PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3, 2013) — Finally, a Holy Father who gets it.

After 50 years of fundamentalist initiatives coming out of Rome, especially during the increasingly regressive papacies of Karol Wojtyla and Josef Ratzinger, the Catholic Church seems to have a chief prelate determined to put a halt to the divisive efforts of his two predecessors to pummel Catholics back to the days of lace head coverings for women, wafers on the tongue, and sinful dare-not looks into other houses of worship. Praise God: It’s no longer 1958.

Bergoglio, looking eerily like John XXIII

Pope Francis has riled the Catholic far right, a collection of evangelical, white-walled hypocrites who, in playing the Pharisaic role of prosecutor of God, have tried with tragic success to drive out the holy spirit in the Church. This group went charismatic in its early stages, harmless enough, but then forged an alliance with Southern white Baptists based on politics. The union created a new type of Catholic better fit for the Jim Crow south than the Church.

Here’s what we love about the new pope:

* In his first appearance as pope on the loggia at St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis refused to wear the ermine-trimmed red velvet cape (mozzetta), traditionally used by popes for such high occasions. Instead, he wore a simple white cassock. The mozetta has since been kept in the closet. This action spoke volumes. It told Catholics that Francis didn’t want the outmoded monarchical trappings of an office that has buried itself in liturgical nonsense at the expense of the authenticity of spiritual relevance.

* After his election, Francis paid his own hotel bill and took a bus to church instead of the papal Mercedes limo. There, he received the pledge of obedience from the College of Cardinals. He stood with them, face-to-face. He didn’t use the throne on a pedestal preferred by his predecessors, from which they looked down on everyone else. Francis joked with the cardinals, “May God forgive you [for what you have done.]”

* In an early theme to his papacy, Francis — or Bergoglio as he likes to be called, preferring his surname— has called for increased dialog with other religions, particularly Islam. He has pointed out that the way to God has many different paths. If this is “religious relativism,” as flummoxed fundamentalists fear, so be it. THE PLANET would point out that the word “relativism” is a diminutive of the root word “relate.” In an increasingly smaller world, people must begin to “relate” in a more profound, genuine manner based on common interest rather than divisive self-absorption.

* On Holy Thursday, Bergoglio took the foot-washing ceremony outside of the grand bombast of St. Peter’s and the Lateran in favor of a youth correctional facility. He didn’t stop there. In the jail during Mass, he washed the feet of 12 young people, including two women. In doing so, he deliberately violated Church law that restricted the rite to men only. This move sent shock waves throughout the Catholic right and delighted the rest of us loved. After he washed the girls’ feet and dried them, he kissed them. This gesture, more than any homily of dusty Church law, sent a message of inclusion for women and outcasts. In this action, Bergoglio “preached” Christ‘s gospel of love with a unambiguous and powerful gesture and not with the papacy’s typical overwrought and empty phrases.

* In another gesture of welcome change, Bergoglio refused the golden pectoral cross that Msgr. Guido Marini, the Vatican’s liturgy expert (a kind of liturgical master of ceremonies) offered to him. Instead, Francis said he would wear the same simple cross he wore as a bishop. An AP wire story described the significance of this action:

Francis also raised traditional eyebrows when he refused the golden pectoral cross offered to him right after his election by Monsignor Guido Marini, the Vatican’s liturgy guru who under Benedict became the symbol of Benedict’s effort to restore the Gregorian chant and heavy silk brocaded vestments of the pre-Vatican II liturgy to papal Masses.

Marini has gamely stayed by Francis’ side as the new pope puts his own stamp on Vatican Masses with no-nonsense vestments and easy off-the-cuff homilies. But there is widespread expectation that Francis will soon name a new master of liturgical ceremonies more in line with his priorities of bringing the church and its message of love and service to ordinary people without the “high church” trappings of his predecessor.

 * Bergoglio’s homilies and talks have been “off-the-cuff” and down to earth. He has avoided the heavily scripted, theological mumbo-jumbo of his predecessors, who loved to hide clarity hide in the labyrinth of syntax to expound dense “truths” even they could not believe. When the bombast of rhetoric is chucked in favor of directness of clarity in speech, communication happens. Francis is a communicator.

* During his Good Friday comments, Pope Francis praised “the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

In short, while the papacy of Pope Francis has yet to unfold, we see in its nascent stages a deliberate attempt through word, gesture, and symbol to reverse the  damaging retrogressive fundamentalist direction the Church had taken in the decades of recent years.  There seems to be a bold attempt to make the Church relevant again.

That THE PLANET can dig.



“We were led along, I feel.”

Former Crane & Co. warehouse: A lovely example of Depression era brickwork. Don’t demolish this piece of history, Pittsfield (Photo: Berkshire Eagle)

That’s how our Right Honorable Good Friend Ward 2 city councilor Kevin Morandi expressed his feelings after Jim Scalise of SK Design pulled “the old switcheroo” on a one-story, brick warehouse at 899 Dalton Ave. The building, built in 1929, had been used by Crane & Co. as a warehouse. The building is now empty.

