Defining charity when a non-Christian group worships in a Catholic church

Recently a Jewish temple was invited by the pastor of a church I attend to hold their High Holy Days services for the month of Sept. at our church. The original thread about it can be found here.

There were some comments made about how accomodating these non-Christians and their worship services in charity might include covering up the statues, altar and stations of the cross so as not to offend the visitors, who-- again-- are not themselves Christian. I was a little shocked to hear this view and asked for clarification, but it was never addressed further.

The way I see it, this public acceptance of /respect for a group’s rejection of Christ amounts to being ashamed of our religion. Or at least, of ackowledging the validity of other faith traditions that don’t accept Christianity. Yes, we are called to be charitable to all, but are we called to publically give the impression that rejecting/ignoring Christ (in His own house no less) is somehow ok? How is this evangelizing? It made me think of this verse: For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Any thoughts?

I spoke to an elderly friend of mine who is a parishioner of the parish in question. She, too, voiced a lot of concern regarding the issue. She told me that the stations of the Cross had been covered up and replaced with Jewish artwork. Granted, this information is second-hand; however, I trust my friend.

We also talked about charity. The parish in question does have some facilities, such as the school and the parish hall where the Jewish faithful could have had their services. We both agreed that it would have been better for them to use these facilities than to use the actual church.

There will be folks who will quote Canon law and cite articles from different diocesan newspapers that note that such sanctuary-sharing has happened, but, as I see it, it’s a stretch. If we cannot celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a non-Christian house of worship, then, it should hold true that non-Christians should not be using our sanctuary.

Such a viewpoint, I submit, should not be taken to mean that I am being uncharitable. The parish has other facilities, as I have noted, that can be used. The major bone of contention was the fact that the usage of the sanctuary displaced the faithful of the parish.

One interesting thing to note is the fact that the congregation in question has also used the facilities at Dell for some of their activities.

While ecumenism calls for us to see the similarities in each other’s beliefs, it does not call for us to sell out. I found this article from Chiesa rather interesting.

The article presents two very divergent views of Yom Kippur.

Some seem to defend its legality. I am not a canon lawyer, but this looks fishy to me. Regardless of its legality, just because the Church “allows” something doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

I don’t think allowing them to use the church- which should (from its shape to pretty much everything in it) be focused on Jesus (who jews don’t believe was who he said he was). The parish hall, the school gym, or something like that would have been more appropriate.

If their actions profane the sacred space, then they should not be allowed to use it. If their actions do not profane the sacred space, then it would be appropriately charitable to let them use it.

If their use of the church denies Catholics access to the Sacraments, then they should not be able to use it.

If their use of the church inconveniences Catholics in their access to the Sacraments, but does not deny them access, well, Christ did give his life for our salvation.

Recently something happened along these lines that concerned me.

The chapel of the college I’m at (a catholic chapel, with the eucharist present, in a catholic college), was used for some Nepalese students to celebrate the Hindu festival of Dashain. I have no problem with them celebrating their holiday, but I did not think it should have been done in the chapel… am I just being priggish?

The Eucharist being present is such a grave issue of concern that it mitigates anyone being uncharitable.

If some accommodation is to be made it must be done VERY soon; Yom Kippur is Monday. I would say not to cover the stations of the cross because Judaism technically excepts Jesus as a prophet not Messiah. I am assuming the Jewish congregation is very reformed to use a Catholic Church for services. I don’t believe they will want a giant crucifix in the front of the room as they pray. Our Catholic faith to those who don’t understand it, is seen as idolatry ie, stations of the cross, statues, crucifixes, THE MOST HOLY EUCHARIST.

I believe it would be better for the services to be held in another large room.

I do not know the canon law on this; but this is horrific to me. HInduism is a polytheistic religion. One could debate this but for the sake of brevity the Hindu faith is of polytheism and I can not imagine the worship of any other god, but the God of Abraham to be worshipped in a Catholic Church/Parish.

Their website says that this congregation is a “Reform Jewish Congregation” so I guess that answers that. As to the question “did they profane the sanctuary,” that MusicMan brought up previously, I would say yeah they did. My fiance believes that the church should be re-consecrated for this reason…but that’s only his opinion, and mine is my opinion, and neither of us are church authorities. It just seems that a group that rejects Christ worshipping in Christ’s house, covering up the sacramentals and any artwork that alludes to Christ and barring Catholics from attending because we’re “impure”…seems like that would qualify as profaning a sacred space. That’s only my opinion.

