QUAERITUR: Removal of Bl. Sacrament for a concert in church

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.

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  1. padresgo says:

    I spent some months in Rome during the Jubilee Year 2000. I attended dozens of sacred music concerts in the various major basilicas and other classic churches in the historic center of the city, and I would say every one of them was around the altar, ambo and throughout the sanctuary. Here in New York City, there are frequently such concerts, and presuming of course that the Blessed Sacrament has been reserved to an appropriate place, it seems to me an excellent opportunity to evangelize many who might not otherwise enter a Catholic church. Certainly our great art and architecture was meant to teach the uncatechized. Why miss out the chance to do it now? That, it seems to me, is what the New Evangelization means. It would seem pastorally opportune to interpret this directive in the broadest sense.

  2. webpoppy8 says:

    I think it makes all the difference in the world what kind of music is to be performed… and whether it is performed versus being led.

    My wife is a singer/songwriter of (only) explicitly Catholic music and one of her favorite venues is to sing in front of the Eucharist. The problem with pursuing this on its own is that many types of contemporary Christian music are overtly attention-grabbing – even those that aren’t self-absorbed may be practical only as solos that focus attention on the presenter. This doesn’t fit Exposition. She won’t use Jesus as her backdrop. At healing services and Masses, however, she feels comfortable singing before the Eucharist because God is clearly the center of people’s attention. Also, she sings primarily music that is widely used for Mass in parishes we know, making it more feasible for those who want to join in and sing.

    Here in Boston, our older kids have really enjoyed LIFT, which is essentially Exposition with a concert of overtly Catholic pop music – Lifeteen type stuff. No musicians or other leaders are at the altar, except for when someone addresses the congregation, so basically the light is on Jesus. I’ve only seen a priest do this talk, but I’ve only been to two of them – I can’t guarantee they reserve preaching to ordained priests and deacons. It is always a priest who concludes LIFT, with traditional Benediction sung in Latin in the traditional chant. I know several youth (thank God, including one of my sons) who have developed a deep Eucharistic devotion from attending this group.

    On the other hand, it’s easy to imagine a concert that lacks specific emphasis on Catholic spirituality being presented in a church. Yuck. For those cases, I think that the Eucharist should definitely be reserved.

    Andrew Wolfe

  3. Beau says:

    We had an interesting “concert” in the church several years ago. The local high school music teacher (an Anglican) composed a traditional Mass, and taught his students to sing it, because he thought it was an important musical form for them to learn.

    He asked our priest if they could perform the Mass in the church (which they did – this was a Novus Ordo parish btw). Unfortunately, it couldn’t be an actual Mass because it was a school event – separation of church and state and all that.

    It was wonderfully done – it was music that truly deserved to be sung in that environment. The parish is one of the last built in the diocese according to more traditional architecture (floor plan shaped like a cross, vaulted ceilings, choir loft, etc.). The building is acoustically suited for liturgical music.

    I don’t know if the Eucharist was removed from the tabernacle or not. If it wasn’t, I suppose that was an abuse, but as traditional as I am, I’d have a hard time being too upset about that one.

  4. Faith says:

    What about ecumenical events? My Town has an Interfaith Council. http://www.franklin.ma.us/auto/community/worship/interfaith/default.htm The ministers from all the faiths are involved. At Christmas and Easter, the various faiths rotate in whose “house” a service will be conducted. The service consists of music and talks. When this is done in the Catholic Church, should the tabernacle be empty?

  5. Having a non-liturgical prayer service which includes music isn’t the same as a concert.

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