Sacrilege or Sartorial? The Met Gala

Sacrilege or Sartorial? The Met Gala May 9, 2018

Annually, the glittering elite of Hollywood gather in New York City for their own private themed Halloween extravaganza that we call the Met Gala.  The event, ostensibly a party thrown to celebrate a new exhibit, is more obviously remarkable for the competing costumes on display: lavish, outrageous, impractical, and loads of fun.

For those who hate red carpets and find Angelina Jolie’s Oscar-worthy leg a source of downright sin – well, get your pearls ready for the clutching because the haute couture designers delight in letting their imaginations run wild with side slits, peek-a-boo detailing, and complex straps that outdo Ikea.

Normally, the Catholic world might ignore the Met Gala, except that this year the theme was “Heavenly Bodies,” celebrating Catholic religious items from chasubles through to chalices at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  And since the costumes of each Met Gala are themed towards the featured exhibit, you can bet your bare bodkin that there were some costumes on display that sent us clutching not only our pearls but our rosaries.

The New York Times, Vogue and EW have good photo coverage for those who’d like to scroll through and judge the costumes for themselves.  And my fellow Catholic Patheos bloggers have got you covered from several angles, including Jane the Actuary, Pax Culturati, The Deacon’s Bench, Labyrinthine Mind, and Father Dwight Longenecker – who kept using the word “vulgar” like that one lady from Singing in the Rain.

But here at Pop Feminist, we like to take you behind the curtain, as it were, to talk about why in the world any of this is happening at all.

What is the Met Gala Anyway?

The Met Gala is an annual fundraiser that helps support the cost of running and maintaining the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

For those who live in NYC, it’s common knowledge that a ticket to get into the museum may be listed as $20 or so – but that price is actually a suggested donation.  And many’s the afternoon your humble, impecunious blogger (whom you can support directly here!) has walked up with her carefully stored dollar, slipped it to the ticket taker and said, “This is what I can afford today.”  They give me my sticker and off I go to enjoy gorgeous art for the afternoon, practically for free.

But how, you ask, can an enormous museum that must cost millions per year just for upkeep, let alone the hiring of so many staff members to glower at people who might run off with a Monet, subsist on the revenue of largely destitute artists who keep paying one single buck to get in the door?

The answer is by throwing a huge fundraising gala, with astronomical ticket prices, and luring finally-not-destitute celebrities there to dazzle potential investors, who in turn make large sustaining grants to the Met which keeps the damn doors open.

But Why Are They Wearing Such Dumb Clothes?

In my time in New York City, I’ve held quite a few jobs and, much to my dismay, had a stint in there of working for several non-profit corporations just as they were gearing up for their galas.  Because the city is a global financial center, “gala season” is really a thing here, and millionaires and other successful leaders of industry are expected to make the rounds to various charities in the spring and again in the autumn.

Each gala will boast certain “chairs” – which is just a fancy name given to the biggest celebrity your organization can get to show up and give a speech at your party.  For example, when I worked for one veterans’ association, the big get was Stephen Colbert as the chair (although I think they, too, were going after George Clooney).  The chair is given the meal for free, and understands that his or her presence is meant to entice wealthy donors to attend the gala, get roaring drunk, and donate extravagantly.  The bigger the “get,” the more likely millionaires will be scrambling over themselves to buy tickets, drink, and donate.

But every gala does this.  And since the likes of Stephen Colbert live in town, often only a few doors down from the captains of industry, a successful gala needs to do something more. 

Which is where the genius of the Met Gala comes in.

As mentioned, after you start attending a few galas – even if, like me, you tend to be merely staff, grabbing canapes while the boss is off schmoozing – they start to get boring.  You go through your “Super Fancy Wardrobe With Metallic Embellishments” fairly quickly.  You start to see familiar faces, and get embarrassed for them when you recognize that they’re recycling ballgowns, too.  For all that there’s Cristal, it quickly becomes crusty.

What New York City loves is an “event.”  Something out of the ordinary.  Something spectacular.  What the Met Gala does is it allows celebrities who, may I remind you, dress up for a living, to have their own private Halloween.  They’re given permission to wear outrageous costumes – the likes of which only Cher might wear with any seriousness to the Oscars.  This, in turn, allows designers to let their imaginations run wild.  And both of these combine to entice a ton of A-list celebrities and A-list designers to one single Gala…

Which means that all those bored millionaires who might otherwise skip the veterans’ gala because Stephen Colbert is their neighbor, will nevertheless definitely make it a point to pay a mind-boggling amount of money to make it to the Met.

