The ‘libido delendi’ that seized the Church, the desire to obliterate… everything

From something that you should read:

The elimination of altars and communion rails is the obliteration of sacred art. The obliteration of sacred art is the flattening of liturgical language. The flattening of liturgical language is the abandonment of ageless chants and hymns. The abandonment of those chants and hymns is the forgetting of immemorial devotions and prayers. The forgetting of those prayers is the secularization of time. The secularization of time is the laicization of clergy and religious. Their laicization is the rage to deny the mysteriousness of the faith. The denial of that mystery implies the building of churches as neutral spaces. The building of such churches is the destruction of churches like Saint Anne’s, and, as an ultimate but never to be realized aim, the destruction of Christ’s Church on earth.

Where’s that from? I’ll get to it in a moment.

I sometimes write that, today, we have lots of newish churches that look like municipal airports. No document, nothing, required that statues and altars and rails and windows be torn out of our churches, insulting the memories of our forebears who built them with the the sweat of their brows. There are no documents that says, “let paintings and decorations by removed or whitewashed”. But that’s what has been done time and time again. Not a single document said that our music should be ugly and our translations banal and our vestments impoverished.  Nope.  On the other hand, it is still possible to build beautiful, theologically rich churches. It just isn’t done too often. More often now that 10 years ago, perhaps. Just today I mentioned in a post the Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe built by Card Burke near LaCrosse, WI.  We can still have worthy sacred music, beautiful art, and decorum which point to the transcendent.

Here is a sample of a piece by Anthony Esolen at Crisis. Yes, that’s what I quoted, above.

What I’m trying to get at here is hard to put into words. When I entered Saint Anne’s in Woonsocket, a church that had narrowly escaped destruction by the diocese, it was as if I had entered the ruins of a lost way of life. Then I began to see that the libido delendi that seized my Church applied to everything in our worship and education. They were not separate but coincidental movements for destruction. They were and are parts of one movement, and not a new movement in the history of the Church, either.

Only academics can think themselves into pretending to like verse without music, music without harmony, painting without skies or flowers or animals or people. Intellectuals are the original smashers of images. It was not quarry workers who demanded that their communion rails be knocked out with sledge hammers. It was not little children who pleaded with their pastors to cover paintings with whitewash. It was not housewives who demanded that the high altars with all their draperies and candelabra be replaced with tables so bare and spare that they would not do for an ordinary kitchen.

Read the rest there.  He tells about a great church in Rhode Island that escaped destruction and what that church teaches us.

Libido delendi … the lust to obliterate… is back.

Over the last few months, self-absorbed promethean neopelagians [SAPNs] are crawling out of the woodwork and from under rocks.  They are getting up on their hind legs and braying against “triumphalism” and how liturgy requires “poverty” and none of that old “hoopla”.  And we are going to see a lot more of this for a while, I’m afraid.  We have some dark days ahead, I think, as this cycle plays out.  If you don’t think you aren’t in their crosshairs… think again.  It’s payback time for the 33 years of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The SAPNs are pushing their agenda.   Here’s what I think you ought to push.

Push for as many celebrations of the older form of the Roman Rite as possible in as many places as possible as soon as possible.

It will be hard to get going.  SO WHAT?  Make it work.  Work with sweat and money to make it happen.

Get involved with all the works of charity that your parishes or groups sponsor. Make a strong showing. Make your presence known. When work needs to be done, step up and ask, “What do you need?”

Pray and fast and give alms. Think you have been doing that? Do more.

Get organized.  Find like-minded people and get that request for the implementation of Summorum Pontificum together.  Raise the money. Buy the stuff the parish will need.  DO IT.  ¡HAGAN LÍO!”

This will require that people put aside their petty little personal interpretations and preferences of how Father ought to wiggle his pinky at the third word.  It is team-work time.  If we don’t sacrifice individually, we will be sacrificed individually.

Remember that the legislation is in place.  Young priests and seminarians are dying to get into this stuff.  Give them something to do.

