An acquaintance recently remarked that he remembered reading about what the original “vision” was for SGG (St. Gertrude the Great Church) in West Chester, Ohio. It was to be a “sermon in stone”: a grandiose neo-gothic edifice, complementing a campus that included a new school (including gymnasium), a rectory, and a convent – all drawn up with impressive architectural renderings, and all to be “stone” of some sort. SGG was to be a “destination,” a “magnet,” a traddieland “Mecca” -- almost a “shrine,” if you will – for traditional Catholics everywhere. It was to be the “flagship” traddie church for not just southwest Ohio, but perhaps for the entire Midwest.
One of Dannie’s problems, though, was that his “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” only had a “peanut butter and jelly budget”: his congregation was just too small to support such extravagant plans. Even tapping his main benefactor for several million dollars (and soliciting unrealistic “suggested donations” from the rest of the congregation), he fell hopelessly short of his goal. Most parishioners balked at the expected amounts, and many refused to give at all. In the end, the “sermon in stone” had to be scrapped; and the gymnasium ended up becoming the “church.” Plus, the nuns never got their new convent (a “convent” was built, but to house priests, not nuns). And as far as the “stone” part is concerned, it turned out to be “stone veneer”; and construction quality in general was sub-par (see Extreme, Makeover, Brain-Dead Edition). Dannie’s “sermon in stone” was a “sermon in shoddy.”
But what really sealed Dannie’s doom (as far as his grandiose plans were concerned) was the SGG school scandal of 2009, for it was after this that his biggest benefactor left, taking his money with him. The “big bucks” just weren’t there anymore. (Another thing that didn’t help, even before that, was Tony Baloney’s disastrous opinion on Schiavo. Many parishioners were “turned off” by this, and left.) Ever since, Dannie and Tony have been playing “catch-up”; and their collection-basket totals have as yet to recover to pre-scandal levels.
Since then, they have resorted to all sorts of fund-raising schemes, but to no avail. One of their more celebrated efforts was Tony’s Work of Human Hands, introduced with much fanfare, fawning self-praise, and canned reviews from “experts.” It fell flat on its face. They also tried soliciting over the internet, and have even tried gimmicks such as “commemorative pavers.” Lately, their internet begging has gotten even more blatant: there’s a “donate” button, right there on their web page, that one can push while their “cyber Mass” is airing (see article).
But the net result of all of this is that the cash-generating juggernaut that Dannie first envisaged is now pretty well stuck in neutral (at least, according to Dannie). Every week brings a new plea for money from the pulpit: money for “excessive winter heating bills” (at a time when Dannie was in Mexico on a winter “apostolate”); money to repair a lightening-damaged organ (as if insurance did not cover it); money for “cost-saving arches” (for a cloister that already has arches); money for roof repairs (to fix a roof that was improperly designed to begin with); and, of course, the never-ending exhortations to “use the envelopes in the pews to give us your intentions for a Triduum of Marian High Masses this month.” Not a week goes by, in fact, without some plea for money from the pulpit (and, of course, SGG’s internet begging is a daily, ongoing thing).
One would think that such a state of fiscal neediness would force Dannie into more of an “austerity” mode. Indeed, he talks “austerity,” and continually gives his sheep examples of this or that saint’s sacrificing, as he did in his Sept. 4 Bishop’s Column) about St. Pius X: “He willingly walked for miles to go to school. He knew the value of things. He walked barefoot so as to save the shoes his father, a poor postal worker, had purchased for him at great price, only stopping to put them on shortly before he arrived at school. What a great first lesson for our young scholars, new and returning. If only they learn the value of things, human and divine, they will have the key to a good life, nor waste it, as do most.”
Those are fine words that Dannie had about St. Pius X -- but what about Dannie’s actions? Dannie, what kind of example do you set for “our young scholars”? How many miles have you walked barefoot to save your fancy buckled shoes? Did you walk barefoot while you were down in Mexico this past Lent, pigging out on “copious quantities of beef”? Did you think about this while you’re being chauffeured around everywhere you went? Did you think perhaps of foregoing those winter “apostolates” to sunny, warm Argentina and Mexico so that your parishioners wouldn’t have had to pay SGG’s “excessive heating bills” during that time? How much “sacrificing” have you done, Dannie?
Indeed, Dannie’s sermonizing in words is a lot like his “sermon in stone” – it’s all ersatz. It’s all “smoke and mirrors.” It’s all fake. He and Tony talk about “sacrifice,” but it’s the sheep who are expected to do the sacrificing. They are the ones who are asked to pay for “excessive heating bills” and “cost-saving arches” (for a cloister that already has arches), or for repairing a leaky roof over and over again (a roof that leaks because Tony Cekada unilaterally made an idiotic design decision) – yet none of the clergy’s junkets to Europe, Latin America, or sunny Santa Fe are “sacrificed.” These “apostolates” (or “sabbaticals”) are sacrosanct; they are “non-negotiable.”
But why should this surprise anyone? Dannie and Tony have always sacrificed NOTHING on their parts. As they’ve demonstrated so many times before, they always have been – and always will be – about MONEY. That’s one “sermon in stone” that will never change.