Which means, once more, that the damn doors stay open for poor folk such as I.

But Do the Costumes Have To Be So…Vulgar?

Well, in one respect, probably.  Because the Met Gala has become the American equivalent of Versailles, or being introduced at St. James’ Court during the Season (c’mon my Regency fans, you know what I mean), part of what celebrities and designers get out of paying for their own truly staggering, please pay off my college loan instead, highly priced tickets is visibility.

Every artist is a business of one.  Jennifer Lawrence can only sell her own talents, and not those of Jennifer Lopez.  That means that as the sole business owner and the sole product of your business, artists depend entirely on publicity to get a job at all.  The Met Gala for many of the celebrities who attend is an opportunity to sell their business.  And that’s why Katy Perry will always look slightly vulgar and offensive, while Brooke Shields will look feminine and classic.  Celebrities get to play dress up, yes, but still within the confines of their brand.

And let’s be honest: you saw Katy Perry’s absurd winged contraption considerably earlier than you saw Brooke Shields’ demure blue gown.  News outlets, much like P.T. Barnum, are going to lead with the weird, the controversial, the vulgar before showing off much beauty.  So if you’re trying to drum up publicity for your business, you might just consider a truly bizarre ensemble.

But Why Catholic?  Isn’t That Sacrilegious?

I’m not going to argue in favor of every sartorial choice on the Met Gala’s red carpet.  I was pleased to see a number of nods to Joan of Arc, particularly after #MeToo.  But I was also unsurprised to see the usual amounts of skin on display – skin which largely doesn’t bother me, but which might startle someone else.

After the furor I saw from other Catholic pundits, I frankly expected something truly blasphemous – a pregnant nun, or a pedophile priest.  But while there was perhaps some ill-advised papal and cardinal-themed dresses, a questionable nativity chapeau, and an embroidered stole on Jared Leto that I would have advised against – I found the costumes largely tame, given what the Met Gala is and what this theme might have encouraged.

More, I saw quite a number of pseudo-halos, wimples, tiaras, and chain mail, and an awful lot of gold and rococo ornamentation.  There was color, which is always a relief on a red carpet.  And as usual, the menswear lagged behind the flowing trains that the women sported (and some poor assistant had to run around lifting).

To be sure, the theme – like most of the themes at the Met Gala – encouraged cultural appropriation.  And quite a bit of Catholic outrage stems more from this sentiment: “How dare you look like us?  How dare you take our images without understanding them?”

It’s a worthy sentiment.  And one that I would encourage you to consider if you’ve ever dressed up like “cowboys and Indians,” or done the Mikado as a white person in full Geisha gear, or performed Fiddler on the Roof without understanding the mezuzah.  That’s cultural appropriation, too.  How well did you really understand the significance of a kippah?

So, Did The Met Gala Have The Right To Encourage Catholic Dress?

Sure.  Let’s remember why this was the theme this year: the Met is featuring a collection of Catholic fashion pieces, collectively titled “Heavenly Bodies.”  Just for context, the Met also houses several wings year-round devoted entirely to Medieval Art which is almost exclusively Catholic and sacred.  They have a gorgeous chapel with some of the most exquisite wood engravings paneling the walls, as well as a reverent curation of reliquaries, chalices, and other holy items.

Featuring the ornate fashion of the Catholic church is well within the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s purview, and in fact draws attention to the church for all those starving artists like myself, all those wandering tourists and innumerable school groups who will continue to visit the exhibit after the last feather from Katy Perry’s angel wings is gone.

The Catholic faith is also a cornerstone of New York City.  Millions stream through St. Patrick’s Cathedral, proud of the renovations no matter what their own faith tradition may be.  And much like the Met Gala, St. Patrick’s opens out – almost in conversation – with the modern statue of Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders that greets the visitor to Rockefeller Center.  The ancient and the new.  The ornate and the vulgar.  The church and the consumer.  Both live together here.

