Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Franco book

A reader of my post last week seeking recommendations on a Franco book reports that he knows of no fair-to-sympathetic books on Franco, but he recommends Warren Carroll's The Last Crusade: Spain 1936. That goes on my list: wish I had some birthday money left, as I spend the last of it on two Belloc books.

Monday, November 28, 2005

John Paul the Great

I read the phrase again somewhere, for the first time in a several weeks.

The more I read about St. Leo the Great, who, as a temporal ruler turned back Attila the Hun and as the visible head of the Church put down Monophysites and Manicheans that would have destroyed her, and St. Gregory the Great, who as a temporal ruler pulled Rome out of the Dark Ages and as visible head of the Church furthered the Roman rite of Mass and codified the music that would sustain her for more than a millenium, the more I wonder about those who talk about John Paul the Great. I hear the appellation less and less, but I do occasionally hear it.
To love and respect JP2 is admirable--he was, after all, the Vicar of Christ. But c'mon, he's not in the same class as Leo or Gregory, is he? I've always heard that a cleric must teach, sanctify and govern. I think more and more people are sobering up and coming to the realization that (although they may believe he did two-thirds of his job very well--which even some will credibly argue otherwise), he wasn't much of a governor. He didn't show much firmness in leading the Church, and in the area that most mattered--the appointment and "promotion" of bishops--his record is frankly rather poor. For every great bishop he gave us, we can name one or more that has done great harm to the Church.

JP2 was a holy man, but one with a mixed record. Let's pray for him and petition him to pray for us, but let's give up on the "Great" appellation, shall we?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

St. John Fisher

I just finished reading E.E. Reynolds' biography of St. John Cardinal Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. I've always loved St. John Fisher. In reading Reynolds' biography, though, I'm struck not only by the blessed martyr's faith and constancy, so much as I am by the perfidity, cowardice, and malice of the various reprehensible apostates that surrounded him.

It's a part of choleric personality that's hard to overcome, I know, but it's so difficult for me to pray that God had mercy on those men, because the case for His justice is so strong. And it's hard not to further harden my contempt for the modern day Anglican "hierarchy" If they insist on continuing to destroy their own sect and lead their adherents to hell, why dont they just get on with it, and quit lingering!!! Which is, of course, all the more reason to force myself to pray for them.

There's an interesting article in this number of Latin Mass on the choleric personality, the second in a four-part series on temperaments written by Fr. Christian Kappes of Indianapolis. Worth reading (and here I remind myself that my Latin Mass subscription is up for renewal . . . . .

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bishop Hogan High School

When I was at the Convent of the Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration the other day, I took a couple of pictures of Bishop Hogan High School, now "Hogan Academy," a charter school sponsored by Central Missouri State University. It wasn't long ago that Hogan closed. I have an aquaintance whose daughter went there and reported that it wasn't particularly Catholic. Funny thing, people don't wanna spend several thousand a year on a mediocre, nominally Catholic education. A pity.

Two problems with Hogan--obviously the Catholicity and orthodoxy problem at diocesan schools as a whole, which I think Bishop Finn will address, insofar as one man can, over time (but, I suspect, not quickly or definitively enough for my kids to benefit). The other is the cost problem. Without dedicated religious teachers and decent endowments, Catholic education (of any quality) at the secondary level is really out of the reach of Catholic parents. All but the most prosperous big Catholic families (the ideal Catholic families) could never send five or six kids through high school at six or seven grand apiece, could they? Lots of catholic elementary schools have a sliding scale for multiple children (one that I know of charges a flat rate for four or more), but I don't know how the high schools respond.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration, Kansas City, Missouri

Dedicated in 1948, the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration was purchased by the Society of St. Pius X and now houses the Franciscan Sisters associated with the SSPX. The huge edifice (in the well-balanced but unornate style of those few mid-twentieth century architects who hadn't lost their heads yet) at 63rd & Meyer is a testament to "moribund" and stale preconciliar Catholicism (as George Sim Johnston put it in the article that caused me to cancel my subscription to Crisis magazine), and that fact that it was emptied and abandoned by the order a decade or two ago is likewise a testament to the "new Springtime" we've been experiencing since 1964, isn't it? My understanding is that the sisters have a lot of infrastructure work to do--significant plumping upgrades. Click here for an article on the state of the building (SSPX newsletter, in PDF format).

Whatever you may think of the SSPX situation, let's all pray that they can keep the structure up on their own until there's a traditionalist reconciliation, the Catholic world starts to right itself, and they can get a wider base of support.

I recall a few years ago a little dispute between the owners of the old Bishop Hogan High School (now some sort of secular charter school, which I also took pictures of) and the sisters arose when it was discovered the football field was built halfway on the convent grounds, and halfway on the high school grounds. The sisters wanted protection from liability and rent payments to help them with their own expenses (a reasonable request, given that a secular high school football program isn't part of their apostolate, if you ask me). I'm not sure how that worked out.

I've also heard a rumor that someday the sisters hope to open a girls' school at the convent. That sounds appealing, especially if an SSPX reconciliation can be worked out. As it stands, I wouldn't send my girl to either of the "Catholic" girls schools in town. I haven't heard anything good at all about either of them.

Feel free to add other details. For instance, do you know when the Convent folded? Did any of the Benedictine sisters have any attachment to or involvement in Bishop Hogan High School, or were they all strictly contemplative?


One again, nobody's volunteered to do the research for me, so I took care of it. I imagined at one point that this would be an interactive tour--I'd just drive around town with my camera asking stupid questions in my post, and other people would run off to their libraries or rectories and do all the research for me. That's happened in a few cases, but sadly, it hasn't happened enough. It's starting to feel like work or something. Anyways, I'm not at page 507 in This Far by Faith.

The convent was founded by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at Clyde at the invitation of Bishop O'Hara in 1943. Construction began in 1947, and the sanctuary was dedicated in 1949.

The practice of Adoration was supported widely (to hear the historian tell it), and laity across the city participated in it, with regular holy hours, benedictions and processions. However, by 1982, the sisters at Clyde elected to close the convent due to a lack of vocations and increasing costs. The property was sold to an evangelical group of heretics, Youth for Christ, in 1984 for $750,000. As noted above, it was recently purchased by the Society of St. Pius X for the use of Franciscan sisters (third orders, technically, due to jurisdiction issues that will, we pray, soon be worked out), and they're raising money to do necessary major plumbing and mechanical work to the facility.

BTW, if you're in Kansas City, and you've never driven up near Maryville to see the Benedictine Convent at Clyde and Conception Abbey, and the Benedictine convent at Clyde only a mile away, it's a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon this spring. The outside views are something. I can't evaluate the orthodoxy of either the Clyde nuns or the Conception monks at Conception (except to note that the nuns have kicked the habit and the monks have wrecknovated their bascilica, though they preserved the interesting original Beuronese murals). The chapel at Clyde is beautiful and mostly intact and the nuns had one of the largest collections of relics in the United States at one time. If you go, you might call to see if they still have them, and when and how they can be viewed.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Loretto Academy, Kansas City, Missouri

Family obligations have prevented me from continuing my exploring or doing further research into closed Kansas City, Missouri Catholic churches, so I'll stray a little from my main theme and feature the Loretto, formerly the Loretto Academy, a big structure built in 1903 to house the girls' school run by the Sisters of Loretto. In its day, it was one of the places to send your girls to school. It was (I read in a Kansas City Star article last year or so) also point of contention when integration came shortly after World War II (the Bishop, I read, forbade any Catholic parochial school to accept girls transferring from Loretto because of the integration).

