"Catholic artists today are virtually invisible"

That’s the assessment of someone in a position to know, this year’s recipient of the distinguished Laetare Medal.


Faithful Catholics have all but disappeared from the arts in America — leaving the arts “spiritually impoverished” and undercutting the ways the church “speaks to the world,” according to Dana Gioia, Catholic poet and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Catholic artists today are virtually invisible,” Gioia observed in a lecture at Catholic University.

Gioia said he considers the lack of Catholics in the arts to be a “paradox,” given the Catholic Church’s long tradition as “patron and mentor” to the arts and the strength of the largest cultural minority in the United States. It is particularly ironic, Gioia added, in a nation where “diversity of culture and ethnicity are actively celebrated.”

But “contemporary American culture has little use for Catholicism,” said Gioia.

Anti-Catholicism, he noted, remains “the one respectable form of intellectual bigotry.”

Read more.


  1. I’m proud to be married to a Catholic deacon and iconographer!

  2. Deacon Eric Stoltz says:

    “contemporary American culture has little use for Catholicism,”

    Hmmm. Or if one is lamenting the lack of artistic contributions to culture by the faithful, one might say that the Church has little regard for contemporary American culture.

    Art is a part of a culture. If we as the Church do not engage in culture, then we should not be surprised if we have no impact on it.

  3. The Catholic Church has contributed more than an abundant wealth of beautiful artistry!

    Problem is modern architects tend to ignore all of it; which, unfortunately, detracts from The Church and The Faith.

    Pastors are the ones who controls what goes into their churches and of what goes out the door…

    Hmmm…that reminds me: where did so many kneelers and beautiful tabernacles go? (Hint: auctions, etc).

    It smacks of a “protestant-y” movement within our Churches when we take Christ off the Cross, put the Tabernacle somewhere hidden, can’t find Stations on the walls and when we use glass or clay for the Consecration and there’s only 45 min a week for Confession and devotions and devotionals are far and few between??

    Why are our priests and deacons so afraid to stand up for Our Church, Our Faith and Our priests/bishops?

    Why is the “unity” in Our Churches dwindling due to lack of obedience to the Pope and to Church Tradition??
    (ie: this priest does things his way and that priest does things his own way, etc….?)

    Why does one religious engage in ANY PUBLIC conversations about another religious when the PROOF is not there and the allegations are unsubstantiated?

    Why not just ask his flock to pray, pray and pray some more????

    Why does a deacon shut down comments as soon as someone defends another priest or casts doubts upon that particular deacon’s intentions?

    The flock is tired of being torn down by all of this!


    The Church does NOT have to engage in a culture that casts nothing but ugly detractions to her! The Church is in the culture– and should embrace ALL of Her Beauty to IMPACT THE CULTURE!!

    [Mickey...I'll thank you to stop YELLING BY USING CAPITAL LETTERS. First, as longtime readers know, I post many "edifying" items here that "build up the flock and the church." Surf through the archives and you'll find them. Secondly, I did not "shut down comments as soon as someone defends another priest or casts doubts upon that particular deacon's intentions." I shut down comments after more than a day of people re-hashing the same arguments and saying the same thing over and over. Read the blog and you'll see I don't mind hearing from people who disagree with me, or who cast doubts upon my motives. It's healthy and contributes to dialogue and discussion. Sometimes, it even changes my mind and I end up agreeing with them. Blessings, Dcn. G.]

  4. Deacon Norb says:

    Catholic artists invisible? Not here in the Midwest.

    Try >

    We cycle Bruce through our parishes during Lent for Adult Faith Formation every 3-4 years and his life-story and art are almost overpowering. He told us last week that in 2009, he spoke his message to over 1.2 million folks — sometimes as many as three programs a week.

  5. Deacon Norb says:

    Sorry that his url did not come through:


  6. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    The “Spirit of Vatican II” did in a lot of Catholic art right after the council. Some of the old artwork was trite, insipid, ugly. So it was whitewashed and rarely did people say to their pastors–now I’ll donate money for some new, good artwork.
    On the other hand there were Catholics whose idea of church decor is to copy the Protestants many of whom are genine iconoclasts. The Catholic pastors most given to this were those of Irish descent. That is why many who like colorful and art-filled churches go to the ethnic churches like the Italian, Polish, or Eastern Catholic.
    Maybe a national collection could held and then art grants awarded for new art in parishes that apply. I would rather see our money go to Catholic art than to some of the radical political groups that have been getting our money in the past–like ACORN

  7. Well it certainly looks like we’re sitting on our laurels with respect to music. We have no serious composers of the quality of John Rutter, Moses Hogan, Alice Parker (or even Robert Shaw.)

