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 POST-DISPATCH
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.