Aug 14, 2007

Architect Moyra Doorly comments on Cardinal Mahony's cathedral

The August issue of the Ignatius Insight e-bulletin (click on this post's title) has an interview by its editor, Carl E. Olson, with architect Moyra Doorly, author of the new book No Place For God: The Denial of the Transcendent in Modern Church Architecture (Ignatius Press, 2007).

Author Doorly says this, among other things, about Cardinal Mahony's cathedral:

"Why build a Catholic cathedral that has as one of its central aims not to be specifically Catholic? To aim for universal appeal is a Relativist impulse borne of the belief that all religious traditions are equally valid, that there's 'nothing special' about Catholicism and nothing special about God. In Los Angeles Cathedral it seems that only Man is special."

She said that after citing passages in a brochure about the cathedral.

What do you think about her assessment?

Accompanying the interview is a nice, worthwhile list of links to material about Catholic churches and their design.

By the way, editor Olson made a comment here recently; glad he checked in, and glad you have, too.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Quintero,
Some of your criticisms of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels can be leveled at any one of the major churches of the world that draws tourists on a regular basis.

One cannot gaze on the tabernacle in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, for example, when Mass is celebrated on the Papal Altar or at the Altar of the Chair.

And there are many many people wandering around and talking when you visit St. Peter's or Notre Dame in Paris or any of the other great cathedrals.

One of the things I love about the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels is that everything is accessible...the altar, the ambo, the cathedra, the baptismal font, etc. Whereas other churches and cathedrals denote sacred space by ropes and gates and rails, our cathedral says that the entire church is sacred space and that the people are sacred, too.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous mike said...


If an entire building is sacred space, and people are sacred, then nothing is sacred. That is, if everything is sacred, then sacred has no meaning. The altar where Christ is sacrificed each day is more sacred than the pews where people sit.


10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reason we set apart special places and call them sacred spaces is precisely because the whole world is sacred.

It seems to me that part of the thinking of TMers and their ilk is the sacredness of things - the Mass of Pope St. Pius V, O.P., is replete with numerous blessings of and signs of reverence to things--the paten, the chalice, the water before it goes into the wine, etc. While I have no problem with acknowledging that things can be sacred, the sacredness of people who, after all are created in the image and likeness of God, should be a far greater concern. (Don't forget that one of the ways that Jesus makes himself really and truly present during Mass is in the assembly who are the Body of Christ.)

One of the beauties of the Mass of Pope Paul VI is that it reduced emphasis on sacred things and accentuates the sacredness of God's People. The 1970 Missal has a healthy balance of "vertical" and "horizontal" spirituality.

(By the way, I, for one, despise it when the celebration of Mass, especially the music, is unbalanced with the emphasis on the "horizontal.")

11:01 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Anon: You're in a muddle. Mike is right. So is Moyra Doorly. The way you blend together the sacred with the non-sacred is quite popular in many church circles, but it's incorrect -- at the very it's least misleading.

-- who says Quintero's criticisms of Raj Mahoney (said with levity, not scorn) can "be leveled at any one of the major churches of the world that draws tourists on a regular basis"? Your only examples are that A) you can't "gaze upon the tabernacle during Mass at St. Peter's." Huh? Where does Quintero (or anyone) say he wants to gaze anywhere that would distract from the present holy sacrifice of the Mass taking place at the altar in front of you? and B) some cathedrals have a bunch of people walking around inside. Non sequitur.

-- You say, "our cathedral says that the entire church is sacred space and that the people are sacred, too." People are NOT sacred, dude. You and I are fallen sinners who desperately need the SACREDness of our Lord's Body and Blood. Yes, we are made in God's image and likeness; and therefore no, we are not utterly depraved or vile as Calvin taught. But flattening these categories to include "the entire church space" as also sacred confuses a very clear distinction. I even doubt you believe it. Is the dirt on the rubber feet of the kneelers also sacred? How about the dust that blackens the overheard light covers after a few years?

If Our Lady of the Angels could be a Pastoral letter, it surely came in the form of Cardinal Mahoney's 1998 "Gather Faithfully Together" pastoral, which is rife with this lack of distinction-making. In an applied, derivative sense, of course God's people are sacred, aka holy, but are made so not by our own natures or inherent loveliness, but because of his grace through living the life sacramental.

