Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Joan’


April 15th, 2013, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Catholic News Service has just reported here  that Pope Francis has backed the reform of the LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religous).

CNS reports that he has “reaffirmed the Vatican’s assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which found it had “serious doctrinal problems” and needed to be reformed.”

Archbishop Gerhard L. Müller, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, met TODAY in Rome with LCWR president Sister Florence Deacon on April 15, along with Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, who was to implement the reform.  He said that Pope Francis…reaffirmed the findings of the Assessment and the program of reform ….”  The LCWR is to remain under the direction of the Vatican.

It will be a year this week since the Congregation  found “serious doctrinal problems” and the need for reform due to  “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith” and dissent from Church teaching on topics including the sacramental male priesthood and homosexuality.  The LCWR had responded in denial.  It is astounding that Pope Francis has been able to respond so quickly to this festering sore in the Holy Church.  Archbishop Sartain remains in charge of implementing the reform, including responsibility to approve future speakers and presentations at the organization’s assemblies.  Sounds like we can forward much input to him!

I cannot begin to say how absolutely delighted I am that His Holiness has paid attention to such a grave matter in just over one month since his election.  Those who thought his praiseworthy social justice concerns would mean ignoring strict doctrinal matters obviously do not know him.

“It must be in the water.” (The DOR and WOC connection)

March 31st, 2013, Promulgated by b a

A reader recently emailed me about a lecture he attended at SJFC. I asked if he was interested in writing up his experience. What follows is his response.  I must say I was inspired by his willingness to defend the faith in this way.

“It must be in the water”. Those were the words from Sr Mary Jeremy Daigler as she presented her lecture on the history of the women’s ordination movement at St John Fisher College on 3/21. The point that Sr. Daigler was making was that Rochester, NY and this diocese stands out in the crowd as one that produced a large number of proponents of the women’s ordination movement within the Catholic Church. Sr. Daigler was referring to Rosalie Reinhardt (more here) and Deni Mack and as she mentioned their names, everyone’s attention was directed to the first couple rows of the auditorium where Rosalie and Deni were sitting. Not to be outdone, someone in the audience piped up to also let Sr. Daigler know that Sr. Joan Sobala was present. Sr. Joan waved her arms in the air and took her rightful place amongst the “local mothers of the movement”, Rosalie Reinhardt and Deni Mack. The remaining fifty or so people in the audience included Dr. Linda M. MacCammon, Director of the Ethics Minor Program and host for the evening, as well as about 20-25 students and another 20-25 middle to senior aged people.

Before the lecture began, I sat toward the back of the auditorium, just about three seats from two young female SJFC students. After I settled in, an older women sat in the row in front of me and between me and the two SJFC students. At that point, I recognized her as Sr. Joan Sobala, but I was not 100% sure. That was until Sr. Joan turned around and engaged the reluctant girls in conversation. At the end of the brief conversation in which Sr. Joan offered her credentials in the women’s ordination movement and her many years fighting for it, Sr. Joan gave a double thumbs up to the girls and said “we’re doing this for you girls”. It was no coincidence that I ended up sitting next to these two girls and behind Sr. Joan. After she engaged in conversation with the girls, I engaged Sr. Joan and challenged her on her comments. Caught off guard that some Catholics actually defend the Catholic faith, Sr. Joan grumbled and turned around.

So why was this movement so alive in the diocese of Rochester? Sr. Daigler gave all of the credit to the support of the last two bishops, Bishop Clark and Bishop Hogan. This should not come as any surprise to us. The rest of the lecture consisted of the old and tired arguments being made by this movement. At the end of the lecture, a short Q&A session occurred, which was less Q&A and more comments. Many of the older people in the audience applauded the lecture, expressed their support of the women’s ordination movement, railed against the Catholic Church, and even invited the audience to join the movement and join in on the protest at the cathedral during the Chrism mass. The poor students who were forced to attend just sat there quietly. Toward the end of the Q&A session, I asked Sr. Daigler why she was not including Jesus’ choosing of twelve men as Apostles in any of her lecture. Not knowing how to respond, Deni Mack asked for the microphone so that she could help Sr. Daigler put me in my place. I was not bothered by that as much as I was bothered by the fact that Catholic laypeople and religious in the DOR actively pursue and spread teaching that is against the Catholic faith, yet are given prominent roles in the diocese. What Sr. Daigler needs to know is that the rampant Catholic dissent in our diocese is not from something “in the water”, but from a deeper culture within the diocese that wants to change the Truth of our faith to their own perverted view of what they would like it to be and it was all done and supported by our Bishop Emeritus, Matthew Clark.

I am thankful that I came to this event spiritually prepared and not only challenged the lecturer and the local “mothers of the movement”, but that I also engaged the students when the event ended. Noticing that the students started to leave as soon as the opportunity arose, I excused myself and handed them prepared literature that I brought. Many were receptive and took the literature and some actually engaged in good dialogue. One young girl refused because she disagreed with the Catholic Church’s ‘practice of discrimination’, but I think I reached most of the students. I was even charitable and left a dozen or so extra copies on the table outside the auditorium for Sr. Daigler and her fan base to take at the end of the evening. Please pray that our Holy Father, Pope Francis I, will bestow upon our diocese a shepherd who will restore the true teachings of our faith in its entirety.

Marketing Heresy to the Young

January 1st, 2013, Promulgated by Dr. K

The aging hippies at Sr. Joan Sobala’s Women’s Ordination Conference have decided to market the impossible ordination of women to a younger crowd.

Here is their ridiculous parody of “Call Me Maybe”:

A picture is worth a thousand words

October 17th, 2012, Promulgated by Dr. K

Below is a collage of photographs detailing the 33-year tenure of Bishop Matthew Clark, and the downward spiral of the Diocese of Rochester that took place during his reign. Have fun identifying the various events and personalities. To see the full size collage, click on the image below.

Click on the image to enlarge

Sr. Joan Sobala’s Lacklustre Tenure at St. Anne Comes to an End

June 19th, 2012, Promulgated by Gen

This weekend, on the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, (note: not Sr. Joan the Baptist), Joan Sobala, SSJ, will be stepping down as the de facto pastorette of St. Anne and Our Lady of Lourdes churches in Rochester. If anyone is not well-acquainted with Sr. Joan and her policies of schism and dissent, click here.

In commemoration of this day, we have written a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the timeless poem, “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” It is decidedly pointed, but considering that the worst thing aimed at Sr. Joan is a humorous poem, I think everyone can agree that this is done only in good fun. If Sr. Sobala would like to pen a similar poem taking aim at Cleansing Fire, we would be more than willing to post this example of genuine dialogue.

