would have avoided much of the financial fallout from the sexual abuse scandals, containing the financial responsibility to individual parishes.
Concluding his support for the bill he said, “I see absolutely no chance whatsoever of the Institutional Church making a change in this direction without pressure from somewhere outside the Church. There’s not even the most remote likelihood that the Church would adjust in this direction itself. I think this is a way of putting pressure on them to make changes and bringing the issue into a more prominent setting.”