Sacrosanctum Concilium 126

Bishops are to consult experts in art, so Vatican II says:

When passing judgment on works of art, local ordinaries shall give a hearing to the diocesan commission on sacred art and, if needed, also to others who are especially expert, and to the commissions referred to in Art. 44, 45, and 46.

Bishops are ultimately responsible for altars, pulpits, and other major aspects of churches in their diocese:

Ordinaries must be very careful to see that sacred furnishings and works of value are not disposed of or dispersed; for they are the ornaments of the house of God.

Any comments?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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6 Responses to Sacrosanctum Concilium 126

  1. Liam says:

    “Careful” and “of value” seems to have been understood very subjectively.

  2. John Heavrin says:

    That was the scam, Liam. They destroyed the patrimony great and small, saying, “Well, that was of no value.” When they bothered to say anything.

    “Ordinaries must be very careful to see that sacred furnishings and works of value are not disposed of or dispersed; for they are the ornaments of the house of God.”
    Even by the standards of the iconoclasts of the post-council years, this passage was brazenly flouted. When so many churches and cathedrals were gutted, most of the “ornaments of the house of God” went into the dumpster. What a betrayal, both of the faith of our fathers and even of the clear directions of the council. And the “why” of it remains a profound mystery to me. A collective, even diabolical, madness. But why?

    Even though I’m obliged to try, and I do try (and mostly fail), to be frank it’s hard for me not to feel contempt for the people who did this, and the shepherds who allowed it to be done. Makes me sick to my stomach to feel that way, but there it is.

    Even with the current fashion for apologies and displays of penance from on high, something tells me not to expect any for these particular ravages.

    Still, among Todd’s readers may well be some of those who were (and are) involved in and/or delighted by the iconoclasm which (along with the contraction of the institutional church and the near-disappearance of the priesthood and consecrated religious life) seems to have been the fruit of the council. Perhaps they could give some kind of an explanation or justification for all the destruction. Likelier, they won’t see the need for it.

    But I do believe that the havoc wreaked in the name of this council will be reversed and corrected in the fulness of time. How or when, I don’t know, God knows.

  3. If the problem is supposed to be iconoclasm, then why does the replacement of (even the structurally unsound) plywood-and-plaster stuff with actual images of devotional and artistic merit bring out the people with the picket signs?

    Fortunately, the picketers have finally tired themselves out at my parish. According to the pastor, the art for another shrine space has been commissioned — but we still will have six spaces to fill, added in the restorations 5 years back. Maybe by 2030?

  4. Todd says:

    To be honest, I know of no parish in which actual works of art were destroyed, though most of my experience has been in the midwest, where we lack a few hundred years of history they might enjoy on the Atlantic coast. Plaster reproductions of statues date from the early 20th century, and it might be considered a stretch to contemplate them as art in a true sense. Of course, I have similar feelings for pop concerts. It looks like an orchestra, sounds like an orchestra; but is it art? Each draw their own following, and sometimes the reasons are more affectation than artistry.

    My 1945-built parish in Iowa featured “imported Italian marble” that was actually a composite veneer glued to cinder blocks. My pastor heard the calls for preservation from our petition-passing parishioners, but is cement really a part of our heritage?

    My sense would be that John’s angst over this arises from personal experience plus some Wanderer horror stories. Traumatic events, to be certain, but not scientific or logical evidence for an actual iconoclast movement in Roman Catholicism.

  5. Liam says:

    Oh, I worshipped in a church that previously had many works of art — little of which was catalogue art, but some of which was of dubious value — destroyed on purpose. Lawsuits followed. It was Bad.

  6. My parish didn’t have lawsuits, but only lots of canon lawyers, repeated appeals to Curial authorities (by non-parishioners), particularly vicious pickets for years, and stories about the controversy in NYT, WashPost, WSJ, Time, etc. This mostly over a Mussolini-era plywood/plaster/fake marble canopy that was already crumbling……..

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