Senate Bill 1098 was raised by the Judiciary Committee last week that changes the corporate organization of Roman Catholic Churches in Connecticut. It requires that each parish have a board of directors of at least seven and no more than thirteen lay persons. The general administrative and financial powers of the corporation would be exercised by or under the authority of the board of directors, requiring the pastor of the congregation to report to the board of directors with respect to administrative and financial matters.
The Connecticut Catholic Conference has put out an e mail bulletin urging all to call their representatives.
Ask them to oppose this legislation, which is a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which guarantees the free exercise of religion.
The Catholic Bishops of Connecticut have stated “This legislation forces a radical reorganization of the legal, financial, and administrative structure of our parishes. This is contrary to the Apostolic nature of the Catholic Church because it disconnects parishes from their Pastors and their Bishops. Parishes would be run by boards from which Pastors and Bishops would be effectively excluded.”
The alert states further:
Beyond the structural changes proposed by the legislation, this legislation raises serious concerns about separation of church and state. Especially when the legislation is directed at only one specific religious faith community.
The priests in the Norwich Diocese all spoke against the proposed legislation in Masses this morning. Their point is that the bill is a violation of the first amendment and a violation of Canon Law which governs how parishes are to be organized.
A reading of the proposed bill would lead one to believe that it is an outgrowth of some cases of financial malfeasance by some parish priests in the recent past. Although many non Catholic congregations would not see any harm in the legislation, the Catholic Church is not, nor has it ever been, an organization governed by the parishioners but rather from the Pope, Bishops, and Pastors. As such, there is a legitimate feeling that this is targeted against the Catholic Church and, therefore, unconstitutional.