Friday, June 12, 2009

What? Politics? ME? Neverrrr...

From Fox News:

The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., says he's a man of God, not a lobbyist. But state officials say he's both.

According to the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, the diocese acted as a lobbying organization in March when it rented buses to transport people to a rally in Hartford — the state capital — to protest a bill that would have granted more power to parishioners regarding church finances.

Officials also are investigating whether the church acted as a lobbying organization on its Web site when it urged parishioners to contact lawmakers about the bill, which eventually was withdrawn amid public outcry, and about a another bill to legalize same-sex marriage, which was signed into law in April.

Now the ethics office is "evaluating" whether the diocese failed to register as a lobbyist — an investigation that Bishop William Lori says violates the diocese's First Amendment right to free speech and assembly.

"I don't know what the motive of the Office of State Ethics was or is, but I do know that their actions stem directly from our attempts to defend ourselves in the face of two pieces of legislation that were unfriendly to the day-to-day mission of the church," Lori told on Thursday.
According to this article, if an organization spends more than $2000 a year directly contacting (or asking people to directly contact) people in public office and the like, they are a lobby, and must register or pay fines up to $10,000. This Diocese did indeed spend more than $2000 directly contacting (or asking people to directly contact) people in public office. According to Bishop Lori, that doesn't make the Diocese a lobby. They were merely standing up against legislation that directly affected them.

Except, of course, that legalizing gay marriage has no direct effect on the Catholic Church, as they are by no means obligated to provide, or even condone gay marriages, or homosexuality in general. So that, once again, is a clear case of an organization attempting to force their personal values on a larger group of people (sounds like a lobby to me). Then there's the amazing fact that the Bishop actually managed to get his parishioners to protest "a bill that would have granted more power to parishioners regarding church finances." I realize that's not really how the Catholic Church does things, but I still can't believe a group of Catholic lay people really sat there and went "that's OUTRAGEOUS. We'll go put a stop to that right away."

The Connecticut Office of State Ethics needs to have some balls on this one and declare the Diocese a lobby. It's high time that churches learned to draw the line between God and Politics. I realize that the Church ruled the West for a very long time. But under their rule an unbelievable amount of suffering occurred (and not too much progress). They fell from power because they should never have had it to begin with, nor should they have it now. Religious organizations do not belong in politics. They belong in Churches and, more importantly, in soup kitchens, and homeless shelters, and food banks...

Matthew 19:16-21 says:
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

"Which ones?" the man inquired.

Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Luke 14:12-14 says:
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
Imagine what that Diocese could have done if they'd devoted their time and energy to helping others. And the funny thing is, I couldn't find anything in the Bible about political lobbying. Bishop Lori, WTF would Jesus do?


Hannah said...

Here is further proof that if you want reliable reporting Faux News is not the place to go. This bill was pulled by the legislature because of Constitutionality issues, namely that old separation of church and state chestnut. The government is not supposed to be able to tell churches of any stripe how to run their organizations.

I take issue with the notion that there was little to no progress in Europe under Church's rule. The ability to quote the Bible in 21st century North America wouldn't exist without the industrious monks who copied it over and over (not to mention, how would you have learned to read if the church hadn't taught that skill?). I'm well aware of their many transgressions but let's not be completely revisionist here.

Jocelyn said...

That's fair. And I do hate Fox News, but I kind of rely on what comes up in my news feed.

That said, don't churches get tax breaks? I agree that separation of church and state goes both ways, but if churches are receiving tax benefits, they need to have some kind of accountability to the government and their members.

Also, in the interest of not being revisionist, we may be allowed to quote the Bible now, but those monks were some of the few who were allowed to read it then. A few friaries are also very different from the Vatican. Friaries, to my knowledge, did not control people's lives. Rome, however, did.

Hannah said...

Yeah, apparently I forgot to actually make my point. Connecticut Catholics were ticked off because of the State trying to come in and tell them what to, stepping all over their rights. there also seems to be a feeling in the state that Catholics are being targeted. Who knows.

If you are interested in the history of education in Europe in the Middle Ages there are some interesting article on the interwebs. The Catholic Church was running schools as early as the 5th century and the first colleges (which later grew into universities) were established in England and Ireland by Saints Patrick, Brigid and Columba in the 5th & 6th centuries. Sorry - I'm a total history nerd.

Anywho...thanks for sharing this story. My parish has recently been asking us to contact our legislators about an issue that only has repercussions for our parish...and all of the homeless people in the I'm interested to see what plays out in CT.

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