UPDATE: Austin, TX parish and Jewish community

IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL UPDATE BELOW

I responded to a question about a Jewish congregation using a Catholic church in Austin, TX.  One of the complications was that the Rabbi of the community was involved with Planned Parenthood and was a pro-abortion advocate.  Last year, that community rearranged the church sanctuary in a way that was not in keeping with the nature of a Catholic church’s belief.

There are developments.

LifeSiteNews has a story that through some continuing conversations, it was determined that the Jewish community would not have the use of the church.

The Vicar General of the Diocese of Austin, Msgr. Mike Sis, Vicar General told LSN,

[…]

“Now that Bishop Vásquez is aware of the associations of this particular rabbi, he will be in dialogue with his advisers and with Father Larry Covington, pastor of St. Louis, to determine what course of action might be appropriate in future years.  Since our Jewish brothers and sisters are presently in the midst of their high holy days, the parish will, for this year, honor its commitment to the community of Temple Beth Shalom and will allow them to use the facilities of St. Louis on Yom Kippur,” Sis concluded.

Read LSN about the dynamics of getting the story.

Also, LSN had photos of the change made to the sanctuary.

When the first such event took place at St. Louis Church last year, the Church was transformed into a non-Catholic worship space.  The altar was decked with apparel for the Jewish ritual, the tabernacle was covered, Catholic statues were removed and the Stations of the Cross covered.  Before and after photos obtained by LifeSiteNews from last year’s event demonstrate some of the transformation.

LifeSiteNews spoke with someone who attended the Jewish ceremony at the parish last week.  The transformation was similar.  The cross and statues were removed, the altar decked, and the tabernacle covered; however the Stations of the Cross remained visible.

Photos:

Before and after:

There remains one last Jewish celebration at the parish which is to take place Friday September 17 and Saturday September 18.

It remains that the Rabbi of that community is deeply involved with Planned Parenthood.  I assume that he will be preaching within the walls of that Catholic church.

UPDATE 18 Sept 02:44 GMT

This is on the website of the Diocese of Austin.  My emphases.

Temple Beth Shalom to move Yom Kippur services

AUSTIN — The Diocese of Austin has directed that the services of Yom Kippur for the congregation of Temple Beth Shalom not take place as planned at St. Louis Catholic Church on September 17 and 18.

Bishop Joe Vásquez is aware of recent press and Internet reports that have questioned the appropriateness of the invitation having been extended to Temple Beth Shalom by Father Larry Covington, Pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church. In view of the fact that Rabbi Alan Freedman is a member of the board of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, and questions about the suitability of the use of a Catholic sanctuary by a non-Christian community, Father Covington has determined, in consultation with Bishop Vásquez, to withdraw the invitation.

After mutual consultation, Rabbi Freedman and Father Covington have also come to an amicable agreement that it is in the best interests of both communities that the services not be held at St. Louis Church.  Rabbi Freedman and Father Covington are both committed to continuing dialogue and building friendship between the local Jewish community and the Catholic Diocese of Austin. Dialogue between the two communities can perhaps include discussions of important moral topics surrounding the sanctity of human life, especially the unborn.  We hope that such a dialogue can also allow us to explore together a broad range of life issues.

Bishop Vásquez has invited Rabbi Freedman to join him in this dialogue soon after the conclusion of the Jewish high Holy Days.

The Catholic Diocese of Austin remains united in prayer with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and Bishop Vásquez extends to them his best wishes in this holy season.

WDTPRS applauds Fr. Covington for his effort to find a good solution in discussion with the Bishop and the Rabbi.

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16 Responses to UPDATE: Austin, TX parish and Jewish community

  1. Oleksander says:

    now im a self proclaimed “judeophile” i like them, i love the history, probably will marry a particular one eventually, but yikes with this altar… unacceptable, i dont even like it at all when non-catholic christians use our churches but i cannot at all accept non-christians to use our altars

  2. benyanke says:

    This is kinda a side point, but that’s one sweet antependium on the before picture!

  3. Jason Keener says:

    I think the pictures showing the conversion of the worship space from a Catholic one to a Jewish one falls into the category of being positively sacrilegious. I respect the Jewish people who are convinced in their faith, but what Catholic in his or her right mind would allow members of the Jewish religion to basically come into a Catholic Church and re-decorate the place? This is the kind of post-Vatican II nonsense that drives many of us crazy. Catholics should uphold and defend the true worship that is Hers in the New Covenant, not provide opportunities for the Jewish people to carry out objectively false acts of religion in a consecrated Catholic Church building!

    (Sorry for the rant, Fr. Z.)

  4. mdillon says:

    Completely shocking and totally unacceptable. I am only now seeing the merits of the SSPX/Trad crowd on baloney that is touted as “ecumenism.”

  5. Totus Tuus says:

    There’s been another update now; Bishop Vasquez has put a stop to it.

    From http://www.austindiocese.org

    “AUSTIN — The Diocese of Austin has directed that the services of Yom Kippur for the congregation of Temple Beth Shalom not take place as planned at St. Louis Catholic Church on September 17 and 18.

