So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Exposing iconoclasm. The lesson of St. Saviour Parish.

The story of Saint Saviour parish is both an indictment of the iconoclastic mindset squatting in most parishes and dioceses and a judgement upon limp ecclesiastical bureaucracies.

Once upon a time, most priests and people were far too commonsensical to adopt the iconoclasm of Le Corbusier, for example, embodied in his frumpy dumpy Notre Dame du Haut (1953/1955). However, when the doors to people's brains were supposedly opened in the era of free love (freedom from responsibility, freedom from authority, freedom from common sense), in blew the pseudo-intellectual detritus of the anarchic late 1950s and 1960s when newness equated to a moral good.

For those unfamiliar with the rescue, rise and fall of St. Saviour parish, read on. Maureen Mullarkey does the heavy lifting to point out the contrast between outmoded (never-moded) thinking (i.e., that of the 'Spirit of Vatican II' and that of the current pastor) versus (Fr. Rutler's) thinking with the Church (sentire cum ecclesia, of continuity).

The debacle at Our Saviour is a symptom of bureaucratic conditions more critical than any clash of taste in church décor. Umbrage over “the integrity of the art” is a red herring. If that were the essential factor, this would be a minor local foofaraw. But it is not minor; and the breach of trust on display extends beyond locale to the temper of our clerical bureaucracy itself.
At its simplest level, the stripping of the icons is a case study in pastoral stupidity. One pastor’s distaste for his predecessor’s design decisions is no basis to eliminate elements that contributed to revival of a once-failing parish. No sensible steward destroys the heart of the renascence with which he has been entrusted. Those icons were sign and symbol of that very rebirth craved by the New Evangelization.
The turmoil at Our Saviour’s is neatly summarized by an open letter circulating by a prominent layman and philanthropist. It reads in part:
Father Rutler turned a bankrupt and virtually empty church into a world-famous spiritual center, paid off the mortgage and long-standing debts, virtually rebuilt the infrastructure and exterior walls and roof, installed a magnificent new organ and many other improvements (and left well over 2 million dollars in the bank) and did much of the interior painting, gold leafing and decorating himself (he never takes a vacation) and produced a record number of candidates for the priesthood.
The author does not mention that the cost of the icons and their installation was met by two major private donations. These were gifts, not a drain on parish funds. The letter continues:
Father Robbins is on vacation in his villa in the opulent Hamptons. In less than two years, Rutler's successor, Father Robbins, has dismantled much of the interior of the church, alienated most of the parishioners, and nearly bankrupted the parish, spending vast sums on virtually reconstructing the plain but comfortable rectory (where Father Rutler happily hosted as guest Cardinals and other prelates and distinguished laypeople) - but which Father Robbins told people was a “slum” - so that the rectory is now a luxurious home for Father Robbins and his organist who also resides there.
Treason of the Clarisy by M. Mullarkey. First Things, 7-27-15.
Father Rutler has made documentary films in the United States and England, contributes to numerous scholarly and popular journals and has published 16 books on theology, history, cultural issues, and the lives of the saints, and also one book on sports, as a member of the U.S. Squash Racquets Association.—from the biography page, Church of St. Michael.
The parish church has become the battered body of Christ—stripped, bruised, bloodied and crucified by sexual abuse and liturgical abuse. The slow and agonizing death of the Liturgy is simply a sign of the rot within the Church, the filth decried by Pope Benedict XVI. Waning faith is mirrored in the dopey, nervous churches that lack the confidence of earlier designs. Nervous architecture produces nervous disciples. Nervous, as in limp. Architecture, especially interior design, conditions relationships. We become what we inhabit.

St. Saviour's became an icon—an icon of the Faith, of Tradition, of Jesus the Lord, of beauty, truth and goodness, of discipleship—under the leadership of the iconodule Rutler. Pray that the wreck-o-vation of St. Saviours becomes the beginning of the end of the modern era of iconoclasm in the Church.

Victory over Vandals

Far too many priests and bishops are illiterate concerning culture and the arts. So, we have arid homilies and barren parish churches bereft of a vital component of the Faith—i.e., heart. The aesthetic dimension of the Faith is far, far under appreciated in seminary formation.

If the New Evangelization is anything, it is a restoration of beauty to the heart of the parish, a reclamation of liturgical catechesis and the return of Tradition to the forefront of people's thoughts and actions.

Where the Liturgy is stripped of its artistic heart, young men and women find little or no life from which to draw inspiration to serve. Where there is beauty there are vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Where there is life, i.e., Tradition embodied in beautiful Liturgy and a beautiful temple, vocations spring forth in abundance. The Lord Jesus is seen and heard clearly through beautiful liturgy.

Hulk smash!

Meanwhile, stubborn ideologues who persist in their wayward antics—shunting the tabernacle off to some hidden chapel barely bigger than a closet; moving the celebrant's chair to the place formerly occupied by the tabernacle (arrogance!)—are permitted to exploit parish churches by using them as a canvas upon which to paint self portraits, portraits of self enamoured, aesthetically challenged brats who bully others into participating in their kooky plans.

It can hardly be mere coincidence that, when the mindset crept in to deprive the temple of art, the tabernacle housing the very Presence of Christ was moved aside and teaching about the Real Presence was evacuated from homilies.

God is the Creator. If we are created in His image and likeness, why have we allowed ourselves to be deprived of the dignity, privilege and responsibility to create for our God noble sanctuaries that lead souls to that same God of heaven and earth, sanctuaries with God, the Eucharistic Lord, adored at the heart and centre of the church? Has redeemed man—man, that is, who is baptized and restored to likeness with God—allowed himself to be pulled back into corruption and self loathing which has him producing banal "worship spaces" and crass pop music for Mass?

One Peter Five weighs in: HERE
Rorate Cæli weighs in: HERE

Monsignor Charles Pope has a good article entitled On The Biblical Roots and Requirements of Church Design:

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