The Pope, The Pill, and the Renewed Babylonian Captivity of the Church

Robert Mickens has shared the angst of his publication The Tablet (aka The Bitter Pill) about a piece of clothing.  Not just any clothing, papal clothing.

Pope Benedict, Yes, Benedict XVI wore over his choir dress a stole decorated with the papal tiara.

Imagine!  The Pope of Rome wore a stole with traditional symbol Popes used for centuries!  But, Pope Benedict wore it, and … I can hardly bring myself to type this … in Germany and… with…  Lutherans.

Let’s have a look.

And now Mr. Mickens for The Tablet.

The Pope and his tiara
Posted by Robert Mickens in Erfurt, 24 September 2011, 9:00

Pope Benedict XVI and his closest liturgical aides — Mgr Guido Marini, [obviously the bad guy of the episode] the master of ceremonies, and Mgr Georg Gaenswein, his personal secretary — pay careful attention to what type of vestments he wears and for which occasions. [It would be mighty strange if they didn’t!]

So it was interesting to note that on Friday, during an ecumenical prayer service in the former Augustinian church (now Protestant) where Martin Luther was ordained [Ooooo.] and celebrated his first Mass, [It was a Catholic church, after all.] the Pope wore a stole that depicted his personal coat of arms topped by the triple-crown tiara. [Ooooo.] Talk about sending a message! [Right!  Let’s do!] If there is anyone who railed against the imperial papacy, it was surely Luther. [And therefore, the Pope should not have worn his stole.  Get it?  Get it?  I wonder what changes a rabbi would have to make were he to visit Erfurt?  After all, Luther wasn’t too keen on Jews either.]

You might remember that much was made of the fact that, upon his election, Benedict XVI was the first pope ever to relinquish the tiara for his coat of arms and replace it with a bishop’s mitre. [Ehem,… apparently there are exceptions!] But [Here we go…] since Mgr G. Marini [BOOOO!] was hired he he has worn any number of vestments that include his arms topped with the triple-crown. [Ooooo!] And, of course, the Pope publicly received a tiara that was given to him as a gift [Ahhhhh!] and once hung a tapestry below his window [EEEEK!] overlooking St Peter’s Square showing his papal shield with the tiara.

Aides justify all this is as being part of that “hermeneutic of continuity”. But sometimes there is a good reason to throw things out or put them on the shelf for good. [A couple newspapers come to mind…] Not everything that was deemed necessary in the past is good for the present – or helpful in moving into the future.

Here is more grist for The Pill’s Marini Mill.

Have they forgotten that, almost exactly one year ago, Pope Benedict walked into another former Catholic Church, Westminster Abbey, wearing a stole of Pope Leo XIII?  Leo XIII, successor to Leo X, taught definitively in Apostolicae curae about the invalidity of Anglican orders.

But back to Erfurt a year later…

As a former Lutheran, I understand the shock, the horror, the outrage at the lack of Petrine sensitivity redounding through the Lutheran world at the sight of that tiara.  After all, they have – for the most part – stopped calling the Pope the Anti-Christ and the Roman Church the Whore of Babylon.

That tiara must have reminded those Lutherans that Benedict XVI is the Pope of Rooooome, bringing all those anti-Catholic sentiments back to the surface.  They might even break off dialogue!

I suspect even now, because of that stole and the nefarious un-ecumenical machinations of Msgr. Marini, Lutherans are dashing off pamphlets called the ReNewed Babylonian Captivity of the Church!

Soon to be published by …. The Tablet Publishing Company, perhaps?

It’s time to repost this, just for fun!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Lighter fare, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, Picture Me In My Grief, The Drill and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Gail F says:

    Thank you for posting the picture of him wearing that stole in Westminster Abbey. The fact that the pope walked into Westminster Abbey at all, while the Anglican Church is falling apart, still gives me chills. Yeah, Anglicans, WE’RE STILL HERE. Anyway, next to that the fact that someone would get upset about a 4-inch high embroidered papal tiara is hilarious! No pope can ever again wear anything with a tiara embroidered on it? Paranoid much????

