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Henry Halligan wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have noticed a Blessed Sacrament chapel being used for all sorts of activities lately.

It was:

  • loaned out to a Protestant fundamentalist group for their services
  • used for band recitals
  • used for secular concerts, and
  • used for drama rehearsals.

The chapel has a modern design where chairs are taken in and out. It is circular in shape and the Blessed Sacrament is removed when these activities are taking place.

  • Are there guidelines laid down for what chapels and churches can and cannot be used for; they are sacred places?

I did search your database for an answer but had no luck.

Thank you.

Henry

  { Are there guidelines laid down for what chapels and churches can and cannot be used for? }

Mike replied:

Hi Henry,

Thanks for the question.

Use of a Catholic Adoration chapel for the purposes you have specified is not appropriate. Assuming you have already talked to the pastor overseeing the chapel, I would ensure the local bishop is aware of the events that are going on in order to prevent further abuse.

Any Catholic Adoration chapel should always be a place where the faithful can be guaranteed of walking into a chapel of complete silence and prayer in the presence of Our Eucharistic Lord Jesus.

The local bishop is ultimately responsible for the proper use of all Catholic buildings in his diocese, so if he approves of something you don't think is right, the best you can do is pray for him, which all Catholics should be doing for their bishops anyway.

I don't know of any official Catholic document that addresses the question you have specifically asked. Maybe my colleagues know of a resource or document.

This web page, from our colleagues at Catholic Answers, doesn't answer your question directly, but it's a good source for what is, and is not, allowed within a parish.

Mike

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi Mike,

I just wanted to add to your list of resources that address this type of issue.

The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993) states:

Sharing Other Resources for Spiritual Life and Activity

137. Catholic churches are consecrated or blessed buildings which have an important theological and liturgical significance for the Catholic community. They are therefore generally reserved for Catholic worship. However, if priests, ministers or communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church do not have a place or the liturgical objects necessary for celebrating worthily their religious ceremonies, the diocesan Bishop may allow them the use of a church or a Catholic building and also lend them what may be necessary for their services. Under similar circumstances, permission may be given to them for interment or for the celebration of services at Catholic cemeteries.

138. Because of developments in society, the rapid growth of population and urbanization, and for financial motives, where there is a good ecumenical relationship and understanding between the communities, the shared ownership or use of church premises over an extended period of time may become a matter of practical interest.

139. When authorization for such ownership or use is given by the diocesan Bishop, according to any norms which may be established by the Episcopal Conference or the Holy See, judicious consideration should be given to the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, so that this question is resolved on the basis of a sound sacramental theology with the respect that is due, while also taking account of the sensitivities of those who will use the building, e.g., by constructing a separate room or chapel.

140. Before making plans for a shared building, the authorities of the communities concerned should first reach agreement as to how their various disciplines will be observed, particularly in regard to the sacraments. Furthermore, a written agreement should be made which will clearly and adequately take care of all questions which may arise concerning financial matters and the obligations arising from church and civil law.

141. In Catholic schools and institutions, every effort should be made to respect the faith and conscience of students or teachers who belong to other Churches or ecclesial Communities. In accordance with their own approved statutes, the authorities of these schools and institutions should take care that clergy of other Communities have every facility for giving spiritual and sacramental ministration to their own faithful who attend such schools or institutions. As far as circumstances allow, with the permission of the diocesan Bishop these facilities can be offered on the Catholic premises, including the church or chapel.

142. In hospitals, homes for the aged and similar institutions conducted by Catholics, the authorities should promptly advise priests and ministers of other Communities of the presence of their faithful and afford them every facility to visit these persons and give them spiritual and sacramental ministrations under dignified and reverent conditions, including the use of the chapel.

You can find the entire document on the Vatican web site:

Fr. Jonathan

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