A reader asks:
Is there anything in Canon Law or else in pronouncements of the SRC or CDW regarding removing the Blessed Sacrament from a church whilst it is being used for a concert or similar event? In particular, if the Blessed Sacrament is normally reserved on the High Altar and there is a suitable temporary place for It, eg in a tabernacle in the Sacristy (where it would be kept on Good Friday):
1. Must the Blessed Sacrament be moved out of the church during the concert? OR 2. Should the Blessed Sacrament be moved out if practicable? OR 3. It is desirable and permissible to leave the Blessed Sacrament in the church as usual?
Chapter and verse of the official statement would be very helpful in offering advice to our Chaplain.
I wrote about this document fairly recently. It is Concerts in Churches issued by the CDW in 1987.
10. When the proposal is made that there should be a concert in a church, the Ordinary is to grant the permission per modum actus. These concerts should be occasional events. This excludes permission for a series of concerts, for example in the case of a festival or a cycle of concerts.
When the Ordinary considers it to be necessary, he can, in the conditions foreseen in the Code of Canon Law (can. 1222, para. 2) designate a church that is no longer used for divine service, to be an “auditorium” for the performance of sacred or religious music, and also of music not specifically religious but in keeping with the character of the place.
In this task the bishop should be assisted by the diocesan commission for Liturgy and sacred music.
In order that the sacred character of a church be conserved in the matter of concerts, the Ordinary can specify that:
a. Requests are to be made in writing, in good time, indicating the date and time of the proposed concert, the program, giving the works and the names of the composers.
b. After having received the authorization of the Ordinary, the rectors and parish priests of the churches should arranged details with the choir and orchestra so that the requisite norms are observed.
c. Entrance to the church must be without payment and open to all.
d. The performers and the audience must be dressed in a manner which is fitting to the sacred character of the place.
e. The musicians and the singers should not be placed in the sanctuary. The greatest respect is to be shown to the altar, the president’s chair and the ambo.
f. The Blessed Sacrament should be, as far as possible, reserved in a side chapel or in another safe and suitably adorned place (Cf. C.I.C., can 928, par. 4).
g. The concert should be presented or introduced not only with historical or technical details, but also in a way that fosters a deeper understanding and an interior participation on the part of the listeners.
h. The organizer of the concert will declare in writing that he accepts legal responsibilities for expenses involved, for leaving the church in order and for any possible damage incurred.