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Liturgical Design Consultant Reveals His New Age Religion

by Paul Likoudis

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  • Descriptive Title:
    Liturgical Design Consultant Reveals His
    Description:
    This article summarizes Fr. Richard Vosko’s speech, given on April 3, at the University of Toledo’s Corpus Christi Chapel, which he designed. He revealed his "new age" plans for building worship spaces, while giving his opinions on Catholic practices such as prayer and worship, which he calls "old habits."
  • Larger Work:
    The Wanderer
  • Pages: 1 and 7
  • Publisher & Date:
    Wanderer Printing Co., April 26, 2001

Toledo — When Fr. Richard Vosko, the Albany-based liturgical design consultant, speaks, he produces the same hypnotic effect as a carnival con artist.

The only difference between the con artist and the marketing maestro Vosko is that the con artist just takes your money, whereas Vosko, in effect, takes your money and your faith and leaves you with his New Age religion.

In a revealing appearance April 3 at the University of Toledo's Corpus Christi Chapel, which he designed, Vosko bedazzled some 300 Toledo-area Catholics with his talk about building worship spaces for "happy people on the move," showing himself as a man in movement.

Enchanting the audience in his church-in-the-round with his well-executed choreography, hand and arm gestures in tandem with his leg and foot movements, syncopated to his soothing voice, Vosko proselytized for a new religion.

"Vatican II changes everything," he said exuberantly at one point in his talk. "It means the end of stable religion. We have to understand what religion is all about. Vatican II says we have to have a totally new understanding of what religion is."

And part of being a Vatican II Catholic, he immediately added, is understanding "there is no geographical place called heaven. There is no geographical place called hell...

"That's a relief to a lot of people."

For 56 minutes, Vosko articulated his rejection of Christian teachings, his rejection of Catholic art, architecture, and ritual, his contempt for Catholics stuck in "old habits" of prayer and worship, as he attempted to explain what his new religion is all about.

In Vosko's anthropological religion, the story of Jesus is a "myth" and Catholic rituals are not objectively different from Sioux sun dances or the Shamanic practices of Nepalese monks.

In fact, Vosko speaks reverently and respectfully of pagan cultic practices, but can barely say anything pertaining to the Catholic Church except by laughing uncontrollably.

He began his talk with the trite statement, "we live in a very interesting time," when only four out of ten Catholics go to Mass. He spoke about declining Mass attendance, the aging of Mass-goers, the differences among types of Catholics, contrasting those who "find a sense of the sacred in private prayers" with those who "find the sacred in more flamboyant" celebrations.

He said "there's a lot of debate in the Church," because "some challenge the Church to a new direction" while "others cling to relics of a bygone era."

Then, the man whose name has become synonymous with church "wreckovations," and who has made a fortune demolishing beautiful churches, stated flatly:

"What's important is not the church building — believe it or not I am going to say that....

"This is really about how we understand ourselves as inhabitants in a period of process. It's about finding out more about who we are and what we are and where we're going. It's not so much about searching for what's out there but about going inside more and digging out what's inside us and finding further revelation, enlightenment, illumination."

Art and architecture — said the art consultant for Roger Cardinal Mahony's new cathedral and Bishop Matthew Clark's cathedral renovation, among others — are only important insofar as they help people on their "inner search."

How Corpus Christi helps people on their inner search is not clear. The edifice, described by one person in the audience as "very cerebral," is appallingly stark. Except for the labyrinth in colored tiles on the floor, and the wood and upholstered chairs (no kneelers), the church's sharp surfaces are entirely white, except for a two-story window, which frames the "sacred" pine tree just outside. A pyramid-shaped skylight at the peak of the church intensifies the whiteness. The chapel's stations of the cross are set in the floor. A large granite immersion pool bubbles water in the gathering space. The overwhelming effect of Vosko's edifice is that it would be more serviceable as a showroom for upscale sports cars.

"So I've come up with what I call my bag of M&Ms to find out what constitutes an appropriate architectural setting," he continued.

The "M&Ms" are "movement," "memory," and "magination."

Worship spaces, said Vosko, should accommodate "happy people on the move," "people on a journey that has no limitations, no restrictions... We're talking about movement from one place to another. We're talking about transformation...

"Some people use tradition as a way of staying in a habit. We cannot stand still," Vosko said as he continued walking around the labyrinth he designed into the floor of the chapel, "because life is too short."

Regarding "memory," Vosko commented that, "if we forget the story, the story will not be told...

"For Christians, so I suspect, the myth we have to keep alive is the birth, life, joys, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

"For Jews, it is to keep the story of Exodus alive."

And for "magination" — he couldn't come up with a similar-meaning word that starts with m, he explained — "we have to have imagination. We have to imagine what heaven is like, what hell is not like, what peace on earth is."

Among the most "moving" architectural achievements, he said, are the Vietnam Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and the Holocaust Memorial in Miami.

"These are examples of how architecture can put us in touch with the story... Art and architecture are not containers for religious objects, ritual objects, symbols, signs, or even people. Certainly they are not the place where God dwells only, but metaphors that put us in touch with a particular story."

During his lecture, Fr. Vosko expressed his preference for the church-in-the-round model, saying circles — citing Stonehenge, Indian tepees, and mandalas as examples — are powerful symbols, as is the labyrinth. He also defended Corpus Christi Chapel's movable bare wooden cross, which he described as a "powerful totem that puts us in touch with that which can be."

He told his audience that when he is retained as a consultant for a parish renovation, that "sometimes you have to strip away things ... that get in the way, things that are just habits."

Vosko was introduced by Fr. James Bacik, Ph.D., pastor of Corpus Christi Chapel and chairman of the Catholic Thought department at the University of Toledo, which was endowed by a prominent liberal Catholic family in Toledo on the condition that the studies program remain outside of the control of the diocesan bishop.

Vosko, who earned his Ph.D. in education from Syracuse University with a dissertation on chair arrangements in adult education settings, was praised by Bacik as "one of the great influential persons of this era," and said he admires Vosko for his "knowledge and respect for Catholic heritage."

He especially praised Vosko for the design of Corpus Christi and for the wonderful way he "interacted in a very dialogic fashion with our community" during the consultation process.

Wanderer readers who are currently involved in church "renovations" designed by Fr. Vosko might want to send this article to their pastor and bishop, and ask if they share Fr. Vosko's views.

© The Wanderer

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