My main thing in this thread is about charity. Fr. Corapi says something to the effect of, it’s never charity to confirm someone in their sin. I think the same would hold true for ignorance, whether invincible or vincible.

Oh absolutely not! Like the previous poster said, worshipping false gods in the Lord’s house with Him actually being present there is an abomination IMO. Did this happen recently? If so, and if they plan to repeat it, you might want to think about sending a letter to the provost and maybe the bishop about this.

Thanks, I think I will do that. The college I go to is for the most part very faithful to the Magistarium, and the chaplain is a very good, holy man. I don’t think he would have been the one to give the official OK…

Yes, Dashain was yesturday (9-24). The college often advertizes religious celebrations that are non-christian, but this is the first time they’ve used the chapel (that I know of anyway).

Well, they are worshipping God the Father. I don’t think that Christ would mind that, and I certainly don’t see how it can need to be re-consecrated. I’m not a canon lawyer either, but I just don’t see it as a profanation.

On the other hand…

…that is completely outrageous. To take a secular (and far more trivial) parallel, what if I asked to borrow your car, but then said you had to take the bumper stickers off of it first because I couldn’t be driving a car with those bumper stickers, and BTW, no you can’t ride in your car with me. The only thing that would make it less outrageous on the side of the Jewish congregation is if they are paying to use the church. That would be outrageous on the side of your parish leaders, instead, and put the stuation on a whole different level.

To take a more relevant parallel, what do you think the response would be if you went to the local synagogue and said, “Hey, can we use your synagogue for our Christmas services? By the way, we’ll be needing to put up a crucifix in there.” I think the synagogue would say, “certainly not,” and rightly so.

It seems to me that the proper response would be, “I’m sorry, but our church is a house of prayer to the triune God, and with the statues and crucifix would not, I’m sure, be appropriate for your services. However, you are welcome to use our parish hall or our auditorium (or whatever) for your services. And if that doesn’t work well for you, I believe the Unitarians are right down the road.” :smiley:

Anyway, I don’t see how they could expect to use a Christian church and not have some indication of Christ. (I’m assuming that the tabernacle must be in a chapel or something–if it’s in the church–well, I’ve already used the word outrageous so I’m out of words for this.)

Of course it depends on what was said when the agreement was reached. I mean if your parish said that they would cover the crucifix et al., I’m not sure what you all should do.

It sounds pretty hopeless now. But when this is over, I’m sure you’ll do your best to make sure it never happens again.

Best of luck!


As the determination about the profanation of the sacred space is not ours to make, I would suggest you leave it to the Ordinary to determine and then to trust his judgment.

All of this needs to be worked out before extending the invitation, or allowing it to be accepted. The rabbi and priest need to walk the church and agree on what is and isn’t allowed or acceptable for both sides. Of course, the parish should furnish a staffmember who is fully aware of the agreements to be on hand at all times that non-parishioners are using the church, to make sure the agreements have been correctly understood and followed in real time. I’m sure that would be expected.

As for covering the statues and crucifixes, my home parish used to do the same on Good Friday. We had purple coverings for all of them. It isn’t inherently disrespectful. It is actually in accordance with what is going to be going on in the space. Likewise, the altar can be covered or stripped, someone can be on hand to make sure it is not used in any way whatsoever, and of course the Blessed Sacrament must be removed to a different location, just as it is for Good Friday. I would find all of this as much of a reverence to our beliefs as to theirs. Certainly, if we were to use a synagogue and they removed the Torah scrolls, I would take that as a show of respect for the Torah, and not just something to keep us from feeling uncomfortable.

This is not an ideal situation, but let us hope that some religious group that doesn’t believe in the Mass would allow us to use their space, if we were flooded out, burned out, couldn’t afford a big enough sanctuary yet, etc.

OTOH, if a congregation isn’t generous enough or is too easily scandalized to manage this, then that has to be recognized. I wouldn’t expect a synagogue to welcome Catholics if it was going to cause a stir in their congregation. It is like temporarily moving into somebody’s home. If the guests are not joining the family, but are essentially using the home as their own private retreat, as they might if they were burned out and the host family moved in with relatives until the burned-out family could rebuild, then the whole family really should be comfortable with the arrangement, even the ones who might not normally have a say about who is and isn’t welcomed as a guest at the family table.

Jews do not have an obligation to go to synagogue every week, but they are obliged to attend the High Holy Day services. A congregation that can get by with a modest space the rest of the year can find themselves beyond bursting during High Holy Days. Every congregation would like to meet in their own synagogue, but sometimes building a sufficiently big space is just not possible.

