October 4, 2010

Chalices, Windows, and Prostitutes

Today I'm reading about Maurice de Sully, who was bishop of Parish from the 1160 death of his great predecessor, Peter Lombard, until his own death in 1196.

Maurice, of course, was the bishop who ordered the construction of the great cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. Apparently, or so I read, he refused donations of chalices and stained glass windows from the Parisian prostitutes.

It's a complicated question. If you were a pastor or a bishop building a new church, would you accept such gifts from the local prostitutes? Would you let it be inscribed as such for all to see? What might it mean to accept or refuse?

9 comments:

fr. Matt, OFM Conv. said...

Yes, I would. Perhaps it would be a moment of grace for them!

Even Mother Theresa accepted gifts from the mafia

Robin said...

Hmmmm...I love Notre Dame de Paris. Now I don't love it quite so much.

Statius said...

Thankfully I'm not a bishop and don't have to worry about this sort of thing, but I'd probably have taken the gifts. As Fr. Matt has commented, it may have been an opportunity.

Sara said...

I have heard one of the priests at my parish say that he thinks it's a shame that any such gifts are inscribed with the name of the giver. I tend to agree with him.

Couldn't it be that any name on that donated chalice might be an eventual cause of scandal and not just a prostitute's name? Isn't it kind of scandalous in the first place that it's important for some people to let the world know who donated that chalice?

Terry Nelson said...

Absolutely! Think of Rahab the prostitute in the Old Testament... and what Fr. Matt said.

Paul A. Zalonski said...

People quick to refuse such gifts may recall that the Milan Cathedral was built with donations from prostitutes. Apparently, they gave more than those who had money from "legit" sources. The fact of the Milan Cathedral is the subject of a PhD dissertation written at Rutgers by an Italian woman who belongs to Communion and Liberation, whose name I can't recall.

Indeed, a moment of grace and an opportunity for our education and conversion.

Rachel Gray said...

It sounds like these were not former prostitutes, but active unrepentant ones? If so I think maybe the prostitutes wanted a substitute for conversion, some way to approach God and gain His favor while still living in sin. The most loving, caring, fatherly thing for the bishop to do would be to make sure the prostitutes understood their extreme danger: that they'd burn in Hell forever unless they went to Confession and repented. He could use their desire to make a donation as an opening to exhort them. And if they wouldn't convert, he'd better refuse their gifts, to demonstrate as clearly as possible that it is impossible to please God if you refuse to give up mortal sin.

Also, accepting their gift would make it look like you can buy salvation from the Church, and that would be a deadly message.

GrandmaK said...

Why not? Perhaps as Fr. Matt said it would have been the grace might have opened the door of change for them...instead I see the door slamming. Really sad in a way, not just for the women he refused but also for the bishop! Cathy

L Newington said...

Brother Charles; if the Catholic church as in priests and prelates, accept money from their brothers who are members of the Mafia for good works, there would certainly be no problem in accepting gifts from prostitutes so I would think.
Especially when it is the human weakness of the man that uses them contributing to their fall from grace.