Friday, December 27, 2013


Pope Francis
Getty Images
An unconventional choice to be sure, but hear us out. 
While Bradley Cooper, Chris Pine, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have all had banner years, their sartorial choices begin and end on the proverbial red carpet. Meanwhile, Pope Francis's sartorial decisions have subtly signaled a new era (and for many, renewed hope) for the Catholic Church.
"His mode of dressing really does reflect the mindset behind it," says Mark-Evan Blackman, assistant professor of menswear design at FIT, of Pope Francis. "I remember when John Paul II was buried in those opulent bright red shoes. When the current pope was elected and chose not to wear the red shoes I thought that was very reflective of his approach to being a person functioning in a role."
Pope Francis has been big on symbolic gestures—paying his own bill at a hotel owned by the Church or washing the feet of inmates (two of whom were female) on Holy Thursday—and the black shoes and unadorned, simplistic regalia are just an outward acknowledgement of his progressive orthodoxy. "Pope Francis understands that menswear is meant to express the character of the man wearing the clothes," says Mary Lisa Gavenas, author of The Fairchild Encyclopedia of Menswearbefore adding: "No rapper-style popewear for him."
True, the opulent jewelry and fur-lined capes of yore have given way to humbler dress, and this break from aesthetic tradition says a lot of the man and what he hopes to achieve while doing his earthly duties. He's certainly been the most approachable Pope in recent memory, one who tweets his gospel, takes selfies, sneaks out of his modest apartment (he declined moving into the Apostolic Palace) in a disguise to help the poor, and even hangs out with Patti Smith.  
Ann Pellegrini, Associate Professor of Performance Studies & Religious Studies at New York University puts it this way: "The humility of his garments offers a way to visibly display his theological and material concerns for the poor. This Holy Roman emperor really does have new clothes."


Anonymous 2 said...

Is “drab” really the right word? Pope Francis makes a striking appearance in all white.

Picking up an idea in the article, perhaps one can say that Pope Francis has broken with an “aesthetic tradition” in favor of an “ascetic tradition.”

Anonymous said...

This designation is right up there with Chelsea Clinton declared the most beautiful bride of the year 2010. Put a picture of elegant, thin, Pope Benedict next to Francis and his see through cassocks. And of course the choice is obvious. Francis is becoming a joke.

Anonymous 2 said...

Father McDonald:

I have just come across this excellent and balanced article in Forbes Online about the impact of Pope Francis. Perhaps you would consider posting it:

rcg said...

Anonymous, man, that was not good to say. I understand the frustration and shock of Country Cousin Jorge taking over the erudite Pope Benedict, but he is not a joke. It is a very serious matter that he eventually affirm to the world what is taught and what is true. I agree on all the concerns, but only because the people who are so enamoured with Pope Francis will twist anything to allow them to affirm their desires. I really hope Pope Francis succeeds and can pull it off. In any case, I think he will mark the results with his own name. We can't really ask for more than that.

Anonymous said...

Francis has been named Person of the Year by Time, now best dressed by Esquire, he is praised by Jane Fonda, NARAL, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, MSNBC loves him, so does the New York Times, the LA Times, Boston Globe, Planned Parenthood, he is the darling of the gay community who just made him their cover boy. What more could a Vicar of Christ ask for. I wonder if he is going to win an Oscar next year?

George said...

I have to say that I'm not seeing and the antagonism and negativity toward the Church
(both within the media and without) since Pope Francis was elected and hopefully we will see something good come out of that.
His perpective on things comes from the Latin American experience. When the issue of the poor
comes up, many of us in the U.S. adopt a jaded and cynical reponse because the poor in this country
have it so good compared to elsewhere in most of rest of the world. When you see pictures where human beings have to scavenge garbage dumps for something to subsist on then you can understand where Pope Francis is coming from.
Of course we have our own problems in this country but it has to do more with spiritual poverty and social pathology which may well prove a greater challenge to solve than material poverty.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Great and true insights George and how the Holy Father is engaging with the world not in a shrill off putting way but with sugar might well lead to some conversions! He knows where The Lord is leading him and the church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Great and true insights George and how the Holy Father is engaging with the world not in a shrill off putting way but with sugar might well lead to some conversions! He knows where The Lord is leading him and the church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Great and true insights George and how the Holy Father is engaging with the world not in a shrill off putting way but with sugar might well lead to some conversions! He knows where The Lord is leading him and the church.

