Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Fire damage at St. Pius X

January 2nd, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris


53 Responses to “Fire damage at St. Pius X”

  1. avatar Rich Leonardi says:

    Perhaps they can replace it with a church.

    I’m glad no one was hurt and I’m sure this is a disruption for Catholics in Chili, but as a former parishioner, I can say it is one of the ugliest churches I’ve ever laid eyes on. And it got even uglier when they “renovated” it in the 90s, a project that involved smashing the marble altar and replacing it with a wooden table and vacating from the interior what little sacred art existed up to that point. You can read about its “octagonal” origins here:

  2. avatar jherforth says:

    Pray for Fr Paul Bonacci as he he just was assigned to this church this last July, after being in his last parish for 14 years. As you can imagine, this isn’t making his adjustments any easier. He’s a great man and just what this parish needs, especially through this difficult situation.

    The church is/was a modern church yes, but with Fr Paul there, it was cleansed of a lot of the happy slappiness (though the guitarist needs to go). A house of God is a house of God, regardless of how ugly it maybe. My wife and I have been transitioning to the LMC from St Pius X, so this is an unfortunate reason to expedite the transition.

  3. avatar Rich Leonardi says:

    A house of God is a house of God, regardless of how ugly it maybe.

    While I can appreciate the well-intended sentiment behind this statement, ugliness is an affront to God. My prayers will go out to Fr. Bonacci this weekend.

  4. avatar raymondfrice says:

    While I can appreciate the well-intended sentiment behind this statement, ugliness is an affront to God.

    I hope that you are stunningly good looking!!!!

  5. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    ha! good comment, Raymond. How bout this – we do the best to work with what God gave us.

  6. avatar BigE says:

    Also….beauty is in the eye of the beholder…..

  7. avatar christian says:

    raymondfrice: Your response is hysterically funny! Yet it is appropriate in content.

    I think Ben Anderson’s response is also appropriate about doing our best to work with what God gave us. There is external beauty and internal beauty. We work on both in the house of our church and in the house of our family and the house of our personal being. God has mercy on our “ugliness” and through His grace, we are made “beautiful” in His eyes.- “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

    While the exterior may be destroyed, the internal remains. My hope for the parishioners of St. Pius X is that while their church building may be destroyed, the interior of the church community, the people, remain strong and beautiful in their faith, hope, and love through the grace of God.

  8. avatar christian says:

    Big E – I also agree with your comment”, “Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder.” I just saw your comment now.

  9. avatar Bernie says:

    oh dear! here we go again. Beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is objectively True.

  10. avatar true faith says:

    Regarding Beauty:

    The pagan temples of Rome and Greece were beautiful. The pillars and dimensions of the temples were made exactly to the dimensional proportions of the human body. The marble statues of the pantheon of gods and goddesses were chiseled out of marble and fashioned after images of youthful men and women in their prime , without physical blemish or imperfections. In actuality their cultures worshiped human achievement. Their gods and goddesses were physically perfect yet they were as capricious and fallible as the humans who worshiped them. They were given to lust, jealousy, violence and revenge. The beauty and luxury of the temples and peoples’ lives was in conflict with the poverty of their souls.

    It is small wonder why the faith of the early Christian believers , both Jewish and Gentile took root throughout the Roman Empire, Greece and parts of Asia and the Middle East. The world of their time saw men, women and children live in community together, caring for each other and meeting each others ‘ needs. They met often at the Temple ,until it was destroyed, and then in peoples’ houses. They even hid in Catacombs to worship when they came under persecution for their faith. It is written that all the apostles , except John , were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ . They were all martyred individually , separated countries apart from one another.( I was able to visit the site in India where St. Thomas was martyred by a Brahman spear after living for years nearby in a cave.)I think of 1 John 1-7 and realize why they faced death so courageously, unwilling to recant their testimony.
    The early Christians knew that the Spirit of God ,that once filled the Tent of Meeting in the Wilderness and the Tabernacle in the Temple ,now lived inside of them as it lives inside of all Christian believers because of the Cross of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4 : 7-10 Unlike the outward beauty of Grecian and Roman Temples which betrayed the inward emptiness of spirit, God has vouchsafed His Holy Spirit inside us , jars of ordinary, fragile clay which betray the Beauty and Life Who lives inside.

    Isaiah 52 and 53 tells us that our Savior had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him. It also tells us that He was despised and rejected of men , a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, Like one from one whom men hide their faces.
    The very fact that The Word Made Flesh was born into poverty ; his first crib was a feeding trough for animals and his first nursery was a stable, because there was no room for them at the Inn , should cause us to reexamine our faith and our view of beauty as Christians.
    I was in Haïti doing medical missions in 2010 after the Haïtian Earthquake . I saw the Cathédral Notre Dame de L’Assomption ( Cathedral of our Lady of Assumption ) in complete ruins in Port au Prince , as well as most of the other churches in Haïti. Yet I saw multitudes of parishioners walking miles to attend church under a tent. I was moved to tears to see their heartfelt worship and singing. As in most of Haïti , the churches were beautiful and thriving , only their buildings were destroyed. I pray that this is true for the parishoners of Pope Pius X

  11. avatar Bernie says:

    True Faith: Are you saying that Christians should not create beautiful works of art? or be concerned with expressing human dignity and religious truth through beautiful creations? Have we been wrong to do so? Are you saying that those pagan temples were ONLY in praise of human effort and not at all a striving for God, for truth? Is man not made in the image of God and did not God become man so that we might see God? Did not God become man so that man might become God? Are you saying that the church in Haiti will not rebuild its beautiful churches once it is able to? Would you say that the Haitians now don’t care for beauty and see beauty only as a threat to their faith or at least not helpful to their faith? Does Beauty have no place in a Christian life or in Christian worship?

