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Suicide by Clericalism

In a thread below, Catholic reader David White quoted a previous post (in italics) then added his own remark:

Dostoevsky said, “Beauty will save the world.” I have become more and more convinced of the profound truth of this statement.

Among the problems of Catholic catechesis and practice since Vatican II has been the aggressive, even enthusiastic, replacement of beauty with ugliness.

David White, meet Fr. Robert J. Robbins, pastor of Our Saviour church in New York City. He replaced longtime pastor Fr. George Rutler, who was moved out by Cardinal Dolan. Fr. Robbins got busy desecrating the parish by removing the gorgeous Byzantine-style iconography with which Fr. Rutler beautified the parish. First Things is on the story:

For the past three months, parishioners and friends of the Church of Our Saviour on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan have been wondering what happened to the fourteen icons that were removed from two pilasters in the sanctuary on the evening of August 22. They have also been wondering why the artwork was removed in the first place. It was integral to the church’s wall-to-wall iconography, which had been commissioned by the previous pastor and funded in part by the Vatican. Other icons in the sanctuary remain. Those that are now missing were integral to the “sacred geometry of the whole sanctuary,” as their artist, Ken Woo, describes them. Their sudden disappearance has been as conspicuous as their presence was.

Neither the current pastor nor any spokesperson for the parish has offered a public explanation. No notice has been placed in the parish bulletin or in the church vestibule. The pastor did not respond to my requests for an interview. Conflicting reports abound.

Woo told me in September that his lawyer contacted the pastor, who replied by email that the icons would be permanently displayed in the church basement. Noting that “the sanctuary was designed with all the icons in mind at the concept stage,” the artist contends that removing some of them “destroys . . . the integrity of the work of art” that was the nearly thirty icons taken together, arranged just so. The effect of the densely packed, deeply pigmented Byzantine-style art was indeed remarkable. Tastes vary, but many found the design of the whole to be gorgeous. It won awards.

 You should read the whole thing. This is a classic case of a “Spirit of Vatican II” aesthetic terrorist in action. This kind of iconoclasm is a perfect example of suicide by clericalism. Here, from Ken Woo’s website, are images of the icons Fr. Robbins removed. It is shocking, but then again, it’s not.

This past summer, Fr. Zuhlsdorf wrote about it, and included photos of the desecration wrought by the wreckovating Fr. Robbins. It’s shocking. Even worse, the iconography belongs to the parish, so they cannot be saved and displayed in a church that welcomes images of Christ and the saints. Fr. Robbins has told his congregation that he will display them in the church basement. I’ve been in that church basement. It’s a disgrace that the pastor would treat those holy images like this.

Why do these types treat beauty like this? Tells you something about how subversive beauty can be, doesn’t it?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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