MONDAY     February 21, 2000    vol. 11, no. 36    SECTION ONE

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SECTION ONE Contents: Go immediately to the article:
  • Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW column: the Bunker mentality of art and architecture in the liturgy
  • THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS: First step of his historic "Jubilee Journey" will be in spirit
  • APPRECIATION OF THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH: Installment 114: Revelation and Science part one

  • Who will aspire to rebuild the spires of the sacred in our art and architecture if we let the modernists tear down our treasures?

       In his column today, Pat Ludwa constructs an excellent argument against the modernist rationale for gutting our churches of the reverence, art and architecture that identified Catholic churches as Catholic and truly holy ground. Through the sound Vatican II document Sancrosanctum Consilium Pat nails down reasons why we cannot continue building sterile auditoriums that pass as churches for the syllogism narrows down to the weakening not only of the sense of sacred, but of the tenets of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church as well. For his column today, Secularizing the Sacred part three: Bunker Mentality: Art and Architecture in the Liturgy, see VIEW FROM THE PEW

    Secularizing the Sacred part three: Bunker Mentality: Art and Architecture in the Liturgy

        "If you wish to see great Modernist architecture you must have plenty of time and your own Lear jet."
        Robert Krier

          I have been blessed to have seen some great churches and Cathedrals. To see the Cathedral in Aachen and realize that it was built in the time of Charlemagne is astounding, awe inspiring. It evokes the love and devotion these people had toward God.

          To see the Dom (Cathedral) in Florence, built during the Renaissance, again speaks to the continuing love and devotion these people had for God. And St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, what can one say. In fact, there are no words that can describe the sense of awe and grandeur there. It doesn't just speak of love and devotion, it shouts it!

          I have been blessed to see such beauty even in smaller churches. Inside the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels (from which Los Angeles derives it's name: Santa Maria de Los Angeles) there is the Portiuncula, the Little Portion. Just outside of Assisi, inside this grand Basilica is the little church St. Francis built with his own hands. Again, the art and form of it is no less awe inspiring; as is St. James in Lakewood Ohio. Big or small, when one entered these churches, one got the sense they were in the presence of God, that they were on holy ground.

          But the trend today seems to gut or tear down these visible signs of God's glory on earth in favor of simpler, blander, community centered structures. I've heard it said that L.A. is building a new Cathedral which looks more like a bunker than a church. Not only is the interior and exterior structures of these churches empty of expression and any sense of the sacred, often times, anything they feel a distraction, the Tabernacle, statues, etc, are removed as well. Placed either in some ante-chamber away from the nave, or removed altogether.

          The reasons are as varied as modernist theology which claims,

        "The Second Vatican Council requires us to reject traditional church architecture and design new churches in a Modernist style."
      Nothing could be further from the truth. "The Church has not adopted any particular style of art as her very own; she has admitted styles from every period according to the natural talents and circumstances of peoples, and the needs of the various rites. Thus, in the course of the centuries, she has brought into being a treasury of art which must be very carefully preserved. The art of our own days, coming from every race and region, shall also be given free scope in the Church, provided that it adorns the sacred buildings and holy rites with due reverence and honor; thereby it is enabled to contribute its own voice to that wonderful chorus of praise in honor of the Catholic faith sung by great men in times gone by." (Vatican II; SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Chapter VII Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings; #123)

          How does "in the course of the centuries, she has brought into being a treasury of art which must be very carefully preserved" translate to "The Second Vatican Council requires us to reject traditional church architecture and design new churches in a Modernist style"? Simple, it doesn't. In fact, it's another indication that someone is passing off Vatican II teachings without even reading Vatican II.

          Another response is:

        "New churches must be designed in accordance with the document Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, published by the Bishop's Committee on Liturgy in 1977."
      Here we have another problem. The document came from the Bishop's committee, not the Bishops. In fact, it was never even voted on by the Bishops and therefore holds no canonical weight. "Because the document "Environment and Art" focuses on hospitality, the human experience, the contemporeity of art--all valid points--it tends to see the experience of the sacred (or of the mystery) in terms of a "simple and attractive beauty" (n. 12) and the liturgy as demanding quality in artifacts, which comes when there is "love and care in the making of something, honesty and genuineness with any materials used, and the artist's special gifts in producing a harmonious whole, a well-crafted work" (n. 20). The liturgy also demands that works of art bear "the weight of mystery, awe, reverence and wonder" and serve the liturgical action carried out in the assembly of worshippers (n. 21). While these guidelines are well intentioned, they clearly flow from the "form follows function" school of aesthetic and do not give us a clearly transcendent vision as the brief but pithy sentence in the opening paragraph of Chapter V of the general instruction in the Roman missal which states: "The buildings and requisites for worship as signs and symbols of heavenly things, should be truly worthy and beautiful" (n. 253). I think it is the loss of the vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem that has given us such lack-luster environments in which to pray and such dull service music to sing when we do so." (Will Beauty Look After Herself? Sacred Music, Fall 1990; Giles R. Dimock, O.P.) [I believe a newer letter on Art and Environment has been issued but I have yet to see any action taken on it]

