Pope Francis pummels traditional priests, seminarians, laity … again. What can we learn from that?

UPDATE 14 Dec 2016:

Jan Bentz of LifeSite has a follow up piece.

___  Originally Published on: Dec 12, 2016 ___

Over the last few years, Our Holy Father Pope Francis has said some pretty awful things about priests.  He doesn’t limit himself to priests.  Remember how he pummeled the Cardinals and Bishops of the Roman Curia as a Christmas gift a couple years ago?  HERE  Everyone is a target: women religious, theologians, canonists, you name ’em.

The other day, during his daily Mass fervorino he recounted an anecdote – actually, a bit of gossip – in a rather – well, there isn’t any other way to take it – insulting manner about a seminarian getting some clerical gear.  He heaped ridicule on this seminarian and on pretty much anyone who respects and uses outward traditional garb or, I suppose, anything else that is traditional.  I am reminded of his mocking of an altar boy who was standing with his hands folded together carefully… as altar boys ought.  I am reminded of his scoffing at a spiritual bouquet which people presented to him.

I honestly don’t know what His Holiness is trying to accomplish with these harsh gestures and words.  It could be that – while they deal with things that are not his cup of tea – he says them before their possible impact is considered.

BUT … Don’t we all do that?  I know that I do, sometimes.  And I regret it afterward.  I suspect that Pope Francis does too.

Let’s see his words posted at the site of Vatican Radio:

“About rigidity and worldliness, it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus – and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero [the clerical clothing store] and saw a young fellow – he thinks he had not more than 25 years, or a young priest or about to become a priest – before the mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet, with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno [wide-brimmed clerical headgear], he put it on and looked himself over. A rigid and worldly one. And that priest – he is wise, that monsignor, very wise – was able to overcome the pain, with a line of healthy humor and added: ‘And it is said that the Church does not allow women priests!’. Thus, does the work that the priest does when he becomes a functionary ends in the ridiculous, always.”

It’s sort of an inversion of the parable of the publican and the pharisee, no?  “Thank God I’m not like him!”, only the fancy and the lowly are reversed.

I must ask: How many times has Pope Francis inveighed against the perils of gossip in the Church?  Gossip in “the terrorism of words” according to Vatican Radio.  “Gossip is rotten,” he told a crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square back in 2014. “At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy.  But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us.”  You can find other examples.

Also, a subtle point, this is probably not going to be appreciated by women who think that they can be, or want to be, priests.  THIS is what the Pope thinks of you: You just want to play dress up – hah! hah! – aren’t you ridiculous?

A couple comments and explanations about this are in order.  First, the cape described is called a cappa.  It is not the cappa magna of the bishop.  It is a black, ankle or slightly higher length, cloak. It sometimes has a velvet collar (mine does not), that fastens at the throat with clasps and a chain.  Sometimes they have fabric “frogs” as a closure.

The use of these accouterments means, in itself, precisely nothing.

It is superficial to judge the heart and mind of a person by these fleeting glimpses.  After all, who even knows if that seminarian or priest actually bought what he tried on?  And who knows why he might have bought it?  Any priest who lives in a cold climate – as I do – and who has to go to the cemetery for burials or who goes from the rectory to the church when it’s -10° and blowing knows how useful this cloak is.  Moreover, the flat hat, or as the Roman’s call them, “saturno” (after the planet – also called “frying pans”), is quite practical.  It keeps the rain and snow from going down your neck and it will shade over a book as well.

However puzzling and, frankly, derogatory the public recitation of that anecdote was to a large number of people, my main concern reaches beyond the itsy bitsy, teensy weensy feelings of traditional Roman Catholics, who by now are thoroughly inured by decades of abuse and neglect  from the priests and bishops who should be giving them pastoral care.

Let’s consider for a moment… this:

QUAERITUR: Would we Latins be out of line in mocking our Eastern Catholic or Orthodox brothers?

An Orthodox married priest explains why he wears his attire to Walmart.

eastern priest walmart

Just look at the strange hat, will you?  Maybe it’s a bad thing?

Lots of Eastern priests wear silver and gold chains with cross and icons.  Are they doing something bad? Look at these guys, with their black robes and their silver chains.

Some of these have three things.  And these hats are even stranger!

Heck… Eastern Catholics and Orthodox don’t just wear hats, they wear crowns!

Look at all that fancy finery!  Are they just functionaries?  Are they ridiculous?  Perhaps it should be sold and the money given to the poor.

As for the saturno…

Benedict XVI saturno

Why did THE POPE wear it?  Why, to be ridiculous, of course.

(The real answer is that the sun was really hot.)

St. John Paul used a saturno when it was hot.

John Paul II saturno

John Paul II saturno May 1980 Ouagadougou

Let’s get serious for the last part of this post.

I’ve known clerics who are really into the outward trappings of traditional Catholicism.  Really into them.  Some – few – of them are, well, a bit vain.  Others, however, are perfectly normal, sane, hard working men who pour themselves out like rivers to their flocks.  They find the garb good and useful and they put it to good use.  In time people see what priests are all about even if they wear – gasp – a cappa when they go out into the cold.  And… lots… dare I say… most?  the vast majority?… want their priests to look like priests.  No?  Am I wrong about that?

So.  What’s the take away from this for me, for the priests and the seminarians who are reading this.  What can I learn from this beating that the Vicar of Christ doled out to every cleric who owns a cloak and a hat, who does not despise traditional things enough?

