Defending the Cappa Magna

If you want to see sparks fly, just bring up the cappa magna, the elegant long train sometimes worn by ecclesastical dignitaries. Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa got a lot of press – not all of it positive – for wearing the cappa magna at the splendid pre-Vatican II Mass last April 26 at the National Shrine.

Msgr. Patrick Brankin, communications director for Slattery’s diocese in  Okalahoma, wrote a letter to America magazine defending his bishop:

… The cappa magna does indeed represent the finery of the world, its power and prestige. That is why after his entrance wearing it, the prelate is publicly stripped of this finery and humbled before the congregation. Then, vestment by vestment, the bishop is clothed in the new man of which St. Paul speaks, including the baptismal alb, the dalmatic of charity, the stole of pardon and the chasuble of mercy. When finally clothed in Christ, the prelate makes a second entrance into the church to begin the eucharistic celebration in persona Christi, the visible head of the body, the church.

It was a clear statement that the power and prestige of the world have no place at the altar, but it is expressed in a liturgical ritual or symbol, which, unfortunately, are often lacking in the contemporary rites and thus hard to grasp.

It’s a clever defense, but I don’t think it works. The finery of the world, power and prestige, have no place in the liturgy…but these are OK for church leaders outside the liturgy and right up until the liturgy begins?? That sounds like a schizophrenic split between liturgy and daily life. Is it helpful for the faithful, as they prepare for the liturgical celebration, to be reminded one last time of their celebrant’s worldly power and prestige?

One would hardly want the celebrant to process into church once with whiskey bottles and bank deposit slips for money he pilfered from the collection basket, and then process in a second time without these worldly objects, to show that drunkenness and thievery have no place at the sacred altar. This is not meant as a cheap shot, but as a colorful example to get at the central issue. And that issue is, what imagery is appropriate for the leaders of Christ’s flock, within and outside of the liturgy? Given the example of Christ himself on this earth, and given his words about humble service and not lording it over others, what is appropriate vesture for bishops?

Perhaps you would frame the issue differently. However you see the issue, please discuss it among yourselves. Be nice, everyone.

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48 comments

  1. I think this raises the issue of how symbols function. Do the people participating in the liturgy get it? If so, great. If not, there needs to be education (as Msgr. Brankin seems to be doing with the letter) and an evaluation of whether the symbol is relevant.

    Fr. Anthony, your point about the distinction between liturgy and life is an important one. If the bishop is symbolically removing power and prestige at the start of the liturgy, one might wonder whence that power came. What does it mean to be a bishop and how do our bishops understand the power that comes with their office? Do they not divest themselves of worldly power and prestige once they become bishops? (And are not all Christians called to such renunciation?) So what is the need for removing the symbol of worldly things at the beginning of a liturgy?

    For me the symbol doesn’t function…at least not in the way Msgr. Brankin says it should. I’d be interested in hearing from someone for whom it does.

  2. We show respect to God by doing things well. That means the choir practicing and the reader reading the readings before hand so as to be able to read well. The celebrant prepares the sermon in advance. The servers are briefed as to what will happen. The vestments are chosen carefully etc. Those who make the vestments show honour by making beautiful vestments.
    I recall, from school, at Benediction the priest wore the best vestments and then an extra cape (sorry I do not know the term) before picking up the monstrance for the blessing. All of these testify to the special nature of what is happening. So a bishop in finery is showing the importance attached to the Mass he offers.
    My concern would not be with the finery of the vestments. Is he willing to travel in an ordinary Ford car or does he insist on a Mercedes S series? Will he take the trouble to read correspondence and reply politely? Does he support and encourage his clergy? Does he try to teach the faith well?

  3. A definition of cappa magna from Catholic Encyclopedia 1917, “Cope”:

    The cappa magna, now worn according to Roman usage by cardinals, bishops, and certain specially privileged prelates on occasions of ceremony, is not strictly a liturgical vestment, but is only a glorified cappa choralis, or choir cope. (“History”, para. 2)

    […]

    It [a cope] was a vestment for processions, and one worn by all ranks of the clergy when assisting at a function, but never employed by the priest and his sacred ministers in offering the Holy Sacrifice. (“Modern Use”, para. 1)

    The identification of the cappa magna with choir dress makes sense. Following the first procession with the cappa magna the bishop goes to a side chapel and vests while the choir sings Terce.

