From a reader:
EWTN is reporting that a priest at St. Louis parish in Austin is allowing a Jewish group to use his parish for Jewish holy day celebrations. There is a picture at the EWTN article here:
The altar is visibly being used for the purposes of the Jewish celebration, has been covered with Jewish religious artifacts, and the rest of the sanctuary/nave modified for their use. Is this permissible in the GIRMs?
This is the second year this parish has allowed this Jewish congregation to use their facility. STORY.
I don’t know if the Catholic pastor was aware of this, but the rabbi of the group using his church is also a board member of the local Planned Parenthood.
From a standpoint of what is "acceptable use" of a Catholic Church as indicated in the rubrics, is turning over the sanctuary to a rabbi and his group permissible?
First, I have actually been to that church in Austin and have even said Mass there, quite a few year ago.
I consulted a reliable canonist to get this issue.
The 1993 Directory for the Application of the Principles and Norms on Ecumenism make provision for other Christian denominations to use our churches:
137. Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship. However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services. Under similar circumstances, permission may be given to them for interment or for the celebration of services at Catholic cemeteries."
This refers to other Christian denominations. It also gives caveats to guard against scandal.
Also, note that the diocesan bishop gets to make these decisions. I take it that pastors cannot make this decision on their own.
In an emergency situation, allowing a Jewish community to use a church for their worship could be appropriate (e.g., the synagogue burns down, there is a furnace problem in winter, etc.). In such a case, it could be appropriate to remove the Crucifix and Blessed Sacrament during the duration of their visit.
BUT… wholesale alteration or rearrangement of the sanctuary? No. That’s just wrong. This story strikes me as a bit odd, frankly. Jews are usually very sensitive and respectful of the religious spaces of Christians. Placing the Star of David over the tabernacle is just plain wrong. I hope that this was done from ignorance and without the knowledge of the pastor.
The altar and the tabernacle are sacred things in se, and not merely because of what they are used for. If they can’t be moved (and they shouldn’t be able to be, really), then they should either be left barren, or covered in a nondescript fashion, not re-ordered to accommodate their use in Jewish worship.
I have little doubt that Jews would have serious problems were Catholics whose church burned down used their synagogue’s bema for Mass, put a crucifix on the ark, and replaced the Torah scrolls with the Blessed Sacrament.