Misuse of the sanctuary?


#1

I am unsure if this is the proper forum for this question, but here goes:

Oftentimes at parishes I notice that the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the tabernacle so that a non-liturgical function (e.g. a concert or a Christmas pageant) may take place in the sanctuary. I am told that removing the Blessed Sacrament essentially turns the church into just a building (as opposed to a sacred space), thus justifying the non-liturgical use of the space.

My current understanding is that this is permissible when the non-liturgical function is at least of a Catholic character (e.g. an Advent concert), rather than a secular usage (e.g. a secular music concert).

However even in the case of a Christmas pageant, or something of the sort, there are certain aspects that still irk me at times. As an example, I saw one Christmas pageant in a church sanctuary where in one scene, a grown man dressed up like a donkey prances up and down the sanctuary steps, around the altar, all while making loud, goofy "Hee-Haw!" noises and singing a ridiculous song.

Even if it was in the context of a Christmas pageant, is such behavior ever acceptable in front of the very altar where Christ's sacrifice at Calvary is made present? If not, then what are the parameters for behavior in the sanctuary?

I think it boils down to this: At a certain point, a line needs to be drawn between the sacred and the profane. I tend to think that the sanctuary is still a sacred place even if our Blessed Lord is taken away from it, and therefore, any extra-liturgical events should at least bear a solemn tone, fit for the sacred space where Holy Mass is offered.

Any thoughts? Please correct me if I have made any errors. I would also be very interested to see what the Church Fathers or any of the popes have said in regards to this issue. Thank you for reading, and have a merry Christmas!


#2

Classical music concerts in churches are quite common in Continental Europe, especially in Southern Germany and Austria.
The reason is that, for a variety of reasons Catholic Churches can accommodate a larger audience than most local theaters and have better acoustics than many theaters.
I don’t know why this is not the practice in the US. Perhaps it is because the Catholic Church in the US is dominated by the Irish who don’t have a tradition of theatrical or musical performance in their Churches.


#3

[quote="George_Stegmeir, post:2, topic:309272"]
Classical music concerts in churches are quite common in Continental Europe, especially in Southern Germany and Austria.
The reason is that, for a variety of reasons Catholic Churches can accommodate a larger audience than most local theaters and have better acoustics than many theaters.

I don't know why this is not the practice in the US. Perhaps it is because the Catholic Church in the US is dominated by the Irish who don't have a tradition of theatrical or musical performance in their Churches.

[/quote]

I may have been mistaken in making a distinction between secular and Catholic non-liturgical functions. The main point of my post is figuring out what, if anything, makes an action or event unsuitable for the sanctuary. I suppose, if holding classical music concerts in a church is a legitimate tradition in the Church, then secularism can be ruled out as a prohibiting factor.

Here's an interesting thought: If it is permissible for a classical music concert to be performed in the sanctuary of a Catholic church building, then why not a heavy metal concert? Provided that the heavy metal music contains no profanity or malice of any kind in the lyrics, would it be equally suited to being performed in a sanctuary as a classical music concert would? Or is there some quality in this particular genre of music that would disqualify it from being permitted in the sanctuary?


#4

I think such a determination is best made by the priest, as to what is and is not appropriate. I always remember that the sanctuary is also a place where noisy vacuum cleaners run, repair work is made and practice/rehersal occurs. It kind of puts it into perspective for me. I just finished with my last rehersal for children’s choir in the sanctuary. I had not problem with it, nor did the priest.


#5

[quote="George_Stegmeir, post:2, topic:309272"]
Classical music concerts in churches are quite common in Continental Europe, especially in Southern Germany and Austria.
The reason is that, for a variety of reasons Catholic Churches can accommodate a larger audience than most local theaters and have better acoustics than many theaters.

I don't know why this is not the practice in the US. Perhaps it is because the Catholic Church in the US is dominated by the Irish who don't have a tradition of theatrical or musical performance in their Churches.

[/quote]

some of us have modern churches with lousy acoustics! At one church the pastor installed sound-absorbing panels in the sanctuary because he was surrounded by glass walls. He said, his words echoed back to him.