    Lauren Murphy said:

    What does it mean to be a bishop and how do our bishops understand the power that comes with their office? Do they not divest themselves of worldly power and prestige once they become bishops? (And are not all Christians called to such renunciation?)

    I agree that the cappa magna obscures the role of bishop as a servant-leader. Pope Paul VI wisely declined the tiara and worldly power. Today we understand the Pope to be a servant of the Universal Church and not an Italian prince. The omission of the cappa magna would remove an anachronism that obscures episcopal service.

    1. There is a tension in how we view the papacy and the episcopate. More recent views have not completely replaced older ones, and rightly so I believe. Again an example of the mosaic of the Church.

      Susan K. Wood, does a masterful job outlining the existing tensions in chapter 1 of her book, Sacramental Orders, a part of the Lex Orandi series.

  4. While I do appreciate a reverent dignity, I personally desire the sacred liturgy to have a noble simplicity. The cappa magna, while not wrong or sinful, it really doesn’t add much to the holiness of the liturgy that doesn’t already exist, nor does it help people build their relationship with God through the liturgy. So, if the bishops were asking my opinion, I would recommend that they not wear it ever again.

  5. What do drinking or embezzlement have to do with anything? The suggestion is ludicrous, quite possibly libellous.

    Honestly, you’ve gone quite off the beam here.

    During the Mass itself, the bishop dresses sometimes according to the dignity of his office, sometimes according to his subjection before God–without mitre or cap, but bareheaded.

    1. I quote: “This is not meant as a cheap shot, but as a colorful example to get at the central issue.”
      The example is purely hypothetical, how did you miss that? Of course it’s ludicrous, that’s whole point of hyperbole. But libellous? Good heavens, it’s not referring to any living person so who on earth would sue for libel?? I’m suprised that a writer, of all people, would miss the genre.
      awr

  6. I hope I never use hyperbole of quite that character! But! I’m glad to hear you ment it as such.

    Usually bishops have civic authority and respect–even pomp. Not always. In a persecution they usually have quick imprisonment. But under ordinary circumstances, whether they want it or not, they have “the world” in their train.

    It makes sense that he would make quite a show of divesting himself of authority.

    In Thomas Aquinas’ day the Abbot of Monte Cassino would have received marks of worldly deference. Although Thomas chose mendicant life instead of ecclesiastical rank, the Gospel surely can be lived by Churchmen who have more interaction with the world.

    1. Kathy, this is precisely why I ask the question about power above. For what reason is the bishop given such authority that he has to divest himself of it in the first place? There are different ways to have and utilize power. What image of power is being portrayed by the use of the cappa magna?

      It’s one thing to respect ministers; it is another thing to give them such authority that they have to divest themselves symbolically of it in liturgy.

      And I think this ties in to what Fr. Anthony was saying about making this into a liturgical action. Are they stripped of this power only within the liturgy? Or when they walk out of the church, do they continue to relinquish that power? We are called to such renunciation not because of ordination but because of baptism.

  7. Ah, the cappa magna, originally so characteristic of episcopal dignity, yet so seldom seen today, even though its usage is permitted. The return of the EF and associated liturgical books will likely see greater usage of it. The above video is of a EF Mass and not an OF one, and I do think there is a distinction. The EF is referencing the 1886 CE, which never got reformed like the Missal and Breviary did in the 1960s. A lot of episcopal ceremony is very ornate. When the reforms after Vatican II took place, those at the head of the reforms had a holistic vision about when things were going, and in the reforms of choir dress the cappa magna remained. CB, n. 64, “A purple cappa magna, without ermine, may be used only withing the diocese and then only on the most solemn festivals.” The reformed rite places much greater restrictions on its use, even greater restrictions than the use of the pallium or pontifical dalmatic. Most solemn festivals would seem to be limited to 3-4 times a year. Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Christmas, perhaps the anniversary of the cathedral dedication or the patron of the diocese, and perhaps the dedication of a church. If used in these limited circumstances, it demonstrates the solemn character of the celebration. Just like when a gentleman pull out the tuxedo, only for the most important and solemn celebrations. I guess I am defending the usage of the cappa, keeping in mind the character and spirit of the reformed liturgy.

