STATEMENT OF ARCHDIOCESAN CHANCELLOR JIMMY M. LAGO
RE: Landmarking of St. Gelasius Church by Chicago City Council
(CHICAGO) January 14, 2004 - The action taken today by the Chicago City Council to restrict the future use of St. Gelasius Church by designating it a landmark ignores the fundamental principle of religious freedom from state interference. It demonstrates a lack of respect for the rights of religious groups to worship and minister as their religious beliefs direct. Finally, it violates the Chicago ordinance that prohibits landmarking of a church without the permission of the religious organization that owns it.
If this decision is allowed to stand, the Archdiocese of Chicago and other religious institutions could be forced to redirect limited inner-city ministerial resources away from current parishes and schools.
The action today took place despite the fact that the Archdiocese had been working for several months to find some acceptable accommodation with the local Alderman, city of Chicago officials and landmark preservationists regarding St. Gelasius. Throughout this time, the Archdiocese maintains:
1. The Archdiocese has the freedom to allocate limited resources to accomplish its mission. Catholic schools, parishes, social ministries and support structures for priestly and lay volunteers, etc. are just some of the constituent components of its ministry. Forcing the Archdiocese to maintain the exterior façade of St. Gelasius at extremely high cost is to force the redirection of these limited resources away from ministry.
2. The municipal code of the City of Chicago specifically requires the permission of a religious organization before it may grant landmark status for its church property. The Archbishop of Chicago has not given such permission.
Despite facing a deteriorating building that it sought to demolish, the Archdiocese made a significant effort to find a future ministerial use for the property. Fortunately, a Catholic religious group has agreed to take over the church, restore it, and conduct religious ceremonies and services in the church, making today's action completely unnecessary.