Higher Finance

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 06, 2006

Just what is the John Paul II Cultural Center? The center's web site for the lavishly funded Washington institution tells us:

Perhaps the best way to visualize the Center's mission is as a safe haven for those who are journeying on the road to Emmaus.

Perhaps so. If that's the case, it seems that not many Americans are "journeying on the road to Emmaus," because a more critical analysis in the National Catholic Reporter quotes a former employee as noticing: “There are no busy days at the center.” The exhibits may be beautiful, but nobody comes to see them. So the Reporter refers to the center as "a 100,000-square-foot-money pit."

In fact, the Reporter claims the Center has a debt of $36 million, which is being covered by the Archdiocese of Detroit-- at a time when Catholic schools and parishes in Detroit itself are being closed.

The Detroit Free Press doesn't full agree with the National Catholic Reporter. It's not a $36-million debt, the Free Press reports, citing internal documents from the Detroit chancery; the actual figure is $40 million.

But wait! The fact that parishioners in Detroit are losing their parish churches and parochial schools has nothing to do with the millions that are being funneled to Washington, archdiocesan spokesman Ned McGrath tells the Free Press:

"The things that are happening in Detroit are not related to finances," McGrath said. "We have shifting populations and declining enrollments in schools. We have a decreasing number of clergy. Those are the real issues we have to face."

If that argument sounds hauntingly familiar, it's probably because dozens of diocesan flacks have assured us, many many times now, that there is no connection between the millions handed out to victims of priestly abuse and the closing of financially strapped parishes. If you even suspect a connection, you're only showing your ignorance of Higher Finance. You're probably one of those silly people who think that having $40 million cash is better than having a $40-million debt.

Besides, Ned McGrath earnestly observes, the archdiocese has loaned $45 million to Catholic schools in the Detroit area. So what's the big deal about loaning another $40 million to the Center in Washington?

Two points come to mind, actually.

  1. Washington isn't in the Detroit archdiocese.
  2. There's a critical difference between parochial schools and the John Paul II Cultural Center: People come to parochial schools.

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 07, 2006 4:11 PM ET USA

    Catholicism in the United States of America will lose a great treasure if we let the John Paul II Cultural Center fail. The clergy abuse crisis will have claimed yet another innocent victim. Take the time to look carefully at the Center website, http://www.jp2cc.org/, starting with Cardinal Sodano's message on the homepage.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 07, 2006 3:52 PM ET USA

    When I went to the John Paul II Center it was busy, however, that was when it first opened. My complaint of the Center is its design, ugly, ugly and more ugly. Nothing about it seemed like John Paul II except the display from the Vatican. The chapel is very ugly, if it is the same as it was, I could not find any beauty or Glory to God in the Highest. It certainly did not lift my senses to Heaven it is too earthy. If the attendance is low, I think it is the non-inspirational design of the chapel.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 07, 2006 3:38 PM ET USA

    And here is an additional observation: The Intercultural Forum has been quite hospitable, in my humble estimation, to the most Ex Corde Ecclesiae-friendly faculty of The Catholic University of America. Its cultural impact potential is awesome. I urge ALL CWNews readers, especially educators & parents traveling with students, to make every effort to visit the Brookland neighborhood of D. C. ('Little Rome', as it is called) to visit the Center, the Basilica, the Franciscan Monastery, & CUA.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 07, 2006 3:26 PM ET USA

    I recently moved from D. C., where I lived on the edge of the campus of The Catholic University of America for several years, a short walk from the JP II Cultural Center. I visited the Center many times, enjoying its absolutely first rate & CCC-reinforcing exhibits (admittedly, in near solitude) & attending most of the (sadly infrequent) activities of its top-floor, top-notch scholarly wing, the Intercultural Forum. I support Cardinal Maida fully. So did John Paul II in approving the Center.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 07, 2006 11:33 AM ET USA

    Turn it over to the street gangs of Washington D.C. At least they can practice their graffiti skills on the concrete.

  • Posted by: Clorox - Feb. 07, 2006 9:33 AM ET USA

    How about changing its name to "St Luke Institute II", a halfway house for wayward bishops?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 07, 2006 9:07 AM ET USA

    I HAVE been to the JPII center, and aside from the cracking concrete walls and rusting bolts used to support various banners, the computerized catechesis center was quite impressive.(When the computers were actually working) The building itself is stark and unattractive poured concrete.(Designed by one of the Kennedy relatives if I recall correctly) I don't recall 15 people, including workers, in the building at the time I was there. I was also a parishoner in the Detroit diocese at the time.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 07, 2006 8:31 AM ET USA

    Parochus: methinks the last item in your list is the reason for the decline. Bad catechesis is what got us into this whole mess. The ONLY thing that will get us out is a return to the authentic teaching of the Magisterium. Too many of my brother priests, for several generations now, have been more afraid of the scowls of parishioners or daunted by the amount of work involved in good catechesis than have been in fear for their immortal souls. It HAS to turn around, and we're in crunch time.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 07, 2006 3:58 AM ET USA

    I've been to the front door of the JP II CC a couple of times, but never entered -- the parking lot was empty, and the place looked so desolate I thought it might be closed. My admittedly unscientific conclusion as a consumer was that, given the contrast of the bustling National Shrine, the Center wouldn't be worth the price of admission. I also had a vision of a bunch of overeager employees swarming all over me with eyes on my wallet. As I say, unscientific, but that's what happened.

  • Posted by: parochus - Feb. 07, 2006 3:27 AM ET USA

    I'm sure once every priest is allowed to say the Tridentine Mass, we'll have 100% Mass attendance, full coffers, and nuclear familes, not to mention an end to sexual sins, abortion and bad catechesis. Yeah.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 06, 2006 7:53 PM ET USA

    Apropos to frjimc's comment: I am increasingly convinced that people are voting with their feet. Once BXVI confirms the right of priests to celebrate the 1962 rite, it will be interesting how the pedal voters respond. In fact, the real reason for the bishops' reluctance to authorize the tridentine mass is based in their fear that it will be too popular.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 06, 2006 4:31 PM ET USA

    Hey, Diogenes, have you BEEN to a Sunday Mass in urban Detroit (or Boston or Chicago) lately? I doubt it, because if you had, you'd notice that what the folks are saying is true: empty churches, big maintenance costs, scarcity of priests. No doubt that the money crunch is due to abuse payouts; but that doesn't mean the other isn't true also. Folks stopped coming 25 years ago or more; those who don't come don't donate, and we can't PRINT money to pay the heating bills. I'm just saying . . .