May 2014

You really can’t make up this stuff.

The calendar for Cincinnati’s Xavier University, a school in the “Jesuit Catholic tradition,”  notes that tomorrow is an official Holy Day, the Feast of the Ascension — of  “Baha’u’llah,” the founder of the Baha’i religion.


Holy Day: Bahá’í
Ascension of Baha’u’llah
9:00 AM

TIME: 9:00 AM until 10:00 PM
DATE: Thursday, May 29
LOCATION: Ascension of Baha’u’llah
DESCRIPTION: Ascension of Baha’u’llah: This commemorates the day when the founder and prophet of the Baha’i Faith died in 1892.Reflection: “Abdu’l-Bahá explained to the Bahái’s that the physical body of the Prophet of God is like a cloud which covers the sun and which prevents its rays from reaching the earth. Because of their physical limitations, the Prophets of God must live by the rules of physical existence. For this reason, many people are tested. They will say, ‘What kind of Prophet is he? He sleeps and eats and walks the streets like everyone else.’ But when the cloud is removed, the rays of the sun reach the people directly, and the whole of creation is resuscitated by their lifegiving light.”See the Calendar of Holy Days and Observances
Save to calendar

It should go without saying that I have no beef with the Baha’is. They are free to observe and practice their religion as they see fit. Why a Catholic university, even one in the “Jesuit Catholic tradition,” feels compelled to highlight their holy day is lost on me, however.

After mulling it over each spring for the past few years, we finally put together a Mary Garden in the back yard. By “we” I of course mean Mrs. Leonardi, who spent all week clearing away weeds and honeysuckle and planting roses and pansies. For the statue of Mary, we went with a Mother-and-Child theme and picked up a 25″ version this morning at the Catholic Shop in Madeira, which evidently had a run on them ahead of Mother’s Day the other weekend. Here she is:

Mary Garden

Those who’ve followed the goings-on of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for the past few decades surely recall the name “Brennan Hill,” a (former?) theology professor at Xavier University rightly notorious for his open dissent from Magisterial teaching and, more specifically, his co-authorship in the early-90s of the “Hill & Madges” video series (and accompanying book) on the then-new universal Cathechism, a fortunately ill-fated attempt to spin its content for his panic-stricken fellow travelers among the mostly local catechetical elite. He’s weighed-in on the new archdiocesan teachers contract in the LTE section of the Cincinnati Enquirer, and his assessment comes as no surprise:

The famous inventor, Samuel F.B Morse captured the anti-Catholicism of 19th century America when he said that Catholicism is opposed in its very nature to Democratic Republicanism; as it is, therefore as a political system, as well as religious, opposed to civil and religious liberty, and consequently to our form of government. Catholics in the 19th century were perceived as a closed perfect society, wherein their thinking and actions were dictated by the hierarchy and the Vatican.

Enter the new contract for teachers in the Catholic schools in the Cincinnati. The contract seems to a throwback to a Catholicism of former times. It appears to be devised to prevent teachers from using the American court system when unjustly terminated, deprive them of their freedom of speech, their religious freedom and ignore the primacy of their consciences.

Didn’t Vatican II teach that Catholics as well as all people have the civil right of freedom from interference in their lives according to their conscience? (Vatican II, On human dignity, parag 13.)

Brennan Hill, Anderson Township

It’s rather curious that a man whose theology and eccelesiology have a sell-by date of 16 October 1978 uses the derisive term “throwback” without a hint of irony.

You have to love a Church which can have a missionary priest from Uganda celebrate a baptism in Italian at a parish in Cincinnati.

That’s what happened during the 11:30 Mass at St. Mary of Hyde Park this morning.

Pace the intrusiveness of an omnipresent photographer, it was a wonderful expression of the universality of the Catholic faith and Church.

Over at his wonderful site, “Bonfire of the Vanities,” Fr. Martin Fox of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati critiques (eviscerates, really) business reporter Josh Pichler’s recent Notre Dame-invoking argument against the new archdiocesan teacher contract in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Here’s a sample from his lengthy and thorough post:

So it all really hinges on something Mr. Pichler doesn’t seem interested in: is the Catholic Church right about human sexuality? Is the Church right in saying that two people of the same sex attempting “marriage” is no marriage at all. Because it’s contrary to God’s plan for humanity (“unnatural”), it won’t really lead to ultimate happiness. It cannot. It involves mortal sin — which, if unrepented of, means eternal loss in hell.

