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THE SPLENDOUR AND THE GLORY
18 November 2005
On Sunday, November 20, the Catholics of Sacramento will get their cathedral back.
The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament has been undergoing a massive refurbishing for the past several years, and by all accounts the results are dazzling. There is marble imported from China, hand painted artwork on the walls, gold gilt up the wazoo, sparkling refurbished stained glass windows and a magnificent dome uncovered and restored to its original brilliance.
News reports I have seen show an interior that may rival some of the most beautiful cathedrals of Europe.
Cost of the project: $35 million.
It's a gorgeous building, to be sure, but I question the cost of $35 million when the money could be put to use so much better elsewhere.
In the same news broadcast, there was another story about the crisis at two of Sacramento's homeless shelters. There is not enough food to feed all they expect to show up for Thanksgiving dinner. One organization reports that they have less than a dozen turkeys at the moment. They are pleading for money to buy food for the hungry homeless or they will have to turn away people on Thanksgiving.
I wonder how many turkeys even $1 million, 1/35 the cost of the Cathedral restoration, would buy.
The rate of tuberculosis is on the rise in Sacramento among the homeless and foreign-born immigrants. In 2003 alone, the rate of TB rose 35%, an astronomical number.
How many children could be vaccinated with $35 million?
Sacramento has one of the highest percentage of children living in poverty of any county in California. Maybe on cold nights the Bishop will let them come into the $35 million cathedral to warm up before they head off to the streets, or to their cars, to sleep.
20.0% of Sacramento's population and 15.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 29.5% of those under the age of 18 and 9.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
How many families could find homes with help from $35 million?
There are a bunch of lawsuits which have been filed against the diocese of Sacramento in the priest-abuse scandal. Not as many as Boston, by a long shot, but Sacramento has had its share as well. What is the price to settle with the victims for the abuse that was allowed to go on unchecked for years?
What social programs have been put on the back burner because the diocese can't afford a $35 million restoration, costly lawsuits and feeding the hungry and something just had to go...?
Maybe I'm being overly harsh. Maybe the Catholic church is so filthy rich that it is able to do all these things--build itself a magnificent cathedral, pay off its legal debts and not stint on the poor--or even the not-so-poor--in its care.
That's almost too rich, for an entity that is tax exempt.
Some years ago there was a costly renovation of the Catholic church here in Davis too. Oh, nothing on the order of $35 million, but it cost a bit of change. I had stopped going to church by that time and so I didn't see the solid white interior until I had to attend a funeral there years later, but when the restoration was finished, I remember that Paul went to the church to just sit here and look at all the new stuff--the fancy new baptismal pool, and all the rest (I can't say what, because I'm not familiar with it).
A priest approached him and Paul asked why they had spent all that money. He asked whether the priest didn't feel that the money might be better spent doing things that more directly helped the people.
The response he got was that the pride people would feel in their church would raise their devotion to God and would make them better Catholics (or something along that order).
I don't know. It's hard to think that a person who hasn't eaten in several days and who is facing a Thanksgiving with no place to go for dinner is going to look at the new $35 million ediface and feel his spirit uplifted.
Seems to me that God should live in our hearts, not in gold gilded, marble covered buildings that cost a small fortune to restore.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
painting by Deb Hoeffner