Is there anyone else out there who is troubled by all the finger-wagging over the San Francisco Cathedral’s sprinkler system?
I mean, we LOVE the poor. We should reach out and help them. The social doctrine of the Catholic Church, as I mentioned in my post earlier this week, speaks often about the Preferential Option for the Poor. Jesus loved the poor, fed them (like the crowds gathered on the hillside near Bethsaida in Galilee), healed them (like the ten lepers), urged his followers to help them. In the Sermon on the Mount, he called them blessed.
But there has been an explosion in the media this week over the Catholic Church’s treatment of certain poor persons in San Francisco. News reporters and bloggers, both Catholic and secular, have told the story of the evil sprinkler system installed by the terrible, manipulative, unwelcoming people at the Cathedral of San Francisco to deter hungry and disadvantaged homeless people from getting a good night’s sleep.
One of the most politically manipulative reports comes from an on-line petition demanding that the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop the practice:
A Catholic church is blasting people with insane amounts of water because they want homeless people to stay away from their property. This action is extremely cruel… Water automatically sprays from above the person in a fierce manner, and it is not known when these powerful water blasts will take place. Homeless people who get hit with a substantial amount of water are at great risk of getting sick, especially since—in many cases—they are not able to take hot showers and change out of the clothes they are wearing.
But is that what’s going on here?
Catholic blogger Domenico Bettinelli of Boston thinks the media has an ulterior motive for reporting the story now (emphasis mine):
It’s important to note that in the background of this story is a fight between Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and Catholic school teachers in his diocese over a change in wording in their contracts that requires them to abide by Catholic moral teaching in their public and personal lives. The archbishop’s stand has pulled in the city’s infamously liberal politicians and various advocacy groups, including a famously mud-slinging PR expert, in efforts to stop him, including proposals to pass laws that would undermine the Church’s authority.
It cannot be a coincidence that this came out now. That the sprinklers were installed two years ago, but only came to light now is too convenient.
Dom makes some good points in his article about how the Archdiocese should have been pro-active: explaining in advance why the sprinkler system was being installed; perhaps showing the media the debris and dangerous drug paraphernalia being left behind on the church steps, then leading the same media through to see the clean, shiny alcoves after the sprinklers were installed. And showing them all the good stuff the Church is doing for the homeless right there in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, even there on the Cathedral grounds.
But Just Not There, At the Doorways, Where Children and Others Must Pass.
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Let’s stop to consider another part of the story, the Rights (and yes, the Responsibilities) of the Poor. Why in the world would homeless people feel entitled to sleep wherever they want, and be damned anyone who tried to stop them?
My local Target store has nice, wide doors through which shoppers can easily push their carts laden with groceries and goods.
But imagine this: Some local families, unable to afford housing any longer, move to the doorway of Target. They bring sleeping bags, a change of clothing, snacks in paper bags. There’s no outhouse or lavatory available, and when you gotta go, you gotta go!–so they defecate in the doorway before heading out to beg on the street later in the day.
Would Target permit them to stay, in the interest of helping the poor? NO WAY! And if they did, customers would be right to be seriously concerned, and would take their business elsewhere.
Because doorways are not for sleeping. Doorways are for passing through.
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The Archdiocese didn’t say they wouldn’t help them. In fact, they said, go on over to that lighter, safer section of the Cathedral’s grounds and sleep over there!
BUT (and this is important) they are also in the business of worshipping God. The people of God come together for worship in the Cathedral. And those people need to pass (safely) through the doors. It is not only proper, it is the responsible thing for the Cathedral staff to make certain that can happen.
In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Catholic Charities lists at least thirteen centers which it operates to provide shelter for the homeless and the poor:
- 10th and Mission Family Housing
- Assisted Housing & Health
- Derek Silva Community
- Edith Witt Senior Community
- Hazel Betsey Community
- Homelessness Prevention
- Leland House
- Peter Claver Community
- Rita da Cascia Community
- SF Home
- St. Joseph’s Family Center
- Star Community Home
- Treasure Island Supportive Housing
The Archdiocese of San Francisco also offers extensive programs to help Refugees and Displaced Immigrants.
There are other options–MANY other options–available.
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And back to the self-righteous media, smacking their lips at the opportunity to expose the Archdiocese’s “cruelty”:
Imagine just for a moment, if you will, that the Archdiocese had done nothing to resolve this problem. One day a ten-year-old altar server had stopped on his way in to Mass and picked up one of those syringes, and had inadvertently poked himself. Imagine that he’d become ill as a result. Those self-same highly-incensed reporters would be there lickety-split, screaming “Bad, bad archdiocese doesn’t take care of its property, endangers children!”
That the Archdiocese should be pilloried in the press for preserving its worship space for worshippers is pure and simple leftist politics. Don’t fall for it.