Bare churches (letter)

Bare churches (letter)

Ned Haliburton

Today in the Church of St John the Evangelist, Orewa, New Zealand, the rosary was said in a side chapel - as it has been since the church was built. There is not a statue of Our Lady in the main part of the church.

The tabernacle at the side of the church and a small portable crucifix by the lectern are the only sacred objects inside the church identifying it as a Catholic place of worship.

Parishioners were told that since Vatican II, Church policy dictated that statues be put outside churches. This is not true. The Council's liturgy constitution states in paragraph 125: "The practice of placing sacred images in churches so that they may be venerated by the faithful is to be firmly maintained." Canon Law reaffirms this position on sacred images in Can 1186.

Why were the faithful misled? Why are they being deprived of these visual aids to their traditional devotions?

Over the past 20 years or so, the New Zealand bishops and their advisers, in their zeal for ecumenism, have promoted barn-like churches where non-Catholics may feel as much at home as in a concert hall.

The test case of the new iconoclasm came in 1984 when Bishop Dennis Browne called in a bulldozer to St Patrick's Cathedral, Auckland, to remove the high altar and rip out the pews and kneelers, while statues and icons considered a "distraction to prayer" were replaced on the walls with placards and posters.

This act of liturgical barbarism was carried out at the cost of $300,000, contributed in advance by the faithful, most of whom complained afterwards they had not been told what was to be done with their money.

Since then, a succession of parish churches have been "renovated" in similar fashion.

One question the renovators have not answered. Will there be a sufficient number of non-Catholics to fill the "worship spaces" in these New Age churches left behind by those traditional Catholics who have had enough?

NED HALIBURTON
Orewa, New Zealand

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