The Rockford Files

Calling Bill Donohue

When cities trumpet the glories of their downtowns, they normally talk about such things as the number and variety of restaurants and stores, easy access from other parts of the city, even the availability of parking places.  Here, however, we believe in “a different kind of greatness,” and I can see the ads now: “Come to downtown Rockford and stay a while.  Enjoy the latest amenities, including a deluxe weight room and a whirlpool.  Walk through our spacious tunnel to conduct your business at the Winnebago County Courthouse, sheltered from the weather.  All this and more awaits you at the new Winnebago County Jail.”

Last month, I wrote about an inept power grab by a group of Winnebago County Board members and county officials that threatened St. Mary’s Oratory, Rockford’s second-oldest Catholic church, which, since 1997, has been home to a thriving Latin Mass community.  I had hoped to be able to report this month that the church was safe.  Capitalizing on local outrage generated by crusading radio talk-show host Chris Bowman and national publicity by Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, county-board member Mary Ann Aiello had succeeded in scuttling a resolution that would have expanded the land-aquisition area for the jail to include St. Mary’s.  She substituted a measure allowing the Durrant Group, the architectural...

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