Thursday, February 23, 2012


The Holy father wearing the Roman Chasuble for Ash Wednesday's Mass
Progressive Catholics are typically quite narrow in their approach to truth and liturgy; they hijack both and substitute both for something that is always, how shall we say, banal, silly, mundane, trite, pedantic, superficial, trendy and gimmicky as well as 1960's rebelliousness with very serious father issues when it comes to authority. But I protest too much.

Three of the many things these progressives hate about Pope Benedict are how he is liberated from their critiques of what is consider pre-Vatican II and thus bad, evil, outdated, and post-Vatican II, as well as liberated from their understanding of the meaning new and trendy and seriously banal.

The first is his lace alb. It drives them apoplectic. Their homophobia comes through, though they would protest that is not their disease but the one wearing it!

The second is his choosing to wear a Roman chasuble as pictured above--the worst insult a progressive Catholic can hurl against anyone in the Church is "you're so pre-Vatican II!" But the Holy Father doesn't care what names he is called; truly liberated!

The third is that he has allowed for the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated liberally and he has lifted the excommunication of the SSXP bishops in a bid to keep them in the fold maybe even with "personal ordinariate" similar to the new Anglican one.

What I have detected in Pope Benedict, consistent with who he was as a priest at Vatican II, as a bishop and now as pope is that we have a very liberal and liberated pope. He knows that Vatican II opened the door to great diversity in the faith and even in the Liturgy. How else could he approve a Anglican Use Mass and allow for the return of the Tridentine Mass as well as celebrate Masses in Roman parishes where folk groups sing the Mass standing next to the altar? All he demands is orthodoxy both in belief and practice and fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church--not really too much to ask of Catholics, I don't think!

But the Holy Father has the temerity to model what the post-Vatican II revised Mass should look like but suggesting we look to the Tridentine Mass. This is what He has done, although he is not flamboyant in his gestures and "says the black and does the red":

1. Roman and gothic Chasubles!
2. The Benedictine altar arrangement facing the people and celebrating the Mass ad orientem at times too!
3. Vernacular Masses but always with the Preface and Eucharistic Prayer (and he uses them all) prayed in Latin!
4. Kneeling for Holy Communion

I don't see the Ordinary Form of the Mass changing too much, except for what I highlight above, but I'm not clairvoyant although I think I am.


William Meyer said...

A little apoplexy among those so committed to destroying tradition may be a good thing. ;)

I pray for Pope Benedict and for his continuing good works. That said, I agree that he is liberal, a good deal more than I think may be healthy for our Church. However, he's a liberal in the way JFK was, and JFK would have to be a Republican today, as the Democrats would find him far too conservative.

No man is perfect, none is free from sin. Not even a pope. But we have seen much good from this pope, not least his Summorum Pontificum, which must surely have galled many.

I do very much appreciate his use of the traditional vestments, and having been a contributor in the purchase of a nice lace trimmed alb for my pastor, I heartily approve of Pope Benedict's lace. The chasuble is beautiful, as well.

Templar said...

One of St Joseph's vicars has just acquired a nice lace alb as well and has been wearing it. I applaud him for it. He has been ordained less than a year and his benefactors have been most generous in providing him with some beautiful vestments and acoutrements. I always make it a point to compliment him on them, and he promises more on the way. he is also dedicated to wearing the cassock as his daily clericals, as I have run into him down town so attired. I like to believe that Father Kwiatkowski is typical of the quality of the Priests being Ordained today, but I fear we at St Joseph are unusally blessed to have an atypical Priest.

Now I'm going to exercise my Clairvoyance and predict that Pope Benedict will restore the SSPX to "full communion" (whatever that is) this summer and then we will really see the howling and gnashing of teeth begin.

Pater Ignotus said...

The chasuble B16 is wearing in the picture was, in its day, very non-traditional. It was an inorganic development, used with no official sanction. The fuller gothic style pre-dates the "fiddleback" and was the "traditional" vestment.

If lace matters, we are all in trouble.

Henry said...

