Finally. We have a scandal that we can literally call “Watergate” without blinking an eye. Except it appears to be over about that quickly.
What? You missed the news that the Cathedral in San Francisco installed exterior sprinklers for the sole purpose of wrecking the nights of homeless folks trying to catch some zzz’s in the corners of the building? Good thing the Fourth Estate was on the ball, and floated the ballon on this travesty.
I first caught wind of the situation when Deacon Greg Kandra posted on it this morning.
Sure, you could argue that sinister forces were gunning for the Archbishop because of his unpopular stance regarding same sex marriage, and that the media were merely manipulating folks to an agitprop inspired outrage. But you’d have to ignore the chicken and egg problem to make that argument, don’tchathink?
No Sprinklers = No Story
Elizabeth Scalia picked up on that obvious point in her post titled, Hosing the Homeless: Important Lesson Still Unlearned from the Scandals. Here’s a snip,
It’s not a nice story, and it is also a rather “neat” bit of timing that it has broken while Cordileone is being pressured to resist clarifying church teaching and developing morality clauses for the purposes of both instruction and hiring. Without a doubt, the story has surfaced in order to diminish the moral authority of the bishop, paint him with a brush of cold arrogance, and further excite the citizenry.
Here’s the thing, though. The story would not exist to be used against the diocese, if the sprinkler system didn’t exist, either. The sprinklers were a bad idea, no matter how you slice it.
Read it all. Her observations on “have we learned anything from the scandals?” is spot-on, though I would add one thing. “Have the laity learned anything from these scandals?”
Elizabeth is right that calling the city, and learning what the Financial District was doing about the homeless (that were bothering their facilities) was probably not the best place to learn “best practices.”
As statements go, that’s not bad, but there is still a huge problem. Can you see what it is?
It’s here, in this line:
“This sprinkler system…was installed approximately two years ago, after learning from city resources that this kind of system was being commonly used in the Financial District…”
No, no, no, NO! Have our bishops and leadership learned nothing at all from the sex abuse scandals that have done so much damage to the faith, to the faithful and to the moral authority of the church?
The bishops? What about the laity who advise the bishops on matters like this? In this case, did anyone have the chutzbah to say,
“Wait a minute. Let’s be clear about this. What we propose to do is to install a system that will harass the poorest of the poor, and make it difficult for them in a way that, at the same time, will make it easy for us not to have to deal with them personally? Seriously? That’s our plan?”
“Keep in mind we’re in the middle of a big fight, what with our true (and highly unpopular) position defending marriage. I mean, how would this look if those who oppose our fidelity to the truth get wind of this? More importantly, keep in mind that this idea flies in the face of the admonitions of Our Lord Jesus Christ regarding “whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me.” You know, like the good work we’re already doing for the poor.
Hmmmm. I don’t know. Let’s think this through real carefully, Skipper, I mean Your Excellency.”
And what about the parishioners, the daily Mass goers, the folks who noticed the sprinklers being installed, the committee who approved it, etc. Did we just think that the problem was so bad that this measure was justified?
I know my friend and colleague Tom McDonald means well when he counsels folks not to get played by the media, but hell, we need to not get played by Satan himself and adopt practices that are based on a mindset that embraces punishing the poor.
See, I take Elizabeth’s point about have we learned anything from the sexual abuse scandal, and I point the “we” right back at me. What would I have done had I seen this being done? Would I have had the gumption to make it known that I think this is the wrong way to handle this situation? I certainly hope so. Would I have had a solution at my fingertips? Probably not. But I hope that I am familiar enough with the words, and the actions, of Jesus to know that it would have been a sin of omission (speaking for myself) to not have gone against the grain here, cried foul, and suggested we come up with something better. Because now that the sprinklers are getting yanked out (by close of business TODAY), it’s time for more brain-storming sessions.
Thankfully, the Fourth Estate did their duty and so is the Archdiocese. If KCBS Radio hadn’t broken this story when they did, and in the heat of an important battle in the culture war, we still would be soaking down the homeless on the cathedral’s steps.
Watergate scandal, indeed. I’m just glad the lonely Maytag repairman got a call today.
Image from Wikipedia Commons