-- when you say, "Jesus is really and truly present during Mass in the assembly is in the assembly who are the Body of Christ" you show how much of the AmChurch mentality has seeped in. A phrase like "really and truly present" borrows from a very specific description of the Real Presence. Yes, Jesus is present in the assembly. He's also present in Scripture and in a mountain range at sunset. No kidding. But quasi-equating Jesus HIMSELF in the Eucharist with his spiritual presence among us poor sinners who come to him, is bad catechesis, period. We are not mini-Eucharists offering the kiss of peace to other mini-Eucharists.

-- you use the sneer term "ilk" to describe TMers. That's an odd way to reference Pope Benedict XVI, who recently called the Traditional Latin Mass, "a greater sacral experience." I guess you missed the whole Motu Proprio thing, or perhaps underestimate what a seismic shift it represents for the universal Church.

-- You say to Mike: "The reason we set apart special places and call them sacred spaces is precisely because the whole world is sacred." Sorry, you've got it exactly backwards. We set apart sacred places (as we do sacred times, seasons and festivals) precisely because the world is NOT sacred in itself. While the world is good insofar as the good God has created it and sustains it in being, it is also the place of corruption, of the flesh and the devil as the old manuals used to to put. If "the world" was sacred per se, there would be no need to set apart anything. Which was Mike's whole point. "Set apart" is the Latin root of the word sacrifice, hence the fittingness of setting apart the altar and other places/objects of mystery and wonder. The very design of so many of the great cathedrals was inspired by and is rooted in, the ancient Jewish idea behind the Temple's structure with its degrees of "setting apart" right down to the Holy of Holies behind which only the High Priest could venture and only then on Yom Kippur.

-- the point of the various objects of the altar being blessed by the priest is that these are directly connected to celebrating the "sacred mysteries." The blessings presuppose that this paten, that corporal, and so on, are not AUTOMATICALLY suitable by virtue of their own inner "sacredness," but because they are now enlisted in a holy task. The same basic principle applies to the blessing of cemetery grounds, blessing the font waters of Baptism, and blessing yourself with holy water as you walk into a church. ("Holy" water -- there it is again!" According to you, why not just dump tap water in there?)

All this reminds me of dissenters who claim that the Catholic Church teaches that sex is so dirty that it should only be experienced in opposed to teaching that it is a supremely beautiful human reality that deserves the "set apartness" and the holy protection of the sacrament of Marriage. If you import your logic into the sexual sphere, then sex outside of marriage must be equally "holy" as is sex between loving and committed shack-up partners.

PS Why can't everyone ID themselves with their real names instead of hiding behind "Anon"? At least come up with a good phony name and stick with it. Makes it impossible to keep an intelligible thru-line going.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Patrick,
I cut and paste my response to Qunitero criticizing the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels from another thread here. Quintero had complained because he could not look at the tabrnacle during the celebration of Mass in the cathedral.

I'm sorry to see that you have internalized and appropriated so much Protestant theology. Do you, perchance, watch a lot of TBN?

Catholic theology teaches that human nature is essentially good while Protestant theologu holds that human nature is essentially corrupt.

While Catholic theology says that human nature is weakened due to the influence of original sin and the reality of actual sin, it boldy proclaims that the goodness God placed in human nature remains. The Catholic Church says that the power of God who said "It is very good" when he cretaed man is greater than the power of evil and sin.

So, yes, human beings are indeed sacred.

Jesus himself said that, where two or three gather in his name, he would be present amomg them.

Hence, it takes nothing away from the Eucharist (which the Church calls Jesus really and truly present par excellence) to acknowledge the other ways that Jesus makes himself really and truly present in the celebration of Mass: in the presider who acts in persona Christi; in the proclamation of the Word (the Word was with God...the Word is God...the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us); in the assembly of God's People who are the mystical Body of Christ; and of course, in the Eucharist in which Jesus is really and truly present sacramentally and substantially under the accidents of bread and wine.

I have no argument with the Holy Father and his motu propio, nor with those who favor the Mass of Pope St. Pius V, O.P. The Holy Father himself expressed the desire that the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the one Roman Rite might benefit each other. My hope is that the TMers and their ilk (and I use this expression strictly as a form of shorthand) will come to a greater love and appreciation of the beauty of the Mass of Pope Paul VI even as we reclaim the beauty of the "Tridentine" Mass. Just as the "Tridentine" Mass reminds us of sacred objects, may the Mass of 1970 remind TMers and their ilk of the sacredness of each human being around the altar during the Sacrifice of the Mass.

You might want to keep in mind a favorite expression of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: Jesus comes to us often in the most distressing of disguises. It's hard to top that when descriibing the sea of humanity the Lord draws to himself in the Sacred Mysteries of the Mass--whether it be the Mass of Pope St. Pius V, O.P., or the Mass of Pope Paul VI.