#6

Can't say I'm impressed with see a few ecumenical Christian rock concerts held in my parish a few times in the past. And yes its a big difference when this happens with the Blessed Sacrament still remaining inside the Tabernacle with only devout Catholic's who would notice the difference. Reverence goes completely out the door when you see the Altar moved from its traditional place on the Sanctuary and pushed to a back wall with coffee cups strewn all over the place.

Bad enough when its hard enough to instill reverence in Catholics let alone anyone else who's not a Catholic.

("Should not we Catholics believe that we are nearer to our Creator, when our hearts are filled with joyous sentiments, so that we might cry out with the Apostle Peter "It is good for us to be here". In humble Revernce with the Holy Sacrifice at the Altar should we not be penetrated with a mysterious awe and like Moses whom took off his shoes at the Lord's urging, for this place called (Sanctuary) is holy ground.")

I get the feeling that some Catholics believe the Sanctuary is just a common everyday place like any other area in the Church.

Perhaps most Catholics have never been catechised about the furnishings and allocations within the Church and what sets each area apart with regards to the rich symbolism therein.:shrug:


#7

[quote="centurionguard, post:6, topic:309272"]
.....................
Bad enough when its hard enough to instill reverence in Catholics let alone anyone else who's not a Catholic.

("Should not we Catholics believe that we are nearer to our Creator, when our hearts are filled with joyous sentiments, so that we might cry out with the Apostle Peter "It is good for us to be here". In humble Revernce with the Holy Sacrifice at the Altar should we not be penetrated with a mysterious awe and like Moses whom took off his shoes at the Lord's urging, for this place called (Sanctuary) is holy ground.")

I get the feeling that some Catholics believe the Sanctuary is just a common everyday place like any other area in the Church.

Perhaps most Catholics have never been catechised about the furnishings and allocations within the Church and what sets each area apart with regards to the rich symbolism therein.:shrug:

[/quote]

Tearing out the Communion rail did not help us keep for ourselves or instill in younger generations this sense of the Sacred in our sanctuaries. One Sunday we had a Communion rail, where we knelt to receive, as a clear point of where the Sanctuary began and the next Sunday we received standing in a line, just like the Protestant churches down the road. No discussion ahead of time. We were just told that Vatican II ordered the rails and the High Altars torn out. End of story.


#8

[quote="pnewton, post:4, topic:309272"]
I think such a determination is best made by the priest, as to what is and is not appropriate. I always remember that the sanctuary is also a place where noisy vacuum cleaners run, repair work is made and practice/rehersal occurs. It kind of puts it into perspective for me. I just finished with my last rehersal for children's choir in the sanctuary. I had not problem with it, nor did the priest.

[/quote]

The only problem I see is that there are a multitude of differing opinions amongst priests. What one priest has no problem with, another priest will absolutely forbid. Obviously things like vacuuming and repair work are necessary from time to time, but that does not mean that anything goes so long as the priest permits it. I agree that the priest should be the one to make the final decision, but I am curious to know what standard the priest is using by which to make that judgment. And if priests seem to have divergent standards, then which is the correct one?

Also, I am not saying that I have a problem, in principle, with a choir giving a performance in a church. But what if a choir is giving a performance and they decide to do the hokey-pokey or some other silly nonsense in the sanctuary? I want to know if there is an elevated standard of reverence to which people and events should be held when in the sanctuary. If so, what is an appropriate degree of reverence and what are the practical implications?


#9

[quote="Miles_Dei, post:1, topic:309272"]
I am unsure if this is the proper forum for this question, but here goes:

Oftentimes at parishes I notice that the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the tabernacle so that a non-liturgical function (e.g. a concert or a Christmas pageant) may take place in the sanctuary. I am told that removing the Blessed Sacrament essentially turns the church into just a building (as opposed to a sacred space), thus justifying the non-liturgical use of the space.

My current understanding is that this is permissible when the non-liturgical function is at least of a Catholic character (e.g. an Advent concert), rather than a secular usage (e.g. a secular music concert).