I think this is an opportunity to “welcome all as Christ” myself. I think it reflects badly on this love of both brother and enemy that we’d like to be so proud of, if we are not even hospitable, but that is just me. The main thing, though, is to either be fully hospitable, or else not at all. You can’t welcome somebody for High Holy Days and expect them to be pseudo-Catholic for it. That does more harm than good.

I will. That’s why I qualified several times that is was only my opinion. :wink: The local Ordinary didn’t know about this, btw. The pastor in question didn’t follow the correct protocols and didn’t get permission first. Maybe if he had, it wouldn’t have turned out the way it did, but who really knows?

You really think that the two things are comparable? Covering the statues, etc. on Good Friday is part of Catholic history and our celebration of Holy Week. Covering them because we don’t want to offend the non-Christians who are worshipping in a consecrated space is something quite different. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the Gospel and we shouldn’t humor visitors who are ashamed of it, or who reject it. That’s actually the more charitible thing to do, IMO. How is it good or charitable to affirm their rejection/ignorance of Christ?

Thanks Jen. From what I understand, the Blessed Sacrament was thankfully reserved in the Adoration Chapel.

I agree completely with what you posted re: covering the statues and stations of the cross and whatnot. That’s why I opened this thread, because there were one or two others who seemed to think that this was perfectly ok in the first thread, and that thread was closed (for reasons unrelated to the OP or discussion) before they could explain themselves. So, I’m hoping they’ll respond to this thread now. We’ll wait and see. :slight_smile:

Well ac, I can’t comprehend any Catholic (priest included) being OK with this. To remove or cover up Catholic icons, in the house of God, no way! IMO if this were to happen in my parish, I’d be portioning for a new pastor or finding another parish to attend.:frowning:

I think we should keep in mind that there is some hearsay going on in this thread. The OP has said that there is no possible way that she could know that the statues are being covered. If there is no way that she could know then how could another parishioner know for certain? So the question of defining charity when a non-Christian group worships in a Catholic Church can also pertain to not making false accusations. It is OK to have concerns. But those concerns should be addressed to the pastor. They should not be an occassion for building a mountain out of a molehill.

Even if it is known that the statues were covered, it is not known why. I don’t think it charitable to assume that the statues were covered out of any sense of shame, or an unwillingness to proclaim our faith. We don’t know that.

As I said, if I were to go into a synagogue and see that the Torah scrolls and menorrahs were obviously not removed, yet were covered, I wouldn’t take that as a sign that the congregation was ashamed of the Torah. I would take that as a sign that the Jews wanted to shield the Torah from outsiders…as a sign of respect for the Torah. Certainly, this would be true in the case of removing the Blessed Sacrament. There are churches that are tourist sites that routinely remove the Blessed Sacrament to a side chapel, in order to shield Our Lord from disrespect and the tourists from unknowingly committing a sacrilege.

Likewise, if we were ashamed of our statues and crucifixes, we wouldn’t cover them in the purple of Good Friday. That is our sign of mourning as we remember the rejection of Christ, is it not? Of course the two cases are very different, but I think the symbolism fits in both cases. It is not disrespectful of our sacred art to cover it in purple when those who would be looking on it would not be edified by it.

You have to consider, too, that there may be Jews who, seeing the interior of the church veiled during their services, might like to come back and see it unveiled. In that case, they would be visiting us in our homes while we were living there ourselves. The atmosphere would be Catholic, the hospitality would be Catholic, the prayers, the music, the theology of worship, and gestures of respect would be 100% Catholic.

Still, if the Catholic parishioners are going to be scandalized, it is better not to extend the invitation. If the Jews are not comfortable with the the boundaries the parish feels necessary to have in place, the Jews should not accept the invitation. If the invitation is extended and accepted, it is very important to educate the parishioners about all the practical aspects of this act of hospitality, and why. It is a delicate situation.

Just to be clear, and sorry I didn’t make it plain before, the Stations of the Cross were covered up. This has been confirmed by at least 3 witnesses who somehow got in to see it and apparently there are pictures. There aren’t many statues in the sanctuary…only two-- off to the side-- if I remember correctly, but one of the witnesses said that they were covered. They were covered because they symbolize Christian worship.

Assuming that the statues/stations of the cross/altar were covered for these reasons and not the ones that EasterJoy supposed, do you think that’s right?

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