‘Twas the day before Vespers, when all through the church
Not a hook was unused; trust me, I searched.
The cassocks were hung in the vestry with care,
In hopes that the acolytes soon would be there.

The clerics were nestled all snug in their beds,
While echoes of antiphons rang in their heads.
The bishop with his miter, and I in my cap,
Had just the worked out the rubrics, in hopes for a nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to sisters below.
When, what to my horrified eyes should present,
But our nuns dressed in albs, spewing forth a lament.

With a little old driver, declaring “dethrone,”
I knew in a moment it was Sr. Joan.
More rapid than eagles her coursers they came,
And she whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Matthew! now, Raymond! now, Charlotte and Gary!
On, Nancy! On, Jimmy! on Robert and Mary!
To the steps of the altar! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the steeples the coursers they flew,
With lavalier mics, and Joan Sobala, too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little poof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Through the window came Joan, with an ungodly sound!

She was dressed all in white, from her head to her shoes,
And her alb was a sign of heretical views.
A folder of sermons she held in her hand,
Loudly proclaiming, “We had great things planned!”

Her eyes-how they squinted! Her forehead, how creased!
‘Round her neck was a sign, “I’m a wanna-be priest!”
Her droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And hem of her alb was as white as the snow.

A ballpoint pen she held tight in her fingers,
And the rubbish it had written, doubtless still lingers.
She had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when she laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

She was fiery and desperate, a right angry old elf,
And I screamed when I saw her, in spite of myself!
A glare from her eye and a twist of her head,
Soon gave me to know I had much still to dread!

She spoke many a word, and went straight to her work,
Denying authority, she then turned with a jerk.
And laying her finger aside of her nose,
And giving a nod, up the belfry she rose!

She sprang to her sleigh, to her team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard her exclaim, more like a hiss than a buzz,
“I am what I am, and it was what it was.”

Not a Burden I Should Like to Bear

April 13th, 2012, Promulgated by Gen

We received the following email this morning from a parishioner at St. Anne/Our Lady of Lourdes. The woman who sent this in tries not to go to the cluster’s Masses, due to the insipid and illicit preaching of Joan Sobala, SSJ, but found herself out of options for a Good Friday service. She thus went to St. Anne and witnessed the following:

When they all processed in, Joan was, of course, right with the priests. When they got to the altar and went down for the prostration, Joan went right down with them. It was shameful. The priest prostrates himself because he is a priest, an “alter Christus,” an “other Christ,” but what is Sr. Joan? She’s a bitter wannabe. Maybe she’s got good intentions, but intent only goes so far. When the minute had passed, Fr. Tyman rose easily, with dignity befitting the tone of the Mass. However, Sr. Joan could not rise without the help of those around her. She looked like some kind of liberal weevil that had fallen out of a bad loaf of bread or something, wiggling around trying to get herself up again. Maybe that sounds mean, but let’s look at the perspective. This is Good Friday. Of all the days in the Church year when politicking should be left aside, this is it. Our Lord’s death should eclipse everything aside from itself. When you pull a stunt that distracts the congregation (which was pitiful compared to years past), you don’t deserve my compassion. Sure, I’ll pray for you, I’ll smile and be civil, but never presume that you should be the focus over God Himself. When I saw her being helped up I remembered why I started going to St. Boniface and Our Lady of Victory. Fr. Brickler never makes himself the center of attention. Fr. Kennedy says a nice Mass, too. Fr. Antinarelli conducts himself with humility and dignity. Well, not this dame. I feel sorry for her, definitely, but I feel sorrier for the people who have to put up with this kind of nonsense.

Like the woman who emailed us does, I pray for Sr. Joan often. I pray for our entire Diocese. People wonder why we have so few vocations, and then we see things like this, where an aging “progressive” nun upstages Jesus Christ Himself. Our priests look on from the sidelines and can’t do anything because she, and others like her, are the bosses in Rochester. There’s really nothing I can say or add that I haven’t already at some point over the past few years, so I’ll just close with this quote from Bishop Fulton Sheen:

“Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”

Sr. Joan Sobala, SSJ Named Diocesan “Director of Liturgy”

April 1st, 2012, Promulgated by Gen

Many of you will doubtless recall the article we posted a few weeks ago regarding Sr. Joan Sobala’s departure from Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Anne. We had been told by individuals in the parish office at St. Anne that Sr. Joan was going into an “active retirement,” much like Bishop Clark intends to. However, we did not know this “active retirement” would mean her becoming the chief liturgist for the Diocese. 

This is, perhaps, the worst possible alternative out there to Sr. Joan leading a parish. We have seen the destruction of her current assignment, the decline in attendance, contribution, and participation. Now, being in a position wherein she will work closely with Bishop Clark and Sr. MaryAnn Binsack, she will have a much stronger and more potent ability to insert her dissident agenda into Catholic hearts and minds. This is shameful, especially coming at a time when so much good is around the corner for our Diocese. In a recent interview, Sr. Joan stated, and I quote, “I intend to welcome a free spirit into the Mass, a spirit that should have been there sooner. Church isn’t about fancy ceremonies or big words or even big ideas; it’s about love. After all, that’s how I’ve lived my life, and how our brother and sister Jesus lived, too.”

Click here for more regarding Sr. Joan and her forthcoming assignment, which will take effect sometime in July.

Two Reassignments of Note

February 27th, 2012, Promulgated by Gen

Of all the upcoming staff changes the Diocese will see in this year’s shuffle, there are two particularly bright spots I want to highlight. 

Primarily, Sr. Joan Sobala, Pastoral Administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes/St. Anne in Rochester, will be retiring on the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Fr. Tyman will be replacing her as the head of the cluster, a move that can only help to improve the situation for these two churches. While Fr. Tyman’s orthodoxy is not particularly astounding, the fact is this: a priest will be in charge of the cluster. That’s the important thing. We have had reports of Sr. Joan showing up at hospital beds for her own version of the Last Rights, taking an unacceptable role in the baptizing of children, subverting the sacred duties of priests (Fr. Tyman, Fr. Lawlor, the late Fr. Lynch, etc. ad infinitem), and the scattering and alienation of her flock. I hesitate to say “her flock,” seeing as how she has no right to such unholy possession of the people of God. How many souls has she imperiled? How many vocations have been stifled? How many orthodox Catholics turned away from someone who gives such lip-service to “diversity” and “inclusivity”? On behalf of the Cleansing Fire staff, I extend to Sr. Joan a heartfelt congratulations. I hope you enjoy your retirement, when you can stand in the privacy of your own room and play priestess without endangering the souls of hundreds of families.