I'm not exactly sure when the Loretto closed. Kind readers please inform me. When I moved to Kansas City in the mid-1990s, I believe the building had been purchased by some evangelical sect, which was using the building as an independent Bible college. At some point, it was rehabilitated, and now it's the home of some neighborhood non-profit association and it also has loft apartments. One can rent out rooms for meetings, I think, and one can rent out the chapel for weddings and commitment ceremonies and such things. At some point, I need to call over and get the story. As for the Sisters of Loretto themselves...a quick google search will confirm that they've gone off the deep end. Sometimes when I drive by I think of the Loretto convent/hospital/school and chapel in Santa Fe, started by sisters recruited by the saintly proto-bishop of Santa Fe, Jean-Baptiste Lamy (fictionalized as Archbishop LaTour in Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop). That Loretto has been turned into a hotel, where we sometimes stayed when we vacationed in New Mexico as a kid. The chapel was a tiny gothic thing with a "miraculous staircase" to the choir loft built by an unknown carpenter (piously believed to be St. Joseph, I think). It was a spiral staircase built with no central support.

But back to THIS building: The style is pretty classical--lots of dentil moulding and a nifty oxidized copper cupola top this red-brick symmetrical building. The cornerstone has been defaced (it must have made reference to the Blessed Mother (offending the evangelical sect) or to the Deity (offending everyone else in this heathen part of town). However, carved in wood relief over the main entrance are the words FIDES MORES CULTURA; those didn't get defaced by anyone (thank God for those sticky preservation requirements attached to historic tax credits). The chapel is substantial, you can see it as the center wing extending south, behind the main building (which faces north).

Although not a church, the Loretto campus is another example of what wiser men describe as the devastated vineyard in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. When I daydream of the renaissance, I imagine it as a seminary (it goes like this: the FSSP or the reconciled SSPX have so expanded their seminaries that they break off the theology programs from Denton or Winona and establish it at the Loretto). The other crazy daydream is that I win a really big powerball jackpot, buy the building, start my school, and operate my Evil Traditionalist empire from the Loretto campus, much to the chagrin of those pursuing "alternate lifestyles" or living the wine-and-cheese liberal life around town.

Updated February 17, 2006

The girl's school was founded 1901 at 36th and Broadway in a private home, but the sisters (who were more like the heroic Sisters of Loretto that assisted Abp. Lamy in founding Santa Fe than the Sisters of Loretto we have these days) didn't waste any time: they bought the land at 39th & Roanoke in 1902, laid the cornerstone in 1903, dedicated in 1904. The school thrived for a long time, but in 1964, the school moved way out to 12411 Wornall, and the grand original school was sold to Calvary Baptist College in 1966. In 1989, the facility was transformed into a retirement home of some sort, and the chapel is rented out for weddings.

Although our concern is with the building, we follow the school out south to note that boys were admitted beginning in 1970, and by 1984, the school had petered out. The board voted not to reopen for the fall of 1984.

Reviewing the Baltimore Book of Prayers

In reviewing the Baltimore Book of Prayers, following the rite for the Churching of Women. I came across the prayer of thanksgiving after childbirth. Even though I haven't given birth to any children, nor will I, here goes:

Gracious God,by whose providence we are made, who formest us in secret, who beholdest us when we are yet imperfect, and in whose book all shall be written: I humbly beseech Thee to accept this my acknowledgement of Thy power, and to receive this my most hearty praise and thanksgiving, which I now offer to They divine Majesty, for They favor and goodness towards me. Behold, O Lord, what Thine own hands have fashioned; and grant that this infant, which Thou hast made by Thy Power, may be preserved by Thy goodness, and, through the grace of Thy Holy Baptism, may be made a living member of They Church and be carefully brought up to serve Thee in all piety and honesty. Through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Searches for Churches: I need your help, Kansas City!

The remaining closed churches that I plan to visit sometime this weekend include the following:
  • Benedictine Convent on 63rd Street (now owned by Franciscan sisters associated with the SSPX),
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe (suppressed as a parish, but operating as a shrine), and
  • The Loretto Academy (not a church, but a girls school and a convent that collapsed simultaneously with parishes in the malaise of the last 40 years)
I may try to find a couple of the more elusive church buildings that the lady down the street from St. Francis Seraph suggested, but I would really like some input from the handful of Kansas City readers, as well. What other suggestions to you have within the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph? There are a couple of Kansas churches I plan to visit, but I want to try to round out the Missouri side before I cross the state line.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Homosexuals in the Seminaries

Even before I read the document, I knew it had to be a generally positive one. At a reported five pages or so, there couldn't be too much "nuancing" going on in so short an instruction. Really, though, there seems to me to be a pretty big loophole in the requirement that a seminarian with disordered inclinations live in chastity and perseverence for three years before diaconate ordination. Is that time frame meaningful (especially considering that diaconate ordination typically occurs in the sixth year, or so, of seminary, which is by my math three years AFTER admission to the seminary). So does that mean that a seminarian who committed an indiscretion of this sort while actually in the seminary might get an official free pass? Do we really want priests who act out in any sort of sexual way while they're in seminary? I'm sure I'm overlooking something; please explain.

Even so, it's unrealistic to think anything will change in the West--bishops and seminary rectors who are so inclined will provide their own nuances to the document. The Wuerl/Mahoney crowd will have to study it, and to implement it over time and with "prayerful reflection on the pastoral needs of their local Church" or somesuch garbage. It seems likely that the solid seminaries will remain solid, and for years to come, the pink seminaries (that remain open) will remain, more or less, pink.

What we can hope for is the cultural reallignment of nominal Catholics to pick up some steam. Maybe self-righteous liberals like Cuomo and the Commonweal crowd will give up their pretense of Catholicism and join the Episcopalians. Maybe houses upon houses of corrupted Jesuits and Sisters o' Mercy will discover a way to live their vocation within structure (that remains) of the Anglican schism. That reallignment will leave a little more room for us bigoted, medieval Catholics in the pews as we continue to breed, and it will perhaps remove a few layers of the lay liberal insulation surrounding the Wuerl/Mahoney crowd. Any additional harm to the souls who are leaving aside, such a reallignment would be good for the Church Militant in the West, as the body that remains will be stronger, more unified, and more capable of doing meaningful battle in the war against the "synthesis of heresies" that is Modernism.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Annunciation Church, Kansas City, Missouri

The reader who tipped me off to St. Francis Seraph also suggested I drive by Annunciation Church at 31st and Benton. This church, dedicatd in October 1903, isn't a large one by height (as with Holy Name) or length (as with St. Vincents) but it appears to have a large, wide nave and very big transcrepts.
Obviously, towers were planned (or at least allowed for). The stained glass is gone, but I couldn't see inside. I had to jump a small chain link fence and pull away the weeks to get a shot of the cornerstone, which reads as follows:

(Alpha Chi-Rho Omega)
Culiel Sacero
Operis Faciendi Laridem Aussilialem
Rite Ditatum Manu
Pontifex Joanus
10 Octob AD MCMIII

(My Latin is so limited, that I'm not going to embarrass myself by attempting a translation).

