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Monday, March 09, 2009

Cassandra Comments

This commentary on the Connecticut trustee crisis appeared in the comments section of the Catholic Key blog. It is quite illuminating so I reproduce it in full here. I am unable to verify who Cassandra is, but her(?) facts appear to be correct:

I can certainly understand why people are upset, but this is only the fruits of the malfeasance of the bishops about which I won't detail because Google does not have enough storage for it.

However, I wouldn't be too quick to say it won't pass constitutional muster.

First, this was an existing law which dealt specially with the Roman Catholic Church. It is only being amended here. The CT bishops were happy to be treated special before. Note especially that in the deleted portion, there was already a requirement for a layman to be present in order for the corporate board to do business. The bishops had already sold the farm by agreeing to that precedent in the first place.

In fact, the farm was sold when the USCCB (NCCB) let Johnson amend the IRS tax code to stifle the voice of the Church through the 501 (3)(c) restrictions. The progressive bishops didn't care about it then, and it keeps a muzzle on the orthodox bishops today. (Johnson did this primarily to strike back at some protestant preachers who were embarrassing him over infidelities).

Second, the RCC is rather unique in how it structures itself. Other religious organizations, especially evangelicals, organize their ecclesial communities such that the laity do control the entity and do control the hiring of the pastors. A very good argument could be made that this is just treating the RCC equally under the law. One would have to take a look at the other sections of the corporate law to see how other religious organizations are treated. Why should the State treat the RCC differently? If the RCC doesn't like it, they don't have to form a corporation.

(Now, of course, the State should treat the One True Church with deference, but the American constitution doesn't agree. After the onslaught from the likes of John Courtney Murray, SJ and his religious liberty it will be impossible to even convince Catholics that the State should treat the Church specially. This problem goes way back and even Pope Leo XIII warned about it over a hundred years ago.)

Third, canon law establishes that the parish assets belong to the parish. If the bishop closes a parish, he cannot seize the money. The funds must be reserved for the care of the parish members, even if they are consolidated into another parish. (Boston got in trouble for this, I think). So even in RCC canon law, the State will find some justification for giving control of the parish assets to the parish.

The countering argument, of course, is that without control of the purse strings, there is no real control of the parish. This was why Archbishop Burke (and Rigali before him) had to crack down on St. Stanislaus (though St. Stan's had illicitly changed the bylaws removing archdiocesan control). But let's be serious. Have the bishops really shown themselves to properly administering parishes even according canon law? Of course, not. A wide variety of abuses are rampant. The USCCB bishops even admitted in Married Love (2006) that the laity don't know the Faith because they haven't been taught (while not taking responsibility for the lack of teaching). All around the bishops are going to have a tough time showing how they are going to be impeded from doing what they are not doing.

Fourth, 54% of Catholics just voted for a man who advocates infanticide. Do you really think in the midst of all the sex abuse, embezzlements (can you say Michael Jude Fay?), and parish closings that the bishops are going to convince a majority of Catholics that the laity shouldn't have control over the parish assets. The Diocese of Bridgeport punished Fr. Madden and the bookkeeping for hiring a private detective to uncover Fr. Fay. You think the State doesn't have a slam-dunk in getting Catholic lay support for this? That's not a legal defense directly, but it is a voting block that will be happy to get the control. If there's one thing that will bring back the missing 75% of Catholics who don't go to Mass on any given Sunday, it will be the chance to get control.

Nope, this is the fruits of the negligence of the USCCB for decades. It may not be right, but it is inevitable. In fact, I see in it a Judgment from God on the Church. I've been telling people this sort of thing has been coming.

Nobody believes Cassandra...

... [to objections that the RCC is being singled out]. Here are the CT religious corporate statutes online. I didn't see a presbyterian section. It's worth noting that for a presbyterian those boards of elders are laity in the congregation.

What really comes out from that section of the statutes, though, is that the State has been interpreting the individual religious situations in order to determine how corporate law will apply to them. The RCC is asking for State recognition and favored treatment (i.e. to act corporately) and the State is interpreting how the RCC situation should be applied to State corporation laws—just like the State has been in the past.