The second interesting appointment is that of Fr. Adam Ogorzaly to Mother of Sorrows, to replace Fr. Bradshaw who is retiring this summer. Fr. Adam has been a tremendous asset to St. Stanislaus in the past several years, warmly embracing the Latin Mass Community, engaging in tremendous community work, and ministering to the needs of a truly diverse parish. This man is a true asset to the Diocese, and I am extremely glad to see this being realized by those in charge. At Mother of Sorrows, I am confident that Fr. Adam will achieve only good things at Mother of Sorrows, for that is what we have seen in his tenure at St. Stanislaus. God bless him in this new pursuit.

An Actual “Dialogue Homily”

December 13th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

This video is from the Diocese of Raleigh’s home-school Mass, and shows Bishop Burbidge engaging in a dialogue homily with the children. You’ll notice that, unlike one of the lay-given homilies in Rochester, this is given 1. by a bishop 2. to children 3. to teach them about the faith. No lay women in albs. No sanctimonious politicking about women’s ordination. It just goes to show you how some in our midst delight in warping and bastardizing the Faith to such an extent that is barely even faith at all, but rather a shameless show of self-promotion.

Pray for all of our bishops, and all those who lead parishes (licitly or illicitly), that they might learn to love the Church as it is, and not as they would personally have it.

Now Consider Skill, Sacredness, and Noble Beauty

October 12th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

In my last post I offered a negative evaluation of the Lourdes triptych of “The Resurrection” based on the work’s unorthodox presentation of the Supper at Emmaus. Orthodoxy prevents the hijacking of the liturgy for heretical, social and political purposes and is, therefore the most important standard in measuring the suitability of a work for the liturgy. My suggestion was to stay away from anything the least bit innovative or trendy when it comes to content (that includes unorthodox interpretations suggested by the artist’s design). The Liturgy and everything associated with it must be unambiguously orthodox.

In this post I would like to offer a further evaluation of the triptych based on three other criteria that I use to judge a proposed or existing work of liturgical art. Like orthodoxy, the three criteria come from Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council.

We can examine the triptych by asking three questions that represent the three criteria.

First, to what extent is the work of high quality in terms of material and artistic skill?

Those who commented on the triptych in the first post of this series overwhelmingly saw the same problem with the artistic skill demonstrated in the work. Briefly, the panels, to them, look “amateurish.”

The triptych project required a skill in composing and rendering the human figure in a naturalistic style. Unfortunately, in this work, the artist’s skill does not rise to the occasion. We sense that he wants the figures to appear not just naturalistic but realistic, and his skill at pulling it off falls short which is distracting. The problem is noticeably evident in his rendering of the heads and faces, and hands. The poses seem unnatural, even comical.

1. The artist certainly possesses some skill he depicting the figure -notice the foreshortening in the hands- but has trouble with Mary's right and left forearm and elbow. Readers remarked negatively about the artist's skill at depicting teeth and expressions.

The artist who created the triptych is not known as a figurative painter but as a landscape painter. Figurative work is not part of his repertoire. Artists tend to be grouped into categories of subjects they specialize in. One of the most basic of categorical divisions is between figurative (works in which the human figure is the main subject) and non-figurative (works in which the human figure is not included or in which figures play a very minor role). This artist here is known for his non-figurative watercolor landscapes. That is the subject, medium and technique at which he excels. He was not a suitable choice for this project and as a result the figures in the panels appear awkward or amateurish.

It is interesting that one of our readers commented that he liked the landscape backgrounds. That is because landscapes are this artist’s forte, not figures.

2. The artist of the triptych is here shown working out of doors on one his many watercolor landscapes for which his is well known.

There are certainly skillful aspects to the triptych, among them: the harmony of colors and balance of tones and the suggestion of new life through the use of high value colors. If you can concentrate on just the color and distribution of tones across the three panels you can sense that he has skill at balancing tones and controlling color. He also is knowledgeable and skillful at coordinating the elements for the purpose of emphasis and movement.

3. The artist is skillful at organizing the elements to create emphasis. Notice the downward sweep of Christ's left arm joins with the upward sweep of the smoke. the movement then returns to Christ by way of the sail of the boat. In this way he unifies the figures and frames them, lending emphasis to the figures. Notice that the figures in the background lean in toward the center grouping further enhancing emphasis. There are however some awkward mergers between the foreground and background. Notice the awkward alignment of the mast of the boat with the left contour of the apostle's head. The water line, too, is awkwardly aligned with the bottom of the boat and the shoulders of three of the figures.

The artist is a well known successful artist and teacher in our region. Unfortunately he was asked to do something outside his area of expertise.

Second. To what extent does the work have the exclusive aim of turning men’s minds devoutly toward God?

A religious subject alone is not sufficient for qualifying a work of art as sacred. The work must express a redeemed, glorified, and transcendent world. Even the depiction of scriptural historical accounts must –in my opinion- be represented in the light of God’s plan for man and the world. Time in the liturgy is God’s time. Everything, including past events, must be depicted as glorified, transformed. The prayers, language, gestures, movements, art and music must all reflect the reality that we are attending the liturgy of heaven. We are joined by the angels and saints in a heavenly Jerusalem.

4. "The Conversion of St. Paul", Caravaggio (1600-1601), Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popola, Rome. The artist's use of light here suggests Divine Light -God's intervention into human history. The light pierces the darkness of this world. God is Light! The world is redeemed just as St. Paul was converted. The event now enters God's time.

Liturgical art is a specialty. Just being a professional artist is not good enough. The artist must be familiar with the history of liturgical art and must be familiar with and understand the scriptures, and commentaries on the scriptures. He must have more than a passing knowledge of applicable Church teachings, dogmas and doctrines and their history and explanations; same with knowledge of the saints. Further, he must be able to articulate how liturgical art through the history of the Church has presented a particular scriptural text, doctrine, or saint.

"The Annunciation", Father Marko Ivas Rupnik, Mosaic

5. "The Annunciation", Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik, Mosaic. Divine Light pierces human history here, also. But the artist -a professional liturgical artist- also includes other doctrinal symbols. Once again, we see an historical event transfigured.


Liturgical art commissions should be awarded to artists who have demonstrated success as liturgical artists. Unfortunately, many works originate with pastors or parish councils or committees that really have no knowledge of what good liturgical art should look like and so awards go to somebody’s relative or friend, or, in this case, a member of the parish who happens to be an artist. Sometimes the artist is a professional, but too often the person is just a “Sunday” painter. The artist here is a well known professional.