Cardinal Dolan’s words might be a bit pie-in-the-sky, perhaps.  I’ve been less than impressed by his leadership here in town, although he is jovial and a great speaker and just the sort of guy you want at a gala.  But I think, beyond speaking with dewy-eyes about the Met Gala being a beacon of “goodness, truth, and beauty,” even as Rhianna wears a bedazzled sexy papal gown with knee-high disco boots…

There is something to be said for remembering that Catholicism is not Puritanism. 

(As the Simpsons know.)

Isn’t it ironic that we’re clutching our pearls over Miley Cyrus’ lower back, when considerably more than that is on display in the Sistine Chapel?  Or are we only calm when skin is painted, or carved from marble, and suitably pinned down to some idea of piousness from the past.  Real people with their real bodies posed for the nudes that adorn our crucifixes.  And Christ Himself wore no loincloth either at His Nativity or at His Crucifixion.

We Catholics are not gnostics, despising our bodies as inherently evil.  We are not Puritans, whitewashing our walls and wearing only black and buckles.  We Catholics partake of the flesh of Christ, kneel at “the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us,” believe in a carnal and incarnate God.

And we are scandalized at that very incarnation.

Once again, yes – some of the costumes are dopey.  Rhianna’s get-up is legitimately vulgar.  I would prefer Jared Leto not to wear anything that resembles a stole.  And no, this was a far cry from a pious, alterna-Halloween, All Saints Day bathrobes and wimples extravaganza.

But, friends.  I beg you not to cast out the prodigals, just because they came home.  And they had more fun than you.

Image courtesy of David Fisher / REX / Shutterstock

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  • tmirus

    Hi Emily – I was discussing the event with Cole just now and he directed me to your post. A few notes:

    1. Most important: I don’t know how many people are aware of this, but the exhibit itself includes a bondage mask draped in rosaries. Enough said.

    2. Rihanna’s costume wasn’t even the worst in some ways. I saw another picture of a woman whose head was taking the place of the host in a monstrance. That is beyond vulgar or tasteless, it is seriously sacrilegious.

    3. It isn’t just grumpy conservative Catholics describing the Gala as sacrilegious. I saw many non-Catholics on Twitter using that word – gleefully and as a term of praise.

    4. The thing that really bothers me is that many of the Catholics commenting on this won’t even acknowledge that some of what went on was offensive. You see not a hint of that in the commentary from Cardinal Dolan or Fr. Martin, or Massimo Faggioli (who seems to find the sacrilege cute). I could see arguing that some good came of this though I’m quite skeptical, but at least these people should acknowledge the problems. Perhaps that would get in the way of currying favor with worldlings. I’m not even mad at Dolan or Martin about this. But the bitter irony is that the more Catholic prelates rush to spin these events as some form of evangelization, the more inconsequential, silly and laughable Catholicism becomes to the world. If Catholics don’t take the sacred seriously nobody will. Six times as many people leave the Church as come into it. The strategy of the past several decades isn’t working. Let’s take our heads out of the sand.

    5. No, there’s nothing ironic about objecting to immodesty (especially in the context of sacred images!) while celebrating the non-prurient artistic depiction of the nude body. Simply invoking the “Puritan” stereotype is shallow and cheap and the logic of this supposed irony doesn’t hold unless you want to argue that Catholics who object to nudism are on the same account “Puritans”. Last I checked, the Catechism of the Catholic Church still included modesty as a virtue, and I’m sure if there were some contradiction there, the drafters of that document, who have spent more time in the Sistine Chapel than either of us, would have spotted it.

    6. If you’re going to describe the celebs as prodigals returning home you need to provide some basis for that. Mockery or even innocent dress-up isn’t anything in the vicinity of repenting and returning to the Father’s loving arms.

    7. Finally, the final line “They had more fun than you” seems pretty flippant to me, as though people are just jealous. Perhaps you could consider that many ordinary Catholics don’t consider anything about this “fun” – they love Jesus, Mary, the priesthood and the Church and are pained to see these things mocked with no objection or even slight signs of discomfort from attending prelates.

  • tmirus

    More on irony – You may also recall that people visiting the Sistine Chapel are required to dress appropriately. I suppose that is ironic in some sense. It is also entirely correct. If there is irony, it is an irony that points to a deeper difference between two instances of bare skin.