As I have written before take off the training wheels and RIDE THE DAMN BIKE!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Cri de Coeur, Fr. Z KUDOS, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Self-absorbed Promethean Neopelagians and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. iamlucky13 says:

    “I sometimes write that, today, we have lots of newish churches that look like municipal airports.”

    I’ve always called them “spaceship” or UFO churches, mainly because the exterior shapes are as inexplicably odd as 50’s scifi spaceships tended to be, including some that can only be described as flying saucers shaped. Not only that, but they also tend to have that interior blandness or even sterility so common to a genre typified by low budgets that limited, among other things, the complexity of set designs. I can’t shake a presumably phantom memory, for example, of attending Mass in the spaceship from This Island Earth. See it here:

    I’m never more deeply impressed at how past congregations contributed their treasures and talents to create spaces that direct our thoughts effectively to God than when I see a really impressive stained glass window. So many thousands of pieces of glass of innumerable tints cut to shapes and soldered in place to form an image better than I can even draw with the far easier medium of a pencil and paper. And when formed into a whole window, it reminds us specifically of actual beliefs we profess.

    And then I see those contrasted with newer churches, where tools of capabilities the craftsmen of a century ago would never have dreamed of using are used to shape windows that at best portray Our Lord as barely identifiable as human, in a generic pose, usually with no hint of the transcendence down to His people that typified the art of former times. Or more likely, the windows are just rectangles filled with other rectangles of different colors. Or as is the case of one church near me, lasered engravings of whales, otters, and flowers.

  2. Iacobus M says:

    Anthony Esolen has become one of my favorite commentators on things Catholic (second only to Fr. Z, of course). And the term “Libido Delendi” sums it up perfectly: even things as innocuous as the terms “Processional” and “Recessional” need to be replaced with clunky new coinages; we are now given Mass booklets called, in perfect bureaucratese, “Worship Aids.” Why?

  3. goodone121 says:

    But what if we like the Ordinary Form, more?

  4. Cantor says:

    …and all for the want of a rail.

  5. Charles E Flynn says:

    It is ironic that Woonsocket has a reputation for having a large percentage of the population of French origin, while back in their mother country:

    A Scandalous Makeover at Chartres, by Martin Filler, for the New York Review of Books.

  6. JustaSinner says:

    This is bad? I tell you…did you see the latest news about the nuns? From pariahs to heroes, all with the new poope. Soon the Unitarians are going to look orthodox, I tell you. Chag Sameach, I say on the first night of Chanukah.

  7. Grateful to be Catholic says:
  8. Clinton says:

    Sadly, the magnificent St. Ann’s church Mr. Esolen wrote about in that Crisis
    article is no longer Catholic. The diocese began to lease it out to a local group over a
    decade ago, and eventually sold it to that organization. It is now the “St. Ann Arts and
    Cultural Center”, available for rental for special events to all and sundry– including,
    I assume, same-sex ‘weddings’, wiccan celebrations, etc., etc. …

    “Libido delendi” can sometimes be something far worse than simple vandalism.

  9. Traductora says:

    Excellent, excellent article and excellent comments! A few days ago, I read some comments by a Latin American priest who was recently appointed to an important position in a Church organization generally considered “conservative,” in which he said that the Church and the people no longer had any need of beautiful church buildings, art, etc. and that we needed to abandon them. The world is really waiting for “us,” all it wants is to see is “truly human faces,” or something to that effect.

    I think the priest’s word were just an attempt to curry favor with the current powers that be and to protect his organization, but it seemed to me that he entirely distorted the function of sacred art and sacred spaces. They stand as a witness to the truth, a place in the midst of the city or the wilderness that is a permanent reminder of God and of the need to seek Him, they give people a physical reminder that God is with us, and they are a locus for conserving the experience, the searching and the love of all the Christians who have gone before us in the Church. How are those “truly human” Christians going to be formed, unless by contact with this? Christianity is a physical religion, simply by virtue of the Incarnation, and Christians need this physical contact with Heavenly realities in the form of churches or art or liturgy.