When Scalise first came before the city council, he asked for a zoning variance from residential to light industrial use, with the idea of developing the existing building. Councilors approved Scalise’s request on that basis, that is, on the assumption the building would be renovated and adapted to new use. Long after the fact, Scalise came back to councilors wanting permission to demolish the building.

Then came the switcheroo. Scalise later reneged, telling angry councilors that the building could have to be demolished because of “the economic considerations.” Morandi, Ward 1’s Chris Yon, Ward 3’s Paul Capitanio, Ward 4’s Chris Connell, Ward 7’s Tony Simonelli, and at-large Churchill Cotton each expressed outrage over the tricky dealing. The historical commission also weighed in, and it will try to place a moratorium on the demolition. The six councilors showed up to support the historical commission at the latter’s recent meeting. It was a powerful statement made by councilors, one that attracted much praise, including THE PLANET’s.

Council Should Not Accept Demolition

Why would you want to replace this with an antiseptic, cookie-cutter “modern” building? (Photo: iBerkshires)

The city council has ever right to feel duped. It has been.

THE PLANET wonders if the council will pursue a more strident course to save the old warehouse. Councilors could likely make a strong case of malfeasance against Scalise. They trusted him, and now they feel betrayed. If they approved on the condition of the building’s reuse, they can in effect take back that approval to disallow the demolition.

There are some, including Jonathan Levine in the Pittsfield Gazette, who criticized councilors for approving a rezoning “based on one envisioned use.” That argument does not fly. The council approved the rezoning based on a “re-use,” that is, rehab of the existing structure. “Re-use” as opposed to “use” makes all the difference. When Scalise gave the council the impression the building would be rehabilitated, he was not restricting the rezoning “based on one envisioned use.” He did so based on the perpetuation of the existing building.

Tearing down historical buildings has been a story too oft-repeated in Pittsfield. It should not happen again. Granted, the old Crane warehouse isn’t in the same historical category as, as, the old “grand central” train station, but it nonetheless it was built during the year of the Stock Market Crash, contains an understated architectural classicism, and by it very age evokes the richness of history. Why tear down the lovely brickwork of craftsmen in favor of a sterile, antiseptic box, which is what they will put up in its place (evidence by Scalise’s emphasis on trimming costs).

Save it. Don’t demolish it. All things being equal, that is a wise guideline.


“If we are to have vision, we must learn to participate in the object of the vision. The apprenticeship is hard.”Antoine de Saint-Exupery




  1. FloggingMolly
    April 3, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    So lets just let that old warehouse fall into more disrepair and crumble slowly, that will be a great historical use for that building. What is the historical significance of old falling down buildings like this and the school on First St? If people would stop living in the past in this City and catch the ride to modern day civilization maybe we would really progress in our community.

    • Larry
      April 3, 2013 at 10:11 am #

      Amen brother!

      It is an ideal spot for a much needed Dunkin Donuts….. The current location on First street is certainly way too small for a drive up window. If someone has the money to throw at the old Plunkett school building they would have rescued it a long time ago!

      • dusty
        April 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

        Pouring more traffic into that already super busy intersection seems nut-so to me. The traffic light waits in this city are one more good reason businesses do not like to move here. It takes 3 dollars worth of gas to go from Hubbard Ave to the Lenox line.

        And were Krol, and Clairmont equally outraged or was this just not their thing?

  2. Mike Ward
    April 3, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Maybe we’re getting this reaction because people have seen what “modern day civilization” looks like. It’s the stretch of Route 7/20 by the Dakota Restaurant.

    • Larry
      April 3, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      Perhaps we should rid ourselves of the modern day car and go back to the horse and buggy!

      • Mike Ward
        April 3, 2013 at 10:59 am #

        So it’s either “anything goes” or you’re a Luddite?

  3. FPR
    April 3, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Tearing down the train station to make into Adams supermarket was the biggest mistake the city council ever made.

    I can almost see restoring the Colonial Theatre. (I can see both sides of that issue).

    However, this is an old abandoned warehouse. Not really historic of the caliber of those other buildings by any means.

    “When you were young and your heart was an open book
    You used to say live and let live
    (You know you did, you know you did you know you did)
    But if this ever changing world in which we live in
    Makes you give in and cry

    Live and Let Die”

    -James Paul McCartney

    • Larry
      April 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

      I’m going to see Sir Paul at Fenway…. Cant wait!

      I can agree with you on the train station for it was a magnificent structure from what Ive seen from old photos. But, the Crane structure and The Plunkett school building are simply white elephants with very little historic value.