          Some more excuses are:

        "It is impossible for us to build beautiful churches today" and "We can't afford to build beautiful churches today. The Church doesn't have the money it had in the past."
      Well the first argument is empty, one might as well say saints are impossible for us to have today. Nothing is impossible for those who have the desire and will to do it. All things considered, it was probably even more impossible for the citizens of Aachen to built that beautiful cathedral in their day than it is for us today. As for the second excuse, that deals more with the lack of faith than the lack of money. When Catholics were on lower echelons of American economics, we built beautiful churches. Today, we've joined the affluent, are they saying we're poorer today?


        "The money spent on churches is better spent on serving the less fortunate, feeding the hungry and educating the young."
      Now where have we heard that before? "Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (he who was to betray Him), said, 'Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?' This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. Jesus said, 'Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of My burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have Me'" (John 12:3-8).

          "If the church were merely a meeting place this view would be legitimate. However, a beautiful church is also a house for the poor, a place of spiritual feeding, and a catechism in stone. The church is a beacon and a city set on a hill. It can evangelize, by expressing the beauty, permanence, and transcendence of Christianity. Most importantly, the church building is an image of our Lord's body, and in constructing a place of worship we become like the woman anointing Christ's body with precious ointment." (Ten Myths of Contemporary Church Architecture; Duncan Stroik [A.I.A.; an architect and associate professor of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame] Sacred Architecture, Fall 1998)


        "The fan shape, in which everyone can see the assembly and be close to the altar, is the most appropriate form for expressing the full, active and conscious participation of the body of Christ."
      "This myth comes out of the extreme view that the assembly is the primary symbol of the church. While the fan shape is a wonderful shape for theater, for lectures, even for representative government - it is not an appropriate shape for the liturgy. Ironically, the reason often stated for using the fan shape is to encourage participation, yet the semicircular shape is derived from a room for entertainment. The fan shape does not derive from the writings of the Second Vatican Council, it derives from the Greek or Roman theater. Up until recently, it was never used as a model for Catholic churches. In fact, the first theater churches were 19th century Protestant auditoriums designed so as to focus on the preacher." (Ibid)

          Recently, when my wife asked our liturgist why we used the term 'presider' instead of celebrant, the response was that she had no good reason except that 'since the assembly, the community, celebrates Eucharist with the priest it's more appropriate.' Thing is, as said before 'we' don't celebrate the Mass as the priest does. If the focus of the liturgy is on God, then the fan is a bad idea, but if the community is the focus...well.


        "The church building should be designed with noble simplicity. Devotional chapels and images of saints distract and take away from the liturgy."
      Once, if you entered a church, there was little chance you'd mistake it for anything but a Catholic church. Again, if the focus is on God, then the Tabernacle and the crucifix draws ones attention toward God. The devotional chapels, the statues, remind us that we are one Church with the saints and they and the angels are with us in celebrating the glory of God. But what these 'images' do distract us from is the community as the focus of the liturgy. In fact, this view is nothing more than neo-iconoclasm.

          "The art historian, Winckelmann used 'noble simplicity' as early as 1755 to describe the genuine work of art that combined sensual and spiritual elements as well as beauty and moral ideas into one sublime form - which for him was embodied in classical Greek art. Thus 'noble simplicity' must not be confused with mere functionalism, abstract minimalism or crude banality." (Ibid)

          In fact, again, Vatican II teaches just the opposite: "Ordinaries, by the encouragement and favor they show to art which is truly sacred, should strive after noble beauty rather than mere sumptuous display. This principle is to apply also in the matter of sacred vestments and ornaments. Let bishops carefully remove from the house of God and from other sacred places those works of artists which are repugnant to faith, morals, and Christian piety, and which offend true religious sense either by depraved forms or by lack of artistic worth, mediocrity and pretense." (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy; SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM; Chapter VII; Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings #124)

          What do we see in many modern churches? Felt hangings, tree branches, etc. Instead of beautiful statues, mosaics, tabernacles or crucifixes, we got things that "offend true religious sense either by depraved forms or by lack of artistic worth, mediocrity and pretense."