6. This is one of the beautiful watercolor landscapes by Dick Kane, the artist who painted the "Resurrection" triptych.

But, the artist in this instance has no liturgical art background as far as I know. He is not known as a liturgical artist. As a result, the triptych fails to do more than narrate a story although the artist’s use of high value color does suggest a peaceful and transcendent aspect to the scenes. Unfortunately, the colors in the triptych have to fight the lack of skill in the handling of the figures and the result is prettiness, or suggestive of a children’s book illustration.

Needless to say, a work might be religious but not necessarily liturgical. These triptych panels fall into the category of religious, not liturgical.

Third. To what extent does the triptych exhibit noble beauty? Has the artist used the elements of design effectively according to the principles of design to create a lofty feeling rather than a common or base one?

To get an answer we can refer once again to the comments our readers posted in reaction to my first post regarding the triptych. We see among the comments a consensus that suggests the panels seem better suited to classrooms for young students or perhaps a youth group, or to children’s religious books, coloring books, etc.

7. "The Assumption", Carracci (a rival of Carravaggio), 17th century. Everything comes together to form a work of noble beauty: pose, expressions, control of light and dark patterns, movement, balance...


Noble beauty is a difficult goal. It is liturgical artists who are best qualified to know traditional approaches for creating noble beauty. Professional, non-liturgical, artists are also qualified in this area but we need an artist who is both a professional and a liturgical artist.

8. "Supper at Emmaus" Icons are particularly expressive of a transfigured reality and possess noble beauty.

Unfortunately, this triptych just doesn’t measure up as a liturgical work of art. I suspect the fault is not with the artist but with the person(s) who oversaw the project from its inception. The artist was simply asked to do something out of his field and the patron didn’t have a clue as to what was required. This kind of thing happens all the time when it comes to commissioning a liturgical work -the patron (even if -and sometimes especially because- the patron is a committee) often doesn’t know what he (or it) is doing.

In my next post I would like to try to outline how I think such projects for churches should be organized and supervised to ensure a product that can properly predispose us to receive an abundance of graces from participation in the liturgy.


Picture Sources

1. Photo by a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Brighton


3. Photo by parishioner






First, Consider Orthodoxy

October 9th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

1. "Supper at Emmaus" center panel from the "Resurrection" triptych by artist Dick Kane, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Brighton

(This is the first in a series of posts on the Lourdes triptych of the “Resurrection”)

One of the ways that I determine if a work of liturgical art is good is by assessing its orthodoxy. A work of liturgical art displayed in a church, especially in the chancel or altar area, must be unambiguously orthodox. It must not veer from tradition in regards to content, faith, piety, and cherished tradition.[1] In addition, liturgical arts that illustrate Holy Scripture are scripture -in images- and therefore must not be altered in content to accommodate peculiar ideas or social and political issues, or to undermine tradition.

Let’s take a look at the new triptych of the “Resurrection” now displayed on the back wall of the chancel in Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Brighton and measure it against my standard of unambiguous orthodoxy.

2. "The Resurrection", Dick Kane; Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Brighton

The three panels of the triptych depict events surrounding the resurrection of Christ. In the left panel Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene near the tomb (John 20.11-18). The center panel shows us the supper at Emmaus where Jesus is recognized by the two disciples whom he joined and walked with on the way into Emmaus. (Luke 24.13-35) In the right panel the resurrected Jesus has appeared to Peter and six disciples on the beach of the Sea of Galilee. He roasts some fish for their breakfast. The apostles are shown with a bulging net of fish filled to the top as a result of Christ’s instructions to put the net over the side of the boat, after catching nothing all night.(John 21:1-13) All three scenes are meant to testify, through eye-witnesses, that Jesus rose from the dead.

There is a problem in the center panel of the triptych that raises a question of orthodoxy. The painting veers from scripture and tradition by representing one of the disciples (the one on the left) as a woman. Both disciples, however, were almost certainly men and tradition has always presented that interpretation both in commentaries and in art.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church bulletin, October 2, says emphatically that the second disciple is (not just a woman, but) Mary, the wife of Cleopas.[2]  Cleopas is the only named disciple in the Emmaus story. In a homily delivered at Lourdes the priest is just a little less certain; he described the second disciple as probably the wife of Cleopas.

However, the identity of Cleopas’ traveling companion is not known. There have been various guesses: Some suppose him to have been Peter; it was also, early on, a very common opinion that it was Luke, and that the Evangelist, through modesty, did not mention his own name. Others even make Cleopas to actually have been Alphaeus, making the second disciple -the companion- the apostle, James, Alphaeus’ son.

And, yes, there have even been some people who have guessed that the second disciple was Mary, the wife of Cleopas. John 19:25 does mention “Mary the wife of Cleopas” that was at the foot of the cross of Christ. It is reasonable, they say, to suppose that the companion to Cleopas on the road to Emmaus was his wife. But, there is a big problem with this interpretation. Luke had previously mentioned “Mary” in Luke 24:10 as being among the women at the empty tomb that reported what they had seen and heard to the apostles and, in Luke 24:32 Cleopas said that “certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulcher”. If the companion on the road to Emmaus was Cleopas’ wife, he would have said, “My wife and other women…” or “Mary and other women…” or “The woman (Mary) and other women…”

Furthermore, if one of the disciples was a woman, why did Luke say “And they said to him (Jesus)…”? In first century Palestine, women did not converse with men in public, certainly not with strangers even if the husbands were present. The second disciple could not have been a woman. By employing “they” Luke is telling us that there is a conversation involving three men.

Nowhere is there any hint that Cleopas’ traveling companion on the road to Emmaus –the second disciple- was the wife of Cleopas.

3. "Jesus and the Two Disciples On the Road to Emmaus", by Duccio, 1308-1311, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena.

In addition, in the history of Christian art, liturgical or otherwise, I can find no representation of the Supper at Emmaus (except for possibly one [3] ) in which one of the disciples is depicted as a woman. The traditional imagery for this scene from the Gospel is overwhelmingly always orthodox, the two disciples are depicted as men.

4. "Supper at Emmaus" by Caravaggio and commissioned by the Roman nobleman Ciriaco Mattei in 1601. The person standing is a servant.