I'm told that this church was (in the first round of closings) the surviving church for the merged parishes of Annunciation, Holy Name and St. Vincent's, and that it was subsequently closed itself in the mid-1990s. I don't know whether the merged parish was "Annunciation" or if it was rededicated as something else.

Obviously, though currently vacant, the building has been in recent use (i.e., in the last decade, given that there is air conditioning equipment jutting out here and there (and marring the lines of the building). Does anyone have any information that's more specific than this? I've also attached the cornerstone of the parish school, which is of much more recent construction--1960s or 1970s. It appears the school me still be in use for some purpose.
Please share details if you have them!


Well, nobody shared any details, so I had to do my own research again. Annunciation was created out of St. John Francis Regis parish on May 25, 1872. At its founding, it was the third parish in Kansas City. After meeting in an empty store at 12th and Wyoming for a few months, a frame church was built (in 7 days!) at 14th and Wyoming. In 1880 they built a brick church adjacent to it at a cost of $40,000. In 1898, the facilities at 14th and Wyoming were bought by the railroad, and the parish was reestablished in what was then the countryside. The boundaries were 27th Street to the north and Brooklyn to the West, with no southern or eastern boundaries. Ground was broken on the new church in November 1902, and construction on what was to be a $75,000 church began in earnest in 1903, but work was intermittent due to money shortages. It it wasn't dedicated until in 1924, and the debt wasn't paid until 1946. The original plan for the church did, in fact, include towers that were never built, as I surmised back in November. Below you can see a rendering of what the church might have looked like if fully executed.

The stained glass windows (now removed) were made in Austria and installed in 1924. A magnificent altar (donated by Jim Pendergast) and baldachino (designed by Deprato Service and Rigalicograced the church, which was still open at the time This Far by Faith, vol II was published. Here's the description of the baldachino, at pages 111-12:
An extraordinary feature of the church was the baldacchino. It was basically a dome ofver the altar supported on four pillars. It is described as follows: "The baldachono propert is 34 feet in height to the top of its high-flung Cross; the width over all is 21 feet. There are four massive columns of Paonazza Scagliola mounted upon bases of Italian marble made resplendent with panels in Breccia Rossa. These handsome Scagliola monoliths support a richly ornamental cornice upon which rests the canopy artistically executed in conformity with the architectural style of the church. A beautiful ceiling of gold and colored mosaic, pure oriental in type, is seen from below.
My sources tell me that the altar and baldachino are still in place and intact, which is delightful news, considering the awful things that happened to the interiors of other churches nearby (i.e., Holy Trinity). I have to guess that the liturgical vandals from the Helmsing/Sullivan era couldn't raise enough money in the poor parish to wreck it and haul off all that marble.

In 1975, Annunciation, Holy Name, and St. Vincent merged. The Annunciation parish plant was the site of the new Church of the Risen Christ. The Church of the Risen Christ featured such events as "'Stations," [] a liturgica drama characterized by dance, dialogue and music as the congregation moves in reflection on the traditional 14 movements of the Station of the Cross," a theatre company, and an anniversary celebration in 1979 featuring preaching by Rev Emmanuel Cleaver (yes, that's the heretical minister who's now, unfortunately, our Congressman, not a Catholic priest). The Spirit of Vatican II couldn't sustain the parish, however, and sometime in the 1990s, the parish was supressed and the remnant in the pew was packed off to yet another church.


Over at De Civitate Dei, Rick Lugari has posted a nice tribute to General Franco. I'm not much up on 20th Century Spanish politics, but maybe I'll look into it. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Franco, but didn't know enough about him to really feel comfortable publicizing my non-PC affinity for the Generalissimo and using it to offend people. Maybe I'll take the time to study up on him. I can't count the number of people who'd go nuts if I put a portriate of Franco in my office. Oh what fun!

What's a good, well written book about Franco--written (in English) for the average educated reader?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Holy Trinity, Kansas City, Missouri

In the Lykins Neighborhood east of downtown (at East 9th Terrace and Norton) sits The Rock of Kansas City: Reclaiming Christ's Kingdom, formerly known as Holy Trinity Church. I found and photographed this church at the suggestion of the anonymous woman I spoke to down the street from St. Francis Seraph. This is one of three churches she told me about, but the only one I could find.

I was able to peek inside this one (there was a wedding rehearsal going on), but I wished I hadn't. As you may be able to tell from the picture above, the windows are covered in steel grating. The inside is a cheaply sheetrocked and carpeted box, with no fixed seating, no sanctuary, no natural light (from the peek in from the front door that I made) and no indication that this is a church of any kind, much less a pre-conciliar Catholic church. Behind the church is the old parish school, which, judging from the architecture, was thrown up for bottom dollar in the late 1950s or 1960s.

Other than the fact that this parish was merged into Queen of Peace (a fact that is unconfirmed) I know nothing of this church. So I ask again, When did it close? Any special reason why (or just the combination of shifting demographics and failed leadership in maintaining vocations and evangelizing the newcomers)? It seems to me that the neighborhood is mostly Hispanic. What does that say than a Catholic church can't be kept open in an Hispanic neighborhood? So much for a big-budget "Hispanic ministry." Any special history here?

This is yet another church I've posted that was built in the 1920s. What do people know about that era in Kansas City? Why were so many churches built in that time? Why are they all closed now? Please chime in!


Armed with This Far by Faith, I wade back into the subject of Holy Trinity. Enclosed is a fine photograph, taken by Dorothy Marra, of one of the better bits of the interior as it was shortly before it closed. You can see the fine stencilling by Dante Cosentino, the stained glass, and stations of the Cross in this shot (I make no comment on the pews, which are not original). Mrs. Marra spent a lot of time photographing this church, and there are details of windows and other features in the color plates of volume 1.

Holy Trinity parish was founded in 1889, and the original church at 7th and Cyrpress burned down twice. In August 1925 ground was broken for the present church, and in August 1926, the church was completed, at a cost of over $90,000.

The balance and harmony of the interior was, in the words of Bishop Lillis, "heaven." Two Carrara marble statues stood in the facade alcoves (now obscured by "The Rock's" sign), and the high altar was "frescoed in ivory and gold with numerous spires, was set in a canctuary apse which was painted and decorated in purple, green and gold. The rest of the description sounds, well, like something that couldn't afford to be built by the wealthier congregations these days, much less a parish with no more than 175 families at the time of construction, none of which were wealthy. Those 175 families managed to pay off the construction debt within seven years of completion. A great tribute should be paid to pastor Monsignor James Joseph Keegan, pastor from 1918 through 1958 for seeing a humble parish in an unremarkable part of town grow and prosper. Msgr. Keegan died in 1964. God is merciful for calling him home before he could see what was about to happen . . . . . . .