    Bishop Joe Vásquez is aware of recent press and Internet reports that have questioned the appropriateness of the invitation having been extended to Temple Beth Shalom by Father Larry Covington, Pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church. In view of the fact that Rabbi Alan Freedman is a member of the board of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, and questions about the suitability of the use of a Catholic sanctuary by a non-Christian community, Father Covington has determined, in consultation with Bishop Vásquez, to withdraw the invitation.

    After mutual consultation, Rabbi Freedman and Father Covington have also come to an amicable agreement that it is in the best interests of both communities that the services not be held at St. Louis Church. Rabbi Freedman and Father Covington are both committed to continuing dialogue and building friendship between the local Jewish community and the Catholic Diocese of Austin. Dialogue between the two communities can perhaps include discussions of important moral topics surrounding the sanctity of human life, especially the unborn. We hope that such a dialogue can also allow us to explore together a broad range of life issues.

    Bishop Vásquez has invited Rabbi Freedman to join him in this dialogue soon after the conclusion of the Jewish high Holy Days.

    The Catholic Diocese of Austin remains united in prayer with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and Bishop Vásquez extends to them his best wishes in this holy season.”

  6. Geoffrey says:

    Never mind a parish allowing this, but why would our Jewish brethren (or anyone else) want to worship in a Catholic church? We wouldn’t want to go in a Jewish temple to celebrate Mass, would we?

  7. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    Is this why we don’t use blue?

  8. Louis says:

    This parish does use that exact blue

  9. JonM says:

    This parish appears to be very vocal about inviting other religions, to the point of evicting the Body of Christ and adorning the altar on which the most sublime sacrifice takes place with trappings that deny this very action.

    Inviting a notorious supporter of abortion is ‘very inviting’ too.

    Apparently, in order to hear actual unadulterated Church teaching, one must attend a parish somehow unmolestated by the diocese…Or by listening to certain candidates for political office who, despite the temptation to deny challenging Church teaching (especially when the hierarchy uniformly assumes the vow of silence) courageously answers truthfully.

    Money talks folks. We always can vote economically speaking.

  10. Louis says:

    I would not go that far. They have more time for confession than most parishes. and they have an adoration chapel. So easy. I was surprised by this b/c the Liturgy is much more traditional than most.

  11. Martial Artist says:

    I am reasonably confident that St. James Episcopal Church in Austin would be overjoyed at welcoming Rabbi Freedman and his flock to celebrate there. That is the large Episcopal parish whose last Rector was Gregory Rickel, now Bishop of Olympia (i.e., Western Washington State). Rickel is an unabashed supporter of so-called gay marriage. And as an Episcopal Church the parish is a member, through its national offices, of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an unabashed and enthusiastic supporter of abortions on demand. Birds of a feather, and all that.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  12. Athelstan says:

    It would be sad if it were the case that this invitation would not have been withdrawn were it not for the rabbi’s involvement in Planned Parenthood.

    “It would be,” I say, since I can’t be certain. I would like to think that it would have been considered unacceptable even with out it.

    But I remain relieved that Fr. Covington and the bishop have found a way to end the arrangement.

  13. Jack Hughes says:

    What gets my goat is the fact that they covered up the Tabanacle – I think that this is a VERY serious matter

  14. I’m sure there are plenty of guidelines around, for emergency use of Catholic facilities by non-Catholics. The problem is that, if something like this happens, the people who have to deal with it probably don’t even think to look that up or know where to find it.

    Re: covering up the tabernacle

    Well, it’s not what they should have done, but it’s got some redeeming features. I mean, they made a curtain for the Holy of Holies, and it’s even got some of the right blue. :)

    Anyway, I’m sure the Blessed Sacrament wasn’t in there. That’s pretty basic for having another group use the church. Having to figure out how to deal respectfully with a fixed tabernacle (even if empty for an occasion) is definitely one of the consequences of having a tabernacle that you can’t move. People probably need more training on this issue, even for religious concerts.

  15. I don’t understand why it should be permissible for non-Christians to perform religious services in a Catholic church ever. It seems that if we have to remove God in the Blessed Sacrament in order for a religious service of some kind to be held in the church, that is a problem. In fact, I can’t help but find it problematic that one should have a concert or service of any kind which requires the removal of the Blessed Sacrament (barring Good Friday services of course!). It is very possible that there is a reasonable cause to have religious concerts in keeping with the holiness of the place in a church in a manner that requires the removal of the Blessed Sacrament, and that that is something I just have to get my head around. There is, however, something deeply ironic and disturbing particularly about allowing ‘worship’ that requires the object of worship to be removed. That would, I assume, go for Protestant services too, and I can’t help but find them very problematic as well, for that and other reasons. However that may be, I can’t even begin to understand how going beyond Christianity can be allowed.

  16. chcrix says:

    In an earlier comment on this topic, I said that I could not see why observant Jews would even wish to use a Catholic church for their ceremonies and observed that I thought they would be happier in the church hall.

    Now that I’ve seen the pictures above, I understand how it works out.

    To my eye the altar and sanctuary is not an especially Catholic looking space to begin with. Indeed, after the redecoration it looks perfectly natural as part of a synagogue.

    Catholic identity should also encompass something a bit more solid in the realm of architecture as well.