However even in the case of a Christmas pageant, or something of the sort, there are certain aspects that still irk me at times. As an example, I saw one Christmas pageant in a church sanctuary where in one scene, a grown man dressed up like a donkey prances up and down the sanctuary steps, around the altar, all while making loud, goofy "Hee-Haw!" noises and singing a ridiculous song.

Even if it was in the context of a Christmas pageant, is such behavior ever acceptable in front of the very altar where Christ's sacrifice at Calvary is made present? If not, then what are the parameters for behavior in the sanctuary?

I think it boils down to this: At a certain point, a line needs to be drawn between the sacred and the profane. I tend to think that the sanctuary is still a sacred place even if our Blessed Lord is taken away from it, and therefore, any extra-liturgical events should at least bear a solemn tone, fit for the sacred space where Holy Mass is offered.

Any thoughts? Please correct me if I have made any errors. I would also be very interested to see what the Church Fathers or any of the popes have said in regards to this issue. Thank you for reading, and have a merry Christmas!

[/quote]

Your understanding is the same as mine, from what I have seen.

If the blessed sacrament is in the tabernacle, it's a church, and you don't do "extra" stuff in the church.
If the blessed sacrament is not in the tabernacle, it is still a very sacred space, which can then be used for things like concerts of sacred music.


#10

Statement of Concerts in Churches- Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Muscians
crccm.org/resources/crccm-resources/statements/30-statement-on-concerts-in-churches


#11

Thank you for the link! The following excerpt from the statement is particularly relevant to what I am talking about:

It is clearly the aim of the Vatican letter that such spaces be treated with great respect, because of their primary and pre-eminent purpose. The ambo, the altar, and the chair should certainly never be permitted to be simply “props” for concerts in Church. People performing in the midst of these sacred symbols of worship may need to be oriented or simply reminded of the character of the space. Everyone benefits by a reverence for the sacred character of both persons and place.

This affirms my intuition that care ought to be taken to safeguard reverence in the sanctuary, even when the Blessed Sacrament is removed. My question would then be, what practical consequences follow from this? The statement suggests withholding applause until the end of a concert. That is a good idea, but is there more to it than just minimizing applause and respecting sacred symbols, or are those prescriptions sufficient?

Here’s another good insight from the statement:

"*The use or non-use of a work of music in either a concert or liturgical setting is normally determined by the intelligent and discerning judgment of the user. The work is either appropriate, and thus enhances the liturgical act or the concert, or it is inappropriate.

Even this determination may seem ambiguous to some, depending upon the cultural context and background of the people who actually experience the event. Some instrumental music, because of the specific cultural context with which it is generally identified, may well be inappropriate for any use in Church. This is, in fact, a subjective “judgment call”, and cannot be specifically determined simply by legislation. It depends upon intelligent, discerning, and informed musicians who can be consulted with confidence by the local ordinary.*"

This bears directly on an earlier post in this thread concerning the judgment of music in a particular circumstance. Someone has to make the call one way or the other, and the decision may be based on subjective circumstances. However, there must also be an objective element since a “work is either appropriate, and thus enhances the liturgical act or the concert, or it is inappropriate.”

So my question is: what aesthetic qualities make a work of art appropriate for use in a church? There is a subjective judgment that has to be made in particular circumstances, but there must be also an objective principle that is applied in making a good judgment.


#12

No, it is not up to us to apply any criteria. That determination is up to the bishop:

Can.* 1210 Only those things which serve the exercise or promotion of worship, piety, or religion are permitted in a sacred place; anything not consonant with the holiness of the place is forbidden. In an individual case, however, the ordinary can permit other uses which are not contrary to the holiness of the place.


#13

[quote="roadsend, post:7, topic:309272"]
Tearing out the Communion rail did not help us keep for ourselves or instill in younger generations this sense of the Sacred in our sanctuaries. One Sunday we had a Communion rail, where we knelt to receive, as a clear point of where the Sanctuary began and the next Sunday we received standing in a line, just like the Protestant churches down the road. No discussion ahead of time. We were just told that Vatican II ordered the rails and the High Altars torn out. End of story.

