Sunday, November 30, 2014


Banal is described as drearily commonplace and often predictable; trite.

In this photo when Pope Benedict visited Istanbul and participated in the Divine Liturgy with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch, this is what Pope Benedict wore: surplice over street cassock, mozzetta with ermine and ornate papal stole:
In this photo above, Pope Benedict respects the liturgical splendor of the Orthodox liturgy and what he wears matches or is in continuity with that liturgy while still maintaining the Latin Rite ethos. 

Today, Pope Francis celebrated with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch the same Divine Liturgy in the same Orthodox cathedral. However, he chose not to turn the house or street cassock of the pope into a liturgical one by donning the surplice, mozzetta and papal stole. No, he simply placed a plain, banal and ugly stole over his street clothes and the stole isn't even properly ironed! It looks simply slovenly:
This would be similar to me being asked to join the Greek Orthodox Church down the road from me for their Sunday Divine Liturgy.  I come with my black suit and clerical shirt and pants and simply place an ugly stole over it rather than wearing the prescribed choir dress for a priest in this setting. It would be a bit insulting I think to the Orthodox whose theology of the liturgy is heavenly not banal. How would that promote ecumenism beyond what we already have with the Orthodox?

I've said it before and I'll say it again, as a Jesuit, Pope Francis is still stuck in the 1970's liturgical milieu and the ethos of the Church as some kind of non-governmental organization (NGO) promoting social work. The social teachings of the Church are critical to being Catholic; but atheists could embrace Catholic Social teachings without belief in God.  In fact social work without the belief in God or salvation exercised purely in an altruistic way out of concern for others seems more heroic than those who do it simply for a future reward in heaven. 

But back to vestments. When I went into the seminary in 1976, the first thing I noticed was how austere the vestments were for Mass in the chapel. (When we had small group Masses in the priest's apartments in the seminary, they seldom wore vestments except with a stole over their clerical shirt.)

The vestments were full flowing but without any ornamentation. The theology then was to appear poor in a liturgical setting and that the vestment itself was the symbol and you don't put more symbols on a symbol. The later, in particular, is what I think Pope Francis continues to embrace in his vestments. His are very 1970's looking to me, especially the one he wore for his installation Mass.

The seminary also dispensed with the ornate candlesticks on the altar in favor of a pillar (one!) candle on it without a candlestick to hold it!  The gold chalices and patens were replaced by earthenware ones and the cups looked to me like plant pots one would have at home.

There was a theology behind this, based upon puritanical simplicity that is alien to authentic Catholic theology and ethos for the Mass, what the Orthodox and Eastern Rites call the Divine Liturgy.

I wonder if the Orthodox or the Eastern Rites feel comfortable with a pope whose style of dressing his part evokes the 1970's banalities and liturgical "dumbdownedness" based on a false and erroneous humility of poverty? Would they want this Pope of Rome prescribing the vestments they should use and modelling it for them as Pope Francis did today?


Anonymous said...

What I noticed was how naturally at ease the Patriarch was and how Francis was really really trying to "be humble". I don't know how else to say it. You can just see in his eyes he is caculating what can I do next. He almost broke the Patriarch's arm trying to force him to bless him. In the end the Patriarch laughed and kissed his head. It's unseemly and immature. You could see how he was really really trying to walk ahead of the Patriarch in order to give the Patriarch the place of honor. Meanwhile the Patriarch is just walking like a normal person. And during the liturgy the Patriarch doned all his vestment including his crown Francis didn't even have the manners to show he cared by putting on choir dress. I wonder if the Patriarch daily calls his faithful rude names for actually believing in their faith in imitation of Francis?

Cameron said...

So, nobody's ever explained this: why can't you put a symbol on a symbol?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

1970's liturgical theologians are the ones who were promoting this ideology for it really isn't a theology.

Where I would agree is with putting a chalice and host above it on the front or back of a chasuble. That seems to be dumb to me and competes with what is or will be on the altar.
Roman Vestments, though usually have designs that would incorporate filigree or other religious symbols. Why would anyone oppose that?

I can see that any of us have taste but 1970's theologians imposed their taste on a generation or two or three of priests and bishops and a puritanical simplicity to boot!

Pater Ignotus said...

Cameron - The purpose of a symbol is to communicate and idea. Symbols that are strong and clear do this more effectively than symbols that are cluttered or difficult to perceive.

Example: When you see the Golden Arches on a McDonald's, it is simply shape and color. No words are added, no decorative filigree is seen. That symbol does what it is intended to do very directly and without confusion.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI you turn the use of vestments and their decor into a pedantic ideology not to mention you yourself being so in this comment.

We now have vestments that are lack luster, as shown by the one Pope Francis wears (which btw has two crosses at the bottom) and the one that Pope Benedict wears which simply has filigree but no other symbols.

