27 September 2007

If Business is Slow, Just Smear the Catholic Church

It works every time. Now, the local Philistines need to gin up an audience for their new family musical, "Sex, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll", so the local media is called in to cover the mean old Archbishop who wants to spoil everyone's fun. What did he do now? The Archdiocese obtained a temporary injunction against the Ivory Theater (located in the former St. Boniface Church) in order to enforce the restrictive covenant the theater agreed to when it purchased the Church.

Restrictive covenants aren't as common as they used to be, but they are generally enforceable under the law. In this case, specifically, the buyers of a Catholic Church agreed not to put on performances that are geared to adults instead of a general audience. The problem with language like this, you see, is that we live in the United States of America in the early 21st Century, when the theater owner can look straight in the cameras and without any shame or any hint of irony declare that this is indeed an unobjectionable, family show.

I saw this story first on Channel 4 News tonight, where, following the prepackaged video story, reporter John Mills stated a point-blank falsehood that the Archbishop had "called for a boycott" of the Cardinal Glennon fundraiser earlier this year. Totally false, and oh-so-easy for a reporter to fact check. But why let facts get in the way?

The following article appears on STLToday, and this excerpt gives you the flavor of it. AMDG and retrocatholic also have coverage.

Archdiocese blocks performance at Ivory Theatre

By Robert Kelly and Matthew Hathaway

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Archdiocese today blocked the opening night of "Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll" at the Ivory Theatre after telling a judge the musical revue violated an agreement prohibiting adult entertainment in the former Catholic church.

St. Louis Circuit Judge Philip D. Heagney issued a temporary restraining order today and scheduled a hearing Friday to consider a permanent order. Carondelet theater was previously the St. Boniface Catholic Church before it was closed in 2005 and sold to developers.

"This is just about a sales agreement that was made," said Anne Steffens, an archdiocesan spokeswoman. "We believe this is a violation of the agreement."

Developer Pete Rothschild, one of the theater’s owners, said he and his lawyer didn’t learn of the hearing until late this afternoon and got to the courthouse too late to attend. Despite its title, Rothschild described the play as "an innocuous show" and hopes to show the judge a videotape of the revue at Friday’s hearing.

New Line Theatre said the play includes songs from musicals that deal with sex, drugs and rock music. Although some of the songs contain strong language, Rothschild said there is no nudity. He doesn’t believe the play violates the deed restriction.

"Before we bought the church, we discussed it with the church’s real estate guy," he said. "We thought they didn’t want strippers or that kind of business. I can understand their wish to prevent something truly objectionable from happening in formerly consecrated space but this isn’t offensive."Rothschild and his partner, Mike Allen, purchased the church complex for roughly $1.1 million and spent over $800,000 fashioning it into a theater.

A special warranty deed signed by Allen, Rothschild and a representative of the St. Louis City Catholic Church Real Estate Corporation restricted the new owners from using the St. Boniface name. It also bars use of the former church for a wide range of activities, including "live performances directed to an adult audience rather than the general public."


I would be remiss at this point if I did not state that this incident is exemplary of the danger of selling Catholic Church properties to secular interests. Even restrictive covenants cannot guarantee that scandalous uses will not be made of the sold Churches. The problem here is that the question of what is or is not a general audience production is one of subjective judgment by a judicial system that is not usually friendly to the Church. And the ACLU will no doubt swoop down on the local court with its highly edited version of the First Amendment and they will stop at nothing until this execrable show goes on.

And, no doubt, it will open to packed houses of gleeful idiots who can't wait to be interviewed for TV and the papers about how glad they are to stick it to the Archbishop.

But, do yourselves a favor before you react to this. Don't use logic. Don't seriously consider why a buyer won't comply with the agreement it voluntarily made before buying the property. Don't let your Catholic faith inform your opinions about this matter. Just repeat after the media: the Church is baaaaaaad.

And one more thing: can the Archdiocese possibly settle this out of court by giving the theater what they want in terms of "artistic direction" in exchange for it taking one of the ugly, gymnasium style Churches of which we have so many instead of St. Boniface?

St. Boniface, ora pro nobis.


seminarian said...

The blood of the martyers is the seed of the Church. I.e. The suffering of Archbishop Burke makes our Archdiocese even stronger.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you know so exactly what this show is without having seen it or talked to anyone who has... Is it possible that the three topics of this theatre piece are being taken seriously and not sensationalistically? Is it possible the show may dramtize the dangers and destructive power of these forces? Is it possible that passing judgment without having any actual facts is, in fact, singularly un-Christian? If your answer to all these questions is No, then why did the archdiocese back down so quickly? Could it be that they (and you) were WRONG?

thetimman said...

Anon, thanks for the compliment. I don't like to brag, but I do know quite a bit about things I haven't seen. For instance, I know that the pyramids are in Egypt, but I haven't seen them. I also understand that they are somewhat pointy. And that's just one example!

But, alas, here I can take no credit for such skill. In this case I actually read what the producer of the show said about it ("the songs contain strong language"), the advertisements for the show ("the advertisements noted that adult language is used in the show and also advised parents to leave their children at home"), and what is reported by the press about the contents of the restrictive covenant (shows aimed at "an adult audience rather than the general public.").

Thus, based upon these facts as reported by the press and supported by the producer, I "judged", as you say it, that the restrictive covenant was implicated. I see no reason to change my opinion, though the Archdiocese decided not to pursue it.

You see, we make "judgements" based upon third party reporting all the time. For instance, I bet you have an opinion on whether the U.S. should have troops in Iraq. And unless you have been there yourself recently, you are basing your opinion on what you glean from the press, people you respect or trust, and your own conscience and intellect. That is not un-Christian "judgement".

I would have been guilty of rash judgement if I had accused any one of these people of being culpable of mortal sin, or if I said they were going to hell. I did not. In fact, I think I gave them credit for actually believing such a production was unobjectionable.

But hey, if you think that's an un-Christian act by me, I am sorry.

God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Funny how you won't admit that you've been proven WRONG, that you DID in fact get the facts wrong... And that you won't publish others' comments here that show how wrong you were... :) But not a surprise really... The folks who are the most positive they're right are usually the folks who end up being the most wrong...

thetimman said...


1. I am helpless in the face of your reverse psychology! Can't... not... publish... inane...comment...by... anonymous... critic... wait-- that... makes... two... now...darn!

2. Your chastisement may count for more if you didn't hide behind anonymous comments.

3. I stand by my explanation above, which doesn't contradict my original post at all. Try rereading it. Or reading it.

4. But, feel free to do and think whatever you like. I am sure that there are other blogs where you will find the life-affirming synergy you seek.