    The tendency to jeer at these things and say that at best they are museum pieces to remind us of the bad old days before we somehow became “fully human” is very disturbing. I read that the pop star Justin Bieber recently was given a private tour of the Vatican, including the now unused papal apartments, for $25,000. While his willingness to pay this amount of money to see this “museum” is worthy, considering what else he could spend it on, and probably indicates some hidden curiousity about the faith behind these buildings, the fact that the Church is treating them in such a way that desacralizes sacred spaces (or even decommissions the spaces used in the work of the Church for the salvation of mankind) is fundamentally wrong on a very profound level.

  10. ml1948 says:

    I’m just finishing a semester teaching in Croatia, specifically Dubrovnik. There are churches and chapels everywhere, all testifying to the aesthetic and theological taste of our ancestors in the faith. What is more, the Churches are no curious relics from the past; Dubrovnik is alive with faith.

    For example, last Sunday I went to the Franciscan church just inside the Pile Gate (pronounced “PEE-lay” around these parts). No chit-chatting in the pews before Mass, but reverent prayer. The Mass itself was Croatian Novus Ordo, so I didn’t understand most of the language, but who has to when you know unambiguously what’s taking place, when, and why? I joined in the prayers in English, including the Confiteor, which is assiduously avoided back in Rochester, NY – we wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, now would we? The experience convinced me that the NO can be done with reverence and fidelity, but it does take some work.

    It was gratifying to see a crucifix on the altar; it was a inspiring to see consecrated hosts taken from the Tabernacle behind the altar (instead of being brought down an aisle from a secondary sanctuary). It was also nice to have communion distributed by two Franciscan priests – no extraordinary ministers needed! Only two priests were required because at least 60% of the congregation didn’t partake of the Eucharist – my assumption being that they didn’t feel they were in an appropriate state of grace. None of the “everybody in the pool” approach so common back home.

    Before Mass, the line at the Confessional was long, and no one seemed to be fazed by the fact that one has to confess one’s sins. I’d have gone then and there except the confessor didn’t speak English, so I wasn’t sure what would have happened. I’ll have to wait until I get home this weekend; with any luck confessions will be heard somewhere as Advent wears down.

    Lots of priests in Roman collars; lots of nuns in their habits. It feels like the world of my youth.

  11. JonPatrick says:

    Funny, I woke up this morning thinking about the almost breathtaking arrogance of 20th/21st Century Man when it comes to knowing so much better about everything than those poor ignorant slobs who lived in the past – we are sooo much smarter now, the smartest generations that ever existed! So we can cavalierly trash everything from the past and act as though the world began in 1960. So the Mass which underwent organic development but was essentially the same Mass that is the central point of our Catholic existence and nourished saints from Augustine to Francis of Assisi to Maximillian Kobe can summarily be dumped on the trash heap and replaced by a totally new composition. Ditto for the buildings, the vestments, etc. Not to mention our Catholic beliefs which must be updated because modern Man is so different that what went before.

  12. Deborah Maxwell says:

    Really interesting post, Father. Very thought-provoking.

  13. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    The abandonment of those chants and hymns is the forgetting of immemorial devotions and prayers.
    And the abandonment of the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH), the ultimate unwanted stepchild of the Church. The devotions, many of them worthwhile, came about because (1) the laity rightly know that Mass is not enough; (2) the Daily Divine Office, so much a part of the first six centuries of the Church, was itself abandoned by the Western church; and (3) the laity were mostly illiterate. Make the LOTH your daily prayer; sanctify your daily time.

    The forgetting of those prayers is the secularization of time.
    And the way Mother Church overcomes the secularization of time is through the sanctification of the day though the LOTH.

    Fr Z has given us the rest of the battle plan. In a sense, the demographic solution, as Father has called it, means that the battle will be won! The Modernist orders will be gone in 20 years, as well as Modernist Clergy. And this of Fr’s battle plan needs emphasis with respect to the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (MEF):
    Work with sweat and money to make it happen.
    Pastors will not offer the MEF if attendance is low and the collection plate is empty. Drive miles on Sunday; be a big giver at this Mass. And if your circumstance is just too isolated, use the US Mail to send a big check to parishes that offer the MEF, or to the FSSP.