And if I believed that — and I do! — then how can I be all smiles while this path in life is celebrated?

Mr. Pichler may not believe this; he doesn’t say. But if Notre Dame really is the ultimate expression of the Catholic Faith (“You don’t get more Catholic than Notre Dame”–uh, yeah you do; and Mr. Pichler really ought to be embarrassed to resort to this sort of bromide. Will he quote George Gipp and sing the Alma Mater next?), then he knows full well what the Catholic Church believes.

So I’d love to hear how he solves this problem. Unfortunately, he isn’t interested in actually taking Catholic teaching seriously.

Read the whole thing.

In this morning’s Cincinnati Enquirer, a local attorney and author pens a thoughtful defense of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s new teacher contract:

The vigorous and heated rhetoric over the new teacher contract for Archdiocese of Cincinnati schools reveals the fundamental tension between American political values and the rights and duties of a religious institution such as the Catholic Church to name and carry out its mission. Public reactions to the contract, including rallies, billboards funded by the self-appointed “Voice of the Faithful,” and petitions circulated by such anti-Catholic groups as and have been well-documented in the Enquirer.

From the actual wording of the contract, it should be surprising that there is any controversy at all. By signing the contract, Archdiocesan teachers merely agree to refrain from engaging in conduct that includes:

“… public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of a surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination, public membership in organizations whose mission and message are incompatible with Catholic doctrine or morals, and/or flagrant deceit or dishonesty.”

As a point of Catholic moral teaching and practice, this is unremarkable language, reflecting well-settled doctrine. It does not forbid discussion of these topics, including presentation of arguments that would challenge the teaching. Nor does it prevent a teacher who is the parent of a gay child from loving and supporting that child. It merely ensures that teachers who sign the contract to teach in a Catholic school do not advocate moral positions or live moral lifestyles that violate Catholic teaching. And, of course, no one is required to sign the contract. Then why the hubbub? …

And just before last weekend, the Enquirer ran a story on a teacher who quit rather than sign the new contract.

WCPO Channel 9 News also runs a story today, focusing on the protest billboards now known to be funded by Voice of the Faithful, a group which first made headlines a dozen years ago in the aftermath of the abuse scandal.

UPDATE. The Enquirer‘s Josh Pichler writes a piece on the contract that includes the line “You don’t get more Catholic than Notre Dame,” an assertion with which I suspect more than a few Catholics would quibble.

As noted earlier, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, the University of Dayton’s iconic chapel on campus, is to be “renovated” this summer.  This chapel and its previous splendor was reduced during previous “renovations” that occurred after the Second Vatican Council.

Chapel before Second Vatican Council.

Chapel Today. 


This project was designed by the Dayton architectural firm Brightman & Mitchell Architects of Dayton, and liturgical consultant Kenneth Griesemer.

And as we suspected and noted at the time, this project has now been exposed as a blatantly dishonest and ideological-driven effort.  A coalition of students, lovers of sacred liturgy as well as just plain lovers of history (who may not even have any affinity for sacred liturgy) are trying to stop this before it is too late.

Students have been circulating this flyer on campus.


The following email was sent by a professor to UD faculty:


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: John Inglis <>
Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Subject: In memory of UD Chapel’s apse, hand-carved wooden pulpit, & Virgin Mary on ceiling



Since the renovation of the UD Chapel will involve the almost total destruction of the historical apse (narrow section of the building in front of the old altar), it is nice that we can experience it as a unity for a few months longer! This is in part what it means to preserve and widen a footprint. 


Widening the footprint will include the division of the very large wooden pulpit hand-carved in KY in the 1860s in order to display specific parts of it in two or three different locations. 


We should have a contest for the number of ten-foot tall hand-carved wooden art works from the 1860s that continue to exist on site in Dayton, let alone southwestern Ohio. 


