Controversy Over Crosses on Proposed Villanova Bridge

Bridge with crosses at each end

A design of the Lancaster Avenue pedestrian bridge submitted to the Radnor Township Design Review Board.

Radnor Township last night approved a controversial pedestrian bridge planned for Villanova’s campus.

At first, it seems like there’s no reason for the bridge to be controversial. It’s part of a $285 million expansion project for the University, and will be built over Lancaster Avenue. It’s scheduled to finish in 2018.

But it’s what’s on the bridge that caused an uproar. Designs for the bridge submitted to the Radnor Township Design Review Board show two four-foot, seven-inch crosses on each side of the bridge.

The crosses would be on Villanova property, and so despite the project’s detractors Radnor officials said the township would have to approve the project. But some people are not happy. “I think they are overstepping their sense of ecumenism to shove these crosses in our faces,” Sara Piling told the Inquirer. “This bridge really disturbs me,” Susan Smith told the Delaware County Times. “The size of it and the safety of it concern me first. The crosses disturb me second. I don’t think if we had Beth Hillel University down the street in the next block that we would like to see the Star of David on that.”

There’s more! The Times also quoted Rick Leonardi, who called the crosses unconstitutional: “There is a reason drivers on I-476 are not subjected to Bible verses painted on the sound walls lining the roadway or that there is no crescent moon next to the griffin on the Blue Route, that the overpasses are not emblazoned with Stars of David.”

But it was the Inquirer who got the best quote, from League of Women Voters of Radnor Township president Roberta Winters: “While we recognize the importance of Villanova to our community and the notoriety it brings to Radnor, are there less ostentatious ways to reflect a Catholic institution?” (Um, not really. Have you seen Catholic churches?!)

Despite their complaints, the bridge has been approved and Lancaster Avenue will one day have two five-foot crosses towering over it.

Did You Know: If You’re Catholic, You Can Get an Indulgence During Pope’s Visit


Photo | Jeff Fusco

Follow Philadelphia magazine’s live coverage of Pope Francis’s historic visit all weekend long.

This weekend is your chance to obtain a get-out-of-purgatory free card.

Okay, it’s not that simple. But the Roman Catholic Church has decreed attendees at the World Meeting of Families can get a plenary indulgence (full decree below) by attending any of the events this week. This includes people going to any of the pope’s appearances this weekend in Philadelphia.

If you’ve heard of indulgences, you probably know them as a Middle Ages-era practice. One of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was against the sale of indulgences, where rich Catholics could get their souls wiped clean by making a donation to the church. But though that practice has ended, indulgences are still a very real thing.

“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains. There are two types of indulgences: Partial and plenary. Read more »

Church: Watching the Papal Mass on TV Doesn’t Count as Sunday Obligation

Catholics are obligated to attend mass every Sunday. Indeed, it is a grave sin to skip the once-weekly mass — a mortal sin, one requiring another sacrament (confessing to a priest) to cleanse the soul of.

Which brings us to St. Matthew’s parish in Mayfair, which reminded its parishioners this week that watching the papal mass on TV does not count for your Sunday obligation:  Read more »

Chris Matthews on Growing Up Catholic in Philadelphia

The author at his First Communion. Courtesy of Chris Matthews

The author at his First Communion. Courtesy of Chris Matthews

I REMEMBER WHEN “THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH” came to Hunting Park. It really happened. I Googled it. In 1950, the Barnum & Bailey Circus really did come to Philadelphia. It’s in the books.

Better yet, it’s all in my head. I remember the day Dad and Mom took us across from where we lived in that tiny second-floor apartment above the Italian grocery at Hunting Park Avenue and Broad Street. They did it twice: in the afternoon to walk along the gangway and see the lions and tigers in their cages, and that night to the center ring to see all those clowns come climbing out of that little car.

What’s truly wondrous is that Hunting Park is where we and everyone else in the neighborhood hung out. We’d go there on a summer evening to stroll among the old gazebo, the merry-go-round, and the stand where they sold those cartons of orange drink that afterward you could turn into actual cardboard megaphones.

All this was in those years our parents forever called “after the war,” as opposed to “before the war.” Or as Dad’s mom, Grandmom-in-Chestnut Hill, would always say when speaking of the distant past, “Oh, that was years and years ago.” Read more »

Here Is The Loyalty Pledge Philly Catholic Schools Are Making Parents Sign

Philadelphia archdiocese memo

The “Memorandum of Understanding” Philadelphia archdiocese schools sent out to parents this year. (click for a larger version)

“Attending a Catholic school is a privilege, not a right.”

So begins a list of six statements the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is requiring the parents of all of its students to sign this year. The six-statement “Memorandum of Understanding” says Philadelphia Catholic schools “are not simply private schools offering a positive moral code” and that every Catholic school has “the responsibility to ensure that Catholic teaching and moral integrity permeate every facet of the school’s life and activity.”

It’s not clear if schools are enforcing the requirement that students’ parents sign the memorandum. One parent Philadelphia magazine spoke with simply declined to respond to the pledge. Students at archdiocesan schools do not need to be Catholic to enroll.