  8. Fr. Anthony, a nit. I think it is incorrect to refer to a Mass in the “Extraordinary Form” as a “pre-Vatican II” Mass, since the 1962 Mass was celebrated throughout the sessions of Vatican II, indeed, every day if i am not mistaken.

  9. John – I thought that point might come up. True, it was celebrated during Vatican II (except on the days they celebrated other Catholic rites). But I stand by the term “pre-Vatican II” because it was and is that. Of course the Mass hadn’t yet been reformed the day the council opened. I find it disingenious, then, to call this the “Vatican II” Mass just because it was celebrated during the Council, or to make some rhetorical point of the fact that the bishops celebrated this form during the Council. What else would they have done? The Council decreed reforms, and obviously no Father at Vatican II who voted for the liturgy constitution thought that the unreformed form would ever be in use alongside the reformed form in the future. They unanimously thought that there would be only one rite and only form of that rite, namely, the reformed. In a sense, then, the only authentic ‘Tridentine’ Rite we have today is that found in the Missal of Paul VI, since this is the latest reform in a series of reforms (however tiny) of the Tridentine rite since 1570.
    One can believe whatever one wants about the quality of the reform or the legitimacy of it; one can believe whatever one wants about how the rite ‘should’ have been reformed. But all that is another issue entirely and doesn’t affect the point at hand, in my view.
    This is why I stand by my terminology, use the Second Vatican Council’s liturgy constitution as my point of orientation, and refer to the 1962 form as “Pre-Vatican II.”
    awr

  10. Honestly, I just don’t understand why this gets under so many people’s skin. I wish I could understand why this is such a controversial subject but I just don’t get it. It’s just an impressive cape – no different from an impressive cathedral or an impressive motet or an impressively bound book or a well-crafted homily by Newman or a breath-taking mosaic or anything else. Why not just say oooooh and aaaaaaaah and move on? The only possible case I can see against it is that it somehow represents the temporal power exclusively, and that we don’t believe in that anymore, and yet I don’t see evidence that this is true. Truly, I’m mystified by why the Cappa Magna generates such heat.

    1. The cappa magna speaks of the appurtenances of a bygone worldly court ceremonial, along with gauntlets, buskins, portable thrones and flabellae. It speaks a secular language that came and went. It may have once been opportune episodically, but is no longer so. Right now, its reappearance smacks of creative anachronism or historical recreationism, and thus seems more clueless than a loving re-embrace of traditional worship in ways that matter.

      That’s why.

    2. I’m sympathetic to you, Jeffrey. When I first saw pictures of the cappa magna, my reaction was exactly that – wow!! So beautiful, over the top, beauty times 10. They really knew how to do it, and they had the nerve to carry it further than I would ever dare.

      Same with miters – our abbots renounced this some 30 years ago. At a European abbey at a very solemn High Mass I saw a miterless abbot – inspired by the abbot of St. John’s – and I though, “Bare head – how inelegant, how disproportionate to the Baroque church and liturgy.” When our current abbot , truly an unassuming man, asked my advice the day after his election, I pushed strongly, without sucesss, for him to revive it.

      At some point, something got me thinking about power, symbols of power, abuse of power, victims of power. I’ve never connected this explictly with sex abuse, but perhaps all the workshops and required in-services and painful community discussions planted a seed in me. More explicitly I’m aware of praying over the Gospels as key.

      Now I think my aesthetic draw to miters and cappae doesn’t matter – the issue is, how should power be exercised according to the mind of Christ? The miter says psychologically, “I’m bigger than you.” It intimidates. Is this Christian? I’ve gone far enough down this path that the aesthetic draw has evaporated by now.