  2. benedetta says:

    Really funny. Not only does this publication not speak for all or even most Catholics, but it seems also unable to represent accurately the views and concerns of Lutherans. Truly throwing the one of the nuttiest of all nutties. For the entertainment value, don’t just leave it up on the shelf. It must be taken down, dusted, admired and appreciated, time permitting…

  3. benedetta says:

    If we get to vote I like picture number two quite a lot actually. But both photographs are lovely.

  4. wanda says:

    ‘But sometimes there is a good reason to throw things out.. (a couple newspapers come to mind.)’

    Father Z., please award yourself the Gold Star for today!

  5. Schiavona says:

    Thanks for the laugh! Yeah, the Pope is… Catholic! The shock!

  6. benedetta says:

    While waiting for the follow up in this publication of a critique of what Rev. Schneider was wearing (and additionally regarding the music for the Mass at the olympic venue and the hermeneutic of continuity, elevators etc.) this was an interesting write up of the actual prayer service and some analysis of the hope for unity:

  7. anna 6 says:

    Goodness…he has 18 extraordinary speeches to ponder, and he is disturbed by this? How petty.

    Editors 0f Catholic periodicals who choose to cheat their readers by not presenting the pearls that Benedict 16 consistently offers the faithful ought to be ashamed of themselves. He’s 84 for goodness sakes…we are not going to have him around forever!

    Imagine what we could do for the world if we could all just get with the program!

    (Sorry Fr. Z…but this just annoys me…and thanks for taking apart the pope’s talks in such a useful way!)

  8. RichR says:

    But sometimes there is a good reason to throw things out or put them on the shelf for good. [A couple newspapers come to mind…]

    thanks for the snicker. That was one of your funniest posts.

  9. Phillip says:

    It’s actually a rather nice stole…he should wear it more often.

    I remember wondering last year if wearing the Leonine stole was just an interesting coincidence. But with this, I’m starting to suspect that perhaps the Holy Father’s choice in vestments at ecumenical events has been quite deliberate. A subtle, but firm reminder that he is, in fact, the Successor of Peter, and that it doesn’t really matter whether or not Protestants think so. He is what he is, and in the right kind of ecumenical spirit, he welcomes Protestants back into the fold – but not at the expense of what the Church has taught from time immemorial.

    I appreciate Pope Benedict more and more all the time.

  10. esiul says:

    Fr. Z., you made my day! After watching the EWTN transmission all day long,
    I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the Holy Father. I am fluent in German
    and what made it so great was that I could listen without being disturbed by the English
    translations. The reason for that is that you never find out what a sentence is about because the verb is at the end so the translators were slow and omitted a lot, much to my delight.
    Thank you for your report.

  11. Anchorite says:

    Father, let me remind you that it was Marini I’s idea, not Ratzinger’s – to remove the tiara. It was decided while JPII was still alive.
    3.7. Papal insignia

    Separate mention must be made of the proposal to reform papal insignia. Since Pope Paul VI renounced the tiara, the Bishop of Rome uses a mitre similar to that of other Bishops during liturgical celebrations. This expresses better the bond of communion and unity which exists between the Successor of Saint Peter and the College of Bishops. The pallium, on the contrary, has not changed with the liturgical reform; it has retained the shape adopted in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Office intends to introduce a modification of the pallium which takes into consideration both its earliest forms and its mediaeval symbolism, in order to express more clearly the ecclesiological and christological significance of this insignia, which was of great importance in antiquity. For the ring of the Bishop of Rome, the traditional anulum piscatoris (‘ring of the fisherman’) will probably be reinstated, to be consigned with the pallium to the new Pope on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of his pastoral service. + PIERO MARINI Titular Archbishop of Martirano Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations

    [Blah…blah… blah…]

  12. frjim4321 says:

    It must be fascinating for Marini and his staff to survey the troves of papal regalia preparing for these trips and other public ceremonies. [Right! I bet it it is! But this is a new stole…right? With Benedict’s stemma. It isn’t one they took from a long-closed drawer.] I can only imagine curators of these treasures accompanying the trip and assuring that these articles are carefully transported from place to place and stored in an appropriate manner. The logistics and security must be phenomenal. Marini being Marini, I doubt that any particular article would be selected arbitrarily, thus there is some validity to those who would read into the brocaded statements postulated by Mickens and others. On the other hand, many of these selections could simply be matters of aesthetics. [Uh huh. Nice way to sit on both sides. But a year ago I asserted that Benedict had something in mind. Why not this time? I think he speaks with a range of symbols and languages.]

