Hearing's Off But Protests Go On

Catholic protesters remain energized after winning a legislative battle

Catholics from across the state are expected to rally at the state Capitol Wednesday to protest a proposal that would have changed the way the Catholic church governs itself.

Amid widespread criticism, the bill was pulled and a public hearing before the legislature's judiciary committee scheduled for Wednesday was canceled.

Despite the postponement, Catholic Church officials are going forward with plans to rally at the Capitol. Hundreds of people,  angry over what they view as the state's inappropriate intrusion into church affairs, are expected at the hearing. Twelve buses are scheduled to leave from different locations in the area.  

"We are pleased that the hearing was postponed. We are concerned that the bill is very much alive," Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the diocese of Bridgeport, said. "The troops are mobilized. ... We're as committed as ever."

"While we are pleased by this action, we are not convinced that this unconstitutional bill is dead," the Diocese of Bridgeport wrote in a news release. "We’re going to speak personally and passionately in defense of religious freedom and the First Amendment rights of the U.S. Constitution. The voices of thousands have been heard already through the many calls and e-mails to legislators, and they will hear many more in Hartford tomorrow." 

At a news conference Tuesday at the legislative office building, Tom Gallagher of Greenwich, who has long advocated that lay people be given greater responsibilities within the church, said he has asked Rep. Michael Lawlor and Sen. Andrew McDonald, co-chairmen of the legislature's judiciary committee, to put off the hearing until Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has reviewed the matter.

Lawlor and McDonald agreed.

"At the request of the proponents who are advocating this legislation, we have decided to cancel the public hearing for tomorrow [and] table any further consideration of this bill for the duration of this session," the lawmakers said in a joint statement Tuesday.

The proposed bill, which would take power from Catholic priests and bishops and turn it over to parishioners, sparked an angry reaction from church leaders, who questioned lawmakers motives. The bill would create lay councils of seven to 13 people to oversee the finances of local parishes, relegating Catholic pastors and bishops to an advisory role.

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