Pope Francis' stole is banal and trite, while Pope Benedict's fits the building and the occasion and shows respect for the Orthodox ethos of liturgy that is also a part of the Latin Rite Liturgy but lost for the most part by pedantics of the post-Vatican II era.

Gene said...

Ignotus wants the Mass to be a MacMass…like the OF…egalitarian, horizontal, bland.

John Nolan said...

Let's face it, Pope Francis dresses like a slob. When Pope John XXIII celebrated an Eastern Rite liturgy, he wore the papal tiara since the bishops were wearing their crowns.

The only upside to this is that Francis's successor is more likely to go to the opposite extreme to prove his humility. Make no mistake about it, Francis's refusal to wear choir dress is an act of supreme arrogance, since everyone else, from the humblest parish priest to the most exalted cardinal, is expected and required to do so.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr. Nolan this man called Francis is just plain sloppy in his attire all the time. I mean come on the "humble" thing has got to stop, he is almost "child like" and just going overboard with this "humble" gig. I must ask is he the Pope or not??? We all get it you are the "humble" Pope but do you think you are the Pope or not?? I find it very weird and odd is there something wrong with him, just look at how he grabbed the Patriarch's arm for the blessing even the Patriarch was taken aback by this ODD behavior. The Partriach knows what he represents for the Orthodox but does Francis??????

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the above statements about the "humilty" of Francis. It certainly looks contrived. It's just over the top and probablly annoying to the Orthodox who do not like their bishops acting in such a pedestrian manner. He is making a laughing stock out of himself and the papacy. You just know every protestant minister or rabbi who meets with Francis is waiting for the moment when Francis bows low before them and begs for a blessing. It's cheap and not tawdry. But that is what liberals do, so I guess every future pope has to dress like a slob, live in a motel and humiliate themselves before apostates to be considered humble like Francis. The next pope just needs to declare him an anti pope and dismiss everything. It shouldn't be to hard with the revelations about pre conclave agreements coming out and promoting divorce and sacralige etc.

Anonymous said...

I too saw the video of the meeting bewteen Francis the Humble and the Orthodox Patriarch. I must confess, I found it very very disturbing is he all there upstairs? No disrepect but these questions are valid ones that have to be asked. I feel that Francis is so consummed with everything "but" The Roman Catholic Church that he is possibly cracking up. Once again no disrepect towards the pope but my goodness just plain and simply strange to watch. Does anyone notice how "uncomfortable" the Orthodox Patriarch was? Body language says alot.

Marc said...

There are a few things to note about this. Francis did not "celebrate" the Divine Liturgy. He was simply present for it. In that context, it makes no sense for him to wear a stole at all, regardless of its style.

His "vesting" is all the more problematic because many Orthodox would consider Francis to be a layman. There are no sacraments outside the Church; Roman Catholics are outside the Church; therefore, Francis isn't actually a bishop (or even a priest).

I suppose they allow him to "vest" in order to be polite. But, it is this sort of behavior that makes people concerned about the Ecumenical Patriarch. Unlike the pope of Rome, the Ecumenical Patriarch could be deposed for falling into heresy, of which false ecumenism is one.

Anyway, I have just returned from the Divine Liturgy. It certainly wasn't banal even though the priest's vestments were very, very simple.

Pater Ignotus said...

Good Father - No, my comments about the way in which symbols communicate isn't ideology.

Vestments without adornment - brocade, gold/silver threads, embroidery - are not, per se, lackluster. (It's one word, by the way.) There is a simple and elegant beauty in vestments that are designed well and made well. The beauty comes not from the adornments, but from the vestment itself.

A steak that is well-cooked can be more appetizing than one that is "adorned" with a shallot and cream sauce, sautéed mushrooms, or other extrinsic "decorations."

I prefer liquor drinks with two or, at most, three ingredients.
A simple Scotch on the rocks with a splash of water is a "beautiful" drink. Some prefer Mai Tais or Long Island Iced Teas or some other horrendous concoctions of multiple ingredients that are designed to hide the beauty (flavor) of the basic ingredients. It's just a matter of taste.

Ikebana is another example of beauty in simplicity. "Ikebana is an art, in the same sense that painting and sculpture are arts. It has a recorded history; it is backed up by articulate theories; and it is concerned with creativity. In Japan, flower arrangements are used as decorations on a level with paintings and other art objects."

Just because you don't find elegantly simple vestments or flower arrangements "beautiful" doesn't mean they aren't beautiful. That is simply a function of your own taste - and, in this case, your ideology.

Anonymous said...

Most of us here on this nice blog new from the start when Bergoglio stood on the loggia it would all come crashing down. Boy is it a loud crash indeedm and it is still crashing every day!!!

Anonymous said...

Matthew 6:25-34?

Anonymous said...