  • Wil Bagley

    Your article is typical of the secular view of the Church. Everything is okay because nothing is sacred anymore. The Cardinal is an embarrassment to we peasants. He was there because of the money those who put on this show give to a diocese that is dying. Marching in a parade that supports sodomy is right up his alley. This just another outrage by a person who loves his title, but is a hypocrite when it comes to imitating Jesus of Nazareth.

  • “The Catholic faith is also a cornerstone of New York City. ”

    Given that this is the city where 60% of pregnancies end in abortion, there are many of us who suspect strongly that Catholicism there is not like Catholicism *anywhere else in the known universe*.

  • Nica

    The late Rev Andrew Greeley, Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago, and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), had for many years written a weekly column for the Chicago Sun-Times and contributed regularly to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America, and Commonweal. One of his books — relevant to this discussion of the Met Gala — is titled The Catholic Imagination; Amazon describes it as follows:

    Catholics live in an enchanted world: a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are merely hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility that inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation. The world of the Catholic is haunted by a sense that the objects, events, and persons of daily life are revelations of Grace. In this fascinating discussion of what is unique about the Catholic worldview and culture and what distinguishes it from Protestantism, Andrew Greeley–one of the most popular and prolific authors writing today–examines the religious imagination that shapes Catholics’ lives.

    In a lively and engaging narrative, Greeley discusses the central themes of Catholic culture: Sacrament, Salvation, Community, Festival, Structure, Erotic Desire, and the Mother Love of God. Ranging widely from Bernini to Scorsese, Greeley distills these themes from the high arts of Catholic culture and asks: Do these values really influence people’s lives? Using international survey data, he shows the counterintuitive ways in which Catholics are defined. He goes on to root these behaviors in the Catholic imagination.

    As he identifies and explores the fertile terrain of Catholic culture, Greeley illustrates the enduring power of particular stories, images, and orientations in shaping Catholics’ lived experience. He challenges a host of assumptions about who Catholics are and makes a strong case for the vitality of the culture today. The Catholic imagination is sustained and passed on in relationships, the home, and the community, Greeley shows. Absorbing, compassionate, and deeply informed, this book provides an entirely new perspective on the nature and role of religion in daily life for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

  • alwayspuzzled

    For a Church that is losing people and closing parishes, sacrilege may not be the most important issue. The Church’s close official involvement with the Gala reinforces the perception of a body that is spiritually shallow and irrelevant.

  • “and contributed regularly to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America, and Commonweal.”

    Those papers are pretty much considered the Journalistic Equivalent of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to serious Catholics who live in that enchanted world that the flamboyant homosexual Andrew Greeley hated so much. Greeley is certainly not a popular author among those who are serious about their faith.

  • Nica

    As Cardinal Dolan described the event, it is an evangelization of culture. The Vatican lent a fortune’s worth of items for exhibition, & the Gala’s own opulence paralleled the extravagance of that display. What’s wrong with that?

    Jesus spoke in the parlance of his day & time, of shepherds, farmers, wayward children, & wedding banquets. The parables culturally appropriated what surrounded them. This Met event was an extravaganza for charity, whose theme this year was “Heavenly Bodies” in a celebration of Catholic culture. Versace costumes interwove with sacerdotal vestments, the sartorial mingled w/ the sacramental, just as in the Incarnation humanity twined together with the Divine.

  • Nica

    Is Roman Catholicism so defined by sexual ethics — esp by the abortion issue — that that’s the sum of all it means?

  • Nica

    Read his The Jesus Myth & you might be surprised. If, that is, you still have a mind open enough to receive grace from unexpected sources.

  • alwayspuzzled

    So cultural relativism is ok when Cardinal Dolan approves, and not ok when Cardinal Dolan does not approve. Good to know. It is exactly as Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my Gala”.

  • Nica

    Pardon me?! I attributed all of 4 words to Dolan: “an evangelization of culture”; the rest is my writing. And what you said makes no sense, regardless.

    I — not Dolan, but I — wrote that Jesus in his use of parables “appropriated” his surrounding culture. In other words, it was already his culture: his time, his place of origin. The shepherds & the farmers, the fisherman & the bridal couple, were folks surrounding Jesus. He made use of what he & his followers recognized on a daily basis.