Anonymous 2 said...

I heard the following quote from Wind in the Willows on NPR this evening (see chapter 3 “The Wild Wood”). I found its imagery very evocative and wondered whether there is some analogy to Pope Francis’s more austere and ascetic sensibilities:

“It was a cold still afternoon with a hard steely sky overhead, when he slipped out of the warm parlour into the open air. The country lay bare and entirely leafless around him, and he thought that he had never seen so far and so intimately into the insides of things as on that winter day when Nature was deep in her annual slumber and seemed to have kicked the clothes off. Copses, dells, quarries and all hidden places, which had been mysterious mines for exploration in leafy summer, now exposed themselves and their secrets pathetically, and seemed to ask him to overlook their shabby poverty for a while, till they could riot in rich masquerade as before, and trick and entice him with the old deceptions. It was pitiful in a way, and yet cheering— even exhilarating. He was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery. He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple.”

BTW I have always liked winter for much the same reasons as Mole does. Perhaps that is also why I also love the austere wintery beauty of the church at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, as much as I appreciate the riotous summery splendor of St. Josephs in Macon.

John Nolan said...

Well, since the wealthiest men nowadays dress like slobs, Pope Francis is in good company. Look at your average awards ceremony; the female "celebs" are dressed to the nines whereas their male counterparts slouch up in ill-fitting dinner suits, with ghastly shirts that certainly didn't come from Jermyn Street and, increasingly, long black ties that make them look like undertakers (I presume the person who started the fashion didn't know how to tie a bow tie).

Cardinal Ratzinger was usually seen in Rome wearing a plain black cassock and a beret on his head. When he became pope he dressed as such. People who deliberately dress down for formal occasions are inverted snobs making a crass 'statement' and not fooling anyone. If you want an example of how to dress properly on every occasion, look at the Prince of Wales.

Gene said...

John Nolan, Hear! Hear! Men in this country certainly do not know how to dress anymore. Clothes may not "make the man," as they say, but they certainly reveal him...

Anonymous said...

Long live the Pope!
His praises sound
Again and yet again:
His rule is over space and time:
His throne the heart of men:
All hail! The Shepherd Pope of Rome,
The theme of loving song:
Let all the earth his glory sing
And heav’n the strain prolong.

God Bless Pope Francis !

Anonymous said...

Interesting.Esquire names Pope Francis best dressed man of the year. How so, all he really wears is the basic white house cassock? What fashion statement is this? So, if fashion simplicity is now the in thing, I hope that all the great fashion houses which advertise in Esquire see the appropriate impact on their sales!In all seriousness, to have a Pope that shows such distain towards any aspect of papal attire from the past is troubling. For instance, the fact that he refuses to wear even the papal stole of state, seen since the days of Pius X and worn by every Pope since, when imparting a formal benediction as the Urbi et Orbi on Christmas Day, replaced with some supposedly newly fabricated red strip of cloth, I cannot understand. That sacred stole that has adorned the shoulder's of some of our saintly Popes, you would think the current Vicar of Christ would appreciate, and venerate as a sign of respect and continuity, not shunned as an object perceived of as lording it over the faithful. True humility on the Pope's part would be to recognize and embrace the liturgical vesture of his predecessors, and his Office, and not openly scorn them with his own personal preference for liturgical simplicity. A Church of The Poor for The Poor? Poor in spirit as some of the great saints have lived or does he foresee material poverty as the only means to attain salvation? Just maybe the material poor do themselves want a better life and not remain in want! Yes, Jesus of Nazareth lived in a very simple manner while on Earth, but lets not forget that The Second Person of The Holy Trinity before He entered the time and space of His Creation and human history through The Incarnation, was in an eternal state of Heavenly Glory beyond our comprehension, and that is where Jesus True God and True Man is now and for all eternity. Holy Father you are His Vicar, dress the part!

