What’s the message on the runway for Baroque fashions?

This at NCR: What’s the message on the runway for Baroque fashions?

Fr. Thomas O’Meara, OP, writes:

When I was a boy, more than 50 years ago, ecclesiastical clothes were impressive. They were unusual and colorful, antique and sacral; they were distinctively Roman Catholic…  Time passes, and today ecclesiastical clothes are less intelligible and point less clearly to something beyond their colors and gilt. They raise questions of gender and class, of culture and sacramentality.

That oughta get a discussion going. Have at it.



53 responses to “What’s the message on the runway for Baroque fashions?”

  1. cathey s ott Avatar
    cathey s ott

    a very brief look at above thread brings to mind a book by thorsten veblin “theory of the leisure class” – he states similar ideas about clothing, etc , marking the clergy and the military – an old book but nothing ever changes much – cathey ott

  2. Nicholas Clifford Avatar
    Nicholas Clifford

    I’ve often thought that a splendid example of papal leadership would be a public conflagration of all the world’s cappae magnae in Rome’s Campo dè Fiori (the site, in 1600, of the public burning of Giordano Bruno). Then we could turn our attention to the lace and scarlet dresses, and purge such excrescence from our midst.

    1. Samuel J. Howard Avatar

      @Nicholas Clifford – comment #2:

      Except that the cappa magna is part of the liturgy in both the ordinary form (See Ceremonial of Bishops, #64) and the extraordinary form. There’s some burden of proof on your part for asking for public burnings of the clerical dress of the Church, something beyond, “I don’t like it.”

      I suppose after that public conflagration we’d proceed to burning the books that have been condemned by the CDW, right? Who could be against seizing and burning stuff publicly that we don’t agree with as a form of “leadership.”

    2. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      @Nicholas Clifford – comment #2:
      I would say to burn the lace first. And the laciest very first.

  3. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    I’m not a fan of baroque vestments. What’s wrong with vestments made from supple natural fibers and adorned with simple patterns? The cappa magna is patently ridiculous in this age and a fire hazard to boot — it’s meant to drape a horse!

    What bothers me about the NCReporter article combox is the way in which a number of comboxers equate a love of baroque vestments with gayness. Being gay isn’t a problem. Baiting and outing are. Even though no cleric was singled out by name in this article or its combox, categorization of an entire liturgical aesthetic as gay unfairly associates some clergy and seminarians with a sexual orientation they might not be ready or able to disclose, if indeed they are gay.

    It’s certainly okay to express dissatisfaction with a drift back towards early modern glitz. I know PTB is above this behavior, but I'm saddened that this topic often devolves into disrespect for others.

  4. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    There is so much for which to admire Pope Benedict, but his taste in vesture is not one of them. Between he and his emcee Msgr. Marini, we have been treated to one odd thing after another by way of clothing. I suppose they think these elaborate and dated duds give glory to God, but I think that for most people it just reminds them of the faded glory of a triumphant church which calls attention to itself rather than to the Son of Man who came to serve rather than to be saved. Maniples….fanons….lace….watered silk….amices….fiddlebacks? Heaven help us.

  5. Ann Olivier Avatar
    Ann Olivier

    Having liturgical garments that are both distinctive and symbolic can have great merit. My problem with the current liturgical garments of the Vatican liturgies is that people in this culture interprets them as female garments (the skirts and laces). This feminization of the priestly image communicates a message to non-Catholics that is not a useful one *at this point*, especially since the sex scandal. There is too much sexual confusion in the Catholic Church these days.

    But it is also true that in some cases the lace and embroidery are indeed works of art. Don’t burn them. That would be unfair to the dear nuns and other artist-women who went blind making them. Put them in museums. Of course, later, the laces and embroidery might be become appropriate for women priests 🙂 But not a lot much of it. Please.

  6. Ann Olivier Avatar
    Ann Olivier

    One more point — a Protestant friend once said to me that she saw on TV a bunch of bishops in their full regalia including their pointed miters and voluminous dresses, and she automatically assumed it was a demonstration of the Ku Klux Klan! The fact is, their headgear is quite similar, as are their body-draping, body-hiding garments.

    The garments are not part of our culture and unfortunately allow for gross misinterpretations of who-knows-what distorted kinds.

    1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      @Ann Olivier – comment #8:
      The ‘headgear’ must have been of the three foot tall mitre type with the great huge bulge near the top: the most absurd of all the varieties of mitre shapes. The Anglican styled ones are the most tasteful and non-fussy looking.

  7. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    My own taste in vestments is very eclectic and somewhat 70’s but modified of course. I have no problem with anything that is more elaborate or simple. Cost is the biggest scandal and not so much from the point of view of those who spend what it costs but the tremendous mark up and gouging for which retailers are responsible. I don’t wear lace but the Italian in me appreciates it. I have to agree with Jordan that some of the comments against certain styles of vestments which I think can be traced to cultural tastes rather than sexual orientation is rather homophobic. Let’s face it a simple habit and a bland alb are dresses as are more elaborate ones and no man today wears dresses in public except clergy and it isn’t about orientation but being faithful to our liturgical/religious traditions and the wide variety of options that are available and being proud of it.

