09 December 2011


This is the sort of mangled reasoning modernists have used to foist their wreckovations on contemporary parishes everywhere. In response to a sincere question asking why there exists the modern tendency to strip churches of every vestige of the sacred and replace them with the barebones minimum, some fellow in the comments box writes the following. The most surprising thing about it all is that he actually believes what he says:
Gothic and Baroque styles are not always thought to be beautiful, sometimes they're considered gaudy, and they're certainly expensive. Much more expensive than a minimalist aesthetic. [If God's not worth spending money on, then nothing is.]

Sacred spaces have been built in the style of the day for as long as humans have been building them. Certain modern styles exalt minimalist approaches. [And some styles are more successful than others--which is why a hundred years from now, people will still be oohing and ahing over the soaring and elaborate heights of baroque cathedrals while the minimalist edifices will have been either sold to the government and turned into state penitentiaries or (please God) razed to the ground.]

Minimalism has a certain beauty to it... [You confuse medieval austerity with that 1960s architectural fad put to such extensive use in communist regimes]

Meister Eckhardt once said something to the effect of, "the more you speak of God as ineffable, the less you say about God as ineffable." There is a sense that in God's divine simplicity, images, statues, and ornate ambos do not come any closer to the reality of God than does a stout, blank wall and plain wood benches. [Thus reasoned Protestant reformers as they gleefully smashed statues and high altars, burned vestments, and melted down golden vessels.]

The final piece that I can imagine is that an austere church, without the gold, or expensive artwork, does not cause scandal through an ostentatious display of wealth in stark contrast to the physically impoverished people it may hope to minister to. [These "physically impoverished people" would box this fellow on the ears if they could; visit any poor Catholic community in a third world country (before 1965), and more often than not one would find, amidst the hovels and privation, ornate, gold-gilt chapels built and maintained by the poor themselves. The harshness of life as they knew it in their slums and daily toil was ameliorated by the beauty of such sacred spaces, where the careworn mother could kneel before a statue of Our Lady and find comfort, or where the laborer could find refreshment for his soul as he prayed before the golden tabernacle before returning to his backbreaking toil. To rob the poor of the consolation of beauty by using the very protestant excuse of "scandal" is more than patronizing; it is cruel.]
After reading such nonsense, I have to ask myself: is our aesthetic sense so blunted that we can no longer tell the difference between ugliness and beauty? Apparently, in some cases, yes.