Save Me From Myself, or “Why He Left the Catholic Church”

Upon reading this essay my first impulse was to blog about what an idiot how wrong in his thinking the author was.
Oh, my sweet aspergillum, are you being funny? ironic?

Why I Left the Catholic Church

In the end it was art that did it — or rather, the lack of art.
I’m not angry, like so many other ex-Catholics. I don’t have a problem with the Catholic Church’s position on sexual morality. I didn’t have a bad experience with a priest, or resent any nuns that taught me.
In the end, I left the Catholic Church because as an artist I could no longer hold out hope that there would be a place for me in the church.

Yeah, and a rational man stops believing in the Periodic Table because he doesn’t like the approach the chemists he knows take to their work.
My thoughts are so uncharitable I must not even type them.

But beyond what I would think is the sheer impossibility of abandoning the grace of the sacraments, and the unsurpassable gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus –the tunnel-visioned inaccuracy of the charge is staggering.
Have you heard Arvo Pärt?
Have you seen Thérèse? (the French film.)
Do you know of Sagrada Familia? 
(Okay, Gaudi’s been dead a while…)
MacMillan, Mitsui, Allen, Jenkins…
Lack of art? Really?

So I thought since so many of you have essentially dedicated your lives to the creation and recreation of beauty in the service of  the Catholic Church, you might have thoughts on this, (as well as the ability to express them more gracefully and graciously than I would do even had I the ability.)

12 Replies to “Save Me From Myself, or “Why He Left the Catholic Church””

  1. I understand your position of course, and it's always a tragedy when someone leaves the Church, whatever the reason. But I also sort of understand Mr Judge's position. My Mass attendance slipped from regular to sporadic to rare for a long time because I just couldn't stand anymore the sheer banality and naffness – the stripped altars, the hideous 'art', the toe-curlingly bad music, the smug liturgical experimenting that left me grinding my teeth. It got to the point where I felt a mixture of irritation and plain embarrassment every time I went to Church – an absolutely terrible thing to say in the House of God, before the Real Presence. I normally go to Mass in the Extraordinary Form now. Not because I have anything at all against the Novus Ordo, but simply because I know there will be no embarrassment or teeth-grinding, and I can concentrate on what I am there for – to worship God.
    Maybe that makes me as much an 'idiot' as Mr Judge, but that is my experience (and his, and no doubt that of many others). So people can dismiss that attitude if they want (perhaps they are right to), but at the same time, they cannot pretend to be mystified about why Churches continue to empty (particularly of men).
    Yes, there are wonderful examples of contemporary artists serving the Church, I admire a lot of them enormously. But they have strictly no relevance to many people's day-to-day experience of their local parish Church.

  2. I can see both your point of view and the author's, but take some hope in the following:
    * there are some extremely good, orthodox comments coming with the original article. Read them.
    * the real problem with the hideous music and architecture is that with them we lose the chance to evangelize the religionless. The rest of Catholics usually understand that there is no money today for us artists. The roof on the family center needs replacement.
    * the young Catholics I see at the Extraordinary Form Mass make good music for little money.

  3. Mark is (or was) looking for a job — a nice job that really pays quite well in a "creative" field. The Catholic Church does not offer this — it offers salvation. Mark should have read the New Testament.

  4. Nothing there that's new. Generally speaking, parishes do not like to compensate talent well. Compare AGO scale to parish pay. And–generally–parishes get what they pay for.

  5. I suppose what bothered me the most, aside from the specific fact of someone saying he "left the Church" because his art wasn't given the esteem he thought it deserved, was the, (can't beleive I'm saying this…) clericalist, pre-conciliar way the guy looks at "the Church."
    The Church doesn't value art? YOU are the Church.
    You think someone in the Church should have a think tank? then YOU start it.
    There are at least as many starving artists and under-appreciated geniuses in the secular world, it is a cliche of history.
    Doesn't much matter whether they are Catholic or wiccan or atheist.
    "Negative, obstructionist, and soul-crushing" is pretty much the future of 99% of those who hole themselves up trying to write the great Amercian novel and have it published, head to Hollywood for the Big Break, or create art in a Bushwick loft while trying to get that elusive show.

