I once knew a German architect who had been charged with writing a government report on what should be done with all the old, empty churches. I suggested that the churches be converted into bowling alleys. Each one could house only a couple of lanes, but the view from the choir loft would be great and the reverberating crash of toppling pins would be magnificent.
Since making this suggestion, I’ve come to see it as a metaphor that expresses what is really happening to the Church. It’s the management who are slowly replacing the stoops with ball-washers, not the folks in the pews. If a fellow in the pews gets an itch to finger a ball, he goes to a real bowling alley. If a fellow in the pews gets an itch to do social work, he gets a government grant and rents space in some strip mall. It’s the management who are stuck with the Church, and the churches, and who are therefore stealthily repurposing both of them.
I don’t know if this happens in real life, but this is how it works in the movies. When a marriage turns out to have been a hollow fraud, the disillusioned party dramatically discards the wedding ring. Perhaps they fling it into a lake. It’s not as rational as hocking the ring at a pawnshop, or melting it down for remolding, but the dramatic gesture strikes me as the right gesture. A false wedding ring should be dramatically abjured, not quietly repurposed.
If the Church is a hollow fraud, it should be dramatically abjured, not quietly repurposed. Few things are more nauseating than a humanist thinly disguised as a priest (although a technocrat disguised as a humanist comes close). Imagine walking past a great cathedral at night and seeing the glow of light from behind the stained glass windows. Imagine listening in the hope of hearing organ music. Imagine the feeling when you hear, instead, the reverberating crash of toppling pins.
(For those who are interested, my recent silence is occasioned by a crushing workload, soon to be at least somewhat relieved.)