  • First, be careful how you talk about people based solely on appearances or glances of something that you can’t possibly grasp from a distance.  Check your tongues!  How often would we – would I – have avoided sinning had we – had I – simply kept our mouths shut.
  • Next, remember that the Church has two lungs, West and East.   The Holy Father would never in a million years mock Easterners for their traditional style of dress and for their high liturgical style.  But he regularly mocks Westerners.  What of it?  We Latins also have our traditional style of dress and our own high liturgical style that matches the East step for step.  We have nothing to apologize for in wanting it and using it with good intentions.
  • Also, too much of a good thing is too much.  If you are a young priest or a seminarian, and you are really into these things, examine your motives and consciences.  I’m not saying give them up.  On the contrary!  I’m saying that if you are too attached to them, to the exclusion of prudence, etc., make some changes.

action-item-buttonMoreover, remember that we have going here at this blog a long-term project to get birettas for seminarians.  HERE

John Hastreiter at Leaflet Missal in St. Paul is collecting names and hat sizes of seminarians who don’t have a biretta and putting them on a “biretta wanted list”.  Then you, dear readers, can contact John, buy a biretta, and he will send it to a man on the list!

Contact John in church goods at Leaflet Missal in St. Paul – 651-209-1951 Ext-331.  If he is away, leave a voicemail with your phone number and he will call you back ASAP.

Let’s encourage these men!  Call John and buy a biretta for a seminarian.  It’s as easy as that.

Lastly, we priests – most of us anyway – are not precious tender snowflakes who need affirmation and hugs and puppies and coloring books.  I won’t say that we need a drubbing all the time, but we can take it when its handed out.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, ACTION ITEM!, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Mail from priests, Our Catholic Identity, Priests and Priesthood, Seminarians and Seminaries and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Grabski says:

    At a KoC Christmas Party Saturday night, men and women expressed how appealing they found the Cadets in their…..capes.

    That plus the following praying the rosary. But it’s another topic as is the game itself

  2. Grabski says:

    Fellow praying the rosary. Sorry!

  3. murtheol says:

    Speaking of attire, why do seminarians, who are not ordained and are not clerics, wear the garb of the ordained, namely, cassosks and a Roman collar?

    [Because they are seminarians… preparing for priesthood. In the past all seminarians at reception of tonsure wore clerical clothing. The discipline has been retained. In many seminaries where the tradition was lost it is coming back. That’s good.]

  4. Matt Robare says:

    I’m reminded of Chesterton, writing in “Orthodoxy”: “Becket wore a hair shirt under his gold and crimson, and there is much to be said for the combination; for Becket got the benefit of the hair shirt while the people in the street got the benefit of the crimson and gold.”

  5. Geoffrey88 says:

    I can’t help but think the pattern of Obama’s 2011 Correspondents Dinner will repeat. God will not be mocked, nor will he stand by while his little ones are mocked. They may be simple, they may be “rigid,” but they are the Lord’s, and God has quite the ironic sense of humor. The Pope of humblebrags will soon discover true humility.


  6. AvantiBev says:

    Our priests, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, wear the cassock and have capes for our cold Chicago days….really, really COLD right now. I always appreciate the fact that wherever they go they give witness to our Faith and the order founded at our parish here in Chicago.

    Our Coptic brothers and sisters have been gunned down, beaten to death and as of Sunday, blown up and still their clergy wear their traditional garb.

    I have basically been ignoring the hot air coming from Vatican City for some months now. It just was not good for my blood pressure nor my personal spiritual growth.

  7. Geoffrey says:

    Take a look at this interesting write-up from the website of the American TFP. It is titled :Humility Is Compatible with the Rich Dress of One’s Office”.

    “Saint Francis of Sales, the bishop of Geneva, while on a journey during Lent, went to a church that was attached to the monastery of Capuchin friars. He arrived at sermon time; the preacher had taken ostentation in dress as his sermon’s theme and was inveighing vehemently against prelates and ecclesiastical dignitaries who, instead of setting an example of humility, wore splendid garments.

    “When the sermon ended, the bishop went into the sacristy and summoned the preacher. Once they were alone, Saint Francis said, ‘Reverend Father, your discourse was edifying. It may also be true that we who are in authority in the Church are guilty of sins from which the inmates of the cloister are exempt. Nevertheless, I consider it highly unwise to say such things as you did on this subject from the pulpit to the common people. Moreover, I wish to call your attention that for many reasons it is a matter of necessity that the princes of the Church should keep up an appearance befitting their rank. Besides, one never knows what may be hidden beneath a silken robe.’

    “Saint Francis unbuttoned the upper part of his purple cassock, and let the monk see that he wore a ragged hair shirt next to his skin.

    “‘I show you this,’ Saint Francis added, ‘so that you may learn that humility is quite compatible with the rich dress of one’s office. From henceforth, see that you are less harsh in your judgements and more prudent in your speech.'”

    “If the dignitaries of the Church were wretchedly dressed, they would lose the respect due to themselves and to their office. Therefore it is not only permissible, but obligatory upon them, to dress in accordance with the official rank they hold.”

    Originally taken from Fr. Francis Spirago’s “Anecdotes and Examples Illustrating the Catholic Catechism” (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1904), 187-188; http://www.tfp.org/tfp-home/articles/humility-is-compatible-with-the-rich-dress-of-one-s-office.html.

  8. PTK_70 says:

    Here’s a link to an image which I think speaks to Fr. Z’s comment about the practicality of the saturno: http://i.stack.imgur.com/znS6g.jpg

    Pondering this image, I can’t help but think that saturnos fell out of favor whenever clerics started getting around by car, instead of by foot. Without intending any disrespect to the Holy Father – he does, after all, have something to say – the irony is that the saturno harks back to a simpler time when clerics, and most everyone else, got around by simpler means.

