20 April 2008

A question

I posted earlier this week about the Pope's Mass in Washington. My point was that even though the music was reported to be awful in many quarters, the Mass was still valid and therefore beautiful. Reader and good friend Vox pinged in the comments box that the priests could dress up like clowns, and still hold a valid Mass, but that would not make it right. As a result I've been thinking and rethinking, and having reached a stalemate, I wish to ask a question of you readers:

Is there a point at which ugliness can become an abuse? The Mass is beautiful, the Mass is supposed to be supported by the beauty of the arts- particularly music- but often we have seen bad music, bad art, ugly churches, and so on, which do not meet the lofty ideals of the Mass. Is any deviation an abuse, or is there a question of degree in here as well? Vox uses the example of a priest dressed as a clown. How about a middle case: the priest is wearing really ugly vestments. We've all seen one or two of those, think of your least favourite and ask yourself: was that too far gone?

If this is wrong- and I did say if- this places a double burden upon the faithful. First, we must do what we can to correct it. The second burden is related to the first: If we want better music performed, betters vestments, more beautiful artwork, then the next thing we must do as the faithful, after we have made our voices heard and after the priest has a agreed with us, is tighten our belts and fork out the money. As our pastor once told us when he was trying to replace a statue that had fallen and broke into pieces during a procession: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is: we have the money to replace the statue. The bad news is: it's still in your pockets." As another friend once told me: "Good things ain't cheap, and cheap things ain't good."

So, if you still wish to answer the question: At what point does bad taste become an abuse? Is it an abuse in and of itself, or are there degrees?

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