CHRISTOPHER HOWSE, City Churches Demolition Dilemma, July 17, raises several issues. Rationalisation of inner city parishes and their churches has been a latent problem for a number of years. For almost the same time, churches have been modified more or less in accordance with new liturgical practice.
Altogether there has been ample time to formulate clear and comprehensive guidelines for schemes of rationalisation, and modification, including a responsible pastoral justification for the conservation of patrimony.
Now under pressure of certain practical, and financial, urgencies, it is to he hoped that whatever decisions are reached apropos such schemes, they will include initiatives and resources for exercising that particular pastoral respcinsibility alongside others.
However it is possible to discern practical urgencies becoming confusedly associated wiht certain pressing pastoral ideologies.
Howse's polemic that "parishes cannot give priority to architecture at the expense of pastoral work", and that an "avid" concern for patrimony is a "refusal to address parish problems", is a good example.
The resulting agenda arising from this ideology. as recent pastoral exercises have shown, seems to leave a concern for patrimony (and the arts in general) bereft of pastoral justification.
As a consequence heritage can more readily find its way to the auctioneer's sale room, or the caretaker's lumber room, with consciences fully salved. For heritage with a price tag, history is but a pedigree; for history as an irrelevance. heritage is but an encumbrance.
Not surprisingly therefore, schemes of rationalisation give rise to disputations more fundamental in thier issues than disagreements over the assessment of practicalities, or the niceties of taste; they give rise to clashes of ideology.
There is a legitimate pastoral basis for the justification of conservation, and it will be found within the pastoral pronouncements of Vatican 11 (SG123 & 126: 10 254); and similarly for culture in general (GS531f). But even without reference to that basis. the conservationist's ideology is founded on a belief that the quality of enviornroent is of beneficial concern to people, and that a concern for heritage is one of revitalising traditional modes of community self-identity, Does that seem like a concern fundamentally at loggerheads with those of a pastoral ideology? To me it seems as though the conservationist and the pastoralist have more in commong than would at first seem apparent.
Consequently it would be useful if there was a more constructive dialogue between the two. They would not seem to be the antagonists that some would have them be.
In their common sympathies they would however seem to have a common antagonist. and that is the materialist for whom place is a matter of investment (property) or mechanical services (plant), but not heritage (patrimony).
I am not a member of a "pressure group', nor an "avid architect", but it seems to me that the conservationist has a legitimate concern, and he has a legitimate responsibility to take measures to apply it.
Paul D Walker Derbyshire