More open attacks on the Church in Connecticut

I keep harping about our Catholic identity.

We must revitalize our Catholics identity or we will not have anything solid to contribute in the public square.   If we don’t know who we are, even those who wish to participate in public debate – as Catholics – will be pushed aside and silenced.

The open attack on Catholic identity continues in Connecticut.

From Fox News comes this interesting piece, with my emphases and comments:

We’re a Church, Not a Lobby, Catholic Bishop Tells Ethics Probers

Thursday, June 11, 2009
By Joshua Rhett Miller

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. [Oh.. is that what that bill was all about?  I thought it had more to do with undermining the 1st Amendment.]

Officials also are investigating whether the church acted as a lobbying organization [watch this] on its Web site when it urged parishioners to contact lawmakers about the bill, which eventually was withdrawn amid public outcry, and about a another bill to legalize same-sex marriage, which was signed into law in April.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.  [Some in the CT statehouse have serious problems with the 1st Amendment, it seems.]

"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.  [Amen!]

"We were simply seeking to fulfill our mission, [here it is… the identity element] to continue to be ourselves."

And the diocese is fighting back, bringing a civil lawsuit against two Office of State Ethics officials — Enforcement Officer Thomas K. Jones and Executive Director Carol Carson[Excellent.]

Connecticut law defines lobbying as "communicating directly or soliciting others to communicate with any official or his staff in the legislative or executive branch of government or in a quasi-public agency, for the purpose of influencing any legislative or administrative action."

Individuals or organizations must register as a lobbyist if they spend more than $2,000 per year lobbying. Each violation of the lobbying law is punishable by penalties up to $10,000.

The diocese acknowledges in its lawsuit that it coordinated transportation to the rally, and that it incurred expenses exceeding $2,000. But that, says the bishop, does not make the church a lobbying organization.

"It seems to me that by requiring a diocese or any other entity to register with the state before it can protest an unfriendly action by the state has a chilling affect," Lori said. "I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest that a protest rally be labeled lobbying."  [Ohhhh no.  It most definitely is in someone’s interest.]

Reaction to the church-state confrontation has been plentiful and polarizing. A local newspaper called on state government to focus on its "billion-dollar deficits," and a local Internet radio host wound up behind bars after he urged his listeners to "take up arms" against Jones, Connecticut state Rep. Michael Lawlor and state Sen. Andrew McDonald for their support of the finance bill.

[This next section is troubling.  Extremists who use violence will merely provide justification for government to "crack down" on dangerous elements, such as pro-lifers, veterans, and people who believe in God.]

"It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally," the radio host, Harold Turner, wrote on his blog on June 2. "These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die."

On June 3, the day after he wrote those words, Turner, 47, was arrested and charged with inciting injury to persons or property, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, reports say. In his most recent post, he says he intends to intends to "confront" Connecticut officials with his attorney.

Lori said the church condemns "any type of violence or threat" made in connection to the ethics probe and civil suit. [If I were suspicious, I might be tempted to imagine that some of these extremists are planted.]  Diocese spokesman Joseph McAleer, meanwhile, said "a lot" of churchgoers in the state feel the church has been singled out. The diocese contains 87 parishes and more than 410,000 parishioners.

"People can only assume that people are out to get us," McAleer told "It feels like retaliation, that’s the feeling amongst the Catholics of Fairfield County. Where is freedom of speech? Where is freedom of assembly? It’s mind-boggling."

But Carson says the ethics office is just doing its job.

"We’re content neutral," [ROFL!] the Office of Ethics official told "It does not matter to us whether someone is for or against any issue. We’re an independent watchdog agency and it’s not the case that anyone in state government came to us and said, ‘You need to look at this.’

"What’s at issue for us is if you’re lobbying, or seeking to influence executive action, and you spend more than $2,000, that the citizens of Connecticut will have transparency so they know who is spending to influence legislation."

