Do murals have a place in Catholic churches? Does the fact that Michelangelo’s art adorns the Sistine Chapel, for example, “detract” from the celebration of Mass there? Could be a good thing that Fr. Benito Hernandez isn’t in Rome.
We decided that the sanctuary’s original background detracted from the central focus of the Holy Presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the altar.
After several months of fruitless attempts at persuasion, the parishioners went public: a petition, a web site, and a press conference. The latter was a mistake, according to Archbishop Charles Chaput, who responded to the petition:
I have full confidence in Father Benito’s leadership of Our Lady of Guadalupe parish. As pastor, his decision to remodel the sanctuary was appropriate. I must also frankly share with you that recourse to the Denver Post has weakened rather than strengthened the credibility of your petition.
I can appreciate being bothered by a decision to go to the secular press, but the archbishop comes off as petty here, as he did in his reply to NCR:
Mediating (a parish matter) in the press would be quite strange; and the fact that this group seeks to do so unfortunately only weakens the integrity of their case.
The parish deacon isn’t too impressed with the protest either. During a homily last June William Martinzez told the protesters they were choosing their Hispanic culture over their faith.
Mercy Cruz, one of the active parishioners:
It’s not so much religion, it’s art. If someone comes to your home and tears up pictures of your mom, that would be disrespectful. It’s the same thing.
You know, issues of church renovations are often contentious, touching on one very positive aspect of liturgy, namely the lay ownership of it. Even good plans require vast amounts of persuasion. And when diplomacy is not in the pastor’s toolkit, you’re going to have problems. I can’t imagine various comments directed at the protesters are going to help matters. What Father Hernandez has done is to choose a decorative ideal (I can’t see anything redemptive on his white wall) over unity, a quality we actually profess every Sunday at Mass. Win the battle, lose the war, it seems to me.