In my pre-Vatican II youth in the South, the gothic chasuble signified traditional Catholicism--the only kind we knew then--and we never saw a Roman chasuble at Mass.

Whereas today it's the Roman chasuble that signals traditional Catholic faith, while the polyester gothic signals Catholicism lite.

Just a a beard signals conformity in one time and culture, but signals non-conformity in another. There's no substitute for knowing what things mean when and where you see them.

Templar said...

Lace does not "matter" in any serious sense of the word, it is however a glorious acknowledgment on the European Traditions which are the basis of the Latin Rite Catholic Church and Christendom. Lace work is still to this day something someone with any historical sense associates with Europe. It is right and proper that Lace should be used in vestments for the same reason that the Laity should attend Mass with their finery as well, because you are entering an encounter with Our Lord. We should all strive to do our best under the current situations, and in a battlefield Mass lace would be inappropriate, but in your Home Parish, quite so.

Pater Ignotus said...

Styles and Tradition in the Chasuble of the Roman Rite
Michael Sternbeck, The St Bede Studio

In the 17th and particularly from the 18th century, authorised by no Ecclesiastical authority, the form of the chasuble almost universally used was that pendant-like form which we call the “Roman” chasuble. There were only a few voices raised in objection to setting aside the Tradition of the ample chasuble. And then, although it only occurred by degrees and over a period of time, that pendant form of chasuble, which to S. Charles represented such a break with Tradition, became regarded as THE legitimate Tradition.

Pause to reflect on this, when you read expressions such as “Traditional Roman vestments” etc. We have the strange situation where the very dimensions of chasuble that Saint Charles strove to preserve, have been regarded by many latter-day “Traditionalists” as “un-traditional”!

(Nota Bene, Good Father):We should also be careful about the use of the term “Roman” vestments. Roman vestments are those used for the Roman Rite: they do not refer to any particular style or shape. The pendant-style chasuble did not have its origin in Rome, but in northern Europe. Rome did not readily adopt it. Saint Charles legislated against it. From the 19th century, scholars began promoting a return to the earlier, more ample style of chasuble. We find such chasubles appearing in England and parts of Europe. Sometimes these are referred to as “Gothic” vestments, although it is not certain why. These “Gothic” vestments were similar to the proportions insisted upon by S. Charles. Strangely, Rome (which for two centuries had held out against the introduction of the pendant-like vestments) did not welcome the 19th century interest in reviving these “Gothic” or “Borromeon” chasubles and in 1863 letter warned against the use of vestments that departed from the “received form”. How short, it would seem, was the Roman memory.

In December 1925, at a time when vestment-makers in Europe and beyond were creating magnificent chasubles of Borromeon proportions, the Congregation of Rites published a rescript that the more ample form of chasuble was not to be used for the Roman Rite, except by special permission of the Holy See. What a peculiar decision this was, given that earlier in the same year an Exhibition of the Liturgical Arts had been held in Rome and newly-made vestments, according to the Borromeon proportions, were shown in a special audience with Pius XI, who approved their use and blessed them. A famous photograph exists of Pius XI celebrating Mass in S’ Peter’s in a 16th century style chasuble: some years after his Congregation of Rites had attempted to prohibit their use!

The 1925 letter of the Congregation (which had been widely ignored!) was reversed by a new decision in August1957, granting Diocesan bishops leave to permit the use of the more ample form of chasuble. Eight years later (1965), Rome herself followed what was already occuring world-wide. The 18th century style of vestments used in Papal ceremonial was replaced with something very different but austere: somewhat like the ethos of the 1960’s itself. Somebody put to me once that many people were greatly upset and even scandalised when Papal Rome made this change. Consequently, and for precisely this reason, there is a very negative attitude amongst some to modern expressions in the style of vestments. And, to be frank, concerning vestments made from the 1970’s onward, there is ample scope for negativity.

But had 1960’s Rome just invented a new style of vestment and thrown out Tradition? In fact, no. The vestments which emerged in Rome from the mid-1960’s were a modern “take” on the Borromeon form of chasuble: this was a return to an earlier tradition.