  8. Fr. Steve Sanchez Avatar
    Fr. Steve Sanchez

    Some may be going a bit too far in liturgical vesture, but the polyester drib drab of the 70s and 80s left a couple of generations, mine included, longing for something naturally desired (especially when it comes to the things of God) – beauty. Liturgical vestments evoke the beauty and majesty of God; that transendental quality that Christian liturgies have always strived for, following the direct command of God to Moses and the artisans whom He blessed with creative skill. The unchanging God did not opt for the suit and tie of Moses’ day to show forth his glory and holiness. This is why Judeo-Christian ministers wear such clothing. If the good Dominican father thinks that the people don’t understand this biblical concept then he can teach them for crying out loud.

    1. Jim McKay Avatar
      Jim McKay

      @Fr. Steve Sanchez – comment #11:

      I think Fr O’Meara is teaching them, as the members of order always have. St Dominic’s successor tells the following story of the beginning of the Dominicans:

      20. During these discussions, the Bishop of Osma happened to reach Montpelier, where the council was being held. He was received with honor and was invited to give his advice, since they knew that he was a saintly man, mature and just, and zealous for the faith. But, being circumspect and versed in God’s ways, he began to inquire about the ceremonies and customs of the heretics. Then he commented that the methods these heretics were using to convert souls of their perfidy by persuasion, preaching, and the example of their false holiness were in striking contrast to the stylish and expensive carriages and furnishing displayed by those who had been sent. “This is not the way, my brethren, this is not the way for you to proceed. I do not think it possible, by words alone, to lead back to the faith such men as are better attracted by example. Look at the heretics! While they make a pretense at piety, while they give counterfeit examples of evangelical poverty and austerity, they win the simple people to their ways. Therefore, if you come with less poverty and austerity, you will give hardly any edification, you will cause much harm, and You will fail utterly of your objective. Match steel with steel, rout false holiness with the true religion, because the arrogance of these false apostles must be overthrown by genuine humility.”

      So they asked him, “What is your advice, then, good Father?” and he answered, “Do what I am about to do.” And the spirit of the Lord entering into him, he called the men he had with him and sent them and his carriages and furnishings back to Osma, and kept only a few clerics as his companions. After that he announced that his present intention was to spend some time in that region to spread the faith.

      And this was the cause for instituting our Order.

      Jordan of Saxony Libellus 20

  9. John Swencki Avatar
    John Swencki

    The ecclesiastical fashion show scene in Fellini’s “Roma” is a sad reminder how some regard clergy and vesture. Humbling.

    1. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

      @John Swencki – comment #12:
      I found this bit of a biography of Fellini–many Italians are anti-clerical (I have some relatives there who definitely are) because of the mixing of politics and religion in Italy. I guess he would have consulted with me too, the clairvoyant that I am. 🙂

      “While Fellini’s films contain much that celebrates Catholicism and its teachings, his body of work also contains films which seem clearly anti-clerical and intended to hold the Catholic Church up to ridicule.

      Fellini was a strong believer in astrology, supernatural phenomena and the occult. Throughout his life he frequently consulted astrologers, mediums and clairvoyants. Later in life, Jungianism also became an important part of Fellini’s personal belief system. In 1965 Fellini even made a religious pilgrimage to the Zurich home of Carl Jung, the founder of Jungianism.”

  10. Tom Piatak Avatar
    Tom Piatak

    Father Sanchez is exactly right. Old vestments are often beautiful, and what replaced them was banal at best, ugly at worst. Some in the Church have been at war with beauty these last few decades, and this war has been devastating to Faith. I think Andrew Greeley put it quite well:

    “Much of the ceremony and art of the Catholic tradition was summarily rejected, without vote or even consultation. The altars were stripped, to use the phrasing in the title of Eamon Duffy’s book on the Reformation in England. The leaders of this secondary revolution banned statues, stained glass windows, votive candles, crucifixes, and representational art from new or remodeled churches. They rejected popular devotions like May crownings, processions, First Communions, incense, classical polyphony and Gregorian chant. They dismissed the rosary, angels, saints, the souls in purgatory, and Mary the motherof Jesus. They considered these old customs and devotions liturgically or ecumenically or politically incorrect. … These various movements subverted much of the richness of the Catholic imaginative and communal tradition in the name of being ‘correct’ and ‘postconciliar.’ There was nothing to be learned from the preconciliar past, from anything that had happened before 1965. … No one seemed to understand that they were destroying precisely that sacramental dimension of the Catholic heritage that was more important than prosaic rules and that held Catholics in their Church regardless of what else happened.”

  11. Brian Duffy Avatar
    Brian Duffy

    In my humble opinion the most ideal liturgical vesture is that of the classical Anglican, to wit:cassock,long surplice, tippet or stole and hood. This does not necessarily mean that the priest holds a low doctrine of the Eucharist as some would say.

    Actually this is not unlike that of some Carthusians.

    BTW, I recently saw a film showing an early 20th century Archbishop of Canterbury with a long train carried by two young lads.

