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12 February 2005

Over the months when the sex scandal in the Catholic church in the United States continued to unravel like a ball of string in a cage full of kittens, my friend, with growing anger, kept saying she was demanding just one cathedral.

For all the things that the Catholic Church had done to gay people while at the same time harboring pedophiles within its own walls for years, she figured the Church owed her, and the rest of the gay community, some restitution.

Was it too much to ask for just one little cathedral when the Catholic Church had gazillions of dollars in money and property and investments hidden away throughout the world, she asked.  The richer churches in the United States were sending money to Rome where it would be out of reach of those greedy lawyers who dared to ask recompense for the children whose lives had been ruined by the men whom the church had chosen to hide by moving them to new parishes where they could molest other children.   Didn't it seem fair that the gay community get something for the way they have been abused by the Catholic Church, she asked.

At the same time the Church was harboring pedophiles, it was silencing people like Sister Jeanne Gramick and Father Robert Nugent for their ministry to the gay community.  At the same time the Church was harboring pedophiles, it put an end to the "gay Mass" at a church in San Francisco because allowing gay people to worship together as a group implied acceptance of this "sinful lifestyle."

Gay people were not to be given any recognition within the Catholic Church.   They weren't even worthy of receiving the sacraments from the hands of one of those priests whose hands had been molesting children, yet who still were permitted to touch the body and blood of Christ at Mass, to preach on matters of morality to the faithful, to baptize the babies they might later sexually molest.

"I just want a cathedral," my friend said more than once.   More than twice.  More than a dozen times.

I kind of wanted to feel a pang of sadness when I received the e-mail from my old parish church.

sb-rosewindow.jpg (35559 bytes)St. Brigid's is an historic old building in San Francisco.  Not exactly a cathedral, but it is a Richardson Romanesque structure with fine old marble columns, highly polished wooden pews and beautiful stained glass windows, with a beautiful pipe organ under the rose window, which overlooks the interior of church itself. 

I have many memories of that church.  It was there that I received my first communion, solemnly marching down the aisle in my white dress and veil.  It was there that I had the bishop strike me softly on the cheek when he administered the sacrament of confirmation, after we had all promised never to drink alcohol until we were 21 (like 7th graders know enough to make that pledge!).  Many were the ceremonies where I walked around the church, carrying chrysanthemums in my hands.   Many are the nickles I spent paying for candles that I lit in front of the statue of Mary.  Many is the time I stood in terror waiting for my turn in the confessional, leaving behimd a puddle of urine on the floor because I peed in my pants, I was so afraid to confess I had disobeyed my mother and father, fought with my sister, and told 3 lies (my standard confession).

St. Brigid's also has historical significance for the city of San Francisco, for it was at the site of the church where the famous 1906 fire, following the big earthquake, finally came to a stop, after destroying a great portion of the city.   They say that the prayers of the people at St. Brigid's were finally heard by God who put out the fire.

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So I wanted to feel sad when I got the email.

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Brigid Church:

San Francisco’s Archdiocese has announced plans to demolish this historic city landmark to pay the cost of priest abuse claims.

They are calling for all interested parties to come to a meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in the hope of saving the historic building.

I wish I felt sadness at the prospect of the loss of the church which has been such a part of my childhood.  But there is a black part of my soul which is giggling gleefully.  My friend isn't going to be able to claim her cathedral, but this is one that's going to hurt the Catholic Church, if it comes to pass.  And isn't that what the purpose of "penance" is--do something that is going to hurt enough so that you are disinclined to commit the heinous act ever again?

Anybody think this is going to teach the church a lesson about hiding criminals within its ranks?

Me neither.

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Interior, St. Brigid's Church

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