Everything here is just like a simile, and almost completely alliterative.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Floating Statues

Does anyone know what is up with the floating statues? This is a serious question. Quite a few churches I have seen recently have statues of the saints that are wall-mounted well above the heads of worshippers. I'm not sure what the purpose of this is, but its effect can be. . . disturbing. Take a look at St. Etheldreda's in London:

The church is 13th century, but the statues are recent: a series of the English martyrs, and they appear very lovely and all, but I'm pretty sure it would scare the living pee out of me to try to pray in there, with all those statues staring down goggly-eyes at me. But, hey, I understand why they're there -- St. Etheldreda is a pretty remarkable place, since it's the only pre-Reformation church in England that has been returned to the Catholic Church (or, you know, handed over to the bloody Papists, depending on your point of view) so it seems understandable that they would want to connect St. Etheldreda's with the larger story of the Catholic Church in England and its persecution, right? And how better to do that than by honoring the English martyrs for Catholicism, brave men and women like Thomas More and John Forest and Anne Line and Swithin Wells and Margaret Ward and holychristIthinkit'slookingatmesweetmotherofgodmakeitstop.

They probably just didn't have enough space on the ground, is all. I'm sure that's it.

But then there's Holy Spirit, right here in Atlanta. Aw, pretty! A little stark, as these things go, but hey, compared to most of the godawful shit that gets cranked out by the Ugly Catholic Church Factory, this at least is recognizable as a church and not a converted gymnasium, or a lunar landing module. It's still got one of the weirdest and most disconcerting features of modern church architecture, which is the mildly sloping floor, though this one happens to be marble. And it's even got. . . wait, no, I think I see it, right up in the corner there! It's a statue! And I think it's. . .  well, hang on, if I squint I can probably see who it is.

Moving on to St. Michael the Archangel, right up the road from me in Woodstock:

Here we've moved beyond interesting decorative choice to frank hazard. Should St. Therese of Lisiuex on the left there take a header off her pedestal, she would smash open a parishioner's skull. This seems like the sort of thing that requires a separate insurance rider, at the very least.

The guy on the left is clearly not a very good Catholic. 
So what is it, exactly, that these churches are afraid will happen if statues are placed within reach -- or at least eye level -- of their parishioners? It's obvious: they're terrified that people will act as Catholics have always tended to act around physical representations of the saints, and render them honor. They might pray in front of them. They might kneel. They might light candles. (It's not an accident that none of these statues, in any of these churches, have a candlestand or kneeler anywhere near them.) And since the 1970s, the Catholic Church has been obsessively, neurotically terrified that something, anything, will pull focus from the altar. It's why the sanctuaries of modern churches look like a gutted spaceship, and it's why even though traditional trappings have begun to creep back into the churches (because it's really super incredibly depressing to worship in a spaceship, it turns out) there is still this concern to keep images far away from the dirty hands of the people, who might do icky things like slobber over them.

So the two principles here seem to be that a) people are stupid and distractible, and if you give them anything shiny to look at they will completely forget all about Jesus and the Eucharist and that whole bedrock of their faith thing in order to lick St. Lucy's glistening eyeballs, and b) Catholic tradition is distasteful and embarrassing. These architects and ecclesiastical designers don't actually like people, and they don't actually like their religion. And when both those things are true, this is what you build:

Of course, this is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. It's the pet project of Roger Cardinal Mahony,* who is one of the guys who will be voting for the next Pope. You might remember him as the Cardinal who was just bitchslapped by his successor, Archbishop Gomez, for actively protecting child-raping priests, and shuffling them around to other parishes where they could, hey what do you know, rape more children.

If there is any justice, Cardinal Mahony will spend his eternity in hell having an unlubricated object shaped like this cathedral rammed repeatedly up his backside. Though I guess that's for God to decide. So maybe the good Cardinal could just stand under one of those statues in a high wind, or something.

*And while I'm on the subject, screw you if you want to make the child-rape scandal about homosexuality, or closeting, or celibacy, because there are child rapers everywhere and it's not really clear that they're thicker on the ground in the Catholic Church than anywhere else. What is thick on the ground are the enablers, and all the hundreds -- hundreds -- of men who decided that the honor and glory of the Church was worth more than the tears of a single child, and for that may they be forever damned, and that, that, is the scandal and not the sad sordid revoltingly common crime of an adult who forces his penis down the mouth of a weeping child, because that's the sort of shit we do all the time, just like breathing, and how and why God does not obliterate us off the face of the fucking universe with a flick of his finger I have no idea. Where the Church got creative with that shit was where it decided that since the Church was the Body of Christ, the literal presence of God on earth, the Church had to be protected at all times from the assaults of, you know, seven-year-olds. Because really, and who are we kidding here, who is more important: God, or some snot-nosed kid? I ask you.

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