Church's Stand on Subpoena Power Examined
Letter to the Editor

Hartford Courant
June 7, 2003

An editorial and a letter on the June 4 editorial page raised a number of questions.

In its editorial "Church Vs. State's Attorneys," The Courant objected to the Catholic Church's opposition to a bill that would enhance state prosecutors' subpoena power. The Courant stated: "The church's interference is outrageous."

Is it the Courant's position that Catholics do not have the same right to lobby their elected representatives as other groups, or is it just its preference to subtly invoke anti-Catholicism when the church takes a position it doesn't like?

The editorial dismisses the church's claim that it opposes the bill out of a desire to protect the priest-penitent privilege and instead sides with those who suggest darkly that the church's real goal is to fight legislation that could be used to investigate priests suspected of child abuse. But the bill bars prosecutors from issuing a subpoena if it involves an attorney-client relationship while allowing judges the option of denying a subpoena if it involves a priest-penitent relationship. If the church's stated concerns "make little sense," as The Courant claims, why does the bill treat these privileges differently? And why did The Courant's coverage neglect to mention this difference?

In her letter ["Majority Status A Matter of Time"], Joanne F. Moran, a local Voice of the Faithful leader, responded to criticism of her group's agenda by referring to her understanding of history and "an antiquated philosophy" of church governance. We were struck by the lack of any reference to the teachings of the church. In light of that absence, we ask: The Voice of the Faithful is faithful to what, exactly?

The clergy sex abuse scandals were caused not by a lack of lay involvement in the governing of the church, but by a lack of fidelity to the teachings of the church. During his meeting with the U.S. cardinals in April 2002, Pope John Paul II responded to the crisis by declaring that people "must know that bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life." Unless Voice of the Faithful shares that goal, it will become the disease for which it claims to be the cure.

Brian S. Brown


Peter J. Wolfgang

New Hartford

Brian S. Brown is executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut. Peter J. Wolfgang is a district deputy for the Connecticut State Council of the Knights of Columbus.


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