  8. I agree Catholic artists are “virtually” invisible, but we can be found with a little digging.Part of the problem is that the secular art world just doesn’t know what to make of the truly Catholic artist, that is, one with a properly formed conscience. Right off the bat a Catholic artist recognizes that his gifts, like all gifts, are not given to him for personal indulgence, his gifts are to be used to turn hearts and minds towards God, None of this “art for art’s sake,” thinking.
    The Catholic artist respects and builds upon the artistic tradition of the Church.
    The Liturgy of the Hours refers to artists as reflecting the splendor of God, bringing His people hope and joy, and preparing them for heaven.
    Meanwhile the “art world” dismisses “religious art” as synonymous with sub-standard.
    Like any art form there will be a huge variation in quality, especially in the level filed of the internet where people of all levels of skill, training, and talent have an equal voice. But as Mr. Gioia’s words point out it is important to patronize and encourage quality in Catholic artists.
    Some places to start, google:
    and my own efforts at

  9. I’m a sacred artist and am blessed to have finished a commission for a paschal candle. Overall I would say that the Church is so concerned about restrooms, furnaces and parking lots that it has forgotten that Sacred art is a principle vehicle of prayer and evangelization. Sacred art is the exercise of the priesthood of the faithful… consecrating the cosmos into the Body and Blood of Christ. The demise of Sacred art accompanies a general disruption between artistic expression and objective truth. Art now is considered an experience of the individual artist when it should be the expression of the communal experience of faith through the God given skills of the individual artist.

    you may see my humble attempts at serving the King at http://www.veronikon.com

    Do not forget that sacred art has a powerful role in the development of doctrine, especially as it forms in the sensus fidei.

  10. Deacon Frank J. Chiappetta says:

    I have just celebrated the 30 year anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate in the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT. Most of my professional life was spent as a designer for several major corporations and 20 years as a free-lance artist/designer. Seven years ago, after a Retreat/Workshop at Enders Island I began writing icons and have continured to experience God’s grace through this spiritual work. I am very interested in finding other deacon/artists who would be willing to share their experiences as Catholic Deacon/Artists.
    I can be contacted at fchip@aol.com.

  11. I am a Catholic artist who is frustrated by the apparent loss of appreciation for beauty in the Church. Many of the truly talented Catholic artists either gave up hope of Church patronage, or never had any hope for it to begin with. The Church is most definitely in a “dark ages” in the realm of fine arts. Rarely is there any connection between Catholic artists and the Church and even more rarely does the Church attempt to engage in any meaningful transactions with contemporary art and culture.
    Religious art exhibitions that I have witnessed seem to be collections of overly derivative works borrowed from the “glory days” of the past. Why does the Church need to stay frozen in a perpetual homage to those great “masters” of the past? Clearly they deserve the honor given to them, but why disservice ourselves (and the Church) by giving in to this anti-climatic creative rut that we have carved out for ourselves as if we are playing hide-n-go seek?
    If there was ever a time for the Church to engage popular culture, it is now. This is an essential aspect of evangelism that we cannot ignore. We cannot drive artists away from the Church by expecting them to only produce copies of the past. The need for “sacred art” and art used in liturgy is a distinctive category that has specific requirements. This is understandably the most needed and sought after form of art in the Church. But when we stop at the point of meeting these requirements for propriety and go no further, then our creativity atrophies, and we are mocked by those we should be inspiring. We are to be the salt of the earth, not hiding from our culture, but influencing it for the cause of Christ. We are called to persecuted for the cross of Christ, but not persecuted for making bad, kitschy, or dare I even say– incestual works of art.

  12. I dare say there are contemporary artists that are spiritually driven and make references to their intent and communicate to one another through art on that subject, but are virtually invisible to everyone else in the realm or contemporary art.

  13. “Catholic artists today are virtually invisible”
    It is for this very reason I founded the Sacred Art Show: Catholic Art by Catholic Artists™. There are many talented Catholic artists who are called to use the gift God has given them. We, as Catholic artists, are called to bring beauty into the world and create sacred art that inspires and enhances devotion to our Father and ever-living God. Catholic art does inspire. People do crave these sacred images. The Sacred Art Show: Catholic Art by Catholic Artists™ is located in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our group has hosted a Catholic art show in April for the past four years and we have had artists from a number of states participate.
    We can be found at http://www.sacredartshow.com and
    We welcome Catholic artists to join us!