So, what is the reason for this innovation? Why introduce an image of a woman to represent a person who was almost certainly a man and has always been interpreted and pictured as a man? I’ll leave you to your own conclusions (but it might help you to know that the lay pastoral administrator [leader] of our Lady of Lourdes is an active women’s ordination advocate “…working solely for the ordination of women as priests…  into an inclusive and accountable Catholic Church. To this end, we work to: renew church governance to be inclusive, accountable and transparent; bring about justice and equality for Catholic women; incorporate women-centered theologies into every-day Catholicism.” [4])

The concern, of course, is that innovative imagery in the liturgy could be a strategy of deception, a deliberate attempt to hide an agenda –“to slip one by”- or compromise objective truth for the purpose of manipulation. This is why orthodoxy is so important when it comes to the liturgy of the Church. The liturgy and all that is associated with it is “official” and communal, not personal or sectarian. If a person finds meaning in an innovative representation of the Supper at Emmaus or in a transgender crucifix and hangs such an image in his home, that’s fine. That is private spirituality. But, innovation in the liturgy cannot be tolerated because abuse will surely creep in. The last 40 years have proven it.

5. The “Road to Emmaus” Icon by Sister Marie Paul OSB of the Mount of Olives Monastery, Jerusalem (1990), a private commission by theologian Father Thomas Rosica. Here we see the companion as Cleopas' wife or, at least, a woman. Notice that the good sister even has Jesus (a stranger!) talking directly to the woman. Just in case you don't get sister's point she has reduced Cleopas' role to that of the second disciple. The artist has painted the veil of the woman white, the lightest tone in the icon and therefore visually emphasizes the woman. Look at the icon while squinting, especially at the area depicting the supper. This is the area of the icon with the sharpest contrast; the white of the veil boldly contrasts with the black of the wall, thus attracting the most attention. (Now look at the central panel in the Lourdes triptych. Where is the lightest color (white), strongest contrast, and most active (vibrant) pattern?)

In the case of the Lourdes triptych the proverbial “red flag” ascends the pole. Is there a hidden agenda in the case of the innovative triptych at Lourdes?

I believe so.

(I have some other issues with this triptych that I will share in a future post. I just wanted to start with a post that examines the orthodoxy of the triptych. Orthodoxy should be the first thing to look for in evaluating works intended to be sacred art used in the liturgy.)



[1] “…the Church has, with good reason, always reserved to herself the right to pass judgment upon the arts, deciding which of the works of artists are in accordance with faith, piety, and cherished traditional laws, and thereby fitted for sacred use.” Chap. VII 122, Sacrosanctum Concilium. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Second Vatican Council.

[2] or Cleophas, a different spelling. There is even some uncertainty, however, as to whom Cleopas actually was, making the companion even less likely to be Cleopas’ wife!

[3] Supper at Emmaus (1648), Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669). It’s possible the disciple at the left end of the table was meant to represent a woman. Rembrandt’s painting, of course, was not meant to be a liturgical work (to hang in a church).







[4] from the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) webpage


Picture Sources

1. by a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes

2. Lourdes parishioner

3. Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena.



Supper at Emmaus Triptych at Lourdes

October 7th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

"The Resurrection", Dick Kane; Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Brighton

(Clik on photos to see larger versions) 

Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Brighton

Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Brighton, has replaced the decorative art on the back wall of the chancel with a triptych of the “Resurrection.” While I put together my own critique that I will share later, I thought that perhaps you might like to weigh-in with your own reactions, first. I encourage everyone to share, both positive or negative reactions. I only ask that we try to explain our reasons; try to offer a reasoned critique. Try to answer the question “WHY do I like it?” or “WHY not?” “WHY is it a good liturgical work of art?”; “WHY not?”

Have a go at it!

It’s not often we get to critique a new (and local) work of liturgical art.

Sr. Joan Sobala – The early years

September 22nd, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

Gen’s recent post on the upcoming retirement of Sr. Joan Sobala drew some interesting comments, one of which mentioned her participation in a teach-in at St. Bernard’s protesting the promulgation of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

It should be noted that Sr. Joan’s “problems” with Church teaching predated that 1994 St. Bernard’s event by at least 14 years and have not been limited to the ordination of women to the priesthood.

In his 1982 book, The Homosexual Network – Private Lives and Public Policy, Fr. Enrique Rueda detailed some of the collaboration then occurring between Catholic groups and elements of the homosexual movement. One of these Catholic groups was the Women’s Ordination Conference, represented by Sr. Joan Sobala.

Fr. Rueda writes …

Another indication of the pattern of collaboration between significant elements within the Catholic Church and the homosexual movement is the availability of prohomosexual materials at Catholic meetings. This is not a matter of individuals standing in doorways or on sidewalks handing out leaflets, but the fully accepted presence of representatives of the homosexual movement by Catholic agencies and national organizations. For example, during the March 1982 East Coast Conference on Religious Education in Washington, D.C. prohomosexual material was available at an official New Ways Ministry Booth.127 Homosexual booths were also installed at the National Catholic Charities 66th Annual Convention and at the 10th biennial meeting of the Association of Ladies of Charity of the United States. Dignity could boast that some “1600 Bishops, priests, nuns and laity from the U.S.” had been reached at these events.128 The value of being officially admitted to these functions comes not only from the resultant ability to influence the leadership of the Catholic Church, but from the fact that from a political point of view, this is equated with acceptance of the principle “gay is good,” in practice if not in theory.

At times, even the bishops’ conferences become the occasion for networking. As noted, the homosexual movement is closely related — ideologically and organizationally — with feminism. This relationship is then carried over to the Catholic Church. During the 1980 meeting of bishops in Washington, D.C., this relationship was cemented at a meeting which included Father Robert Nugent, SDS, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, for the homosexual movement and the leadership the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC, a radical Catholic feminist organization). WOC was represented by, among others, Sister Joan Sobala, SSJ,. a “chaplain” at the University of Rochester. The purpose of the meeting was “to explore ways of collaboration and to obtain support from WOC for the Catholic Coalition for Gay Civil Rights. “129 At this meeting, the homosexual movement was able to gain specific commitments from the WOC: “WOC will publish articles on homosexuality and will also offer New Ways printed resources to their readers.”130 There is evidence that WOC has indeed lived up to its commitment to the homosexuals: the January 1982 issue of New Women New Church, the publication of WOC, included an article by a female homosexual on the “Feminist Theological Perspectives of Lesbian and Gay Male Experience.”131 The same issue also published a very favorable report about the homosexual symposium sponsored by New Ways Ministry.132 This should not be surprising, since the WOC sent a homosexual as a representative to the symposium who was also one of the speakers.