    1. Aaron Reynolds Avatar
      Aaron Reynolds

      @Brian Duffy – comment #16:
      Mr. Duffy, I have a keen interest in the history of Anglican/Episcopal liturgy. If you could link to that video or say where you found it I would be most obliged!

    2. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      @Brian Duffy – comment #16:
      You are correct about the non-equivalency of ‘low vesture’ to ‘low doctrine’. Very often the Anglo-Catholic and the low-churcham had far more in common doctrinally than with those ‘broad church’ and other sorts who often were indistinguishable doctrinally from Methodists or Presbyterians, or even Baptists. The low churchman was/is quite often very orthodox in eucaristic theology.

      And, I, too, would like to see that picture of the archbishop of Canterbury with his train.

  12. Ann Olivier Avatar
    Ann Olivier

    Fr. Allan J. McDonald : I have to agree with Jordan that some of the comments against certain styles of vestments which I think can be traced to cultural tastes rather than sexual orientation is rather homophobic. . . . it isn’t about orientation but being faithful to our liturgical/religious traditions and the wide variety of options that are available and being proud of it.

    Fr. McDonald — Let’s not be naive. People’s associations determine meanings unconsciously. For example, consider my Protestant friend who many years ago saw on TV a whole bunch of bishops dressed in full regalia with pointed hats and body covering dresses, and she said she immediately thought it was a Ku Klux Klan rally. Unfortunately, Americans have learned to associate child abuse with old men wearing bishops’ and cardinals’ regalia, and the associations follow — child abusers. No, it’s not a uniform, but the distinctive garb suggests the distinctive behavior — covering up child abusers. And, no, most bishops did not themselves abuse the children, and no most/many of them are not gay, and no, even if they are that doesn’t make them abusers. But the fact remains that the association between hierarchical garb and the scandal are there.

    1. Brigid Rauch Avatar
      Brigid Rauch

      @Ann Olivier – comment #19:
      We may want to think upon this in light of today’s reading from Paul:

      “Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker
      are all the more necessary,
      and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable
      we surround with greater honor,
      and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety,
      whereas our more presentable parts do not need this.
      But God has so constructed the body
      as to give greater honor to a part that is without it,
      so that there may be no division in the body,
      but that the parts may have the same concern for one another.”

  13. Brian Duffy Avatar
    Brian Duffy

    Messieurs Reynolds and Osburn,

    Thank you for your kind comments!

    I believe that I originally saw the clip on Ship of Fools. A more direct route would be to BritishPathe.com and refer to the enthronement of Archbishop Lang. Alas, I haven’t been able to download them this afternoon, but you may have better luck.

    Pax et bonum

  14. Joe Mcmahon Avatar

    This evening, I ought attend the Church Unity Octave prayer service in our Catholic parish. Four churches will be present, two large Catholic parishes, plus one Methodist, one Lutheran. The only other church in town is Episcopalian, and it has, I am told, a priest shared with another parish. First goal tonight: to pray for the unity of Christian churches. A second goal is to meet Christians in a friendly, respectful manner. Offhand, I cannot think of a third goal. However, from previous services, I am certain attire will neither distract from prayer nor add to it.

  15. Jan Larson Avatar

    I could not agree more with Ann’s comments # 7 and 19. Flamboyant ecclesiastical vesture does little more than feminize the priestly image, an image that is already in serious trouble. As a priest of 45 years, I cannot help but wonder how baroque fashions contribute to our task of evangelization. Today all the churches are bleeding members as more and more people see nothing of life in the worn out structures of institutional Christianity. Nothing speaks irrelevancy so much as an institution that clothes its elite in silly outerwear, and then asks to be taken seriously. Who would want to associate with a church whose clergy appear to have a need to stand out, to be noticed? Didn’t Jesus warn us about religious leaders who dress up in order to be noticed? Special vesture is an important ritual component, and it has always been helpful to use clothing to distinguish various liturgical ministries. But I think a simple and tasteful chasuble or stole should suffice for a priest, and a plain shepherd’s staff for a bishop. The rest should go.

    I am intrigued as to why men would be fascinated with lace and embellished, antiquated vestments. My hunch is the need for such external display comes from deeply seated and unresolved personality issues, climaxing in what psychologist Eugene Kennedy calls the antique road show. My pastoral sense, for what it’s worth, is that the church really does not need any more of this right now. We need to get our wits about us, set aside our birettas and jeweled miters, and graduate at last from the middle ages and its courtly costumes.

    1. Cameron Neal Avatar
      Cameron Neal

      @Jan Larson – comment #23:
      I could just as easily ask who would want to associate with a religion that looks the same as every other? Being visually different is very important, as you seem to admit somewhat.

      I don’t think Baroque is necessarily the best artistic movement the West has experienced, nor that it is most appropriate for vesture. Then again, neither do I have particular qualms with it. Jesus warned about clerics and others who stand out because of a sense of self-righteousness and all holiness; I daresay Jesus would not care if a good and holy and saintly priest or bishop of His wears Baroque chasubles and bejeweled mitres out of a personal like for them or because he believes they are simply the best. Being noticed is not, in itself, a bad thing.