  12. avatar true faith says:

    Bernie : I understand your intellectual arguments posted under this subject. I have no objection to works of art and beautiful architecture designed by persons clearly gifted by God. I appreciate the different schools of art throughout the ages and in different countries. I have collected some pieces as well . I marvel at the temple ruins throughout the ancient world and the statues .
    I appreciate the beautiful churches and cathedrals around the world and their unique architecture . I marvel at the beauty of modern and Japanese architecture as well . I subscribe to the famous line of poetry , ” A thing of beauty is a joy forever .”
    We may have a similar appreciation of art and church architecture . The difference between our views is this : Christian faith can’t be merely intellectualized into a proper appreciation of how the artwork , statues and church decor lend themselves to the liturgy and the Mass . If our faith is based solely on a critical appreciation for religious and sacred artwork and church atmosphere , it will fail us . Not unlike the Romans and Greeks , we may be worshipping ” a God of our own choosing ” as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it in ” The Cost of Discipleship ” . Beyond all the appreciation of beauty in the expressions of divinely gifted artists and architectures , we have : the Holy Spirit Who resides inside of us and influences us , we have the Holy Scriptures , we have the sacraments of the Church , and we have our service to each other , the sick , the imprisoned , the poor and the hungry to reveal the will of the Father and the love of our Savior . It took the destruction of the Cathedral and churches in Haïti to bring about the realization that the Church is the body of believers who worship our Crucified and Risen Savior , not merely a beautiful structure where they go to worship together .

  13. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    I’m sure Bernie can give a much better response than I, but I have a few thoughts to share. “true faith”, God bless you for going to Haiti and helping those people, but I don’t think this assertion is fair:

    The difference between our views is this : Christian faith can’t be merely intellectualized into a proper appreciation of how the artwork , statues and church decor lend themselves to the liturgy and the Mass . If our faith is based solely on a critical appreciation for religious and sacred artwork and church atmosphere , it will fail us .

    Of course not and I’ve never heard Bernie (or anyone else on this site) even come close to saying something like this. I’m honestly curious as to what has led you to think this?

    One could make a slightly similar unfair statement like this:

    Christian faith can’t be based merely on seeing multitudes of parishioners walking miles to attend church under a tent. It can’t be based on being moved to tears at seeing their heartfelt worship and singing.

    (I’m not saying this is what you believe or is what your faith is based on, but I think it’s the same assertion you made against Bernie)

    Again, God bless you for going on this trip and I’m sure as it inspired you, you inspired others. But even this sentiment isn’t the supernatural act of faith. True faith is a gift from God and is believing Him because He has revealed it. It doesn’t mean intellectual arguments (or pointing to beautiful things that inspire our hearts to look for God, or being inspired by the faith of others) don’t help pave the way for God to infuse supernatural faith into us.

  14. avatar Bernie says:

    I’m afraid I’m at a loss, “true faith”. Like Ben, I am curious as to why you accuse me of intellectualizing the faith “into a proper appreciation of how the artwork, statues and church décor lend themselves to the liturgy and the Mass”. I am not even sure what that means.

    But, I will try to repeat back to you what I think you are saying: “Liturgical art might be nice to have but it has nothing to do with faith. There certainly is no reason to believe that there is anything like correct or proper liturgical art. Faith does not rise or fall based on art. The people of St. Pius X parish have faith regardless of what the church building looks like.” Is that something like what you are saying?

    From the Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:

    Chap II, I, I: “Buildings and appurtenances for divine worship ought to be beautiful and symbolic.”

    Chap. III, 258 “The building and its decor should foster devotion and reflect the sacredness of the ceremonies for which it is the setting”

    Chap. V, I, 254, para. 2 “Artists are trained in works of art are selected by the church so that faith and piety may be fostered by good and appropriate art.”

    “…so that faith… may be fostered by good and appropriate art.” “good” and “appropriate”

    The Council seems to be saying that good liturgical art can (and is meant to) predispose us to receive the grace of the sacraments. It is to be valued and sought after as contributing to the fostering and strengthening of the faith. (On the flip side, bad liturgical art can work against creating a favorable predisposition. Worse, it can deform the meaning of the sacrament in the minds of the faithful and actually minimize the full benefits of the grace attained.Bad liturgical art should be avoided.)

    I understand liturgical art to be in the service of faith. Liturgical art follows from our faith and gives physical form and expression to what we believe. Therefore, it is important to pay serious attention to liturgical art, how it is designed, made and used, and to pay attention to what it ultimately is meant to say. Liturgical art not only expresses what we believe but it also aids us in experiencing what we believe. To the least informed it can help properly form in them, the faith.

