Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

“Destroy beautiful things? Something’s gone wrong.” -Fr. Barron

May 20th, 2012, Promulgated by b a

“when people start attacking and destorying beautiful things, something’s gone wrong with the human spirit”
-Fr. Barron of the Catholicism Series

I just had a thought that maybe it would be a good idea to start assembling before-and-after pictures of some of the pre-v2 churches in the Diocese of Rochester. I think I’ve seen some of these shots before, but perhaps we can start making a collection. Don’t bother with some of the newer churches that were never beautiful, let’s stick to the older ones that were once something to see (inside and out). If you happen to have good photos, please send them to me.


9 Responses to ““Destroy beautiful things? Something’s gone wrong.” -Fr. Barron”

  1. Bernie says:

    Excellent project!

  2. Ink says:

    Maybe once you get a new bishop, you can hire some awesome outside architects and designers to restore what once was. I have some connections.

  3. MickeyT says:

    I have one for you – St. Mary’s Southdside in Elmira.

    Check out the interior circa 1950 here (scroll down a bit):

    And circa 2010 here (scroll down again): This is after a renovation done in 2005, which is already an improvement over what it looked like before that, as a result of a hasty remodel done in the late 1970s that decimated the sanctuary and a lot of the nave. But much of the former beauty of the ceiling and wall detail still lies underneath all the white paint, waiting to be brought back to life.

  4. MickeyT says:

    Sorry, for the 2010 photo, you have to click on “Mass Schedules” and then “Prayer Opportunities” and then scroll down.

  5. Kevin says:

    Great idea! I’ve seen photos of some of the churches here and there, shameful that a lot of the decorative painting and such on the walls and ceilings was removed/painted over.

  6. Diane Harris says:

    Ben, I am so glad that you opened this topic, as I have been thinking of sharing some reading which I did during the seige and damage to the St. Januarius Sanctuary in Naples. One night, working on a newletter about what I’ve detailed on Cleansing Fire under the ZEAL posts, a book literally fell off the shelf to get my attention. It is a pamphlet entitled “The Catholic Sanctuary and the Second Vatican Council” by Michael Davies, who died a few years ago but he appears to have been a staunch and faithful Catholic. While I can’t say if he was right on all matters, nevertheless his observations that Vatican II is not responsible for the damage to our Churches and Sanctuaries, but rather is a product of those who hate the Mass, has (IMO) much to recommend it. I believe your before and after pictures will confirm much of what he says.

    While apologizing for the length, I am pasting in the newsletter article I wrote in January 2011, which excerpts Davies’ writings, and points out the similarities to the revolutionists in Henry VIII’s England who acted out of hatred for the Mass. I was struck by the similarities:

    “In the Traditional Mass of the Roman Rite the Catholic priest offers Mass in a sacred place, a sanctuary, set apart from the rest of the church for sacrifice…. Throughout the centuries the Catholic people have spared no effort and no expense to build sanctuaries which provided a worthy setting for the awesome Sacrifice, sanctuaries which provided a foretaste of the true Holy of Holies, Heaven itself.… In the past three decades tens of thousands of exquisite Catholic sanctuaries have been destroyed. The most important consideration in the building of churches and the construction of sanctuaries was … Mass was always celebrated facing eastward.” “An erroneous argument put forward by proponents of Mass facing the people is that Christ, whom the priest represents at Mass, did not sit with His back to the Apostles at the Last Supper. Quite true, but neither did He face them across a table. They all reclined on the same side of the table, facing Jerusalem, just as for nearly 2,000 years of Christian history priest and people have offered or assisted at Mass on the same side of the altar, facing the East.”

    “The Protestant Reformers were united in abolishing the eastward celebration of the Eucharist because they understood, quite correctly, that the eastward direction signified sacrifice, and the denial of the sacrificial nature of the Mass was an axiom upon which the entire Protestant heresy was based.… replacing it with a communion service, a mere meal, a Lord’s Supper in which Our Lord is present only in the minds of the con-gregation. The Real Presence was replaced by a Real Absence.”

    “In order to eradicate any memory of the hated Mass from the minds of the faithful, the Reformers resolved to obliterate every vestige of it from their communion services and from the sanctuaries in which the Sacrifice had been offered for centuries .… Dr. Eamon Duffy, in his recent and remarkable book, “The Stripping of the Altars” … universally acclaimed as a classic of historical research … could be describing what has happened throughout the Catholic world since the Second Vatican Council.”


    “The replacement of altars by tables was the first objective of the English Protestants” “a direct contradiction of the traditional Christian teaching, handed down from the Apostles.… On November 24, 1550, the King’s Council ordered the destruction of all the altars throughout the Kingdom … the destruction of the altars was considered as sacrilege by the ordinary people and shocked them into a realization of the full extent of the revolution …. How sad it is that countless Catholic bishops in our time have … thrown away contemptuously the altar which the faithful of their dioceses have watched with awe every Sunday since their early childhood. Is it not heartbreaking that since the Second Vatican Council, in countless churches and cathedrals there are entries in the accounts stating that vast sums of money have been spent in destroying beautiful altars on which countless Masses have been offered?”