      If you want to argue that Baroque is bad as an artistic movement or that its cultural and philosophical underpinnings are harmful/wrong/bad/whatever, fine. I would disagree with you, saying that it is a natural evolution of that which came before it, but yours would be a legitimate argument anyway.

      The mitre doesn’t make the man but neither does the mitre break the man.

      1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
        M. Jackson Osborn

        @Cameron Neal – comment #24:
        Umm… the mitre might indeed break the man if it is too heavy with gold and jewels. The most ridiculous of all are those amusingly bulbous three-foot-tall ones.

  16. Jack Wayne Avatar
    Jack Wayne

    What I’m finding more and more unsettling is the obsession with diagnosing those who are drawn to traditional worship and older styles of art and vestments with psychological problems. I suppose it’s easier than coming up with real arguments.

    1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      @Jack Wayne – comment #26:
      It would, I think, be difficult to find a more liturgically conservative person than an Anglican Use Roman Catholic. Everyone who is put off by some of the outright effeminate vesture and gaudy expressions of the Baroque at its most tasteless is not anywhere near opposed to ‘traditional’ worship or vesture. Nor do we necessarily think that those who wear the worst of historical vestment styles are necessarily candidates for the psychologist’s couch. Whatever their state of mental health, yards of sheer gauze and lace are hardly something that one can imagine the God-Man Jesus wearing on this earth, in his heavenly kingdom, or in his role as Prophet, Priest, and King. Certainly, too, it is an affront that any who would represent him on this earth should so deck himself out. And, without reference to any sexuality, it remains utterly effeminate, tasteles, milk toast, and prissy… Jesus was none of these.

      1. Jack Wayne Avatar
        Jack Wayne

        @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #27:
        I have no problem when people have solid reasons to criticize baroque or other extravagant vestments, and am not much of a fan of them myself (depends on the context they are used in). I simply grow weary of all the “I don’t like it and those who do must be bad or emotionally disturbed” talk that tends to go on.

        On a different note, I find it bizarre when anyone says traditional habits or other visual marks of Catholicism are lost on people today. Watch any television or movie portrayal of Catholicism and you’d think Vatican II had never happened. Nuns always wear flowing habits, priests dress in black and have a collar, and Mass always takes place in a historic church full of candles, statues, and the sweet sounds of chant. Don’t be surprised when people bust out the Rosary or confess in darkened confessional with a screen. There is a website about TV Tropes that has a section on how Catholic imagery is often used because it is instantly recognizable to most people. It is often used to symbolize Christianity in general (there is an absolutely hilarious episode of The Walking Dead where the characters come upon a Southern Baptist Church with a giant crucifix and a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe inside).

  17. Crystal Watson Avatar

    When I think about Baroque vestments I think of Cardinal Rode … http://icrsp.org/IMAGES-APOSTOLATS/IMAGES-2009/Gricigliano/Ordination-diaconale-Card-Rode/Ordination-diaconale.htm

    This clothing and the attitude behind is reminiscent of the ancient kings who wore purple – the dye needed was so expensive that such clothing spoke of their wealth and power. Not very Jesus-like.

    1. Bill deHaas Avatar
      Bill deHaas

      @Crystal Watson – comment #28:
      Crystal – what is even more discouraging is that Rode was a Vincentian – follower of the community of Vincent dePaul, whose motto is serving the poor. Would suggest that his fellow CMs were embarrassed by his displays, his decisions (such as LCWR), etc.

      Wayne – would suggest that your same comment applies to your obsessions.

  18. Brendan McInerny Avatar
    Brendan McInerny

    It’s been said a number of times already, but I’d like to throw my voice in nevertheless. Our psychological/sexual/spiritual diagnose of those clerics who for whatever reason wear ‘traditional’ (even if recently so) garb is not right. It borders on bullying.

    That’s not to say there aren’t reasons to criticize some of this extravagance – but I think those arguments are best when aesthetic/liturgical and not personal.

    In a slight act of defense of some extravagance, I would point out that the zero-sum calculation of beauty or care for poor is a poorly worked out argument. It ends up undermining any and all artistic products – because all artistic products even those which are donated cost human and material resources that could otherwise be used for the poor. I would suggest it is a fundamental part of human existence and a mark of its dignity, that we never simply do what is utilitarian, but always move toward the extravagant (which might be humble where resources are scarce). The arguments that would reject Baroque vestments rebound and undermine modern vestments, even comparatively cheap ones.

    This is as much about what we as Christians think of material culture as anything, works of incredible artistry (and beauty if it’s to your tastes) don’t simply happen – it has to be cultivated. And I see no reason to relegate that work to museums, which are often 1) not available for everyone to see the beauty therein; and 2) artificially ‘objectifies’ works of art (especially ‘religious’ art) by removing them from their context of a ritual space and ritual use.

    1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Brendan McInerny – comment #30:

      Brendan: This is as much about what we as Christians think of material culture as anything, works of incredible artistry (and beauty if it’s to your tastes) don’t simply happen – it has to be cultivated. And I see no reason to relegate that work to museums, which are often 1) not available for everyone to see the beauty therein; and 2) artificially ‘objectifies’ works of art (especially ‘religious’ art) by removing them from their context of a ritual space and ritual use.

