Boston Archdiocese Silent on Chick-fil-A Fracas

July 28, 2012

BCI is digging through the latest news about Boston Mayor Menino’s criticism of Chick-fil-A and as of this writing, no one can find any statement from the Boston Archdiocese about the recent Chick-fil-A fracas.

For those unfamiliar with the fracas, the fast-food chain wants to open a francise in Boston. Mayor Menino, who, coincidentally, considers himself “Catholic,”  got national attention after telling the Boston Herald that Chick-fil-A was unwelcome in Boston due to an executive’s criticism of same-sex marriage. “If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult,” Menino was quoted as saying. The mayor backtracked a little bit and later said he would not block licensing the chain, but amidst a national uproar over the situation, the silence by the Boston Archdiocese is concerning.

In case the archdiocese is at a loss for words, here are a few examples they might draw from:

Boston Globe Editorial: Menino shouldn’t block Chick-fil-A because of president’s views

The president of Chick-fil-A opposes gay marriage. While this view goes against the grain in a state that made history by embracing it, it’s no reason for Mayor Thomas M. Menino to oppose a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Boston.

The fast food chicken sandwich chain was reportedly looking at property near Faneuil Hall…Then company president Dan Cathy stirred national controversy when he said  that “we’re inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say we know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.” In response, Menino told the Boston Herald, “Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the City of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

But which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand? A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license.

Chick-fil-A must follow all state and city laws. If the restaurant chain denied service to gay patrons or refused to hire gay employees, Menino’s outrage would be fitting… But beyond the fact that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, the religious beliefs of the company’s top executive don’t appear to control its operations

…using the power of government to freeze the company out of a city sends a disturbing message to all businesses. If the mayor of a conservative town tried to keep out gay-friendly Starbucks or Apple, it would be an outrage.

Ironically, Menino is citing the specific location along the Freedom Trail as a reason to block Chick-fil-A. A city in which business owners must pass a political litmus test is the antithesis of what the Freedom Trail represents.

Boston Business Journal: Balking at mayor’s chicken stand

While the mayor’s support for policies of inclusion is admirable, his threat to deny a company the basic right to open a law-abiding business in a commercially zoned area was philosophically offensive and legally foolish.

As far as we can tell, no one has proven a pattern of Chick-fil-A discriminating against gay employees or prospective employees.

Michael Bloomberg fillets Tom Menino over stance

[New York City Mayor, Michael] Bloomberg, meanwhile, took to the airwaves in Gotham and said he’d welcome Chick-fil-A into Manhattan with open arms. The billionaire businessman-turned-New York mayor said Menino, along with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, are wrong “to look at somebody’s political views and decide whether or not they can live in the city, or operate a business in the city.”

Even businessmen entitled to their beliefs

So here we have yet another striking example of how the love that once dared not speak its name now wants to slap a muzzle on anyone uttering a word of resistance to its agenda. And this is the crowd that pleaded for tolerance?

Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A, became a lighting rod for their vilification when he let it be known his life was shaped by biblically founded beliefs, one of which held that marriage is an institution ordained by God, defined through the ages as the union of a man and a woman.

For that affront to political correctness, he’s been portrayed in this town as a small-minded bigot whose business may be allowed here, but certainly won’t be warmly received.

This is civic insanity and it’s spreading like a plague…

There are dozens of other outstanding editorials that put this in proper perspective.  In the midst of a national controversy, a voice of moral clarity from the local archdiocese giving support for the positions expressed by the president of Chick-fil-A seems appropriate. In these challenging times when Catholic Church and our moral views are under fierce attack, is it not appropriate for the Boston Archdiocese to make a statement saying a business owner’s religious beliefs should never be used as criteria to determine whether they can get a business license in Boston?  Where is the commentary on Cardinal Sean’s blog?   Hello!?  Hello!?

(ps. BCI has been on a blogging break to handle other responsibilities and also go on a much-needed retreat and vacation. We are still here and blogging, just on a reduced schedule)


Holy Trinity: Relegation to Profane Use Update

July 8, 2012

With very little public attention, the Boston Archdiocese has undertaken the process of relegating to profane use Holy Trinity Church in Boston. Assuming Holy Trinity is relegated to profane use, the property will be sold. The future of the beautiful neo-gothic style 1877 church building and its potential demolition will likely be tied to large-scale redevelopment of the South End being driven by the City of Boston.

