Friday, October 19, 2007

Built of Living Stones

"Built of Living Stones" (hereafter: BLS) a document of the USCCB, proposing to set guidelines for the construction of churches in the United States. It, as it note itself, has no binding authority. It does however contain quotes from binding sources, namely the liturgical books, the GIRM, and Canon Law.

It is important to note that this document contains nothing expressly forbidding the traditional arrangement of the Church, on the contrary it includes the mandates for the Tabernacle to be in a noble and visible place, for the sanctuary to both exist and be distinguished from the nave, and for the various liturgical furnishings to be in their proper places.

In spite of this,Fr Vosko claims to use it as a foundational document in his plans that invariably involve making the sanctuary as unnoticeable as possible.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fr Vosko and Church Documents

Fr. Vosko, in the first paragraph of the introduction to his recent book ("God's House Is Our House"), makes the foundational claim of his philosophy of church architecture: "[this] book may serve as an update on the art and architecture reforms set in motion by the Second Vatican Council." The question remains, however, what did the Council actually say about reforming Catholic art and architecture?

Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Liturgy, devotes the last of its seven chapters to this topic. The primary standard it sets to govern the use of art in Churches (presumably applicable to the design of churches themselves) is that " their dedication to the increase of God's praise and of His glory is more complete, the more exclusively they are dedicated to turning men's minds devoutly to God." (SC 122). Canon Law defines a church as "sacred building designated for divine worship to which the faithful have the right of entry for the exercise, especially the public exercise, of divine worship." (CIC 1214)

In spite of noting that Church architecture has long been based on the principle that "the design should fit the purpose of the building and that it should be immediately obvious to all." (quoting A.G. Pugin), Fr Vosko goes on to promote the concept of a parish centrum as advanced notably by the iconoclastic Edward Sovik. This concept is directly opposed to SC's primary principle regarding art and architecture, proposing instead that the church be focused on the community assembled rather than on God. In light of this concept, this school of thought seeks to remove much of that which draws man's mind to God. The tabernacle is removed from a visible place in the main Church (in opposition to GIRM 314), the sanctuary abolished (against GIRM 295), and the priest seated with the assembly (310).

In stark contrast to this "modern" view (a look that is dated to the 60's and 70's) is the development of Christian architecture. As Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism, so is the Mass and the church a fulfillment of the Temple sacrifices and the synagogue. The design of the synagogue was based on the Temple and the Greek basilica style. The design for the Temple, the center of all Jewish worship, was based on the instructions God gave for the construction of the Tabernacle (the dwelling of God in the wilderness). Temple worship had two focal points: the Altar of Sacrifice, on which the priests offered sacrifices for the atonement of their sins and the sins of the people; and the Holy of Holies, where God dwelt upon the Ark of the Covenant.

Christians were not able to build public houses for worship for over three centuries due to various persecutions. After Constantine legalized Christianity, however, they started to build, basing their design on both the Temple and the basilica (from the Greek for 'house of the king') style. Very quickly the basic structure of Christian architecture was set, and it lasted 1600 years.

In this rough model there existed the sanctuary with the altar and the presider's chair, usually separated by height and/or a physical barrier (that became the iconostasis in the East and the rood screen or communion rail in the West) and the nave (where the people would stand or kneel). As the understanding of the importance of the Eucharist developed, the Tabernacle was introduced to hold the Sacred Species for when a priest was unavailable. As scrupulous ages passed, fewer people received the Eucharist frequently, and a new emphasis on adoring Christ in the Eucharist emerged, both within Mass (where the elevations at the Consecration began) and reserved in the Tabernacle.

By the time of the Protestant 'Reformation' form of the Church had been "perfected" in the Gothic form that are familiar with, from churches modeled on this style, including Our Lady of Good Counsel.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Fr Vosko Is Not Involved In Any Plans"

I have been assured, both by Fr Vosko and Linda Dix that
  1. No plans yet exist.
  2. Fr Vosko is not involved in any planning to date.
  3. Fr Vosko is only coming to talk on Vatican II and the various possibilities of architecture.
This is reassuring, to say the least, but cause for concern remains, if Fr Vosko's past work can be taken as an indicator of the type of church design he will be promoting. On his Philosophy page he espouses the idea that the church is not "... a temple to honor the deity", but a house for the assembly.

As Fr Vosko takes the USCCB document "Built of Living Stones" and the GIRM as foundational sources for his architectural philosophy, I will be reviewing each of these documents and their canonical status in upcoming posts.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Round-Up of Architecture Links

A few links on church architecture for your consideration today:

First, from the NYTimes

An article about a "mega" Catholic Church, and more pics.