    “The Reformation in England by Msgr. Philip Hughes … proves … the faith of the Catholic people was destroyed primarily by liturgical changes… a principle fundamental to every form of liturgy: Lex orandi, lex credendi — “The law of prayer is the law of belief” … means that the manner in which people pray will determine what they believe.”

    “…As John Henry Cardinal Newman expressed it, Catholicism and Protestantism are two different religions, and not two ways of expressing the same faith.”

    “…the teaching of the Council on liturgical reform is contained in its “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” — Sacrosanctum Councilium — which is dated December 4, 1963. What precisely does the Liturgy Constitution mandate regarding changes in our sanctuaries? The answer is brief and simple: Nothing! There is not a single word in the entire Liturgy Constitution of Vatican Council II requiring a single change to be made in a single sanctuary anywhere in the entire Catholic world. By no possible stretch of the imagination can it be interpreted as mandating, sanctioning or even envisaging the virtual destruction of the traditional Roman Rite of the Mass or of the sanctuaries in which it was celebrated.”

    “Cardinal Heenan warned against the danger of the periti taking control of the commissions, thus gaining the power to interpret the Council to the world. “God forbid that this should happen!” he cried — but happen it did. The bishops could not possibly have foreseen an epidemic of churches which resemble badly designed airport carparks….”
    “The commission established to implement the Liturgy Constitution was known as the Consilium, and it took the extraordinary step of asking six Protestants — six heretics — to advise them in drawing up their plans to reform the liturgy of the Mass, which has been the principal object of Protestant hatred since the time of Martin Luther. The fact that the Liturgy Constitution did not mandate any changes in the sanctuary did not in the least daunt the pseudo-liturgists once the Council was over and the bishops had returned to their dioceses….”

    “The Liturgy Constitution refers only to the building of new churches and makes no reference whatsoever to repairing or adapting existing buildings. It is … one word, “adapting,” … thus misquoting the Liturgy Constitution, which forms the basis of the altar-smashers’ mandate. Having stated incorrectly that the Council authorized the adaption of existing churches, the Instruction goes on…. It is better for the high altar to be constructed away from the wall so that one can move round it without difficulty, and so that it can be use for a celebration facing the people. This is the first reference to Mass facing the people, and note well that it is only a suggestion that altars should be constructed away from the wall to make such a celebration possible. It does not actually recommend that Mass should ever be offered facing the people.…”

    “In 1965 Cardinal Lercaro … found it necessary to write to the … Episcopal conferences stressing … that there was no pastoral necessity for Mass to be celebrated facing the people and expressing regret at the hasty and irreparable destruction of existing altars, violating values which should be respected. On May 25, 1967, in the Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium, published by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, it was stated specifically that ‘In adapting churches, care will be taken not to destroy treasures of sacred art.’ What sort of renewal can be implemented only by destroying the holy and the beautiful

    “… by no possible stretch of the imagination can Article 262 of the General Instruction be interpreted as mandating the destruction of existing altars to make possible a celebration facing the people.”

    “The Oratorian Fathers are certainly the most liturgically literate group of priests in Britain, and they have not made a single change in their sanctuary because there is no law requiring them to do so. Their magnificent altar stands just as it always has, with the prominent tabernacle in the center. [At] the American College in Rome … at the request of the seminarians, the tabernacle [was] restored to its traditional place of honor in the center of the high altar. This would … not have been done if mandatory legislation existed requiring it to be … elsewhere….”

    THE PRESIDENT’S [aka Presider’s] CHAIR
    “Another argument in favor of altar-smashing…states that the celebrant’s chair should draw attention to his office of presiding over the community and leading its prayer, and hence the place for it is the apex of the sanctuary, facing the people. One must state immediately that this is a description of the function of a Protestant minister and not of a Catholic priest, whose office is not to preside over the community but to offer the Holy Sacrifice in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”).” “There is thus no mandatory legislation within the Church today requiring that Mass be celebrated facing the people, let alone that sanctuaries be vandalized. Bishops who emulate 16th-century Protestant Bishop Ridley in smashing hallowed altars built with the pennies of the poor do so not because they have to, but because they want to!”

    “Pope Pius XII, … who possessed an unrivaled knowledge of the principles of sound liturgy, … wrote [that] an ancient custom is not to be considered better … It would be wrong, for example, to want the altar restored to its ancient form of table; to want black eliminated from the liturgical colors, and pictures and statues excluded from our churches; to require crucifixes that do not represent the bitter sufferings of the divine Redeemer….”