Joseph Johnson said...

Well, at least he still wears a rabat collar and white neckband shirt (even if with button cuffs) with his cassock and not the insert "tab" style.

Tab collar clerical shirts didn't exist until about 1960 (which meant that neckband shirts with rabat collars were the norm for secular priests up until that time). Maybe it's because it's less expensive or easier to put on (the most traditional style of neckband shirt would have both a front and rear collar stud, just as it does for laymen) but I have noticed that most priests (when they wear a clerical shirt at all) seem to prefer the front insert tab style. I rarely see a priest in my neck of the woods in a black neckband shirt with separate white collar and black collarette (or the white shirt with black front, etc).

Bishops, on the other hand, for some reason (upon becoming bishop), seem to favor the very traditional white shirt with rabat collar and black shirt front (with collarette) or black clerical vest. I have always wondered if they are encouraged to dress a little better (when they go to "bishop school") or if they simply do so because they can better afford it.

Anonymous 2 said...

Try looking at it through Mole’s eyes, Anonymous (ironic for Mole, no?). There is time enough to get back to all that; riotous summertime will come again. For now, Pope Francis’s more austere wintery approach reminds us of “the bare bones of it, and they [are] fine and strong and simple.” Perhaps he is enabling us to see further and more intimately “into the insides of things.” Remember, in this respect, that he has something of the mystic about him.

Anonymous said...

Is this a conservative website? Naturally you'd call 'simplicity' with a pejorative term, i.e,, 'drab' to highlight the insult you intend on Pope Francis. Thank you, Fr. Allen, for being the kind of priest that you are :-\. Your dislike or hatred is obvious in all your postings about this new Pope beloved to many.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps he is enabling us to see further and more intimately “into the insides of things.” Remember, in this respect, that he has something of the mystic about him."
Or perhaps he is just a liberal. A liberal who disregards everything he personally doesn't like.

Anonymous 2 said...

“Or perhaps he is just a liberal. A liberal who disregards everything he personally doesn't like.”

It would seem from some of the comments on this Blog that liberals have no monopoly on this tendency. Those posting these comments seem to have no qualms about disregarding this Pope whom they personally do not like. One suspects some feel they would make a better Pope than Francis. Come to think of it, isn’t that one definition of Protestantism – every man his own Pope?

I defended Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II when people attacked them on this Blog for various reasons; and I defend Pope Francis. But then, I am not Protestant. I am Catholic.

Anonymous 2 said...

“Your dislike or hatred is obvious in all your postings about this new Pope beloved to many”.

Are you describing Father McDonald or yourself?

Anonymous said...

I bear no hatred toward the current Pope in Rome, he is my Pope and I accept that. On the other hand one cannot like his boring and drab liturgical vestments and his constant comments that are always taken out of "context" which by the way is already "old" and he either needs to say what he really means or stop making "excuses" for him. Our great Pope Benedict the XVI never had to be corrected all the time like this Pope does. The Catholic left and media hated his guts, why? Because he acted and talked like a Pope of The Holy Roman Catholic Church should have!!!!

Anonymous 2 said...


“He is my Pope and I accept that.”

What does it mean to “accept” that someone is Pope? That the election was valid? Or does it mean more than that? Specifically, what does it mean for you?

“The Catholic left and media hated his guts.”

