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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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Had the Church never spoken on this matter, it would still be repugnant to our Catholic people’s sense of what is fit and proper in the holiest of places, that a priest should have to struggle through the prayers of the Holy Mass, because of such tunes as “Alice, where art thou?” the “Vacant Chair,” and others of more vulgar title, which, through the carelessness or bad judgment of organists, sometimes find their way into our choirs.
— Preface to a Roman Catholic Hymnal (1896)

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Fr. Wasilewski: “Evil” to Remove Pachamama Idols
published 30 November 2019 by Jeff Ostrowski

80721 observer OU HAVE probably heard about the fertility idols which Alexander Tschugguel threw into the river in Rome. Some have tried to defend their use; e.g. Blase Cardinal Cupich said the church has “always adopted pagan elements in its traditions and especially its liturgical rites”—but Cardinal Cupich is not telling the truth, because such things were allowed only after the pagan associations had faded away or become neutral. 1

Father Kenneth Wasilewski (who, I have no doubt, is a good and decent priest) recently published an article which is deeply flawed.

Here is an excerpt:

Vatican Theft and the Seventh Commandment

By Father Kenneth Wasilewski

A few weeks ago, there was a news story involving the Vatican and the theft and attempted destruction of some statues relating to the indigenous people of the Amazon. […] The theft, and the attempted destruction, were videoed by the perpetrators who then made the videos public. The reactions to these events were mixed. Some saw these actions as semi-heroic. Most, however, seemed to see them as a form of vigilantism involving theft and vandalism. This case is filled with several moral issues. However, in keeping with my ongoing discussion of the Seventh Commandment, I will limit my discussion to just a few that deal more directly with that commandment. To that end, the most obvious issue is rather black and white. It is undisputedly an act of theft. The person(s) in question had no right to take and attempt to destroy the statues even though they found them offensive and inappropriate. The fact that someone judges something to be inappropriate doesn’t give them license to do what they want with someone else’s property. This particular act of theft was compounded by the fact that it took place in a church. Interestingly, in the video of the crime, the thief is seen genuflecting upon entering and leaving the church. Presumably, this was done as a sign of reverence to Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament. However, it’s a rather twisted logic that offers God reverence while directly transgressing one of God’s commandments. […] If the thieves believed it good that these statues never be seen again, then their actions achieved precisely the opposite effect.


Father Kenneth Wasilewski is wrong for three reasons:

(1) When Catholics see certain things displayed in a Church—such as fertility idols or pornography—we have a duty to remove such items. Period.

(2) Catholic Churches do not belong to one priest, one nun, or any particular cleric. This is our Church—every one of us. Period.

(3) “Theft” has nothing to do with what we are talking about—when it comes to removing idols and/or pornography from a Catholic Church. Period.

On 25 October 2019, Gerhard Cardinal Müller, former head of the Holy Office, reminded Catholics it was not sinful to remove those fertility idols from the Catholic Church:

“The great mistake was to bring the idols into the Church, not to put them out; because according to the Law of God Himself—the First Commandment—idolatry is a grave sin and not to mix them with the Christian liturgy.”

F SOMEBODY places pornography in the church where little children can see it, Catholics have an obligation to remove that pornography. Father Wasilewski is wrong to call such a thing “theft.” Respect for the 7th Commandment has nothing to do with removing idols and/or pornography from Catholic Churches. Once they were removed, what was Alexander Tschugguel supposed to do with them? Giving them to another human would be, in a certain sense, encouraging or endorsing idol worship. Alexander Tschugguel made the decision to place them in a river. Perhaps he should have burned them, but who are we to judge his decision?

By the way, these fertility idols were also pornographic; they depicted nude women. (The official spokesman for the synod made clear 2 they did not depict our Lady.) Father Wasilewski has an obligation to publicly apologize for his article as quickly as possible, so that scandal can be minimized.

A bizarre cause for hope.

Seeing toleration for pagan idols by Church leaders is quite discouraging to faithful Catholics. But I suspect their motives have nothing to do with paganism. Instead, it is a surrender to the current culture, which worships so-called “multiculturalism” and “tolerance” of certain “pluralism” fads. Certainly their surrender is indefensible and shameful—but its root cause is a desire for adulation and praise by the world. I don’t think it’s ultimately about paganism. For some bizarre reason, that makes it less sad to me.



NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:

1   The pipe organ is a typical example. After its pagan associations had faded away, it was no longer forbidden for use in the Catholic Church.

2   Father Giacomo Costa (a communications official for the Amazon synod) said that a wooden figure of a nude pregnant woman, which has been present at events related to the synod, is not the Virgin Mary, but is instead a female figure representing life. “It is not the Virgin Mary, who said it is the Virgin Mary?” Costa said at a press conference for the Amazon synod on 16 October 2019.