This has been my favorite work of art on UD campus during my 21 years here! That it includes a stairway to the pulpit connects us with early and medieval Christianity, even if no orator has mounted those steps in years. Seeing it for me is like visiting churches and chapels in Europe, which I do each summer precisely to study and photograph such things.


As the widening of the apse will lead to the removal of the historical painting of the Virgin Mary, Trinity, and angels on the ceiling, it is great that we can enjoy them still.


And since a public passageway will be cut through the old wedding cake altar, we can hold it within our gaze a little longer. 


These are some of my favorite non-people things at UD and represent much Catholic and Marianist history! 


From talking to Marianists, I assume that hundreds of members have taken their religious vows in this space in front of this art.

Ask Marianists that you know. This was not only a university chapel, but an important chapel central to this religious order.


The apse is the oldest part of the chapel not to be disturbed by significant renovations over the last 100+ years. It will now largely be destroyed and replaced with a new wider structure. But, at least the great old stained glass windows high up on the apse walls will be removed and repositioned in the new construction! They are among the jewels of UD.


You can use the flickr address below to see the pulpit, the painting of Mary and the others on the ceiling, wedding cake altar, wooden panelling, stained glass windows, and shape of the apse. This space has its own distinctive character, which will no longer exist. 

The character is in part a Catholic puritanism imposed by the European Marianists over and against the greater richness of the original plans. The order made a choice for simplicity, in some ways, or at least for me, an option for St. Francis and against the neogothic splendor of the aristocracy, a choice that continues to speak to many today.


or a larger printable file,


The apse space is being widened to include a place for the choir and more seating area. So the chapel will be more useful for liturgy today, which will be nice.
I worshiped here for a decade, so can appreciate that.


The loss on the exterior will not be huge, largely the widened apse and a long one-story building constructed along much of the south side of the chapel, the side towards St. Joseph’s. But it will directly affect the 19th century feel of the space.

 It will be a great historical loss for the university and US Catholic higher education. 


UD is one of the very few Catholic universities to have its original core campus from the Nineteenth Century largely intact. This is very rare in the US. Maybe someone can mention another campus that has it to this extent, but Notre Dame lost theirs years ago and I do not know of another Catholic campus in the US with so much of its core remaining from the mid and late 1800s.



The interior loss to the chapel will be significant, with the loss of the apse, pulpit, Virgin Mary painting, interior woodwork, and altar at one end; and loss of the 19th century balcony and pipe organ at the other.

Remarkably, the balcony is held up with 19th century cast iron pillars that have different capitals on top, as if they were carved out of stone! Take a look before they are gone.


When stone was dominant, each piece was handmade, so stone pillars often differed from each other. When iron casting came in, this was no longer necessary, but the practice of utilizing difference continues at UD.


John Haldane, a visiting Scottish philosopher of international renown who has given the Gifford Lectures, marveled at the cast iron pillars a few weeks ago while on tour. This was an early industrial type of construction which blends in with the medieval style of the building as a whole.
Viollet le Duc praised this use of modern construction for such purposes in his important encyclopedia, which Frank Lloyd Wright held up as the great work on architecture.


The political- and religiously radical stained glass windows that stand along the sides of the chapel and represent so much of the dreams of Vatican II, will be replaced with a gentle geometric design more like the originals.

I hope they sell the post-Vatican II panes, for I would like one, and it would raise money for the construction. And certainly it is ingenious to turn the confessionals into shrines.


As one member of the Chapel renovation committee has reportedly said recently (off committee), at least we are keeping the blue dome on top!


Because we are now able to use Holy Angels church on Brown Street for large Eucharistic gatherings, we could renovate this chapel with historical respect. It is not necessary to renovate historical buildings according to contemporary standards.

I understand why UD is not doing this, as it will be more convenient for smaller Eucharists and weddings, but lament the loss none-the-less. 


If you see me photographing the site over the next few months, stop by for conversation, so that we can observe one of Dayton’s and our region’s historical monuments together for a little longer. To my knowledge it has not been properly documented or studied.


John Inglis

Chair and Professor of Philosophy  


Who knows if it is too late to stop this.

Next Page »