Monday, February 25, 2008

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield to Close for a Year

SEE THE ARTICLE Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to close for a year for renovations, from the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois.
The Cathedal of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield will be closed for about a year, starting this fall, as it undergoes an $11 million renovation project.

The most obvious change will be an atrium on the west side of the existing Cathedral, which will provide another entrance to the sanctuary as well as serving as a gathering place for parish functions. To accommodate the atrium, part of the present convent will be demolished.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, in Springfield, Illinois, USA - exterior.jpg

This is one of the finest cathedrals in the region, of superb design, beautiful materials, and good iconography.  Click here for some of my photos from last year.

From the website of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois:
After almost a year of study, a steering committee headed by Monsignor Carl Kemme, vicar general of the diocese, recommended a comprehensive plan of interior and exterior restoration and enhancement. The program, called Built on Faith, Renewed in Hope, involves repair or replacement of both exterior and interior elements, including:
  • Restoration and repair of the Cathedral complex's copper roof and gutter system; repair of the bell tower; repointing of stone joints; and preservation of the Cathedral's stained-glass windows.
  • Repair or replacement of inadequate electrical, plumbing, sound and heating/air conditioning systems.
  • Construction of an 8,400-square-foot atrium to allow people to gather before and after Mass and other liturgical events and to serve as an accessible entryway to the church.
  • Improvements to the features important to proper liturgical celebrations, such as extensive interior refinishing and redecorating; a new baptismal font; an accessible sanctuary; a new permanent altar to replace the temporary one now in use; a new and more easily accessible ambo (pulpit); a refashioned cathedra (bishop's chair); and the refurbishment of the tabernacle, which will be returned to its present location.
  • Additional accessible parking west of the Cathedral and an entrance to the new atrium for parishioners and visitors from the main parking area.
  • Major improvements made to the site by improving entries and entry plazas to the north and south, including exterior lighting for safety and increased accessibility to parish offices, school, Cathedral and parking areas.
JB Powers has commented on these renovations; see the article Please Stop Before Wrecking the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Note that the words 'accessible' or 'accessibility' are repeated five times here.  This is problematical, for it seemingly places an otherwise laudable goal, of helping those who are disabled, above the Faith.  We see here an illustration of C.S. Lewis' principle of First and Second Things:  "To sacrifice the greater good for the less and then not to get the lesser good after all – that is the surprising folly."  But how can the goal of accessibility be counter-productive, and even destructive?

The virtue of liberality — required for sanctity — tells us that we must be generous with others, and so we must help those with disabilities.  For example, one priest told me that he built a larger confessional, since many of his parishioners are wheelchair bound. My parish has an elevator that goes from street level to the nave and parish hall.  My late girlfriend Lisa, who walked with a cane during the last months of her life, greatly needed and appreciated this help.

Back when Christianity was far more than just something that 'respectable' people do for an hour on Sunday, we see a traditional and more useful view of 'accessibility'.  For example, the old Pontifical Ceremonial, the ritual book used by Bishops, is obviously adapted for the needs of elderly men, such as the vesting ceremony, and where he gets extra support or is even carried. The old church porters had to be strong, so as to be able to carry worshippers up stairs.  Choir stalls often had standing rests, call misericords, to help those who found standing difficult. Churches were often designed so that those with communicable diseases could still confess their sins, attend Mass, and receive communion.  Long before pews were installed in churches, and the faithful were expected to stand for hours, chairs were available for the sick and elderly.

'Accessibility' is a political code-word of the disability rights movement.   This developed in the 1970s on the model of the civil rights movements of the previous decade, and as such, this is a novel concept based on marxist class conflict, like the similar Feminist movement.  And like other marxists, they demonstrate infantile anger, hostility, and a sense of entitlement, in a manner that is loud, noisy, demanding, and severely uncharitable.  The activists reject pity, but they also reject the ordinary help that we ought to give to one another in daily life.  For them, all solutions come from the totalitarian State.

As marxists who reject charity in favor of justice, these activists make the deadly mistake of pushing for a lesser goal at the expense of the greater good.  For if no one practices charity, or love, then no one will feel the need for justice either.  It just comes down to power and who wields it; and so when the revolution comes, a marxist will be just as likely to be put up against the wall and shot as anyone else.  Marxist revolutionaries are among the most pitiless and cruel of any humans.

