Serious questions have been raised concerning the language of Raised Bill 1098. This is a bill that essentially compels a re-formation of Catholic Church authority, which now resides in its bishops, archbishops and the pope, considered to be the head of the Catholic Church.
The bill establishes a church board that would direct the finances of the church and at the same time makes bishops and arch bishops powerless witnesses to the actions of the board.
According to the bill, “The corporation, shall have a board of directors consisting of not less than seven nor more than thirteen lay members. The archbishop or bishop of the diocese or his designee shall serve as an ex-officio member of the board of directors without the right to vote.”
The stated purpose of the bill is “To revise the corporate governance provisions applicable to the Roman Catholic Church and provide for the investigation of the misappropriation of funds by religious corporations.”
The powers of the board, enumerated in the bill, include establishing and approving budgets; managing the financial affairs of the corporation; providing for the auditing of the financial records of the corporation; developing and implementing strategic plans and capital projects and developing outreach programs and other services to be provided to the community.
Having deprived the bishops and archbishops of the Catholic Church of the power, right and authority to direct its finances, the bill amusingly notes in closing that “nothing in this section shall be construed to limit, restrict or derogate from any power, right, authority, duty or responsibility of the bishop or pastor in matters pertaining exclusively to religious tenets and practices.”
The bill providentially orders the board it has invented from whole cloth to report financial irregularities to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a busy nuisance who apparently has enough time on his hands to stand in for prelates of the Catholic Church, yet another power added to the attorney general’s borderless reservoir of powers, few of which are enumerated in his job description.
Worst of all, the bill is church specific. The title of the bill is “An Act Modifying Corporate Laws Relating to Certain Religious Corporations,” and the opening line of the bill reads, “A corporation may be organized in connection with any Roman Catholic Church or congregation in this state…”
The first rule of law, more ancient than constitutions, is that laws should be general rather than specific, since specific bills tend to be regarded as punitive, affecting, in this case, one church in Connecticut rather than all religious institutions in the state.
As law makers, both Blumental and the co-chairs of the state judiciary committee, Michael Lawlor and Andrew McDonald both know, or should know, that “The movement of progressive societies,” in the words of Sir Henry Maine (Ancient Law, London 1861) “has hitherto been a movement from status to contract.” And they must know that the “true contrast to a reign of status,” in the words of Fredrich Hayak (The Constitution of Liberty) “is the reign of general and equal laws, of the rules which are the same for all, or, as we might say, of the rule of leges, in the original meaning of the Latin word for laws – leges, that is, as opposed to priv-leges.”
We are still, the people of Connecticut may have some reason to hope, a nation of laws rather than a nation of men of privilege, and we expect our law to have general rather than specific application.
The present bill brazenly targets a specific religious sub group (Catholics) rather than the proper general category (religious organizations of all kinds). There are two reasons for writing specific laws: the first is to grant a privilege to a favored group. And the second is to punish the specific group for which the law was written. That is likely in this case. The law removes from Catholic bishops and archbishops a right of the church that the law does not remove from, say, Episcopalians, Jews etc, other members of the sub group to which the specific law does not apply.
We do not know on whose behalf this disgraceful bill was promulgated, but they should be asked a few questions: If this law is a solution to a problem, what is the problem to which this law is the solution? Why is the bill necessary for the Catholic Church and not for all other religious affiliations? Who suggested and/or wrote the legislation? Do not Blumenthal, Lawlor, McDonald et al regard invidious specific rather than general laws as a profound violation of the rule of law, which holds that laws to be just must be general in nature?