Anonymous said...

Lace? Heck I have three *skirts* I wear, two knee length and one floor length. As for lace, the best European fencers in history wore lace. feh.


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The fiddleback chasuble aka as the Roman chasuble was used for low Masses in the USA by some but not all. There were elaborate fiddleback vestments for Solemn High Mass for priest, deacon and subdeacon. Our Cathedral in Savannah had a set when I was mc there but I considered them "outdated" and Bishop Lessard wouldn't wear them. St. Peter Claver Church in Macon had a set in the convent when I was first ordained and I would wear them at the convent Mass. I was given one as a Christmas gift and on the few occasions that I did wear it people asked if these were pre-Vatican II. Yes and no--these are now recovered in the post Vatican II era and both are acceptable, but to wear a fiddle back today, one must be liberated as our Pope is who himself wears a variety in his Petrine ministry.

Marc said...

I have to actually agree with Pater on this one. The cut of the vestments really does not matter very much. That said, the style does matter quite a bit. For example, rainbow vestments are right out!

In these days, we see some horrid vestments (I'm looking at you every chasible featuring wheat and grapes!). Notably, we have seen a turning away from the use of the "IHS", which I believe would have been a very traditional feature of most vestments.

Pater is right that the "Traditionalists" in the Church look to the fiddleback as a the model of traditional vestments for false reasons: that is, every FSSP and SSPX priests happens to wear that cut. The ample vestment is the more traditional option.

Perhaps Pater and I can also both agree that simply being able to go back further in time to spot the usage of a particular style or item does not mean that it was a good idea then or now. Pater would likely cite the dreaded maniple in this connection where I would cite things like receiving Communion in the hand, etc.

Templar said...

Step 1: Father MacDonald posts about how liberal B16 is by his use of many type of vestments, and how many of the things he does drive Progressives crazy.

Step 2: Enter Ignotus with a 12" long post going crazy about same.

It's like Pavlov Dogs. You can't make this stuff up.

pinanv525 said...

Templar, Re: Ignotus salivating when the bell rings...LOL!!

Joseph Johnson said...

"But had 1960's Rome just invented a new style of vestment and thrown out tradition?" A "modern" take on an earlier tradition?

An analogy in secular dress would be to toss out the modern business suit jacket (a "sack" coat, made of natural materials, like wool, in somber, dark colors) and replace it with a a nineteenth century knee-length "frock" coat but made of textured 1970's leisure suit polyester with contrasting lapel stitching. The "cut" may be an older style but the cloth and detailing are dated 1970's "modern" and in very bad taste.

I have no problem with either style of chasuble--I just loathe the polyester and lack of detail and Christian emblems often typical of modern "full-Gothic" chasubles. Regardless of cut, they should be made of beautiful materials worthy of their function as part of our worship of God.

Mr. WAC said...

Regarding lace: Once, prior to the late 19th-century, lace was a handmade product, requiring thousands of man- (or, rather, woman-)hours to produce. It was costly, precious, and rare. It was a fitting accoutrement to the liturgy, just like cloth-of-gold (another formerly labor-intensive product).

By about the 1880's, most lace was made by machine. It was cheap, abundant, and, frankly, vulgar. The term "lace curtain Irish" belies this fact.

By the middle of the 20th century, cheap lace was overused in liturgical garb, to the point that, in the 1930's, liturgists had to warn priests not to use too much of it. For example, it was, at one point, being sewn onto the boarders of purificators and corporals. Society did not value this cheap lace as precious. Rather, it was (and is still, by many) regarded as effete and vulgar in the extreeme. It was castigated by the liturgical wrecking crew as such.

Now, the "traditionalists" have brought lace back in a big, big way, most of it the cheap, machine-made stuff, and have made lace the condition sine qua non of "traditionalism", when, in fact, it is nothing more than a sort of fake restorationsim; that is, a throw-back to a style that itself was not authentic.

