An interesting item in this week's Catholic Standard & Times, courtesy Project friend Bill.
The Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul, also known as the mother church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has recently installed four new shrines. Two of these shrines were made by taking the side altars of sadly deceased St. Boniface, now Long Goodbye-ing at Diamond & Hancock Streets in West Kensington.
There's more detail in the article, including the installation of an heirloom icon of Our Lady of Perptual Help. But here's all you need to know: To make their acquisition of the shrines complete, the Archdiocese commissioned the construction of four new, 6000 lb. marble statues and marble backdrops, one for each shrine.
Go back and read that sentence again, please.
The Archdiocese is viewed in many circles as being too focused on themselves and on the surburbs, to the detriment of the old city parishes that make up their history. And stunts like this won't help one bit.
Here's the problem. In this economic climate, at a time when so many inner-city parishes are struggling, how can they justify the enormous expense of four new intricate marble statues for an already pristine building?
You can't. The CS&T can tow the company line all they like, but there is no excuse for this. Not when Our Lady of Hope gets closer every day to caving in on itself. Not when Our Lady Help of Christians is trying to repair its gutted vaults and leaky windows. Not when St. Martin de Porres is struggling to work urban miracles on a shoestring budget. Not when Ascension of Our Lord's crumbling church has been rendered uninhabitable.
Yes, the Basilica is a beautiful building, and yes, it deserves to be protected and restored and beautified. But you know what? So do those other parishes. And really, it's these parishes that are the lifeblood of the Archdiocese. Actions like these, though, do nothing to give the impression that the Archdiocese actually gives a darn. Is it any wonder that there's a small (but growing) and vocal contingent that's disgusted?
Count the Project among them. We've made no secret of that, really. And it's not because we have a bone to pick with the Archdiocese, but because we've seen all of these churches up close. We've been in the trenches, from 9th & Cambria to 5th & Lindley to 63rd & Callowhill. And we see what these parishes mean to struggling neighborhoods, and what happens to areas once a parish is closed. In these hard times, the Archdiocese should be sparing no expense to keep these places afloat. Instead, they break the bank for some new statuary. Thanks, really.
You'd be outraged if a mother kept her children ragged and hungry, yet surrounded herself with expensive finery and food. Wouldn't you? Of course. But these parishes don't have child protective services to put them in a better home.
I sincerely hopes that the Archdiocese will prove us wrong; that they have more going on than meets the eye.
But I have a feeling they won't, and they don't. Remember: they never stepped in when Boniface spent years slowly deteriorating, but they'll gladly take its altars.