How It All Smells

Shepherds should smell like the sheep, says Pope Francis.

I do not know what Andres Serrano smells like. I can make a good guess as to his art. He is the fellow who set a small crucifix in a bucket of his own urine (“Piss Christ”), and then took photographs of it. The pope recently honored him with a commendation.

A couple of years ago, the bishop of the diocese where we have lived in the summer took it into his head to demand that parishes remove the steeples from their churches. I believe he was concerned with the expense of upkeep.

The parishioners, those ordinary sheep, did not really want to oblige. When it comes to art and architecture, the sheep don’t go in much for the awkward and ugly.

All my life, I have seen the same game play itself out. Father wants the communion rail removed. The sheep don’t see why that’s necessary, but they go along, grumbling. The bishop wants the pews replaced, regardless of the carvings executed by those men of old who built the cathedral with their own hands. The people don’t want it, but who are they to advise a bishop about what is beautiful?

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