I haven't commented on the debate over selling the Bishop's Oakland Place mansion because I'm not Catholic and, well, it's none of my business. But the letters and op-eds keep pouring in.
When you displace young families, children in 14 Catholic schools and older men and women who do not drive, especially in the city limits all over this diocese, and you still feel comfortable not to displace yourself and two aides from an 11,000-square-foot mansion at 79 Oakland Place that is probably worth well over a million dollars, then I really feel deep down there is something wrong with the church and our bishop.
This whole kerfuffle reminds me of a particular Sandy Beach schtick.
At least once a year you can count on him to do a show criticizing National Fuel Gas executive salaries and bonuses. Never mind that they amount to $8.3 million and even if they all offered to work for free, each of NFG's 2,500,000 customers would see his bill go down by $3.32. In short, it's an argument for symbolism -- if we're feeling economic pain from high natural gas prices, then so should they.
Talk of selling the Oakland Place house is no different. Now, I realize that the Catholic religion depends heavily on symbolism, and were the diocese to sell the house for say, $2 million, it's true that the money would be spent on good works. It might even keep those closed schools open for one more year. It can only be sold once, though, and when gone, the diocese would still be in the same dire financial straits it's in today.
The function of the Bishop's home is meant to be inspirational. Since Medieval times, Catholics have spent amazing sums to build great churches and cathedrals. They built those great churches because they were inspiring and fitting places to contemplate man's reverence for his Creator. Buffalo's poor Catholic immigrants were no different. They, too, devoted their hard-earned wages to buildings that would inspire men.
Just like those old East Side churches, the Oakland Place house serves to reassure Catholics that the Church is solid and timeless even though times are tough, and it reminds them that the Bishop is surely doing important work. A visit to his residence is undoubtedly a long-remembered one. The house is long since paid for, it's annual upkeep is probably a minor item in the diocesan budget and its disposal will do nothing to improve the situations of local parishes. Keep it.
As I said, I'm not a Catholic and it's none of my business. But if Buffalo's Catholics wish to engage in symbolism, let it be of the uplifting sort that helps men dream and not the kind that just tries to drag everyone down into a pitiful, poverty-stricken pit of egalitarianism that does no one any good. We've had way too much of that in Buffalo already.