Did the media really “hate Pope Benedict’s guts”? It sounds right. Hey, it even sounds good -- because it feeds the developing narrative of those who dislike Francis. But is it true? What is the evidence that the media “hated his guts”? The burden is on those making such an assertion. To help get the inquiry started here are a couple of articles, the first giving some statistics about the media coverage of Pope Benedict and the second about some reasons for whatever differential treatment there is of the two Popes.

Anonymous said...

Yes the media hated Pope Benedict's guts. Anybody who has a mind that is working knows the media tried to get him killed after the Regensburg address. They tried to paint him as an anti Semite after he lifted the excommunication of Bishop Williamson. They tried to make it sound like he approved of contraception. They tried to get him to resign by calling him a pedophile and saying he shielded priests when he was ordinary of a diocese. They tried to paint him as a Prada loving, people hating Nazi. Yes, it is an objective fact the media hated and despised Pope Benedict. That I can understand because if the world loved him then that would prove something is wrong. But his own bishops and priests left him to the wolves and never came to his defense.

Anonymous 2 said...


Here is my problem: Statements such as “the media hated Benedict’s guts” are an extraordinary generalization. First, you clearly cannot mean all the media. I imagine you would exempt Fox News, for example, or other apparently “conservative” media. Second, even if limited to so-called “liberal” media, how monolithically have “they” expressed “hatred” of Pope Benedict? I have searched for a study analyzing media treatment of Pope Benedict but cannot find any such study. Are you aware of any?

In the absence of such a study, one would need to examine individual “liberal” media reporting and editorializing on Pope Benedict. So, again to get us started, here is a link to that bastion of “liberal” opinion, the New York Times:

The link is to a website that appears to list and give links to all of the articles the NYT has ever published about Pope Benedict. Going back to 2006, I have reviewed many of the titles and two line summaries and sampled a handful of articles. I have indeed discovered some accusations that the NYT has unfairly reported on Pope Benedict as well as NYT responses to those accusations. Based on this admittedly limited review and sampling, my impression is that the NYT reporting and editorializing certainly does not express “hatred” of Pope Benedict.

I have no time to do more than this. Perhaps you have. If so, have at it. This, it seems to me, is the type of exercise that has to be done, for each individual media source, before a sweeping generalization such as “the media hated and despised Pope Benedict” can be credibly claimed as “objective fact,” even when the investigation is restricted to “liberal” media. What is surely invalid would be to rely on second hand reports in so-called “conservative” media of how “liberal” media have treated Pope Benedict.

That said, I would not be surprised to learn that some “liberal” media at least have been guilty of inaccurate and unfair treatment of Pope Benedict. Sadly misguided people such as Bill Maher (who has a problem with all religion, it seems) come immediately to mind, for example. And I am sure you will be able to find others. But let us be fair too. In this era of excessive partisanship, polarization, and media tribalism, inaccurate and unfair reporting is hardly limited to “liberal” media, is it?

Anonymous said...

Years ago my philosophy professor said it is a waste of time to try and reason with someone who cannot reason properly. Anyone who tries to say that the main stream media did not do everything possible to denigrate Pope Benedict XVI from day one isn't being honest, or living in reality. That's like saying the main stream media doesn't hate Sarah Palin. They have called this woman every vulgar name in the book. The main stream media puts Pravda to shame. As I have stated anyone with a working brain knows the main stream media never stopped from day one to deride, humiliate, lie and malign a good, gentle man named Pope Benedict XVI. It's an objective fact.

Anonymous 2 said...

“Years ago my philosophy professor said it is a waste of time to try and reason with someone who cannot reason properly.”

If your philosophy professor said this, then he was wrong and should not have been teaching. A large part of the burden of teaching is in helping students learn how to reason properly so they can escape the illusions projected onto the wall of the Cave and the misleading chatter associated with those illusions. Unfortunately, we are at great risk of losing the capacity to engage in critical thinking because our degraded political conversation does not sustain it. So, I ask again – show us, using all the NYT sources I have now made available to you, how the NYT “never stopped from day one to deride, humiliate, lie and malign” Pope Benedict.