  14. If Catholic artists are invisible it is because the attendant society, and (unfortunately, at times) the Church itself, is so overwhelmed with other issues that sacred art takes a back seat. Pope John Paul 2 discussed these issues, and specifically addressed artists, in his Letter to Artists (an essential read for anyone interested in art). Pope Benedict 16th also addressed some of these issues in his book, published in 2000, called The Spirit of the Liturgy; and since these events and others there has been a movement of the Holy Spirit among Church members to raise their interest and spur them to act. As a Roman Catholic Deacon, my wife and I founded the Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts in 2009 in the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island. Our bishop, his excellency Thomas Tobin, D.D gave us his blessing and permission to proceed in 2010. Our effort is prayer based and promotes a person uniting his or her prayer efforts to the study and creation of sacred art. You are cordially invited to join our effort, take a look at my articles (I will begin publishing some articles on prayer and the creation of sacred art within the next two weeks) and please consider subscribing to our blog (fraangelicoinstitute.wordpress.com),
    and view a TV snippet of our appearance on CatholicTV.com last November 2011, the link to that site is here:
    Catholic artists are creating beautiful pieces of art; the Church, however, should take the initiative within each Diocese to discover and promote it. Our effort here in the Diocese of Providence is to build people’s understanding of sacred art on a parish level – grass roots – so that our parishioners may appreciate the beauty of sacred art and understand how it can be so instrumental and helpful to their prayer life. In our creation of sacred art we are not all Fra Angelico or Henry Ossawa Tanner, that’s ok, what is important is for us to realize that we all have the capacity for sacred art – to understand it and, yes, to create it, even if it just remains a personal prayer doodle that calms our spirit and unites us to the Lord in prayer and intercession for ourselves and others. I am a student of sacred iconography, and have personally witnessed the wonderful impact of the process of creating sacred icons in my personal prayer life – our Institute promotes that among our members if they are interested in pursuing it. One of our earliest posts on our blog was devoted to the idea of Sacred Arts Guilds – which our Institute also promotes.
    We would enjoy hearing from any Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant artist who is interested in joining our virtual, or Diocesan, sacred arts community. May the peace of Christ be with you.

  15. This is what happens when mankind looses respect for truth or reality… especially when it hurts! The whole new-age movement where everyone is supposed to be equal to everyone else in every possible way, “if only they try hard enough” or “want it badly enough” is showing us now the fruits of those very lies. Lies which deny God (as opposed to, say, college classrooms, like everybody thinks) as the giver of REAL gifts (as opposed to saying everyone can do everything… they just need to “learn how”). If you say art is anything, there is no longer any reason to make magnificent, or even good art… least of all, when you will be hated, condemned, criticized and called talentless if you actually produce anything worthy of respect. In a society that now disdains art as only God can give it (that is, true artistic talent, if not genius), it is no wonder at all, that what has become of the arts… all of them… is the lowest common level we can all possibly fall to. Today, when men are praised for doing ugly, disorderly, bizarre, flaky, distorted garbage, in whatever field of the arts they’re in (all of which things are definitely not traits of God), it’s no wonder if what we have left is now ONLY those things.

    Pride is of the devil, and this new-age idea of “every man as an artist” does flatter the ego… but also raises an army of “artists” who can’t really do at all what they’re pretending they can. Since the “have nots” grossly outnumber the “haves” it’s relatively easy to shame, attack and scorn them until they’re frankly ashamed to show the world their real talents, for fear of the ugly backlash against them. (Think of people remarking that Thomase Kinkaide (sp?) had no talent, because his works were not unrecognizable garbage.)

    But the fact remains, God IS the Giver of Gifts, and He alone, and He does not make of every man a good artist, even if we do all have the physical capacity to pick up a brush. (What do you expect? That those with no artistic talent all be born without hands?) When you have an army of “have nots” fighting the overwhelming majority who can use sin and lust to make sales, you can bet there will be no contest. There won’t even be a skirmish. You need REAL soldiers for that.

    Sadly, thanks to pride, the world has lost out on about 100 years of decent art, in nearly every field of them. We remember the historic giants of the arts precisely because they really could and did do, what now men are condemned, hated and criticized for even thinking of doing, even if they could.

  16. Alive and strong in Nebraska. We are blessed to have http://www.sacredartshow.com We get together in Spring (Lincoln) and Fall (Omaha). It is a wonderful opportunity to share faith and talent of other Catholic artists. We would like to share with others too. I, myself, am trying to develop a database of Catholic and Christian artists willing to show their art which is Good, True, and Beautiful. Pope John Paul II had many inspirational things to say for artists and their vocation. Please visit http://www.theartisticvocation.com if you are an artist or interested in biblical and holy arts.

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