Yes, we’re still on the same document. This week’s chapter is on Sacred Art and Sacred Furnishings (beginning with section 122.) First, it names art as “the noblest activities of man’s genius, this is especially true of religious art and of its highest manifestation, sacred art.” (Long time readers of A.A. know I have some particular opinions in this discussion.) For this reason the Church has always been a patroness of the arts and “has been particularly careful to see that the sacred furnishings should worthily and beautifully serve the dignity of worship.” (Editor’s note: maybe not on an individual basis from time to time, but as a whole – if you catch my drift.)
Art is tricky. One man’s art is another man’s handi-wipe (and sometimes the opposite is true also – quite literally.) So, some guidelines were set forth:
(123) There is no particular style that the Church embraces, rather, the artistic expression of all people’s and times is to be cared for and preserved. (Hang on to those felt banners.)
(124) Bishops are charged to make sure that art in their diocese is worthy and to promote its commissioning and preservation. True art is to be held in esteem and “sumptuous display” is to be avoided. (I’d like to know what they had in mind with that phrase. Some of my favorite churches I would label sumptuous.) Conversely, bad, pretentious, and mediocre art is to be “removed from the house of God.”
(125) The placing of statues and such is to be maintained but in “moderate” numbers (one man’s moderate is another man’s dehydration) and in “proper order” in order to maintain proper orthodoxy.
(126) There should be a commission of experts in a diocese to assist a bishop in determining what pieces of art are worthy and he is to make sure that no such art is damaged or destroyed.
(127) Bishops and priests who love art should have a special concern for artists and guide them in creating works of sacred art, even to the establishing or supporting of schools of art that would accomplish this endeavor. Artists need to keep in mind that they share an imitation of God the Creator.
(129) Seminarians are to be given classes in the history and production of art, its preservation, and be able to give good advice to artists.
(Painting by Eric Armusik)