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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Friday, February 14, 2003 The Fading Orthodoxy of Modernism and the remaking of Catholic Church architecture
James Hitchcock wields a rapier in this review of a new book by a modern liturgist:
One of the fallacies of older styles, as liturgists endlessly argue, is the sense of separation they fostered between the priest and the congregation, and the new architecture breaks down this "clericalism." Yet, as DeSanctis never tires of repeating, there can be no real architectural "renewal" in a parish unless the pastor wants it and is willing to use every ounce of his authority to achieve it, over the objections of many of the laity. Church renovation is a subject on which father still knows best.
One of the consecrated words of liberal Catholicism is "dialogue" but it scarcely appears in this book, and, for good reason -- experience has shown that allowing lay people to express their opinions about church remodeling leads to the "wrong" results. Parishioners must rather be confronted by experts who inform them of what must be done and explain why any reservations they have are ignorant and wrong-headed. (Full disclosure: the author of this essay and the editor of this journal are among those so dismissed in the book.)
Thus, according to DeSanctis, we must "educate! educate! educate!"; but it is not education as liberals ordinarily conceive it. While liberal Catholics insist that popes cannot simply issue decrees, liturgists insist with equal fervor that this is precisely what priests and bishops must do to overcome lay resistance to change. Church dogma requires the consent of the faithful, but church renovators are apparently infallible, their educational program a process of repetitive proselytizing, until resisters finally give up.
A revealing example is one of DeSanctis's success stories, a pastor who overrode lay resistance to renovation and now says, "I just like being in [the building].... I'll just go into the church and sit there looking at the light, the forms, the colors" At one time a priest would have said that he slipped into church to pray in the presence of Our Lord. Now the significance of the structure is a merely aesthetic experience that could be gained anywhere, its validity derived from the personal feelings of the priest.
In the same edition of Adoremus Bulletin, Deacon Roger Marks offers a heartfelt tribute to bells at church: Let freedom RING!