      None of this would have made sense to me 5 years ago. I’m surprised myself at the change.

      awr

      1. These are all good points, but the problem is that once this push starts – this urge to purge pretty and grand things begins, it is hard to know where to cut it off. Eventually you end up with the position of the iconoclasts. Tolerance strikes me as a much better default position. By the way, our Pope is also very sensitive to these issues, wanting to eliminate symbols of power in the temporal sense (he is second to no one in his opposition to the temporal power) but also wanting to preserve and enliven beautiful things. It is not always easy to know what is what. We have a long and complex history.

  11. Well, it may not “generate such heat” to some, but we have to recognize that what makes symbols glorious and sometimes dangerous, is because they are purposely ambiguous, and at times can communicate a deeper meaning far from its original intent. An “impressive cape” can communicate all kinds of things – some sacred, some oppressive, some, even humorous.

    We all have our different opinions of such symbols, and we all have our tastes around what the communicate. For myself, such a symbol seems to truly dismiss a very important and very much primary symbol of any ritual action, that is the symbol of the gathered community. The separation that already exists between clerics and the assembly seems to be worn like a badge of honor in such an exercise. Impressive capes, impressive cathedrals, impressive motets, or for that matter, impressive anything (regardless of style, taste or genre) can have a dark side… we have to open our eyes to see with a wider lens… symbols can enrich and inspire, they can also cause pain and sadness as well. As a ritual people, we need to choose and implement our symbols wisely… we will not ever have 100% unified understanding or comprehension, but we should at least be intentionally aware of our choices, and what messages they may provoke.

  12. One person’s impressive cape is another person’s silly cape. It’s all about taste. Yes, we should move on.

  13. Is there any precedent for Monsignor Brankin’s interpretation and defense of the cappa and for the virtues he associates with the vestments subsequently donned by the bishop?

  14. Concerning the use of the term “pre-Vatican II Mass” I mightinterject that the Holy Father has called the two forms the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the one Latin Rite. That seemsto me to be the correct usage in 2010, whatever may have been
    a good term before.

    1. Hi Fr. Nathanael – I could walk down the hall and say this to you in person, but then others couldn’t ‘listen in.’ 🙂

      Yes, the Holy Father has introduced this terminology, but I don’t think he’s mandated it or abolished other terms. On the web you regularly see terms “Gregorian rite,” “TLM,” and so forth.

      By way of anaology, the Catholic Directory gives the correct titles for the Pope – it’s a long list – but no disrespect is intended when we refer to him by the shorthand “Pope” or “Vicar of Christ” or “Bishop of Rome” or “B16” or “Holy Father.”

      I don’t deny that the term “extraorindary form” is out there. I think it is accurate to call the extraordinary form “pre-Vatican II,” so that is why I use this.

      awr

  15. @Lauren,

    Bishops are considered by other civic leaders to be in some sense the leader of the Catholics. Whether or not the bishop wants to have front row seats or marks of respect in public, he gets them.

    I’m not at all convinced that accepting marks of deference is antithetical to baptism. We show deference all the time, to different people: those in need and those in authority. What Jesus said was not to LOVE these things, and not to let our lives be an empty show.

  16. The reemergence of the cappa magna is Catholic silliness at its worst. Somehow such lunacy must be confronted with gospel simplicity. I think of the words of Jesus in the gospels of Mark and Luke: “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets… They will receive the greater condemnation.”

  17. “Is there any precedent for Monsignor Brankin’s interpretation and defense of the cappa and for the virtues he associates with the vestments subsequently donned by the bishop?”

    The virtues are drawn from the old vesting prayers and rite of ordination; the “new man” idea, I would guess, is inspired by the prayer recited when taking of the cappa.

  18. John
    The answer is “possibly”. It may remind the wearer to set an example. it focuses our attention on the wearer and reduces the distraction from others. If we seek to understand what purpose it is meant to serve it helps us learn. If worn only on special days it reminds us that the day is special.
    Some will object that Jesus never wore such finery and may be put off. So “possibly” rather than “always yes”.
    If it serves to remind us of temporal authority of the bishop that might serve as a counterbalance to politicians and their secularising approach. Of course the temporal authority of the bishop depends on the willingness of voters to follow his lead. He best not let it get to his head.

