Re: Re: reorganisation and destruction of irish catholic churches

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An article by Kevin Myers in the Irish Independent of 31 July 2009. Readers will be familiar with many of the characters from the perusal of this thread.

This was a primal heresy, for churches should not be inspired by heathen citadels but by Calvary

By KEVIN MYERS

Friday July 31 2009

After all the battering that the Catholic Church has received in recent years, and all the apologies it has uttered for everything from the Inquisition to Swine Flu, the ragwort infestation and this summer’s plague of horseflies, it was rather encouraging to hear the Bishop of Galway offer a defence of anything it believes in.

On this occasion, it was the right of the Catholic Church to have the final say over what goes on in its buildings — that is, whether open coffins should be allowed to overnight in churches. Bishop Drennan says that that practice should be confined to funeral homes. In the parish of Liscannor, they beg to differ.

But the parish of Liscannor is not an autonomous, free-thinking, independent church. It is part of the Holy Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church. To be sure, every single parishioner at Liscannor can decide to become a Methodist or a Presbyterian, and they can then go and open their own church. But the present church is owned by the diocese. That’s where the title deeds lie. And the rules of that particular church are not set by the parishioners, but by the hierarchy of the church to which as free men and women they have given their loyalty. They can put that loyalty in their pockets and walk away. But the church remains the property of the bishop, and it will be inherited by his successor, who — as it happens — will probably be a Zambian or an Ibo.

The issue here isn’t whether open coffins should be tolerated in a church (when did we in Ireland start using the word “casket”?). The issue is whether we have forgotten what the Catholic Church is. We apparently have. And the people who started that process were in the upper reaches of the Catholic Church itself, a generation and more ago, when it decided to “modernise” itself.

The abandonment of the old liturgy happened universally — and catastrophically, as a result of Vatican II. However, the construction of a plague of ugly buildings — which abandoned the ancient cruciform style of architecture, which you can see in Glendalough, Gougane Barra and the Skelligs — was almost uniquely Irish, and was far more deadly.

Traditional church-building embodied purpose. Form followed function. The cross-shape was not merely an architectural image of the gibbet of Calvary: it was a statement of authority. For at the top stood the priest, with the altar resting in the position where the head of Jesus lay on the original cross.

The Catholic Church is not a democracy: and the churches it built reflected that hierarchical, hieratic truth: until the 1960s, that is, and the dawn of the ecclesiastical wigwam.

The inspiration for this tragedy was the finest Irish architect of the 20th century — Liam McCormick. He was a genius: but his talents were misplaced. He should have been designing secular buildings, and not corrupting ecclesiastical architectural traditions which are as old as Christianity. For McCormick’s churches deliberately echoed the pre-Christian era, which was what St Patrick and the early fathers had striven to banish. Thus his first great commission, St Aengus’ Church, Burt, in Donegal, was inspired by the Grianán of Aileach, a Bronze Age fort.

That was a primal heresy, for churches should not be inspired by heathen citadels, but by the cross of Calvary. Forget that and soon you will forget everything. His next famous commission, St Michael’s Church in Creeslough, was even worse; looking like a block of concrete set in a bog, it was intended to reflect Table Mountain nearby. Sorry, wrong hilltop: did Liam McCormick ever think about Golgotha as inspiration?

Not merely did McCormick become internationally acclaimed, but across Ireland a blight of copycat churches soon spread: a franchise of hideously tacky Little Macs, usually built to replace churches which had been raised after the Penal Days. Despite two centuries of oppression, our forefathers back then had known how to make churches. But by the 1960s and ’70s, the Catholic Church had completely forgotten. It also introduced mumbo-jumbo “folk-masses”, with spotty girls with guitars singing “Kumbaya” — and hello, an ecumenical dance troupe of Buddhists, Presbyterians and atheists will now entertain us during the Consecration with their interpretation of the birth of the Lord Krishna.

Is it surprising that once the official Catholic Church forgot its central purpose, its adherents grew a little woolly about that purpose also? When doctors forget the Hippocratic oath, the patients are unlikely then to remember it.

Then the bishops woke up one morning, and dumbfounded, they saw the President taking Anglican communion, as if it were exactly the same as that of the Roman Catholic Church. Worse, when they complained, almost no-one understood their gripe. Decades of moral equivalence had obliterated the core belief that the Eucharist, being literally the body and blood of Jesus Christ, was the defining element of Roman Catholicism.

It’s no wonder that some people today don’t know the difference between churches and funeral homes. Why, not so long ago, the Catholic Church didn’t know the inspirational difference between the Cross of Calvary and a Neolithic stockade.

kmyers@independent.ie

– KEVIN MYERS

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