    My career was as a teacher of the visual arts. I know art to be a language that has a vocabulary and grammar all its own. I naturally look at liturgical art with a critical eye. I ask myself if the work is effective –is it true, beautiful? Does the work properly express the Catholic faith? If the answer is “yes” then I ask “how”? If the answer is “no” then I ask “why not”? In answering those questions I look to my knowledge of the language of art to try and determine what is right or what is wrong with the work. Of course, I also have to consider the tenets of the faith and the teachings of the Church. For example, I take to heart and apply the teachings of the Second Vatican Council regarding sacred art. The Council speaks of the necessity of Beauty in liturgical art and lays out some broad guidelines that, I assume, are meant to be actually applied by us as we design and redesign our churches and the furnishings and vestments we use when we worship. It seems to me quite proper to critique works of liturgical art in light of the guidelines and traditions of the Church. Am I “intellectualizing” the faith? Did the Council intellectualize the faith?

    Do the people of Pius X have faith, a solid faith, a solid orthodox faith? I have no idea. But I do know that the quality and appropriateness of their liturgical environment does have an important influence on their faith –for good or ill. The Council tells me so.

  15. avatar BigE says:

    The claim that “beauty” is objectively true is in itself not an objectively true statement.
    “The nature of beauty is one of the most enduring and controversial themes in Western philosophy…the debate over whether beauty is objective or subjective, which is perhaps the single most-prosecuted disagreement in the literature….”

  16. avatar Sid says:

    I was truly sorry to hear of the fire damage to the vestibule at St. Pius, but the first thing that came to my mind was “With the damage there, where are they going to sell the popcorn before Mass?”. I kid you not. The last time I attended Mass at St. Pius (about a year ago), the Boy Scouts were permitted to sell popcorn to people *entering* Mass. Needless to say, the pews were packed full of “kids” (some of them teenagers, certainly old enough to know better), who munched big bags of popcorn all through the Mass. Parents didn’t care. Those snackers of age to receive Communion didn’t seem to have much problem getting in line to partake from one of the fourteen (+/- one.. I kept losing count) “Extraordinary” Ministers of Communion. After Mass, some sliding doors were opened and a coffee/donut hour took place. There was nothing inherently wrong with that, except that lots of people freely mingled with food between the side room and the sanctuary itself dribbling coffee and dropping crumbs everywhere.

    I could list another half-dozen liturgical abuses and aberrations, but what’s the point? Unfortunately, churches “in the round” like St. Pius seem to usually carry with them a certain lax attitude in EVERYTHING. For the life of me, I cannot understand why “take their religion seriously” Catholics would be a parishioner at St. Pius. I know there are some, but I still can’t understand it. Do people just like that it is close and convenient? For someone to bring their kids there is especially bothersome. It’s evident there is little proper religious instruction / theology / and poorly controlled children abound. The place needs a serious wake up call. Thankfully nobody was hurt, and perhaps the fire will be a blessing if it opens some eyes or encourages some of the church militant to flee.

  17. avatar militia says:

    In the badly needed reformation of St. Pius X church community, Fr. Bonacci faces on a parish level just what Bp. Matano faces on a diocesan level. People get entrenched in their long time abuses, and think of them as “rights”, being already blinded to their own disobedience and arrogance in their abuse, and confirmed in their persistence by evil forces.

    And when prior poor leadership has endorsed the abuse, it is all the more difficult to reform. Popcorn and pulpit-laity are the bread and circuses of modern worship abuses. But as Nero learned, fire does have a way of cleansing; whatever the cause; perhaps this will be the impetus for reform. Quite frankly, that is worth IMO our prayers and attention, more than opinions on the merits of architecture or interior decor. The catacombs served very well, didn’t they?

  18. avatar jherforth says:

    I had no intention of bringing on such a debate on beauty in architecture, only to ask for prayers. I don’t like the round churches, they inspire no one, but I have to admit, they had a stunning crucifix and at least the tabernacle was in the “front” of the church rather than closed away in some back room like the dreaded St Theodores.

    Brick by brick as Fr Z would say. Fr Paul Bonacci has already brought back to life kneeling AFTER Mass to say three Hail Marys (granted half the people still get up and leave, but that’s half of the people staying to pray when they normally wouldn’t have!), proper chant and responses throughout Mass. All positive steps to bringing back genuine worship in a house of God that carries the name of a great saint. I know Fr Paul, a man that listens to Gregorian chant as he prepares the church for service for the coming week, and someone that knows he is holding our Lord in his hands when he recites the words of consecration. Forget what Pius X was and pray for what it will now become.

  19. avatar Sid says:

    Wow, jherforth, that sounds very promising! I didn’t realize so many changes were underway at St. Pius and that (after a lot of soap opera), they seem to have a decent priest at the helm. I wish him the best. He’s definitely got his work cut out and will need our prayers; it’s an enormous parish that seems to have a woefully under-cathechized parishioner base.

    I don’t want to go too far off the rails, but all this sort of “not knowing what it means to be Catholic and understanding theology and even decorum of the Mass” is a consequence of the Diocese (over many decades) throwing Catholic education out the window. The Diocese-run schools (places like St. John Bosco and Archangel are not diocese-run, and thus not tarred by my broad brush) are hardly better than the government schools, me-too in every regard with them (except parents get to pay). Even regarding the hated Common Core, our Diocese had a golden opportunity to differentiate their program from that of the public schools and they chickened out, deciding instead to just (once again) march to the same drummer. For too many years, “Catholic” schools in the Rochester Diocese have existed really as social outreach programs for non-Catholics and have lost all identity and embrace of academics and religion in the process. They wouldn’t be closing them left and right if they had packed classrooms and waiting lists for admissions. The new Bishop seems to understand the situation, but it will take many years to recover.