    The Vatican vestments lent to the Met belong already to the Church, so there’s no appropriation of another religion or culture. The costumes designed by the Versaces & others for the attendees were religiously appropriated from the Church, true. That was the plan. Think of the Gala as a huge costume party meets fashion show meets Catholic Church exhibit, & maybe you can be less judgmental about it.

  • Roman Catholicism is defined by love, and the proper use of love (intending the good of the other). Killing off the next generation for superficial economic or racist reasons is not compatible with Love- in any way shape or form.

    Sexual ethics, as you put it, is about intending GOOD for the other. That is why it must be procreative and unitive, and never recreational. Recreational sex *always* is about exploitation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church spends a hundred paragraphs on this point- and the one thing all “sins against chastity” have in common is disordered
    exploitation. Even “consent” in our culture has become so degraded that in some places, a knife to the throat and being tied up is considered consent.

    Even the description above of why a “celebrity” would dress like that- for advertising the brand- is exploitative. What really caused what we now think of as the #MeToo movement? An entire industry based in exploitation and destruction of human dignity.

    And it all starts with one immodest dress.

  • People who are not judgemental, don’t care enough about the other person’s soul to be moral.

  • alwayspuzzled

    “He made use of what he and his followers recognized on a daily basis.”

    And the Met Gala is something that the followers of Jesus today recognize on a daily basis?

  • John Raimondi

    I could not have stated this more succinctly. Since this was a massive fundraiser for a worthy cause, all bets are off. Once again, the end justifies the means. Nope, not buying into it.

  • I have. I consider it in the light of the source- a dissenter from reality. I find no grace in moral relativism, and certainly none in the Jesuit theological theory that some people aren’t human enough to be moral.

  • Nica

    1. Was this “bondage mask draped in rosaries” lent by the Vatican? Did you even bother to find out before criticizing it?

    2. The head in the monstrance isn’t “sacrilegious” in itself, if the monstrance isn’t consecrated. It’s a costume. Please don’t confuse your personally being offended with sacrilege.

    3. Oh, heavens! We wouldn’t want to offend any anonymous Twitter users, would we?

    4. Maybe others aren’t as outraged as you are, tmirus. Have you considered that you might be in the minority?

    5. Don’t worry: You’re giving us a very good impression of where your concerns lie.

    6. Umm, as you point out, the author hasn’t actually established that any attendee was a “prodigal”, nor need she do so. Why are you so triggered to find everything about the event, & even about this article, so damned personal? It’s not about you.

    7. I didn’t find any of this to be mocking the RC faith. Please don’t try to pretend to speak for everyone.

  • Nica

    It’s what most Roman Catholics — not all Christians in general — would easily recognize, yes. Do they see it on a daily basis, no. But this is a Costume Party, not a Street Fair. I’ve never attended a Mardi Gras, but if I did, I’d expect to see something like this.

  • Nica

    Sorry, but this article & the Gala itself aren’t about abortion or even the broader matter of sexual ethics. Your answer to me, like your original comment, somehow reduce the panoply of what Catholicism represents/is to this one narrow concern.

    It reminds of me of when the Pharisees criticized Jesus for not fasting, & he spoke instead of the appropriate behavior in the presence of a bridegroom. Well, this was a party, an event on which the Vatican collaborated for a full year, & this one evening was for celebration, not for sackcloth & ashes.

  • Nica

    Since Greeley wasn’t a Jesuit, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Greeley was a diocesan priest. Moreover, The Jesus Myth isn’t an ethical treatise at all, Jesuit, diocesan, or otherwise. It’s a christological — almost mystical — study of Jesus.

    Why are you commenting on Greeley, since it’s clear you (1) know nothing about him, & (2) haven’t read anything he’s written, despite your claims to the contrary?

  • Nica

    Greeley was a vociferous celibate, not gay, & an interesting advocate for priestly celibacy. If you ever read his novels, you’d never have fallen into such an egregious error. He also was among the earliest in the Church to warn the Vatican & the American hierarchy about the paedophilia issue, back in the 1960s or so.

    Sounds to me that you have no real idea of who Greeley was or what he wrote. Sad that you’d be blowing smoke, despite that.

