The hearing was an extraordinary demonstration of shifting attitudes on Beacon Hill, as lawmakers who had stood with the Catholic Church on issues such as abortion criticized its treatment of lay Catholics during the abuse scandal and its plan to close nearly one fourth of the parishes in the archdiocese. Years ago, ''we were fearful of bringing issues of this nature up," Thomas P. O'Neill 3d, a former lieutenant governor and state representative, told members of the Judiciary Committee. ''It is historic...."
The bill, backed by 35 lawmakers and Secretary of State William F. Galvin, would require all religious organizations to file annual financial statements and a list of real estate holdings with the attorney general. About 30,000 charities in Massachusetts are subject to the requirement.
''Financial transparency can better ensure moral transparency," Walsh said.
The thrust of the archdiocese's opposition, Saunders said, comes from concerns over religious independence.
But the assembled were really irked that Brighton blew Beacon Hill off.
Remember what Woody Allen said, people -- 90% of life is just showing up.
Edward F. Saunders Jr., executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the policy arm of the archdiocese, said in an interview that church leaders oppose the bill and made that known privately to lawmakers. ''We presented written testimony, and we felt that was sufficient," he said.
Legislators felt otherwise.
''This directly affects the church, and we do not have anybody here," said the Senate minority leader, Brian P. Lees, a Republican from East Longmeadow. ''I'm a little surprised."