  9. murtheol says:

    Great explanation, Fr. Z. But then why are candidates for the Permanent Diaconate not allow to wear a collar?

    [Don’t ask me, ask bishops. I think they should.]

  10. Gil Garza says:

    Take it from a layman.

    Religious, Seminarians, Deacons, Priests and bishops: we want you to look like the servants of the Gospel that you are. Your uniform teaches us about God. Don’t be ashamed to wear it!

    We wear our uniforms to work. So should you. It gives us courage when we see you as a Sign of Contradiction. It helps us to be witnesses of the Gospel in our work when we see you dressed for work.

    We face difficulties being witnesses of the Gospel in the world. We know that you do too. When we see you in your uniform we get encouraged. Sometimes it reminds us that we need to go to confession or get right with God.

    We love you and pray for you every day. Keep up the good work.

  11. Prayerful says:

    It is saddening that the Holy Father seems to espouse some degree of bitterness or intellectual malice towards Tradition. There is nothing polemical or weird about a priest dressing well, showing respect for his great office. I can only pray that the Holy Ghost can bring a change of heart to the Holy Father. Thus far, apart from some efforts to woo the SSPX back to full Communion, which would be a string in his bow rather than a sign of love towards Tradition, the Pope has shown a puzzling disrespect towards good priests and laity. Say the Rosary for the Holy Father.

  12. Benedict Joseph says:

    Bewildered sufficiently by last week’s reportage on papal comments and disposition I find myself somewhat overwhelmed by what has greeted me this morning. The Knights of Columbus’ partner “Crux” publishing Austen Ivereigh’s article lauding the Holy Father’s contempt for those who hold his words up to theological critique, Vatican Radio boldly publicizing a portrait of Martin Luther photoshoped with the mirthful countenance of Pope Francis, and then what is presented here.
    At a certain point even the saints would be loath to respond with deference to one who appears to be persisting in figuratively flashing rude hand gestures to those who question him. Is pretending what is happening is not happening an act of virtuous respect, or simply enabling what is not merely unacceptable, but grievously wrong?
    Whatever the explanation – miscalculated, mindless, or a misguided expression of some sort of religious idealism – none of these excuse unscrupulous behavior on this scale.

  13. Mark says:

    Here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. I am an engineer. My dress code at work is what you would expect, slacks and a polo shirt (or a button down shirt if you want). There have been times when I have had to go into work after work hours, or on the weekend to get time critical work done, and there is no one else in the office. I still dress up when I go in at those times. My family and friends chuckle at me and wonder why I don’t just go in dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, or even shorts. I find that I work much better and more efficient when I dress the part, so I refuse to go in dressed more relaxed. I can see the same thing for priests, I would think you would want to feel the part as much as possible so your mind and spirit can be in the right place and you can do your job better.

  14. oldconvert says:

    And yet the Holy Father does not disdain to wear the habit and headgear of a Pope. Motes and beams, perhaps?

  15. hwriggles4 says:

    The seminarians at Holy Trinity Seminary in Texas are PreTheology and Undergraduates. Their coursework is at the University of Dallas. When the seminarians attend class, they normally wear a golf shirt that has the seminary logo and dark pants (not jeans), and the professors and students know they are seminarians. I also recall reading the student manual two years ago for PreTheology students at Holy Apostles in Connecticut, and PreTheology students there are required to wear dark pants, white shirt, and tie to class. That’s what incoming seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia were required to wear until Cassock Day for many years.

    On the flip side, I was a student at a Catholic college during the 1980s and I only remember about five priests who regularly wore clerics. Others would wear a button down shirt and slacks, and one priest would purposely wear a black golf shirt buttoned up to the top and put something white by his shirt to make it pass as clerical garb, but it looked rather silly.

  16. Ellen says:

    I live in a small town in Kentucky that has many immigrants. Some of them are Buddhists. I saw some Buddhist monks in Wal-Mart and they were wearing their saffron robes.

  17. Grabski says:

    Amen amen. Thanks for the picture. Watching the Cadets march into the Army/Navy game looking crisp in capes was a thrill. I think those young people end in the ridiculous

  18. Sword40 says:

    I attend an FSSP parish. After High Mass on Sunday, most of us gather for some coffee and a sweet goodie. The conversations are interesting and spirited. Bashing the Pope is avoided but gentle criticism is fair game. Our priests never voice opposition but do have some differing opinions. After-all, the Holy Father is our leader but he can make mistakes.

  19. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Here’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. I am an engineer. My dress code at work is what you would expect, slacks and a polo shirt (or a button down shirt if you want).”

    You know, this never made sense to me. When I teach science or attend a science or math class, I almost never see anything except jeans and a shirt. No one really cares about how you dress. The ideas are front and center. When I teach music, I am expected to dress in a suit and tie (and jacket). I was told that it commanded respect (possibly, for tradition).

    Personally, I only care about how the heart is clothed. Both saints and sinners can wear rags or riches on the outside, but it is the heart that shines through to englow the rags or darken the riches. Poverty is not measured by what a man owns, but by what owns his heart.

    The Chicken

  20. kolbe1019 says:

    I have made a recent observation online. I have recently noticed a lot of priests posting pictures of themselves in very traditional “rigid” attire. I also noticed a similar pattern when Obama disparaged gun owners… gun ownership went up. Hillary called people deplorable and people began to wear the title as a badge of honor. Francis although expressing a seemingly opposing view may actually be contributing to the purchase of a few saturnos.