“A ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ has been distributed to all Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools via the Office of Catholic Education,” Kenneth A. Gavin, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese, said in a statement to Philadelphia magazine. “The purpose of the memo is to simply inform parents that we are Catholic schools, that we will teach the doctrine of the Church, and have them sign that they understand and are in agreement.” Read more »

Pope Francis Makes It Easier to Annul Catholic Marriages


Pope Francis today announced plans to reform the way Catholics can end their marriages, a sweeping change that streamlines the annulment process and makes it easier for Catholics to remarry.

The Catholic Church does not permit divorce. But it has, believe it or not, a bit of a loophole: Catholics can get an annulment, a finding by a Catholic tribunal that a marriage was never legally valid in the first place. Grounds for annulment are laid out in the Catholic Church’s canon law.

The new annulment rules — which go into effect on December 8th — streamline the process. They eliminate the automatic second review that all annulments currently go through, and allow some couples to go through a “fast track” where the local bishop could declare a marriage annulled in just two months. Pope Francis biographer Austen Ivereigh told Time it’s the most sweeping change to the annulment process in more than 300 years. Read more »

How Pope Francis Made It Safe for Me to Come Crawling Back to Church

It was in second grade that I first suspected I didn’t belong at St. Cecilia’s.

I was only 7, but when I looked into Sister Mary’s unfeeling eyes I knew, as clearly as only 7-year-olds can, that whoever she was working for wasn’t worth my Sunday morning. I brought my concerns to my mom, hoping for a quick “Jesus Loves You!” Band-Aid to ease the impending existential crisis.

Now, I realize this was a mistake. My mother is a wonderful, empathetic, kind-hearted woman, but comforting white lies aren’t really her strong suit. Santa died early in our house, and the Easter Bunny wasn’t far behind. The Tooth Fairy, well, she never stood a chance on Hoffnagle Street. This is what it sounds like when a child asks Joan if we’re floating on, all alone, through this vast, indifferent universe:

“How do you know God is real?”

“Well, I don’t.”

“Oh. Do you think he is?”

“I’m not sure.”

“So … where do we go when we die?”

“Nobody really knows.”

“Where did Smokey go?!?”

“He’s in the flower bed, honey. Now brush your teeth – Wings comes on at 8.”

Read more »

VIDEO: Pope John Paul II Arrives in Philadelphia, 1979

NBC 10 recently posted a video of Pope John Paul II arriving in Philadelphia in 1979. And what better time to share it than today, with Pope John Paul II among two men to be canonized on Sunday. Pope John XXIII, who called the Second Vatican Council, will also be named a saint.

The head of the Ukranian Catholic Church in the area, Stefan Soroka, tells KYW 1060’s Mark Abrams his memories of JP2’s 1979 visit: “He came in, he knelt, he prayed.”

While some are opposed to John Paul II’s canonization, one can be certain that longtime residents of Port Richmond will be having weekend-long parties this weekend. Several Philadelphia Catholics will be in Rome this weekend.

Source of Funds for Mayor’s Trip to Rome a Mystery

The Inquirer‘s Claudia Vargas gives the Philadelphia taxpayer a reason to feel good today: The mayor’s trip to Rome wasn’t paid for by the city!

But the source for the funds of that trip remains unclear, she writes today, and it doesn’t appear we’ll learn the source of the funds anytime soon. The mayor’s trip to Rome was underwritten by the nonprofit organizing the World Meeting of Families, held here — whether Pope Francis comes and rides SEPTA or not — in 2015.

But who funded that nonprofit? Some of the money came from the Philadelphia archdiocese, but that’s the only contributor to the nonprofit the Inquirer could get verified. Also, no one will say how much the trip to Rome cost. How much did that St. Joe’s Prep jersey cost, Mr. Mayor?!

Read more »

Mayor Nutter Pitches Philly Papal Visit to Pontifical Council



Mayor Michael Nutter is in Rome with a delegation — including Governor Tom Corbett and his wife, Susan — stumping for a papal visit to Philadelphia during the World Meeting of Families meeting here in September 2015. (Hopefully, he mentioned my bet with God to attend church every Sunday for a year if the Pope rides SEPTA, which I figure would seal the deal.)

Today, though, Nutter talked to the Pontifical Council for the Family in Rome, attempting to get the Pope to visit Philadelphia. We have a transcription of his remarks. Sadly, it does not end with “XOXO, Philadelphia.”

I have the great honor and privilege to make a brief statement in support of our fervent hope that His Holiness might visit Philadelphia during the World Meeting of Families in September 2015.

As a loyal son of Philadelphia, born and raised in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, educated by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Transfiguration of Our Lord Elementary School and inspired by the Jesuits to be a man for others at St Joseph’s Preparatory high school, the Jesuit High School in Philadelphia, I am often called upon to discuss the exceptional qualities of my great city.

It continues after the jump.

Read more »

« Older Posts