    As Grace would have it, Psalm 86 (85 in the LXX counting) was the first psalm at Lauds today, 17.xii. It gave me strength and hope. Pray it.

  14. SimonDodd says:

    “Push for as many celebrations of the older form of the Roman Rite as possible in as many places as possible as soon as possible. It will be hard to get going. SO WHAT? Make it work. Work with sweat and money to make it happen.”

    I found a priest who would come to my parish and celebrate the usus antiquior; the pastor refused permission. Yes, yes, that flies in the face of SP, but what can you do? His permission is required and he won’t give it. Yes, yes, he should, SP expects him to, but he won’t. Get it? I floated the suggestion of upgrading the request for permission to a formal SP petition; no one would sign it, for various reasons. That was a profoundly demoralizing experience. Reality is, there’s nothing you can do in the face of clerical resistance and lay indifference.

    The climate has changed. It’s as if something happened in 2013 and suddenly it’s like we’re back in the seventies, all that progress, all that anticipation, the whole thrust of the tenor of the times reversed.

    The one and only card that I can play is to demand a funeral Mass in the extraordinary form, to which SP entitles me without need for any permission. I’ve had that email sitting in drafts for a while trying to figure out what language to use–cold and dry, probably.

    [In my very best Darth Vader pastoral style, pastors do not concern me, reader. I want that Mass, not excuses.]

  15. iPadre says:

    Berry sad. St. Ann’s was one of the most beautiful churches in our diocese. I went to junior high there. Today it’s avculteral center. There have been “same-sex” weddings, occult events and other weird thing held there. I await God’s just judgment for what has taken place everywhere.

  16. yatzer says:

    The OF doesn’t require an ugly Church. The EF does, IMHO, lend itself more to the evangelization that beauty can effect.

  17. Ed the Roman says:

    Except for the Stations, all the glass at my parish seems to have been chosen to add color and break up the flatness of the brick. Not at all illustrative of anything.
    The stations are, of course, highly stylized. It’s as if the architect and the artist wanted to allude to Catholicism without overtly stating it.

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    Professor Esolen makes an excellent turn of phrase in this essay. It is too bad that he is wrong, at least in part. He writes:

    “Only academics can think themselves into pretending to like verse without music, music without harmony, painting without skies or flowers or animals or people. Intellectuals are the original smashers of images. It was not quarry workers who demanded that their communion rails be knocked out with sledge hammers.”

    A nice sentiment, only, that’s not how it happened, at least in liturgical music. Indeed, it was the academic musicians who most lamented the loss of Church music of the pre-Vatican II era. Trained musicians who attend academic institutions are taught in a fairly rigorous manner the history of Western music, which, for the first 1400 years A. D. or so (give or take a troubadour) was mostly Church music and mostly derived from chant. They study the Easter sequences, the Marian antiphons, the early polyphonic settings of the Ordinary of the Mass, etc. In the Renaissance era, they are immersed in the music of Victoria, de Lasso, Monteverdi. If they go to graduate school, they learn to read chant notation at the Masters level and they study the development of chant notation at the doctoral level. Indeed, it was the academic musicians who were trying to properly implement the musical documents of Vatican II, but the rug was pulled out from under them.

    So, how did we get to such poor excuse for Church music? Well, ultimately, I guess one can blame the 45 rpm single play record. It allowed a large group of very powerful, very greedy record producers to flood the market with cheap folk and rock music from groomed cardboard musicians who wouldn’t know a crumhorn from a crumpet. When it came time to implement Vatican II, a small group of very powerful (dare I say greedy? – perhaps they just had an agenda) prelates flooded the market (which they virtually owned by owning the printing presses for Church music) with folk music from cardboard musicians who wouldn’t know Gabrieli if they fell over his trumpet concerto.