Or, as James Joyce said in his defintion of Catholicism: "Here comes everybody!"

9:09 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 12:25 a.m.,

A big difference between Cardinal Mahony's cathedral and basilicas and cathedrals such as those you mention is that those in charge of them do not call them models for all the churches in their diocese, as Cardinal Mahony's cathedral web site does his.

Sorry, but Catholic churches need sanctuaries, and the sanctuaries are not to be "accessible" to everyone. Setting apart the sanctuary is one of the good effects of Communion rails.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Mike,

Thanks for intervening so ably! You make excellent points.

I am tired of seeing whole crowds of lay "ministers" swarm up into the sanctuary during Mass as if the doors at Sears had just opened for a big sale, by the way.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 11:01 a.m.,

Human life is sacred. And we are made in the image and likeness of God. But, and this is essential, Jesus instituted the Catholic priesthood. It is up to the Church in our day to restore true understanding of the greatness of the Catholic priesthood, as well as the distinction between the powers, rights and duties of our priests and those of the laity.

The liberals try their utmost to blur that distinction, and their ways of blurring include cramming the sanctuary with lay people.

The phrase "really and truly present" fits the True Presence. But when it is applied to the congregation, it confuses and misleads people -- and it lessens some people's faith in the Real Presence. How about not using it?

If, as you say, the Mass of Pope Paul VI "accentuates the sacredness of God's People," then a lot of God's people evidently do not want their "sacredness" accentuated, because they have left the Church by the millions since that Mass was introduced.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Patrick,

Thank you for intervening so ably! You make really excellent points.

Your comment would make a really good article in a Catholic print or online publication.

I hope you have a blogspot or will consider starting one. And if you do, please let us all know!

Mike ought to do the same, don't you think?

I'm going to re-read and re-re-read your comments and Mike's. Thank you for making so many essential distinctions.

I see no Protestant theology at all in your comment, by the way.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous,

I don't think any jury -- any Catholic one, anyway -- would convict me or any other Catholic for loving Jesus in the Tabernacle during the Holy Sacrifice.

That enhances, not detracts from, our attention and prayer at Mass.

Hiding Jesus far away from the sanctuary, or the empty space where the sanctuary should be, is a poor idea theologically, catechetically and pastorally.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 9:09 p.m.,

This is what I said:

"When we cannot find the Blessed Sacrament anywhere near the altar and in the congregation's view during the Holy Sacrifice..."

And I reiterate that knowing the Blessed Sacrament is close by enhances our prayer and attention at Mass. Jesus could never be a "distraction" at the unbloody reenactment of His own sacrifice!

We all have to admit that many Catholics have taken the wrong lesson from the placement of the Blessed Sacrament outside the main body of our churches. Their faith and understanding have been harmed!

8:15 AM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Anonymous 9:09 p.m.,

I remember reading that James Joyce's sister was a Catholic nun who prayed for him all her life and that those prayers of hers did help him in his last hours.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Dear "anon":

You can keep repeating, "So, yes, human beings are indeed sacred," all day, but contra your desire to have this jibe with Catholic theology, it's simply an inaccurate, not to mention hubristic, way of describing man's nature. You apparently will not make the critical distinction between good and sacred. Citing what God says in Genesis proves too much, I'm afraid. The Hebrew noun *tov* does not mean sacred or holy. It's traditional translation is the best: it means simply "good." Even when modified by "very" does not result in sacred. A shallow pit is better than a deep one -- stop digging.

Your TBN/Protestant theology crack (after I explicitly renounced the Calvinist depravity theory) is accidentally funny, and says something about your disinterest in reading what I actually write, not mention your own version of Catholic theology. On man's non-sacred inherent nature, the CCC teaches this:

"The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails "captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil". Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social and morals. 407

The consequences of original sin and of all men's personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John's expression, "the sin of the world". This expression can also refer to the negative influence exerted on people by communal situations and social structures that are the fruit of men's sins." 408

Peter's heart-wrenching reaction in Luke 5 to the sight of the big haul of fish (ie his sudden awareness of Christ's divinity) must really annoy you. "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" cried Peter. If your theory of the sacredness of human beings is true, Peter should have said something like, "Good job, Lord! My own sacredness is grooving to yours. I like your style, babe. Let's eat."

Hell, why baptize babies? Kind of redundant for an inherently sacred being, eh. It's hard to get excited about Confession as well, under your view of our Natural Born Niceness. Well, maybe Hitler....