  13. Prof. Basto says:

    “If there is anyone who railed against the imperial papacy, it was surely Luther”

    So what???? Is The Tablet openly defending Luther now????

    It was already easy to realize that, underneath the thin surface (and mere appearence) of Catholicism, The Tablet is actually a Protestant publication. But have they now decided to “get out of the closet”? Are they now OPENLY DEFENDING PROTESTANT POSITIONS?

    The Tablet thinks that the Supreme Pontiff, the head on Earth of the Catholic Church, should not use the symbols of his office so as not to offend, not the sensitivities of present day Lutherans, but the memory of Luther himself. Luther, the person, as a fighter against the “imperial papacy”, is mentioned by name! Well, we are Catholics; the Pope is Catholic; the Tiara is a symbol of the Papacy; the Tiara is Catholic! We must not be ashamed of “the imperial papacy”.

    The Papacy is and was good. We stand by it, and we must stand not just by the modern Popes, but also by Leo X. Leo X was right; Luther was wrong. And because we are Catholics, we must proclaim: The Imperial Papacy = Good; Luther = Bad; Tiara = wonderful.

  14. APX says:

    Do normal sane people who don’t have a political agenda against the pope actually notice these things? I thought it was just a pretty burgundy stole with gold embroidery.

  15. Trad Tom says:

    Is Mr. Mickens a “practicing” Catholic? Or does he just have an axe to grind? People and articles such as his are so very tiresome.

  16. Trad: I am sure Mr. Mickens is a practicing Catholic. Let’s not bring that into this.

  17. raitchi2 says:

    Where is the Catholic Church of the crusades? Where is the Pope who makes a king kneel in the snow for several days? This is all very sad if for the Pope the making a statement consists wearing various old stoles to subtly hint at a point. Perhaps he could man up and just speak plainly? Is the Papal stole becoming some type of Papal mood ring?

  18. catholicmidwest says:

    He did “man up.” The Tablet didn’t.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    By the way, that picture of Benedict XVI, taken at Westminster Abbey, speaks volumes. It may be one of the best photos of him I’ve seen in a while. He is wearing an assortment of symbols to display his commitment and fidelity to the continuity of the Church, but he is thinking about 90 miles an hour. You can see it even in a still photo.

  20. ApostleSean says:

    Yes, we should be careful not to offend them, else they may leave the Church and begin some sort of… Reformation or something.

  21. benedetta says:

    But shouldn’t we also get treated to the Tablet’s opinion that the criss-crossed keys, arguably more prominently embroidered on the stole, are similarly to be condemned as heinous?

    I rather like it actually, the embroidered tiara (in golden thread!) with the keys, together. But I don’t think the Tablet wants to poll us about it.

  22. It’s flattering to both his hosts, actually. “We are all reasonable people and grownups, and so I can bring our clear differences into the discussion without hurting or offending you.”

  23. scotus says:

    I keep reading that Luther was ordained in the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt but the Wikipedia article on Erfurt Cathedral claims that he was ordained in the cathedral. OK, Wikipedia is hardly an infallible authority but what is the evidence that he was ordained in the monastery? Was it traditional practice to ordain monks as priests in the monastery where they lived? Gloria TV also claims that he was ordained in the cathedral:

  24. raitchi2 says:

    @ catholicmidwest: I suppose he “manned up”, if manning up consists of wearing various pieces of clothing to hint at something while your exterior actions speak otherwise (the Pope’s meeting with Mr. Williams).

  25. Joan A. says:


    Dear Father Z:
    You are amazingly eloquent all the time, but I never thought you could be even more eloquent as a man of few words! Short and sweet (AND FUNNY!), this article goes down as one of your classics!

