Mar 26, 2007

Part 2 of the San Francisco St. Brigid Parish story -- and important lessons for us

Today's (Monday) San Francisco Chronicle carries Part 2 (click on this post's title) of its three-part series on parishioners' attempt to save beautiful, historic St. Brigid Church in downtown San Francisco since the Archdiocese of San Francisco shut it down in 1994.

The story's portrayal of the actions of the Archdiocese of San Francisco is not exactly edifying. But it is essential reading for everyone who wants to know what to expect if they are ever involved in a battle to save their own church from being closed, sold out, vandalized and torn down.

Based on what has happened in San Francisco and elsewhere in our country, here is a word to the wise:

If your bishop, archbishop or cardinal has a bias against beautiful, historic, normal Catholic churches, and if he is facing huge payoffs in legal judgments for facilitating and covering up for clergy homosexual molesters, then your historic, venerable church is in big trouble.

Here in Los Angeles, our cardinal has said he will not have to close churches.

But he also said a few years ago that the beautiful cathedrals of Spain were just what he did NOT want his new cathedral to be; he has wreckovated some churches; and he is facing having to pay off more than 400 lawsuits. So we will see about our venerable churches.

In the meantime, parishioners everywhere in the USA could line up a team ahead of time to defend their historic churches, and they could raise money to have on hand.

Parishioners could also notify anyone, or the estate of anyone, who has willed, donated or paid for altar rails, stained glass windows, statues, etc., in a historic church to instruct their bishop, archbishop or cardinal ahead of time not to ever destroy, throw out, give away, sell or otherwise transfer or dispose of those items.

Parishioners could also hire Catholic professional videographers to make comprehensive, detailed film history records of every bit of their historic churches' interiors and exteriors NOW, before their diocese locks the doors and sends in the wreckers to obliterate their memory.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be fair--Cardinal Roger Mahony told architect Jose Rafael Moneo that he did not want the private piety taking place at side chapels--lighting candles, praying aloud, etc.--detracting from the public worship of the Mass, which is what they observed in historic cathedrals in Spain. The cardinal wanted public worship and private devotion both to have a proper place in the new cathedral. That is why the chapels in the Cathedral of Our Lsdy of the Angels are accessed from the ambulatories and not from the nave. It was a brilliant liturgical insight on the part of the cardinal and it is excellently implemented in Moneo's architecture.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Hoodlum said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Hoodlum,

Thanks very much for the guidance. Parishioners should be looking into these things ahead of time to safeguard their churches.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 6 p.m.,

My impression was that the Cardinal was talking about decor, not side chapels. But if that is not the case, then thank you.

Still, we can all see that the interior of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is about the farthest thing away from the interior of a Spanish cathedral.

It is also extremely hard to insist that having the tabernacle behind the altar fosters "private piety" and "private devotion" and "detracts from the public worship of the Mass!"

In fact, shunting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to a SIDE chapel and away from celebration of Mass FORCES private, separate devotion.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm proud of ya Hoodlum that's a very helpful insight- thanks

I knew you had it in ya-

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hoodlum's been providing helpful insight the whole time, glad to see you've finally recognized it. I knew you had it in ya-

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Quintero,
Finally, you got it!

We reserve the Blessed Sacrament so we can take Holy Communion to the sick and homebound and Viaticum to the dying; and we reserve the Blessed Sacrament for private adoration. Hence, Blessed Sacrament chapels make perefct sense! For once, you and I are on the same page! (I'd say "alleluia" if it weren't Lent.)
Anonymus 6:00 PM

4:28 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 6 p.m.,

No one can maintain that Jesus in the Tabernacle is irrelevant to Mass or at cross purposes with it, which is what liberals seem to hold in their frenzy to get tabernacles out of sanctuaries and to destroy sanctuaries altogether.

We need sanctuaries, tabernacles, main altars, permission for the Tridentine Latin Mass, Mass ad orientem, Communion rails and more.

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Quintero,
The point is that we build churches primarily for public worship and secondarily for private devotion. But when we have a Blessed Sacrament chapel, its primary purpose is the private adoration of the Eucharist reserved for that purpose as well as for bringing Holy Communion to the sick, homebound and dying.
Anonymous 6:00 PM

1:18 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 1:18 a.m.,

Just about everyone will admit that removing the Blessed Sacrament from central location behind the main altar sends a message, intended or not, that lessens belief in, and devotion to, the Real Presence.

The legions of people who stand right outside the separate chapels talking and cackling loudly prove that point or at least bolster it.

I don't know about you, but never in my life have I entered a church, seen the tabernacle behind the main altar, and seen the sanctuary lamp, and thought to myself, "Uh-oh, private devotion!"

But I have entered some churches, looked around unsuccessfully for the Blessed Sacrament and then genuflected on the supposition or the hope that they couldn't have taken Jesus completely away.

Nor have I ever, during Mass, looked at the tabernacle and forgotten about Mass! On the contrary, the presence of the tabernacle behind the main altar enhances participation in Mass.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Quintero,
In Scholastic philosophy and theology, we learn that we can never reason from a particular to a universal; hence, your reasoning from personal experience here is not valid. (Neither would mine be were I to counter by saying that my experience differs.)