The evidence that there is a strong relationship between the movement to ordain women to the Catholic priesthood and the homosexual movement is obvious from the overlap between the Catholic homosexual network (the Catholic Coalition for Gay Civil Rights, of which more will be said later) and WOC. A comparison between the membership in WOC as of September 1977 and the current membership in the Catholic homosexual network reveals that fifteen percent of the members of WOC are also members of the homosexual organization. (Our analysis included a sample of members of WOC in eight States and the District of Columbia.)

Twenty-seven percent of the individuals whose names appeared in the Proceedings of the Second Conference on the Ordination of Roman Catholic Women which took place on November 1978 are also members of the Catholic homosexual network.

The leadership of the Women’s ordination movement is closely connected with the homosexual movement. Thirty-three percent of the membership of the task force charged with organizing the 1978 conference of WOC are members of the Catholic homosexual network. The proportions for the WOC Advisory Board and the WOC Core Commission for 1979-1980 are even higher (fifty-seven and sixty-seven percent respectively.)133 It is obvious that in terms of number of participants, increasing involvement in WOC correlates strongly with increasing involvement in the Catholic homosexual network.

It is difficult to imagine a logical relationship between the desire to engage in sexual intercourse with persons of one’s own sex—for either males or females—and the question of the acceptance of females as part of the Roman Catholic clergy, unless all should be linked under the umbrella of “social justice.” This could hardly be the case, however, since consistency would demand that practically every other issue be included as a suitable subject for adoption by both WOC and the Catholic homosexual movement acting in unison. Of course, as a matter of fact, this is not the case.

The relations between WOC and New Ways Ministry are obviously not a matter of a one-shot deal. This is clear from the following item, which appeared in a New Ways Ministry publication: “New Ways sent letters of congratulations to the new WOC Core Commission members and had a short visit at the New Ways house from Sr. Barbara Ferraro, a member of WOC Core Commission.”134

What we have presented is merely a sampling of the many instances of cooperation between Roman Catholic institutions and leaders and the homosexual movement. Obviously, neither most Catholics nor most Catholic institutions would dream of becoming tools of the homosexual movement. However, the emergence of a pattern of collaboration between certain circles within the Church and the homosexual movement is unquestionable. The question, from the point of view of traditional Catholicism, is whether the Catholic Church will be strong enough to resist the attempts of a movement alien to its ideology and interests to utilize this ancient and venerable institution for its own political purposes.

Footnotes Cited Above:

127Bondings, Spring-Summer 1981, p. 1.
128Dignity 12 (Washington, D.C.: Dignity, Inc., January 1981): 1.
129Bondings, Winter 1980-81, p. 3.
Barbara Zanotti, “Feminist Theological Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Male Experience,” New Women/New Church 5 (Rochester: Women’s Ordination Conference, January 1982): 6.
132 Barbara Zanotti, “Traversing New Ground,” New Women/New Church 5 (Rochester N. Y.: Women’s Ordination Conference, January 1982): 6.
Base data taken from Maureen Dwyer, New Women/New Church/New Priestly Ministry, Proceedings of the Second Conference on the Ordination of Roman Catholic Women, Rochester, especially pp. 173, 174, and 175.
134Bondings, Winter 1980-81, p. 3.
135America, June 25, 1977, p. 558.


Bondings is the newsletter of New Ways Ministry

New Women, New Church is the newsletter of the Women’s Ordination Conference

[Text from pages 330-332 of Fr. Rueda’s book, with the footnotes appearing on page 379.]

Sr. Joan was not just some rank-and-file WOC member who happened to show up at that 1980 meeting of the Bishops’ Conference. She is, rather, one of “the very women who first envsioned … the first Women’s Ordination Conference” and “served on the WOC staff from 1979-1982.” It therefore seems more than likely that she played a role in deciding that the WOC would participate, along with representatives of 15 other mainline churches, in the 3-day, May 1979 Strategy Conference on Homophobia in the Church.  Concerning this conference Fr Rueda writes,

It is important to realize that this meeting was not an intellectual exercise, but that it had three clearly political and action-oriented objectives: 1) to raise the consciousness of the participants and those represented by the participants in various aspects of the homosexual ideology; 2) to form and cement the homosexual religious network; and 3) to develop and begin implementing an action plan to use the churches for the advancement of the movement’s objectives.

[Text from pages 277-278 of Fr. Rueda’s book.]

Given this history of dissent, the departure of Sr. Joan from active ministry in the Catholic Church is long overdue.

Joan Sobala to Retire on June 24th, 2012

September 20th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

As reported by several emails to us over the past few days, Sr. Joan Sobala, SSJ will be retiring this coming June on the Solemnity of the Baptism of St. John the Baptist.

Here’s something for you to ponder: did St. John the Baptist win more souls to Christ than Sr. Joan has lost?

Alternative Liturgy for the Establishment of a Parish Minister Person

August 23rd, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

The following comes from Fr. Longenecker’s “Standing on My Head.” Oddly enough, I think this liturgy may be found in Sr. MaryAnn Binsack’s little white binder.

Alternative Liturgy for the Establishment of a Parish Minister Person

Remember: Say the Black Do the Red

The people who are church gather in the shared worship space while singing a suitable hymn, protest song or praise anthem. Suggested music choices are We are Gathering in this Place, We Would Rather Gather, Gather them In,  Bill Gaither’s Trio, Let Us Blather as We Gather, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, I Dreamed a Dream, and other suitable songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Oscar Hammerstein.

The Bishop Shall process into the shared worship space with the Parish Minister Person. The Parish Minister Person shall be suitably attired in a soutane of light blue, a surplice and not-a-stole. A saturno of matching hue may be worn by the Parish Minister Person. The Presiding Person (previously known as ‘the Bishop’ shall wear a cope and miter (unless he feels that these garments may be offensive and seem hierarchical to the Parish Minister Person) Other vestments may be worn by appropriate ministers. A procession by as many lay persons as possible is to be desired. These persons shall represent every group and ministry within the parish. When all are in their place in the shared worship space the Presiding Person stands before them.

Presiding Person: The Lord be with you. How are you all doing today? Have you heard the one about the priest who went into a bar riding a camel? Another opening crowd pleasing joke may be used according to the discretion of the presiding person and the liturgical season of the year.

Parish Minister Person: That is a good one Presiding Person, and may the Lord be with you too.

Presiding Person: Brothers and Sisters we have gathered here to welcome N. as your new Parish Minister Person.

All: It is meet and right so to do.

Presiding Person: I am sure N. has met all the requirements of my divine office to be appointed as the Parish Minister Person. N. has completed the training that is set before him/her and he/she subscribes to the same view of church as I do, so I now ask you as the people of God who are church: Do you think that N. is a very nice person and would you like him/her to by your new Parish Minister Person?

