Saturday, 11 December 2010

Our Catholic Heritage - Kildare and Leighlin (Part 2)

The sanctuaries of Kildare and Leighlin have hit the headlines in recent years - and for all the wrong reasons. As Clare V. Johnson writes in Ars Liturgiae: "Since the Second Vatican Council, no building in Ireland has caused such public controversy as the proposed renovation of the Cathedral of the Assumption at Carlow." He goes on to remark: "Unfortunately the tabernacle is located directly behind the main altar; it is placed in the old main altar, which is embedded in a new reredos construction of stone and located in front of the east window."

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!


Regimented said...

What is it about liturgists and tabernacles? They just don't like them do they?

Paul Mallinder said...

A well thought out post that I found very interesting to read. Many Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I dont like what was done to the cathedral in Carlow but it could have been a whole lot worse if you think of the other churches in the diocese.

Virgo Potens said...

The beauty of the House of God is a reflection of the beauties of the Faith it embodies. We all have a part to play in making the House of God beautiful either through physical or spiritual means.

Alyssa said...

Terribly sad that they should have so little regard for Our Lord in the Tabernacle.

Benedictine Storm Trooper said...

One more sign of the wisdom of Providence in raising Joseph Ratzinger to the Apostolic See.

Rathlin Child said...

Just what the doctor ordered! I never been to Carlow but next time I pass I will call in to take a look. Good stuff!

ferroequinologist said...

The really strange thing about the re-ordering of Carlow is the way that the Altar Rails are put around the side Altars. It's too tight for anyone to celebrate Mass or to serve Mass because there is almost no room between the Rail and the edge of the step. It's also way too close to the door of the sacristy and it's really difficult to come in or out there. Processions must be almost impossible. Another example of a badly planned re-ordering. They knew what they didn't want but they didn't rhink about what they were putting in its place. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

I can very well remember the fight to save Carlow Cathedral. The success may have been only partial but was an important factor in the saving of Cobh. How unhappy it was that so few of the other Irish Cathedrals survived destruction.


Vincent C said...

A lot of very valid points here and lets be honest is there any example of a reordering that improved the church building?

Donnelly's Hollow said...

Very sad. The sanctuary is like heaven on earth. It is only when we can restore the honour of the sanctuary that we will bring back the right balance on earth.