Yes, Pope Benedict is a good and gentle man. He is also highly educated and very good at critical thinking. Sarah Palin is not. But I do not disagree that many in the media have made her a target for vilification, just as others in the media have made President Obama a target for vilification. But we are not talking about them; we are talking about Pope Benedict.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 2,

Who are you to judge Sarah Palin and my old philosophy professor? Like all liberals you believe in ideology over truth. The truth is that every main stream media outlet in this country, with very few exceptions hated Pope Benedict from the moment he stepped out onto the balcony of the Vatican basilica. They lied beginning with the Prada shoes nonsense and never stopped. That's a fact and for you to desperately try to say otherwise is very sad and proves my professor correct. I'm going to pray for you. But I will take Father Majeski's advice from Proverbs. I bid you adieu as I am tired trying to reason with a liberal and am moving on.

John Nolan said...

Two recent examples from the British press. Firstly, the staid Financial Times:

"Demoralized by the cascade of scandals unveiling priests who sexually abused children, and too often dismayed by the pinched and defensive dogma of his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Catholics have a lot to celebrate ... "

This theme was taken up and expanded by today's Daily Mail (a right wing paper):

"His Holiness ... drives a second-hand Renault 4, lives in a hostel and is reported to have celebrated his 77th birthday with four homeless men and a dog. The retired Benedict, by contrast, resides in Vatican splendour, waited on hand and foot. There's no talk of him socialising with the homeless. Does he ever suspect the devotion Francis shows towards the downtrodden - while undoubtedly genuine - might be an unconscious criticism of his own attachment to material comforts?"

Anonymous 2 said...

Dear Anonymous 1:

I see that, like someone else on this Blog, you have now resorted to ad hominem name calling and labeling.

So, now I am a “liberal” for daring to question your extremely broad assertion and by asking for evidence to back it up. I notice, too, that you still have not provided one single example, let alone several, to show that the media “hated Pope Benedict’s guts” or “never stopped from day one to deride, humiliate, lie and malign” him. And in particular, you have not provided one example from the New York Times, even though I have given you a link to all the relevant sources. Surely you can find at least one example in all that. But remember, for your assertion to be true, you would have to find many such examples. Based on my own quick review of those sources yesterday, I am betting you can’t do so. Perhaps focusing on the reporting and editorializing about the red shoes will help.

I am not even denying your assertion, just expressing some skepticism about its sweeping breadth and putting you to proof. I have not reviewed all the relevant media and so do not know how exactly to assess their treatment of Pope Benedict. But I have suggested how one can find out. If this makes me a liberal, then so be it, but it is a pretty odd definition, unless of course you mean liberal in the intellectual sense of someone who tries to be free, or as free as possible, of erroneous notions and a seeker after truth.

And I was not judging your old philosophy professor. I was judging your statement about him. I would be extremely surprised if a professor of philosophy, whose job it is to help undergraduates learn how to reason, could have said such a thing. Perhaps it would help if you would provide a little more context instead of what comes across as another sweeping generalization. And as for Sarah Palin, do you really consider she is “highly educated” and adept at “critical thinking”?

Now that you have identified yourself as Anonymous 1, which I already suspected, you will recall that I have challenged similarly broad sweeping statements and attacks that I believe you have made regarding Pope Francis in earlier threads (please correct me if I am wrong or have you mixed up with another Anonymous). I will continue to do this. So, you may be tired of trying to reason with me, but I am not tired of trying to reason with you. And again, if this makes me a liberal, then so be it. I am happy to be that kind of liberal.

And lest you think I am claiming some kind of superiority, let me add that I have learned from my own hard experience that various things I had thought to be true turned out not to be when I was challenged about them. I did not particularly enjoy the challenges but, with hindsight, am grateful for the corrections. And I expect that I still hold various erroneous beliefs that await similar correction in the future.