Good Father, you shouldn't post comparison pictures like this! I miss Pope Benedict as it is!

(Happy first Sunday of Advent, by the way.)

Anonymous said...

I went to Mass while visiting a local city a couple of years back. As I entered the church I noticed a paua shell decoration at the entrance way. When it came to communion the priest gave communion out of a paua shell. I thought at the time how ridiculous and downgrading of the Blessed Sacrament.

That was a priest of the 70s vintage as well, who obviously never lost sight of what he was trained to do in the seminary. He obviously ignored the instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum which says, "It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region,[206]so that honour will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided".

As many have lost belief in the real presence and merely regard communion as a bit of bread, I imagine they think anything will do. Whereas I read that St Clare and St Francis used the finest linens, etc, that they could for the altar. As it should be.

Imagine those self-same priests, if they had a visit from, say, Queen Elizabeth or President Obama. They would use the finest of vessels they had for them and their dining table would be similarly adorned with the finest linens and adornments they could provide. Imagine serving food or drink to President Obama or the Queen out of a paua shell. They wouldn't do it.


Anonymous said...

In doing what he does, Francis just adds to the hype that he is not the Pope. He did the same thing at his first public meeting with Benedict and took second place. Speculation abounds that he's not the true Pope and so he adds to that speculation and provides a spectacle which is embarrassing and appears contrived.

In one photo I saw, which looked silly and I imagine was embarrassing for the Patriach, Francis appears to be resting his head on the Patriach's chest. What next?


Anonymous said...

Pope Francis is a working class slum priest from Buenos Aires. When he wears anything slightly fancy, it looks ridiculous on him. I couldn't see him wearing papal choir dress. It would just seem uncomfortable and out of place on him.

However relationships matter more than fashion. And it is clear that Francis and Bartholomew like each other quite a bit and that matters more than vestments. But hey don't let that get in the way of passive aggressively sniping at Pope Francis for not playing Renaissance king dress up. Traditionalist blogs have started to take over for the late Joan Rivers in their catty fashion commentary

Anonymous said...

"There are a few things to note about this. Francis did not "celebrate" the Divine Liturgy. He was simply present for it. In that context, it makes no sense for him to wear a stole at all, regardless of its style."

The above statement shows a complete lack of knowledge regarding the liturgy and centuries old practicies of the Roman Rite or of the Eastern Church. These exists a form of dressing for prelates who are not celebrating called choir dress, which Francis refuses to wear. Choir dress was appropriate for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. The Patriarch had no problem wearing his tradition's version of choir dress when he attended Mass celebrated by the Pope. He even had the train bearer with him. Francis hates tradition and has made the papacy all about him, it's not about the office. That's the problem. That and not teaching the Faith clearly.

Anonymous said...

"But hey don't let that get in the way of passive aggressively sniping at Pope Francis for not playing Renaissance king dress up."

Liberals just HATE anything that smacks of tradition, formality and Catholicity. Wearing the appropriate vesture isn't playing dress up. It's a part of the liturgical life of a pope.

In case you didn't notice the patriarch was wearing a golden jewel studded crown and gold embroidered vestments. Is he playing dress up too or just doing what Orthodox bishops have done for centuries. Impoverished litiurgy isn't Catholic.

The REAL Francis wanted the best for the liturgy including vestments made of silk and gold......look it up. The saints always wanted the best for Mass, it has always been modernists who have hated that.

Marc said...

Anonymous @ 5:40,

Francis wearing a stole at the Divine Liturgy is the same as if I wore a stole to the Divine Liturgy. He didn't celebrate, and he wasn't "in choir"--he was merely present. That was my point.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous @ 5:40 He didn't celebrate, and he wasn't "in choir"--he was merely present. That was my point."

A prelate who attends a divine service (Mass, Divine Office etc) and is not the celebrant is attending "in choir" that is what the expression means. That is when choir dress is used or when giving a blessing at an event that isn't liturgical in nature (like blessing a building or blessing people after you were just named pope).

John Nolan said...

Marc, check out what JP II wore to Canterbury Cathedral in 1982 and what B XVI wore to Westminster Abbey in 2010. Papal choir dress, which includes the papal stole.

When Catholic bishops attend Anglican services as guests they wear choir dress which includes rochet and mozzetta.

Anonymous said...

MATTHEW 6:25-34

Send Pope Francis a pink blazer...

Православный физик said...

I'm almost embarrassed for the Church, Pope Francis served Divine Liturgies as a seminarian apparently, so he of all people should know proper decorum for Divine Liturgy. This was by no means an accident, it was an ideological statement by the Pope, for worse in this case. (We can't think Msgr Marini didn't suggest proper choir dress)

God help us all

Anthony said...

Why were the 'popes' @protestant services to begin with?These actions sent such bad messages and it was a terrible example to all Catholics.