Again, I would point out that the existing law requires that laity be on the board and that a layman be present to create a quorum for business. The CT bishops have found this acceptable in the past in spite of the fact that this existing law is already contrary to the canonical authority of the bishop and pastor. Ironically, under the existing law, if the laity wanted to fight the authority of the bishop (and were unified enough) they simply don't show up for the board meetings and the board can't do business. Show me how that reflects the "Apostolic nature of the Catholic Church" (Bridgeport statement). The new changes only expand the "active participation" of the laity.

Again, I want to bring up the 501 (c)(3) issue. The IRS says if you want to enjoy special tax treatment, you have to keep your mouth shut concerning politicians. Yet the Church has a duty to speak out against evil. Pope Pius XII is condemned for (supposedly) being silent in regard to the leader of the National Socialist party, but the Church in Amercia is prohibited from condemning the leader of the Democratic party for support of infanticide. The USCCB accepts this infringement the Church's right and duty to proclaim the Truth and defends not it, saying that they "just form consciences". They sold the voice of the Church for a tax deduction. How is this CT bill really different in principle? The bishop and pastor can still preach and "form the consciences" of the local laity. Won't the laity willingly listen to the bishop's direction and seek to follow his lead if this is the Catholic way?

The State will be able to bring examples of organizations considered "Catholic" and yet not having diocesan control. The examples need not be about parishes, but will continue to erode the argument that bishops need fiscal control to "preach the gospel" (note that Sec. 33-280 talks about the purpose of property rights is to maintain religious worship, and educational and charitable institutions). The RCC will have to show how, in midst of the last 40-year emphasis on lay pastoral and finance councils, maintaining worship is really impeded by local fiscal control.

Let's look as some examples. In St. Paul, MN Archbishop Flynn and his vicar general as board members cooperated in the action of the Board of the University of St. Thomas in removing ex-officio positions from the Board just in time to prevent incoming Abp Nienstadt from being able to exercise control. After negotiations, but no board structure changes, Nienstadt continues to extend the Catholic moniker to the university.

EWTN is run by a lay board (an arrangement which was an end-run by Mother Angelica during a dispute with Cardinal Mahoney). Yet, EWTN has a wide international reputation for proclaiming the Gospel in the modern media. Catholics are able to assemble and preach without direct fiscal control of the local bishop.

In the Diocese of La Crosse, the diocesan attorney James Birnbaum (see more about him here and here) is defending the firing of a teacher at a Catholic school. The arguments he (and therefore the bishop by extension) presented to the Wisconsin Supreme Court (according to the La Crosse Tribune ) are supportive of the State separating the secular and religious activities of Catholic institutions:

"Birnbaum told the high court Tuesday that not all elementary Catholic school teachers should be exempted from anti-discrimination laws unless, like Ostlund, they taught a religion class daily, were involved in liturgical activities and incorporated religion in all subjects they taught."

The argument here is that the actual religious activity of the persons involved must be taken into consideration when applying State laws to Catholic institutions.

In California, the State imposed on Catholic Charities the requirement to provide insurance benefits for contraceptives to employees. The California bishops capitulated.

Archbishop Levada (now Cardinal and in charge of protecting doctrine as Prefect of the CDF!!) compromised with a San Francisco city ordinance that requires firms doing business with the city to extend benefits to "domestic partners". Levada allowed employees to designate any individual as the recipient of benefits, basically citing "social justice" motives.

The point I am trying to make with these examples (and I'm sure there are better ones) is that the actions of the USCCB bishops have been reinforcing that the USCCB (and therefore the RCC in the eyes of the American State) finds it acceptable to separate Catholic institutional actions into secular and regulate-able actions and religious actions.

Want the really bad news? Let's say this goes to the US Supreme Court. On the Court sit 4 members of the RCC. I don't see any way that these justices can hear this case without a conflict of interest. They'll have to recuse themselves, and there go the most "originist" and conservative members of the Court. Who's left to decide the case?