        "In the past, people saw the church building as the domus Dei or 'house of God', today we have gone back to the early Christian view of the church as domus ecclesia or 'house of people of God.'"
      Well, here we go with the distortion of history again to foster the notion that the focus is the community, the 'people of God' and not God Himself. "it is an antinomial view, derived from the Enlightenment, which claims that a church cannot be both God's house and the house of His people, who are members of His body. When the church is thought of merely as house of the people of God, it becomes designed as a horizontal living room or an auditorium. These two historic names, domus Dei and domus ecclesia, express two distinct but complimentary natures of the church building as the presence of God, and the community called together by God. "These visible churches are not simply gathering places but signify and make visible the Church living in this place, the dwelling of God with men reconciled and united in Christ." (The Catechism) (Ten Myths of Contemporary Church Architecture by Duncan Stroik)

          And finally:

        "Since God dwells everywhere, He is just as present in the parking lot as in a church. Therefore, church buildings should no longer be seen as sacred places."
      "When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, 'Here am I.' Then He said, 'Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground'" (Exodus 3:4-5).

      "And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, 'It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you make it a den of robbers'" (Matthew 21:12-13).

          If a church is not a sacred place, if it is not holy ground, then why do we read this? But there is always a vigil light lit by the Tabernacle to remind us that God IS present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. His Real Presence is there. If that doesn't make it holy ground and a sacred place, what does?

          However, if you remove God, if you cease to focus on Him and on yourself, then it isn't that it's not sacred, but that you have desecrated it. Made it a den of thieves.

          In closing, we can ask. If then you enter a church which doesn't look like a church...if it doesn't sound like a church...and the people don't act as though they're IN a church, a sacred, then, can we expect any one to give glory and honor to God in the church? The church, the Mass, the hymns, go from being acts of a faithful parish giving honor and glory to God to an assembly gathering together with a presider for a community event. And if it is simply a community event, then one need not go if one doesn't feel like it. One need not direct one's mind, heart and entire life to God, but can go it alone, as they will.

          Looked at individually, many of these things seem okay, but taken as a whole, we see real dangers. As I told one person, it's as though you were on your hands and knees, looking closely at a piece of granite. It looks okay and secure. But when you rise and look at the whole of it, you notice you're at a cliff's edge...and it's cracking.

      Pax Christi, Pat

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    Pope will walk in the spirit of Abraham's footsteps as he begins historic "Jubilee Journey" this Wednesday

       Today, we bring you the words from His Holiness Pope John Paul II's message at his regular Wednesday Papal Audience on February 16th in which the Holy Father surprised many by officially announcing that he would begin his historic "Jubilee Journey" of Salvation History by walking in the "Father of Faith" Abraham's footsteps in spirit not at Ur, the birth of the great patriarch, but in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican this coming Wednesday where he has invited the universal Church to walk the path with him and then follow him to Egypt the next day to accompany him in spirit in walking in the footsteps of Moses. See THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

    The Holy Father's regular Papal Audience address from this past Wednesday, February 16, 2000

    Reliving in spirit the salient moments of Abraham's experience
      Dear Brothers and Sisters,

      1. After opening the Holy Door at each of the four Roman basilicas, we are now advancing in great strides along the ecclesial itinerary of conversion and reconciliation proposed for the Jubilee Year of 2000. As we noted earlier, one of the most significant and profound spiritual aspects of the Jubilee is pilgrimage, symbolic of the condition of every human being as "homo viator." As I pointed out in the Papal Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee Year, it "is an exercise of active religious practice, of repentance for human weaknesses, of constant vigilance over our own fragility, and of interior preparation for the reformation of the heart" (cf "Incarnationis Mysterium," 7).

          This interior meaning of pilgrimage is further deepened and fulfilled by the faith and spirituality promoted by sacred places, which according to ancient traditions are the destinations of individual and group pilgrimages. In fact, as is time, so also is space marked by particular salvific interventions of God. For this very reason, some places can foster a special contact with the divine (cf "Letter on Pilgrimage," n. 2).

      2. Aware of these fundamental spiritual aspects of pilgrimage, I decided to visit, in reference to the Jubilee celebrations, the land that was marked in a singular way by the interventions of God in salvation history. Next week I will go on a pilgrimage, God willing, to some places particularly tied to the Incarnation of the Word of God.

          It was my desire to first visit Ur of the Chaldeans (cf "Letter on Pilgrimage," 5), modern-day Tal of Muqayyar in southern Iraq, which Abraham then left with his family for Canaan (cf Gen 11:31) According to the Biblical account, the Word of the Lord spoke to him at Ur and invited him to leave his land and set out for the place which God would show to him (cf Gen 12:1-3).