A short bulletin notice at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross says the following from the rector:

Holy Trinity Parish Church: After thought and consideration I have informed the Parish Council on May 9, 2012, that I will petition His Eminence, Sean Cardinal P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap. To begin the process of relegation of Holy Trinity Parish Church from sacred to profane use.

BCI wrote extensively about Holy Trinity in 2011, when the archdiocese listed the property for sale with a realtor but never went through a process of relegating the church to profane use.  See:

Boston Church Asks Vatican to Stop its Sale (March 15, 2011)

NEWSFLASH: Boston Archdiocese Pulls For-Sale Listing of Holy Trinity (March 18, 2011)

More Diocesan Deception (March 19, 2011)

Holy Trinity Trickery (March 31, 2011)

When the property was taken off the market, in 2011, note what the then-Chancellor communicated to former Holy Trinity parishioners:

The second step in this [relegation] process is the consultation of the Catholic faithful. At present, we are in the midst of this stage of the relegation consultation process for seven area churches. Holy Trinity was not included with this grouping because we had not yet obtained the needed information for the consultation. Cardinal O’Malley will be announcing a new series of consultations soon and this grouping will include Holy Trinity Church.

Please be assured that during the planned consultation period, you and all who wish to be heard will have ample opportunity to give your input to Cardinal O’Malley and to Father O’Leary, the pastor of Cathedral Parish, which welcomed the former parishioners of Holy Trinity. I hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity and provide thoughtful comments so that the Cardinal may make an informed and just decision as to the ultimate use of the church building.

Did we and others miss the announcement of the public consultation?  Did it even occur at all?

Here is what is in store for this area:

South End landscape getting a rapid makeover

Anchored by the dramatic rebuilding of the former Boston Herald property, the corridor of blocks between Harrison Avenue and Albany Street could soon host more than 1,000 new units of housing, dozens of new storefronts, improved roads, and new smaller roadways and sidewalks carved out of the large industrial blocks that dominate the area.

Boston Redevelopment Authority: Harrison-Albany Corridor Strategic Plan (South End)

Reader, “Servium” had this to say recently about the fate of Holy Trinity Church:

Its historic and patrimonial significance to the Church and the City of Boston at large should not be minimized. Currently, there is a move afoot by the Boston Redevelopment Authority [BRA] and developers to take the entire block. No longer a place of worship, the political apparatus of the City of Boston has imposed a stiff property tax on the property. The legalized extortion is now forcing the Archdiocese [RCAB]’s hand to unload HTC into the hands of the BRA and interested developers, who have strong ties to both the City and the Pastoral Center. The potential ethical conflict of interest is astounding but continues to fester. Isn’t interesting that Peter Meade that formerly headed the Meade-Eisner Reconfiguration Review Committee for the Cardinal, now heads the BRA. Do you think any inside information has been shared with the City? Have properties been promised political allies before any transaction? One can only conjecture, given the track record exposed on this blog.

We excerpt from a previous post and reader submitted piece to give more details about Holy Trinity:

The beautiful neo-Gothic-style building located on Shawmut Avenue had a turreted white altar flanked by golden angels. Here you can see the now-empty tabernacle between them.

“The thought of what is planned for this Domus Dei (House of God) sickens me,” one concerned parishioner wrote to Boston Catholic Insider last year. “Two religious orders (the FSSP and the ICRSS), have previously expressed interest in maintaining the property and the Cardinal has showed no interest…A utilitarian understanding of ‘worship space’ seems to have been prevailed upon at least two generations of Catholics in Boston, reducing sacred architecture and the theology of the Domus Dei to a managed asset,” the parishioner said. “This has paved the way to massive church suppressions in Boston with little or no outcry from clergy or laity alike. Does anyone question the secular model of Church, currently peddled by the corporate wizards at the Pastoral Center?”

Holy Trinity was designed by noted architect Patrick Keeley. A massive 2,880-pipe organ dominates the loft; the church can seat 1,200.

At the highest point near the vaulted cathedral ceiling are images of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Six-foot high Stations of the Cross line the blue-and- gold walls. Above each station stands a tall hand-carved wooden statue of an apostle. These alternate with 30-foot-high stained-glass windows bearing images of Michael the Archangel and other saints.

Peering down from higher on the walls are frescoes of St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and other canonized Jesuits. The Society of Jesus ran the parish from 1848 to 1961, when it was transferred to the Archdiocese.