I'm sure the Holy Father uses the Vatican's good stuff. But most lace albs, surplices, etc., used by traditionalists today are, in every sense of the word, garbage.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

But Mr. Wac, why protest this aspect of the "garbage" that is worn for liturgical use today when the greater problem by far is not lace but cheap polyester and Velcro? No one ever complains to me about my alb of choice which is polyester with a built in "cincture" that uses Velcro to keep the neck and cincture closed.

pinanv525 said...

There is a good Novus Ordo liturgy joke here somewhere about polyester vestments for a polyester liturgy...or maybe, for prots, a velcro Jesus for a velcro theology. I'll work on it...

Joseph Johnson said...

Fr. McDonald,
At least your preferred form of alb has a "cincture" with which to hold the ends of the stole in place. Yes, it's true that many of us would prefer to see you wear a cotton or linen alb with a square neck hole or drawstring neck (both of which would require the use of an amice under the alb). And, of course, a nice rope cincture, with hand-braided ends or nice tassels would complete it.

Still, many of us would say nothing about the more modern form of alb if the chasuble is a nice one. I guess the form of alb is seen as more of a private or personal choice of the priest, not to be worried about. Another similar example that I don't say anything about is clerical shirts. I have always thought that the older style with the detachable collar, collar studs, and "French" cuffs (shirt can be either white or black--but worn with clerical vest or black shirt front if white) looks better than the kind with the slide-in white front insert. As I understand it, prior to the late 1950's, the neckband shirt was the only clerical style available with the later style being referred to as a "Gleason" shirt (from the original maker). It's just too bad that American laundries no longer have the special machinery needed to properly starch and launder real cloth clerical collars (or regular detachable collars for laymen like me!) thus necessitating the use of the "plastic" or celluloid clerical collars that we usually see. In England, the starched detachable collar (both clerical and lay) is still available and the laundries there can still roll them out with that stiff, glossy look (as seen on Masterpiece Theatre's "Downton Abbey").

Still, this is one of those things on which I have a definite opinion but I usually respect the personal choice of priests and I say nothing about it as it is not really important in the big scheme of things.

Templar said...

LMAO, WAC/Ignotus...what Spirit of Vatican II rag or blog did you get those quotes from?

For some reason I can't get the image of you in a nice polyester Chasuble, with the big Obama logo on the back, and a rainbow stole out of my head

Bill Meyer said...

The green polyester things which pass today for chasubles are a disgrace. In my parish, they always look dingy, and in need of pressing. I don't turn up for Mass in t-shirt and flip-flops; I don't expect to see my priest looking as though he "just threw something on." Attending Mass, like celebrating Mass, is a deliberate act. Our appearance should reflect our reverence.

Henry said...

Can we all agree that liturgical vestiture is one area in which history is irrelevant? That what any particular style connoted in some time past is irrelevant to what it connotes today.

For instance, whatever a Roman-style vestment meant whenever, today (in the eyes of many beholders) it means you're not looking at a polyester priest saying a polyester Mass.

Of course, the real point is that, beauty being an objective good, every Mass vestment (of whatever style) should evidence the beauty that we and God see in Holy Mass.

Anonymous said...

I just LOVE being Catholic!
There really is something for everyone here.
Even fashion debates and lessons!

Not one ounce of sarcasm here.


Pater Ignotus said...

Henry - What do you mean when you say "beauty is an objective good"?

And I have seen "fiddlebacks" made of nasty polyester, so they style doesn't matter. Nastiness abounds!

Marc - Is there some way to determine which vestments are "horrid vestments" and which are not? Is there something here beyond personal preferences?

Joseph - The absence of ornamentation on chasubles is not new at all. A part of Sternbeck's article I did not include he spoke of how, over time, chasubles, which started out almost entirely plain, became more ornately decorated. The origin seems to have been entirely practical as cloth strips were added to seams to reinforce the stitching and to hems to hide frayed fabric.

I agree they should be made of beautiful materials, but that brings us back to what might be the unanswerable question: What constitutes beauty?

