Friday, May 01, 2009

Investiture controversy redivivus

Well, not quite the "Investiture Controversy," maybe, but something close. In the latest issue of the Knights of Columbus periodical, Columbia (May 2009), Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson has an article entitled, "A Direct Attack on the First Amendment" (p. 3), addressing a Bill no. 1098 in the State of Connecticut, which, if passed, would have exclusively targeted the Catholic Church and "wrested authority over parish affairs from our bishops and priests and instead turned over control to a series of elected boards (trustees), explicitly excluding bishops and pastors."

As Anderson mentions, the First Amendment of the US Constitution, however, declares that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercize thereof...." He continues:
Although one in four Americans is Catholic, the country still has a very Protestant outlook on certain issues.

... While the stated purpose for the Connecticut bill was to prevent financial mismanagement of parishes, its proponents seemed unaware that such mismanagement is rare and is addressed effectively by regulations already in place. In the end, the bill was both unconstitutional and unnecessary.

This attack was surprising, but not unprecedented. In Connecticut, Catholics were legally forbidden from holding public office or owning land, even in the 19th century.

After ratification of the First Amendment in 1791, Catholics in the Constitution state hat to wait nearly three decades for religious freedom....

,,, Bill 1098 would have turned the clock back more than 150 years, proving that Catholics must guard against a return to bigotry. The lesson from the 19th century is that the power to impose structures that grant or take away authority from Church leadrs is the power to intimidate and ultimately to destroy.

If a state can ignore the First Amendment and tell the Catholic Church how it must be organized and operated today, it can easily do the same tomorrow to any religion.
As you probably know, the Bill 1098 awoke a "sleeping giant" in the response of the state's Catholic population. Knights and their families formed a crowd of more than 5,000 with other Catholics and concerned citizens who gathered at the State Capitol on March 11. The bill was ultimately tabled.

Yet Bill 1098 was the second attempt in recent years to directly attack the Catholic Church in the State of Connecticut. The fist attempt was a bill some years back that would have eliminated the seal of confession. As Anderson observes: "We can only expect that here, and elsewhere, such attacks -- and more subtle ones -- are likely."

In closing, Anderson writes: "I want to thank all my brother Knights in Connecticut who worked so hard to defeat this attack on our Church and our religious liberties. Vivat Jesus!"

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