Thursday, August 19, 2004
Patriotism in the House of God
The good folks over at The Saintly Salmagundi
have got to talking about posting national flags within the church sanctuary. This is, in fact, a fairly common practice; in fact, it's more common in these parts to fly both the American and the Vatican flag. Larger churches, cathedrals and basilicas tend to do this as a rule, in my experience (or maybe it's just here in the nation's capitol). The practice might seem objectionable for the number of reasons: it could indicate unwarranted support for a government which doesn't merit it, or indicate unwanted government involvement in religious affairs, etc. It goes back, at least in this country, to the Second World War, where it served as a gesture of support for American troops abroad.
Liturgical and canon law, however, have never developed any legislation to regard this custom. All we have is a handful of statements from the USCCB (I know, I know, booing and hissing anticipated in advance), which heartily discourage it (see this 2001 statement
, but most definitively the notorious 'Environment and Art in Catholic Worship'
of 1978, normally dubbed the 'church-wrecker' document, which isn't available on-line that I know of; see also the newsletter statement at the bottom of this
page). The authority of these, unsurprisingly, is virtually nil. In fact, it's literally nil, since the EACW was not even approved
by the full body of bishops; besides, it was supplanted by 'Built of Living Stones'
in 2001, which does not address the question.
Since canon law, like civil law, is proscriptive, whatever is not prohibited is assumed to be permitted. No one can canonically prevent one from posting either a national or a Vatican flag within the sanctuary. Whether or not this is advisible is up to debate, I suppose. Personally, I see little reason to exclude the practice, which has become so fixed a part of American custom. But of course, I am (happily) not a liturgist.
# posted by Jamie : 12:05 PM