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Latekate says:

    ” [If I were suspicious, I might be tempted to imagine that some of these extremists are planted.] ”

    I AM suspicious and it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Statists are very well organized and motivated. They frequently pretend to be other than they are to “lead” others to their way of thinking or to provide an excuse for violence.

  2. Rancher says:

    This will become more and more common as the current president’s administration continues to grab more and more power for the government and that effort goes unchallenged. Power grabs by the federal government, which the 10th ammendment specifically prohibits, empowers lesser governments (state and local) to assert their liberally biased prejedices.

    I am pleased that the Bishop is fighting this effort vigorously. All Bishops in all dioceses need to gird for the same battle. BO’s facsist regime will result in increased attacks on the Church which that regime views as the biggest potential opponent of its immoral policies.

  3. Ann says:

    I’m with Latekate on this one, the liberal ideologues are very well organized and take a long view. I’ve been on many a list where we had an issue come up and discovered that several people who had joined the list 6 months, a year or more before were clearly planted in order to have garnered status as members of the group and to use that friendship to influence in favor of a liberal or other extreme position. I used to be so much more trusting, but having to deal with such people taught me to be more careful and suspicious.

    Even more, even if in this particular case there is not a human organizing principle, there is certainly an enemy of God involved.

  4. Terri says:

    I wonder if the state pursues as vigorously those who rallied proponents of same-sex marriage or those who rally support for, oh I don’t know the removal of crosses or any other issue which does fit their agenda… sinister is the only word that comes to mind for this whole situation – it seems this state is just a testing ground for tactics that will likely be more ubiquitous in the future…

  5. Doug says:

    This is outrageous!

    Creative Minority has been covering this story the last few days and they have video of the great Bishop there who is standing up to the state!

  6. Andrew, medievalist says:

    Sorry, but could someone remind what the difference between “lobbying” and freely voicing an opinion is. If I write a letter to a legislator, do I have to make sure I spend less than $2000 in postage?

  7. mrsmontoya says:

    Father, whether your suspicions are correct or not, we must conduct ourselves with utmost propriety, and repudiate violent rhetoric both with our words and with our actions.

  8. Nick says:

    The people in power from the president on down were put there by the Catholic vote….

  9. Hidden One says:

    Something something serpents doves something something.

    I’d say this is unbelievable but I believe it so I can’t.

  10. John says:

    As the state assumes more and more of the public square the state becomes the public square. Where the state once had a part it is now the whole. The whole was once an end, it is now a means of the state to meet its own new ends. The state is all and all is in the state. Expect more similar news as private things become increasingly subject to the state: salaries, religious activity, education, cultural mores.

    We are pilgrims in a foreign land.

  11. Eoin Suibhne says:

    If I write a letter to a legislator, do I have to make sure I spend less than $2000 in postage?

    Speaking as a registered lobbyist in several states (though not in Connecticut), the answer could be a definite “yes,” depending on the state.

  12. little gal says:


    I grew up hearing about the evils of communism from my parents. I recall hearing about the hunting down & killing of priests in Ireland by the British. Today, I listened to a program re: perseceution of Catholics in China. Even with my background I am speechless over what ‘government’ is doing to attack the Faith. This is not history. I believe we can expect pograms against us and I don’t think that this is too far in the future.

  13. Jayna says:

    I would hardly call what they did lobbying, more like defending themselves against an aggressive attack by the state legislature. What they’re doing is absolutely absurd and it seems as though it is only because the bill was thrown out – I’m sure if it passed they wouldn’t have cared if the “lobbyists” of the diocese had screamed themselves hoarse. Evidently Connecticut is stuck in 1850.

  14. laminustacitus says:

    Another example of the all too typical behavior our insatiable government, not only does it want to control every aspect of our lives, but it also wants to control the manner by which individuals can dissent. However, I must add, if one desires to use the state to control others, do not act like victims when others try to use the state to control you – its a vicious circle.