Quintero clarified what he meant by your tabernacle comment but he didn't need to. Even though I didn't tread the original thread, I've read his fine blog enough to know he wasn't literally complaining that he "couldn't gaze upon the tabernacle during Mass." Please.

BTW, Ole' Quintero, I'm the Patrick who runs I'm deeply wounded you don't remember me. lol.

Anon, my humble opinion is, your view of mans' nature is semi-Pelagian. And given your accusation against me, this is ironic since the vast majority of oldline mainline Protestant groups hold this same rosy view. I think your explanation (?) of your use of the term ilk in reference to supporters of the Holy Father speaks volumes.

I'll let readers of LA Catholic decide whether your language is mushy or magnificent regarding the question at hand.



PS Not to nitpick, but since you enlist the cachet of James Joyce, he never said "here comes everybody," let alone describe Catholicism that way. (Even if he did, it hardly supports your argument.) Contrary to popular, the term is a poetic interpretation of the acronym-nickname of H. C. Earwicker, a character in "Finnegan's Wake" (1939).

PPS I don't care for TBN. Too much big hair and bad singing." But I can't live without Mexican TV novellas. Very moving and realistic. ("Oye, mi corazon! Por favor, carino! Te quiero con todo mi corazon!)

5:46 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Patrick,

Thank you for your kind words and for the good points you continue to make.

And may I make amends by urging everyone to visit you at

Thanks for linking to L.A. Catholic, too!

We need to re-sensitize ourselves to the sacred and beautiful and holy in our churches and Masses. We need that so much.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Quintero said...

Dear Patrick,

Your summary of the dialogue in the telenovela soap operas is pretty funny because it is no doubt pretty accurate!

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Patrick,
Thanks for citing the CCC which tells us that human nature is wounded because of original sin and actual sin. Look back aa what I said, and you'll see we are in perfect agreement.

Catholic theology is indeed a wonder. I'm glad to find that you subscribe to it too.

The members of the Church, the Body of Christ, are temples of the Holy Spirit because of baptism. Doesn't that make them at least sacred in your view? What's the greater sin--offenses against a religious object or offenses against a fellow human being created in God's image and likeness?

3:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Q,
I remember public relations materials generated when the cathedral was being built mentioning the cathedral's mission to the wider community, outside the Catholic Church. I think Ms. Doorly misrepresents these.

All of the literature highlighted the cathedral's role as the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, pointing out the real and symbolic importance of the cathedra from which the cathedral derives its designation.

The literature would then add that the cathedral could serve as a gathering place for the civic community in ways that might not be specifically related to the worship activities of the Catholic Church. I remember Cardinal Mahony once saying that the public viewing of Mayor Tom Bradley's casket could have been more appropriate in the cathedral than in the atrium of the Convention Center.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels serves Los Angeles much as the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul (the so-called National Cathedral) serves the needs of Washington, D.C., when a large religious space is needed for ecumenical and inter-religious events.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like so much here on the fascist left coast of the United States the grand master aka prime prelate of southern california the erodite heterodox apostate one roger mahoney and his henchmen throughout this great state have all but destroyed the faith of millions of Roman Catholics throughout the United States southwest. Rome does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to purge these non-Catholics from places of authority throughout the world, entities like roger mahoney & tod brown and thousands more cum by ya 60's quasi priests dominate this area of the Catholic world (yet Rome does nothing). But what the HELL do Catholics expect when the MAJORITY of these novus ordo presbyterians err (presbyters) are alumni of good ole gay only St. Johm Camarillo Seminary.ANY YET ROME DOES NOTHING Thanks be to G-D the days of the theatrics of john paul 2 the freemasonry of paul 6 and the rabid socialism of john paul one and the author of degenerate Catholicism john 23 are in the past and just maybe the Church of Christ is again on the ascendancy

11:09 AM  
Blogger Anita Moore said...


I am originally from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and when I was a kid (back in Cardinal Manning's day), I had the privilege of visiting St. Vibiana as a chorister, and had a first-rate view of its beauty from the choir loft (which is where all choirs belong, not down in front). I even got to meet Cardinal Manning and kiss his ring (which I wonder if that's even done anymore). I mourn the loss of St. Vibiana's as the seat of the Archdiocese, but am glad she was ultimately saved; I hope she will one day be restored to her rightful eminence.

I have lived in Idaho for the last dozen years, so I have never visited the Taj Mahony, but I have seen enough to convince me that it's basically architectural heresy. This might interest you.

12:16 PM  

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