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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vatican follies: What happened to the papal dress code?

According to the London Telegraph, "The performance was part of an international congress for the pastoral care of circus and travelling show people organised by the Vatican." It took place on December 15th at the weekly audience.

What gives here? There's a dress code for papal audiences (even the huge ones). In fact the Pontifical North American College has a note about it on their website under frequently asked questions:
Is there a dress code?  Dress in good taste is requested. Shoulders must be covered. Shorts are not permitted, and skirts should fall in length below the knee. A head covering is not necessary, however, in the summer sun it may be helpful.
When the pope visited Washington, the protocol for Rome was published as an advisory by the Washington Center for Protocol:
No shorts, tanks tops, sandals; no skirts above the knee; shoulders must be covered; no hats for men; women are not required to cover their heads.
During the summer there is a booming business in paper pants and shirts in St. Peter's Square since shorts and tank tops are not allowed in the church and, according to the St. Peter's Basilica website the dress code is "strictly enforced." It certainly wasn't here!

Another bit of trivia I picked up on appropriate dress is that only royalty should wear white. So, from all perspectives, the dress (or undress) code was pretty much out the window for this event.
All I can say, is that as a serious Catholic I'm embarrassed. Our Church is becoming a laughing stock and a joke There were quite a few crass comments about homosexuality from viewers of the video on websites where it's posted. Obviously, nobody has control over people's vulgar and lewd comments, but situations can invite that kind of behavior. And this certainly did. And to have it taking place in Advent no less only a week after we celebrated the feast of our Blessed Mother's Immaculate Conception! Whatever happened to modesty?

A number of questions popped into my head as I watched this head-shaker:
  • Who arranged it?
  • Were the performers given any direction about appropriate dress?
  • Was there a deliberate intent here to create another embarrassing moment for the pope?
  • What are Catholics in the pew to make of this nonsense? 
Personally, I love a circus, but all that skin was unnecessary and immodest. Even male gymnasts at the Olympics show more respect in their dress than these dudes did!


o said...

Not knowing the dress code until you explained it, my first thought was "chippendales" but these guys were performing like the statue of David, respectfully, deferentially, obviously for the pope as opposed to turning away from him for the audience. I think it was not an embarassment but a celebration of what the human body was able to attain for these acrobat professionals. Yes, olympic coverings of the chest would be mire ideal, but you can't perform like that with covered shoulders. Even their feet were covered. It was perfomance art in a clean sense, like I imagine (perhaos ignirantly) some of the unclothed art in the ceilings/walls some lace around there??? I just thought "statues of David" in honor of God. Showing the appreciation of the nuns was to make them seem like a chipendale's audience though, but I think the nuns were as purely impressed as the pope obviously was. Celebrate God.

Dolorosa said...

What is the point of having this in the Vatican and especially during Advent? I think it's an abomination and the Pope and Vatican need to concentrate more on saving souls then showing acrobats that are shirtless and immodest.

Brantigny said...

I believe that the person who calls themself "O" was a bit concerned by this post.

When ever and where ever people dress, they should dress with modesty in mind. If this was inside a circus tent, the reaction might be different. I do think this was an effort to embarass the pope.

The woman standing behind it certainly not modest. Either in her walk or clothes.

For "O" Art is art which glorifies God. That is why Michelangelo's David IS art, but playboy magazine is not.


Ray Schneider said...

Actually I think you are overreacting to a tasteful and brief acrobatic exhibition. It looked quite classical to me. I suspect this is just how they normally perform.

They came in in a very dignified way. Did a brief performance and left. I didn't find it at all inappropriate. They were disciplined, respectful, and austere in their performance. What was not to like?

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Can't agree, Ray. This is essentially the same schtick they used at the Gay Circus in Barcelona in 2008. The director said he chose them "on the basis of gay aesthetics of beauty, elegance and quality." So the act with the "strip" at the beginning, etc. is part of the titillation.

Those who vetted this thing had to know about the background connection to the gay circus. With the pope's recent condom statement, it's just one more embarrassment. And besides, there's such a thing as time and place to consider. What's acceptable in the circus ring is not necessarily acceptable at a papal audience. I have the same problem with folks who wear shorts and tank tops to Mass. It's not the time and place.