My son will be married this September, and has selected a site that was formerly a Polish Church for the rehearsal dinner. I realize that the altar must have been removed, but converting a place where the holy sacrifice of the Mass was offered into a pub seems that it would be very wrong and offensive to our Lord. Still, I cannot imagine the Church allowing the sale of the property and the conversion without first removing all sacred items. Can you provide any information to help me decide whether it would be sinful or licit to participate in this? Thank you and God bless you!
When circumstances call for it, a church building’s purpose can be changed for sacred use to profane (i.e. secular) use:
Can. 1212 Sacred places lose their dedication or blessing if they have been destroyed in large part, or have been turned over permanently to profane use by decree of the competent ordinary or in fact.
Can. 1222 §1. If a church cannot be used in any way for divine worship and there is no possibility of repairing it, the diocesan bishop can relegate it to profane but not sordid use.
Can. 1238 §1. An altar loses its dedication or blessing according to the norm of can. 1212.
Obviously the diocese did not feel that use as a dinning hall was “sordid” (i.e. immoral) use. The altar if possible to removed would be removed. If its not able to be removed then the bishop must issue a decree to remove its blessing/dedication and relegate it for secular use.
While the code of canon law does not specify what is to happen with objects in the church other than the altar, common sense dictates they be treated with the respect that blessed or liturgical items deserve. All items that can be removed should be.
There is also a canonical process for the sale/alienation of parish assets (canons 1291-1294).
I would assume that the diocese and pastor in question have followed all the relevant canons regarding the matter of closing and selling the parish for secular use. I would advise you to trust in their competency and enjoy your son’s rehearsal dinner. After all, many times in the Gospels Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a wedding feast.
Enjoy the rehearsal dinner and rejoice in the great sacrament of marriage.