      This is a very well made point. I certainly agree that the placement of religious artifacts from previous centuries in museums reduces public accessibility to historically significant art. However, museums also impair knowledge and learning unless a person tours a museum with another person well-versed in the collection. Even then, context is mediated and obscured by a specialist who provides his or her interpretation of the collection.

      I also agree that a permanent removal of baroque vestments from liturgy further decontextualizes their meaning. Even so, one must also remember that baroque vestments also bear the historical weight of the time period during which this particular vestment and artistic style flourished. A Mass where the clerical ministers wear baroque vestments implicitly endorses certain socioeconomic, philosophical, and perhaps even political views which are often quite distant from the shared postmodern experience of many persons today. Catholics who criticize the EF movement as revanchist or reactionary in part because of a desire to replicate a baroque liturgical world should not be dismissed. A recreation of a baroque liturgy must answer the question of whether or not the liturgy also intends to reflect the baroque worldview.

      Certainly, a person might counter that the 20th century revival of the ample “Gothic” chasuble, for example, is merely a ressourcement. However, while vestment design in the 20th and 21st century often uses longer vestment lengths similar to premodern chasubles, the artistic quality of contemporary vestments often differ dramatically from premodern designs. By contrast, baroque vestments as employed within the EF community often focus more on replication and historical accuracy than the reappropriation of ancient methods for novel creations.

      1. Bill deHaas Avatar
        Bill deHaas

        @Jordan Zarembo – comment #32:
        Thanks, Jordan – you both make good points. Allow me to add and expand:
        – rather than get into personal likes and dislikes about artistic vestments, would call to mind what Congar wrote and spoke about prior to and during VII. Fact – Congar did not like the *imperial* Vatican or triumphant church as seen in most of the papal attire, ceremonies, etc. Congar strongly supported Paul VI’s retiring and dropping many customers/vestments/etc. His notes almost always indicate approvingly when Paul VI came to St. Peter’s dressed simply and when the eucharistic celebrations were not large, ostentatious events.
        – tongue in cheek: http://www.richardsipe.com/Burke_Gallery/index.htm

        folks such as Richard Sipe have posted ROTR vestments and their costs (a cardinal could spend upwards of $100,000 outfitting himself). So, another distinction – it is one thing to wisely use historical vestments (but how many dioceses have those on hand?) and it is entirely different to spend money on these vestments today. Thnik about the number of bishops appointed annually, cardinals, archbishops, etc. – who pays for these new vestments? How often does a man utilize what his predecessors used e.g. crosier?

        So, not sure that I would criticize the linkage to *serving the poor* – need to be a little more nuanced on this.

        Jim P. – don’t think O”Meara meant that extreme – but, rather, questioned religious garb that is outside the norm or what the public is used to. He also makes a good point about religious garb and who you are serving – if it hinders your ministry?

      2. Brendan McInerny Avatar
        Brendan McInerny

        @Jordan Zarembo – comment #32:

        I agree completely, critics of Baroque vestments, or any other kind of liturgical styles, should not be dismissed. Critics of practices of any sort shouldn’t be dismissed, but encouraged to make the best argument possible. And in this case the intertwining of art and worldviews/politics, etc is an especially important concern. But of course that applies just as well to those who prefer modern or post-modern styles as well.

  19. Jim Pauwels Avatar
    Jim Pauwels

    “What does a monastic habit or a cassock in public say to Americans at the beginning of the 21st century? It is not at all evident that the general public knows who this strangely dressed person is or even connects the clothes to religion. The symbolism is not clear and a message is not evident. The person does stand out, but as a kind of public oddity. Eccentric clothes instill separation.”

    If the author is arguing here that a Franciscan friar’s habit, or a religious sister’s habit, doesn’t have a powerful public meaning, I can’t agree. I believe it is still well-understood by the general public that the wearers of such clothing have dedicated themselves to God, and their public words and actions acquire a certain meaning and force above and beyond that of a “person on the street”.

    Several years ago, on a city bus on which I was commuting in Chicago, a conflict erupted across the aisle. A man who had all the appearance of a down-and-outer and almost certainly was inebriated, got on the bus and took a seat beside a young woman. He began to talk to her. Her brother, who was seated in the seat behind her, intervened to protect his sister from the drunk. He shook his fist in the man’s face and threatened to punch him out if he didn’t move immediately. Such beefs are not uncommon on buses and trains on the North Side of Chicago, and the rest of us on the bus watched warily to see what would transpire. But a man in a friar’s robe came up to the skid-row guy, spoke gently with him, learned that he had nearly reached his stop, helped him up, and asked the people standing in the aisle to please make way so the gentleman could exit the bus. The situation was defused, and the man was treated with dignity. It was a beautiful little piece of Christian witness, and I don’t think it would have unfolded as it did if the intervener wasn’t clothed as he was.

  20. John Molnar Avatar
    John Molnar

    Clothing, worn by secular or religious, is a non-verbal statement by the wearer that he/she makes to others about himself/herself. Religious, priests, friars, and sisters, tell the world who they are when they appear appropriately dressed. It, clothing, secondarily is a reflection of the depth and seriousness of the faith of the wearer especially when it is a Catholic priest or sister.