There are synthetic fabrics that are every bit as beautiful as natural fabrics. Practically, they are easier to care for and tend to be more "wearer friendly" in certain climates.

pinanv525 said...

Ah, objective beauty. So, shall we discuss Plato? Or, maybe Keats..."beauty is truth, and truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know."

Well, let's not. However, I think wearing garments of natural materials makes a quiet statement. I will wear nothing but cotton, silk, or wool if I can help it. Why? Because I hate synthetic stuff, synthetic Priests, synthetic liturgy, and synthetic theology. Remember "The Graduate?" "The future is in plastics, my boy." Wow, was that ever prophetic..."Hello Darkness, my old friend...."

Anonymous said...

Add synthetic angst to the list.

Henry Edwards said...


Beauty is an objective reality because it is in the mind of God, not merely in the eye of the beholder. As such, however, it is universally recognized by beholders who seek it. For instance, I trust that anyone, whatever his personal tastes, who sees the most recent Mass photographs from my parish will agree that our vestments are beautiful.

So when beauty is not seen in the Mass, it likely is because there is not enough regard for God to want it there.

As for the various straw men you mention . . . Of, course beautiful vestments--as well as trashy ones--can be made in every historical style, and no single style is preferable to the others.

No need to argue about what is historically traditional; this varies with time and place in history. In our time, the so-called Roman style (often decorated in a non-Roman and even a trashy style) is typically called "traditional" not as an historical claim, but because of its current association with traditional liturgy (usually EF, though OF can be celebrated traditionally).

And it is associated with traditional liturgy not because of any belief that traditional liturgy was in the past celebrated with this style of vestments. Rather, as a reaction to the association in recent decades of the polyester pseudo-Gothic style with non-traditionally celebrated liturgy. Even though many of us in the prior decades had only seen the traditional liturgy celebrated using Gothic vestments.

Joseph Johnson said...

Pater Ignotus,
If you go to the British Museum in London you can see a Roman outer garment from, if I recall correctly, the second century A.D. which is rather plain and is called a "casula." As I'm sure you know, this is the secular outer garment upon which the chasuble was based. It was simply an everyday outer garment worn by men at the time which, over time, fell into general disuse but was retained by the Church as liturgical vesture to distinguish the priest after Christianity was legalized and "out of the closet" (or catacombs).

I was also already aware of the practical historical reasons for the original use of orphrey tape to cover seams on early chasubles (which, like the buttons on the end of a suit coat sleeve, are now purely ornamental).

Liturgical vestments, though derived from historical everyday dress, should not be reduced back to mere plain and functional reproductions of the historical garments from which they were derived. They now function (as do Sacred Vessels, which must be made of precious metals) as Sacred Vestments to be used in the liturgy. In that role, anything which elevates our thoughts and sentiments to worship of the One True God is desirable. Beauty, some ornamentation, and the use of Christian images and symbols on these items are part of the externals of the liturgy which constantly remind us of what our worship is all about (as do other lesser externals, such as statues, and stained glass windows). This all makes me think of what Pope Pius XII wrote in Mediator Dei in the late 1940's when he stated that a return to an antiquarian liturgy (trying too hard to replicate the practices of the very early Church) would be undesirable.

Pater Ignotus said...

Henry - I would not at all agree that anyone who sees pictures of your parish vestments would agree that they are beautiful. There is a subjective element to beauty as well as cultural and historical elements.

Joseph - I agree that "anything which elevates our thoughts and sentiments to worship of the One True God is desirable." I suspect we might disagree on what so elevates thoughts and sentiments.

Some find baroque architecture to be inspiring, some do not. While I find the austere French neo-Gothic of the monsatery chapel at Conyers to be sublime, I know that not everyone shares my taste.

I do not expect that everyone will share my tastes and find it curiously odd that some people do think this way.

There is no "Catholic style" of art and/or architecture. Rather, there have been many "Catholic styles" as any cursory glance at any reliable history of the Church will show. There is no style of art/architecture that fully represents the "mind of God," if, for no other reason, we cannot know the mind of God.

Henry Edwards said...