The insistence that the tabernacle be centrally located in the sanctuary of the church can be interpreted (it does not have to be, however) as a misunderstanding of the church building's primary end: to serve as the worship space for public prayer. To insist that the tabernacle be centrally located in the sanctuary seems to make a secondary end--private devotion--equal to the primary.

Having said this, I personally have no objection to tabernacles that are already in the central location--I always cite St. Basil's on Wilshire Boulevard as an example of a modern church building that has always had such a placement of the tabernacle.

But I do prefer the Blessed Sacrament chapel because I believe it enhances rather than detracts from our belief in the real substantial and sacramental presence of the Lord's Body and Blood in the tabernacle.
Anonymous 6 PM

1:21 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 1:21 p.m.,

Catholics know churches are for Mass -- "public prayer." But few will agree that central residence for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament conflicts with that purpose and somehow is "private devotion."

More later!

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

According to the teaching of the Church, public prayer consists of the celebration of the sacraments and the Liturgy of the Hours. All other forms of prayer, even if done "publicly," constiture private prayer. Hence, a priest celebrating Mass without servers or congregation is offering public prayer while Mary's Hour in the presence of tens of thousands is private prayer. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass is a private devotion.
Anonymous 6 PM

10:06 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 10:06 p.m.,

Naturally, but how could anyone think that a central location for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is only for private devotion?

And how could anyone think that a proximate tabernacle detracts from the celebration of Mass?

Jesus certainly is relevant to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it being the unbloody renewal of His sacrifice on Calvary.

The central figure in Mass is Jesus, not the priest or the congregation.

Also, what is wrong with Jesus being present centrally in the Church outside of Mass? Even in a Blessed Sacrament chapel outside of the sanctuary, He is still inside the church.

Some people oppose sanctuaries altogether -- hence, the fad of wreckovations. But having a holy of holies is due, and it fosters reverence and a sense of the sacred.

Some people eliminate central tabernacles and sanctuaries so as to make it harder to ever say the Tridentine Latin Mass there, or any Mass ad orientem.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a member of St. Brigid Catholic Church in South Central Los Angeles and I abhore the church's decision to abandon ANY old church. I refuse to attend any services at the newly built "cathedral" in downtown Los Angeles because it was not necessary. The billions of dollars that Mahoney (excuse me, Cardinal Mahoney) wasted in the building of this monstrosity would have been better spent in renevating the age old church he aandoned, St. Vibiana, taking the excess and uplifting the surrounding community. St. Vibiana has been a beautiful old church in the heart of downtown Los Angeles since before the 1920's and when abandoned by Mahoney, needed nothing more than loving care of the building and neighborhood. The new building is nothing but an eyesore, a cold and unwelcoming building, that Cardinal Mahoney can say "It's my building". He can have it.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Annette,

I agree totally with you that bishops should not close any of our old Catholic churches.

"Where there's a will, there's a way," and they can find a way to keep such churches open.

That goes for St. Vibiana, too.

Like you and many L.A. Catholics, I think we could have done without the new cathedral and we should have raised money to fix up St. Vibiana and to start many much-needed other Catholic projects.

What if, God forbid, the new cathedral suffered earthquake damage and needed much repair? We can bet the Archdiocese would spare no expense to fix it up.

We need to treasure our older churches. They are the best!

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, none of those agitating to retrofit and renovate the former St. Vibiana Cathedral--not the preservationists, not the major Catholic foundations, not the traditionalists--were willing to pony up the kind of money it would hve required to do so. The cardinal's original plan was to build a much more modest complex at the St. Vibiana site, but the L.A. Conservancy saw to it that those plans be scuttled. When Gloria Molina and the cash-strapped county offered the parking lot at Temple and Grand as a cathedral site, the archdiocese grabbed the opportunity and the people who had the means gladly donated the millions necesary to build a cathedral fo the ages. Sir Daniel Donohue, head of the Dan Murphy Foundation and a traditional Catholic himself, was intimately involved in the planing and construction of the cathedral. While many in this generation scoff at the rchitecture. we mustn't forget that the Gothic architecture we so revere today was so-named because the people of its day thought is "barbaric"..."Gothic" was hardly a compliment! So too will future generations treasure the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels as a splendid artwork of our time even though some people in our time do not have the vision to appeciate it.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 11:22 p.m.,

Thank you for telling about the role of the L.A. Conservancy.

Whether anyone would have come up with enough money to restore our beloved St. Vibiana Cathedral is not necessarily relevant.

After all, everyone has heard of cases around our Nation in which parishioners of to-be-closed churches raise the stipulated money but the dioceses renege, say "tough luck" and close, sell or demolish the churches anyway.

"Lack of vision" is not why many people do not like the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Many fans of modern architecture just do not think it a good design for a Catholic house of worship.

Elements such as the deliberate exclusion of right angles in the structure raise questions, too.

By the way, not all Gothic cathedrals are to my liking! Romanesque ones tend to be, though. Too, I am going to give the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona closer study when I have time.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 1:21 p.m.,

I've been meaning to say that in citing irreverence outside side chapels as "proof" that those chapels tend to lessen reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, that was not my main argument.

Also, it is not arguing from the particular to the universal to take reality -- widely observed experience -- into account.

10:37 AM  

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