......What was about to happen? I can't paraphrase what happened without doing an injustice to the official historian; I shall have to quote the book directly, on page 170 of Volume II:

In the 1960s, after the liturgical reforms of Vatican Council II had taken effect, the high altar was removed from the church. A simple altar, in the shape of a table and made of Missouri marble, was placed to the front of the sanctuary. The communion rail and the oak pulpit were removed. Where the former altar had stood, two steps led up to a small marble altar, on which the tabernacle was placed.

Before the renovation the walls of the nave had sections of ornately patterned wallpaper which extended from floor to ceiling. There were two side planels which framed the doorways leading to the sacristy and the room where church furnishings were kept. There was one large papered panel in the middle, mostly behind the altar. The two side panels were replaced with a goldish-brown flocked wallpaper and the middle panel was replaced with a large curtain. A wooden crucifix was hung from the top of the curtain and brass candleholders were placed on the small table on each side of the tabernacle.

The two side altars of the Blessed Virgin and Sacred Heart were also changed. The altars were removed and the ornate wallpaper was replaced with the same wallpaper as was used in the nave. The statues were placed on simple platforms which extended out from the wall. The statue of St. Anthony was moved from the nave to the fall wall in the area of the Sacred Heart. The statue of St. Therese was moved to the rear of the church near the baptismal font.

Due to serious deterioration the walls of the nave had to be changed. Cosentino's stenciling which had framed the windows, along with an eye-level trim around the body of the church were painted over with harmonious hues of pink and mauve. These were the only things removed from the church which had been painted by the artist. The old darkened pews were replaced by light colored ones and a carpet was laid.

I guess Bishop Lillis's idea of "heaven" was substantially different that Bishop Helmsing's, for it was during his watch that the above took place.

And the point of renovations, let's guess how the parish history went, shall we?
  • In 1970, the school closed and the kiddos were shipped off to Northeast Catholic Consolidated School. The school was sold off to the KCMO parks department in 1973.
  • Beginning in 1972, Bishop Helmsing subject the parish to "an experimental approach to parish ministry" which included sharing priests with three parishes and putting an RSM sister in charge of Religious Education (shudder).
  • In 1976, the first Parish Council was elected and an evangelization effort was begun in 1979. In 1982, a "strong religious education program was developed." These initiatives apparently worked. People must have stopped sinning, taken heed of Humanae Vitae, and started breeding because "in the 1980s, the confessional on the south side of the church was removed and a new space was created for the new baptismal font..."
  • Unfortunately, there was a sudden, unexplained downturn, and despite a two-decade-long New Springtime at Holy Trinity, and despite the great successes of the new RSM-led religious education program and the priestly and religious vocations the Mercy Sisters undoubtedly fostered, the parish was suppressed in February 1991. The crowds were shipped off to the new Queen of Peace parish at the old St. Stephen's plant, and the church eventually found its way into the hands of the folks now bringing you The Rock of Kansas City.
And so ends the story of Holy Trinity in Kansas City. Pray that our diocese and its remaining parishes will be blessed by many more Monsignor Keegans and far fewer "experimental ministry teams" in the decades to come.

Our Lady of the Curmudgeons, Kansas City, Missouri

The Curmudgeon children and I built our own church yesterday. We weren't able to do it in Mel Gibson style, without a budget, with limited materials available, and with a short schedule, but we tried. The architectural direction was originally flamboyant gothic--a tribute to the Cathedral of Milan, but we lost our aesthetic focus (not to mention, I had to fire my two-year-old subcontractor in the middle of the job for consistent work below the standard of performance). I think the Kansas City church architects of the 1920s had their projects come off a little better, don't you?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

St. Francis Seraph, Kansas City, Missouri

Tucked into the North Bottoms area (off Front Street) in Kansas City, Missouri, in the midst of an industrial area, between two railyards, is a poor, dilapidated residential neighborhood. A kind reader who knows a thing or two about old Kansas City churches suggested I go there to find St. Dominic's. What I found was the the Damascus Road Apostolic Church, formerly St. Francis Seraph. Perhaps it was retitled St. Dominic's at some point. The whole parish plant is a mess. The school is a junkyard, the Rectory has broken windows and an open door. The church has several panels broken out of the stained glass. The remnants of a road grader sit alongside the south transcept.

A woman down the street watched me carefully as I took pictures, so I drove down to visit with her and assure her there was no need to call the police; I was just engaged in a morbid but harmless hobby of mine. I'm glad I did; she had something to say about the place. She couldn't tell me exactly when the church closed, but she said her neighbor knew there was a big auction and everything in the church was sold at one time. She said they had a lot vagrants living in the rectory and at one time a lot of people doing drugs there. The old school building (apparently of late 1940s/early 1950s architecture) is now a junkyard, complete with pitbull (look carefully and you can see him barking at me. She indicated that Queen of Peace was the parish she goes to know (she didn't seem like the type to know whether that was the actual canonical parish for this area now, so I didn't ask). She also tipped me off to Holy Trinity, in the Lykins neighborhood, which I'll post next.

Does anybody have any history on this? When did it close? Why (besides the obvious)? What about the school? What was the interior like?

FEBRUARY 14, 2006

From This Far by Faith. St. Francis Seraph was founded in 1977 by Bishop Hogan, who appointed Fr. William McCormick as Pastor. A small frame church was built in 1887. The parish was to be "mixed," i.e., all nationalities within the geographic boundaries were expected to attend it. The gospel was reread in English, German, Flemish and French, and preaching was in English and German, with French and Flemish on special occastions. A school and a recotry were built by 1897. In 1903, a flood severely damaged the entire parish plant, but they rebuilt. In 1920, land was purchased for a new church to be built in a Lombardy Romanesque style, the one shown above, and the cornerstone was laid in 1924. The parish was always very poor. The school building shown above was built in 1941 at a cost of $37,779, and it was closed in 1962, when the kiddos were packed off to Assumption school. In 1970, the building was sold for $65,000.

Following the 1951 floods, most of the area served by the parish was rezoned and redeveloped as industrial. The parish, which had been served by diocesan priests, and then Franciscans, was given to the care of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. Don't know anything about 'em. By 1984, there were only 86 Catholics living in 56 households within the parish boundaries.

Effective 1991, St. Francis Seraph was suppressed, along with St. John the Baptist and Assumption, and the three parishes formed St. Anthony of Padua at the Assumption facilities at Benton Blvd and Lexington. The church and rectory were sold to Phoenix Office Supply for $40,000.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Conflict

While Mrs. Curmudgeon was recuperating from the birth of the latest little Curmudgeon, we ordered and watched The Conflict, a 78-minute made-for-TV movie from 1973, based on the Brian Moore novel Catholics, starring Martin Sheen and Trevor Howard.


