Nov 212011

New Vatican commission cracks down on church architecture

The new commission will be established shortly, as part of the Congregation for Divine Worship. It will also be in charge of music and singing in the liturgy


A team has been set up, to put a stop to garage style churches, boldly shaped structures that risk denaturing modern places for Catholic worship. Its task is also to promote singing that really helps the celebration of mass. The “Liturgical art and sacred music commission” will be established by the Congregation for Divine Worship over the coming weeks. This will not be just any office, but a true and proper team, whose task will be to collaborate with the commissions in charge of evaluating construction projects for churches of various dioceses. The team will also be responsible for the further study of music and singing that accompany the celebration of mass.
Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Benedict XVI, consider this work as “very urgent”. The reality is staring everyone in the eyes: in recent decades, churches have been su
bstituted by buildings that resemble multi purpose halls. Too often, architects, even the more famous ones, do not use the Catholic liturgy as a starting point and thus end up producing avant-garde constructions that look like anything but a church. These buildings composed of cement cubes, glass boxes, crazy shapes and confused spaces, remind people of anything but the mystery and sacredness of a church. Tabernacles are semi hidden, leading faithful on a real treasure hunt and sacred images are almost inexistent. The new commission’s regulations will be written up over the next few days and will give precise instructions to dioceses. It will only be responsible for liturgical art, not for sacred art in general; and this also goes for liturgical music and singing too. The judicial powers of the Congregation for Divine Worship will have the power to act.


It is always interesting the synchronicity of news stories for examples this story coming out after the buying of the Crystal Cathedral of the Diocese of Orange. While not directly connected, the reason such a committee might be forming can be given plenty of examples.

Though I am rather wary of any article that says the “Vatican is going to crack down” on something. That is just not the way the Vatican works. The way the idea of the Vatican and the Pope is often portrayed is with words like “slams”, “attacks”, and “cracks down” is rather far from the slow deliberate actions of Vatican officials. I certainly hope this committee will exist and issue guidelines and recommendations concerning liturgical architecture, liturgical art, and liturgical music. But in the end they will still be guidelines and recommendations and what actually happens at the local level will still be in the hands of he Bishop as ultimately it must be. So much of this area has been trumped by the subjectivism of “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” which has a grain of truth, but not the whole truth.

My problem with so many things in this area, especially liturgical architecture, is that it normally directs your attention to the ability of the architect and not the architect of all things. Some of these structures can be quite captivating and have elements of beauty to them, but if they does not help you to lift your heart to God in worship it is a failure. We need such aids in worship as we are not pure spirits. Sure we can meditate on God in the most stripped of structures, but I need all the help I can get.

  3 Responses to “Nobody expects the Liturgical art and sacred music commission”

  1. There’s only one thing to do with such architects — THE COMFY CHAIR!!! with occasional cushion pokes.

  2. Their chief weapons are surprise, surprise and orthodoxy… Two! Their two chief weapons are surprise, orthodoxy and tradition… among their weapons are surprise, orthodoxy, tradition and an almost fanatical devotion to the beautiful- I’ll come again.

  3. Congratulations! this blog is wonderful!
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