Pugin at 200

The prospect of “redecorating,” or any other form of “home improvement,” generally gets me thinking, quickly, about a lengthy research trip abroad. Yet I can, and recently did, spend several pleasant hours contemplating ceramics, furniture, and—would you believe it?—wallpaper. But not at Home Depot, I quickly add; rather, in a book—“Pugin: A Gothic Passion,” published in 1994 by Yale University Press in association with London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

I dug out “Pugin”—stuck among the oversized art books in my home library for the better part of two decades—when I learned that 2012 is the bicentenary of Augustine Welby Northmore Pugin, pioneer of the Gothic Revival style and one of the aesthetic geniuses of the 19th century. Best known for his work on the Palace of Westminster (home of the Houses of Parliament), Pugin was also an ecclesiastical architect of note, with almost 50 churches to his credit. And although the Luftwaffe and the Blitz wrecked what may have been his masterwork of church design, the Cathedral of St. George in Southwark, there are still Pugin churches to be admired throughout Great Britain, Ireland and Australia.

As I suggested at the top, however, Pugin’s genius was not limited to architecture and other grand schemes of design. He also worked magic on a much smaller scale: custom-designed wallpaper; magnificent pieces of furniture (dining-room cabinets, armoires, tables, desks and tables); beautifully intricate ceramic tiles, plates, and dinner and tea services—all of them a delight to the eyes.

Born on March 1, 1812, Pugin was received into the Catholic Church in 1835, and his passion for the Gothic (by which he meant, not hair-raising horror novels but the civilization of the Middle Ages and its distinctive aesthetic) was obviously enmeshed with his religious convictions. For the Gothic, as Pugin understood it, communicated even more than that sense of transcendence that is palpable in a great medieval cathedral like Chartres. The Gothic bespoke a sensibility about this world, the human place in it, and the moral life appropriate to men and women made in the image and likeness of God. Buildings tell us something about the people who live, work and worship in them, Pugin, believed: they tell us what those people think of themselves, their destiny and their responsibilities.

Thus in an 1836 polemic, Pugin, arguing on behalf of the Gothic Revival to which he and Sir Charles Barry gave noblest expression in the Palace of Westminster, contrasted a medieval monastery with a 19th-century poorhouse. The monastery, Pugin noted, was a place where the monks grew their own food, made their own clothes, shared what they grew and made with others, and offered the poor a decent place to be buried. Compare this, Pugin wrote, to “a panopticon workhouse where the poor were beaten, half-starved, and sent off after death for dissection. Each structure was the built expression of a particular view of humanity: Christianity versus Utilitarianism.”

Considering which, we may well hope that the Department of Health and Human Services never gets into the architecture business.

Pugin’s magnificent ecclesiastical architecture and church decoration, like the extraordinary interiors he designed for the Palace of Westminster, were, to adapt Blessed John Paul II, material exercises in philosophical anthropology—expressions of an idea of the human person. Pugin’s churches were built for people whose baptism had given them a unique dignity: through the eternal priesthood of Christ, exercised through the ordained ministry of the Church, the baptized were empowered to offer true worship to the Father. The same was true of the Houses of Parliament. They were designed by Barry and Pugin to reflect the dignity of self-governance among free citizens, whose participation in public affairs was another expression of their innate human dignity.

Churches that look like Pizza Huts are expressions of a dumbed-down theology and (if you’ll pardon the word twice in one column) anthropology.  On Pugin’s bicentenary, the Church might well reflect on how it can do better than that.

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

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On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 


HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.