    Yes, some malicious people may think of a Catholic priest first as a sexual predator of young men. Of course, such persons are usually wrong since just a very few priests ever abused young men/girls. The innocent priests who are thus maligned are doing penance for the Church and for the few who are or have been guilty.

    1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      @John Molnar – comment #33:
      It is interesting, indeed, that in our day relatively few persons wear clothing that is indicative of their profession, trade, or role in life. The most outstanding of those remaining would certainly be priests/religious/clerical and the military. Then, of course there is the US postal service. Outside of the distinction between ‘blue collar’ and ‘white collar’ (at work only), there would be hardly anyone whose calling/work/role was discernable by his or her raiment. Does this say something about those roles that we consider to be of the most fundamental importance in modern society? Or of the basic conservatism of religious and military life? Or both?

      Not too many generations ago quite a few trades and professions had distinctive garb. Peasant costume was very distinctive throughout Europe and other parts of the world. Even certain colours and fabrics were by law limited to specific notches on the social ladder. Now, anyone can wear purple; and, anyone with cast iron nerve and corresponding presumption (or foolishness) could walk down the street or across campus wearing a cardinal’s clothing or a king’s regalia. No law would any longer be broken, only a lingering social taboo.

  21. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
    M. Jackson Osborn

    This levelling of distinctive costume in social orders could be contributing to the appeal to many of us of older styles and well-preserved antiques for use at modern liturgy. The finely crafted and embroidered artistry of symbols which convey an unmistakable doctinal and spiritual message is in stark contrast to the often luke warm message of much contemporary vesture. As often as not, the designs found on these vestments are just a wavy or abstact exercise in (preferably pastel) colourings with little, if any, symbolism that sends an unmistakable message. In addition, the fabrics are cheap-looking even if they are not actually inexpensive. Such vestments betray a discomfort with the unarguable symbolism of older styles, and they go hand in hand with the predominant liturgical style and music which seems really quite embarassed (even chagrined) to convey the unspeakable holiness of the liturgical and eucharistic act, and studiously makes it into as homey and informal event as possible. One doesn’t wear Baroque, or Renaissance, or Gothic vestments (or their equal in modern artistry) unless one’s liturgy is a serious matter. (This defence of unmistakably holy vesture alludes in no way to prissy lace, which sends an unmistakably negative message about our Lord.)

  22. Daniel McKernan Avatar
    Daniel McKernan

    Since vestments, habits and other ecclesiastical garb are perceived (wrongly) to be distinctively Catholic it seems to me that the root of the discomfort some here may have with all of these items is precisely because they seem to be distinctively Catholic. Few places have reveled in the use of beautiful vesture to the degree the II Vatican Council did. Lovely liturgies full of splendor according to the tradition of the western and eastern rites were on full display. The noble simplicity of the western rite stood easily next to the elaborate ceremony of the eastern rite in the basilica throughout the sessions. I’ve searched the council documents and cannot find any directive criticizing let alone discouraging the legitimate use of the traditional vestments of the Latin rite suggesting that none of these criticisms have their genesis in V2. I’d note that comments criticizing the use of beautiful, traditional and valuable ecclesiastical garb among Christians run the risk of appearing anti-ecumenical considering the place these have in the Eastern & Oriental Orthodox Churches.

    1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
      M. Jackson Osborn

      @Daniel McKernan – comment #38:
      Well said!

    2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Daniel McKernan – comment #38:

      All you describe Daniel is true. The public liturgies of the Second Vatican Council should be valued for their beauty, aesthetics, and historical importance. However, not one of the public liturgies of the Council typify any liturgy other than itself. Correlation is never causation. It is a logical fallacy to assert that any public liturgy of the Council epitomize an ideal performance of a postconciliar liturgy.

      Brendan McInerny’s insights at #36 prove pertinent. The ROTR and EF movements often presume that their aesthetic preferences carry a self-importance which irresistibly captivates human minds and affections. Our brothers and sisters on PTB who are drawn to other liturgical styles clearly contradict the notion that an inherent liturgical aesthetic appeals to all persons.

      Per Brendan, ROTR and EF adherents must constantly examine the motives of the movement and their public import should these movements remain viable. In my almost twenty years of involvement in some form of Catholic liturgical conservatism, I have yet to encounter an attitude about liturgical aesthetics which does not presume that Catholic liturgical conservatism or traditionalism absolutely captivates Catholics regardless of the unique sensibilities of individuals.

      1. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
        M. Jackson Osborn

        @Jordan Zarembo – comment #40:
        Jordan: you say that it is a fallacy to assert that ‘…any public liturgy of the Council epitomize[s] an ideal of a post-conciliar liturgy’. By what logic do you know that any such assertion would (or would not be) be incorrect? By what reasoning does one have the certitude to assume that liturgies of an august oecumenical council were ipso facto NOT paradigmatical of envisioned Catholic worship? And, if such reasoning were indeed correct, then it would also follow that ANY liturgy of ANY time and place, pre- or post-conciliar, could not ‘epitomise’ any and all following liturgies… which leaves us with the liturgical chaos which we will be another forty years sorting out. (I am not proposing that your assertion is or is not accurate – merely seeking clarification on the foundation and implications of your logic.)

