Driving home from work yesterday, I heard a disturbing local news segment. Apparently, sometime in the night before Easter, someone broke the stained glass window at my church. It would have to have been quite late. The Vigil on Saturday night went until 9:30 or 10 and I'm sure people weren't out of there until 11:00 at the earliest. I assume, but don't know for sure, that they mean the mosaic window that runs behind the sanctuary space. If so, this break is quite disturbing to the community and the celebration they would have been hoping for on Easter morning. What a bone-headed, nonsensical, destructive thing for someone to have done.
But, the part of the story that caught my attention was "police are using surveillance tapes to identify the perpetrator..." . There are surveillance tapes of my church? Does that strike anyone else as odd? Where's the camera? What are they monitoring? Why?
On the one hand, the building is open until quite late at night. The parking lot is dark, and staff and parishioners need to get to their cars safely. Not that surveillance actually helps with that, but I'm trying here. There are gold chalices and other liturgical supplies that I suppose a thief could steal. There's the peculiar-to-Catholicism fear that someone evil will steal consecrated hosts and act disrespectfully. Honestly, does that really happen? And even if it does, doesn't worrying about it beyond the simple protective measure of locking everything up in the tabernacle seem sort of like magical thinking?
I don't think the parish staff is up to anything dark and sinister with these tapes. They probably don't even think about them from one month's end to the next. I'm still kind of disturbed. The "other hand" of this argument is that we can go almost nowhere anymore and not be under surveillance. I really don't care that I'm under surveillance at the grocery store and the bank -even my gym, which HAS to be disturbing to the poor slob faced with watching those tapes. But church? If we're doing church right, people are working pretty close to the bone. Surely we could have privacy for those moments of spiritual angst that we all experience.
Who else would have access to the information contained on them? Would the staff have to turn them over to some over-zealous governmental agency? They would be spared that decision if the tapes didn't exist in the first place. Would, say, the Bishop have access? They could be used to monitor staff -which might be good, but given our bishop I doubt that we're concerned about the same things. He'd probably want to monitor orthodoxy more than, say, child safety.
These are probably just tapes or digital information that no one looks at at all, until a crime is committed. But still....