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By Deacon Keith Fournier

3/8/2009 (6 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We must stand with our brothers and sisters and their courageous Bishop in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church. This bill is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion.

The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church. This bill is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion.

Highlights

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/8/2009 (6 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy


BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut (Catholic Online) - We live in Chesapeake, Virginia. It is in the Southeastern part of our State, often referred to as "Hampton Roads". When we first moved here, I inquired as to the source of the term only to find it is a nautical term, referring to a "protected anchorage" or "safe harbor". Bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, Hampton Roads is where the James, Nansemond and Elizabeth rivers flow into the Chesapeake Bay. Many terms find their origin in nautical language. Another such expression comes to my mind as I read of the terrible threat to the Rights of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. It is the expression "shot across the bow".

In the days before we had communication between vessels, one ship which encountered another a distance away could not know whether the other vessel was hostile. In the 18th century the Captain would often order a "shot across the bow", hurling a cannonball across the bow of the ship without causing any harm. This would signal the other vessel to show her colors, indicating her origin. It was, in essence, a warning shot. The phrase has evolved over time to refer a warning given which, if not heeded, could result in serious consequences. So it is with what is happening to our brothers and sisters in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The Bridgeport Diocese is led by Bishop William E. Lori who is the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus. He is a good Bishop and known for his devout faith. He is also the Captain of a ship which has just received a "shot across the bow" meant for the whole Catholic Church in America. "Raised Bill 1098" is entitled 'An Act Modifying Corporate Law Relating to Certain Religious Corporations'. It essentially removes oversight of parishes from Bishops. It requires the erection of a board of directors which is to consist of 7 to 13 lay members who would be elected. The Bishop or his designee would be an ex-officio non-voting member.In essence, this is a government effort to retructure the Catholic Church! The Press Release from the Diocese explains the facts:

"This past Thursday, March 5, the Judiciary Committee of the Connecticut State Legislature, which is chaired by Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford and Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven, introduced a bill that directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.

This bill violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It 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 Bishop. Parishes would be run by boards from which Pastors and the Bishop would be effectively excluded.

This bill, moreover, is a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.

The State has no right to interfere in the internal affairs and structure of the Catholic Church. This bill is directed only at the Catholic Church but could someday be forced on other denominations. The State has no business controlling religion.

The Pastors of our Diocese are doing an exemplary job of sound stewardship and financial accountability, in full cooperation with their parishioners.

For the State Legislature -- which has not reversed a $1 billion deficit in this fiscal year -- to try to manage the Catholic Church makes no sense. The Catholic Church not only lives within her means but stretches her resources to provide more social, charitable, and educational services than any other private institution in the State. This bill threatens those services at a time when the State is cutting services. The Catholic Church is needed now more than ever.

We reject this irrational, unlawful, and bigoted bill that jeopardizes the religious liberty of our Church. We urge you to call and e-mail Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor:

Senator Andrew McDonald:
Capitol phone: (800) 842-1420; Home phone: (203) 348-7439
E-mail: McDonald@senatedems.ct.gov
Representative Michael Lawlor:
Capitol phone: (800) 842-8267; Home phone: (203) 469-9725
E-mail: MLawlor99@juno.com

We also ask you to come to Hartford this Wednesday, March 11, to be present at the public hearing. Details on bus transportation will be available on Monday. If you would like to attend, contact your Pastor.

It is up to us to stop this unbridled abuse of governmental power.

It is time for us to defend our First Amendment rights.
It is time for us to defend our Church!"

The First Amendment to the US Constitution is found in what is properly called the "Bill of Rights". It contains these clear words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

What is being proposed in Connecticut is a clear violation of the Rights of the Catholic Church and each one of her members. I am a constitutional lawyer and this proposed legislation is unconstitutional. It violates the Establishment Clause in its blatant, scurrilous effort to compel the Catholic Church to violate deeply held religious beliefs concerning her divinely instituted hierarchical structure. It violates the Right to the Free Exercise of Religion of every Catholic.This proposed legislation violates the Right to Free Speech of every Catholic.Their response of peaceably assembling and seeking a redress of their grievance is rooted in the finest American tradition.

The proposed legislation is also clearly Anti-Catholic. We need to remember that hostility toward the Catholic Church is nothing new. The culture of our age is increasingly hostile to any group which questions its rejection of the fundamental right to life and the institution of true marriage and the family founded upon it. There is little doubt in this writers mind that the fact that this Diocese is home to Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, champions of life and marriage, is no accident.

Some accounts of the spread of Christianity in the first century A.D. recount the success that Nero had when he accused Christians of causing the Great Fire in Rome. Christians were increasingly found to be annoying to some of their fellow citizens; just by the way they lived their lives. The Christians insisted on the existence of norms to guide human behavior and spoke of their foundation in Divine and Natural Law. They were soon accused of being "Haters of the human race" (odium generis humani).

In the waves of persecution which would soon follow, Christians were accused as enemies of the State and wrongfully charged with trumped up political allegations. In A.D. 196, Tertullian wrote "The Christians are to blame for every public disaster and every misfortune that befalls the people. If the Tiber rises to the walls, if the Nile fails to rise and flood the fields, if the sky withholds its rain, if there is earthquake or famine or plague, straightway the cry arises: The Christians to the lions!"

We live in what our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI rightly labeled as a "Dictatorship of Relativism". The phrase was first used by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger when he addressed the Cardinals gathered in Rome to discern the replacement for the Servant of God John Paul II with this sober assessment:

"How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking? The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.

"Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

"We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.

"We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love."

We must stand with our brothers and sisters and their courageous Bishop in Bridgeport, Connecticut as they oppose this unconstitutional legislation. It is a "Shot across the bow" and its proponents must not succeed. The Battle of Bridgeport unfolds. Time to Stand up for the Rights of the Catholic Church.

---


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