      • FPR
        April 3, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

        If I could back in time, I’d stand right in front of the bulldozer on its way into the train station. I was only a little kid back when it was demolished.

        This abandoned warehouse, give me the dynamite.

  4. joetaxpayer
    April 3, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Saving a vertically challenged building, that has little character will not bring back the train station. Time to move on and let the land be developed. Pennel’s building had more architectural elements than the old crane storage building.

  5. Twist
    April 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm #


    Loved the sentiments on Pope Francis. Although I am not Catholic… I am an evangelical Chrisitan and I am definitely digging Frank.


  6. Liz Arrington
    April 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    I am what they call a lapsed Catholic. Like Twist I am also “digging Francis.” He’s not more of the same, the stuffy out of touch old men. He’s down to our level.

    On the warehouse look at the brickwork, the cool windows, the building has a “look” much better than as DV says putting up a sterile modern box or God forbid another donut shop.

  7. Ron Kitterman
    April 3, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    I thought the traffic was a major consideration by the councilor’s and the sub committee involved, with vehicles being able to drive in and out, from the high traffic area near the busy intersection of Hubbard Ave. Now if they knock it over and build a modern cookie cutter structure the traffic is not a concern ? Sounds like Scalise is got that shell game down pretty good to me.

  8. Evian
    April 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Scalise’s actions surprised me. Makes me wonder what’s really going on here.

  9. Dave
    April 3, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    The city SOLD MY OLD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL on the corner of First and Fenn. They lost say in what happens to that building before the ink on the signature dried! The city then delayed the plans of the RIGHTFUL OWNERS to do what they wanted with THEIR PROPERTY, by saying that it was historical. Funny how we go from historical to hysterical. I have a huge problem with denying whomever owns that property to do with it what they wish if it conforms to proper use. Funny how the city will now hold this property hostage because they want a drive-up window. Same Street, just as busy of an intersection, the city just bent over backwards for a bank with a drive up window. The bank said that if a one way street was not made two way, then they couldn’t proceed with their plans. Not only was this granted, half of the street will be made no parking(I thought parking was a premium in the downtown-oops never mind this is north of Union St so it doesn’t count), there are other no left turn, no right turn suggestions out there as well. The site on First and Fenn asks for nothing! But it doesn’t jive with our “Master Plan”. I agree, because our “Master Plan” has turned into making it impossible for a business to flourish. When I bought ice cream at King Kone with my kids, we used to sit on the steps of my old school, and I would tell them that I went to elementary school there. I just became a granpa, and when I take my grandson there, I hope I can say that’s where my school used to be, and it isn’t just empty space like the Pennell building on East St.

  10. Tom Sakshaug
    April 3, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    The real or imagined bait-and-switch of the brick warehouse should, but will not, be a lesson: Zoning should not be lightly changed. Until this parcel was put into a new zone, the city had more control of what could go there. With the new zoning category, the city is grasping at straws to control what the new use is. Never change a parcel’s zoning based on a presented use! From that point on, any by-right use will be allowed…forever! (or until you put your tail between your legs and change the zoning again, if that is possible).
    Regarding Pope Frank, if the Catholic Church cardinals had elected such a person 30 or so years ago, I might not now be what I call a “recovering Catholic” (think AA). But you never know.

  11. Giacometti
    April 3, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    Does anyone remember all the towering elm trees that were clear cut in Lenox across the street from the Lenox Country Shops ?
    They were cut down for the sake of progress and look at what happened…nothing. The character of this old warehouse is the beauty of the building…why can’t anyone see that ? I guess there just isn’t a big enough profit for SK Designs in keeping character

    • danvalenti
      April 4, 2013 at 6:32 am #

      You nailed it. Even in the modest photos published with this story, one can see, if one looks, the character you mention. “Character” in a building is hard to define, but we know it when we see it.

  12. joetaxpayer
    April 4, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    Sorry guys don’t see anything but a short rectangle brick building.There are no jogs in the walls or angles. Yes nice arches at window heads and corbeling of brick at top but nothing special. If they want to help out the traffic problem revisit the connector road to Downing Industrial by BK.

    • dusty
      April 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

      Does anyone remember Mr Maloney at Plunkett? He used to spank the kids back in the early sixties.

      • MaryKate
        April 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

        My husband always tells me about “Mr. Baloney.” That is so funny!

  13. Giacometti
    April 4, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Joe Taxpayer:

    the character in the building lies in the brickwork done by the craftsmen who built it…if SK Design has its way we will get a Butler building to replace it,,,comon people this is New England
    not El Paso…we should pride ourselves on the historical character
    of the architecture that surrounds us…either that or move to El Paso….where Butler buildings are the reign

    • joetaxpayer
      April 5, 2013 at 3:07 am #

      I know the bricklayers did a great job on the on the warehouse. All I’m saying is the building is not that fancy. The brick work at the Wendy’s has more character than the old Crane building.