The remark beginning: "Unfortunately..." gives a hint of the ground over which the controversy was fought, even in the Irish High and Supreme Courts. On behalf of the Diocese, it was pleaded that the concept of the sanctuary was no longer relevant since Vatican II. Thus it is that, in the three decades before it, the Diocese witnessed an avalanche of wood and stone as sanctuaries were "reordered in keeping with the requirements of the New Liturgy" or "the requirements of Vatican II".
Carlow Cathedral c. 1900
Carlow Cathedral c. 1956
In the course of an High Court action regarding the reordering of Carlow Cathedral, the Judge asked the Bishop to produce a letter received from a certain Cardinal Ratzinger. The letter of 12th June, 1996, reads as follows:
"Thank you for your letter of April 18th in which you ask for a clarification of certain observations attributed to me by Mr. Michael Davies in a letter recently published by a local newspaper in your diocese. The context of those comments was a discussion of the Church's liturgical legislation in the period after the Second Vatican Council. I could not but acknowledge that in this legislation there exists no mandate, in the primary sense of the term as a command or order, to move the tabernacle from the high altar to another position in the church."
"With respect to the placement of the tabernacle, the instruction Inter oecumenici (26.9.1964) par 95, which implemented the decisions of Sacrosanctum concilium, states quite clearly that the Blessed Sacrament be reserved on the high altar, a possibility envisaged also by Eucharisticum mysterium (25.5.67) par 54."
"The fact that the postconciliar legislation of the Church does not impose architectural changes, while at the same time not excluding them, provides the diocesan bishop with the necessary latitude for making decisions in the light of the pastoral needs of his particular Church, taking into account also the situation in neighbouring diocese. It is certainly true that a great number of churches since the Second Vatican Council have been re-arranged; such changes, while inspired by the liturgical reform, cannot however be said to be have been required by the legislation of the Church. In conclusion, it is the right and duty of the local bishop to decide on these questions and, having done so, to help the faithful come to an understanding of the reasons for his decision. Trusting that this explanation proves helpful to you in your particular circumstances and with an assurance of kind regards. I remain sincerely yours in Christ."
"Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger."
Carlow Cathedral c. 2009
The three images images above give some idea of the changes that have taken place in the arrangement of Carlow Cathedral over the past century. It is interesting to note the change from wooden to marble Altar and the change of stencil-decoration between 1900 and 1956. The contrast between both and the sanctuary of today is that which interests. The precise liturgical significance of trellis, which is also found in the Cathedral of Cork, is lost upon me.
It's our Catholic heritage and we want it back, please!