Anyways, the movie is set in 1999 (then 26 years into the future) and Fr. Cool-Joe (Sheen) is sent to stop monks from an Irish island abbey from saying the old Mass, because people are chartering flights from all over the world to assist at it, such that it's embarrassing the Superior General of their now-enlightened religious order and offending the Church's ecumenical buddies. There's some surprisingly good bits of dialogue in the movie, references to Vatican IV (which forbade private confession), and great contrasts between Fr. Cool-Joe's Marxist-materialist worldview ("I don't know how anyone could define a case of heresy these days") and yoga meditations and the rough-and-tumble monks' defense of the spiritual works of mercy ("but does he talk much about savin' souls, does 'e? I thought not") and singing of old, rigidly Catholic hymns. But in the end, the monastery is sold out by the Abbot, who doesn't really believe in God (the Abbot at one point submits his resignation to Fr. Cool-Joe with the explanation that he's not fit to be Abbot because he lacks faith, but Fr. Cool-Joe tears it up as he leaves, apparently concluding that an atheist is an ideal Abbot in the new Church).

Mrs. Curmudgeon and I (who were both illiterate in 1973--she still in diapers) were surprised that exactly the same sorts of things were said then--just a couple of years following the introduction of the Pauline Missal--as are said now. The dating of the certain details notwithstanding (we managed to preserve private confession--at least officially--beyond 1999), I don't think movie has lost much of its currency. The same battles are being fought--between the Matthew Clarks and Donald Wuerls and the Roger Mahoneys and Walter Kaspars of the church and the traditionalists and other orthodox Catholics who are carrying on with the faith as they always have in out-of-the-way places. The same calls to obedience--the type of unthinking obedience to Churchmen rather than to the Church--are being made, and in the case of the movie, that obedience does in fact lead to heresy (denial of the Real Presence). And there are men who play the role of the Abbot--seemingly faithful men who turnout to be perfidious, and who serve the zeitgeist instead of enforce the perennial disciplines of the church. A certain Colorado bishop comes to mind in this respect.

Anyways, if you haven't already seen it, it's worthwhile to track it down. (I know, I'm probably the only one in the world who hasn't already seen it) it's not something you'll find at Blockbuster, but you can rent it through Netflix or buy it from Amazon for $8 new.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

And what ABOUT France?

OK, time for me to be curmudgeonly. Folks have been going on and on about the violence in France--primarily the fact that nobody in the maintstream media would admit that it the "youths" were almost exclusively Moslem immigrants. I haven't watched to coverage, so I'm not in a position to critique it.

Remember the Simpsons episode where Homer is hired by Hank Scorpio, the international criminal who manages his evil empire like Ben & Jerry's or something? The conversation at one point goes like this:

Hank: By the way, Homer, what's your least favorite country: Italy or France?

Homer: France.

Hank: [chuckles] Nobody ever says Italy. [sets the coordinates of a giant laser gun]

Really, it would be appalling to see Christendom destroyed like this (that is, by Moslem hoodlums, not by Hank Scorpio), with the deceitful coverage it's getting and all. But c'mon. France ain't Christendom. France hasn't been a Christian country since the 18th century, and hasn't been particularly well governed since the Carolingian empire. France is reaping what it's sown over the last three hundred years. It's sad, I must say, to see the great monuments of the West--Chartres, Amiens, Rouen, Notre Dame de Paris, Mont St. Michel, countless other abbeys and churches--fall into the hands of the infidel. But they've really been in the hands of the infidel for centuries, now, haven't they?

That doesn't lessen my pity for the faithful Christians trying to live there in the cultural ruins of the West, nor does it lessen our obligation to pray for those people, and for the restoration of Christendom. But hey, that pity doesn't extend to the entire country. France is getting France's due.

Old St. Patrick's, Kansas City, Missouri (updated Nov 16)

I was saving this one for last, but due to recent events in my family, I haven't gotten out for further research, or further pictures. So here goes:

Old St. Patrick's Oratory at 8th and Cherry in Kansas City, Missouri, was canonically suppressed as a parish in the 1960s, and was a chapel of convenience within the cathedral parish from that time until October 2005. It was closed last month, but with good reason: it is going to be restored and operated as a public oratory exclusively for the indult Latin Mass community in KCMO, under the care of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. No date has been set for the reopening--lots of work must be done (infrastructure work, as well as restoration of suitable furnishings and decoration) and lots of money must be raised.

Click here for the "shagged out" sanctuary (PDF file).
Click here for pictures of the original (or at least the pre-shag) sanctuary(PDF file).
Click here for pictures of the shagged out sanctuary being dismantled (PDF file).

Kudos to oratory member John Quastler, who produced the bulletins with these pictures and keeps them archived online.

I have quite a bit of information on this parish, as a friend of a friend passed along the entry from This Far by Faith, a history compiled by the diocesan archivist in the 1980s. The abridged version is that the sanctuary was wrecked in the 1970s, with the altar rail mostly removed and the old high altar replaced with a plywood-and-resin clunky altar table, ambo and hanging baldachino left over from some hippy Eucharistic Congress. It's the sort of thing that makes you glad Robert Finn's the bishop and I'm not. I'd have burned somebody at the stake if I'd walked into the church and seen the wanton destruction. Finn doesn't seem inclined to do so; at least not yet.

Anyways, there area lot of challenges in getting this restoration done. The oratory community is small--only 70 or 80 families, I hear, and their resources are meagre. There are no promises that Bishop Finn's successors will permit the Oratory to continue with the old Mass--which makes mistrustful folks a little hesitant to contribute for the infrastructure for it. And even after the community restores the church, they won't have a rectory for their priest to live on-site, nor will they have any area to hold educational or social events. The rectory was torn down in the 1970s, as the second picture shows. Only the garage remains.

But, you've got to admire them and wish them luck (and perhaps make a donation to their restoration fund).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bishop Sheridan and His Man

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that Peter Howard, a chancery spokesman of some sort for the Bishop of Colorado Springs, Michael Sheridan, has resigned. No reason is given. For a link to that article, click here. A couple of weeks ago, when I first commented on Bishop Sheridan's apology for his own official's attempt to explain church teaching, I had asked if anyone had come up with the "offending" article. Thank's to Google's blogsearch, I found information on another blog this evening, Rick Lugari's De Civitate Dei, which I'm not a regular reader of. It's also available on the Colorado Springs Diocesan website. Since there's a risk that the Diocese will take this down at some point, I'm pasting it in here:

Participation in Protestant Services
Question from Dave on 9 December 2004:

I've been asked whether it is permissable for a Catholic to attend Protestant services. Some schismatic SSPXers I've debated in the past have insisted that this is prohibited, quoting from Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos, 1928: Quote:"it is clear that the Apostolic See cannot on any terms take part in their assemblies, nor is it anyway lawful for Catholics either to support or to work for such enterprises; for if they do so they will be giving countenance to a false Christianity, quite alien to the one Church of Christ."