Finally, again, the CT bishops and the USCCB bishops are not going to get broad lay Catholic support for opposing this. 75% of Catholics don't show up for Mass on any given Sunday. Of the 25% that do show up, a great many have absorbed the "We are Church" theology. Recently some bishops have announced they are closing 25, 30, 40, even 50 percent of parishes in their dioceses. You expect those laity, some of whom are occupying closed churches in defiance, to oppose lay control over the parish facilities? I'll bet the bishops won't get more than 25% of lay support on the issue, and the State knows it. If 75% of Catholics will go along, how will the bishops argue that this is opposed to Church law? Are they going to stand up say 75% of Catholics don't understand the teachings of the Church? That will be a proud day for the Church! In the midst of the grotesque mismanagement of administrative (and spiritual) matters in the sexual abuse crisis, are bishops going to argue that lay Catholics need special Apostolic oversight to make a few local financial decisions? That lay Catholics aren't competent enough? The Media will have a field day. Need I speculate on how the influential "Catholic" members of Congress will weigh in?

Best case scenario, the State is forced to rewrite the entire chapter and apply the principle of local control to all religious societies. The principle is quite in accord with protestant theology and practice. What denomination is really going to squawk about it? Which one is going to make the case that Scripture demands that a central authority (read Apostolic authority) need be exercised over the administration of the local church buildings and funds?

This is, in fact, a marvelous opportunity for the USCCB to stand up and clearly teach on the Catholic principle of subsidiarity and how legitimate hierarchical authority is necessary for the care of the sheep. They could teach on the long Tradition of the Church in regard to Holy Orders and Apostolic authority. They could present a truly Catholic teaching on the relationship of the Church and State and how the State is obligated to accept correction by the Church on matters of morality. They could preach on the social Kingship of Christ. It could be an inspiring moment….

….but they won't. They'll hand it over to the lawyers, take an American law approach, and try to argue constitutional principles—principles written by Masons, deists and protestants. In the meantime, the State will bring in legions of Jesuit theologians, all in "good standing" with the Church, who will testify that this doesn't really conflict with dogmatic or doctrinal teachings of the Church.

More fruits of the Second Vatican Council and the progressive agenda.


Anonymous said...

Cassandra I live in Fairfield County CT and you may like to know that the bishop's letter was received with a round of applause at the Mass I attended on Sunday. I am currently on a waiting list for a seat on the bus going to Hartford on Wednesday. Elaine

Brendan said...

Cassandra goes on later leaving some comments about JPII which cross the line into the inappropriate, but this analysis of hers that you quote here is powerfully insightful. Changes the whole way I was looking at this story.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Well, s/he provides the John Allen link in which the JP II problem is more fully described. It's quite disappointing.

I can't say I fault her on any part of the analysis. I started out being very concerned about this, but given the history, I'm not sure what to think now.

RecoveringFeminist said...

Why is anyone surprised at another attack against the Catholic Church? According to LifeSiteNews, Connecticut and Wisconsin, along with other states, appear to have given way to paganism by dropping their opposition to abortion-causing abortifacients in Catholic hospitals: Why wouldn't the state try to take control? Haven't we already given them control by letting the state dictate morality? The Wisconsin Catholic Conference went so far as to defy the Wisconsin bishops when they did finally speak out against the pro-death bill. And the Wisconsin Catholic Conference "leaders" are still gainfully employed! The Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life issued this statement, making it very clear that abortifacients are NEVER to be administered: We deserve chastisement. Sancta Maria, Pray for Us!

Anonymous said...

This is a powerful commentary. This is a classic case of the Bishops living "of the world" rather than simply "in the world".

What they should do is dissolve the corporations, and organize individual parishes.

To heck with the tax advantages. Pay the taxes (render unto Caesar), but make sure to render unto God.

Jordanes said...

Looks like the crafters of this anti-Catholic and unconstitutional piece of legislation weren't expecting such an outcry and resistance from the Church. They've withdrawn the bill, and are now looking at whether or not the current Connecticut law is constitutional (it isn't).