  20. avatar Rich Leonardi says:

    ‘Sorry, stepped away for a bit. From a Catholic point of view, beauty is not at all in the eye of the beholder. It has a recognizable form.

    Regarding my or any individual’s physical appearance, it is an accident of birth. We cannot say the same thing about church architecture. These buildings were designed to look as they do for specific reasons, e.g., bad theology, flawed ecclesiology, an egalitarian hostility to hierarchy.

  21. avatar Rich Leonardi says:

    And I am thrilled Fr. Bonacci is bringing needed reform to St. Pius. It has come a long way since longtime pastor Fr. Dan Holland promoted the creation of priestesses in the bulletin. As for a “debate” on the church’s appearance, it was inevitable. It’s also certainly going to happen at the parish when they decide how to rebuild.

  22. avatar Bernie says:

    Thank you BigE: It is a scholarly document you link to, dealing with issues that scholars like to debate. The objectivity of beauty has a long history of being the subject of debate. I am guessing that if we search wide enough or long enough we will find an opposing philosophical argument to the ones made by the author you cite.

    When I use the phrase “Beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is objectively true” I am challenging the notion that beauty, especially in church art, is just a subjective matter of opinion and that it can be dismissed as a subject of serious discussion. (Relativism is a serious problem in our times, in my opinion.) I am challenging the prevailing notion that liturgical art is a very minor concern because it is “just decoration and we’ll do something with it if we have any money left after we put in the bathrooms. It has no real bearing/impact on the liturgy; It is just a matter of what people like or don’t like; it’s just decoration. No need to pay any particular attention to it. It’s all show, anyway, and we are about serving the poor and not putting on a show.”

    I strenuously disagree with that idea. We can and should make judgments about the truth and beauty of liturgical art objects because liturgical art is an important and necessary part of the worship we give to God.

    Beauty is attained when something is perfectly what it is meant to be. That is Plato, I know, and the author you cite takes that position to task. But that is for the scholars.

    When we say that the players in a football game made a “beautiful” play we mean that it was executed perfectly as it was meant to be. Nothing happened during the play to detract from its perfect execution. Fans of the opposing team may not agree that it was all THAT beautiful! Non football fans might be baffled and clueless as to what the aesthetic excitement is all about.

    When I was a painting teacher –I made this point at a party on Sunday– I would, of course, have to help students create a “beautiful” painting. A student would ask for my help often out of frustration. “It doesn’t look right/good!” “It’s not want I want it to be!” “It doesn’t look like the apple (the house, the trees… ).

    Let us say a student calls me over to his work with such a complaint. The painting, I immediately notice… is ugly. (I don’t tell the student that, of course!) The medium he is using is transparent watercolors. Watercolor is a very demanding medium in and of itself even before we begin to talk about design. A ‘beautiful’ watercolor exhibits very specific characteristics. Lacking those characteristics the work is an ‘ugly’ watercolor painting. Of course, the work could exhibit some watercolor characteristics and not others or, all the characteristics of watercolor but not perfectly so. There is a sliding scale involved.

    The student, without considering anything else yet, wants this painting “to be” a watercolor painting. He wants it to be other things as well but, at a minimum, he wants it to be in watercolor paint and so he wants it “to be” a watercolor painting.

    Right off I notice that his colors are muddy and the paint is too thick to be a watercolor painting. A beautiful watercolor painting must exhibit transparent color. The student is applying the paint as if it was tempera paint, with opaque layers. Or, let us say the student has indeed kept the paint thin but the work is “muddy”. The student has worked and reworked his paints to the point that everything runs together. By doing so the student has failed to capture the “freshness” of transparent watercolor painting. In a beautiful watercolor painting the artist places strokes and areas of color on the paper with one pass or, at most, two. Then, he leaves those areas alone and lets them dry. He adds to the dry first stokes with additional transparent passes following the same disciplined technique: make the pass and then leave it alone. It is an unforgiving medium. If you try to correct mistakes while the paint is wet you will most certainly loose the characteristic of freshness. Small mistakes are corrected by passes of new transparent layers over the dried mistakes.

    So, with this particular student with whom I am working, I have to start in the basement. We have to pay attention to the objective characteristics of the medium of transparent watercolors.

    But, let us say the student is working the medium correctly, beautifully even, but it is still not a beautiful image. The student, if frustrated, senses it. The student who is delighted with his product is unaware that it falls short. In either case I have to determine what the painting is meant “to be” –beyond being a watercolor painting. NOTE: That does not mean “What is it suppose to be a picture of?”. It might be that or it could also be an attempt at a totally abstract or “non-objective” painting. I have to establish what the intention of the student is before I critique it. What is it meant “to be”?

    It gets very interesting from this point on. Once I can understand where the student is trying to go (and where are we trying to go in any human effort but back to the creator) I can help him. What are the characteristics of the elements of art (line, shape, color, texture, space, tone )he is using? Should they be adjusted to better attain what he wants the painting to be? Is he deploying lines that are too thick when thinner lines would better convey the idea he is trying to express. Would it be better if the colors were darker, warmer, more intense?

