Monday, February 25, 2008

Our Lady of Perpetual Forgetfulness

Saint Hedwig’s Catholic Church in Mitte district of Berlin, part of the former East Berlin

Under Erich Honecker’s Communist regime, the faithful in the DDR had to be brave to attend services. I vividly remember these defiant souls filling it on Sundays having to contend with the fact that at high Mass 4 men, (plainclothes cops,) sat in the back row of the church with cameras. Even though they were there to intimidate worshippers and gather anything they thought useful to use as blackmail, they would even stand and kneel when they should have.

Impetuous young man that I was, I made a point one Sunday of sitting right in front of two of them who were sitting side by side, and decided to NOT kneel to make it hard to get a good shot in, and remained standing during communion to obstruct (for once) their picture taking. After hearing from them something that almost seemed like a mumble, I took my laissez-passez out of my front pocket and put it in my back pocket so that they could see part of it sticking out.

Fast forward to the present day: adjacent to two buildings undergoing renovation, and undergoing some renovation itself, the church is wrapped in a car ad. Even without the legacy that makes St. Hedwig’s a sort of denkmal (monument) to at least two of the four freedoms, I wonder, dear readers, if you think it’s appropriate to temporarily turn the narthex into a billboard, or if going through a few months of tastelessness is acceptable. It’s worth noting that in Germany churches receive state support from a steuer that tax-payers can opt in to by indicating their membership in a church and a willingness to support the fund. It’s then not that likely that the screened ad on the tarp was needed for unavoidable financial reasons.

Chime in.

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