I don’t publish all the comments that come in. Some are personal messages. Some are redundant. Some contain information that is factually inaccurate. Some are incoheret. Some are from Katholik Krazies and some I just don’t like. It’s my blog and I get to publish what I want. As I said to one of my correspondents recently: if you want to see your stuff on the blogosphere, start your own blog. Then you can make your own rules.
That being said, I did receive some messages recently from one John Drake. I published one message and then received a second. The first was fine; the second was a bit odd. Mr. Drake was not happy with my making fun of Cardinal Burke for his remark that “men should dress and act like men.” I know I should not make fun of His Eminence; it is the proverbial shooting fish in a barrel. He is just too easy a target. If I could only muster a firm purpose of ammendment, I would even confess it. Alas, I can’t even find imperfect contrition much less firm purpose of ammendment. But that is not my point. Mr. Drake went on to chide me because he has seen “your (meaning my) heroes” such as Cardinal Roncalli (later John XXIII) and Cardinal Montini (later Paul VI) in cappae magnae. Of course he has. It was standard dress for Cardinals at the time. We were working with a different model of Church: still in the monarchial model with a royal court. People wear all sorts of unususal things in royal courts. Have you ever seen Prince Charles decked out as a Knight of the Garter? Even the indisputably heterosexual Prince Andrew gets frocked out like his grandma, the late Queen Mother, when it is time to put on the Garter robes. The problem is that Paul VI abolished the papal court in 1968, eliminating many of the offices and reorganizing and retitling his remaining retinue as the Papal Household. The following year he made drastic revisions in the costume of prelates. The only rank that is explicitly mentioned as still having a right to the cappa magna are Cardinals; the protocols are somewhat ambigious regarding its use by Patriarchs, Archbishops, or Bishops. Presumably it is not to be worn by Abbots as even in the old rules, it had to be granted as a privlege to an abbot and was not an automatic privelege of rank. Even for Cardinals, however, the winter cappa—that is with the fur hood—was definitively and totally abolished. Cardinal Burke and several other prelates seem not to have gotten this message but that is probably the fault of Gamarelli’s as they can make some bucks of sewing dead rabbits into capes. Also the cappa is not permitted—even to Cardinals—in Rome itself. Pope Paul’s reforms of prelatial dress was an attempt to simplify the costume of prelates and move away from the princely model of the defunct royal courts. Of course farm boys from Richland Center Wisdconsin appear to dream of growing up and becoming either cowboys out on the range or Princes of the Church in all their finery. Chacun à son goût as the French say, but it does put His Eminence in a somewhat different camp, so to speak, from where Paul VI was leading the Church forty-some years ago and where Francis is pushing it today. Cardinal Dulles (curse these Jesuits and their influence) made an important observation in his book The Catholicity of the Church (1985). Dulles said that the for the papacy—and by that he meant the Church—the first thousand years were about spreading the Gospel; the second thousand were about power; and the third millennium will be about service. In other words, we are at that shift of the Church’s tectonic plates where we move from the model of power to the model of service. This is a difficult paradigm shift for many to accept and I think resistance to the Church adopting the service model is the chief gripe of Francis’ critics.
All that being said, let me come back to Mr. Drake. He loves Cardinal Burke. He loves the yards and yards of scarlet watered silk. And then he makes a curious shift. He praises the Traditional (what I would call “neo-traditional”) and the Anglo-Catholic clergy for their retaining the trappings of the bygone era and concludes with the puzzled admission that he wonders that the whole world isn’t Anglican. Isn’t Anglican? Why doesn’t he write Cardinal Burke and get Burke’s insight on why we don’t all become Anglicans? I sincerely doubt that for all his being enamored of a level of ecclesiastical foppery that would make the Highest Churchman in the world blush, Cardinal Burke would have any sympathy for the opinion that we should all float our boats down the Tiber and across the Channel.
But I will give you one reason for not becoming an Anglican. As the American Catholic priest, Father Joseph Goetz, allegedly said to his Cambridge mentor Anglican Bishop J.A.T. (Honest to God) Robinson when Robinson asked the anglophile (actually Anglophiliac) Goetz why he didn’t just become an Anglican: “Your Lordship, I am not one to desert a sinking ship for a sinking lifeboat.” I am a great admirer of the Anglican Tradition. We are treating in this blog the Caroline Divines. You have the stellar Lancelot Andrews and you don’t get better than Jeremy Taylor. I even admire Thomas Cranmer—for his command of the English language, not for his theological eclecticism or his moral ambiguities. In the nineteenth century you get Pusey and then later there was Benson and Randall Davidson. But alas, save for a few bright stars such as Rowan Williams or Desmond Tutu the picture has become bleak. Good heavens, when you have John Shelby Spong as your theological wunderkind you had might as well just close up shop.
I was at a cocktail party in some brownstone down on Capitol Hill some years back and there was a former Catholic raving about his new parish: Saint Mark’s Capitol Hill. Episcopalian; American for Anglican. “Oh,” it’s wonderful he gushed. “Every August we have ‘Crab Sunday.” (You have to understand the place of the Maryland Blue Crab in the Chesapeake culture; somewhat akin to the quail God sent to console the starved appetites of the children of Israel in the desert.) “The Choir call comes in wearing crab hats. And we give the “Crab of the Year Award” to the parishioner who has been most bothersome to the Rector that year. And the Eucharistic bread is baked in the shape of a large crab!” The Eucharistic bread is baked in the shape of a large crab?!? I was willing to allow that Leo XIII may be wrong about Anglican Orders and the question should be reexamined, and I am all in favor of using real bread for the Eucharist rather than something that appears to be an anemic necco wafer, but nobody who takes the Real Presence seriously would bake the Eucharistic bread to look like a giant crab. Or even a normal size crab. This is the problem. To my mind too many people today ‘play church’ and don’t understand the gravitas sacra of being Church.
I remember reading an advertisement for a Service commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic at a Unitarian/Universalist Church back in 2012. It sounded very nice. The music advertised was particularly well chosen. But then, at the end it said something like “worshippers are encouraged to come in period costume.” Years ago I read Harvey Cox and The Secular City. I remember that I liked Cox’s approach to Liturgy. There was an element of playfulness in ritual. I was young then but I would still agree that drab solemnity can too easy implode into idolatry. But worship is never frivolous. It is never giddy, or silly or flippant.
All that being said, there is little difference between Unitarians in corseted gowns and hats replete with feathers, fruit, and birds and Catholics dressed for the court of Louis XIV. The TLM is often very little other than an exercise in antiquarianism. And whether you wear a crab hat down the aisle or a galero, religion becomes not only mockable but a mockery.