  15. RichR says:

    Calling Michael O’Brien….a plot for your next novel.

  16. LarryD says:

    “We are pilgrims in a foreign land.”

    More like soldiers behind enemy lines.

  17. chironomo says:

    Wouldn’t a Church be prohibited from registering as a lobbyist given their tax-exempt status? Is the State essentially saying “You have to register as a lobbyist… but you can’t be a lobbyist because you are a tax-exempt entity….. therefore shut up”. This makes no sense from a legal perspective at all.

    A radio talk-show host that implores his audience to contact their congressman about a bill… the airtime spent on a 45 second segment of a show is worth well over $2000. Are they supposed to be registered as lobbyists? Is somebody confusing lobbying with free speech?

  18. Rick says:

    Remember this story. This is what liberalism (meant in its philsophical sense) is all about. It is about the triumph of the state over all other institutions of society that compete for the loyalty and shape the identity of people. Liberalism has always been a force of destruction, not freedom. It says that it wants to liberate individuals. It does so by destroying all that is dear to human existince — traditional religion, traditional families, and traditional societies.

  19. Rick says:

    Remember this story. This is what liberalism (meant in its philsophical sense) is all about. It is about the triumph of the state over all other institutions of society that compete for the loyalty and shape the identity of people. Liberalism has always been a force of destruction, not freedom. It says that it wants to liberate individuals. It does so by destroying all that is dear to human existence — traditional religion, traditional families, and traditional societies.

  20. From Mit Brennender Sorge:

    8. Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community — however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things — whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.

    Obama fits this paragraph perfectly.

  21. JD, Esq. says:

    Dear friends,

    Folks need to be aware that these sorts of laws exist all over the country and are the fruit of a broader movement known generally as “campaign finance reform.” Under the pretext of weeding out corruption and “shadow campaigns” by real lobbyists, these laws instead stifle grassroots political speech, the same type of speech Catholics in Connecticut are trying to advance.

    The law deems anyone who spends $2000 doing issue advocacy a lobbyist. That is absurd. Politicians hate grassroots appeals, so this is a useful way of stifling a lot of annoying mail. Shut the people up and allow us to get back to the business of doling out goodies to our favored constituencies who keep us in power. That’s how it works, folks.

    I hope the diocese brought a free speech challenge to the law itself, not just a religious freedom claim.

    The Institute for Justice is a public interest law firm that is beginning to challenge these laws around the country.

  22. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Having lived in Fairfield, CT, all this makes me believe someone is whispering in the ear of someone in state government. I’d love to know who.

  23. Dear all,

    I lived nearly 20 years in Connecticut. My family is still based there, and I follow things closely.

    I would bet dollars to doughnuts this is coming from one or both of two sources: Sen. Andrew MacDonald (D-Stamford) and Rep. Michael Lawlor (D-E. Haven).

    The lobbying law in Ct. was passed, not to discourage people from advocating their interests in Hartford; it was passed in order to discourage back room deals and boondoggles.

    To apply the law to Bishop Lori’s organization of the anti-1098 rally is beyond the pale – it is quite simply absurd.

    That said, the Office of State Ethics in Ct. is notoriously stupid.

    MacD and Lawlor have an axe to grind with the Church, and it would seem they continue to grind it after their 1098 defeat and their 899 victory.

    The thing that ought to concern everyone, both in Ct. and out – thie thing we Catholics ought to be pushing, is the willingness of these two lawmakers to use state power for the purpose of harassing persons and organizations which disagree with them politically.


  24. Charles R. Williams says:

    The legal definition of lobbying in Connecticutt is too broad. Effectively it interferes with the First Amendment which now binds state governments.

    “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    What happened in Conn. is this: the people peaceably assembled in the state capital to petition the government.

