Just in time for the holiday season, the Archdiocese of New York announced it would be closing far more local parishes than previously expected. It’s not surprising; the institution isn’t very relevant to contemporary New Yorkers. The Church’s influence is waning along with its membership and income. Consolidation is fiscally necessary.
Criticism of religious beliefs is enough to cause homicidal rage and suicidal boredom, so I will avoid mine as best as I can. As someone who hasn’t let the sensual light of Jesus Christ into his heart, church business is usually none of mine. This, however, is different. Church properties receive significant public support through tax breaks and grants. As such, decisions about the future of shuttered Church real estate should be informed by the opinion of the New York City taxpayer — even that of a godless heathen like me.
Religious institutions receive special tax designations and are eligible for government grants because it’s assumed they help provide for the wellbeing of the communities they’re in. Historically, houses of worship were not only cultural and community centers but also hubs of social welfare. Since whatever services being offered at these locations will soon be coming to an abrupt end, they should be replaced with facilities useful to modern society.
In a perfect world, whatever emerges from these closed houses of worship should not only provide for the future, but also address the past. With that in mind, I can think of no more perfect use for these holy sites than gay nightclubs. The funds from these newly minted houses of debauchery should be used to fund on-site family planning clinics. Birth control by day, bears by night.
After reading the preceding paragraph, some of you may have gasped, but most of you probably just rolled your eyes at what seems to be a sophomoric attempt at humor. While the idea of men grinding in the pews or women getting pap smears in the rectory is undoubtedly funny (to me), its absurdity proves its need. While the Church has been responsible for countless historical abuses, no present policies are as damaging to wider society than its institutional homophobia, and its scorn for sexual health. By providing a space for people of alternative sexualities to express themselves freely, and by supplementing public health, these places can serve as a means of reparation for past dogmatic repression and serve to honor the church’s tradition of public service.
The denunciation and hatred of queer people and their expressions of love are among the ugliest and darkest regions in the history of human thought. As a society, and a city, doing everything it can to scrub that bloody spot from our collective consciousness, it’s important that we take a stand anywhere we can. It’s not, nor should it be, a sign of disrespect to make a strong showing of support for the LGBT community anywhere.
Social science is extraordinarily inexact, but the one contention supported nearly unanimously is that family planning can cure the most extreme forms of poverty. Giving women control over their own reproductive organs has a positive economic and social effect on any community whether it sits in Bolivia, Bangladesh, or Brooklyn. Providing this treatment could afford the church a legacy of friendship to the poor, not poverty.
This idea is more than some satirical pipe dream. I think it would be a roaring success. While I’m unfamiliar with specific trends in gay NYC nightlife, it seems to be incredibly lucrative. Furthermore, the draw of taboo is strong, regardless of sexuality. A rainbow banner hanging from a steeple would be enough to attract a crowd in and of itself. I’m neither gay nor a party promoter, but it doesn’t take much of an imagination to think of titillating themed events (there could be an Opus Dei night!). On top of everything else, all proceeds would go to a good cause, and who doesn’t like to party for charity? The morning after, hopefully after a fair amount of mopping, the doors could swing back open for men and women looking to manage their sexual health in a clean and comfortable environment.
Some of the religious among you may find this idea offensive, though I don’t see why you should. If you believe in a celestial caretaker, homosexuality is apparently part of His plan. Reproductive care reduces suffering, so an enlightened paternal force should approve. Either way, your opinion should be as valid as mine when it comes to the fate of these publicly subsidized buildings. Since we’ve been paying their share, anyone who pays taxes should have a say. My vote is for gay club/abortion clinic. At the very least it’ll be fun to explain to grandma the new changes down at the church.