Finally, thank you for your prayers. I certainly need them. And I will pray for you too.

Anonymous 2 said...

John Nolan:

Thank you at least for providing some contemporary examples. I have researched them and provide below the links to the full articles for context. I invite readers to read these pieces for themselves and to reach their own judgments. I would note two points, however. The first piece needs to be supplemented with the actual editorial from the Financial Times, which I also provide. And I honestly don’t know what to make of the second piece. Is it some gossip column in the tabloid Daily Mail?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous #1,
I loved to back and for with Anonymous2. The Father Majeski reference was classic and you could tell it went over Anonymous2 head. Classic. You proved Anonymous 2 argument incorrect because they did what you were accused of. Anonymous 2 made judgements about Sarah Palin's intellect without backup, which is what you were accused of doing. Of course liberal media hated Pope Benedict, to state otherwise is frankly insanity.

Anonymous 4 or 5, I lost count.

I'm still laughing over the Father Majeski reference. That's one of the best blog comments of 2013.

Anonymous 2 said...

Dear Anonymous 4 (? You can’t have 5; it is already taken) (and Anonymous 1):

You are correct. The Father Majeski reference went over my head and I did not check it out before submitting my comment. Although I have lived in the United States for more than half of my life (in fact, for 34 years), I missed out on the Archie Bunker series. We had our own series in the U.K. – “Till Death Us Do Part” starring Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett, which I believe was the inspiration for the Archie Bunker version in America. Do you remember that one, John Nolan?

I am glad it brightened your day that Anonymous 1 essentially call me an “idiot” as well as a liberal. But, of course, that cute remark does nothing to answer my questions and challenge. It just extends the ad hominem attack, as does your suggestion that I am “insane.” As Anonymous 1 should know from his philosophy training, an argumentum ad hominem and an argumentum ad populum (“everybody knows”) are examples of fallacious reasoning.

The red herring argument is another such example and that is what I was attempting to address with my comments about Sarah Palin. With hindsight I see that this was a mistake because saying anything critical of Sarah Palin touches a raw nerve among many nowadays. But Anonymous 1 was trying to draw a comparison between media attacks on Sarah Palin and alleged media attacks on Pope Benedict. I was trying to suggest that the two cases are not comparable. And I stand by what I said: I do not believe that Sarah Palin is “highly educated” or “very good at critical thinking” – unlike Pope Benedict who clearly is. Again, I probably should not have said this because I allowed myself to be drawn into Anonymous 1’s red herring argument and, as I pointed out, the discussion was not about Sarah Palin but about Pope Benedict. So, yes, I made a rhetorical mistake and should have known better. But I did not form my view of Sarah Palin’s intellectual attributes “without backup” as you allege. I verified my claim before making it and have further verified it since. So, sorry, no cigar!

So, why don’t I share my sources? I have two reasons. First, once again the argument is about media treatment of Pope Benedict and not about Sarah Palin. Second, although this may be hard for you to understand or to believe, quite frankly what the sources reveal is so embarrassing to her that it would be unkind of me to publicize the material again, and I do not want to be unkind in that way, especially on a Catholic Blog. I assume I do not need to provide evidence about Pope Benedict’s attributes.

But you and Anonymous 1 do still need to provide evidence to support the claim that the media, or rather the liberal media or the “mainstream media, “hated Pope Benedict’s guts” and “never stopped from day one to deride, humiliate, lie and malign” him. As I said before, I am sure there are individual instances where some in the liberal media have done this. But the claim was not that “some in the media” had done this but that “the media” as whole had done this, that “they” constantly derided, humiliated, lied about, and maligned Pope Benedict. I suggested that you start with the New York Times because for many people, especially so-called “conservatives” (another conversation for another day perhaps), the NYT seems to be the flagship of the “mainstream media” or, if you prefer, “the liberal media.” I am still waiting.