BISHOPS EXERCISE THEIR RIGHT TO ARGUE WRONG POINTS

Mass-attending Catholics received a letter from Connecticut’s bishops in their church bulletin Sunday urging them to take immediate action to help defeat a bill now in the state legislature. The bill would eliminate the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits stemming from sexual abuse of young people by clergy.

First, it should be made clear that the bishops have every right to communicate their positions to parishioners without outside interference. Catholics, such as your faithful Shad writer, have every right to voice disagreement with the bishops, ignore the letter or if they feel it necessary, leave the church all together.

There are some glaring problems with the letter. First, it showed an extremely troubling lack of focus on the abused. A line or two about the zero tolerance policy now in effect doesn’t cut it. The letter focused almost exclusively on the financial damage the church could suffer as a result of the bill. A point that is important but should not be the sole focus.

Further, it ignores changes made to bill as it made its way through the legislative process. Right now, civil lawsuits are allowed until age 48. The new bill would allow those older to join existing lawsuits—not initiate one on their own. And most importantly, when filing the complaint, they would have to show that there is “documentary physical evidence to support the claim.” So the bill is not as explosive as the bishops make it out to be.

Bill sponsor state Rep. Beth Bye is troubled by the inaccuracies. Among them, she said, is the bishops’ claim that the bill targets the church and St. Francis hospital which is facing more than 135 lawsuits involving sexual abuse.

“That’s just not true,” said Bye,”It’s a bill designed to support victims of child sexual abuse.”

It’s hard to believe that the St. Francis abhorrent situation wasn’t the driving force behind the bill. But that is just The Shad’s speculation…and common sense.

In the bigger picture, the Catholic Church has mishandled the sexual abuse scandal from the start and Sunday’s letter to Connecticut Catholics is an example of this closer to
home.

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State legislative leaders and Gov. Rell’s spokesman are saying there is a tentative deal in place to deal with the state budget deficit for the current year, placed somewhere between $350 million and $500+ million. One can’t be blamed if the reaction is, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The Democratic controlled legislature had, in their last proposal, two ways of raising revenue that the governor’s office said it couldn’t live with. One is a hospital tax and the other, an increase in the estate tax. These are major differences between the two sides.

Word coming from the Capitol is that the House could vote on this new mystery agreement tomorrow and if it passes, the Senate would vote Wednesday. The key players are also continuing their ridiculous practice of keeping the taxpayers of the state in the dark as to what’s in the agreement. The people of the state foot the bill, that’s all.

Some of the aspects of the deficit mitigation plan that we do know are dangerous. Securitizing—selling off future revenue streams (for pennies of the dollar) for money up front—is a practice that should be avoided. They should also avoid raiding the Clean Elections Fund which is the result of campaign finance reform with public financing for those participating. We are already seeing the result personal wealth has on state races. To dump the public financing plan would be disastrous to some candidates and bad public policy.

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Lt. Gov. and Republican gubernatorial candidate Michael Fedele is showing signs of trying to move out of Governor Rell’s shadow and into the top tier of GOP candidates.

One might think that a candidate who is second in command to Rell may want to attach himself to her given her traditionally astronomical approval ratings in the polls. Not so with Rell. The truth is, Rell has no coattails and has never had any. That was shown to be the case in her reelection bid in 2006. She crushed Democrat John DeStefano but all the other Republican candidates for statewide office lost and the GOP lost seats in both chambers of the legislature.

On The Stan Simpson Show on WFSB-TV Channel 3 Sunday, Fedele gave a specific instance of where he would have acted differently than Rell. When the Democrat-controlled legislature passed a new, two-year budget (it took until last September to get it done), Rell let it become law without her signature. Fedele made it clear he would have vetoed the budget bill and made the Democrats go back to the drawing board. In other words, he’d be tougher than Rell.

It’s the right move to distinguish himself from Rell but it remains to be seen whether Fedele can get out of single digits in the polls.