I contend this canonical discipline may have been true in 1928, and could have been interpreted in accord with the 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 1325 which forbade Catholics to engage in debates or conferences with non-Catholics without the permission of the Holy See. However, even if that included all protestant services as "conferences" instead of merely pan-Christian movement promoting indifferentism, that 1917 canon seems abrogated by Pope Paul VI, NOSTRA AETATE, 1965: Quote:"The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men." ... as well as the 1983 Code of Canon Law, canon 755. I like your input, however. Is there any current prohibition with regard to Catholics attending Protestant services (assuming no reception of the sacraments), so long as they still meet the obligations to attend Catholic Mass?

Answer by Peter J. Howard, S.T.L. on 10 December 2004:
The heart of your question really is, if I understand you correctly: "Can a Catholic 'participate' in a Protestant liturgical service?" I think Pope John Paul II answered this question clearly in his Encyclical Letter "Ecclesia de Eucharistia" when he stated in number 30: "“It is unthinkable to substitute for Sunday Mass ecumenical celebrations of the word or services of common prayer with Christians from the aforementioned ecclesial communities, or even participation in their own liturgical services. Such celebrations and services, however praiseworthy in certain situations, prepare for the goal of full communion, including eucharistic communion, but they cannot replace it”.

So, the short answer to your question is Catholics cannot "participate" in Protestant liturgical services, even if Catholics fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation. This is primarily because "active participation" as we are called by the Second Vatican Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium # ) involves our body, mind, and spirit (which includes our intentions). When we do that in a Protestant liturgical service we act contrary to our faith which professes fundamentally different beliefs in critical
ecclesiological and theological areas. This is summarized in the theological maxim, "lex orandi lex credendi" (as we pray, so we believe). Catholics can, however, "observe" Protestant services for educational purposes to deepen one's understanding of that particular ecclesial community, but to have the intention to "actively participate" in their liturgical services acts contrary to our Catholic Faith which possesses through the ordained priesthood a valid, sacramental Eucharist which is the means and sign of total communion to which all Protestant churches tend. Protestant churches, despite what they may claim, do not have a valid, sacramental Eucharist because they lack a valid priesthood.

The words you quoted of Pope Pius XI from Mortalium Animos are not "outdated", but must be understood in their proper context which I believe Pope John Paul II provides in Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Pius XI's words are not contrary to ecumenism, but rather protect the Church from a false or misguided ecumenism which confuses the identity, purpose, and mission of the Catholic Church which possesses the fullness of truth and communion with Jesus Christ with something less. The goal of ecumenism is to bring all into fullness of communion with Jesus Christ in "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" church as we profess every Sunday. We do this through honest and charitable dialogue, fervent prayer, and challenging our Protestant brothers and sisters to seek the truth. Dialogue for the sake of dialogue is fruitless. It must be an honest dialogue seeking the truth and the intention of Jesus Christ.
God bless you.

Later, in response to a letter to the editor of the diocesan paper from a priest, Mr. Howard stuck to his guns:

Response to Letter to Editor Re: "Why not attend 'New Life'?"
By Peter J. Howard, S.T.L. 21 October 2005
Thank you, Father Slattery, for your thoughtful response. I would like to take this time to offer some needed clarifications based upon matters raised in your letter.
It is important to note that there are two reasons for a Catholic attending a non-Catholic denomination’s liturgical service. The first applies to weddings and funerals of non-Catholic Christians, where a Catholic may attend that service out of respect for the one being married or the one being buried. This is not what my column was addressing. My column addressed the second reason, namely, that Catholics attend a non-Catholic liturgical service to share in the faith of that particular assembly. This is the problem addressed by Pope Pius XI and by the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism as cited below. Catholics who attend funerals or weddings of non-Catholics are not there to express their faith in that denomination. They are usually there simply out of human respect.

The same cannot be said for those who attend other denomination’s liturgical assemblies where the purpose of that assembly is to express that community’s particular Christian faith, which is not compatible with Catholicism. I am
troubled by your statement regarding Catholics being told “they could not attend weddings of Catholics in a non-Catholic church.” This is not something that has changed since Vatican II. Catholics are bound to observe canonical form when they marry. Unless a dispensation from form was granted through the bishop, they remain bound to observe it. Any attempt otherwise results in an invalid marriage and the couple’s manifest scandal to the church. This is the teaching of the Catholic Church and for Catholics to think it is OK to witness what they know to be an invalid marriage in the eyes of the church only adds to that scandal. This certainly has not changed since Vatican II.

The vespers service you alluded to at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome was an “ecumenical service” which is not the same as a Protestant community’s liturgical service for their own assembly. The ecumenical prayer service is a jointly-organized prayer service focusing on common elements of faith between the Catholic Church and participating Christian communities, while Protestant churches’ particular liturgical service is an
expression of their particular faith which, “on account of their origins, and different teachings in matters of doctrine vary considerably, not only with us, but also among themselves,” [Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism, 19] although there may be common elements of faith between Protestant communities and the Catholic Church.
One further clarification, the Assisi gatherings convened by John Paul II were not ecumenical, but inter-religious events. Moreover, the various religious faiths (Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, et al.) never “prayed together,” but, as John Paul stated, “came together to pray” according to their respective religious faiths and in different sections of Assisi when it came time for the various religions to pray for peace.

It is true that the Second Vatican Council ushered in a new ecumenical age of the church, as evidenced in its Decree on Ecumenism, “Unitatis Redintegratio” [UR]. However, there remains misunderstanding by some as to what true “ecumenical sensitivity” entails. The church has never taught that random participation in Protestant liturgical services as an authentic expression of Catholic faith is acceptable or even ecumenical. Nowhere is this promoted in Vatican II or any other official teaching of the Catholic Church. In fact, UR states the opposite in No. 8: “Worship in common is not to be considered as a means to be used indiscriminately for the restoration of Christian unity” — and precisely for the reasons you list at the end of your letter. When this teaching is compromised, even with the best of intentions, Catholics endanger their salvation by being misled by false doctrines, expose the church to potential scandal by giving the appearances of belonging to a non- Catholic church, or even lose their Catholic faith.

Catholics must ask themselves, “Do I truly believe that the Catholic Church is the one and only church founded by Jesus Christ, has possessed and faithfully transmitted the fullness of truth for 2000 years, is the mainstream and instrument of God’s grace and possesses the greatest gift of all: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ truly present in the Holy Eucharist?” If I do, then why would I ever entertain the thought of participating in any other denomination’s liturgical assemblies which cannot claim the same? How is this treasury of the Catholic Church ever insufficient? How can it ever be exhausted?