  21. Aquinas Gal says:

    These and similar comments by the Pope are why I basically tuned him out a long time ago.
    Let him think and say what he wants, at this point I don’t care. Jesus will be the one to judge me at the end of my life, and that’s all that counts. I am happier and more at peace when I don’t pay attention to the Pope’s comments, so what’s the point of getting all worked up about it? “This too shall pass.”

  22. Elizabeth D says:

    It would be weird to wear in the favelas. Or at a Jesuit get together. Or at a climate change conference. Or on the bus in Buenos Aires.

  23. Grabski says:

    Elizabeth D. Given we are heading into a major cooling period due to the sun and despite the use of carbon a Cappa will become more useful in the coming years.

    On the bus, no doubt

  24. majuscule says:

    This letter to the editor of a diocesan newspaper claims that cassocks were/are a sign of royalty. I’m almost as old as the letter writer and I’ve never heard this. Letter writer also implies that Pope Francis would think that cassock wearing is a sign of the clericalism that he decries.

    Ummmm…. Isn’t the white article of clothing the pope wears called a cassock?

    I am being judgemental, I know, when I say there is so much wrong with the attitude of the letter writer. I can laugh because I know the current archbishop will never take steps to eliminate cassock wearing by priests and seminarians.

    In my parish we are blessed with two cassock wearing priests.

  25. EMF says:

    Yesterday or Saturday, I went to the vatican website to read the homily. I had to do the search for December 9. The article appeared. I then repeated this in French and in Italian. Voila and Bene ! Articles appeared. Of course, not the same content as the English version. In one of those versions the seminarian was missing and in another there was a description of some people’s habits as being schizophrenic.

    Today, however, when I search in English, French, and Italian for Dec 9, I get the Italian video and now an hour later there is nothing at all as far as I can tell. The English archive for December 9 is now in Italian. Sigh.
    For today’s news in French is an article – and it is dated for today. It is not identical to the previous version – the seminarian paragraph is missing.
    Same for today’s news in English – an article appears dated Dec 16 and is about 1/10 the length of its previous version. No mention of seminarians.
    Well… I now note that the English archive for Dec 9 now directs one to the video. No article .
    And the Italian version is long, and except for mentioning the same three saints (this time at the beginning rather than at the end), appears rather different from Saturday’s. There also seem to be two different articles describing the same homily; one of them claims to be the authentic version, with the gossiping story about seminarians and the comparison of their alleged vanity to women priests.
    But !
    In the authentic version we read: “Oltretutto «fondamentalmente è schizoide: finirai per apparire rigido ma dentro sarai un disastro».”

    As for the video,…well, I wish I had listened on Saturday. Today’s version has about 20 seconds of the pope actually speaking. Most of the video has a voice over summary., and it is significantly shorter than the actual speech.

    The poor Germans still have no translation available.

    I think I am giving up on the pope’s encouragement for transparency except for himself. Rather, I would liken his messages to a diamond – many faceted, ever changing as one views it. When spun, it no longer has its clarity.

    Thank you…

  26. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    This point on a frequent basis hurts my feelings and leaves me feeling like I’m without a place at the table anymore.

  27. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Pope autocorrected to Point for some reason.

  28. Deacon Pat O says:

    A point to remember: tonsure was the way a man entered the clerical state, now it is with ordination to the diaconate.

  29. MWindsor says:

    “Rank is something you wear. Respect is something you earn.”

    “If you have to, salute the uniform, not the man inside it.”

    Most people that have been in the service have heard some variation of these. More and more often, when I look at a post about the current Pope, these old sayings come to mind.

  30. LudiDomestici says:

    My old mentor from 30+ years ago, Reginald Foster, always advised to ignore the smells, bells, and lace. He is one of the holiest men I have ever had the privilege to know. My other mentor, Fr. Greg Boyle S.J., of Homeboy Industries does more every day to incarnate the living witness of our Lord than any fashion obsessed prelate. We are in this together. Let’s not allow trivial fashion statements to distract us from the preferential option for the poor. Thousands of dollars for lace garments are perhaps not the best way to welcome the birth of our Savior and Lord. I will reflect on this during my volunteer work at the homeless shelter next weekend.

  31. amont says:

    I fear that in desperation Pope Francis, and his minions are being deliberately provocative, in order to try and goad traditionalists- and compell them to respond sufficinetly violently; so that he and his gulag-minders might be able to justify themselves?Beyond that, I know of one very young priest who does wear his cassock and stands-up for all that is good and holy.

  32. Adeodata says:

    “Next, remember that the Church has two lungs, West and East. The Holy Father would never in a million years mock Easterners for their traditional style of dress and for their high liturgical style. But he regularly mocks Westerners. What of it? ”

    But, our Pontiff has only one lung.

  33. MoryoFtahliSefwoth says:

    I have always enjoyed how the Byzantine priests and seminarians can wear their cassocks in the most liberal of settings and be exotic, whereas if their Latin peers would attempt that they would have their heads roll. How entertaining.

  34. CharlesG says:

    @LudiDomestici: Why does it have to be either or? Even such a strong advocate of the poor as St Francis thought the Eucharist should be celebrated worthily. Why this constant denigration of the glorious liturgical traditions of the Western Church? And Father Zed is absolutely right to call out the hypocrisy by which the Eastern Church is encouraged to embrace its traditions, whereas in the Western Church, everything prior to 1965 is automatically viewed as bad and consigned to the rubbish bin.