      2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        Thanks for replacing the ‘s’. I often edit my thoughts but not my verb tenses 🙁

        @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #43:

        MJO: By what reasoning does one have the certitude to assume that liturgies of an august oecumenical council were ipso facto NOT paradigmatical of envisioned Catholic worship?

        No constitution of the Second Vatican Council, including Sacrosanctum concilium, prescribed any doctrinal, dogmatic, liturgical, or theological teachings under solemn obligation (i.e. anathema sit). Rather than cast curses, the Council bishops crafted Sacrosanctum concilium as a series of recommendations for the reform of the liturgy. Subsequently, the Council bishops entrusted the Concilium with the realization of these reforms. Significantly, the ‘rubric’ for the reformed liturgy, the General Instruction, is not a conciliar constitution. By contrast, de defectibus, which issued negative rubrical directives for celebrations according to the Tridentine missals, is a conciliar constitution. de defectibus issues not recommendations but rather commands definite temporal and spiritual consequences for certain inappropriate actions of a celebrant. de defectibus section I:

        Alii vero sunt defectus, qui, in Missae celebratione occurrentes, etsi veritatem Sacramenti non impediant, possunt tamen aut cum peccato, aut cum
        scandalo contingere.

        “Indeed others [deficientes, “errors”] are defective which, when occurring during the celebration of Mass, thought they do not hinder the integrity [veritatem] of the sacrament, nevertheless are able to stain with either sin or scandal.” [my additions]

        Similar language does not appear in the interim instructions or the IMGR/GIRM. Hence, no liturgy during or after the Council approaches liturgical legislation with the same highly positive liturgical legislative language of Trent.

      3. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #43:

        MJO: And, if such reasoning were indeed correct, then it would also follow that ANY liturgy of ANY time and place, pre- or post-conciliar, could not ‘epitomise’ any and all following liturgies… which leaves us with the liturgical chaos which we will be another forty years sorting out.

        Liturgical chaos is. Even the positive rubrical legislation of Trent did not stop either legitimate variations or knowingly committed errors in the celebration of Mass in the Tridentine era. Sacrosanctum concilium, the interim Concilium directives, and the General Instruction, though of different levels of legislative force, nevertheless do not view liturgical celebration under the Tridentine era binary poles of licit/illicit, valid/invalid, and proper/improper. The deconstructed modern liturgy must unfold according to ad hoc situations and not the peri-modern or modern notion that liturgy has an absolute structure which is intrinsic to, or indeed self-evident in, all celebrations.

        Catholics now live in a period of liturgical postmodernism. Positivist liturgical law paradigms no longer apply great force to the celebration of liturgy. Traditional Catholics cannot return to the Tridentine model of liturgical legislation, as these models have been legally superseded by a greater absence of legislation. As I have explained earlier, Sacrosanctum concilium is not a liturgical constitution written with the same intentions of the liturgical constitutions of Trent.

        The great Achilles’ heel of a ‘continuing traditionalism’ in modern Catholicism is the fallacy and fantasy that Tridentine liturgical legislative expectations can be applied to SC and post Vatican II liturgical directives. No longer will any Mass, even the Masses of the Council sessions, be viewed through the lenses of ‘degrees of error’. These degrees no longer exist save for in the minds of Catholic traditionalists.

        What not a few liturgically conservative and traditional Catholics term “liturgical chaos” in fact reflects the reality that traditionalism can no longer consider Tridentine liturgical legislation as non-contextual, extra-temporal constitutions which override the constitutions and directives of later councils. The history of conciliar decisions must be considered in mutual consideration, and not the absolute prioritization of one council’s decisions over specific decisions of another council.

    3. Jim McKay Avatar
      Jim McKay

      @Daniel McKernan – comment #38:

      Perhaps you should put a little more effort into your examination of the documents of Vatican 2. SC 21 speaks of “elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.” Those who strive to change the fashions of liturgy can certainly trace their efforts to this, as well as other comments in SC on sacramentals and on sacred art and furnishings, eg “The Church has not adopted any particular style of art as her very own; she has admitted styles from every period according to the natural talents and circumstances of peoples, and the needs of the various rites.” SC 123

      The garb of religious communities is addressed in Perfectae Caritatis. And then there are parts of the Council not reflected in the documents, like Paul VI’s dramatic offering of the papal tiara to the poor of the world. These things can certainly be cited as a source for these criticisms, if not their genesis.

  23. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    @John Robert Francis – comment #46:

    Thank you for the correction. Thank you also for bringing up the Consilium’s rather grand formal name (loosely interpreted as “Advisory Body for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”). At least I didn’t have to type that over and over again.

  24. John Robert Francis Avatar
    John Robert Francis

    You are quite welcome, but I stepped on my own foot. I’ll accept a suitable penance. I tried a correction, but too late for the system.

    May I bring up a small matter, but one that occurs frequently.