    “Pope Pius XII … did not hesitate to denounce in the strongest possible terms certain theories and practices … ‘false, dangerous, pernicious, a wicked movement, a false doctrine that distorts the Catholic notion of faith itself.’ One of the pernicious theses it promoted was that the impact of the Sacrifice of the Mass was lessened if Our Lord were already present in a tabernacle upon the altar.… [I]n 1956, [he] warned that their true motivation was to lessen esteem ‘for the presence and action of Christ in the tabernacle.’ He insisted, correctly, that ‘To separate tabernacle from altar is to separate two things which by their origin and nature should remain united.’ There is not one word … demoting … the tabernacle in any document of the Second Vatican Council.…

    Liturgical experts inserted phrases into the Liturgy Constitution which they could interpret after the Council in a manner that neither Pope John nor the Council Fathers suspected could possibly happen. The bishops could not possibly have suspected the demotion of our Eucharistic Saviour to a little box perched on a pillar in an out-of-the-way corner of the church, or literally in an obscure hole in the wall. Article 95 … reads: The Blessed Sacrament is to be reserved in a solid, burglar-proof tabernacle in the center of the high altar or of another altar if this is really outstanding and distinguished.”

    “… Pope Paul VI … stated: ‘Liturgical laws prescribe that the Blessed Sacrament be kept in churches with the greatest honor and in the most distinguished position.’ It is thus beyond dispute that neither the teaching of the Liturgy Constitution nor the first two authoritative documents that deal with the sanctuary … envisage the tabernacle being anywhere but in the center of the high altar or of another very distinguished altar.… Does this document recommend that the tabernacle be located in a place suitable for private prayer? Of course it does not!”

    “This is what it does say: To carry out their pastoral duties faithfully, priests need to hold daily converse with Christ our Lord by making visits to the Blessed Sacrament and by developing a personal devotion for the Holy Eucharist. That is it. But alas, very few people ever go to the trouble of verifying footnotes… then in obedience to this mythical requirement the next sentence reads: ‘It is therefore recommended that, as far as possible, the tabernacle be placed in a chapel distinct from the middle or central part of the church, above all in those churches where marriages and funerals take place frequently, and in places which are much visited for their artistic or historical treasures.’ There is no reference for this sentence, as it is a complete innovation; …No priest or bishop is required … to move a single tabernacle.… No. 54, reads: ‘the Blessed Sacrament is to be reserved in a solid, burglar-proof tabernacle in the center of the high altar or of another altar if that is really outstanding and distinguished… in a cathedral or church where the tabernacle has always been placed upon the high altar — a practice praised and commended by Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI to move it from this central place of honor can only be seen as a demotion of the Blessed Sacrament.’”

    “The New Code of Canon Law (1983) contains no legislation requiring the tabernacle to be demoted from the center of the high altar … [It] states: ‘There is no place in a church that is more prominent and suitable for prayer than the high altar (if it has not been destroyed).’ The Latin original “in nobilissimo loco” is better translated as “the most worthy place — which, as Mysterium Fidei states explicitly, is the center of the high altar…. The dignity of the tabernacle is best affirmed by placing it in the center of the high altar.”

    “It was under the guise of a return to the primitive that the Protestant Reformers were able to destroy the Mass. Today, in the service of false ecumenism, the Catholic ethos of our churches is being replaced by a Protestant ethos, precisely under the guise of a return to earlier practices. No good fruits have come from this ecumenical surrender. In no country in the western world have the changes been followed by an increase in fervor and piety among the faithful — only by a massive falling away from the Faith.” “Msgr. Klaus Gamber certainly agrees with Cardinal Ratzinger … that the change to Mass facing the people was a mistake. He has even stated that a return to traditional belief in the Eucharist will only come about with a return to the traditional altar.” “A real change in the contemporary perception of the purpose of the Mass and the Eucharist will occur only when the table altars are removed and Mass is again celebrated at the high altar; when the purpose of the Mass is again seen as an act of adoration and glorification of God and of offering thanks for His blessings.…”

    I am willing to make copies of this little booklet for those who need them. (Send a staff email.)

  7. Raymond F. Rice says:

    I may be digressing a bit but I am also against secular uses of sacred spaces for non-religious functions. On May 18,2012 at 8:00 PM, the Rochester Philharmonic gave a concert for organ and orchestra where the only information/address given for its location was 296 Flower City Park. (see City Newspaper) There was no mention that it was Sacred Heart Cathedral. In the latter part of the announcement it was referred to as a “beautiful space featuring one of the most powerful organs in the city”.

    Is “Buffalo Road” renting out the Cathedral for secular activities to balance their budget????
    Is it now an annex to Kodak Hall???
    Inquiring minds want to know!!

  8. Dr. K says:

    Is “Buffalo Road” renting out the Cathedral for secular activities to balance their budget????

    Yes, and they do it frequently.

  9. annspazz says:

    Nice idea.

    I sword I would never go back into Sacred Heart after I attended the last midnight Mass before they tore it apart (somewhere around 2004 or 2005?)…Well unfortunately, I did go back this year…what a shame..I cried. They put Jesus in the corner….I don’t get it. I grew up in that is all gone..except for the ceiling. I do not think I can go back. I felt like I was in a Protestant Church with the Choir on the “altar” where the Eucharist should be.

    When I come home for a visit now I go to St Stanislaus…at least they did not destroy that one.

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