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otr dashback: 8-29-05 -- today's church, tomorrow's treasure

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 01, 2008

XPQwire (August 29) "WE'RE BUILDING for the future," claims Los Angeles Archdiocesan Projects Manager Msgr. Bud Bradelstad. The man who directs its long-range planning explained that California's largest Catholic diocese designs its churches with a view to future use -- as warehouses, fast-food outlets, or even skating rinks.

"We estimate between 40 and 70 percent of our properties will be sold in ten years' time," said Bradelstad, "just to pay the buggery bill. So resale value is hugely important to us. Now if you sell a church that can be easily converted into a Wendy's, say, or a Jiffy-Lube, you're getting maybe 80 cents back on your construction cost dollar, compared with 15 cents for a gothic-style building."

Bradelstad has little patience with critics who prefer traditional church architecture. "It's like marrying a dumb fashion model," he snorted. "Sure she's pretty, but can she cook? And brother we NEED buildings that can cook -- probably $200 million worth of cooking all told. I mean, what can you do with a traditional church except use it for another traditional church?

"Look," he continued. "I like the old-style buildings myself. They're cute. But to build a nave-and-sanctuary prayer-machine in today's world is grossly irresponsible, pastorally speaking. It's a dog. And in the end it's the seller who pays for the makeover."

Recent bankruptcy court decisions in Oregon and Washington have made diocesan real estate more fungible and increased the need for a functional "turnover strategy," according to Bradelstad.

"Take our new cathedral. We could've gone the ritual and worship route and got stuck with an old maid. Instead we went with maximum second-owner flexibility: a poured-concrete mega-box that'll bring in big bucks come market time. I'm thinking frozen foods, I'm thinking cineplex, I'm thinking long-term storage, I'm thinking foundry or medium-industry manufacturing. Hey, we've already had interest expressed by General Motors and Lockheed. It's a winner."

Monsignor Bud expressed the hope that the archdiocesan laity would eventually become reconciled to reality and accept the fact that massive legal payouts were part of the "price to be paid" for the advantage of being served by a fully renewed clergy. "You can't keep the lads away from the candy," he said, "and candy costs plenty in the courts. Figure a million three for every Father Hollywood on the job. All I'm trying to do is ensure that there'll be a Father Hollywood in your future."

Mention of the aesthetic value of European Catholic churches is something of a sore spot with Bradelstad, goading him to exasperation:

"Everybody comes whining to me: Look at Chartres Cathedral! Look at Chartres Cathedral! It's so beautiful, so prayerful, so lovely, blah, blah, blah. Well let me tell you I've BEEN to Chartres Cathedral. There isn't even a place to park!"

The former St. Ethelbert's Irwindale finds new life with MagnaCorp (AP photo)

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  • Posted by: - Apr. 02, 2008 11:37 AM ET USA

    This is the most sensible explanation of the LA Cathedral I have ever read. You don't think it might actually be true, do you?

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