  35. kurtmasur says:

    Well I hate to call a spade a spade, but somebody has to do the dirty work. The problem with Francis is that he’s the typical N.O. (Ie. post-conciliar) pastor whose catholicity is infected with a certain “Protestantism”. This includes harboring a disdain for anything with a truly Catholic identity. High forms of liturgy (especially the TLM) are typically viewed as a scandal (ie. not very “pastoral” in their mindset) considering that there are many starving people out there in the “peripheries”. This would explain his purge in the Curia of mostly Benedict-friendly Cardinals and prelates, and at the same time why he elevates Cardinals such as Cupich. Let’s face it, the young seminarian/priest in the above mentioned anecdote was simply being “too Catholic” in the eyes of Francis simply by trying out a saturno and cape. Ditto for any other youth embracing a true Catholic identity simply by following the TLM. He finds fault with such youth only because they are being “too Catholic” (ie. “rigid” in liberal-speak), nothing more.

    Unfortunately this is an often repeated theme that I have personally observed in typical NO priests. I have heard such priests say something like “why all these fancy expensive decorations in the liturgy with so many people starving out there?”. Such priests prefer to do away with Latin, Gregorian chant, etc., and prefer folk or even pop music with guitars and even percussion in their mass. I have witnessed one such priest who was given a little bit too much power trying to do a “wreckovation” in his church.

    Now that we apparently have a pope who fits the typical NO mindset, we need now more than ever to pray novenas for divine intervention so that the Church herself suffers as little damage as possible under this pontificate.

    Holy Mirher if God, pray for us
    St. Joseph, pray for us
    Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us
    Saint Theresa of Avila, pray for us
    St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us
    Saint John Paul II, pray for us

  36. BillyT92679 says:

    The Holy Father not only seems to be extremely disdainful of traditionalism but also weirdly sexist or even vaguely misogynistic. Lots of references to old maids, anecdotes like this which implies women are stupidly vain

    Is it a Latin American thing with him? I hate to prejudge the whole group of Latinos, but I wonder if it’s a cultural milieu thing with him, both vis-a-vis women and tradition.

  37. BillyT92679 says:

    Also I think the Cardinals wanted to go Southern Hemisphere, which was great, but they picked the wrong continent. Instead of a booming Africa with a vibrant faith, they picked one of the least successful areas in modern Catholicism.

    The Pentecostals and Evangelicals aren’t just winning because they’re rich and charismatic. The Latin American Catholic Church has had issues for decades.

    I wonder if they thought Cardinal Bergoglio would stem that tide. Maybe Francis has there, but it seems like he’s more the Patriarch of the West than the Universal Pontiff.

  38. Pingback: TUESDAY EDITION | Big Pulpit

  39. BillyT92679 says:

    Look, flaunting this stuff for your own vanity is one thing. Using it to honor the Lord is another.

    Your post is frankly sanctimonious and not dissimilar to what Judas Iscariot said. [Work on your reading skills. Bye.]

  40. “why all these fancy expensive decorations in the liturgy with so many people starving out there?”.

    Even the poor deserve beauty, to lift them from the ugliness of life.

  41. Rachel says:

    Geoffrey, I love that article you posted! Especially this Francis de Sales quote: “It may also be true that we who are in authority in the Church are guilty of sins from which the inmates of the cloister are exempt. Nevertheless, I consider it highly unwise to say such things as you did on this subject from the pulpit to the common people.”

    The capuchin’s sermon and the pope’s remarks both invited people to feel smug and superior for not committing a certain kind of vanity that they weren’t tempted to anyway.

  42. MikeR says:

    Popes come, Popes go, we the traditional deplorables have seen it all before & we are still growing stronger.

    In my diocese in Sydney there are two applications in for EF Masses, one from me & a bunch of others & another bloke & his bunch, about thirty all told.

    Brick by brick……

  43. Protoclete says:

    Seminarians should not be dressing up as clerics in any case, for the simple reason that they are not clerics. [Wrong. They should use clerical dress.] When tonsure was accepted as the sign when one became a cleric, that was the moment clerical garb was allowed. Though tonsure has been replaced by candidacy, it is only from the moment of ordination that one becomes a cleric – as a priest, as a deacon (permanent or otherwise), as a bishop. Those are the only ones who should be in clerical garb – traditional, baroque, modern, or otherwise.

    Other than that, the pope wasn’t engaging in gossip. [Yes. He listened to gossip and then recounted it publicly.] He told an anecdote about a nameless person engaged in the sin of narcissism to make a point. Had he said, “Did you hear about that Seminarian X? Little drama queen, dressing up in his sister’s silk and lace??”… that would be gossip, if it was true, and calumny, if false.

  44. Protoclete says:

    Also, as a layperson, we welcome and celebrate when priests, bishops and (permanent) deacons dress in clerics – as long as it is appropriate attire for the moment. When i see a cleric dressing in a formal cassock [What is a formal cassock as differentiated from another kind of cassock? House cassock? Choir cassock? You are confused.] with all the trimmings [What is that?] for daily routine, [The cassock is specified as the normal dress of the priest in the Directory for Priests.] it’s like seeing a layman walking around in a tuxedo to fix the plumbing or attend a lecture. [No, it isn’t. There is a clerical equivalent of evening dress (e.g., black tie, white tie) which involves more than the cassock.] It just is not appropriate. [You are wrong.] Wear a clerical shirt, or a suit. About the only time we should see the full Gammarelli wardrobe [What does that mean?] come out of the closet is at a white- or black-tie event.

    When you dress like it’s the 19th century, still, then expect to be treated like the Amish, or the Hasidim, or the Civil War Re-enactment buff. Either genuine but out of touch (which might be your point, which is legitimate), or a little too fanatic with the playing dress up. Then you become a club – a semi-secret society, rather than Church.

    [Okay… that’s just insulting. Bye.]