  19. Thanks John
    Luckily you do not have to go to such a service.
    Judges also wear costume and sadly we are occasionaly before them when we would rather not be.
    A sense of the ridiculous is useful, especially for the bishop.
    Cheers
    Peter

  20. I wonder how much of the discomfort some people feel when looking at the cappa is grounded in anxiety with what it represents-a potential revival in a confident Roman identity within the Church locally.
    The Puritan heritage among Americans is persistent. Comments about “Catholic silliness” and declining to use vestments associated with our rites be they miters or cappas risks showing a certain discomfort with our own received tradition – beauty and tradition are important to our rite and reinforce that it is something bigger than us. Wearing the vestments show humility by the celebrant who puts on the vestment in submission to the tradition of the Church that he’s received.
    True, the Puritans would have said-Jesus never wore a miter (or a cappa) but that was never the point and the comment itself seems to misunderstand the concept of rite & tradition.
    I agree that the Ext. Form can only be called the pre-V2 Mass in a very loose sense because a). the new missal did not come out until years after the council was over, b) because the Roman liturgy alive today includes the EF meaning that the EF is now very much our post V2 liturgy. Certainly the Council Fathers never anticipated the two forms in the Roman rite but they also never would have imagined the nearly universal use of Mass facing the people, the vernacular canon(s), or EMHC’s.

    1. In this ecumenical age, I don’t mind at all agreeing with Puritans on one point or the other, if they’re right! There is at least some common ground between the Reformation and Vatican II in the questioning of received tradition – although obviously it’s more marked in the Reformation. So I wouldn’t be surprised if faithful Catholics increasingly agree with Protestants on many points.

      As for a “revival in a confident Roman identity,” I honestly don’t perceive it that way. I think it’s the exact opposite, in fact. It’s retreating into the past, so it comes off as fearful of the modern world and the questions confronting the church today. It shows a leadership not quite able to lead the church to a confident consensus and to necessary reforms, but instead avoiding the important questions.

      It’s interesting that, a couple hundred years ago, pompous court ceremonial symbolized the power of the Church. Now it symbolizes for many, including Catholics, the marginalization and irrelevance of the Church.

      awr

  21. ” … the EF is now very much our post V2 liturgy.”

    – Perhaps getting off-topic, but is it?

    – Has it caught on and become part of RC prayer – like the SLJ’s, guitars, the Grail, and popular hymns?

    – Just asking!

  22. Father, I am not sure that you are right. Costume may reflect the role played.
    Chris Patten, as last Governor of Hong Kong, felt that wearing the uniform, complete with helmet and feathers, of a colonial governor was not appropriate for a mere politician who had lost his seat at an election. (He did display a crixifix in his office as can be seen in photos.) But his predecessors, nominally commanders of the armed forces there, would have worn their uniform as symbol of their authority from and obligation of service to the monarch.
    A bishop serves a higher authority.

  23. Of course, the EF belongs to all of us. I don’t think anyone argues that the Missal of Paul VI is unconnected to previous editions. Traditional (meaning EF only) Catholics seem to outnumber the number of adherents of some Eastern rite eparchies. If we agree that the Maronites are part of the contemporary post V2 Church than so are the EF only Latins.

  24. It was noted above that the Eastern liturgies were celebrated for the Council Fathers during the most recent ecumenical council. It was also noted above that traditional vesture may symbolize a retreat into the past, fear of the world with a ecclesiastical leadership that avoids the important questions. I wonder if you perceive these redundancies only in the Latin Church Fr. Anthony. Do you advocate a similar discarding of ornate costume, ceremony, and similar traditions in the Eastern usages? If not, why is the Roman rite and her tradition treated with less reverence? No one can argue that the cappa, the miter, and related traditional vesture are not part of the Pauline ordo.
    I agree that faithful Catholics can agree with Puritans and other Protestants on many points. If carried too far it can become accommodation and risk assimilation.

