By a Staff Reporter When a new piazza in Victoria Street, London, is completed. passecrs-hy will have a full frontal view of Westminster Cathedral's red-brick facade if it doesn't rot away before the last flagstone is laid. For Mgr. Francis Bartlett, Cathedral Administrator, has just announced that in two years' time the Cathedral will he £100,000 in debt.
Cardinal Heenan will mount a puhlic appeal in 1975. Meanwhile, food, lodging and telephone costs will he pared down to save 13,000 a year. Ileating expenditure has already been reduced.
As three previous appeals have nut rescued the Cathedral from its enormous deficit — estimated at over £24,000 for the end of 1973 — Catholics will wonder why a fourth appeal should succeed .where others have failed.
How much longer must the building struggle along in this fashion? Is there no alternative way of raising funds? And above all, how much do English Catholics want or need this vast neo-Byzantine edifice which has a total Sunday congregation of about 2,000 in Winter and 3,500 in summer?
Cardinal Heenan set up a committee to investigate cathedral finances after a meeting with Mgr. Bartlett in March. Canon Bartlett told me: "I really screamed at him. I said: 'Your Eminence, your task now to save the cathedral is as great as the task of Cardinal Bourne to build the cathedral."' hree months later the corn mince evaluated a report which drew attention to the mounting deficit. They recommended the Cardinal to approach a firm of professional Fund-raisers.
Mgr. Bartlett explained that there were two principal reasons for the current plight inflation, and falling congregations due to depopulation and declining interest.
Did this mean that the cathedral's future was in doubt': Fr. Godfrey Wilson. editor of t he Westminster Cathedral Journal, said that this would depend on the wishes of ordinal-) Catholics.
"We're in the hands of God." he said. If a cathedral was nc longer in God's plan, then there would he no cathedral.
Mgr. Bartlett agreed, ;Inc added! "Take no provision rot tomorrow." When asked how he reconeiled this motto will the plan to launch an appeal it 1975. Mgr. Bartlett said it was Cardinal Ileenan's appeal and not his.
Fr. Wilson thought it would he difficult to collect statistics On Catholic attitudes to the cathedral. "What we're saying is that the cathedral at this moment reflects the needs of God's people in 1973," he said. "How do you make a scientific survey of people's need of God?"
Following a suggestion in The Tablet last week, I asked whether the nearby Chapel-ofease or St. Peter anti St. Edward could not he sold for redevelopment and the proceeds donated to the Cathedral fund. The church has a congregation of only 200, is of little aesthetic value and stands on u central and valuable site.
Would Catholics give to an appeal fund if they saw that other Church properties were not being fully exploited? Mgr. Bartlett conceded that this was "a legitimate point." although he was at that moment uncertain whether Westminster diocese had jurisdiction over St. Peter's.
But Mgr. John Barton, priestin-charge at St. Peter's, said: "I have spoken to the Cardinal several times and he has said he is not interested in selling it. I could easily leave if necessary, though my hooks wouldn't fit into a small cottage."
Both Mgr. Bartlett and Fr. Wilson held the view that the cathedral was important because solemn liturgy required a suitably impressive building. As Fr,b re. Wilson h em put re. Wilson h em put worried facile approach to the Church — as thr:d:uugeht. there were an end p
"There is a fundamental obligation to worship the Creator. to offer worship to God in the most fitting and worthy way possible. The solemnity with which you worship someone depends on who the) are."
Ft. Wilson pointed out that Westminster Cathedral was the only place in the world where the Capitular Liturgy was daily. celebrated. He added: "If you're going to honour God. are V011 going to do it in a tin but behind a garage?"