  25. supertradmom says:

    I am glad to hear that Chris believes the state office concerning ethics is “stupid”. However, I would contest that such stupidity is really a bias against religion in the public square. Modernism, especially indifferentism and the ideas of masonry, that the Church should have no say in the public domain, has reared its ugly head in Connecticut. All totalitarian regimes have tried to regulate the Church with state-run boards, supposedly elected by the people-Communist Russia, China, Protestant England, and now look at the power our own states are tying to wrest from the Church.

    It is an age-old battle, seen in the times St. Thomas a Becket, St. Thomas More, St. Edmund Campion, etc. We need to fight this supposedly stupid liberalism. I also recommend Creative Minority for this news.

  26. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Chris, thanks for the update about the CT politicos. I suspected that one or two of them had an axe to grind against the Church.

    Having worked at Fairfield University, I know of Paul Lakeland (former Jesuit with major issues with the Church). Prof. Lakeland was extremely vocal on the 1098 issue, to the point of saying that Voices of the Faithful would push the issue until in passed, no matter how long it took.

    As for the Ethics Office, I often stupified by the level of ignorance those who claim to be “well educated” have with regard to religion. To say it is a fifth grade understanding would be insulting to fifth graders.

  27. David Kastel says:

    it seems to me, as per the letter of the (positive) law as described in this report, the Diocese of Bridgeport is a “lobbyist” and needs to register as such. Admittedly, the law is very broad, and it is a horrible law, but it is the law.

    Bp Lori has 2 choices:
    1) obey the positive law and register the Diocese as a lobbyist
    2) disobey the positive law and explain to the faithful that unjust laws can, and in some cases, must, be disobeyed in good conscience.

    This is an opportunity for some catechesis in moral theology from His Excellency. Hiring lawyers and fighting this in the courts may be prudent, but what to do if the courts rule against him, which they probably will.

  28. Bob says:

    I agree with Latekate. I’m old and suspicious, and my dad worked in law enforcement and Army counterintelligence. I have a banner on my wall given to me by a fellow pro-lifer about 1974: “You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you.”

  29. patrick finley says:

    Let them attempt all they want. If God is with us, who can stand against us.

    My Brothers in Connecticut (KofC) worked to protect the first amendment rights the first time, they’ll do it again.

    They know they are powerless against us, so they come up with absurd, ridiculous attempts to marginalize us. Its all part of the secular agenda. Diminish all churches, then its just another social club, and its a very small push from social club to lobby group

  30. Bookworm says:

    Chris Alteri, thanks for your perspective. This MAY not be so much a direct “persecution” of the Church by the State of Connecticut as it is a selective enforcement, pushed by a small number of state officials with an ax to grind against the Church, of well-meaning but outdated or unrealistic lobbying restrictions.

    I live in Illinois. It’s my understanding that your state, like mine, has a corrupt reputation which peaked about 5 years ago when your governor had to resign to avoid impeachment. (If only OUR governor had had the decency to do the same.) Were these lobbying restrictions something that was passed in a push to “clean up” government after that occurred or have these laws been around for a long time and the financial restrictions never updated? Did recent scandals perhaps cause the state ethics office to go off the deep end in the other direction and bend over backwards to enforce the law?

    Right now in Illinois there is a lot of talk (though not a whole lot of action) about “cleaning up” our “pay to play” politics with restrictions on campaign donations. A lot of people think of lobbying and campaign financing as inherently evil and unfair, and restrictions on these activities are presented as a way to curb the influence of “fat cats” and “special interests.”

    However, it overlooks the fact that lobbying organizations of any kind simply do for others what they do not have the time or ability to do for themselves — such as, travel to the state capital, meet legislators in person, assist in drafting legislation, and present evidence of how proposed legislation will directly affect people. There is no way that most ordinary citizens could do this for every piece of legislation that might affect them.

    While ethics laws can help curb some abuses, the fact remains that really determined practictioners of corruption will find a way around them and the laws themselves can be abused in the hands of the wrong people. An overly simplistic approach to ethics, taxation, or any issue that focuses in on only one factor in isolation from everything else usually leads to trouble.

