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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Disclosure, Separation and Hypocrisy

Spending time in Boston this week, I've had a chance to follow the latest Catholic Church shenanigans, in which the State Senate is considering a bill to force more complete financial disclosure by the Archdiocese. Seems like a reasonable measure to me in light of the Boston Catholic Church's payment of hush money to sex abuse victims, raiding of the priests' pension funds, and most recently the pilfering of cash from cemetery accounts. These are people who can't be trusted with money, and more transparency is needed so that donors can see how their contributions are actually spent.

Somehow, none of these accounting irregularities receive mention in John Garvey's Globe op-ed opposing the Senate disclosure bill, though. Garvey is no hack, as his bio notes; he's the Dean of BC Law School. But as I've noted before, the BC hierarchy knows on which side its bread is buttered on these issues, integrity of argument be damned.

Meanwhile, church leaders were too busy to participate in a Senate hearing on the legislation yesterday, though some church-backing private groups went to bat for the Archdiocese.

The thrust of the archdiocese's opposition, Saunders said, comes from concerns over religious independence.

"Mainly on the issue of separation of church and state," Saunders said.

This is rich. I don't recall there being so much concern about separation of church and state back when the Boston Archdiocese was organizing rallies against gay marriage on Boston Common, or Catholic leaders around the country were weighing in on whether to deny John Kerry communion. I'm one who thinks the church should lose its tax-exempt status altogether given its political activities (which also speaks to Garvey's point about the church not being taxed).

The Archdiocese's view of "church and state" seems to be one that doesn't separate religious zealots from deciding matters of public policy but that does separate financial moves by the church leadership from the members of the public that bankroll their activities. Some might call that a little bit self-serving.