These activists get a seat at the table of Socialism only if they toe the party line, and the party line includes abortion, eugenics, and euthanasia.  Ironically, it is precisely the disabled who would be killed in this world order.  This has led to equally perverse proposals for specifically causing or not curing disabilities in order to perpetuate this oppressed class.

Activists will often use the term 'differently-abled' instead of 'disabled'.  This is symptomatic of a skeptical philosophy that rejects the concept of human nature, and ultimately leads to the notion that there is no such thing as truth, or that truth is only relative.  When human nature is denied, then the practice of medicine becomes arbitrary, which is hardly a good situation.   More deadly, the particular value of any individual to the totalitarian State is also purely arbitrary.

Accessibility is related to the 1970s trend of 'mainstreaming', where severely disabled students were placed in normal schools for reasons of social justice.  Again, we ought to remember that the advocates of mainstreaming also were advocates of abortion on demand, including therapeutic abortion which would purposefully kill those with disabilities.   Young children were taught that these obvious problems of disability could be easily cured by a visit to Planned Parenthood.

'Accessibility' in architecture leads to a horizontal architecture, since obviously going 'up' and 'down' may be disproportionately difficult or impossible for someone in a wheelchair, and wheeled vehicles in general only operate well on smooth, flat surfaces. Just consider the extraordinary changes to our landscape due to the automobile. And so modifications for wheelchairs need to eliminate features and severely flatten our architectural landscape, by making everything relentlessly horizontal. As we now know, emphasizing the horizontal element in churches at the expense of the vertical dimension is deadly to the Faith, as well as deadly to our love for others.  A Hegelian sense of 'community' does nothing for piety and forms a quite superficial community compared to the Communion of Saints.

As an alternative, we can perhaps provide human muscle and assistance to help the disabled get around in our vertical churches, but for marxist disability activists, this is unacceptable, for they demand 'independence', and not a whiff of charity.  They want no help from their fellow man, but instead only want help from the State.  We ought to remember where we got this awful attitude:  the Enlightenment bourgeois merchant class rid itself of the demands of religion and charity, since it is bad for business, and so their oppressed factory workers, in reaction, claimed that they didn't want religion or charity either.  Sometimes you get the enemies you deserve.  

The supporters of the 'accessibility' movement in architecture tend to be indistinguishable from the iconoclastic 'wreckovators', who stripped our churches of art, beauty, meaning, and Faith.  The 'green' movement in architecture has similar marxist goals.    However, helping our fellow man and conserving creation are laudable goals; but they must be done in a Catholic manner.

Before we get too angry at this cathedral's proposed renovations, we should be aware that under United States federal law, due to the Americans with Disability Act, comprehensive accessibility changes are required by law during any renovation.  Neither existing structures nor historic monuments are exempt.  Some activists make a living for themselves by seeking out inaccessible buildings, and then suing the owner under provisions of the ADA.  We do not know what pressures the Bishop may have come under from activists or their lawyers.  We also need to be aware that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in documents on liturgical art, have made accessibility a major goal in church design.

Helping the disabled is mandatory.  However, opposing the marxist goals of many of these activists is also mandatory.


  1. Maybe you could do a before and after analysis. It would be good to see the "fruits" of their renovations. I think the Church is beautiful as is, with the exception of that table that clearly does not belong in the sanctuary. That would be a $100 renovation to hire movers to get it out of there :-)

  2. When I am critical, I usually try to keep my criticism at the highest level of ideas and actions, so that is why 'accessibility' caught my eye - it smacks too much of marxist rhetoric. Now I have no idea of how the church will be reordered, nor do I know the specific details of why things are to be done.

    The "gathering space" also pops out at me, and even though these things are quite popular - almost every new suburban parish has one - well, I just don't know enough about this one to comment on it. These things are either an expensive and distracting community-centered fashionable room, or they could at least serve to prevent people from irreligiously chatting within the nave.