[/quote]

Just to bring light to one point you made:

We were just told that Vatican II ordered the rails and the High Altars torn out. End of story

Actually; no official directive has ever existed from the Vatican, Pope, or Magisterium where it ever said anywhere in any document in the Church to remove the Altar Rails or tear down the High Altar where the center Tabernacle was located on the Sanctuary.

Where or Why did this change come from? :hmmm: Misinformed or deceived clergy or some self-righteous liturgist in the Church made that decision. IMHO that's when the watering down of Reverence began in the Church.


#14

And we wonder why it’s hard to get young Catholic’s to understand why they need to get married within the holy walls of a consecrated Church instead of on a beach somewhere…:rolleyes:

It’s kind of hard to say the place has meaning when you allow all sorts of shenanigans on the altar…JMHO


#15

Right. So the bishop can permit other uses which are not contrary to the holiness of the place.

I am not so much concerned with who makes the decisions as with what principle lies behind those decisions. What exactly makes a usage of the sanctuary “contrary to the holiness of the place”?

I do not think it is the fact that the bishop decides to make it so. That would be arbitrary. That would mean that we have to accept anything that any bishop permits to happen in churches and liturgies. Do I have to condone everything Schönborn allows to happen in his diocese? I can tell you bishops certainly are not infallible.


#16

There is a Vatican document on "Concerts in Churches" at adoremus.org/concerts.html .

It includes:
"8. The regulation of the use of churches is stipulated by canon 1210 of the Code of Canon Law:

"In a sacred place only those things are to be permitted which serve to exercise or promote worship, piety and religion. Anything out of harmony with the holiness the place is forbidden. The Ordinary may, however, for individual cases, permit other uses, provided they are not contrary to the sacred character of the place."

The principle that the use of the church must not offend the sacredness of the place determines the criteria by which the doors of a church may be opened to a concert of sacred or religious music, as also the concomitant exclusion of every other type of music. The most beautiful symphonic music, for example, is not in itself of religious character. The definition of sacred or religious music depends explicitly on the original intended use of the musical pieces or songs, and likewise on their content. It is not legitimate to provide for the execution in the church of music which is not of religious inspiration and which was composed with a view to performance in a certain precise secular context, irrespective of whether the music would be judged classical or contemporary, of high quality or of a popular nature. On the one hand, such performances would not respect the sacred character of the church, and on the other, would result in the music being performed in an unfitting context.

It pertains to the ecclesiastical authority to exercise without constraint its governance of sacred places (Cf. canon 1213), and hence to regulate the use of churches in such a way as to safeguard their sacred character."


#17

I went to a Christmas pageant in a Baptist stadium and there were live animals, camels, donkeys, sheep, etc. Granted it was a Christmas show, about Jesus, and it ended with the crucifixion, but still.

I think we should not use our sanctuaries for anything but worship and the occasional classical or holy concert.


#18

[quote="Miles_Dei, post:15, topic:309272"]
That would be arbitrary.

[/quote]

Yep

[quote="Miles_Dei, post:15, topic:309272"]

That would mean that we have to accept anything that any bishop permits to happen in churches -]and liturgies./-]

[/quote]

Now you are catcthing on.

Srikethrough on liturgies because those are not discretionary, excepting where the rubrics dictate.

[quote="Miles_Dei, post:15, topic:309272"]
Do I have to condone everything Schönborn allows to happen in his diocese?

[/quote]

It is not your place to condone or to condemn what he does in his diocese.

[quote="Miles_Dei, post:15, topic:309272"]
I can tell you bishops certainly are not infallible.

[/quote]

This is not a matter of doctrine. Infallibility is not relevant.

As I already stated: It is the bishop's call.


#19

[quote="1ke, post:18, topic:309272"]
As I already stated: It is the bishop's call.

[/quote]

Yep :)


#20

This is not a right or wrong situation, but prudent or imprudent. The priest at the parish has the “right” decision in that it is his authority to make such decisions. It surely isn’t worth fretting over. He is placed there by the bishop and carries his authority. I guess he does something off the reservation you can always approach the bishop about it.


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