Well, Mr. Howard isn't some closet traditionalist--he's making up excuses and parsing things quite finely in order to defend the current order of business when it comes to non-Catholic sects. This response calls further into question Bishop Sheridan's apology, which ran in the Gazette on October 21:

Local Catholic diocese believes in ecumenism

Recently, my assistant Peter Howard gave an interview to The Gazette regarding relations of Catholics with non-Catholics. The result of that interview was an article in Monday’s Gazette (“Protestant services not OK for Catholics,” Life). While I do not believe that it was intended, many people were offended. While Howard is free to express his opinions as a Catholic layman, the interview was done without my knowledge or direction and does not represent my thinking on the subject. Nevertheless, I am deeply sorry for any hurt or insult that has been experienced, and I humbly ask that all men and women of good will accept my apology. The Catholic church is irrevocably dedicated to the ecumenical movement, which found its modern impetus in the Second Vatican Council. That council urged all Catholics to engage in the work of ecumenism “in fidelity to the truth and with a spirit of good will.” I want nothing but good will to prevail in our community. In all denominations there is a desire to retain members and help them grow in the faith they have professed. However, that concern for the spiritual well-being of our members must never express itself in ways that hurt our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even more, it should be unthinkable that we demean the teachings or disciplines of denominations other than our own or engage in name-calling of any kind. The many Christian denominations remain separated from each other to one degree or another. But all who have the name “Christian” rejoice in a unity that comes from our common faith in Jesus Christ. Even though we may not yet be sharing fully in worship with one another, there is so much we can and ought to be doing together. Not least among the ways that we can express our solidarity is by engaging in projects that benefit our fellow Christians and, indeed, all in the human family. I want all to know that I remain steadfastly committed to the ecumenical endeavor begun four decades ago and I dedicate myself to the first and most fundamental dimension of ecumenical relations — mutual respect and friendship.

Bishop Michael J. Sheridan Colorado Springs

One less Bishop on my honor roll, and one (now former) lay chancery official (imagine that, me praising a lay chancery official!) to add to it. Kudos to you, Mr. Howard for (1) earning a licentiate in sacred theology in this day and age without losing your faith, (2) speaking the truth, (3) not backing down from it, even though it meant you had to quit or get fired by Sheridan.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Brief Hiatus

Positive developments in the Curmudgeon household, but such that my attention will be diverted from the blog for about a week. See you then.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

St. Vincent de Paul, Kansas City, Missouri

From the two saddest cases I know of--Holy Name and Blessed Sacrament, to one with some hope: St. Vincent de Paul at Flora & Linwood (the 3100 block of the Paseo) was built, appropriately enough, under the guidance of the Vincentians in 1922, and closed by the diocese at some point before 1980; however, it was "rescued" by the SSPX with the help of a protestant preacher who served as intermediary, and it has been reasonably well-maintained by the SSPX for the last twenty-five years. The SSPX began operating there in 1981, seven years before the . . . incident. Somehow, all the furnishings, statues, and windows stayed with the church, and because it's in SSPX hands, one can actually get inside to see the interior (and reverence the Blessed Sacrament, of course).

This is not the prettiest church in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph (Our Lady of Perpetual Help/Redemptorist, is the hands-down prettiest, and Our Lady of Sorrows--with the altarpiece that inspired Joyce Hall to create Hallmark's gold crown logo--is perhaps in second place).

St. Vincent de Paul is not richly appointed like those other two churches. It seems like the builders spent all their money on the structure, with little left for the interior. However, it's certainly the most majestic of all of the Kansas City's churches, and perhaps the most authentic, least "Americanized" tribute to the gothic form around town. I don't know much about architecture, but it feels very English (whereas Redemtorist feels unmistakably French, and Sorrows is, well, kind of northern Italian on the outside and kind of baroque German on the inside. St. Vincent's has a long nave, a cedar roof and reredos, a nifty baptistry, functional side altars, and a number of confessionals (not as many as Redemptorist, though). The church actually has a choir area with a dozen or so stalls behind the altar rail, between the transcept and the sanctuary. This next picture, taken from the west side of the Paseo, shows just the choir and gives you a better sense of scale. The Vincentians were undoubtedly practical men who where making the most of the land they had to work with, but it's a real shame that the school building was built so close to the church that it interferes with the view.

Anyways, St. Vincent's may not be the best backdrop for wedding pictures, but it's the kind of place you can imagine a duke receiving his coronet in, the sort of place being pillaged by Henry VIII's and Elizabeth's henchmen, and the kind of place you can almost hear Gregorian chant echoing in (of course, there's no imagination necessary on that last count. I suppose one really does hear chant every Sunday there, although I've never had occasion to be there during a High Mass).

I found a little information on this church, in back issues of The Angelus magazine, that I'm linking to, noting the purchase and rededication of the building by the SSPX. Whatever yout think about the SSPX situation, you have to be happy that the building is intact and in Catholic hands with a real chance of becoming a canonically regular church again someday.

One can only hope that, when the rift between the society and the hierarchy is resolved and as the old Mass becomes more widely available, this beautiful church on an ugly corner of Kansas City isn't forgotten.

If you've got more information on the building, do please add a comment or email me.

[Remember, you can see these photos enlarged by clicking on them]


Just a little more information on St. Vincent de Paul, which I first featured on November 8—I didn't get all the way through the entry before I got the "Really, sir, we're closing and you'll have to leave" speech at the library last week.In 1975, the parish was suppressed and folded in with Holy Name and Annunciation to create the Church o' the Risen Christ. At the time of closure, The Vincentians deeded the parish to the diocese, with it still subject to $80,000 in debt. More to come, but I do have one rather catty comment for now. I was inside the Church a couple of years ago, and again recently, and I noticed that in that time, someone painted around the small windows (in the side aisles) in some sort of dusty rose or mauve or something. Whatever they were trying to do, it didn't work. Or perhaps one of the former KC-SJ bishop's church decorators broke into the church to play a trick on the SSPX?


More on St. Vincents
Well, I can eliminate the detailed history of
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church from my "to do" list. Someone brought the SSPX newsletter, The Regina Coeli Report, (CLICK HERE) for this month to my attention. Their article, occasioned by the twenty-fifth anniversary of the acquisition of the abandoned church by the SSPX, is much thorough than I would have managed, even with a little more time in the library.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Blessed Sacrament, Kansas City, Missouri

Here's an impressive and balanced Italian Renaissance specimen, (with Romanesque features all around) the Greater Grace Temple Apostolic Pentecostal Church, once Blessed Sacrament Church, at 39th and Bellafontaine (not to be confused with Blessed Sacrament at 20th and Parallel Pkwy in Kansas City, Kansas, still a parish, current home to the FSSP Latin Mass Community, St. Rose Philipine Duschene).

When was it closed? I don't know. Why was it closed? I don't know. I will say that the adjacent school must have really been popular in its day. You can tell it was added onto more than once, and a second building, also a school or a convent of apparently 1950's-ish design, is just south of the church. What a pity. It's obvious from the outside that all the stained glass has been removed, and while one can still see some Corinthian capitals on the columns inside, one imagines that a congregation like "Greater Grace Temple" is iconoclastic. There probably isn't much of the original beauty left inside.

Do share anything you know about this church with me, and if you have any other suggestions--churches on the Missouri side in Kansas City, do make a comment. And remember, east-coasters and Europeans, don't make fun of us because our ruins aren't as old as yours are.