  3. I belong to this parish (since moving to Springpatch 3 years ago) and was at Mass the day the Bishop explained the project.
    Unless I've gone deaf or missed something, the impression I got was that the interior was just going to be cleaned and freshened up, and the only thing to be removed from the sanctuary is the "temporary" altar that presumably went in after Vatican II -- to be replaced with a more dignified and suitable fixture. The other renovations are in the area between and behind the church and school.
    As for the notion that handicapped accessibility and mainstreaming are some kind of liberal plot: my husband and I have a 12-year-old daughter who is autistic. Until we started attending Cathedral, we assumed Catholic schooling was out of the question for her. We used to live in another diocese with, shall we say, a better reputation and while there were told repeatedly that the local Catholic schools did not have the resources to educate her.
    We were surprised to discover at least TWO Catholic schools in Springfield that are willing to enroll her (Cathedral and Little Flower). We have not made a final decision yet but if we can make a go of it, both of us will be eternally grateful to the parishes that made this possible.
    By the way, I consider myself a traditionalist and orthodox Catholic and agree that this cathedral ought not to be "wreckovated." Again, I see no indication that that will happen.

  4. Springpatch?

    Dear Elaine,

    I'm happy that you are able to find a school for your autistic daughter, and I hope it works out for you and her.

    I think I was trying to show the difference between liberality and marxist wedge issues. According to moral theology, if you aren't liberal, that is, don't have the virtue of liberality, you go to hell. This is quite a different thing than marxist class conflict that seeks an atheistic, centrally-controlled society.

    Here is my critique of the mainstreaming agenda:

    1. Public schools are often known for their lack of discipline, rampant cliques, violence, and psychological cruelty among the students. Ask any teenager if this is true or not!

    2. Disabled children, by policy, are put into this difficult environment, where even trivial differences are noticed, and thoughtlessly acted upon. When I was in public schools, the mainstreamed students were marginalized and lonely, despite the official rhetoric.

    3. The schools teach Darwinian Survival of the Fittest. Only the strongest survive, not just in fact, but often by policy. The disabled rarely would be classified as 'strongest' in the materialistic sense, so what would be the obvious conclusion?

    4. Children are taught an environmental ethos that demands a reduction in population, along with a notion that if a child isn't part of the solution, then he is a part of the problem. This leads to an acceptance of euthanasia. The unstated conclusion is that you have to kill the unproductive for the sake of the environment.

    5. Children are taught to accept abortion on demand. Modern parents have the desire for a 'perfect' baby, and abortion is thought of as a tool to ensure this. There has been a sharp reduction in some birth defects due to eugenic abortion.

  5. Never heard of Springpatch, or "Springtucky?" It's a term sometimes used to poke fun at what one might call our small-town atmosphere : )

    The critiques you have of the mainstreaming agenda would be applicable to public schools (that's a big part of the problem we have with public school); but I would hope a Catholic approach to mainstreaming would emphasize that the disabled are children of God with as much right to a Catholic education and reception of the sacraments as anyone else. (We did once homeschool our daughter, but for various reasons that is not a viable option at this time)

    As for the notion that the disability rights and accessibility movement deprives Christians of an opportunity to exercise charity: has it occurred to you that the disabled don't ALWAYS want or need to be on the receiving end of charity... they might want to be able to EXERCISE it as well?

    Also, before you jump to the conclusion that the disability rights movement is inherently marxist and anti-Catholic, you might want to check out organizations such as "Not Dead Yet" and the online magazine "The Ragged Edge," which contain some of the most forceful arguments I have ever seen against euthanasia, assisted suicide and eugenic abortion. Ragged Edge had some excellent articles about the Terri Schiavo case and its dire implications for declaring "open season" on persons with severe disabilities.

    I also recommend blogs by adults with autism such as "ballasexistenz" and Frank Klein's "Autistic Advocacy," which make an eloquent case against the notion that autism and autistic spectrum disorders are evils to be eradicated at all costs... a mentality that has played into some recent tragic cases of parents murdering their autistic children (one of which happened not too far from here, in Morton, Illinois). But I digress...

    Of course not all disability activists are pro-life in the Catholic sense. And I do not always agree with their tactics. But I think the disabled have the potential to be powerful allies in the fight for the protection of ALL life.

    I appreciate your prompt response and your thoughts on this matter.