    It is the Consilium (ad exsequendum Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia). Not Concilium as in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

  25. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    O’Meara’s use of Baroque should be read as an analytical critique rather than as a pejorative statement. When I finished reading his article, I hunted up my well underlined copy of his Theology of Ministry. O’Meara’s deep understanding of Christian cultures has been largely responsible for my greater positive appreciation of the Baroque post-Tridentine era.

    The Baroque period reaching from 1580 to 1720 was a time of cultural renewal and religious expansion: a great restoration of that time. With variations it reappeared and continued from 1820 to 1960..

    This period is omitted or marginalized in most American overviews of religious history …its brilliance and expanse are not important to English speaking scholars of Protestantism or the eighteenth century Enlightenment..

    The Baroque spirit brought to the church new theologies, spiritualities, and arts and these unusually manifested interplays between personality and grace (e.g. ..Ignatius.. Philip Neri.. Teresa of Avila)

    .. a time of great missionary work and great interior conversations with the Divine.

    The Baroque went underground during the Enlightenment and then reemerged albeit with some new emphases, as Romanticism moved beyond the Enlightenment

    characteristics of ministry from the Baroque to Vatican II: parish priests limited largely to the dispensing of sacraments, and members of religious orders, who conducted a number and variety of ministries…an activist ministry strengthen by a theology of actual graces effected by sacraments and by personal prayer.

    first the organization of the church in detail around the papacy; second, …the interior life of grace as the object of Christian ministry. The Baroque … seized upon two groups as exemplary saints: the missionaries who brought grace to nations ignorant of it, and the spiritual directors who guided Europeans into the mystery of interior life

    There are fewer than a dozen important periods in Western Christianity and the Baroque is one of these.

    Much of what Catholics came to perceive as patristic or medieval in the church’s liturgy and organization came in fact from seventeen century Baroque influences.

    O’Meara recognizes that the Baroque was not simply a counter-reformation but a period of great creativity in which Catholicism through missionary activity, the promotion of mostly activist forms of religious life, and an emphasis upon the interior life of the laity more than compensated for the losses from Protestantism and the Enlightenment.

  26. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    O’Meara in a very balanced fashion emphasizes the work of the Spirit in both cultures and personalities (e.g. saints) and sees the ministry of the church taking place in and through both. Some brief phrases to outline his thought:

    kingdom, Spirit, and grace words denoting a special divine presence… within cultural structures and individual personalities…from this presence comes Christian community and its ministries

    Jesus of Nazareth preached neither a separate religion nor one institution…he preached what he called the kingdom of God. The metaphor “kingdom” represents the loving active plan of God in history. Jesus did not preach primarily the formation of an institution we call “the church.”

    it is easier to say what the kingdom of God is not that what it is: it is not any one civilization or culture, nor any particular nation or empire; not this philosophy or worldview nor this political or economic movement.

    God’s plan and direction is greater than any individual or collective cultural enterprise, more than history, more than the history of the world’s religions, more than art, more than economic equality

    The kingdom of God is not only a condition after biological death but is the inner core of human life…. Although appearing to be of religion, God’s gracious plan transforms and challenges all it touches – even religion.

    From its communal, historical and personal origins, the church stands under and amid the activity of the Spirit.

    Precisely when the church pretends to be eternal, it is vulnerable to the ravages of time…

    If the blood of the church is history, the flesh of the community of Christ is culture. The forms through which the church acts on behalf of the kingdom of God come from the culture of a time and place.

    the church will not end, but churches do end. For over six hundred years, there was no more dominant force in Christianity than the Syrian Church.

    One age of history is not better than another, but simply different.

    C.S. Lewis wrote “The unhistorical are, usually without knowing it, enslaved to a fairly recent past” The deepest enemy of every fundamentalism is history

    O’Meara’s vision invites a reverence for both persons and cultures. Anthony, and Benedict and Ignatius and the religious cultures they inspired were all different. They are all ways of following Christ, interpretations of Scripture, and new formulations of religious culture ministry. Each of them dominated the Western Church for several centuries before giving way to newer forms of church culture and ministry. All three of these have undergone many developments, renewals and changes over the centuries.

  27. John Robert Francis Avatar
    John Robert Francis

    Since the moderation is taking a while, I would like to stay with the comment I made at 4:51 pm. That at 5:09 pm can be deleted. I should have quit while I was ahead.Thank you.

  28. Ann Olivier Avatar
    Ann Olivier

    Priests and postmen are not the only people who wear distinctive garb. Doctors and nurses in a hospital wear white, and academics wear robes and mortar boards in their habitat, and police and the military also wear distinctive garb, etc., etc.

    Distinctive garb can have great symbolic value, and even practical value. (We do need to know who the policemen are when there are huge crowds, don’t we?) But the symbols don’t have to be opulent. And, if we don’t watch out, the symbols can become counter-productive, even destructive of the values intended.

  29. Ann Olivier Avatar
    Ann Olivier

    Jack Wayne —

    Do you have an address of those TV tropes? Sounds very interesting. In my view, images are even more important than ideas. They shouldn’t be, but they are. Sigh.

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