On Monday night New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 70th Met Gala made Catholic fashion the theme of a new exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow, May 10.
Pop idol Rihanna, above turned up at the gala launch looking like a pope, and other big names in fashion and music decked themselves out in ostentatious and overtly religious outfits for the Met Museum Costume Institute exhibition called “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.”
Last November 10Magazine, in announcing the upcoming exhibition wrote:
Whatever your personal religious preference may be – atheist, theist, agnost, heathen – one thing that can be agreed upon is the church’s commitment to a look. And no-one does ‘pomp’ quite like the Catholics, who go by our own life motto: if in doubt, throw some gold at it. Capes, hoods, robes, Madonna, the popemobile – it’s all very glam.
Or blasphemous, tasteless or an affront to survivors of clerical sexual abuse “who don’t need reminders of the Catholic Church’s outrageous wealth and preoccupation with virgins.”
In this Australian op-ed, Alexandra Carlton wrote that this year’s theme pushes straight past “titillating” and slams smack-bang into “tasteless”.
There’ll be opulent ermine and velvet robes, heavy gold accessories, towering headpieces, elaborate jewellery – mixed up with sexy little hints of naughty nuns, naked cherubs, virgins and Catholic schoolgirls.
In other words, it will be a celebration of the two things so many find repugnant about the Catholic Church: its ostentatious wealth and its weird relationship with sex and sexuality.
If you’re a victim of clergy sexual assault who is fighting for compensation from a church that regularly cries poor — including the 16,000 Australians who made contact with the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse — seeing a bunch of celebrities prance around in the ostentatious and sexually confused fashions of the Church must feel like a slap in the face.
Celebrities should be boycotting this ball and giving all the money it would have cost to survivors. The Catholic imagery is this obsession with virgins, with little girls wearing wedding veils, obedient housewives and sexual repression.
These celebs might be wearing these things tongue-in-cheek, but it still pays homage to the Catholic Church’s culture. It’s poor taste and survivors would feel let down that they’re not making a political statement about this.
She added that the displays of the church’s enormous wealth — the robes, jewellery and expensive art — is also very difficult for survivors to see.
When you stand at the Vatican and look at the enormous cathedrals, the famous galleries, the cloistered world of their privilege, you see the sort of power [child sex abuse survivors] are up against.
The Catholic Church in Australia has so far refused to join any national redress scheme that would pay compensation to victims of clergy sexual abuse, despite being worth around $30 billion in Australia alone, and paying no taxes.
Meanwhile devout Catholics are attacking the exhibition from another angle. It’s blasphemous, they are shrieking.
According to this report, many took to social media to air their disgust. Here’s just one comment:
Nothing right about celebrities sexualizing and disrespecting the Catholic Church and Christianity. No other religion gets disrespected like Christianity. Disgusting.
The exhibition was mounted with the blessing of the Vatican. Archbishop Georg Gänswein – Prefecture of the Papal Household under Pope Francis – collaborated with the Met’s curator Andrew Bolton to put together a collection of pieces that showed the way the Catholic Church served as an inspiration to designers throughout history.
Religious vestments were lent to flesh out the exhibit.
Cardinal Dolan, above, the Archbishop of New York, even attended the Gala as a guest, posing with A-listers like George Clooney.