I fear that you continue to miss my point. Perhaps you are attempting some polemical point, which I am not.

Anyone who looks objectively at the photos I referenced will indeed see beauty in the vestments shown--including you, if not attempting to express a personal preference for a different style. However, what you yourself (or I myself) subjectively prefer is irrelevant to the question of objective beauty.

It's not a matter of differences in taste or preference as to period or style. Every historical style of vestment, or of architecture, can be executed so as to express beauty for the worship of God. And so show beauty in His eyes and man's, independent of personal preferences and changing historical styles. Of course, every style can also be executed in ways that do not lack beauty, and we unfortunately see this failure aplenty in all styles that are extant today.

Again, it is not a question of personal preference or taste. Anyone who is rightly ordered to God can recognize beauty, when it is present, in any style of vestment or architecture that is executed to express His beauty and to offer beauty in worship. So whether I personal prefer baroque or austere architecture, for instance, should not alter my ability to perceive the beauty of God in either.

It's rather like the difference between right and wrong. Man is so constituted in the image of God, that with a well-formed conscience, he correctly perceives that difference.

pinanv525 said...

Anonymous, LOL! Synthetic angst...those '60's/'70's flicks were full of was Sartre...among other stuff.

Pater Ignotus said...

Henry - I do not agree that there is an "objective beauty" found in mass vestments that exists apart from the perception of the person who is looking at them.

Their purpose - enhancing the worship of God - is, per se, a beautiful thing. But even vestments used for a beautiful purpose can be unattractive.

A dalmatic that is made of fine cloth, well-stitched, properly cut and fit to the wearer can still be as ugly as sin.

If it were the case that "Every historical style of vestment, or of architecture, can be executed so as to express beauty for the worship of God" then the question of perception would be moot and we would worship equally well in any space, baroque or barn-like.

None of us could say "This style is more beautiful and, therefore, more appropriate for use in the worship of God."

I am not being polemical. I am disagreeing with you.

pinanv525 said...

Ignotus, "moot" means up for discussion or debate. You are saying that the notion of "beauty" is up for discussion or debate.

I would want to argue, with Henry, that there is an objective beauty that can be expressed in such things as vestments. And, I also agree with you that things most people would call ugly can be used to express beautifully God's truth and, thereby, become beautiful themselves.

Such philosophical discussions of beauty are generally a waste of time. They are useful to college age males who are trying to get art or philosophy major girls into bed, but I would not know anything about that.

For the Christian, "beauty" is ultimately seen in the context of God's creative act. My understanding of that is that those things which most marvelously reflect the intricacy, symmetry, and amazing complexity of Creation are the most beautiful. Those things which reflect those qualities in the simplest form are truly sublime(aside on Romantic poetry here). It is why I prefer Raphael to Michealangelo and Bach to Mozart. If I were still a Calvinist preacher, I would launch into a homily about the even greater wonder of Christ redeeming the depraved ugliness of our sin through the beauty of his grace...but, I digress...

Now, surely there are priestly garments and Church accoutrements that more pleasingly express the simplicity and beauty of God's creation than others. That is not to say that God does not use them all to His glory and our sanctification, it is just that some are so damned tacky...

Mr. WAC said...

Fr. - What about Velcro? It isn't an adornment, right? It isn't a decoration. It is a fastener, and, while it is ugly, it isn't meant to be seen! I'm sure you'd prefer it to ribbon ties. As for polyester, well, with the outside exception for vestments meant to be worn outdoors (for military chaplains, for instance) I'd have to say that petroleum-based fabrics really should be avoided in liturgical use.

Templar - I was simply reciting the recent history of lace. Whatever you may think of lace, the fact remains that most modern lace is cheap junk. I have no problem with lace, per se, unless its use comes off as fey or twee. There is no need to make sacred ministers look like the curtains in a tea house, a look that is championed by some members of the SSPX and the ICKSP,

BTW, I am a Latin Mass attendee and a member of the parish council at the Cathedral in Savannah. Ask anyone who knows me - I am not a liberal.