All: We do like N. very much.

Presiding Person: N. are you willing to take on the duties of being this Parish Minister Person?

Parish Minister Person: I am willing.

Presiding Person: Do you accept that you are not a priest or a deacon, and that you shall only pretend to be one all the days of your life?

Parish Minister Person: It is meet and right so to do.

Presiding Person: Do you promise to faithfully complete your duties by dressing as a priest, behaving as a priest and doing everything a priest can do in order to deceive the faithful and usher in as soon as possible the new Vatican 3 church that all of us long for?

Parish Minister Person: With the help of God I will.

The Parish  Minister Person then stands before the Presiding Person who kneels and kisses his/her ring thus symbolizing the submission of the Presiding Person and all hierarchical, patriarchal type people to the will of the people of God who are church.

Parish Minister Person: (for he/she is now in charge) Let us all share together the sign of Peace.

The people who are church exchange the sign of peace among themselves while a suitable hymn or protest song is chanted. A liturgical procession/dance may now take place if the local custom and room in the shared worship space allows. The procession/dance should involve carrying the newly anointed Parish Minister Person at shoulder height in the seda gestatoria accompanied by bearers of the peacock fans, but if the parish have not such accouterments they may use a kitchen chair and rainbow banners. This shall be done unless the Parish Minister Person be of overlarge girth in which case he/she may be conveyed in a wheelchair suitably decorated in liturgical colors. During the procession/dance the Presiding Person should lie prostrate. On return to the sanctuary the Parish Minister Person says with arms extended:

Parish Minister Person: The Lord be with You

All: And also with you!

Parish Minister Person: I may not bless you so instead let us all say:

All: May the road rise up to meet us, May the sun always be at our back, and may the Irish eyes be smiling until we meet again, and now may God the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with us forever more. AMEN.

The Parish Minister Person then removes the miter of the Presiding Person and imposes a large amount of ashes on the head of the Presiding Person as a sign of rejection of hierarchy and patriarchy. The Presiding Person then rends his garments (care should be taken that the Presiding Person is suitably attired in discreet undergarments so that the people who are church may not descend into levity) 

The Presiding Person now divested leads the procession to show penitence for being a hierarchical patriarchal sort of person. The Parish Minister Person shall be carried on the seda gestatoria surrounded by the bearers of the peacock fans, or rainbow banners as appropriate to the members there present. At the door of the shared worship space the Parish Minister Person, with arms extended shall say:

Parish Minister Person: All We Are Saying is…

All: …Give Peace a Chance.

Apostatizing in Place: A Book Review

August 19th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

Catholic and Feminist: The Surprising History of the American Catholic Feminist Movement. By Mary J. Henold. University of North Carolina Press. 291 pages. $32.

The following is from a book review by Anne Barbeau Gardiner, a Contributing Editor of the New Oxford Review, is Professor Emerita of English at John Jay College of the City University of New York. She has published on Dryden, Milton, and Swift, as well as on Catholics of the seventeenth century.


… When Catholic feminists speak of their commitment to the Church, they equivocate; it turns out they mean the “people,” not the “institution.” Indeed, Catholic feminists constantly reduce the Magisterium to an “institution.” They have their own understanding of Catholicism and see themselves as free to choose what to “believe” and what to “abandon.” This is not cafeteria Catholicism, but something different, for they are guided in their choices by a primary loyalty to feminism. Donna Quinn, one of the leading feminist nuns in the 1970s, represents many of them when she declares, “This is my church, this is my tradition. I love this church. I want to change it.” Then she adds, “I have never rejected anything in the feminist movement…. I love the word ‘feminism,’ I have put that first.” Yes, first. This is the idol to which Catholic feminists have been willing to sacrifice the Church.

At the 1975 Detroit Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), the “pivotal event” of the Catholic feminist movement in the 1970s, theologian Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza spoke of our Church needing “a radical conversion.” Feminists like her choose to remain Catholic as a means to an end. Their strategy is called defecting in place, but it may more fittingly be called apostatizing in place.

Throughout Catholic and Feminist: The Surprising History of the American Catholic Feminist Movement, Henold reveals how Catholic feminists have taken a utilitarian approach to religion, using the Church’s sacred language, symbols, and traditions as a “means of understanding and structuring their feminism.” Yes, a means to an end. To begin with, they wanted women priests, Henold says, because they needed …


To read more: This is from an article in the current issue of the New Oxford Review. You will probably need to subscribe in order to read the rest of the column. Do subscribe. The NOR has excellent articles every month. In addition you will get terrific news feeds every morning with excellent links to featured articles from its past issues.

What Other Job Allows an Employee to Give Themselves a Promotion?

May 21st, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

Last year, Nancy DeRycke arrogantly anointed herself the “Pastoral Leader” of Church of the Good Shepherd. Now the pastoral administrator of St. Anne/Our Lady of Lourdes, Sr. Joan Sobala SSJ, has done the same.

From the latest St. Anne bulletin:

Does Sr. Joan Sobala have permission from Bishop Clark to change her title, or has she done this on her own non-existent authority? Keep in mind that the two Diocese of Rochester laywomen to have promoted themselves to “Pastoral Leader” (Sr. Sobala and Ms. DeRycke) are affiliated with the Women’s Ordination Conference.

The following directives from Ecclesiae de Mysterio are relevant here:

“It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as “pastor”, “chaplain”, “coordinator”, ” moderator” or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest. (58)”


(58) Such examples should include all those linguistic expressions: which in languages of the various countries, are similar or equal and indicate a directive role of leadership or such vicarious activity.”

One more year until these priestesses head to the unemployment office. 2012 is quickly approaching.

The Role of Women in the Church

May 19th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Fr. Christopher Smith shares his insights on this matter at the Chant Cafe. The entire article is very articulate, and certainly deserves your perusal. Here, though, is the closing paragraph.

When we look at the women in the New Testament, we get an idea of what women’s participation in the life of the Church and the liturgy should look like. As equal members of the Body of Christ, they had no need of ordination to worship God, or to do the amazing things that they did. And those things were often more remarkable, and had more staying power, than what the Twelve did. The constant close attention of the women in the Gospel to Christ and to others, serving them and in doing so, serving Christ. It is entirely correct to say that a woman’s place in the Church is one of subordination, just as all disciples freely subordinate themselves to love God and all people. A woman’s place in the Church is to follow Christ, lavish her love without cost upon Him, serve the needs of the poor and the defenseless: in other words, a subordination to the law of love. In doing so, women can find that they are not indeed slaves to an outmoded patriarchal system drunk on abuses of power and justice, but friends of Christ. And there can be no greater freedom and noble role in the Church and world than that!