    1. Robert, you raise good questions. I’m hesitant to speak to the situation of Eastern rites since I don’t have much experience with them. I really only know my own (Roman) rite. But that’s the point, really. We’re dealing with perceptions of symbols, so the issue is how the Roman rite symbols are perceived by them and others. Maybe the perception is unproblematic for the Easterners, I don’t know. But if it is, it won’t work to tell Roman rite people to think like them. The situations are so different. I think of how the Latin language was preserved more in England after Vatican II than other countries – probably because it was a mark of identity for an English minority. I suspect the dynamics of being Eastern rite within the larger Catholics church also influence them greatly, and distinguishes them from us Latins. For me, the issue remains, how are symbols perceived by various people today? It varies a lot, and we must attend to that variety.
      awr

  25. It is interesting to note that an American flag draped over the casket of a veteran is to be removed before entering the church, even if the individual died in battle. If the cappa magna signifies the “worldly” and is removed at the sanctuary to indicate the “new man” then why not the flag (for example) as well? Not that I’m advocating this, but am just noting the seeming lack of consistency in the explanation thus given. I myself opt for Guardini’s reflection on church doors: once you pass through, you have left the world.

  26. Is it EVER going to be possible to discuss this particular item of ecclesiastical frippery (which costs in the order of $2,000-plus to buy, incidentally) without everyone trying to ‘out-gay’ each other in their terminology?

  27. “The cappa magna does indeed represent the finery of the world, its power and prestige.”

    Merton has an essay, “Is the World a Problem?” His answer is that the only world that is a problem is the world in our own hearts that loves money, status, power, and pride.

    At the heart of the sex abuse cover up is that the bishops loved money, status, power and pride more than children.

    What is required of our bishops both individually and collectively is that they admit not only that they made ‘mistakes” but that they loved money, status, power and pride more than children. Should that be so hard? After all, the world is in each of our hearts.

    What is required of our bishops both individually and collectively is that they strive with all their hearts and all their minds to give up the love of money, status, power and pride.

    Until then, instead of Axios! Axios! Axios! our greeting should be Unworthy! Unworthy! Unworthy!

    If they are unwilling to acknowledge their unworthiness, then we must remind them.

  28. I remember quite fondly a joke that Msgr. Richard Schuler often used to say around his rectory table at St. Agnes Parish in St. Paul. “The Catholic Church began its decline when Pope Pius XII ordered that the length of the Cappa Magna be shortened.” From then it was the end of everything. In all seriousness the issue of the Cappa Magna and its use and non-use is bound up with the question of triumphalism.

    On a side note I have heard it claimed that the new Ceremonial of Bishops actually makes it far easier for any bishop to make use of the Cappa Magna whereas the older law restricted its use based upon jurisdiction. In the older law could a bishop visiting another diocese make use of the Cappa Magna outside of his own diocese? I am not certain, but I don’t think so. Could a Cardinal make use of it in the diocese of Rome? I thought it had to be folded up quite elaborately. So perhaps someone who is an expert in protocol could answer. Was it even possible for Bishop Slattery under the old rules to make use of this vesture since he was a visiting prelate without the permission of the ordinary? I am not sure that the permission is needed had he been celebrating according to the ordinary form.

  29. I’m new to this discussion so I haven’t been able to take in every word, so I hope my comment won’t be redundant, but all through my reading the thought in my mind was of “the poor”.
    Someone likened wearing the “cappa magna” to putting on a tux for a special occasion.
    Would a poor person feel welcome at such an occasion?
    Another thought I had was HOW MUCH DOES ALL THIS COST!?!?!?!?! (I’m a bookkeeper!) I know this will sound like Judas speaking but “couldn’t all this be sold and the money given to the poor?” Symbolism is good, if fully understood, but does this particular symbol remind us of the needs of the poor? Perhaps a Bishop or Cardinal clothed in tattered clothes would be a better symbol to keep us focused on Christ’s call to “feed the hungry…..”
    Anyone remember “Shoes of the Fisherman”?
    (hope this won’t be a spoiler for anyone, but) in the end the Pope removes the Triple Tiara and pledges it and ALL the Church’s goods, possesions, assets….to feed the hungry.
    Maybe that’s what JWD!