  45. SPWang says:

    Yes, I believe his rigid comments was his ‘basket of deplorable’ moment but in keeping with the Aussie theme, I think this bloke’s Kangaroos are loose in the top paddock. If we’re not breeding like rabbits we’re told that fake news is coprophilia…. I’m kinda over it. He’s your basic parish priest that has been promoted well beyond his capabilities.

  46. Grabski says:

    Ludi. Ironic given the lavish fundraising the Society is involved in and the extreme costs at their institutions

  47. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    There was a man who owned 100 sheep. It came to pass that one day, one of his sheep became separated from the fold. So the shepherd set out on search of the sheep that had become lost. But before setting out to find that sheep, the shepherd decided to slay the 99 that had remained in the fold. The shepherd set out to find the lost sheep and when he did he returned to his home. He now had but one sheep. The flock was deccimated.

  48. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    There was a man who had two sons. One of his sons -the younger of the two – came to his father and said “Father, I know that after you die I will have my inheritance. However, I would like to have my inheritance now while you are still living. So his father did as his son asked. The younger son took the money and spent it on a life of wine, women and song so that in short order all his inheritance was gone. He was now forced to live among the swine eating from their troughs. FInally, he decided to return to his father to ask his forgiveness. HIS father, meanwhile always kept a lookout for his son anticipating his return home and, one day having caught sight of his returning son, decided to go out to greet him. But before setting out, the father turned to his older son and told him about his returning brother, asking him to prepare a great feast for his return – killing the fattened calf and setting out precious robes for his brother to wear. The older brother reminded his father that for all these years while his brother was gone, he remained faithful to the father, tending the flicks and managing his household and never did his father ask that a great feast be prepared for him. His father mocked and ridiculed his older son for being the fool that he was for staying faithful to him. So, in turn, the father slew his older son before setting out to meet the son who was lost and now was found. The father now had but one son.

  49. S.Armaticus says:

    If you haven’t seen yesterday’s MondayVatican, I have reposted it on my blog with comments.


    I think it’s significant!

  50. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    ‘Liberi Francisci’

    How must they be clad,
    the Green Priests, into
    whom alone, the only
    successful, finished
    emitted from those
    only Green Houses
    have been made, and clad
    already in snug
    green, vegan-friendly
    mental sausage skins?

  51. Jim Dorchak says:

    I long for the days when I used to see a PRIEST in his clericals, I am reminded of Fr. Novak swimming in his cassock.
    My current pastor / priest is never, NEVER seen in Priestly garb. Even in the Church before and after Mass. I do not know why but civies are the clothes of order for my pastor all the time. After all we would never want to be mistaken for a PRIEST.

    It strikes me that priests who dress like priests only part of the time are just that…”Priests only part of the time”. It appears in their mannerisms and demeanor too. It is just a job, a part time job at that.
    It would be nice to see a PRIEST again!
    I have not seen a NUN in 30 years………….

  52. WGS says:

    The Rev. Mr. Peitler,

    I didn’t understand the story about the owner of the 100 sheep and the shepherd. Were the owner and the shepherd the same person? I do know that if 10 of the sheep had been slain, the flock would have been decimated.

  53. PTK_70 says:

    @BillyT…I find the following practice helpful whenever “replying” to someone else’s comment on this blog: specifying the individual to whom I am responding.

  54. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    OK, then. The shepherd killed 10 of his flock.

  55. PTK_70 says:

    @BillyT (again)…I am convinced that the “hermeneutical” key to understanding the Holy Father is an understanding of (or at least an allowance for) his Latino/Argentinian identity. The Lutheran Satire guy, for example, gets Pope Francis all wrong.

  56. Lucas Whittaker says:

    I still struggle with the time when the Holy Father accused us of divination [under the species of pride (Aquinas spells out the Old Testament connection well in the Summa!) 1/18/16? I am away from home, and therefore also away from my source]. For me, the torrent of criticism from “the top” overwhelms at times. I understand it logically: intellectually. But it is hurtful, working against gospel unity. But all that I can do is to attend appropriate liturgy with a heart open to saying “Yes” to our Eucharistic Jesus, and live an authentic Christian life, which includes imitating Jesus in seeking daily time for silent prayer. The rest is in the hands of God himself. So, my major opinion is that we should ponder the truth that it is saints who set the world on fire with God’s love, striving to become receptive to the Father of Lights turning us into images of his divine Son (cf St. John of the Cross).

  57. iPadre says:

    Bring back tonsure, it may keep some out of where they do not believe Ng!

  58. iPadre says:

    Bring back tonsure, it may keep some out of where they do not belong!

  59. PA mom says:

    Geoffrey- what a great story about St Francis de Sales! So level headed, so charitable.
    I now know not to throw out my socks with holes in the toes, but keep them for Lenten wear. Never before have I understood why those penitential practices in dress made sense.

    Fr.Z – this response is Holy Spirit inspired. Full of the charity and wisdom needed on the subject.

  60. fishonthehill says:

    Thanks Fr. Z. for straightening out Protoclete.
    My question is how are the Amish and Chasidim treated? Last time I ran into an Amish man hiking the abandoned PA turnpike I saw a hard working man who dressed the part. And as for the Chasidim, whom I see every day in their knickers and fur hats, I wouldn’t mess with them.
    As for the cassock, it’s just what we priests wear. Get over it! As for formal occasions I find myself in a clerical suit most of the time, but day to day… the cassock.

  61. benedetta says:

    That translation is so poor that it amounts to gibberish. Who knows really what was said. It’s impossible to make any sense of it other than to understand an anecdote, like a folk tale…?