    Then I begin to guide the student into an analysis of the design (the grammar of art). How should the elements (the words) the student has chosen be organized? Does there need to be more contrast between colors? Does the work seem chaotic? How can the elements be used to establish emphasis and/or harmony? And on it goes.

    With each decision, hopefully, the student begins to create the painting as he meant it “to be”. Sometimes, the student and professional artist approaches a work more spontaneously. He may not know right off what he wants it to be, but the language of art still applies –if the work is to be more than just therapy.

    If we now jump to the issue of liturgical art we can see that the process is pretty much the same. The difference is that the needs of the liturgy determine what the work is meant “to be” including what it is meant to express, not just its function. The artist may have his personal sense of what he wants the work to be but that must must develop within the constraints of the demands or needs of the Church.

    A Catholic church building, for example, is “beautiful” when it is, in fact, what it is meant “to be” –a Catholic church, a setting for the liturgy. Naturally, we look at the functional needs proper to any building but, in the case of a Catholic church, because of its nature as an important part of a sacramental religion, we must go beyond mere functional needs. The building itself must be a sacramental. It must predispose us to accept to the fullest extent possible the graces of the sacraments.

    Failure to pay attention to the sacramental nature of liturgical art is of grave concern. Liturgical art needs to be beautiful and symbolic as Vatican II instructed.

    We look to the faith and teachings of the Church in her sacred tradition to find what a Catholic church is meant to be. We can find variety there but generally it is meant to support the Eucharistic liturgy as a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy. A Catholic church that looks like a warehouse and a mere place to gather together to share a meal is not what a Catholic church should “be”. The liturgy celebrated there may be valid but the architecture is not acting as a sacramental. Even worse the architecture may be conveying the idea of the liturgical action as merely a human event, limited in time. Such a building “is” something else (a fundamentalist auditorium, for example), but it is not a Catholic church except in name.

    If we settle for felt banners crudely designed then we embrace the banal and ugly. The Church tells us that works of liturgical art should be noble: of quality material and nobly fashioned to the extent possible in any given economic or social situation.

    When I proclaim that Beauty is objectively true in relation to liturgical art I am saying that the work is beautiful if it is true to what a Catholic church, liturgical sculpture, vestment is meant “to be” (I am not just considering functionality). A liturgical work that I deem objectively ugly may be quite beautiful in other ways but it is ugly as Catholic liturgical art.

    If Saint Pius X comes to having to renovate the church proper I hope they will consider more than just mere functionality and look to the tradition and teaching of the church for guidance on how to create a church building that is truly Catholic, a true sacramental –a building that is deeply rooted in the faith and not just a reflection of another liturgical fad.

    If we say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder then we might as well say that objective truth does not exist. We might as well say that virtue is in the eye of the beholder; that sin is in the eye of the beholder. In light of the teaching of the Catholic Church we know that that cannot be.

  23. avatar Rich Leonardi says:

    That is a brilliant synopsis of the Church’s understanding of beauty and architecture, Bernie, and it deserves a post of its own. In fact …

  24. avatar Hopefull says:

    It is a shame that this event has eclipsed the most joyous celebration of the one year anniversary of Bishop Matano’s presence with us. Congratulations and thank you to Bishop Matano.

  25. avatar Bernie says:

    Rich, I thank you!

  26. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    Yes! to what Bernie said… and quick response to BigE’s comment:

    The claim that “beauty” is objectively true is in itself not an objectively true statement.

    I think you’re mixing up the words objective and undisputed. “Beauty is objectively true is not an undisputed statement” would be a more accurate statement, albeit rather irrelevant to the conversation. Some people think it’s true and some people think it’s false. Those who think it’s false are, of course, wrong. Just as those who think that Jesus isn’t the only name by which man can be saved are wrong. Objectively true, yet disputed, statements can indeed still be objectively true.

  27. avatar Dan Riley says:

    I had to laugh while reading a recent article in the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. It stated that the young children “gathered on the stage” Wednesday at Sacred Heat Cathedral for the annual children’s Christmas pageant. The newspaper reporter referred to the cathedral Altar as the stage.

    A child is quoted saying “there’s a bunch of people I know in the “audience”.

    The Sacred Heart Preservation Committee fought long and hard to try to save the cathedral from being stripped out by Bishop Matthew Clark. They had a big sign that said the cathedral will become a concert hall, since Bishop Clark was promoting the fact that many concerts would be held in the renovated cathedral.

    The children’s pageant is wonderful, but some of the concerts and the man dancing barefoot during a Mass several years ago is very questionable.

    God Bless the souls of those parishioners who stood outside holding signs and passing out flyers in 4 degree weather fighting to save Sacred Heart Cathedral. Go stand outside for a few hours in Rochester, New York in the next several days and you will get a feeling of how those parishioners quietly suffered in the cold weather while protesting during the winter months.

    Note to Bishop Matthew Clark, “former” Bishop of Rochester: You should take a ride out to Saint Pius Tenth Church and see the devastation with your own eyes. There were tears in the eyes of men and women this weekend. The same tears that were in the eyes of men, women and children each time you closed the 40 parishes and 52 schools in our diocese. You refused to support Catholic education for our children and you lost a whole generation of parishioners, due to all of the unnecessary closings.

