The late Msgr. Richard Schuler loved church bells. The lofty bell tower of St. Agnes Church in St. Paul with its four bells, would ring the hours and half hours 24/7, as well as the Angelus at noon and 6 pm, summons bells before masses, a somber toll on 3 pm every Friday, as well as ringing for the Resurrection on Saturday evenings. The great bell, "Richard", would toll at the consecration on Sunday Masses, for funerals and all the bells would peal at the end of funerals and for weddings.
These bells functioned to remind the people of the neighborhood what day it was, when to go to church for Mass, what was going on in church, when to to to pray during the day … the echo of an era when the once heavily Catholic immigrant neighbors could walk to church. A reminder to us today that religion should be woven into all our daily activities. Our Catholic identity is 24/7.
If perhaps someone would call the rectory to complain about the bells… usually someone with a snoot full or simply bilious by nature… Msgr. Schuler would make the observation that, after decades of studying the question, he had come to the conclusion that if someone didn’t like church bells, it was because they had a bad conscience about something.
I was interested, therefore, by this story from CNA about the ringing of church bells in Arizona.
My emphases and comments.
Arizona Catholic church sues to ring its bells
Phoenix, Ariz., Sep 6, 2009 / 04:23 am (CNA).- Three churches have filed a lawsuit against the city of Phoenix, charging that its noise ordinance which prohibits the ringing of their church bells is unconstitutional and suppresses a long American tradition. [Get this…] One pastor was sentenced to jail [!?!] for violating the ordinance, which allows an exception for ice cream trucks but not for churches. [What’s wrong with this picture?]
St. Mark Roman Catholic Parish, First Christian Church, and Christ the King Liturgical Charismatic Church have challenged the ordinance in a lawsuit filed by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). [True ecumenism.]
Christ the King Church joined the lawsuit after its pastor, Bishop Rick Painter, was sentenced for ringing his church’s bells as a way of praising God. He was given a suspended sentence of ten days in jail and three years’ probation on June 3. [probation… talk about the Clapper of Damocles!]
“The church bells chime a short, ancient melody of praise to God no louder than an average conversation,” Bishop Stanley explained. [Must be a carillon.] “It’s true that people can hear the bells at that low level. After all, bells are meant to be heard. But the city’s problematic ordinance is being used to inconsistently single out the peaceful sound of this time-honored expression of worship while allowing exceptions for others.”
A judge [One wonders about this judge. Is this an elected judge?] has issued an order restricting chimes at the church to no more than 60 decibels for two minutes on Sundays and specific religious holidays.
An ADF statement reports that the bells at Bishop Painter’s church normally chime every hour from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Their volume has been registered as emitting 67 decibels at the nearest property line. By comparison, a whisper is 30 decibels and a normal conversation runs from 60 to 70 decibels.
Under an exception to the ordinance, ice cream trucks are allowed to emit sounds of up to 70 decibels at a distance of 50 feet.
In August, after a neighbor complained about the bells, [Wouldn’t it be interesting to interview that person?] city officials told St. Mark Roman Catholic Parish that ringing its bells could be considered in violation of the same noise ordinance. The officials included two representatives from the Phoenix city prosecutor’s office and two city police officers.
St. Mark has rung its bells for the last 20 years. Christians have used church bells since at least the early middle ages.
ADF senior legal counsel Erik Stanley explained the suit, saying that churches shouldn’t be published “for exercising their faith publicly.”
He charged that the law is “unconstitutionally vague” and has been abused to silence a form of worship that has “peacefully sounded through the streets of our nation since its founding.”
“No one should be sentenced to jail and probation for doing what churches have traditionally done throughout history, especially when the sound of the church’s bells does not exceed the noise level that the law allows for ice cream trucks,” Stanley said.
The suit seeks to ensure that the churches can ring their bells without fear of future prosecution and criminal penalties.
Once upon a time in a place such as Arizona, heavily Hispanic, you would never have heard this. Now that Arizona has been invaded by lefties and progressivists from the East, suddenly religion in public is a problem.
Would this judge issue a similar edict about an adhan? A mosque’s call to prayer?
Would the judge jail a muezzin?
UPDATE 7 Sept 1705 GMT
The Bourdon of Notre Dame in Paris