House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., today condemned a Democratic proposal to strip Catholic parishes in Connecticut of control over their finances and questioned whether any such law would survive constitutional challenges. Cafero said his office has been “swamped’’ with calls and e-mail from constituents throughout the state who are outraged by the proposal being pushed by Democratic lawmakers who have feuded with the church hierarchy on myriad issues in the past. “To say that people are outraged over this proposal to bar the Catholic Church from overseeing its own finances is being charitable. This bill has provoked a lot of people,’’ Cafero said.
He added, “The state of Connecticut is billions of dollars in debt and some Democratic lawmakers want to dictate to the Catholic Church how it manages its finances. That does not make sense to a lot of people.’’
The Democrats pushing the takeover in the wake of a scandal involving misuse of funds at a Darien parish want to establish lay boards of directors to manage financial matters of local churches. Matters of fiscal oversight or complaints lodged with the board would be subject to investigation by the state Attorney General under the proposal.
Cafero noted that church officials have insisted that the proposal would not pass constitutional muster regarding separation of church and state. Cafero said legal challenges will undoubtedly be brought. The bill was raised last week by the Judiciary Committee and prompted immediate outrage from parishioners and church officials over the weekend.
Cafero said the Catholic Church is being singled out by this legislation that would not affect other religions.
Church officials urged members to contact the two key Democrats pushing the proposal, state Rep. Michael Lawlor of East Haven and state Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at the Capitol.