Seeing Red

Deacon Greg posts on “the story behind the cappa magna.” The aggregator Pewsitter didn’t like his “sneer.” I thought Greg was fairly light in his criticism–he cited a lot of sources like any good journalist–even those in favor.

When I see such a long swatch of fabric, I think someone is going to make clothing out of it. My mom sewed a lot when I was a kid. How many saris could be made from Cardinal Burke’s cappa magna and sent to women in South Asia who need a wedding garment? If I were a prelate inheriting one of those garments, that’s what I’d do.

I think it would be a good thing for this vestment to be formally retired from ecclesiastical possibility. Too many questions. Too many distractions. Not a good idea. Ever. And still worse than this. Way worse.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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12 Responses to Seeing Red

  1. Jen says:

    While I lean towards traditional liturgy, I have to agree with you. Both links you post make me cringe, but for the same reason: it distracts from the real purpose of the liturgy. If vestments, music, or homiletic gimmicks get in the way, it’s time to rethink them.

    By the way, have you seen this site?

  2. Blase Romano, T.O.R. says:

    Thank you for your thoughts on this issue. I wrote a comment about the Cardinal and his cappa magna and was read the riot act by some right of right person [apparently more Catholic than Pope Francis]. I was under the impression that the late Pope Paul VI did away with all that fabric & ermine – but it seems I was wrong and told about it in no uncertain terms! Pope Francis = simplicity – as well as compassion and mercy. I don’t get that in some of these clerics who are more interested in how many buttons there are on a Roman cassock than being with/among the people of God. Thanks for the opportunity to vent. I’ve been a Franciscan friar since 1977 and a priest since 1989 – and wearing my habit is just fine, thank you [and no buttons!]. Peace!

  3. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    Over the years I’ve participated in Eucharists celebrated by a wide variety of ethnic groups, north, south, east and west, Asian, African, Latin American, and Oceanianic. When you see the role that music, movement and dance play in their non-liturgical celegrations to deny such expressions of their culture a role in their liturgical life is something that is hard to jusify when measured against a fulll understanding of sacramental theology and the theology of the incarnation which rather would seem to welcome and support such variety and diversity.
    In contrast the excesses in clerical and liturgical vesture that one sees modelled by someone like Cardinal Burke, are hard to justify, and reflect an understanding of the church – the community of faith – that is hard to reconcile with either the word or the spirit of Vatican II, and even more the “Church of the Poor” that Pope Francis is calling us to become.
    And let’s not pass on the fact that strictly speaking the ‘cappa magna’ and related articles, prettly well everything a priest, or a cardinal, wears under an alb, or removes before donning an alb, are “street clothes”/ “ordinary clothes”.
    I give thanks for the witness of the late Cardinal Basil Hume, OSB, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley OFM Cap, who are regularly seen wearing the habits of their respective communities, with the use of minimum symbols of their episcopal status. Or I recall Abp Helder Camara, whom I had the pleasure of travelling together with once – he wore a very simple cassock and an equally simple cross.

  4. Liam says:

    THere are things that smack of the Society for Creative Anachronism – Roma AD 1860. The cappa magma (sic) is one of them. Any sign value it once had has been lost: it no longer communicates what its proponents argue it does. It’s not an objective truth of the Catholic faith. It is, rather, historically and culturally contingent.

  5. Stephen says:

    “How many saris could be made from Cardinal Burke’s cappa magna and sent to women in South Asia who need a wedding garment? If I were a prelate inheriting one of those garments, that’s what I’d do.”

    While you’re at it you should check in the sacristy to see if there is any perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard that could be sold off. You might be able to fetch 300 days’ wages for it…

    If you were a prelate inheriting one of those garments then you would be inheriting an object that some of your parishoners consider to be of a great beauty fitting for the worship of God, and in any event an object that was in all likelihood the fruit of the donations of countless working poor families who desired to support what they took to be the proper earthly grandeur of the Church and her liturgy more than they desired to keep their extra dollar or two in their own pocket. If that’s not your aesthetic style fine – so be it.

