Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Turning wine to water

It's the modern Catholic miracle: take a beautiful church, one that encourages quiet, contemplation, and fervent devotion; and turn its interior into an ugly, pseudo-Protestant concert hall. It's an architectural reversal of the miracle of Cana: the wine of old beauty is turned into the brackish water of faddish awkwardness and sterility.

Karen Hall, at Some Have Hats, has penned a wonderfully passionate rant against the epidemic of radical modifications of traditionally-designed Catholic churches in the U.S. Her focus is on the desecration of St. Charles Borromeo in North Hollywood, California, which is about to begin, but it's happening all over the place, it seems. I share her bitterness over the endless delays and spinelessness exhibited by Rome when parishioners complain that their wishes are being ignored by priests and bishops intent on uglifying everything. She understands that people are not disembodied spirits to whom place is of no importance; they live out their lives of faith in specific places, whose layout and appearance are integral to their experience of God. Tinker with those places, and you risk jarring souls loose from their moorings and losing them forever -- the eternal thing that must never be risked for any temporal reason.

So why does Rome send us the consistent message that an individual soul isn't worth fretting over? Because every day that goes by with our beautiful churches being destroyed, our tabernacles being ripped from our sanctuaries, our liturgy being turned into the Cirque du Soleil, our people receiving communion from "extraordinary" eucharistic ministers 90% of the time, and worst of all, our constantly hearing things from the pulpit that are in direct contradiction to the Magisterium ... every such day that goes by without a word from Rome to stop it, the loud and consistent message is that whatever soul was lost on that day was not worth saving.

Rome needs to understand that it may pride itself in thinking in terms of centuries, but real souls are saved by the minute, the hour, and the day. And in the specific holy places where they have found solace. While the Vatican dithers and does nothing, souls are being lost forever as they are being led astray by the very shepherds who should be protecting them.

The "renovators" are like shepherds who claim to be serving the sheep better by moving the gate of the sheep-pen because they don't like the way it faces. If the sheep get lost because of it, well, too bad, they say; we must keep up with the times. Or the fads.

How long would it take for Pope Benedict to write a one-page directive to all American bishops, advising them to drop all plans for the specific architectural abuses that characterize these pernicious "renovation" campaigns? I could do it in two hours. Make it clear that disobedience of any kind will be grounds for immediate removal from office, and then yank the first bishop who objects, the day after he does so. That would automatically bring most of them into line, weaklings that they are. The number that would actually need to be disciplined would be quite small.