OK, what is the MCC, really?

In the last installment we considered what the MCC (Massachusetts Catholic Conference) was all about, according to the bishops and Attorney Saunders, chief lobbyist. Now let's take a closer look.

When Saunders was introduced to the press in 2005, then-archbishop O'Malley said that he looked forward to working with the Board of Governors of the MCC and Saunders. It's hard to see how it could be otherwise - the four Governors of the MCC consist of the four bishops of the MCC, one of which is O'Malley! In fact, one searches in vain for anyone making policy for the MCC, other than the bishops. Since there are none, it's a safe bet that the MCC is simply an alter ego of the bishops.

It follows that the MCC staff acts as proxy for the bishops in the areas of public policy. One might call them The Apostles To The Legislature.

Their stated purposes are to witness to spiritual values, apply church teaching, and identify public needs in the areas of morality. So far, this sounds pretty much like a traditional description of what the clerical wing of the church proposes to do for the laity. The difference seems to be that this attention is directed, through the staff, to the legislature, and ultimately, through their formation and implementation of public policy, to all the citizens of the Commonwealth. This is serious stuff, because although the moral vision is peculiar to one group, it affects all, regardless of their religious convictions, through the political process.

I suppose when the legislature was mainly Catholic the MCC might have been preaching to the converted. Now, with so many non-Catholics (and ex-Catholics) among the lawmakers, the MCC might have to dig a little deeper and preach a little harder.

The MCC also states that it speaks for the Roman Catholic Church in Massachusetts. Here, I beg to differ. The church, as we know, is all of the people who make up the church, the communion of saints. To speak for the entire church the MCC would have needed to consult with the people who make up the church, to ensure that they are speaking with moral clarity, as one voice for the many. But, they didn't.

For example, I've been in this state attending Catholic churches for most of my life, and I don't recall being approached by Attorney Saunders or Attorney Avila for my opinion on a single thing. Of course Boston is a long way from Lee, or maybe it's still true that "Western Massachusetts" is identified as Worcester by those in the Hub of the Universe! But seriously, there are simple ways to seek consensus, or, at the very least, to survey the views of the Catholic people of Massachusetts, in order to represent the Catholic point of view before the legislature. In the absence of such efforts it is clear that the MCC can represent only the views of the chief executive officers of the corporation (the civil component) and not the views of the canonical body known as the church.

In the last installment we learned that the MCC aspired to be an "informational resource" for Catholics and wanted to encourage the "active participation of all Catholics in these important public debates". It is noteworthy that the MCC is willing to provide ammunition for the laity so that they can influence the public debate – but at the same time seems incapable or unwilling to maintain a discussion within Catholic ranks about what the Catholic position should be.

Should anyone doubt that there is a predetermined game plan which the troops are expected to follow, please revisit the link to the MCC-NET sign up page, where you will find a loyalty oath. This makes it plain that potential civil activists will be working under the "Exclusive Direction" (emphasis in original) of the bishops of the diocese. Loyal lay members are urged to participate, so that they can experience the satisfaction of leaving the sidelines for a place on the "winning team" in the legislative battles. The approach is not subtle.

However, some of the language is coy. The MCC, like the bishops, cannot say what they really want, as some of it would undoubtedly cross the line into political advocacy, running afoul of IRS and state-imposed guidelines. For this reason a great deal of code is necessary. Future posts will discuss this code, and how this code relates to Bill 1523.

(to be continued)