Biased BBC’s Alan notes;
“The Church has always been astonishingly wealthy with vast resources from its taxes upon the people and income from its large estates, more than enough to build the fabulous architectural triumphs of the Cathedrals. It might therefore be something of a moral dilemma for someone like Giles Fraser, the once Dean of St Paul’s, and BBC favorite, to lecture us on the sin of being rich. After all he has jumped ship from his previous employ to join with the new, equally rich, Priesthood of the Liberal Media.
I mention this merely because whilst watching (ironically enough) the BBC’s ‘How to build a cathedral’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00b09rb/How_to_Build_a_Cathedral/) they quoted St Bernard of Clairvaux.
Not only does St B. inform us that concerns over the merits of financial wealth as opposed to spiritual riches were of major concern many centuries ago but that the Church is certainly not immune from criticism.
‘The church is resplendent in her walls and wanting in her poor. She dresses her stones in gold and lets her sons go naked. The eyes of the rich are fed at the expense of the indigent. The curious find something to amuse them and the needy find nothing to sustain them.’
The BBC et al have the bit between their teeth at present about wealth and inequality as if it was a new dilemma…..was it Andrew Marr who told us the Victorians were in a more equal society than we are now? You must be kidding….Dickens anyone? Nothing like a stunning, wilful blindness to reality when you have a point to make.
I link to St Bernard’s quote because I’m pretty fed up with sanctimonious rubbish about the ‘new’ inequality and super rich in society and it’s also just a brilliant piece of scathing vilification that no well paid Guardian columnist could ever aspire to…..intellectually nor artistically.
Bernard was the chief spokesman for Cistercian values. Monastic life was to be austere and disciplined. Food, buildings and even worship were to be kept simple. Monasteries were to be built away from population centres, thus shielding the brothers from distraction and excessive contributions.
BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX: APOLOGY
‘I say nothing of the enormous height, extravagant length and unnecessary width of the churches, of their costly polishings and curious paintings which catch the worshipper’s eye and dry up his devotion, things which seem to me in some sense a revival of ancient Jewish rites. Let these things pass, let us say they are all to the honor of God.
Nevertheless, just as the pagan poet Persius inquired of his fellow pagans, so I as a monk ask my fellow monks: “Tell me, oh pontiffs,” he said, “what is gold doing in the sanctuary?” I say (following his meaning rather than his metre): “Tell me, poor men, if you really are poor what is gold doing in the sanctuary?”
We know that the bishops, debtors to both the wise and unwise, use material beauty to arouse the devotion of a carnal people because they cannot do so by spiritual means.
I shall speak plainly: Isn’t greed, a form of idolatry, responsible for all this? Aren’t we seeking contributions rather than spiritual profit?
The church is resplendent in her walls and wanting in her poor. She dresses her stones in gold and lets her sons go naked. The eyes of the rich are fed at the expense of the indigent. The curious find something to amuse them and the needy find nothing to sustain them.”
Good Lord! If we aren’t embarrassed by the silliness of it all, shouldn’t we at least be disgusted by the expense