  • Like I said, it’s a different form of Catholicism than I grew up with. I find it exceedingly strange that in a country where 800,000 parents commit genocide against the next generation due to a supposed lack of resources, the resources spent on this gala are just fine.

    And yes, I’m well aware of how much liberals hate “rigid Pharisees” like me and wish we didn’t exist. I’ve had a few suggest that I and my son would have been better off aborted due to our disabilities. Which is why I take things a bit more seriously than lending religious objects to a museum.

    It would have helped if that money would have been used to feed, clothe, and shelter the homeless a bit.

  • Nica

    The money raised by this event was for the Met museum, not for the NY archdiocese.

  • Nica

    Theodore, I just turned 63 last weekend, so I’m not among the newer generations. But this Gala has been blown totally out of proportion by commenters. And there are lots of elements about it that should, in fact, be teased apart instead of conflated into one big “pro” or “con”.

    (1) The money involved here ($30,000/ticket), were it not going to the Met museum, would have stayed in the pockets of the wealthy invitees to the Gala….

    (2) … Because the charity is for the Met museum, which apparently suggests a $20 donation from its usual daytrippers, but will take a mere $1 when offered. That means the museum relies on a huge annual event such as this to open its displays daily to ordinary visitors. That’s admirable, IMO. Moreover, the museum houses a year-round exhibition of Catholic items, thereby ecumenizing larger non-RC & non-Christian audiences with Catholicism. In that sense, it evangelizes quietly all year ’round.

    (3) The Vatican lent over 40 items that rarely if ever leave Rome, to be exhibited in collaboration with this event. Mitres, chasubles, chalices, all sorts of valuables one would need to travel overseas to see. Now they’re visiting NYC.

    (4) The Vatican’s money, otherwise, wasn’t a part of this. It’s not as though money for the needy was diverted to a party. Again, this Gala raised money to fund the museum’s daily existence. You personally may not support the arts; other folks do.

    (5) It’s hard to see how Catholics would be so offended by this. Growing up, I participated in fashion shows run to support my brother’s Augustinian seminary, & in ones to fund a retreat house run by an order of nuns. My parish hosted bake sales, pierogi sales, bingos, & roller-skate parties. These were staples of an RC upbringing. This Gala was something of a cross between a Fashion Show & a themed Costume Party, nothing more, nothing less.

    (6) There’s so much more to say, but I’ll leave it at this: Catholic culture is flamboyant. It’s more baroque & rococo, than gothic & romanesque. The Sistine Chapel has added a laser show. The Swiss Guards’ attire bedazzles spectators. Pope Benedict favors red Gucci slippers. Gregorian chants, stained-glass windows, cardinals’ red hats, Bernini’s orgasmic Ecstasy of St Teresa … these all comprise the Catholic experience.

  • Spinmamma

    You apparently think those who disagree with you are astonishingly ignorant. Everyone knows the event was to raise money for the Met. Wil Bagley said. “He was there because of the money those who put on this show give to a diocese that is dying.” He did not say the Cardinal was there to receive money from that particular event. Cardinal Dolan made no bones about his glee at being in the presence of all “the movers and shakers.” Catholics in general are not prudish and enjoy the arts, including dancing and theatre. It is because sacred symbols were distorted in honor of a carnal haute couture celebrity fashion show that objections arise in this case. I for one was deeply offended by sexualized images of the Virgin Mary. This spectacle was a hideous juxtaposition of the sacred and profane, and brought to mind Fellini’s “Satyricon.”.

  • Nica

    Will’s sentence makes no sense to me. “[T]he money those who put on the show” — Is Will referring to the Met museum’s money, to the Vatican’s money (since Rome collaborated), the attendees’ money, whose money is given “to a diocese that is dying” (by which I assumed Will mean NYC’s diocese)? It’s a non-sensical statement.

    Perhaps you are privy to the financial info for the Met museum; I’m not. But since the museum was the beneficiary of the event, I assume the museum isn’t among the direct benefactors of the NYC archdiocese. Do the invitees to the Gala generally also financially support the archdiocese of NYC, that Dolan was sucking up to them? Maybe. Again, perhaps you are on top of the NY financial scene to know this; I don’t.