Church by Duncan G. Stroik

Church in a field, HDB/Cram & Ferguson

Given the wide field that our new church may well occupy (other than USS Rancocas), a Church built in a distinctively Catholic style will be visible for some distance, including on near-by route 295 and the NJ Turnpike.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Where would we build?

If Our Lady of Good Counsel is to build a new church, the current parish grounds have no room for expansion. Most of the structures on Main Street are historic buildings that cannot be removed or significantly changed, so where would we build?

The diocese owns at least two pieces of property in Moorestown: one on Camden Ave, adjacent to Mount Carmel Cemetery and another at the intersections of Centerton and Hartford Roads.

View Larger Map
The west location is unsuitable for several reasons, most notably its size. It is a small property, most likely smaller than the current church and parking lot, and has two existing homes on it. These homes (together) currently serve as the parish rectory, and various improvements have been made to these properties since Father Damien moved into the larger of the two homes (new garage, driveway, fence, and archways in the back).

View Larger Map
The eastern location is considerably larger (18 Acres), located on the former Winner Farm at Centerton and Hartford Roads. This property appears to be undeveloped, and is the likely site of any future construction for Our Lady of Good Counsel parish.

Who is Father Vosko?

Father Richard S. Vosko (although he does not tend to use the title or clerics he is a priest, and we will refer to him here only as Fr Vosko), is a priest from the Diocese of Albany, NY. He has been acting as a "liturgical consultant" for various Christian, Interfaith, and Jewish groups since the 1970's. It is important to note that he is hired in addition to a licensed architect.

Fr. Vosko has a developed quite a reputation, particularly with the advent of blogging. Many parishioners of various parishes have fought against his changes to existing church buildings or the construction of new buildings with pointedly "modern" design. The Catholic newspaper, the Wanderer has followed several of these cases, from the methods and structure of the meetings involving Fr Vosko, to the resistance to the changes, to the inevitable construction of Father's plan.

Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish has enjoyed a beautiful Church, built by our grandparents' parents. We have beautiful art: from the statues of Mary, St Joseph, and St Patrick to stain glass windows imported by our fore-fathers from Germany. In renovations after the Second Vatican Council the beauty of the Church was retained, indeed other than the moving of the altar forward and the removal of the altar rail it appears virtually untouched. We also have a relatively new pipe organ, to lift up our hearts with music. This is what is at stake.

Fr Vosko strongly believe that Churches must be updated to meet the principals of the New Order of the Mass. These updates involve stripping away the existing art from a parish, moving the Tabernacle out of the way, moving the altar to the center of the Church. With the Holy Father's Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, recently coming into effect, it seems that any new church constructed ought to be able to be used for either form of the one Mass of the Latin Rite, discounting years of Fr Vosko's practice.

I encourage any who read this to Google Father Vosko and examine the arguments others have made over his methods, theology, and finished project.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The fight to save the sacred begins

"A new church - to build or not to build?"

That is the question asked by the headline on the front page of the 9/20/2007 parish edition of the diocesan paper, the Monitor. Parishioner and RE Director Linda Dix writes:

On Wednesday evening, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m., Father Damien has invited Father Richard S. Vosko, noted national design consultant for worship environments to Our Lady's Parish. Presently, we have issues of overcrowding and the challenge of space. This much is certainly true, the Church was built 125 years ago and has increased dramatically in size.

Is building a new church an option?
Not in the current location, nor can any extensive renovations be done because the church properties (church, rectory, two office buildings, if not the school and former convent) are historical landmarks. The local historical society is extremely strict.

To help with the decision-making process, all parishioners are invited to explore this question with Father Richard Vosko and Father Damien at the meeting on Nov. 7. Father Vosko will discuss what a Catholic Church should look like through the lens of Vatican Council II. Father correlated recent church designs and buildings to the Documents of Vatican Council II, the newly revised General Instruction on the Roman Missal, and the recent USCCB document "Built with Living Stones."

Father Vosko was the liturgical designer and consultant at the newly-built St Theresa Church in Little Egg Harbor, Ocean County. He brings a wealth of information, experience, and theology with him as he comes to explore questions with us. Please make every effort to participate!

While it is true that OLGC may need a new Church, the involvement of the highly controversial Fr Vosko raises many concerns. Fr Vosko has a reputation for pushing through an agenda (presumably both his and that of whomever hired him) that is hostile to the theology of the the Church and the Eucharist. While meetings are set up to "involve parishioners in the decision making process", the facts suggest that conclusions are reached before the parishioners have any input.