  28. avatar BigE says:

    I don’t think you have the proper definition of “objective”:
    Definition of Objective and Subjective:
    Objective is a statement that is completely unbiased. It is not touched by the speaker’s previous experiences or tastes. It is verifiable by looking up facts or performing mathematical calculations.
    Subjective is a statement that has been colored by the character of the speaker or writer. It often has a basis in reality, but reflects the perspective through with the speaker views reality. It cannot be verified using concrete facts and figures.
    So since your statement can not be verified and is in fact the subject of much debate – it certainly is not an objective truth. It may be a truth, but it IS NOT objectively true.

  29. avatar Bernie says:

    I think I can accept your understanding and I can appreciate your negative reaction to my statement that Beauty is “objectively true”. There is no mathematical or otherwise precise measuring strategy known to us by which we can proclaim “objectively beautiful” a work of liturgical art.

    A more agreeable definition of my position for you might possibly be…


    Liturgical art is beautiful and true when it reflects what Catholic liturgical art is meant to be. What it is meant to be can be found in the official teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church, including her artistic tradition. We can determine/measure the beauty of liturgical art by critiquing the work in light of the authoritative teachings and traditions of the Church. In arriving at a judgment of works we must also consider the canons of art to see if they properly interpret and present, in an edifying way, without any ambiguity, the truths of the Catholic faith.

    Examples of what would probably not be acceptable:

    A transgender crucifix, round altar, socially or politically motivated imagery, or burlap vestments are examples of what we do not find in the mainstream of Catholic tradition or teaching.

    Examples of what would probably be acceptable:

    Liturgical art and architecture that emphasizes transcendence, deification/sanctification, and hierarchy.

    Catholic architecture that conveys a sense of moving toward God through Jesus Christ. A Church building that suggests the earthly liturgy as a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy.

    In the other liturgical arts, the deification or sanctification of man as a result of the Incarnation governs the expression.

    Subjective filter:

    The “subjective filter” I am looking through is orthodox Catholicism and not cutting edge theological or liturgical speculation, or personal, unfettered artistic vision.

    Saint Pius X

    We can judge the beauty of the current church in a relatively objective way by applying the above definition and also by implications derived from the examples cited. Likewise we could judge any proposed renovations.

  30. avatar BigE says:

    I don’t disagree with your definitions of what you find to be beautiful in a church. And I certainly appreciate your artistic sense (I can barely draw stick people…)
    But “emphasizing transcendence”…”conveying a sense of”….”a building that suggests”…
    are all very subjective terms and feelings. Couldn’t there be parishioners at St. Pius that got all those feelings from their church even if you or others don’t?

  31. avatar Rich Leonardi says:

    The Church teaches that there is an organic development to our liturgical art, i.e., that growth builds incrementally on the patrimony of what went before it. That takes it out of the realm of purely “subjective terms and feelings.”

  32. avatar Sid says:

    Bernie, I find the Sagrada Familia (the Basilica in Barcelona) simultaneously grotesque and yet beautiful, an odd dichotomy. Its varied facades vary in theme and style, but to my recollection (I visited some years ago) were packed full (and I do mean packed) of authentic orthodox images and symbolism. The term “organic” ich uses above does come to mind; it’s all at once beautiful, non-traditional and extremely odd. Your impressions would be appreciated.

  33. avatar Bernie says:

    “Couldn’t there be parishioners at St. Pius that got all those feelings from their church even if you or others don’t”

    “Yes”, but if we were to study a particular situation like you suggest by talking to the people I would guess that we would probably discover that transcendence, for example, would not even come up. I would bet we would likely discover that the spiritual (transcendent) feeling experienced by those folks has more to do with familiarity with the arrangement (“it’s church to me”) or with the warmth and fellowship of the parishioners or the priest than it does with being transported (symbolically) into a spiritually higher realm. If shown a building or space arranged and decorated to show forth the Church’s understanding of transcendence the reaction of most of the folks would probably be closer to what the Church understands transcendence to be. That is not to say that everyone would like it.

  34. avatar BigE says:

    1) You don’t know that. And there’s no way you could know that = subjective.
    2) Is there beauty in a church that makes someone feel at home, comfortable, and closer to God? For me (personally) that feeling of “transcendence” actually makes God feel distant and cold to me. Thus, the “beauty in the eye of the beholder” comment.

  35. avatar Bernie says:

    I think we start with what the church building is meant to be. The Church, in her teachings and sacred tradition, tells us what a transcendent building is to look like. If the current St. Pius X church does not look like what a Catholic church is meant to look like then it is not “beautiful” regardless if someone thinks or feels it is beautiful or not. It is not just about feelings and emotions, it is about truth as it is made known to us through the Church’s Tradition.

  36. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Note to Bishop Matthew Clark, “former” Bishop of Rochester: You should take a ride out to Saint Pius Tenth Church and see the devastation with your own eyes. There were tears in the eyes of men and women this weekend. The same tears that were in the eyes of men, women and children each time you closed the 40 parishes and 52 schools in our diocese. You refused to support Catholic education for our children and you lost a whole generation of parishioners, due to all of the unnecessary closings.


    I don’t think he really cares. Hid god was his ideology. Time and time again he did worshoped the god of Modernism at the expence of many good people. There was no compassion.

    My concern is that many people in Rochester bought and drank the Kool Aid.