    Where does he think taxi drivers and waiters come from?

    I agree, SPQR, that the "wonderful examples of contemporary artists serving the Church… have strictly no relevance to many people's day-to-day experience of their local parish Church."
    But that wasn't a PIP complaining about the lack of beauty, it was someone who presumably feels a call to _create_ beauty, and presumably has the skill to _do_ so.
    Well, _DO_ it.
    Really, when you think about it, what is the whole CMAA but the Church taking matters in their own hands?
    Surely there are many here who have written music with no commission, formed a choir with no venue in which to sing, written a poem or hymn text or paean to the Lord with no public forum but your own blog?

    Suppose everyone with an accounting degree who applied for a job as the parish bookkeeper and didn't get it left the Church…

  6. Mr. Judge's vexing complaint was thoroughly rejected in his blog's own combox. I know how he feels, having pushed "submit" way too many times as I was literally convinced (by meself, methinks) that my POV was gospel.
    Beyond the vainglorious angle of his frustration is youthful zeal. We can dress his wounds by reminding him that his perspective and injury is actually quite slight.
    OTOH, Ger, trooping out the Catholic Billboard Greats actually abets Mr. Judge's miscalculation. What he doesn't recognize is that Part, Mac, Allen and all of us (the rest) has been for four centuries a "Been there, done that, got the T-Shirt." Once Monteverdi figured out (this is allegory) that he could butter his bread from both sides, patronage would become the engine of subsidized creativity. Every undergrad mus major knows that even Bach was subjugated to BS at Leipzig from above and below. His reward? Obscurity until Felix. Georg Friderick and even Telemann were the Haugen/Haas of their day, playing to the crowd.
    I'm a church professional. What all that entails does not even include a mandate to compose a cantata per week. It amounts to the precarious balancing act of maintaining compositional integrity, performance, engagement and (hopefully) transformation each and every Sunday. I wonder who had it better, Bach at Leipzig or us in our multi-faceted parishes?

  7. Catholics can't take much credit for fostering works by Pärt, who's Orthodox, except for commissioned works, perhaps.

  8. Pastors don't understand why parishioners give so little money, lay ministers don't understand why pastors pay them so little, and parishioners don't understand why parish ministries are so banal. It's a circle, a downward spiral, that we need to fix.

  9. What utter egotism. What wrongheaded understanding of the mission and authority of the Church . . .

  10. Dear Scelata,
    Thank you for this thoughtful essay. I think, however, that Mr. Judge has an important point, that is being missed by both you and your commenters. Please allow me to explain:

    As Dionysius the Areopagite had remarked in his Ecclesiastical Hierarchies, the purpose of those hierarchies, and of the Mysteries which they serve, the Divine Liturgy being chief among them, is in the divinization or theosis of the people of God. In short, the purpose of the Holy Mass is to bring those who worship in and with that Mass into the restored image and likeness of God, and more particularly, the full likeness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

    While for most, that change, that metamorphosis, and that transfiguration comes only after our death in Christ, some great ones begin to accept that change while they are still in the body. These we call the saints. But part of that process of being remade in the image and likeness of God involves ourselves engaging in the process of work and of creation. These we call the artists.

    I do not think it a coincidence that from the days of Pope St. Gregory the Great, who helped to translate Dionysius into Latin, there was a wealth of artists who helped to serve the Church, with music, with architecture, with iconography, and with the countless crafts which helped to serve and ornament cathedrals and churches. Nor do I think it a coincidence that when the patristic witness to theosis has been forgotten in the West, as I believe it has for the last several centuries, that saints should become fewer, and artists should become unrecognized in the Church.

    The problem, as I see it, is not that artists have become discouraged and have left the Church. The problem is that most bishops, priests, and deacons seem to have forgotten that their job is to assist in the theosis of the Christian faithful. Everything else, including Mr. Judge’s departure from the Church, follows from that forgetfulness, and that failure.

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