Church architecture

Church architecture

Barry Ireland

In his February 2004 article in AD2000, Dr Paul Mees drew attention to some unhappy consequences of church architectural fashion.

Perhaps even worse, it is obvious that some priests are disregarding the clear requirements for church interiors in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and elsewhere.

A current example could be Middle Park in Melbourne, where the parish priest, without initially consulting parishioners, embarked on a costly proposal to make extensive changes to the heritage-listed church. His site plan included removal of the high altar, demolition and removal of the sanctuary, sidelining of the tabernacle to an unspecified location, replacement of the existing altar with one only 1.2 metres square, removal of the centre aisle, incorrect orientation of the interior and various other inappropriate changes not in accordance with Church law. Even the new pews proposed looked to be in breach of the General Instruction.

Predictably, there was almost total opposition to the proposal at the two sets of parish meetings where the plans and model were belatedly revealed and discussed. Following this rebuff, the parish priest held no more meetings and declines to have any.

Without the knowledge of parishioners, he then applied to the local Council, and later VCAT, for a planning permit for his $3.5 million project. While he now claims to have shelved his proposal for the church interior, the plans clearly show he has kept his options open. Therefore, in the absence of consultation, parishioners expect the worst.

The Archbishop has confirmed he will not allow changes that do not accord with the General Instruction. The mystery is, though, why the improper proposal was allowed to be drawn up and why it still manages to survive. Meanwhile, the urgent and expensive repairs needed to the church have not even been discussed with parishioners.

Middle Park, Vic

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