    The point is that it wasn’t professional or academic musicians who gave us Praise and Worship. It was, essentially, garage band musicians. The prelates pulling their strings did have a vested interest in deconstructing Christianity, so Esolen is correct about the intent of the disease. He just got the infecting organism wrong.

    The Chicken

  19. chantgirl says:

    Chicken- perhaps he is referring to Theology academics. No classically trained musician in his right mind would trade Palestrina for the St. Louis Jesuits’ version of Church music.

  20. Gerard Plourde says:

    I agree with the Chicken that musical professionals (for the most part) are not to blame. The creeping effects of Pop Culture played a big part and the seduction of Church officials (read clergy and religious) to be “relevant” contributed mightily. This dovetails with another post of Fr. Z’s today. I do think that the issue of “Americanism” (the heresy or nascent heresy) initially confronted by Pope Leo XIII also contributed to the dissemination of this mess. One of the concerns of the Church in condemning “Americanism” was that extreme expressions of American Exceptionalism concerning individual liberty and laissez faire economic practices of Classical Liberalism adopted by the American financial sphere in the 19th Century engendered the danger of falling into the sins of Pride and Greed. The danger is no less so today. It is good to recognize that God has blessed us with liberty and fostered in us a sense of justice, resulting in a prosperity that gives us world-spanning influence. These blessings do not vaccinate us against the weakness of the flesh that, if we are unwary, can lead us into sin. Liberty without responsibility quickly turns into license and it is axiomatic that American Pop culture is not immune from the excesses that license engenders. Sadly, our global influence broadcasts both the good and the not so good fruits of our culture. Couple with that an attitude of unquestioning acceptance of all things American as superior and, “Voila”.

  21. SimonDodd says:

    If you know some way to force the pastor to give permission, by all means share it, Lord Vader. SP is predicated on willing pastors and/or the existence of a stable group of the faithful who are aware of each others’ existence. In the absence of either, I don’t see what can be done. What do you want us to do, handcuff the pastor to his desk and carry it out anyway? I mean, I’m game if the celebrant is, but I would expect a priest to be chary about doing that over the refusal of the pastor.

    Maybe the answer is just to do it “under the radar”–no announcement, just orchestrate a guest priest (it happens) to celebrate a daily Mass and have him use the extraordinary form.

    [Did you look at SP? What’s the next step? Does SP say, “Gosh! Too bad. We guess you should just give up!”]

  22. They are getting up on their hind legs and braying against “triumphalism” and how liturgy requires “poverty” and none of that old “hoopla”. . . . . If you don’t think you aren’t in their crosshairs… think again. It’s payback time for the 33 years of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

    During which these same types held sway in most chanceries, as they continue to do. So nothing’s really new now. Most of those maintaining fidelity to the orthodox faith of the Church have spent their lifetimes in those same crosshairs.

  23. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Chicken, I would opine that most of the “garage band musicians” were Church intelligentsia, or closely tied to those intelligentsia with power in the Church. For example, the St. Louis Jesuits weren’t just some guys, and they didn’t just happen to get a record deal and a publishing deal and all the rest. They went to supposedly good Catholic schools and they did as they were taught to do.

  24. Mike says:

    A conundrum for some of us is that, as lovers of the Extraordinary Form, we carry little weight in scattered parishes, but have found havens and comrades either some friendly neighboring (or distant) TLM parish, or in a Novus Ordo church or chapel that occasionally makes room either for private (ad hoc) or regular diocesan-sanctioned TLMs.

    At that point, one of two things can happen. Having found their haven, the comrades can declare victory and leave it at that. However, that doesn’t strike me as a spiritual work of mercy; rather the opposite, in fact. The alternative is to find a way to carry the message to other parishes, and parishioners, that want it.

    It behooves us who love the TLM, and have regular and ready access to it, to place ourselves at the service of those who lack that access. Ideally, that would be by helping with the spade work that Father outlines. Juventutem is a model for carrying the message in this fashion, but we old tooters can and should be putting our veteran shoulders to the same wheel.