  37. avatar Bernie says:

    Sid: I don’t really have a firm opinion of Sagrada Familia. We were there a few years ago and spent the better part of a day looking around inside and out. It certainly strikes me as ‘Catholic’ in the sense that it celebrates the goodness of God’s creation and in its use of imagery. The sense of transcendence is powerful in that church through the use of wondrous forms and gem-like treatment of surfaces. You get the sense of the heavenly Jerusalem as described in the Book of Revelation. We did not participate in a Mass there which is something we always like to do when visiting churches on our trips so I don’t have that experience to draw from. And, it is still unfinished.

    I know that the work has its detractors. It is a unique personal expression but composed of traditional architectural themes so it can repel as well as attract as we try to assess its success as a Catholic church.

  38. avatar BigE says:

    Something not looking like what it is supposed to be is a different issue than whether it’s beautiful or not. I might require an emarald. If someone gives me a diamond instead; the diamond isn’t what I want or need – but that doesn’t mean its not beautiful.

  39. avatar Bernie says:

    BigE: An emerald is not a diamond. It might be a beautiful emerald but it is not a beautiful diamond. A Catholic church cannot be a beautiful Catholic church if it does not express what it means to be a Catholic church. That is really the point here: Even if everyone in the parish thinks and experiences their church as beautiful (and that could very well be if all we are to consider is whether the language of art has been used according to the cannons of art) it, in fact, cannot be beautiful if it is not what a Catholic church should be.

    Actually, I am beginning to wonder if maybe you are switching to a “Beauty is objectively true” argument.

    I’m getting dizzy so why don’t you take the last word. 🙂

    Have a Happy and Blessed New Year!

  40. avatar BigE says:

    OK…here’s my last word: A Blessed New Year to you too!

  41. avatar true faith says:

    Bernie and all : I have to admit that I was completely put off by the remarks of several on this post regarding their negative opinion of the architecture and sacred art of St. Pius X Church in the wake of the recent destruction of the church and the tragedy which befell their parish . These comments seemed overly objective , intellectual , shallow and insensitive . I can only imagine what the parishioners who loved their church thought if they read these comments on Cleansing Fire . St . Plus X is more than the destroyed church , its the people who go there and who must endure this tragedy and struggle to rebuild .

  42. avatar Bernie says:

    “true faith”: Excuse me, but now you are getting personal and making unfair allegations.

    jherforth, on January 2, made a comment that included a suggestion that the church had been suffering from “slappiness” but that the new pastor was doing a good job cleaning up. jherforth then implied that the sanctuary was “ugly”. It was an innocent enough comment, not all that pointed.

    On January 3, extending another reader’s comment, you said “Also… beauty is in the eye of the beholder” You made that comment after several comments by others about the beauty or lack there of the Pius X church.

    Also on January 3, @12:05 Christian agreed with you “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

    At 12:55 on January 3 I chimed-in with “oh dear! hear we go again. Beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is objectively true.” You and Christian had offered brief opinions and I countered with an equally brief opinion that said exactly the opposite.

    That could have been the end of it but you, apparently, felt I did not have the right to express an opposing opinion.

    Then @ 3:45 pm you “true faith”, YOU posted a long comment “Regarding Beauty”.

    @4:33: Since I had no idea what you really meant I asked you a couple of questions to clarify.

    Apparently, you feel I should not have questioned you.

    Then, @ 10:42 pm you replied by characterizing my view before I had even offered a view. I submitted questions to you to see what it was what you were saying and from that you painted me as somehow a cold intellectual not interested in the real faith of suffering people.

    Ignoring the attack but still puzzling over what your point was, I responded on January 4 by summarizing what I thought you were saying and asking you if I had your opinion correct. I then went on, assuming I was right and expecting you to respond with a clarification or correction if I was wrong. You did not.

    From that point on BigE and I engaged in a debate over whether beauty is in the eye of the beholder. BigE had posted a link supporting her view and I replied and a series of comments back and forth ensued.

    Then in your 4:22 pm comment today you named me only as if, somehow, I was responsible for this whole thread. At no point did I ever make a judgement concerning the sanctuary of Pius X. Whenever I referenced Pius X in later comments with BigE I prefaced my remarks with “if” or “a particular situation like you suggest”.

  43. avatar Pianist9591 says:

    @Sid – There was a “decent priest” at SPX (although sadly not “at the helm.”) Unfortunately, he was exhiled to Geneva.

  44. avatar Sid says:

    Yes, I believe you are correct. That was part of the whole “soap opera” I referred to above. Unfortunately, that priest was not the pastor and had no executive power at SPX—that job was in the hands of Deacon Mr. Reverend CEO of the Parish. I forget how long Fr. Mike was there, but he was pretty hamstrung by his subordinate position within the parish, was he not?

    I haven’t been back to SPX since my popcorn experience in 2013, but it seems that the new pastor is on the right track. It will be difficult for him to make large changes quickly though… the majority of the parishioner base has been ill-trained in what Catholicism is all about. Add in the stress of the fire recovery, and the poor guy has his work cut out for him. Let’s all pray for them… Chili is chock full of Protestant Evangelist megachurches. A lot of the members are no doubt disaffected Catholics… it will take some care to properly catechize SPX parishioners without scaring a bunch off to Our Father’s (Ware)House.

