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Iconoclasm IV

April 28, 2024

In this last installment of the Iconoclasm heresy series, we will be looking at the last time it reared its head in the Church. In the Catholic Church of the 1960s we find absolute liturgical chaos and, hand in hand with that goes poor catechesis and bad praxis. The perfect storm for destruction. The Holy Mass has always been understood to be a sacrifice and a foretaste of heaven, the gift of God Himself to His people. This heavenly service is beautifully written of and described by St. John in his Apocalypse. The scene of the heavenly liturgy which we ourselves are able to have a part in by taking part in the Mass. It is no secret that many of those behind the “reform” of the Mass had the desire to make it more similar to protestant services, that is a documented fact. A consequence of this desire enables iconoclasm to attack our church once again. Think of the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent destroying valuable antiques and art and replacing them with whitewashed walls and churches that are stripped of any ornamentation. I visited many historical protestant areas when I was in Europe, and the striking similarity between there churches and our churches after 1964 is amazing. The best word to describe them would be “barren”.

I was at a parish in Wisconsin after ordination substituting for the pastor for a month. From the outside it was a beautiful brick, gothic church built in the early 20th century, with colorful arched stained glass depicting different scenes from the life of Christ, saints, and sacraments. When I went inside, I was honestly dumbstruck. There had been originally beautiful carved wood side altars and a spectacular high altar that would have been hand carved along with a beautiful communion rail. It was all gone. The walls were whitewashed with a little stand in the center for the tabernacle to sit on since it had been connected to the wall on the high altar. The confessionals were also of carved wood, but at the top where the carved wood spires would normally have been topped by crosses, a hacksaw had been used to cut them off. Apparently, the philosophy of many in the church was that we had “too many crosses” and so they had to be removed. During my time there, I talked with some of the older parishioners about the history of the church and asked them what happened inside. Some of them remembered how the pastor in those post Vatican II years decided to “update” the church to get with the “spirit of Vatican II” (although Vatican II literally said nothing about doing these kind s of things to churches – removing communion rails, throwing out statues and so on). He had the high altar, side altars, communion rail etc. chopped up and he burned them in the parking lot of the church.

Now you might be tempted to say that this situation wasn’t common. I would beg to differ as I personally know other churches not far from us where things like this happened. I know people in the state of Michigan who retrieved life sized church statues from the dumpster or dug them back up after they had been buried in a hole during that time of “liturgical renewal”. I know people who have found first class relics of saints in antique and secondhand shops. Someday I will tell you the story of how a tabernacle with the Eucharist still in it came into my possession one day. We will finish with just one illustration of the iconoclasm of the 1960s in our church by taking a look at our cathedral of St. Mary, before and after. To finish, God deserves the best we have to offer, the most beautiful we can give that is the least we can offer Him.

God love you, Fr. Anthony

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