  26. Supertradmum says:

    It seems to me that anyone who takes umbrage at the Pope of the Holy, Catholic, Universal Church wearing the tiara embroidered on a stole is the one being insensitive.

    Get over it! Boo to the Bitter Pill.

  27. irishgirl says:

    This is one of your best, Father Z! And I love seeing that picture of the Holy Father from last year in Westminster Abbey….he’s got such a ‘cat that ate the canary’ look on his face! One of my favorite photos of him!
    And you’re right: ‘Tabula Delenda Est’!
    I also echo what Supertradmum said, ‘Boo to the Bitter Pill.’ !

  28. Centristian says:

    “But sometimes there is a good reason to throw things out or put them on the shelf for good.”

    I imagine the various papal tiaras have (alas) been put on the shelf for good (although I am not necessarily persuaded that the reasons for that are very good). The rules and traditions of heraldry obtain, nevertheless. Whether or not a sitting pope is actually crowned, the tiara remains the heraldic “helm” of the pope, just as the image of the crown remains in the helms of the achievements of all the uncrowned sovereigns of Europe. Would the author object, say, to the sight of the heraldic crown of Sweden embroidered on King Carl XVI Gustaf’s naval commander’s cap? To object to traditional (and correct) embroidered decorations appearing on the pope’s stole is just as silly.

    The fact remains, however, that the tiara has never been replaced in papal heraldry, despite the miter that (usually) appears on depictions of Pope Benedict XVI’s personal coat of arms. Benedict XVI’s miter is a stylization reflective more of personal license than of authentic heraldic symbolism. Pope Benedict XVI’s personal arms, in any case, reflect only Pope Benedict XVI, personally, and not the papacy as an institution. The personal arms will change with the next pope. The crown and keys on the flag of Vatican City, however, do not change from one pope to the next. The papal flag that flies today is the same one that flew during the reign of Pius XI.

    Some heraldic authorities, in an unnecessary effort to make sense of it, will describe Benedict’s miter as “a papal tiara in the form of a bishop’s miter”. As we have seen, though, and as we see in this article, artistic license frequently trumps Benedict’s design, replacing his miter with the traditional tiara (just as artistic license sometimes replaced John Paul II’s tiara with a miter).

    Regardless of Pope Benedict XVI’s novelty with respect to the design of his personal arms (which also includes a depiction of the pallium), the miter cannot and does not correctly symbolize the pope in heraldry, as miters are not peculiar to popes but common to all bishops, archbishops, abbots, and cardinals. That being the case, the galero (featuring colors and numbers of tassels that differentiate between the ranks) is used in ecclesiastical heraldry, instead. Except in the case of the pope, of course.

    Looking closely at the photos of the pope’s stole, however–not that this matters at all–it seems probable to me that the image of Pope Benedict’s personal shield and the image above it of the papal tiara and crossed keys are not even meant to be integral. They are, I think, two separate images, one embroidered above the other. Above, the official symbols of the papacy as an institution are depicted; below, the personal symbol of Benedict XVI. Were it it all meant to be integral, I believe the keys would cross behind the shield, rather than above it.

    Artistic license is common in the decorative arts, after all. If we look at the image in which the Pope is wearing the stole of Leo XIII, we can see that the papal heraldry on that garment is very stylized. The tiara hovers in the border of the shield; there are neither lappets nor crossed keys. It’s just a design, though, conceived by an artist. The stole, itself, is the symbol that’s important.

  29. says:

    Thank you god for Benedict XIV and also for Mgrs. Marini and Ganswein for taking good care of the Pope. I wish the Pope would insist on the tiara to emphasise his superiority, despite the obvious humility of the man, over the church and in particular the bishops ,many of whom have singularly failed the church in terms of their leadership of the flock. Remember Christ was never a democrat he was / god and all this collegiate stuff is just nonsense ,the pope is the boss whether Mikens like it or not. Who actually reads that rag anyway? We have a similar piece of junk mail in Scotland called open house . Both should be nailed up in the toilet -for emergency use should one run short of toilet paper!

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