"Catholic artists today are virtually invisible"

"Catholic artists today are virtually invisible" March 29, 2011

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.

"I think I would have been happier had the CDF handled the nuns the way ..."

Vatican challenges “interpretation” of cardinal’s remarks ..."
"Blaming "Islamics" for this is like blaming the Pope for the Holocaust Denial of Hutton ..."

One killed, 44 injured in Catholic ..."
"It smacks to me of hyper-sensitivity, a veiled spiritual and intellectual pride, with regards to ..."

Pope Francis: “A Christian who complains, ..."
"Oh, no, we never change our mind, and we always agree, even on points of ..."

Vatican challenges “interpretation” of cardinal’s remarks ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

12 responses to “"Catholic artists today are virtually invisible"”

  1. “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.

  2. 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.]

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.)

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.