The Catholic internet is buzzing about a bill in the Connecticut state legislature that would mandate the state to essentially take over the finances of the Catholic church (and only the Catholic church).

The hearing on the bill has been dropped so the bill may not ever be vote on, but the background hasn’t gotten much publicity: That dissident Catholics are expanding their fight to take over the Catholic church.

From the Hartford Courant:

The bill, which would create lay councils of seven to 13 people to oversee the finances of local parishes, relegating Catholic pastors and bishops to an advisory role, won’t get its official public hearing before the legislature’s judiciary committee until Wednesday.

So who is behind the law? Apparently one “catholic”:

The issue was brought to McDonald by a Catholic constituent from Greenwich named Tom Gallagher, who is part of a group (italics mine) pressing for parishioners to play a greater role in church governance following two cases of financial impropriety at Fairfield County churches….
“I certainly think it’s an appropriate function for legislators to listen to constituents who have been the victims of fraud and take their concerns seriously,” he said.

So who Tom Gallagher, that one simple letter to the editor has made the Democrats in the Connecticut State Assembly want to pass a law to take over the Catholic church? And who is the group behind the bill that is pressing for the takeover of church finances?

Anyone? Anyone?

There are a lot of suspects out there.

Take, for example, the “Voice of the Faithful”. That group originally was supposed to represent those wanting to reform the church after the pedophile scandal, but was quickly hijacked by the Amchurch types.

So now they are arguing for the bill:

The First Amendment prohibits Congress, and through the Fourteenth amendment, the states, from, among other things, enacting laws regarding either the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Contrary to Bishop Lori’s assertion, the recently introduced bill does neither; it merely seeks to amend the existing law, to which the Church has implicitly consented by incorporating thereunder, to provide that the temporal affairs of the parish corporations organized pursuant thereto shall be governed by a lay board of directors elected from and by the members of the parish that will be fiduciaries to both the parish corporation and the members of the congregation…

We urge all Catholics to reject the irrational, erroneous, illogical and biased arguments of Bishop Lori, and to attend the hearing at the Capitol in Hartford on March 11 to support Bill 1098.

No mention that most parishes already have lay councils that keep track of the books– and that this has been the norm in most Catholic dioceses for years.

The one who controls the money controls the agenda.
Non Catholics (and a lot of Catholics) need to know the background: There is a minor civil war in the Catholic church.

On one side is the Pope, a billion pious or somewhat impious Catholics, and two thousand years of tradition.

On the other side, aging nuns from now dying religious orders, trendy theologians who are quoted by the NYTimes, and others who want to remake the Catholic church into a social work organization while getting rid of all those inconvenient rules and traditions.

The AmChurch includes groups that insist on allowing abortion and euthanasia, ignoring the biological differences between men and women that are intertwined by evolution to procreate the species, and groups that promote a fuzzy “feel good” sort of the spirituality : sort of along the lines of a trendier than thou Episcopal church with a side dish of Oprah spirituality.

Author Andrew Greeley once described all of this as the “revolt of the middle management”.

And indeed, the Courant reported:

The proposal is part of a larger struggle within the Catholic Church over the balance of power between the laity and the leadership. “Catholic lay people provide all the funds for the running of the parish, but they have absolutely no executive authority for how those dollars are spent,” said Paul Lakeland, director for the Center of Catholic Studies at Fairfield University. “That’s a situation that increasing numbers of people are unhappy with.”

Yes, lots of Catholics are unhappy that money given to run schools is being given for lawsuits. That doesn’t mean that they want their money to be used for groups whose agenda is to remake the church along their own modern lines.

Ironically, it was the “compassionate” ideas toward homosexual students in the seminary that was largely behind the scandal to begin with, as Father Greeley noted in his 1986 biography:

In the years since the Vatican Council, many seminaries, arguing that the issue is celibacy and not sexual orientation, have authorized the ordination of men in the third group (practicing homosexuals) who claim not to be actively gay, and some in the fourth category (those with pedophile tendencies) who appear to the seminary authorities to be in the third group.

The result has been a huge increase in the number of priests But are clearly gay and actively participate in the gay lifestyle, and in the frequency of pedophile problems involving priests…

Alas, a lot of the bishops–and not only those who were liberal– tried to ignore the problem. Part of this was because of cultural trends in medicine and psychology in the 1960’s and 1970’s was not to punish sex offenders, but “cure” them, ( an approach that allowed California to release known pedophiles and encouraged counseling, not jail time, for incestuous parents so that the family wasn’t disrupted).

But one wonders if much of the problem was because of a cover up in the bureaucracy.

Again, Father Greeley notes:

The problem is epidemic. Many of the latter two categories have become important personages in the diocesan administration…some seminaries seem to be dominated…by them.

Greeley goes on to describe the head in the sand approach of the 1980’s that led to the scandal….you can probably find his book at your local library for the rest of the story.

As for money: Financial scandals in the Catholic church have been around since the days of Judas Iscariot taking a cut from charitable funds and taking bribes to spy on that troublemaking Jewish carpenter he hung around with. Some of the sexual and monetary shenanigans of the medieval popes make the minor scandals of the US church look silly.

On the other hand, the monetary shenanigans of a lot of churches, NGO’s and large charitable funds might don’t cause state legislatures to take them over when they have similar problems.

Even Obama’s favorite Community organizing group ACORN had a million dollars (since then paid back) embezzled by one of it’s members, which was never prosecuted. But a million dollars embezzled by a priest in a much larger organization means the state should take them over?

Why does one get the idea that there is a lot of politics involved in this one?

A lot of Catholics, merely go to church to keep their relationship with the Lord going strong, and they figure that earning an honest living, paying taxes, and caring for family members keeps them busy enough. They don”t ask the Catholic church for much: decent hymns, decent sermons, a few minutes of quiet after receiving communion to pray.

Some Catholics are still hoping they can find some decent nuns to run their parish schools, and worry what the trendy nuns are teaching their kids in catechism class, but as a whole they aren’t involved in the fight.

So why are certain “groups” trying to take over the finances of local parishes by manipulating state law?

Two reasons.

One: Because the Amchurch types have control of much of the bureaucracy at the diocese levels in many areas, and of course they can fight the bishops by diverting funds at the diocese or national level.(One example, the US Catholic conference funded ACORN, which is associated with partisan politics but whose non political projects had little to do with projects of or for Catholic institutions).

But when it comes to parish councils, they have to fight with Catholics who watch EWTN and recognize a stealth agenda when they see one.

Sister Mary may be able to cow Bishop Smith or Father Jones into going along with her agenda, but when faced with Mrs. Rodriguez (five kids, 8 grandkids) at the parish council meeting, she has a fight on her hands.

The second reason: it is part of a long term agenda that some worry is aiming at taking over the Catholic church in America.

This attempt is one of many that aim to weaken theologically conservative churches by various lawsuits and court cases, from laws that mandate Catholic hospitals to give out abortion pills to suing a small Christian school for not having ramps for it’s non existent handicapped students. And as gay marriage laws pass, and as Obama’s pro abortion agenda gets pushed through the courts, expect the trickle of suit to become a frenzy.

In all of this, the end result of an AmChurch take over would be similar to that of the mainline churches: A huge loss in membership.

One doubts the Am church types care.

There is an elitist tilt to the “AmChurch” types that make them unpopular with average Catholics: from failing to teach morality and doctrine to kids to destroying lovely churches in the name of Vatican II.

In the meantime, the average Catholic just shrugs and goes to church, while the more pious join the local Assemblies of God or PiusX association church.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.

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