    I have to say, although I do prefer the EF to clown Masses, and where I am from it was a thing…still the part I kind of like anyway about that anecdote has less to do with the dress than the characters and the setting…and I have to say in spite of my appreciation for the EF and all that goes with it the import was not lost on me. I think it rings true. I mean, the part about a good, hard working, elderly monsignor…picking up, not Hawaiian shirts or the like but clerical shirts…and having sacrificed and lived a lifetime as a priest…and then…a 25 year old dressing up, as it were. Putting a lot of time and effort and apparently satisfaction with something that will immediately provide him with some authoritative stature and command over things, as it were, without the lifetime of investment of slow, sure, hard work, humble grunt work for a good part.

    You know from the teaching world I inhabit some, there has been a good deal written about this phenomenon whereby the younger generations past the Gen X’ers seem to be very inclined towards instant authoritativeness and status, and disregard the lowly functions of apprenticing, grunt work, coffee fetching, doing rote or boring tasks, climbing the rung in a profession or areas of learning, and feel themselves entitled and equal to any opinion and any other working in the field regardless of their inexperience. They value apprenticing and working steadily in small steps over time less. They do not appreciate that their opinions are truly of lesser quality or value in terms of the work product absent that long career of experience compared to their seniors. And that is quite interesting in terms of trends if one has grandparents who labored in a particular profession or field and understands that development in a profession is not made by a degree, or by acting or looking the part.

    And I also think this homily, despite its startling well, seeming, has some value in terms of the notion of this really terrifically image driven media and culture we are living through. I think that for a lot of believers, without the roots of the Faith in family and community that once was interwoven into the fabric of daily life, a lot of people are coming into things blind. Even people who had a good dose of introduction to the Faith. People can be, and I include myself in this, very naive, or too trusting, when they convert or revert and want to connect with others on that level, looking around for context, parish, community, apostolate to be responsive to the great gift of faith in the Trinitarian God they have come to realize rather suddenly and relatively late in life. Naturally in the wealthier more commercialized parts of the world people tend toward social media. But too people try to match up various images of all sorts, consciously, unconsciously, maybe, in terms of where to put their trust. So appearances, I think the Holy Father is pointing out, can be very deceiving. They can be just mistakes or kind of funny or surprising, and, they can really also be about something insidious that wishes to exploit or take advantage of us. Of course one can find a down to earth non saturno wearing spiritual abuser who celebrates, to all intents and purposes, a clown mass of demonic proportions. And also one can encounter evil behind, no image at all, anonymously looking to kill, destroy, harm, constantly. Under very humble appearances though, for the most part, we can still find, thankfully, holiness. That doesn’t exclude a humble priest who wears a saturno as obviously Father Z beautifully shows us in the photos. But maybe we should take the Holy Father’s story, told in his own unique way, to heart, and understand that certain trappings do not always connote holiness, or something or someone worthy of our complete confidence or trust. Perhaps the Holy Father will in coming weeks offer more on the topic, which would I think be very helpful to young people who experience an onslaught of propaganda, fake news, images, and pressures on their minds as to where to invest belief. How to find a worthy spiritual guide? Who are we looking for…

  62. Potato2 says:

    My mom always said, “Dress for the job you want.”

  63. stephen c says:

    Benedetta – thank you for your thoughtful comment. As someone with the ability to appreciate the Catholic upbringing I had – without complaining about the (mostly modernist, but also just simply unloving) faults of those who tried to teach me – I am pretty much unable to feel sorry for priests when the worst thing they have to suffer is insults – priests have been called to be close to God, who gives out happiness more easily than we can imagine: and nuns, who have also been called to be close to God, do not need for us to feel sorry for them, either, in those situations where the worst they suffer is to be insulted from afar. That being said, we have few chances in this world to have people care for us: and while I appreciate the Pope’s efforts to describe a world in which we all respond to Jesus in the way he has learned to respond to Jesus, I have suffered too much from the type of proud criticisms that the Pope launched at that poor young man who ( if he was a priest) had an eminently pardonable moment of happiness (but if he was an Italian soap opera actor star who was just trying on clothes, he just had a moment where he was just doing his job) , a completely understandable moment of happiness in what will probably be a long life of suffering, in seeing himself as what a respected and beloved cleric looks like (and, as someone who could never be a cleric, but who has been praised thousands of times for my secular efforts, and insulted almost as many times for doing what I thought was right – I know what a difference there is between being mocked and being praised – the human heart is not that powerful, and thrives with appreciation). While I pray for the Pope, I empathize more with the good man the Pope chose to mock than with the man (the Pope) who chose to mock him without ever having met him or having spent a moment in conversation with him: that being said, as you do, I humbly hope that they will both laugh about this one day ,with complete forgiveness in their hearts for each other: all of us were born in an unkind world, and we all need to pray for each other to learn kindness.

  64. benedetta says:

    stephen c, I am not at all unsympathetic to what pious, devout, holy souls have suffered in past and continuing merely for preferring to pray in peace and awe, which is what Pope Benedict declared good now as well as good for our past in the Church. At the same time I do not necessarily agree, without more proof, that the Holy Father was trying to mock or insult in a mean-spirited way. I think that he speaks in parables. I also think that his imagination is captured and animated in images that are not necessarily universally shared. He speaks from his subjective mind and the descriptors he employs to narrate his points grow out of his subjective experience. One can discuss meaningfully, I think, whether a leader best speaks from this, whether always or sometimes or rarely. Pope Benedict spoke in allegorical terms, which remains my preference. But not everyone speaks this language in their belief. St. John Paul II also spoke vividly. Occasionally both landed in hot water for things they said which others misconstrued or misinterpreted. That will happen no matter what, of course, especially in the times which favor assaulting goodness and particularly so in its expressions in Holy Mother Church.