    Will Bagley’s comment overall disrespected the author here, Cardinal Dolan, gays, & maybe even Jesus, all in a few short sentences, so I don’t have much respect for his comment in return.

  • Spinmamma

    I believe the point is that many of the same people who attend the Gala and support the Met (the movers and shakers) also contribute to the charities Cardinal Dolan supports. Cardinal Dolan needs to curry favor with them in order to keep the donations coming in. Not that complicated and not that unusual. I am not on top of the NYC “financial scene” but I have read a lot about Cardinal Dolan and his views of money, government grants and partnerships, and how to keep the archdiocese and its charitable works afloat. As an aside, I find it remarkable that you would be offended by a commenter’s “disrespect” but are perfectly fine with the disrespect shown to Catholic symbols, revered persons, and Catholic doctrine under the rubric of “dressing up.” . Not to mention the “disrespect” you and the author have for the sensibilities of orthodox Catholics.

  • Nica

    Two separate points:


    Cardinal Dolan needs to curry favor with them in order to keep the donations coming in.

    I’m not even sure why this point is worthy of discussion, Spin, by Will, you, or me. All bishops are basically CEOs, & part of their job is PR. To belabor this is rather silly. Just because the RCC is a religious org, doesn’t mean it lacks a business structure or can function w/o its reps kissing babies & pumping hands.


    … I find it remarkable that you would be offended by a commenter’s “disrespect” but are perfectly fine with the disrespect shown to Catholic symbols, revered persons, and Catholic doctrine under the rubric of “dressing up.” . Not to mention the “disrespect” you and the author have for the sensibilities of orthodox Catholics.

    Dear, Will’s comment was offensive. Period. For one thing, using “Sodomites” as a term for gays should offend anyone who is well acquainted with the bible story of a man who — in the name of hospitality — is ready to hand over his two daughters to townsfolk for a gang-bang, then who gets drunk & uses that as an excuse for having sex w/ those same two daughters. Incentuous pregnancy becomes the mark of this biblical “hero”, Lot. So tossing around the name of his old hometown as an offensive slang for homosexuals, as I said, should offend us.

    As for the “Catholic symbols, revered persons, and Catholic doctrine” you claim were disrespected, which & how? The vestments on exhibition were lent by the Vatican itself, along w/ other artifacts, to “evangelize” the culture, as it were. Items that haven’t ever left Rome are now on display in NYC to acquaint a greater audience of people with the RCC. For practicing Catholics, it’s an opportunity to touch base with their religious heritage. For lapsed RCs, a chance for reconnecting with their traditions. And for all other Xns & folks of other religions or none at all, it is an outreach to glimpse some of the rich roots of the RCC. Where do you find disrespect in any of that display of “Catholic symbols” you mention?

    “Revered persons” of the RCC — again, your words — showed up by invitation & w/o coercion. How you find the mingling of RC clergy w/ celebrities & other political personages “disrespectful” is just baffling. And as for “Catholic doctrine” being “disrespected” — there was none on display. No creeds were uttered, no prayers were said (that I know of), the Sistine Chapel Choir sang, no sacraments were performed, no mass was held. What “disrespect”? Please be specific in addressing this, since truly you’ve boggled my mind.

    Lastly, the RCC doesn’t separate Catholics into “orthodox” & “heterodox” or “liberals” or “heretics”. Perhaps you’ve mixed up your centuries. The Inquisitions & Crusades have all ended. If the pope & the Church hierarchy gave their sanction to this project to celebrate the intersection of Catholic heritage w/ culture, what sort of “orthodox Catholics” would disapprove?

  • Spinmamma

    First, you put a gloss on my remarks about the Cardinal I did not.
    Second I was not referring to any living human being who attended the gala as a “revered person.”
    Third Carry on and I wish you no ill. It is clear there will be no meeting of the minds.

  • Ame

    I am grateful that there were some works of fashion art that really do demonstrate a contemplation of the interaction of the sacred and the profane by the designers. Art as prayer or contemplation does inspire longings for union with God in me. However, mostly the gala resembled a Greek symposium with Catholic-looking trimming.

  • Statistics Palin

    Fellini’s Vatican fashion show in “Roma” was far better. Its lampooning of self-important integralists is as relevant today
    as it was in the era depicted. Just look at the comments on this article, if you think this isn’t the case.