          With that invitation, Abraham became an instrument of a salvific design that would embrace the future people of the Covenant and eventually all peoples of the earth. Abraham obeyed and embarked on the journey. With him God's salvation began to walk the road of human history.

      3. It is therefore important "to follow Abraham's footsteps," to rediscover the tracks of God's loving presence alongside humanity, and to relive the faith experience of the one St. Paul will describe as father of all those who believe, circumcised or not (cf Rm 4:11-12). With his faith translated into concrete and at times even dramatic choices, such as abandoning the security of his own land or sacrificing his only son Isaac, Abraham obtained that righteousness which made him a friend of God, fully accepting the divine plan for himself and for his descendants and becoming the founder of a multitude of believers.

          Walking "in Abraham's footsteps" we learn to value concretely the demands of an authentically faithful attitude, and we hope in the dynamism of the divine initiative, which has its final end in Christ.

          Aware of their own inseparable ties with the ancient people of the Covenant, Christians recognize Abraham as "Father in Faith" par excellence, and they are happy to imitate his example by walking "in his footsteps."

      4. It is for these reasons that, in the name of the entire Church, I wanted to go in prayer and reflection to Ur of the Chaldeans, from which Abraham departed. Since it is not possible for me to do this, I want to at least realize spiritually a similar pilgrimage. Therefore, next Wednesday, in a special celebration that will take place in the Paul VI Hall, we will relive together the salient moments of Abraham's experience, ever mindful that not only his physical descendants, but also his spiritual descendants, look to this great Patriarch.

          After this first stop, we will be able to continue with hearts full of gratitude toward the other stages along which Salvation History developed, to the communication on Mount Sinai, where the Most Holy Name of God was revealed to Moses and where he was introduced to the knowledge of God's mystery.

          I invite you now to accompany me in prayer on this pilgrimage to the places tied to salvation history, which will begin next Wednesday with the special celebration dedicated to Abraham, father of all believers.

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    Appreciation of Revelation and Science

          Today we continue with our new series in the search to uncover the wonderful treasures of the Church contained in the great Deposit of Faith. Today we present the catechesis on Revelation and Science in showing the compatibility between the two as God intended. For the 114th installment, see APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH

      installment 114: REVELATION AND SCIENCE part one

          Revelation and Science do not, and cannot, contradict each other, for both are of God. There may at times be an apparent conflict between faith and science; but this is only apparent, and never real. God cannot contradict Himself. He cannot lead us into error.

          True Science is the handmaid of Religion. Science and the scientific method are means of arriving at the truth, and Religion is Truth. The greatest scientists have been Christians; a majority of outstanding leaders in science were Catholics, and many were priests. Only the shallow dabblers in science absurdly pretend that there is a conflict. The apparent conflicts arise from false interpretations, as when one takes for scientific truth what is false or not proved, or accepts as doctrine of faith something not taught by the Church.

          There can never be a real conflict between Revelation and Science, because they deal with entirely different spheres. Revelation is concerned with Faith and spiritual things; physical Science is concerned only with material things.

          The Bible's purpose is to teach salvation; but people make the mistake of considering it a treatise on Science. St. Thomas and St. Augustine taught that when the Bible describes some phenomenon of nature, it sets it down in terms of its appearances.

          No scientific experiment or theory can dispense with the necessity of a Creator. Unless His existence is accepted, we can never explain: (a) the origin of matter, even the most elementary; (b) the origin of motion; (c) the origin of the very first living organism, and of the spiritual soul of man; and (d) the origin of the order and law so apparent in the universe.

          The only difficulties found by some scientists in the Biblical account of the Creation are connected with the order or sequence of events followed in the Book of Genesis.

          If we study the proper nterpretation, even these difficulties will be found not to exist. The account in the Book of Genesis is in logical, not chronological, order. The writer groups together similar works of creation, for the easier understanding of a primitive people.

          Catholics are free to accept the interpretation that they prefer, so long as they also accept the fact taught: that God created the whole universe and everything in it.

          Neither Revelation nor Science gives a definite answer to the question concerning the age of the world. Geologists assert that long periods of time were necessary for the formation of the various strat of the earth'' surface. Astronomers assert that some stars are millions of light-years away from the earth.

          A Catholic is free to hold on this point whatever he believes is a sound and scientific conclusion. The estimates of scientists vary. Tomorrow we will list some of the more notable Catholic scientists throughout history.

      Tomorrow: Revelation and Science part two

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    February 21, 2000     volume 11, no. 36
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