Cleveland Diocese, city council in 'window' standoff

6:50 PM, Mar 23, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Some Cleveland city council members hope to block a deal between the Mayor's office and the Diocese over stained glass windows in landmark churches.

The Diocese wants permission to remove them without getting Landmarks Commission approval.   Mayor Jackson's negotiators agreed to put the Diocese's  request into legislation presented to city council.

But the issue has touched a nerve with council members already upset by numerous church closings.

Councilman Mike Polensek said, "It's bad enough you abandon neighborhoods. Now you are going to strip the institution of things paid for by the parish community. People donated to have these windows put in."

The Diocese believes the windows are not in the same category as other landmark building windows.

"These are not just pretty pictures on the walls. These are part of our worship. It's purely freedom of expression, First Amendment rights," said Diocesan Spokesman Bob Tayek.

Councilwoman Dona Brady believes there's no reason to give the Diocese special treatment. She lives in an Historic District.

"I want to change my windows, I have to go the Landmarks Commission. Nobody else gets exemption through legislation from part of the Landmarks Code.  They must believe they would have a tough time getting commission approval," she said.

There area about a dozen landmarked churches in Cleveland.

About seven of those involve parishes appealing to the Vatican to stay open.   So nothing can happen with those buildings and windows until that is resolved.

What about a push-comes-to-shove lawsuit by the Diocese?

"I'm not saying what's going to be done, but something has to be done . I feel solidly on constitutional ground," Tayek said.

Councilman Polensek claimed to have knowledge of the Diocese selling one church's windows to another church. He would not identify the churches.

Tayek was not familiar with such a transaction.

"How do we interpret this, those of us who are Catholic?....I think it's about greenbacks. I think it's about Benjamins," Polensek said.

As of now, the measure before council is in legislative limbo, not scheduled for a vote.


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