It may come as no surprise that a Catholic bishop, as Mr. Dooley remarked of the Supreme Court, “follows the election returns.”
Bishops, including the bishop of Rome, have to have political antennae.
And Bishop Daniel Thomas of Toledo was facing a PR disaster and, worse, loss of confidence in him on the part of Toledo Catholics, if he tore down St. Anthony Church, especially without even meeting with preservationists.
Now he has met with two of them and laid down the law. He’s made an offer for saving St. Anthony — a couple of them. His first offer was the kind of offer a New York real estate developer, or someone with an even rougher and tougher background might make: I will not tear the church down if Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur take possession and responsibility for it, and they pay the cost of canceling the demolition — $285,000 from the city and $70,000 from Miss Kaptur for removing demolition fencing.
Oh, and one more thing: The mayor and the member of Congress would have until Thursday — today — to take the deal.
That’s an interesting approach to spiritual and community leadership.
It was definitely an “or else,” offer — as if a couple of burly monsignors with brass knuckles were waiting in the wings.
David Mann, of the Land Bank, wrote back to the bishop saying that was an offer “that no reasonable party could accept” and making a counter offer: That the diocese allow city officials 15 business days to inspect the building’s condition, and then donate the property to the Land Bank along with a sum of $300,000 toward its preservation.
After all, taking down the building will cost, according to Mr. Mann, $700,000 to $900,000.
Late Wednesday, the bishop made a second offer. He offered to absorb all the cancellation and clean-up costs. But no cash. And the Land Bank still has only until today to decide.
The bishop will still be ahead by about half-a-million.
So, the two sides may split the difference. And that’s probably the best the community can do.
The main thing is that we have movement and an opening to save the church. The bishop has opened the door and shown that he is willing to listen and help preserve this historic Toledo building.
The leaders of the preservation movement, the leaders of Toledo, can do this.
The other good news is that early signs point to an essentially sound, savable, usable building.
We are on the verge of a big win for the city, and even for tough guy Danny Thomas.
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