Oh boy. I don’t even know where to start with this one. This story is just a microcosm of so much that’s wrong with so many of our “Catholic” universities. The Jesuit run University of San Francisco has removed a number of confessionals and replaced them with a “pagan” art gallery.

Yup. You read that right. And they say they’re doing it as a “testament to St. Ignatius of Loyola.” You know the St. Ignatius whose Exercises state:

In consequence, having made a better Confession and being better disposed, one finds himself in condition and prepared to receive the Blessed Sacrament: the reception of which is an aid not only not to fall into sin, but also to preserve the increase of grace.

Yeah. Good ol’ Iggy didn’t talk much about the benefit of gawking at pagan art before receiving the Blessed Sacrament. But maybe it was implied.

You know it’s one thing to rip out the confessional. It’s another to blame St. Ignatius for it.

The great California Catholic Daily writes:

On November 3, 2008, the online newsletter of the Jesuit California province announced the opening of an art gallery in the eastern alcove of St. Ignatius Church in San Francisco.

Said the newsletter, “St. Ignatius Church, a Jesuit parish in San Francisco, celebrated the opening of its new Manresa Gallery on September 18. Formed by four interior alcoves, which previously housed confessional boxes, the gallery is a permanent testament to St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Composition of Place… In keeping with Ignatius’ understanding that his Constitutions or governing rules for Jesuits would include old principles and new ones, the gallery’s philosophy is to include both traditional religious works and contemporary art in a series of changing exhibitions. Commissioned pieces will enhance the dialogue that take places on a larger scale within the ritual space of the church. Manresa Gallery is open on Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. and by appointment.” The article was written by James R. Blaettler, S.J., Associate Pastor of St. Ignatius.

A few weeks ago, I decided to go to St. Ignatius to take a look for myself. While the museum was closed, I was able to look through the windows to get a glimpse of what’s inside. It was a surprising experience to find an art gallery inside a Catholic Church. It became even stranger when the art displayed was not Christian, but pagan.

Firstly, who calls them “confessional boxes?” Maybe they wanted to make them sound unpleasant like some sort of tool used in the Inquisition?

The exhibition is called “The Arts of Java and Bali: Objects of Belief, Ritual and Performance.” So now instead of a confessional you’ve got a “hermaphroditic wooden figurine, with female breasts and a male erection. Another is a hairy demonic figure with a women’s face protruding from its mouth. Another is a brightly colored, scaled, demonic figure.”

Confused? Don’t worry. Fr. James R. Blaettler, S.J., Associate Pastor of St. Ignatius is here to explain it all. Ready?

Fr. Blaettler said, the motivation was to “enhance the dialogue that take places on a larger scale within the ritual space of the church.

I don’t even know what that means. I honestly don’t.

Now to be completely fair the church still retains one confessional. But I’d bet it doesn’t see a lot of use. Why would it when the school is sending the message to the students that hermaphroditic wooden figurines are more important than a confessional?

HT A Woman’s Place