5,000 Angry Protesters Descend on Capitol

The bill might have been withdrawn, but 5,000 Roman Catholics, and other opponents of a bill that would essentially change the way the Catholic Church governs itself, made their feelings known Wednesday at the state Capitol.

Legislation introduced by the co-chairmen of the legislature's Judiciary Committee would allow a parish to turn over its fiscal responsibilities to a law council, consisting of between seven and 13 people.  

Priests and bishops would then have very little say on financial matters.

Church leaders cried foul when they heard about the bill, urging Catholics around the state to call the Capitol and protest the measure. 

Tuesday, the co-chairs of the committee canceled a public hearing on the bill, saying they wanted an opinion from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on its constitutionality.  

Opponents of the bill say it violates the First Amendment, which guarantees separation of church and state.

The opponents of the bill had planned to testify against the proposal if the hearing was held Wednesday. And, despite the cancellation of the hearing, they showed up anyway.  

More than 4,000 Catholics from around the state, along with others concerned about the church-state issue, rallied outside the Capitol. 

They heard Archbishop Henry Mansell of the Hartford Archdiocese, Bishop William Lori of the Bridgeport Diocese and Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich Diocese speak out against the bill, calling it an attack on Catholics and a violation of the First Amendment.

While the rally took place outside, another 1,000 people were in a hearing room and four overflow rooms at the Legislative Office Building. 

They were testifying before state lawmakers at an informational hearing, urging them to make sure that legislation of this type never be brought up again.

Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald, co-chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, introduced the controversial measure at the request of a group of Catholics in Fairfield County.  

That group had voiced concern about two cases of financial impropriety at Catholic Churches in that area. 

Neither McDonald nor Lawlor was at the Capitol Wednesday.  

In pulling the bill and canceling the hearing, they would only say in a written statement, that the matter needs more study.

Contact Us