We begin a four-section examination of judging art for liturgy. The bishops cite Vatican II here, and also the corcular letter from the Congregation of the Clergy from 1971, in case you were wondering what Opera Artis is.
§ 146 § Authentic art is integral to the Church at prayer (SC 122) because these objects and actions are “signs and symbols of the supernatural world” (Opera Artis: On the Care of the Church’s Historical and Artistic Heritage 1) and expressions of the divine presence. While personal tastes will differ, parish committees should utilize the criteria of quality and appropriateness in evaluating art for worship. Quality is perceived only by contemplation, by standing back from things and really trying to see them, trying to let them speak to the beholder. Quality is evident in the honesty and genuineness of the materials that are used, the nobility of the form embodied in them, the love and care that goes into the creation of a work of art, and the personal stamp of the artist whose special gift produces a harmonious whole, a well crafted work.
It’s interesting that the first judgment mentioned, before beauty, is quality. Note that the bishops suggest something other than analysis (Of what is it made? How much did it cost?) and instead, lead us into a careful contemplation of a work of art. Clearly, we are not talking about reproductions. They don’t seem to avoid the employment of an artist to create works that invite a deeper reflection.
The rest of this section, as you see, isn’t footnoted, and is just the USCCB “opinion” in the mind of some. Is their reflection here appropriate and accurate? How would you change it, if you think it needs improvement. Look ahead to the next three sections, too, as the bishops will deal with the qualities of finding God, of appropriateness, and worthiness.
All texts from Built of Living Stones are copyright © 2000, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.