  45. avatar Pianist9591 says:

    @Sid – Yes, that was part of the “soap opera” as you call it, & yes, Fr. Mike was “hamstrung,” & yes, that was the problem. I haven’t been back since the whole fiasco when Fr. Mike was removed, except for a few special occasions, although I do hear very good things about Fr. Bonacci. He does have his work cut out for him. I have been praying for him since he was appointed there. He will now need our prayers even more.

  46. avatar annonymouse says:

    Prayers for Fr. Paul, a good and holy priest (and outstanding homilist), and all the good people of St. Pius X parish as they rebuild their church building.

  47. avatar RochChaCha says:

    As a long time visitor to this website, I am very disappointed with some of the comments made regarding the fire at SPX. While I consider myself as someone who loves sacred liturgy, sacred music and art, beautiful traditional churches, it’s unfair to use the loss suffered by those at SPX to rub salt in their wounds. I’ve never visited SPX,but considering it is likely a round church, built in the suburbs, and perhaps built ‘in the spirit of Vatican II (i.e stripped of some of it’s Catholicity), it is still the parish of those who attend it. I’ve had a chance recently to speak with a parishioner of SPX,one who shares the same love of sacred liturgy,art,music, etc as I do, but attends SPX since it is her geographical parish. Not only are the people of SPX dealing with the loss of their church building, but now are seeing the comments on this site which are only adding insult to injury. I’ve never read a post on this blog that was not well written and charitable and I give a lot of credit to the fine folks running the site for that. Unfortunately, some of the comments here are giving the site a bad name.

  48. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    As a long time visitor to this website, I am very disappointed with some of the comments made regarding the fire at SPX.

    for example?

  49. avatar jherforth says:

    slappiness = clappiness (Auto-Correct for the win!) Happy Clappy

  50. avatar Diane Harris says:

    @RochChaCha et al

    In my opinion, there is merit in what you say, and I thank you for saying it. The decision on what to allow and what to delete is a difficult one, and I’m sure the line isn’t always drawn in the right place, although the consideration is more toward truth, albeit roughly said, than toward ‘nice’ feel-good commentary that perpetuates fluff. Again, that is not to say that the line is always drawn in the right place. And on this post, since I put it up, it was my obligation to try to draw that line properly. Perhaps I could have done better.

    As brothers and sisters in the Lord, if we can’t correct each other, whom can we ever speak to on behalf of Christ’s teaching? We each understand that there are times to stand our ground, times to just ignore, and times to apologize and correct our language. Where possible, that choice is best left, I believe, in the hands of the individual, unless something is so egregious it must be corrected or deleted to avoid harm to others. Hopefully, in our correcting each other, we grow in faith and virtue, by leaving revision in the hands of the commenter.

    I am particularly struck by RochChaCha’s sensitivity to the love that parishioners have for their House of Faith, regardless of its physical appearance. I have tried to comfort (and been there myself) those whose churches were arbitrarily closed because they had more money or less beauty than another church, or a pastor who was blind to the pain of the people, or to the victims of parish council politics. Closing a church (or damaging it severely) is like a death in the family, even though the mindset of closing churches has often in DoR’s history been bereft of any caring for the feelings of the parishioners. In a sense, such lack of caring has been modeled for us from previously high levels, and sentimentality and devotion crushed. In some ways, perhaps, it mitigates a measure of guilt of any harsh words, since few in this diocese have been without suffering ignominy against their own worship.

    And this is without reference to how, sometimes, even the words of the bible are harsh for reasons of making a point to the whitened sepulchres. But, if anyone, on re-reading his or her own words, feels compelled to defend or to recant, please feel free to do so. On rereading I don’t personally get the sense that harsh words were intended to hurt anyone, but I can also see RochChaCha’s point. God bless all our efforts to communicate, which so outweigh ignoring what genuinely needs to be said, including those from RochChaCha.

    Let’s continue to have this kind of free exchange, without micro-managing each other’s commentary, but following where the Spirit calls, which is usually to a higher level of edification. Then I think we will capture, and secure, the value we want to create — not perfection but the messy process of growing in our own faith and learning from each other.

  51. avatar Ben Anderson says:

    going way back up the thread… BigE, when the word objective is used in the context of philosophy/theology I assume it’s being used according to the 2nd definition in wiktionary:

    2. The world as it really is; reality

    If we go by your definition (objective truth can only pertain to verifiable facts), then there is no such thing as objective truth in religion. “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” becomes subjective truth. So, I’m curious – what word do you use to describe concepts that you believe are really true, but not empirically verifiable (but nonetheless can be argued for by reason and logic)?

  52. avatar BigE says:

    There is a lot of objective truth in religion.
    However, I believe “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” is not objectively true, but is a truth we come to based on faith.
    Yes, there are certainly reason/logic arguments – but at some point we all need to take a leap of faith. Which by definition is NOT objective (which is not to imply that it isn’t true…only that it’s not objectively true).

  53. avatar emmagrays says:

    Have read all of the prior comments regarding beauty and truth, objective or otherwise, in religion. Found it to be mostly interesting reading and in some ways educational. Thanks for expanding my horizons.

    Re: Fr. Mike Mayer
    I am acquainted with him and was disturbed to learn about the callous way he was treated by the powers that be at SPX. I didn’t move here until after the fact, but heard about it from a long time parishioner there.

    And finally, I’m curious as to what’s happening going forward…
    Has there been any information regarding rebuilding, or is it still too soon?

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