Hats Off to Hamilton


Convivium, 04 October 2019

During a gathering of the Cardus collective in the Steel City this week, Father Raymond de Souza finds cutting edge sculpture, a God-shaped hole in newspaper church coverage, and a study that strips away myths about eating red meat.

This week the Cardus staff – from sea to sea, though mostly from Burlington Bay to the Rideau Canal – gathered en masse in Hamilton for our semi-annual gatherings. Herewith three items from the local scene, but of wider interest. 

Houses of Good and Ill Repute

Tuesday’s Hamilton Spectator, the paper of record in the Steel City, had a front-page story on the 125th anniversary of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church. Actually, it was a front-page picture with the story inside, is often the case now. (My hometown paper, the Calgary Herald, often goes with all pictures on the front page, and no stories, perhaps tricking the readers into thinking that they are holding a digital screen.)

The story was the standard kindly city feature, with plenty of quotations from the pastor and the stalwart church lady who has been around since she was baptized right there in the baptismal font as a baby. The parish history was covered with emphasis on its diversity (Irish, Italian, Portuguese “and others”), its corporal works of mercy for the poor and the sick, and its excellent acoustics. 

There was nothing about the actual worship of God in the church, nor much about religion at all. It’s not unusual in the mainstream press, praise for people who do the good works of Matthew 25 without any reference to the One asking that the good works be done. More than asking of course; Jesus commands that they be done. And those who do not do them will be condemned to Hell for eternity. The words of Jesus, not me. It’s a fact, the cool progressive commands of Matthew 25 are given precisely in the context of the very old school language of death, judgement, Heaven and Hell. Not much of that in the story about St. Joseph’s.

Not to be all judgmental or anything, but there was another good news story on the front page of the same day’s city section. A venerable old Hamilton building known as Hanrahan’s is going to be demolished. It was a hotel in the late 19th-century, but for the last few decades was Hamilton’s last strip club. The strip club closed down in the summer, and now the owners are going to demolish the building and put up apartments and a medical centre. 

Out go the strippers and oglers, and in come the families and nurses. Sounds like a win all around. Maybe the pastor of St. Joseph’s could drop around to sprinkle some holy water and say some prayers of banishment for any lingering residue from its decades of female exploitation. 

The house of God endures. A house of sin is to be demolished. It doesn’t always work out that way in history, but it has this year in Hamilton.

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