It never ceases to amaze how a large segment of the population claims America is a “Christian” nation, and yet willfully abhors the most basic tenets of their namesake’s teaching. Of course, America’s brand of Christianity is as far afield from what Jesus Christ taught as the Earth is from the Sun, so it is no great shock that rejecting his teachings epitomizes America’s neo-Christian movement; particularly on the part of the clergy.
California is in the midst of a historic drought that experts recently revealed leaves the state with one year of water if ideal conditions and water conservation measure are strictly adhered to. In a conscientious city like San Francisco, water conservation measures are taken very seriously by businesses and residents alike; except for the San Francisco Archdiocese led by embattled Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. The latest outrage, and it is a monumental outrage on humanitarian and water conservation terms, against the Archdiocese is the harshest criticism for installing a watering system to drench the homeless to prevent them from sleeping in doorways around the sanctuary at St. Mary’s Cathedral.
According to a leading San Francisco news station, the Archdiocese installed a clever little watering system above doorways around the cathedral to drench the homeless and keep them away from the church’s tax-exempt property. It is likely not something Jesus Christ would do, but then the Church is not remotely interested in following Christ’s teachings. The Catholic Church is an organization that is a substantial partner in America’s fanatic religious right movement; its adherents are not. Instead of sheltering the homeless, just before sunset, and at regular 30-60 minute intervals throughout the night, sprinklers above the doorways dump water for about 75 seconds to cover the alcoves and drench homeless people seeking sanctuary from the weather; at night when soaking sleeping homeless people can do the most damage. The idea is to soak the homeless, and all their worldly belongings, to teach them a valuable lesson about trespassing on ‘god’s house’ and to stay off of church property; likely what the church believes Jesus would do.
On Wednesday, the San Francisco Archdiocese officially released a statement addressing the controversy as it attempted to seek cover for being un-Christ like. It said that “people who were regularly sleeping in those doorways were informed in advance that the sprinklers were being installed.” The church also said the “homeless deterrent” was installed two years ago and now that their little “un-Christ like” inhumane waste of water is exposed they are really, really feeling remorse. The Archdiocese said that it was “sorry that our intentions have been misunderstood and recognize that the method used was ill-conceived. It actually has had the opposite effect from what it was intended to do … and for this we are very sorry.” Now it is unclear exactly what the effect, or intent, of drenching homeless people seeking shelter at night was supposed to be, or how any sane human being could misunderstand their purpose, but it is doubtful that the intent or effect is in Christ’s teachings.
The City of San Francisco does make a valiant attempt to provide shelter for its homeless population the city claims is about 6,400 strong. Of those, 1,977 are considered chronically homeless, 914 are unaccompanied children and youths, and an estimated 2,200 public school students lack permanent homes in the city. The question the homeless and all Americans should be asking the wealthy Archdiocese and every empty church in the nation is; why they are not, as “good righteous followers of Christ” opening their buildings up to the homeless at night for shelter. After all, the Church does not pay property or any other taxes, and it receives federal money as part of the obscene ‘faith-based initiative’ program. It really leads one to ask exactly “what the Hell would Jesus do?” It is not in the scriptures, and doubtless that Jesus would leach money from the government and taxpayers and then waste that free welfare, and what little precious water California has, left hosing down the homeless for 75 seconds at a time every 30 to 60 minutes throughout the night?
It is not even surprising any more that America’s so-called Christian organizations put in practice the exact the opposite of what Christ and Pope Francis have preached to care for the poor; not hose them down. There have been reports that the new Pope serves the homeless, gives away sleeping bags, offers free haircuts and shaves, and plans on installing free showers in St. Peters Square for the less fortunate. However wonderful Pope Francis’ actions may be, they are funded by donations from the real Christians supporting the Church. The Catholic Church, like the preponderance of Christian churches, is not following Jesus Christ’s admonition to sell all their belongings and give the proceeds to the poor.
That hypocrisy aside, the Pope did tell Catholic devotees that, “To love God and neighbor is not something abstract, but profoundly concrete: It means seeing in every person and face of the Lord to be served, to serve him concretely. And you are, dear brothers and sisters, in the face of Jesus.” So is the Vatican the face of Jesus, and like the San Francisco Archdiocese sits on untold wealth it should sell off to provide for the poor if as the Pope claims they are “in the face of Jesus.”
After the inhumane treatment of the homeless was revealed, officials at the Archdiocese pledged to remove the water-wasting system, and believe it or not, confessed that it was likely operating without a permit that would be a violation of San Francisco’s strict water-use and conservation laws. San Francisco Catholic Charities said they supported the Archdiocese’s decision to disconnect the sprinklers, but why did it take national exposure to support something the Archdiocese should never have done in the first place if it was an organization founded on Christ’s teachings?
This news cannot come at a worse time for Archbishop Cordileone because rank and file Catholics, good and decent people, are angry that a “morality clause” was inserted into local parochial schools’ staff handbooks. The “clause” empowers church officials to summarily fire any teacher they think “visibly” violates certain Church teachings. However, Cordileone does have some supporters who defend him based on his stellar record of helping the homeless. One prominent Catholic journalist, though, scoffed at whatever “history” the Archbishop has and said it in no way excuses the Archdiocese’ decision to waste precious California water hosing down homeless people seeking shelter from inclement weather.
It is bad enough the San Francisco Archdiocese is wasting water during a historically severe California drought, but to waste the water to prevent the neediest people in the city from seeking shelter is not only inhumane, it is exactly the opposite of Christ’s teaching to care for the poor. It the Catholic Church is not going to do what Jesus said, and sell all their material possessions and provide for the poor, the least it can do is open its substantial buildings for their use; not hose them down to keep them out of the doorways because it is certain that is not what Jesus would do.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.