Service of Charity IV

March 17th, 2014

Categories: Charity, Work


collecting money at church

I turned on the radio on a recent Sunday just as Monsignor Kieran Harrington said that he’s criticized by some for making repairs to the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Explained the host of “In the Arena” on WOR Radio, who is also the cathedral’s rector, naysayers suggested he should use the money to cover Catholic school tuitions or give the restoration money to charity. [The program also airs on NET, a faith-centered, Brooklyn-based TV network on Time Warner Cable channel 97 and channel 30 on Cablevision.]

Monsignor Harrington, [photo right], has his hands full and is a person who thrives on keeping busy. In addition to his rector duties and the program, he is associate publisher of The Tablet; the Diocese of Brooklyn’s vicar for communications and Monsignor Kieran Harringtonpresident/chairman of Desales Media Group. He explained that by hiring painters and plasterers, contractors and others, he’s paying them so they, in turn, can cover their expenses—tuition, food and shelter–which he thought had merit.

I agree.

About the same time the “Greater New York” section of The Wall Street Journal featured a photo of a workman leaning from a scaffold up high in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He was adjusting something in a stained glass window. According to the caption, the estimate of this three year project is $175 million. Worker salaries will pay for plenty of food, shelter and education. Meanwhile, a NYC landmark will stand tall.

Christ Episcopal Church

Christ Episcopal Church


Apart from the service of maintaining a place of worship so that it’s a pleasant place to visit and shows appropriate respect, don’t we also owe it to future generations to preserve landmark buildings whether or not they have a religious history? I’ve visited US cities where downtown looks like Europe after World War II. They have destroyed all but a few paltry buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Not a pretty sight.

Do you think those responsible for the budgets of places of worship should direct all funds to charity? Are they accountable to preserve the buildings in their charge?

Monsignor Harrington in Cathedral of Saint Joseph. Photo: The Tablet

Monsignor Harrington in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph. Photo: The Tablet


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8 Responses to “Service of Charity IV”

  1. ASK Said:

    At least the Church is preserving its “infrastructure,” unlike state and federal governments and quasi-public utilities who wait until major bridges collapse, major water pipes burst, pot and sink-holes devour automobiles, and the lights go out.

  2. Debby Brown Said:

    I think if you want to contribute to any charity, you have to walk with faith those in charge will direct funds as they see fit. That’s one reason I always give to the Discretionary Fund at my church. If one gives to a huge global charity that offers assistance in disasters, and that CEO earns a big six-figure salary, and you have a problem with that, either don’t give to that charity or earmark on the check you are contributing to a specific relief fund.

    In short, don’t give money to institutions or charities if you disagree with how the money might be used. It’s also helpful to go on Charity Navigator and/or download annual reports if you really want to know how and where your contribution may be used.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Excellent point. The horrible explosion in the Bronx last week may have been caused by a gas pipe that is over 100 years old. I lived in a Brooklyn neighborhood where manhole covers exploded in summer, endangering passersby. The gas system there was ancient too.

    My guess is that the people who gripe about spending money to restore a building may not give much to begin with. I like to spiff up my home when I have company. Why shouldn’t people responsible for a place of worship feel the same?

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Of course! Brilliant response. Identify the pocket you want your donation to support. And, as you suggest, if you don’t trust the charity to do that, give to an organization you trust.

  5. Hester Craddock Said:

    Somehow, when I was growing up, they skipped me when they were passing out religious educations. As a consequence, I never did acquire strong beliefs, one way or the other, about the rights and wrongs of how people go about practicing their faiths.

    However, as long as people don’t hurt others, I do believe how they go about worshiping their God or Gods is their business and certainly not mine.

    I might add though, as someone who is deeply grateful for the beauty religion has brought into our lives, from the Greeks and their inspiring temples, through those scandalous Popes who made renaissance art possible, to the magnificent language of the King James version of the Bible, thank God there were believers that didn’t just focus on feeding the poor.

    And, lastly, as someone who has lived and worked in New York for many years, far more than once, on an overwhelming day have I gone into one of our many churches, from the gracious to the grand, and been refreshed by the still tranquility of a peaceful moment in the midst of the chaotic bustle all about me.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I like to sit in a quiet church for the same reason.

    While I had 12 years of religious education, I’m not sure that my agreement with Monsignor Harrington has much to do with it. The Chinese proverb about giving a man a fish and he will eat for a day but teach him to fish and he can eat for a lifetime [loose translation], while a bit of a stretch comes to mind. By providing work he supports his community in another way, one which allows men and women to feed, house and educate their families. Associated with this is pride which is hard to beat.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Picture this: Church is in a state of disrepair and a heavy chunk of plaster falls on grandma O’Reilly’s head during services. Grandma dies. Aggrieved family sues, wins a huge sum at church expense along with judicial order to make appropriate repairs to building before more lives are lost. Now, the church is not only faced with a huge monetary fine, all funds must go towards maintenance for the foreseeable future.

    Question: Have the Monsignor’s critics mastered simple arithmetic? Appropriate maintenance of building protects the flock (and grandma) from harm and costly law suit, and at least some needs of the poor will be met.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Yours is a practical reason for repairs that I neglected to note. It’s easy to forget that places of worship are sued just like anywhere else. Some churches don’t allow celebrants to toss rice at bride and groom as all could slip more easily on stairs; others have fake candles which I’m convinced helps lower the cost of fire insurance, although I prefer to light real ones. I went to a bar mitzvah on a cold day. One of the guests flew down stairs leading to the synagogue’s lobby because ice had lodged under her boot. There was consternation as much for the integrity of her bones–she was OK–as there was as to whether the sidewalk in front of the building had been properly cleaned. Being in charge of such buildings is a huge responsibility.

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