    But it in no way demonstrates humility on the part of the clergy to dispose of the heritage of the Church’s past because they no longer find it personally appealing. Respectfully ignore it if you must. But if you don’t like the trads suggesting that your own liturgical devotion is illegitimate or crass because you prefer contemporary music, a sparse liturgy and simple vestments and alter vessels then you might dig deep and see if you can find the charity necessary to see that maybe – just maybe – those same trads find beauty, meaning and a a route to intimacy with God in traditional music, a complicated and rigorous liturgy and vestments and alter vessels that reflect the artistic and liturgical tastes of the several centuries leading up to roughly 1950.

    The trad thing ain’t my thing. But it doesn’t hurt me. It doesn’t hurt anyone else. And it seems to facilitate the spiritual lives of many people whose right to a meaningful experience at the Mass is no less important than my own.

    • Liam says:

      It’s pretty rare to have an inherited CM these days. They are generally being newly made upon request.

  6. Todd says:

    I’d let the people decide: that would work for me. It’s not a question of aesthetics, but of symbolism.

  7. Stephen says:

    “It’s not a question of aesthetics, but of symbolism.”

    Which is more or less precisely what the trads say when they disparage post-1970 trends in Catholic worship. “Why, it’s not that we have a preference for the ornament and ritual of the Latin Mass. Heaven’s no – it’s not about us. It’s that the Novus Ordo, with the priest facing the people and with Communion in the hand and with the use of the vernacular and with contemporary hymns that talk about the People of God more than God’s Holy Church, puts man at the center, not God. And that’s just theologically wrong.”

    But oh no – it’s never about aesthetics. it’s just that the people whose aesthetics I don;t like are sending the wrong message.

  8. Todd says:

    Regarding, “the use of the vernacular and with contemporary hymns that talk about the People of God more than God’s Holy Church” I would say that post-conciliar texts are generally superior to pre-conciliar hymnody. Why? Mainly because of the recovery of Scripture as the inspiration. I think the complaint about anthropocentrism is overdone. The People of God are God’s Holy Church. They are One.

    So, no; it’s not about aesthetics. I’m more than fine with plainchant. I just don’t like the overly slow performance style and most of the hymnody that went with it.

  9. Stephen says:

    To be clear, i wasn’t in any way arguing or defending the “trad” position. rather, i was pointing out that in very many respects the “trads” and the “progressives” are mirror images of one another.

    Both “camps” have much too little charity toward fellow Catholics who prefer, and find spiritual sustenance in, liturgical practices that they themselves do not much like. And both sides try to cloak what is, at heart, a difference in tastes in more “elevated” arguments about why their non-preferred liturgical style is somehow theologically flawed or pedagogically confused or morally suspect or emotionally immature or intellectually stagnant.

    The irony, in my experience, is that both Roman Catholic “trads” and Roman Catholic “progressives” tend to be fanboys of the Eastern catholic Churches. For the former the Eastern Catholic Churches represent solid adherence to centuries-old practices. For the latter the Eastern Catholic Churches represent diversity and a spiritual breath of fresh air untainted by the supposed excess of Trent. But neither side seems to get that if they threw the arguments that they make against their brothers and sisters on the “other side” of the Latin church at the Eatern Churches many of them would stick just fine.

    • Todd says:

      And if you were defending the “trad” position, that would be fine, too. Still welcome to comment and especially poke at me.

      I suggest a distinction is in play between the “trad” and the “anti-modern” and between the “progressive” and the “anti-trad.” Some people are more “against” than “for.” We see it in politics all the time these days.

      I think–I hope–I can safely say I’m in favor of great music, preaching, welcome, and ars celebrandi in liturgy as a basis for suggesting that the cappa magna contributes nothing to these, and in fact tends to capture too much notice as a lightning rod for discussion, drawing attention to style or at worst, spectacle, rather than to the worship of God.

      Retirement from Catholic use would be a good thing, I wrote. But I’m far too busy to start such a campaign myself. Too much good work to do.

  10. Jim McCrea says:

    Francis has obviously listened to the church. Burke and his cronies and clones may want to do their homework:

    The noble simplicity which reflects authentic art should be a major factor in selecting (church) furnishings (Roman Missal 287)

    The beauty of a vestment should derive from its material and form rather than from its ostentation. (Roman Missal 306)

    Ordinaries, by the encouragement and favor they show to art which is truly sacred, should strive after noble beauty rather than mere sumptuous display. This principle is to apply also in the matter of sacred vestments and ornaments. (Sacrosanctum Concilium (no. 124))

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