today's church, tomorrow's treasure

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 29, 2005

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: - Aug. 30, 2005 9:37 PM ET USA

    Have you ever heard of an architectural prenuptial, or prefabricated, agreement? I never have before either, except maybe from some kind of fly by night fast food operation or something. What a glorious sense of commitment is given from a building designed specifically to be abandoned more easily some time in the future. Somebody should put this Monsignor from Los Angeles in charge of something more transient, like the Los Angeles vocations office.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 30, 2005 1:45 PM ET USA

    Jonathan Swift lives...!!!

  • Posted by: - Aug. 30, 2005 11:21 AM ET USA

    Uncle Diogenes, you've done it again!

  • Posted by: - Aug. 30, 2005 9:06 AM ET USA

    Thanks to Diogenes for the straight talk and the chance to laugh in these grim times. I admit that he makes me wince now and then but satire is a most effective teaching tool. How else to call attention to the Emperor's lack of clothes? If he makes some of us queasy, just read the Church Fathers or St. Paul for that matter.They pulled no punches. Besides, it should be obvious that another spirit altogether differentiates Diogenes from our secular opponents- his quarrels are lover's quarrels.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Aug. 29, 2005 10:11 PM ET USA

    Yes, Diogenes, you make the point extraordinarily well. Thank you! This LA cathedral itself hardly speaks of the sacred. If I offered Mass in a gymnasium or the Astrodome, that would not make it a sacred place of worship. The LA Cathedral is a concrete multipurpose building that is sacred only to the extent that a bishop consecrated it for use as a church. Yes, the Mass & other sacraments are offered there, thank God; but much of happens in there is NOT sacred & goes against Church Teaching.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Aug. 29, 2005 10:02 PM ET USA

    Di's work is a truly classic piece of satire pointing out the sickness that afflicts the Church in the (post) Modern World. Thankfully, the Sacraments are still celebrated at the L.A. Cathedral...but, 3rdSon, if much of the architecture, music, etc. of these days continues, will people still BELIEVE in the Sacraments?

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 29, 2005 7:51 PM ET USA

    One word for thirdson: nonsense*. When I was in the Air Force on Okinawa the Eucharist was celebrated in a tiny wooden chapel--or, if we weren't able to get there, under some trees at a plain wooden table. But nobody claimed those were suitable as cathedrals for one of the biggest archdioceses in the world. Diogenes was merely making that point, and, as usual, making it extraordinarily well. *I admit that's not the word I am thinking but I can't use the real one on a Catholic Website.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 29, 2005 6:45 PM ET USA

    This piece isn't funny. It's bad enough when the secular press mocks Catholicism but when such mockery comes from a site that fights for orthodoxy, it is just more ugly anti-Catholic journalism. Mahoney's cathedral is still a place what the Eucharist is consecrated, where the Blessed Sacrament is worshiped and all the sacraments celebrated. Why in the world would you put this tripe on the website?

  • Posted by: Gaudete598 - Aug. 29, 2005 3:30 PM ET USA

    This is written so close to reality, that it is hardly satire. But the good part is that now we know what to do with all those buildings once the reform of the reform gets control.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 29, 2005 3:10 PM ET USA

    I take back all the bad things I said about the leadership that signed on to the construction of St. Nowhere's Cathedral in LA LA Land. The man in that red hat was/is a genius.