    The only real solution is for voters to take the time to research and think about the moral character of the people whom they are electing, and make their choices accordingly, instead of just voting for whoever sounds good or tells them what they want to hear.

  31. Bookworm says:

    Here’s something else I’d like to point out.

    I don’t know whether Jones and Carlson are Catholic, and I’m not going to speculate on their intellectual abilities. But the way the law is written, if they are charged with enforcing it strictly, they MAY have no choice but to enforce it. Of course if they do, they should enforce it equally against ANY entity that meets the criteria, and not just the Catholic Church. If they think the law is unfair, they should, ahem, lobby to change the law, but until it does change, it is their duty to enforce it. This assumes, of course, that they are acting in (double ahem) good faith.

    The problem MAY not be with the ethics officials themselves as with the way the law is written. If that is the case, the lobbying law has to be changed to prevent things like this from happening in the future. If the ethics officials are misinterpreting or selectively enforcing the law, that is a different matter.

  32. JosephII says:

    Make no mistake about it, the anti-Catholic persecution is in full swing–and the 54% of “catholics”, including bishops, priests and religious, who voted for obama and its minions, have made it possible! The majority of USCCB’s bishops who were silent in Election 2008, silent and tolerant of defiant pro-abortion “catholic” politicians sacrilegiously receiving Our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, silent about the Notre Dame scandal honoring the most radical, pro-abortion politician in history, have empowered those who are now going after the Catholic Church. The minions of the culture of death are salavating and giddy over their “legal” empowerment to destroy the Catholic Church’s opposition to their agenda of imposing a fascist state in America. It’s only the beginning, much more to come, stay tuned.

  33. Dear David, Rob, et al.,

    First with David: yes, it is a good opportunity for catechesis, though not in the way, which you prescribe.

    The CT lobbying law is pretty broadly worded (I dealt with it in greater depth on my blog, here), though not objectionably so – I mean to say that I would have sought clearer, tighter language, but the language as it is written is not unconstitutionally broad (and let me offer this aside: many people who follow these sorts of things, and politics generally, would like to see the world divided into things that are either (1) unambiguously smart and manifestly the right thing to do or (2) unconstitutional, bad and wrong on their faces. The world cannot be divided into these categories – if it could, then governing would be so easy that even I could do it). More to the point, the Church has not been charged with disobedience. The OSE is investigating. They will quietly be told to back off at some point, and, unless the folks there are even dumber than I think they are – and I think they have some first-rate morons up there – they will. If they try to push a claim against the Church, they will lose, and they will likely lose their jobs and maybe, just maybe, the lobbying law would be struck down (a really outside chance, but a chance).

    Now, I do not want to see the law changed. The state of Ct. had become so thoroughly corrupt, that the law had to be broadly worded in order to be effective. I want to see the law properly enforced.

    This dovetails nicely with my final point: the Church needs to fight this from within the system.

    The reason the Church needs to fight this from within the system is that Her enemies would see her excluded from it, and from the whole political process – stripped of Her citizenship and banished from the public square, as it were. If the Church takes Herself out, She will have ceded the field to Her enemies.

    Rob: I am glad tos ee that you and I hold 5th graders in similarly high esteem.

    Your observation raises another very good point, regarding both the particular Ct. case and things generally: many of the people who are doing the bulk of the grunt work against the Church are not Her true enemies. They hate a distorted vision of Her, but, if they could only see Her as She is, they would fall to their knees, beg forgiveness, and worship Her.

    As things unfold, we must all remember that being on the right side of the issue is not nearly enough, indeed it is barely a beginning. We need to be more patient, more kind, slower to anger and richer in mercy than our enemies.

    As Pope Benedict XVI reminded us recently, it was Christians’ love that convinced the world of Christianity’s truth.

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