Thursday, February 21, 2013

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: Charlotte Allen on Benedict's "Sartorial Revivals" As Ministry of Beauty to Drab Church

And from the sublime (Matthew Fox) to the ridiculous: here's anti-feminist Charlotte "MeanCharlotte" Allen on Benedict as "the pope of aesthetics" whose "sartorial revivals" have brought beauty back to a drab, sad church in need of a few glimpses of sartorial splendor to revive its flagging spirits (no, I am not making this up):

My own fashion sense is nearly nonexistent, but that only makes me more appreciative of Benedict's. Some highlights: Benedict saying Mass in 2008 at Washington Nationals Park in a billowing scarlet satin chasuble (a priest's outermost liturgical garment) trimmed with crimson velvet and delicate gold piping. Benedict greeting worshipers in Rome, his chasuble this time woven of emerald-green watered silk with a pattern of golden stars. Benedict on Oct. 21 canonizing Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th-century Mohawk woman, while attired in a fanon, a gold-and-white striped shoulder covering, dating to the 8th century, that only popes may wear.

The darling simar! The gold-and-white-striped fanon that only popes may wear! The cute mozetta and chic camauro: we beauty-starved Catholics have positively needed Benedict's fashion sense to lift our spirits at a dreary moment of church history when, you know, all those abuse things have weighed so on our shoulders. Nothing like a glimpse of imperial haute couture, of resplendent watered silk and crimson velvet with delicate gold piping, to take our minds off those plodding, pedestrian realities and lift them up to heaven.

Benedict has chosen sartorial splendor, Ms. Allen argues, as a gift to us, as part of his pastoral mission to the church:

That is what I believe is exactly Benedict's aim. Over the last couple of decades, the Roman Catholic Church has been besmirched with ugliness, scarred by clerical sexual predation abetted by clueless and self-promoting bishops. Benedict has used beauty to demonstrate tangibly that the Catholic faith that he and the members of his church share is itself beautiful and indestructible, and that it shines through despite all human efforts to wreck it.

Again: no, I am not making this up, any more than reporters made up Imelda Marcos's famous statement about why she owned so many pairs of fabulous shoes and sported them on her visits to the slums of Manila: "Filipinos want beauty. I have to look beautiful so that the poor Filipinos will have a star to look at from their slums."

But I do wonder if Ms. Allen has ever heard of Imelda Marcos and if she thought about the possibility that her paean to Benedict's sartorial splendor might sound just a a tad Imeldaish as she penned it.

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