I am writing with a follow up question to your post yesterday (16 November) on the subject of the mantelletta. HERE In your response to the reader, you mentioned the (dolorous) decision, issued motu proprio, of the blessed pope, Paul VI, that white washed Catholic liturgy by flattening out the hierarchy and their attire. Alas, think of what a papal procession may have looked like, in various times of the year!
In any case, my question is this, although the law of Pope Paul concerning mantellettas is in vigor, how is it now to be understood in light of Summorum Pontificum and, even more, of Universae Ecclesiae. That is to say, since the liturgical laws in force in 1962 are to be followed by Bishops , would it not be the case that a Bishop outside of his own Diocese (and the other occasions on which it is to be worn) and Cardinals in Rome would be required to wear a mantelletta when engaged in anything connected to the more ancient form of the Mass? Is it not also so, then, that every Bishop should have a mantelletta tailored so as to “be prepared for every good work”?
When you read the 1969 Instruction on the “Dress, Titles, and Coat of Arms of Cardinals, Bishops and Lesser Prelates,” approved by Paul VI, you often find the word “abolished”: the mantelletta is “abolished”, as is the sash with tassels, the red tabarro, the galero and the red plush hat, the colored hose and shoe buckles for lesser prelates, the red tuft on the biretta for prelates of honor, the mantellone for lesser prelates…. All “abolished.”
What does it mean to abolish or suppress an article of clothing?
What is being abolished is the necessity of wearing them. They are not forbidden. In the instruction, nowhere is it stated, “Cardinals may not wear…”. It simply states that certain articles of clothing are “abolished” or sometimes “suppressed”.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are squealing like piglets. “The Pope clearly wanted to get rid of all this … this… frippery! This is proof that you hate Vatican II! And you hate the poor too! And mercy!”
Some may find this pedantic, but we must ask: What does the author of the Instruction really say about the motivation behind abolishing the obligation of wearing such things?
Having referred to “spiritual values”, the author of the document writes of the sensitivity of the modern mentality to avoid extremes, to bring decorum into harmony with simplicity, practicality, and a spirit of humility and poverty,
“which must always and preeminently shine forth in those who, by their investiture in ecclesiastical offices, have some special responsibility in the service of the People of God.”
The committee which was given the task of studying this issue prior to the promulgation of the this instruction was cautioned to “take account, at the same time and in just measure, tradition, modern needs, and deeper values implicit in certain forms of living, exterior and contingent though they be.”
Thus, the motive for the “abolishing” of certain articles of clothing had in mind the need to keep things simple, to demonstrate humility and obedience, and to attend to the needs and mindset of the modern mind.
The modern mind of 2015 is not the same as the modern mind of 1969.
In this last half century, the world has moved beyond some of the assumptions of the 1960’s. While modern dress has arguably gotten more casual, great attention – even obsession – is paid to presentation, grooming, and appearance. Watch TV commercials.
Furthermore, individuality is king! Those who shun those trends and overarching individuality and put on a regulated uniform now stick out.
I think that the counter-cultural “sign value” of clerical dress is even more important today than it was in 1969. This goes for choir dress, too.
Summorum Pontificum does not seek to create a sort of “Colonial Williamsburg” liturgy. It does not intend to recreate a moment in the past merely for historical curiosity. A central point of Benedict’s reform is to recapture and reintegrate the spirit of the ancient liturgy of the Church, our heritage, which is ever sacred and valid. This is vital for an effective renewal of every sphere of the Church’s life and mission. In all our endeavors we begin with and return to our liturgical worship of God.
Therefore, obedience to the liturgical dress – and that includes choir dress – required at the reference year Summorum Pontificum designated, will again today instill a proper sense of humility and order.
It’s not “What I want to wear”, but rather, “What do the books require that I wear?”, and subsequently “Will I subjugate myself own desire to the requirements of that spirit and decorum?”
The use of a mantelletta was a mark of humility for those greater prelates who wore it. Whereas the mozzetta demonstrated jurisdiction, the mantelletta showed a humbling of that jurisdiction before the greater jurisdiction of the local bishop or, in Rome, the Holy Father himself.
In this time radical individualism, clerical dress is a powerful counter-cultural sign.
Proper choir dress reveals a spirit of humility. Submission to the ordering of seniority and hierarchy and jurisdiction is a spiritual value that clerics need to foster. For example, the place of clerics in processions and in seating in choir followed certain rules. They are followed loosely, but they are known. Furthermore, this humble ordering is a value that seminarians and young priests should experience, for the sake of their own priestly identity which includes the service of the Church in humility. (As an aside, study your average Novus Ordo entrance procession with a lot of clergy these days. Not terribly edifying, is it. But I digress.)
In sum, the obligation to wear these old things is no longer in force. They may be worn, but it is not obligatory. (On a side note, the obligation that women once had to cover their heads in Church is no longer in force, but that doesn’t mean that they must not now wear hats or veils. Maniples and birettas were once obligatory for Mass. Now they are not. They may be used, but they aren’t requirements. But I digress.)
In the context of liturgical celebrations with with Extraordinary Form, the older gear may be worn, but it is not obligatory. The newer rules for choir dress may be followed as well, though it would probably be better to follow the older rules.
Remember, Fathers and seminarians, that a mantelletta or a certain kind of fascia or a buckle, or a mozzetta, in themselves, are not going to get us to heaven on their own. For example, bishops and popes – even the Pope of the current parenthesis – don’t have to wear the mozzetta all the time. There are, however, occasions in which such trappings and signs of office, solemn and traditional, have their proper place. They send signals. The non-use of these symbols also sends signals. Frankly, I think it is wrong for the Pope to dress down in certain formal occasions, such as audiences with heads of state, or consistories, or the Urbi et Orbi blessings, etc. I don’t see it as “humble” at all. I see it more as that radical individuality that I mentioned, above. Other Popes did it, all his predecessors did, but he doesn’t? Sometimes we have to conform and put on all the gear as a sign of respect for office and for others. But… enough of that. He’s Pope and I’m not and this isn’t the pressing issue we face right now. I’ll conform to my style of dress, suited to my station, in choro and on other occasions.
People who say that these things are not important, or are bad, or that they should be eliminated are just plain wrong. That is a naive, shallow, approach to who we are. Liberals have a spittle-flecked nutty over these things. I say that Catholics are not “either/or” when it comes to the dynamic interplay of the humble and the lofty. We are “both/and”, in proper measure, time and place.