    1. This criticism can be made of any kind of beautiful object used in the Church (and the money used to pay for beautiful music, buildings etc.) But the thing that is unique about the Church is that these objects/experiences are available for everyone without cost. You pay to go hear the early music series Victoria concerts of Victoria’s polyphony at here in New York at the Miller theater. If you came to the Church of the Holy Innocents last Sunday, you’d have heard a Victoria Mass for free, not because no one paid for it, but because non one charged admission for it. Could we have used that money to feed the poor, yes? Does the Catholic Church also feed the poor in New York, yes! But we also provide beauty for the poor and they deserve that too.

  30. There’s no nuance here. If we renounce the very idea of exaltation, then it becomes impossible to exalt the lowly. That’s the tension that needs to be maintained symbolically.

    Which do you think is really more of a problem: a humble man who dresses with pomp for tradition, or men who are no less prideful or aggrandized for all their embrace of “humble” symbolism?

    I think of the turn towards more “humble” symbolism in recent years as really just “hiding behind” the LACK of a crown or cappa. The adoption of humble symbols is no guarantee of humility or lack of aggrandizing power dynamics.

    Just look at the US President, for example, whose “glory” is in the very fact of overthrowing Kings and disdaining a crown. Yet who, nowadays, is more of an oppressor, more aggrandized? The constitutional monarchs of the world (for all their pageantry)…or the US President? I think the answer (the latter) is clear.

    Servant leadership has to be real, but in this world it is always an eschatological ideal. Renouncing the symbols of grandeur does NOTHING if aggrandizement itself is not renounced (in fact, then it just provides “cover” in the form of the obfuscation of false-humility). But, on the other hand, if aggrandizement itself is truly renounced by a man, renouncing the mere symbols adds nothing (and, in fact, takes away from a sort of pathos provided by the contrast).

    “Why does he have power outside the liturgy that he has to lay aside in the first place?” is a VERY good question, but also a very naive one. The fact is, bishops DO have power or influence and prestige. Those will always be temptations and realities of their office. Wearing sackcloth wouldn’t change this.

    I think it’s much better to “admit it” symbolically, so that it can also then be symbolically set aside in a pedagogical manner, rather than thinking that external humility will guarantee internal.

    Crowning the Crucified makes no sense if crowns are considered bad in themselves. Glorifying humility makes no sense if glory is demonized.

  31. The same, very old excuse; namely that this (cappa magna, Cathedral, necklace of priceless pearls for Our Lady’s statue), is for the glory of God.’

    It’s just a ploy to shut down opposition. Eg. anyone against the purchase of the new Gazillion-dollar thingy, is opposed to the glory of God.

    This excuse is what the bishop used on our impoverished parish when the cost of the new cathedral was revealed.

    It all turned out to be a competition between bishops as to who would have the fanciest church/school/facilities etc in their dioscese – nothing to do with the glory of God at all.

    These outwards signs are supposed to relect the inner nature of the institution and its persons. But outward signs are easy. White-washing a tomb costs very little. The sexual abuse crisis has revealed to the world the true, inner nature of the institution.

    On judgement day, who would dare offer the cappa magna to Christ as a claim to anything at all?

    Any claim of our righteousness is as ‘filthy rags’ to Him.

    Questions:

    to whom does the cappa magna give glory to?

    What fruit does its wearing produce?

    How does it in any way contribute to the holiness of its wearer, as holiness is only achieved by the anihilation of the self-life, and cooperation with the grace of God?

    The logic seems completely twisted: Jesus, the King of Kings, is worthy of such finery, yet, we see his servant man wearing them instead. And what King arriving home to find his servant wearing his clothes, would not have him bound and thrown out into the darkness?

    Now the priests want to be bowed to when lay persons ascend the steps to the altar to read the lesson, the theology being that when a priest is on the altar, they are acting in the place of Christ.

    This is the last straw for me. Being on the altar makes no one holy, just as walking into a garage turns no one into a car.

    Only the blood of Jesus saves us. If we lose sight of that and substitute anything else, we are not saved. Keep Jesus on the cross in sight.

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