    If we know of, or think there might be, people in our diocese / vicinity whose efforts to promote the TLM in their own parishes could use a boost, we should be alert and prompt to reach out. Without such a “rapid response” attitude and strategy, our little enclaves — just like the adventuresome NO parishes from which some of their denizens escaped — are at peril, as are the unwitting and unknown souls they might have rescued.

  25. Charles E Flynn says:

    Regarding Chartres, a rebuttal and reply have been posted:

    The New Chartres: An Exchange, by Madeline H. Caviness and Jeffrey Hamburger, reply by Martin Filler

  26. MrsMacD says:

    No not intellectuals, principalities and powers and the forces of wickedness and darkness.

  27. Andrew D says:

    Here in the Diocese of Charlotte, we are fortunate to see some of the newer churches being built in the correct way instead of the A-frame and church-a-torium style of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Same for some of the older ones that are being renovated. Charlotte is a fairly new diocese and Catholicism here grew in the post Vatican II years which were certainly not the glory days of American (and sadly, Catholic American) architecture. Out of all the parishes in the entire Diocese, there are only about 5 that are truly architecturally significant. But, as I mentioned at the beginning there are some that were built during the ugly 70s that are renovating in the right way and here we are seeing some of the critics coming out from under the rocks. One in the mountains a few years back went from being a bland room with a plywood looking alter with wall-to-wall carpeting to a beautiful holy place with woodwork, a communion rail, stained-glass windows and murals. No sooner had it been completed and an article written in the Diocesan paper about the changes than a letter to the editor appeared about how “distracting” all the changes had been and how the writers were “former members.” Then, not so long after, another parish in the Diocese installed a number of beautiful statues of the saints, also published in the Diocesan paper. One week later, here came a letter from someone whining about how that money could have been donated to the poor (the money came from private donors from what I recall). These were the warning shots from what I fear is a rising element of militant “Spirit of Vatican II” intolerants who are determined to erase the real progress made here and in other Dioceses by our young priests who are bringing the faithful into the churches. Sadly, I have a fear of the day when despite the rising Mass attendance at parishes like those described, we’ll see the forced closings of these churches and the suppression of the Traditional Latin Mass by the powers that be. Pray very much for Pope Francis and for the bishops of America. Pray that he (and they who seem to pander to the modernists) will become true warriors for the Faith so my fears will not come true.

  28. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Andrew D has given a good analysis of the history in the diocese of Charlotte and a good survey of the present. I thank him. He comes short with his forecast of the future (which, to be fair, is pretty difficult to know. Most of us when we forecast the future depend on trends, and trends have a bad habit of falling apart right when one most depends on them.)

    Andrew’s gloomy forecast presupposes that Bishop Jugis would be a liberal/Modernist; he ain’t, and we’ve had no church-a-toria built since 2004, because Bishop Jugis forbids such. It presupposes that those who have become priests in this diocese in the last twenty years are liberals and homosexuals; they ain’t. It presupposes there is no “demographic solution” in this diocese; there is.

    What is of value in Andrew’s remarks is his note of admonition. We do indeed need to be vigilant so that the the good progress which we have made in the past 30 years — and I’ve witnessed that progress first hand — not retard. I think that there are good reasons to think that it will not retard.

  29. iamlucky13 says:

    “The stations are, of course, highly stylized. It’s as if the architect and the artist wanted to allude to Catholicism without overtly stating it.”

    “Allude to Catholicism without overtly stating it.” Well put! While I don’t really know the artist’s intent, that is the impression I get of a lot of modern “religious” art.

    If we believe God is all powerful, shouldn’t we reinforce it with images of Him performing miracles? If we believe His people can do great things in His name, shouldn’t we visually remind ourselves of great acts of the saints? If we believe that He loves us so much to take upon humble human form and offer the greatest sacrifice a human is capable of, one’s own life, shouldn’t we reflect upon accurate and vivid representations of what the crucifixion was?

    Even if it’s merely intended as abstraction rather than dilution or avoidance of the essential facts, abstraction is not universally useful.

  30. Pingback: Reverse Wreckovation in Los Angeles -

Comments are closed.