What the People Want

Our new church at Our Lady of the Rosary is traditional in design, and it is known that my own tastes tend to the traditional. Therefore, there is an assumption amongst some Catholics that this is ‘Fr Longenecker’s Church.’ OK. I’m delighted with the church design and I think we have the chance to do something beautiful for God.

However, I was also very lucky in finding a building committee already in place, who had been working on their ideas and plans for ten years. They had already had the architects in. They had consulted with the people of the parish and come up with a basic design and floor plan that was essentially Romanesque. One of the things they made clear in their very first meeting with me is that they did NOT want a big, round, fan shaped auditorium of a church.

They wanted a traditional church. Straight up and down with a high altar. I was the one who stressed that with large transepts we would be able to bring as many people as possible as close as possible to the altar in order to adapt to the proper and true spirit of the second Vatican Council and the demands of modern Catholic worship.

Nevertheless it is still assumed that Fr Longenecker is imposing his style of church on everyone. So we did some surveys and found that the vast majority of people in our congregation actually like the church design and still want a traditional Catholic Church. Furthermore, when I show the design to the young people at the high school and to the children they are all wowed by it as well and want a traditional design.

Now, this makes me wonder, what do the Catholic laity really want, and what have they wanted for the last fifty years? Did anyone ever really want the teepees, circus tents and just landed flying saucers that have passed for Catholic Churches? Did the laity really want those churches, or were they imposed by well meaning priests and architects and liturgical experts all fired up with ‘full participation in the Mass’? Were the Catholic people ever really in favor of the modernist buildings or were they forced upon them? Were they made to endure sessions of ‘education’ about liturgy which was really Fr. Folkmass foisting his groovy ideas on them? Were they really in favor of the radical ‘renovations’ that their beloved old churches were subjected to? Did they really want to replace the marble flooring with carpet, tear out the reredos and install a fiberglass drop ceiling? Just askin’.

My suspicions are probably not too far off the mark, and it is all the more ironic since the Catholic radicals were all big on ‘empowering the laity’ and ‘listening to the voice of the people.’ I had an experience recently with one such priest, who simply would not believe me when I said that survey after survey had shown that the vast majority of our people wanted to build a traditionally styled church. He insisted that I had manipulated the survey to my own advantage. He insisted that I was cleverly manipulating everyone into my way of thinking and that if they really had a ‘true voice’ they would have chosen something more at home on the set of Star Trek.

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