I had a chance to review This Far by Faith, vol. 2, (1992, Rev. Charles Michael Coleman, ed.) at the central public library this weekend. Unfortunately, the book doesn't circulate, and I only allowed myself an hour before the library closed. However, in that hour I found some interesting information that I'll post on some of the closed churches I've visited, and some leads on other churches I'll try to find in the next few weeks.We'll start today by looking back at Blessed Sacrament. . . . . It was designed by Archer & Goyd, and was one of two buildings that received recognition for outstanding design in 1927 (the other being a Jewish synagogue). The cornerstone was laid in 1927, and it was dedicated in October 1928. It was built of Bedford stone in the Italian style at a cost of approximately $150,000. It was the first cut-stone church in Kansas City. It seated 800, and was extensively stenciled inside by Dante Cosentino. The parish paid off the debt from the original building in 1941. The school thrived for many years, but then, startin in the 1960s (concurrently with the Spirit-of-You-Know-What) went through a period of decline and it was consolidated with the school of St. Louis parish in 1974. The last Mass was said in the parish on February 3, 1991 by the last pastor, Rev. Robert H. Stewart. There are many other details in the book, for those of you who might be interested.


Wow. A more careful perusal of This Far by Faith, including volume 1, led to the discovery of some magnificent pictures by Joe A. Stornello in the color plates there (Let's all give Mr. Stornello a "huzzah" for some great photography). The interior of Blessed Sacrament was as well-balanced and aesthetically uplifting as the exterior. Note that there's no newfangled altar obscuring the view of the high altar in these photographs. There's no altar rail around the sanctuary, though. We can see some of Cosentino's stencilling, and his angels on either side of the apse (a descendant of Dante Cosentino told me that about the only place one can still see his work is Our Lady of Sorrows on Gillham Road.

I cannot begin to wonder what Bishop Helmsing (1962-1977) and Bishop Sullivan (1977-1993) were thinking as seminaries, rectories and pews emptied around town and they closed down and wrote off such beautiful edifices, all the while pushing such un-Catholic ventures as St. Mark's Ecumenical Parish and signing off on parish building projects like St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Thomas More and St. Charles Borromeo and some really horrible church out near Belton whose name I forgot. Were Helmsing and Sullivan filled with hope? Did they REALLY think it was a New Springtime?

It brings tears to my eyes to think that this place was abandoned, as far as Catholic worship goes, and while the new churches built south and west are so hideous . . . such as . . . I dare not start the list.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

League of Evil Traditionalists

Pledgeship is over. I have finally been admitted into the League of Evil Traditionalists.

Holy Name Church, Kansas City Missouri

Took an hour today to get some fresh air and drive about Kansas City, Missouri. I did so with my digital camera and an idea to get some photographs of Catholic churches in Kansas City which have been shuttered. This week I'll feature four of them.

I just got back in from my drive, and now I'm kicking myself because I should have taken (in addition to these low res B/W photos suitable for my blog) some higher-resolution pics, and even some color shots.

I'll start today with Holy Name Church, at 23rd & Belton, built under the direction of the Order of Preachers. I'm starting with Holy Name because I can see it from my office, and years ago, over lunch, I hunted it down. When I first found it, in 2001, there was a chain link fence around it, and there were gaping holes in the roof and windows. Now it's the Future Home of New Day Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Frank L. Selkirk, Choir Director, the Church where the LOVE of JESUS is SHINING THROUGH. Mr. Selkirk's congregation doesn't appear to be prosperous, but at least, they managed to put up some plywood over the holes, and it's not the sun that's shining through.

Whose fault is it that this church is now, less than a century after it was built, on its way to becoming a ruin? That's a complex question. Partially, Eisenhower's to blame, because his interstate highway system made it possible for people to live in places like Gardner and Belton and Excelsior Springs and still commute to work. Partially, it has to be the Bishop and the Dominicans, or whomever was entrusted with the parish, for their failure to evangelize the newcomers to the neighborhood as the original parisioners moved out to the burbs. But then, sometimes, these things just happen. Sad nonetheless.

Please, especially if you're from the Kansas City area, comment on these--let me know what YOU know about the parishes and their demise, and make some suggestions for other churches that I might want to feature.

And those of you from the east coast or Europe, do spare us poor midwesterners your scoffing at our eighty-year-old buildings. Just because our ruins don't date from the 17th Century, or the 12th Century ruins doesn't mean that we can't be saddened by them.

FYI, you can get a better look at these pictures by clicking on them.

Holy Name, the very first closed church I featured here, has an interesting history. After reading the entry in This Far by Faith, I could only conclude that Holy Name (impressive as it is) was, perhaps, a church that should never have been built. If you build it, they don't always come. Although plagued by money problems from the beginning, the Dominicans planned a huge English Gothic church complete with a massive central spire over the transept. In 1911, the foundations and the basement were built at a cost of $56,587. Money ran out, so the basement was covered over and work stopped for 14 years. Finally, a new architect was hired, H. W. Brinkman of Emporia, Kansas, who modified and saw the church built in 1925. It was designed to seat 1,000. Instead of the central spire, the smaller spire on the fa├žade was constructed. The final cost was $175,000, of which $75,000 was borrowed from the diocese. Money problems continued, and the Dominicans schemed in various ways to draw people in—even with plans for a bowling alley in the basement. It was reported that at one time before closure, collections ran around $175 on a Sunday with four Masses. Finally, in 1975, the parish was suppressed and folded in with Annunciation and St. Vincent de Paul (two other churches I've featured) to form "Church of the
Risen Christ" at the Annunciation site. In fifty years, Holy Name parish only managed to repay $23,000 of its diocesan debt, and the Dominican order wrote off a much bigger loan. On July 15, 1975, the building was sold to a congregation of the Church of God in Christ, which (in order to conserve energy) built a shell inside the building in which they held their services. It is reported that the stained glass windows were not visible from inside the shell. If you're ever in the Central library or find a copy of This Far by Faith near you, you ought to look up the entry for Holy Name, where you'll find, among other things, a rendering of the church as originally planned, with the central spire. It would have been breathtaking.

I've added an interior shot (from after the sanctuary was messed up in the Spirit of Vatican II, as you can tell) and also --one of the more interesting things in This Far by Faith, a rendering of the church as it was originally planned. One more interesting bit of detail from a closer reading of the book is that there was a tear-gassing incident in April 9, 1968, the day of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, funeral. It was Tuesday of Holy Week, and the parish was hosting a dance in the basement, and for whatever reason, the cops fired
six cylinders of tear gas inside. That incident, and other, touched off rioting in Kansas City. Among other questions I have about this incident is "why on earth would you host a dance on Tuesday of Holy Week? Was this a run-up to the Good Friday carnival? There's a subtext to the story of Holy Name if you read the article carefully, and that is that the Dominicans were losing their focus on teaching the Catholic faith, and that loss of focus (as well as general "white flight" to the suburbs) contributed to the demise of Holy Name.