How do we know if a proposed liturgical image is “Catholic”? Part I

May 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

I contend that a work of art must be Catholic in order to qualify for use as sacred liturgical art. I think that is what the Fathers of Vatican II meant when they stipulated in Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy that …

“…the Church has, with good reason, always reserved to herself the right to pass judgment upon the arts, deciding which of the works of artists are in accordance with faith, piety, and cherished traditional laws, and thereby fitted for sacred use.”

But, how do we know if a work is “in accordance with faith, piety, and cherished traditional laws”? I believe there are several standards that a work must be measured by in order for it to be used in the liturgical space of a church. But, in order to avoid one very long post, I will post several smaller ones that explain my standards. What follows are descriptions of the first two. I hope you will feel free to chime in.

Unambiguously orthodox.

Certainly, the work must be in accord with orthodox Catholic teaching and doctrine. It would not do to have images that were heretical or even ambiguous about such important matters. For example, a design proposal for an apse painting in which the Holy Mother of God was depicted as a fourth member of the Godhead would be heretical. That certainly should be rejected. But, a design, improperly formed, might inadvertently suggest that she is part of the Godhead. The artist may not have intended to create a heretical image but the image might easily be mis-interpreted. The ambiguity disqualifies the work from being considered sacred. People in charge of approving liturgical designs need to watch out for doctrinal ambiguity. (The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a good resource on Catholic doctrine and teaching to have close at hand.)

Sometimes the ambiguity is intentional. The transgendered crucifix still in use in St. Mary’s Church, downtown Rochester, is a clear example of intentional doctrinal ambiguity. It got approved because it was “modern” and not because it was Catholic. The term “modern”1 was used to justify the acquisition of the crucifix so as to deliberately blur the literal/historical identity of Christ for the purpose of furthering a feminist agenda. Now, the people responsible no doubt felt they were doing something good –making women feel included. In doing so, however, they introduced doctrinal ambiguity and, even, heresy. If there is no widespread precedent for an image then its doctrinal orthodoxy should be held suspect and a higher authority or competence consulted.

Another example of ambiguity is the popular use of the rainbow image in banners and other temporary art forms that are often found in many of the sanctuaries of our progressive parishes nowadays. It is true that the sign of the covenant between God and Noah was the rainbow and is, therefore, scriptural and a legitimate Christian symbol. But, the rainbow image has become for most Americans a secular symbol for the social issue of diversity and inclusiveness. In addition, the rainbow has become a design image symbolic of the homosexual agenda. The vast majority of people today would be reminded of inclusiveness and homosexual “rights” and would not likely think of the Sign of Noah. In the case of the association of the rainbow with the homosexual agenda the rainbow could even seem to be contradicting the Church’s clear teaching on chastity, marriage and the family. This doesn’t mean that rainbows are now out, only that we have to be particularly careful in their use.


1 (left) What is the meaning of this banner? (right) a "Rainbow Sash" group protest in a Catholic church.

2 "The Promise Widow", St. Stephen Presbyterian Church. Here, the symbolism of the rainbow as the sign of Noah is made perfectly clear.

Ambiguity is a major problem with much of what I call banner art used in parishes today partly because they are created under very loosely controlled circumstances. Sometimes created by youth groups and other times by liturgy committees, designs get by simply because no one wants to stifle anyone’s enthusiasm. Certainly, nothing should be planned for use that is not first evaluated by the pastor.

3 "The Sign of Noah" or Peace & Diversity?


Banners promoting ideas of social action, civil rights, feminism, “community” and such present themes that are not bad in and of themselves –some are, after all, themes in the Gospel- but they tend to focus on man’s political or social action without the need for God –a kind of self redemption. They divert from the praise of God -which is the proper aim of the liturgy- and from commemorating His saving intervention in human history.

Banners, themselves, no matter how unambiguously orthodox, do not qualify for use in the church anyway. But, that is another standard. We will describe later in the series.

Restricted Content and Subjects

In addition to unambiguous orthodox doctrine, works of liturgical art should be limited to depictions of the persons of the Holy Trinity, Mary, (some) blesseds and canonized saints, the angels, scriptural accounts, and dogmatic compositions. No other persons, living or dead, or subjects should be represented anywhere in -or on- the church, excluding ancillary rooms not directly used in the liturgical space. This restriction also helps us to avoid drifting into fads which have no place in the liturgy.

4 (right)sculpture of Archbishop Oscar Romero on the martyr's wall of London's Westminster Abby Church. If this was a Catholic church his image would be inappropraite in this location as he is not yet even beatified. (middle) statue of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta in the nave of a church in Murano, Italy. (right) statue of Pope John Paul II. At the time this picture was taken John Paul was not yet beatified and so his image was confined to the narthex of the same church that contains the image of Bl. Teresa of Calcutta.


I’ll clarify further on restricted content and subjects in Part 2 of this series.

So, there are my first two standards that I think we should apply to an artist’s proposed design to see if it passes the test for use as sacred liturgical art: unambiguously orthodox and, restricted content and subjects.


1 Making Renovation Work, Joan Sobala, SSJ, page 11, Modern Liturgy, Vol. 7, Num. 4. The term was used by Sister Joan Sobala, who was on staff at St. Mary’s at the time, in describing the transgendered cross which was much criticized, according to Sister, by “angry and vocal dissenters from beyond the parish.” The critics, she suggested, were merely “opposed to the replacement of the large,  traditional cross by a  more modern image of the risen Christ.”

Picture Sources

1. Left Image; Right Image

2. The Promise Window

3. Christian Computer Art

4. Oscar Romero, Blessed Teresa and Pope John Paul by Bernie Dick

Reason #42,751 Why Rochester Needs Change

February 15th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

You gotta check out this Sr. Joan Sobala love-fest:

The reason I am directing you to this page is not so much the photographs, but the captions affixed to them.

“Sr. Joan plans for the next weekend that she will deliver the Gospel at Saint Anne parish.”

“She preaches about once a month”

“Although many parishioners oppose it, Sr. Joan also says the Gospel from time to time since she has been given the title “Pastoral Administrator.””

“Sister Joan is still the coordinator, whether parishioners approve or not.” [They don’t. That’s why some 200 have left St. Anne alone]

What Roman Catholic bishop would allow this disobedient crap to take place in his diocese? Oh, right… ours.