Pictorial pages of salvation history here surrounded generations of worshippers, who could point to them as they showed their children real faces from the Communion of Saints.

Over the years, this ethnic German parish opened schools, an orphanage and a home for the elderly. In 1990 it was designated to host the celebration of the Roman-rite in the Archdiocese, and soon a thriving Latin Mass community grew.

The German-Americans and the Latin Mass group did not just cohabit the building; they bonded. Together the parish had five active choirs, including a Gregorian chant ensemble, and a contributing membership from 94 zip codes. It hosted an Oktoberfest and a Christian Arts Series that offered orchestral and choir music concerts free to the public.

In 2008 it was closed and its assets transferred to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. BCI understands from knowledgeable sources that the structural condition of the building may not be good, but in the absence of seeing an independent engineering report, we cannot say unequivocally what condition the building is in today.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BCI will close with the words of former Vicar General Fr. Erikson, who told Catholic faithful how important it is to consider input from former parishioners before churches are relegated to profane use. He said in the Globe:

“Our buildings are important to us in the Catholic faith,” said the Rev. Richard M. Erikson, the archdiocese’s vicar general. “They’re places of high honor, where many of us have experienced first communions, marriages, the burial of loved ones. Church is like another home for us, so any time we consider a use other than the sacred, it’s a very serious matter, a very serious decision.”…

“To those skeptical” that their input will be considered, Erikson said, “I ask them to put their confidence in this process, which may be unprecedented, which is designed to be thorough, thoughtful and efficient, and which was developed with sincere intent.”

BCI hates to see any churches sold and/or demolished. Admittedly, BCI has a soft spot for older churches with stunningly beautiful architecture such as Holy Trinity. The relegation to profane use of Holy Trinity and its sale are no doubt a fait accompli.  Has a thorough, thoughtful process of consultation been followed for Holy Trinity?  If so, it has been a rather private one.  To what extent did the RCAB ignore or otherwise dismiss potential Catholic buyers of this building? Are there conflicts of interest in this situation that have not been addressed by key players recusing themselves?

Sadly, this is probably not the last church to be closed and sold off in Boston.  Following an open process, free from conflicts of interest, where the faithful can at least participate and be heard is very important.  Did that happen here, or did it not?  If not, why is it so difficult for this archdiocese to do what they say they will do?

Close of “Fortnight for Freedom”: Archbishop Chaput Comments

July 5, 2012

Yesterday, July 4th, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia delivered the closing homily at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Catholic University. The Liturgy, along with others in major cities throughout the Nation, “closed” the “Fortnight for Freedom” called by the US Catholic Bishops.  Here is his homily:

Philadelphia is the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were written.  For more than two centuries, these documents have inspired people around the globe.  So as we begin our reflection on today’s readings, I have the privilege of greeting everyone here today — and every person watching or listening from a distance — in the name of the Church of my home, the Church of Philadelphia, the cradle of our country’s liberty and the city of our nation’s founding.  May God bless and guide all of us as we settle our hearts on the Word of God. 

Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil, yes and no.  He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids . . . He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.”

Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius.  He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him.  He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science.  He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.

We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a different century.  And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the reason we come together in worship this afternoon.

Most of us know today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew.  What we should, or should not, render unto Caesar shapes much of our daily discourse as citizens. But I want to focus on the other and more important point Jesus makes in today’s Gospel reading: the things we should render unto God.

When the Pharisees and Herodians try to trap Jesus, he responds by asking for a coin.  Examining it he says, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” When his enemies say “Caesar’s,” he tells them to render it to Caesar.  In other words, that which bears the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar.

The key word in Christ’s answer is “image,” or in the Greek, eikon.  Our modern meaning of “image” is weaker than the original Greek meaning.  We tend to think of an image as something symbolic, like a painting or sketch.  The Greek understanding includes that sense but goes further.  In the New Testament, the “image” of something shares in the nature of the thing itself.

This has consequences for our own lives because we’re made in the image of God.  In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same word, eikon, is used in Genesis when describing the creation.  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” says God (Gen 1:26).  The implication is clear.  To be made in the image of God is more than a pious slogan.  It’s a statement of fact.  Every one of us shares — in a limited but real way — in the nature of God himself.  When we follow Jesus Christ, we grow in conformity to that image.