    I don’t particularly empathize or emote with either figure in the Holy Father’s anecdote. I just see it as a parable. I don’t think the meaning of the parable was that it is ok to mock others. Anyone who has apprenticed though, whether in religious community contexts or in secular, will I think quickly relate to both sides of the coin, as it were, the young ambitious one starting out, and the seasoned professional who understands that as thrilling as reaching some stature may in fact be, and to see it in the mirror, that there will be a lot more to come in terms of growing into those elements with humility and in an authoritative, holy way. It’s a moment. It’s a little movie or narrative. I rather think the point was to tell us that we should be willing to grow, to take the long road, yes, to appreciate those times in miniature when we think we have “made it”, all grown up already, to not take ourselves so seriously or preciously and continue on with the Cross.

    A favorite author and intercessor of mine is Servant of God Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ who was a bi-ritualist and would have surely understood the signification in terms of reverence and the weight and responsibility that comes with holy things, sacramentals, clerical dress, and what these communicate about one’s self to the faithful, I suppose, a willingness to pastor, and all that involves. He was stripped of all of those, as we know, yet he remained faithful without all of that, over long periods of time, without community or anyone, and he could have slipped into secular oblivion, but even with no means at his disposal he pressed on, pastored and shepherded those in constant need right where he was, at grave risk to himself always, never denying people the sacraments and came in later life to do many really important things working with God’s Providence that have made an impact on many still to this day and continuing. Do we listen to wisdom or do we look at the appearance? To see Fr. Ciszek’s mugshot, we see a condemned criminal, a number, in prison garb. Indelibly, he remained consecrated despite others’ false accusations and violence. He expressed the joy of holiness by his witness, his life, by a fortitude.

    As to Potato 2’s comment above, yes. I don’t think the moment we are to attend to was the particulars of what that young man was trying on but the moment of self satisfaction and self approval in the mirror. It could have been any number of things in any number of roles.

    nduite vos armaturam Dei, ut possitis stare adversus insidias diaboli…

  65. ASPM Sem says:

    “Also, too much of a good thing is too much. If you are a young priest or a seminarian, and you are really into these things, examine your motives and consciences. I’m not saying give them up. On the contrary! I’m saying that if you are too attached to them, to the exclusion of prudence, etc., make some changes.”

    Perfectly said. While the Pope’s comments were rather… interesting… there is that grain of truth that seminarians can tend to care a bit too much about traditional trappings to the exclusion of other, more important areas of formation.

    That said, I can’t wait for the next opportunity to wear my biretta, fascia, and surplice with a prudent amount of lace.

  66. ASPM Sem says:

    (a biretta from the biretta project – thank you, generous donors!)

  67. Semper Gumby says:

    To say the least, one does wonder what is going on in the Eternal City sometimes. Thanks to Fr. Z and commentors for perspective.

    p.s. Lately, traditional wear has also been under assault in the Department of Defense. A recent email from a buddy says that traditionalists in the Navy have lost yet another battle. This time it’s the Boat Cloak. FDR at Yalta in 1945 wore a boat cloak in the photo of him with Churchill and Stalin. And a cloak for senior petty officers, who keep sailors attentive to their duties, seems also on the way out after having been introduced in the 19th century. One Navy spokesman said there was no point keeping these items around for “nostalgia.” They really don’t get it. The Marine Corps is apparently keeping the boat cloak as optional, and incoming Gen. “Warrior Monk” Mattis is unlikely to discard it.

  68. stephen c says:

    Benedetta, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I am not an extremist in many things, but maybe I am in this: I just don’t like sermons where the priest castigates Peter for being afraid on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and I wonder if the real drama in those sermons, of which I have heard dozens, is not what the priest imagines Peter, as a figure of ridicule in the sermonizer’s rhetoric, had done or not done in defense of his friend Jesus, but whether the real drama is connected to what the priest must have ***not*** lived through to dare to be able to mock Peter in a sermon. So, you see, I am fairly extreme in my opinion that we should never ever use the worst moments of others as examples on which to express what we think is important in our mission in life to follow the Lord. While I appreciate your insights, from which I learned something – actually quite a lot – I still wish that Pope Francis had not run the risk, as I believe he did, of insulting a living human being – a young man who probably had bravely – more bravely than me, certainly, and maybe more bravely than you – and magnificently sacrificed opportunities to fully profit from the goods of this world – a young man who, for all we knew, had nothing but love and good intentions in his heart – (we will never know because the old monsignor, as far as I can tell, did not think it worth his while to spend a moment speaking to the young man before running off to tell a mocking story about him – and, yes, I apologize for having to mock the old monsignor a little to make my point, and I hope that the o.m. and the victim of his mocking were both fictional) – for the sake of a marginally interesting and instructive story or sermon, denigrating the young man with mocking adjectives and comparisons, ridiculing him in a moment where he seemed to be weak. It is ok when Jesus put people into parables because He understood our hearts perfectly. But I have heard that not even the greatest of saints understands the hearts of others perfectly in this world – – and I have never heard that any saint has held the opinion that is right to be unkind when there is the option to be kind. John the Baptist, for example, was the greatest of prophets but was far too humble to speak in parables (I think – I don’t really understand John the Baptist, and I could be wrong!). Anyway, as you say, Pope Francis is not the first Pope to do this sort of thing; and maybe he is doing his best to be helpful to those who need it most: but I have no real choice but to pray for more kindness in the church, which, even if it is the kindest place on this earth, is nowhere near as full of love as it should be. I think we agree more than we disagree and I hope you are not offended!

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