Tide Pod Vestments and Child Abuse
Today I’d like to talk about something that might seem a bit trivial. Tacky religious vestments. But if you’ll bear with me, I think you’ll see that in something this “secondary,” and “external,” a dark world of meaning lies hid. That’s how symbols work, isn’t it? There’s a universe of difference between presenting a woman with a bouquet of long-stem roses, and draping her in a horseshoe wreath as if she’d won the Kentucky Derby. (Try it some time!)
Or replacing Old Glory at a U.S. soldier’s funeral with the flag of Disney World. (Don’t.)
Destroy the Symbols, Obscure the Truth
Now, each is a bunch of flowers, or a piece of cloth, a fool could argue. Isn’t it “arbitrary,” even worldly, to insist upon such distinctions? Every sophist since the Enlightenment has used this kind of logic. Why? To gradually dismantle the symbols of what he hated: the Church and the truth She teaches.
They’re playing the mood music for sin, like jazz pianists in a brothel.
And it’s the sophists among the clergy who today wear the vestments I’m talking about. These same men distort the moral law in pink fogs of emotive self-expression. Stern dogmas for which thousands of martyrs died, they wave off as distant “mysteries,” which is their word for a “muddle.”
And they camp around wearing chasubles and stoles with crude designs, in toothpaste primary colors. The emblems on them are sometimes vaguely Christian. A lamb, a fish, an olive branch. At other times the images are abstract, pretentious, and cosmic. Sometimes, as in those pictured, they look like nothing but Tide Pods.
Not Childlike But Childish
But even when the pictures have some vague religious connection, they’re always rendered crudely. They’re like abandoned art projects of some sullen, talentless child. They’re childish, not childlike, since kids do the best they can. But these images were crafted by well-paid adult professionals, designed to seem like the work of innocent children. There’s something deeply sinister there. Like a strange man dressed in a clown outfit, crashing some children’s party.
Confront them, and these pastors pretend that such symbols are “indifferent.” We’re Pharisees for criticizing them. And yet they clearly know that they’re important. Try to replace them with beautiful, traditional garb, to replace a banal modern liturgy with a solemn ancient one, and watch the hissy fits! (See the traditional, respectful, adult vestments below.)
Primitivism in the Service of Decadence
The modernists always choose vestments, and graphics, and pictures, of the same distinctive type. Studied attempts to seem juvenile, careful poses of innocence. They’re sending a message, all right.
(For a good, long, Catholic rant on this subject, check out my old column “All of Your Church Are Belong to Us.”)
What does it “say” when vestments are expensively crude? When liturgy committees carefully plan out services to seem casual? And pastors gut exquisite marble altars and replace them with crude butcher’s slabs? When the music used at services for major Christian feasts would embarrass Barney the Dinosaur? And lovely religious art gets thrown away, replaced with primitive daubings?
Why did Archbishop Rembert Weakland, when he wasn’t in the hot tub with his boyfriend (whose silence he bought with churchgoers’ money) make a point of helping to wreck the Catholic liturgy? (He was one of the main influences in stripping down and secularizing the Mass at Vatican II.) Why did he spend millions ripping out the magnificent interior which poor Catholic immigrants had built in Milwaukee’s cathedral, to make it lavishly hideous?
And why are the Catholic bishops at the World Meeting of Families — in an Ireland that just chose death, in the midst of another abuse crisis, led by clerics guilty of cover-ups — dressing up like children? In pastel colors and dopey designs?
It’s All Just a Big Game to Them
It’s not quite what you might think. It’s not a direct attempt to corrupt vulnerable boys. It goes a bit deeper than that. What these bishops are doing is keeping up the atmosphere where sex abuse tends to happen, along with every other kind of evil. They’re playing the mood music for sin, like jazz pianists in a brothel.
When you take what is sacred and paint it profane, you’re making a point. When you take stern, adult truths and present them in cheap stick figures, you’re sending a message. When you infantilize adults, and collapse their distinction from children. …
You’re saying this: None of it matters. The stakes are low. Nobody here’s going to hell. In fact, we’ll all go straight to heaven. Our God is sweet, dopey, and accepting. He doesn’t have very high standards. If He did, would we be dressed this way? If in fact each one of us were treading a knife edge between eternal happiness and torment, do you think we’d be singing these sappy, repetitive songs? If Christ demanded more of us, or you, would we really be dressing, acting, and singing, as if it were all a joke?
And that is the message which men with dark compulsions, in religious professions, want to hear more than anything. It’s the big bag of candy they use to tempt themselves into the back of a dark, tinted van.
John Zmirak is Senior Editor at The Stream, and co-author of recently released The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration.