Dispoing of Catholic Sacred Articles on Ebay
By Hugh McNichol
As a Catholic Church, we need to be quite sensitive about the disposition of sacred articles that are no longer being used in our parishes.
A trend developing is finding Catholic sacred articles on places such as E-Bay or other online salvage sites. The real problem with these sites is that there is no attempt to reuse, or restore the items for their proper liturgical and devotional use. They are simply sold to the highest bidder. Whether the buy is another Catholic Church, an individual, a bar, a nightclub or anything else is not even considered. The buying and selling of sacred relics is forbidden by the Catholic Church, and even if it wasn’t treating all of these materials as architectural surplus is improper stewardship of resources that in many cases have been donated to the Church.
Altars, statues, and Catholic accessories were intended as objects for the proper celebration of Catholic rituals. They have no place in hotel lobbies, bars, department stores or non-Catholic churches as decorational accessories.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit King Richard’s web site and speak to the owner regarding his approach to reselling Catholic articles. Rick Lair, of King Richard’s, indicated very clearly that his company does not advocate the carless selling and reselling of Catholic objects online to just anyone. His business is committed to finding a Catholic home for Catholic sacred objects within newly designed or renovated Catholic Churches.
Such a reassurance is important. Not just because our Catholic Churches are closing, merging or consolidating… because they are reminders of our Catholic sacred art and heritage in the United States.
The Church throughout the United States is experiencing a significant demographic shift. It is comforting to know that as some Church close, the Catholic sacred furnishings of those old traditional Church’s can be reused in other diocese in the country where the Catholic population is growing and new Church’s are being built, not closed.
As Catholics, we need to develop a consciousness of material recycling when it comes to our sacred spaces and devotional items. Highly prized materials and talents were part of the American Catholic Church’s development in the eighteenth through the twentieth century and we need to recognize and restore these scared spaces.
Frequently, I have known of Catholic parishes that renovate and just toss out old fixtures for liturgical worship. As a Church, we cannot afford such extravagances and as a globally sensitive faith the world cannot tolerate such excess’ either.
Many architects specialize in the reutilization of older materials and religious accessories. Any Catholic Church making liturgical changes should make use of such services, before just spending more money on reduplicated articles and materials. Of course, one should note that there are some articles that should not be reused… for example… poorly executed artistic expressions such as statues with “glow in the dark” eyes. However, before things are consigned to the bind, every parish should have a qualified architectural salvage company look at what is in the parish basement.
Public television has made the show, “Antiques Roadshow” synonymous with contemporary treasure hunting. Well, companies such as King Richard’s might just be the Catholic equivalent of the popular PBS series. They are committed to keeping Catholic articles of worship in a Catholic religious context. They also have no tolerance for companies that want to exploit the sales of Catholic religious articles.
There is also a growing trend among Catholics for the construction of “home chapels”. King Richard’s works with clients on their design needs for parish as well as home spaces of worship for Catholics.
Finally, as a Catholic Church we need to stop selling our artistic and liturgical heritage on E-Bay and other sites of unscrupulous antiques resellers. Our Church is not for resale and our Catholic materials are not intended as boutique accessories.
One should look at King Richard’s website, http://www.kingrichards.com to consider adopting quality Catholic liturgical and devotional items for your local parish or home chapel. It is a good example of Catholic stewardship of our artistic possessions and it is an environmentally friendly gesture as well.