PICKING UP THE TAB
After the blessing, Bishop Daly retreated from the battlefield to his Bendigo safety-zone with high hopes, no doubt, of having finally resolved the “ugliest” situation he had encountered in a parish “in thirty-seven years.” As is the convenient privilege of a bishop, however, he left behind not only the spiritual, emotional, psychological and social wreckage we have noted, but the final bill for his failed experiment. Not for the first time, a Catholic parish was expected to pick up the newchurch tab.
The Catholic Insurance Co. paid $951,895 of the total cost of St. Joseph’s restoration. But it was the extra $171,651 over and above the Insurance Co. figure that caused many parishioners to shake their heads in dismay. Marj Ride addressed the `extras’ component in a letter published in the North Eastern Telegraph of 26 February 1990:
Many questions are being asked by parishioners of St. Joseph’s church Benalla since a local paper published figures relating to an amount of $171,000 incurred over and above the restoration which was to be carried out by the Catholic Churches Insurance Co., at no cost to the parish.
All the figures and costs listed are in relation to “alterations” as against the complete restoration to be carried out by the Insurance Co.
Now we learn that despite an amount of $96,944 being held and comprising of $32,000 refund from the Insurance Co., as savings from installing iron cladding in lieu of slate, $26,648 refund from Insurance Co., savings from installing an electronic organ in lieu of pipe organ, and donations of $38,296 from parishioners and public.
A committee has been formed to campaign for funds to make a shortfall of some $74,000 for many alterations which I believe were not only unnecessary but unknown to parishioners.
For example — $20,650 for remodelling the sanctuary and the altar, $4,000 for removal and relocation of reardos (marble archway and tabernacle which stood behind the main altar), $5,595 for modules (platforms) for wooden altar (new) extensions, $3,226 for “new” wooden altar.
A total of some $33,461 for alterations which have left us with a bare and open sanctuary wherein no altar stands, nor I believe any sign of Catholic faith or devotion. The “new” wooden altar which replaces our previous marble main altar now stands outside the sanctuary on the “module” extensions.
There are many items listed and costed but I am quoting the above as examples. From competent authorities we have been told that even though the organ already had some $10,000 worth of restoration commenced on the $80,000 project, again at no cost to the parish, a decision was made to replace the organ with an electronic organ at an approximate cost of $28,000 to $30,000.
The life span of an electronic organ will be perhaps ten years, it will depreciate in value each year and will probably cost $10,000 more to replace in that time. Had the pipe organ been restored the value would have been approximately $160,000, would appreciate in value each year, needs minimum maintenance and in ten years would possibly be worth $200,000 to $250,000.
Has anyone considered that under another Bishop or priest at a later date there may be a request to restore the Church to its original concept. What then? We know that Father Brosnan, at the request of his parishioners, now has to raise $80,000 to restore his Surrey Hills church [Melbourne], which a previous priest had remodelled and modernised.
It is worth a good deal of thought , is it not?
Indeed it is.
The double expense faced by parishioners who paid for the privilege of newchurch desecration during the seventies and eighties is only beginning to surface. The inevitable restoration of ruined churches like St. Joseph’s will be a significant and unnecessary drain on future parish finances, whether in two or ten years time. Yet it is a remarkable fact that, just as some parishes are preparing to undo the earlier damage inflicted by liberal clergy, every passing month produces further transformations from Catholic majesty to newchurch banality as churches throughout the Catholic world fall victim to the liturgical audit. If one momentarily considers the universal nature of this madness, it can be seen that at only $171,651, parishioners of St. Joseph’s may have got off lightly!
The same liturgical audit, for example, will cost the members of Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Lake Oswego, Oregon, U.S.A., at least $851,397! In December 1989, an architect and “consultant to Christian communities,” David Richen, flunked the church on all of the previously mentioned audit points, and more. Thus, having failed the audit, Our Lady of the Lake, which (like the old St. Joseph’s) served Catholics for many decades without complaint from the faithful, is currently undergoing its million-dollar updating.
A “pedestrian plaza” and “Hospital Centre” are planned together with a new entry foyer to make for “a more hospitable environment.” A glass room between the church and the school is to become an activity centre, “full of plants, bright colours, lights and people.”‘ Dare one suggest that the Benalla Team is not yet done with St. Joseph’s?