Once we understand this, the impact of Christ’s response to his enemies becomes clear.  Jesus isn’t being clever.  He’s not offering a political commentary.  He’s making a claim on every human being.  He’s saying, “render unto Caesar those things that bear Caesar’s image, but more importantly, render unto God that which bears God’s image” — in other words, you and me.  All of us.

And that raises some unsettling questions: What do you and I, and all of us, really render to God in our personal lives?  If we claim to be disciples, then what does that actually mean in the way we speak and act?

Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important.  It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens.  But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature of this world, and Christ’s message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves.  Obviously we’re in the world.  That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it.  Patriotism is a virtue.  Love of country is an honorable thing.  As Chesterton once said, if we build a wall between ourselves and the world, it makes little difference whether we describe ourselves as locked in or locked out.

But God made us for more than the world.  Our real home isn’t here.  The point of today’s Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God.  In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing – at least nothing permanent and important – belongs to Caesar. Why?  Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar’s image, we bear the stamp of God’s image in baptism.  We belong to God, and only to God.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us, “Indeed religion” — the RSV version says “godliness” – “with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.”  True freedom knows no attachments other than Jesus Christ. It has no love of riches or the appetites they try to satisfy.  True freedom can walk away from anything — wealth, honor, fame, pleasure.  Even power.  It fears neither the state, nor death itself.

Who is the most free person at anything? It’s the person who masters her art. A pianist is most free who — having mastered her instrument according to the rules that govern it and the rules of music, and having disciplined and honed her skills — can now play anything she wants.

The same holds true for our lives.  We’re free only to the extent that we unburden ourselves of our own willfulness and practice the art of living according to God’s plan.  When we do this, when we choose to live according to God’s intention for us, we are then — and only then — truly free.

This is the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It’s the freedom of Miguel Pro, Mother Teresa, Maximillian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all the other holy women and men who have gone before us to do the right thing, the heroic thing, in the face of suffering and adversity.

This is the kind of freedom that can transform the world.  And it should animate all of our talk about liberty – religious or otherwise.

I say this for two reasons.  Here’s the first reason.  Real freedom isn’t something Caesar can give or take away.  He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy.

Here’s the second reason.  The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom.  Religious liberty is a foundational right.  It’s necessary for a good society.  But it can never be sufficient for human happiness.  It’s not an end in itself.  In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ.  What good is religious freedom, consecrated in the law, if we don’t then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind and soul and strength?

Today, July 4, we celebrate the birth of a novus ordo seclorum – a “new order of the ages,” the American Era.  God has blessed our nation with resources, power, beauty and the rule of law.  We have so much to be grateful for.  But these are gifts.  They can be misused.  They can be lost.  In coming years, we’ll face more and more serious challenges to religious liberty in our country.  This is why the Fortnight for Freedom has been so very important.

And yet, the political and legal effort to defend religious liberty – as vital as it is – belongs to a much greater struggle to master and convert our own hearts, and to live for God completely, without alibis or self-delusion. The only question that finally matters is this one: Will we live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ?  If so, then we can be a source of freedom for the world.  If not, nothing else will do.

God’s words in today’s first reading are a caution we ignore at our own expense.  “Son of man,” God says to Ezekiel and to all of us, “I have appointed you as a sentinel.  If I say to the wicked, ‘you will surely die’ – and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them . . . I will hold you responsible for their blood.”

Here’s what that means for each of us:  We live in a time that calls for sentinels and public witness. Every Christian in every era faces the same task.  But you and I are responsible for this moment. Today. Now.  We need to “speak out,” not only for religious liberty and the ideals of the nation we love, but for the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person – in other words, for the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.

We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in word, but also in deed. In the end, we’re missionaries of Jesus Christ, or we’re nothing at all. And we can’t share with others what we don’t live faithfully and joyfully ourselves.

When we leave this Mass today, we need to render unto Caesar those things that bear his image.  But we need to render ourselves unto God — generously, zealously, holding nothing back.  To the extent we let God transform us into his own image, we will – by the example of our lives – fulfill our duty as citizens of the United States, but much more importantly, as disciples of Jesus Christ.

BCI will let these comments stand on their own. We wish we heard a similar spirit in the Town Hall Meeting on Jun 25, and we hope and pray that all heed these words: “We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in word, but also in deed. In the end, we’re missionaries of Jesus Christ, or we’re nothing at all. And we can’t share with others what we don’t live faithfully and joyfully ourselves.”

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