US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The Latin Mass, gay men, and Andrew Sullivan

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish has more comment on the overture of Rome to Anglicans, today quoting from Chris Dierkes, who claims that most of the Anglo-Catholic priests who would want to cross the Tiber are gay. Sullivan uses Dierkes' comment as a springboard to offer the predictable comment on the irony of so many gay-negative people on both sides of the Tiber dressing up in flouncy, lacy gear.

Sullivan put me in mind of another blog post this week, from NCR's Tom Fox, who commented on Cardinal Franc Rode's, head of the Congregation for Religious (which is now investigating American nuns), participation in the Tridentine ordinations of the Institute of Jesus Christ the King Sovreign Priest in Italy. The cardinal's vestments included the capa magna, yards and yards of red watered silk. The whole event was a riot of lace and gold brocade and silk. You can see all the photos you want here.

The connection: It's all gay, or so everyone claims. Some NCR commenters went on at length about "drag queens' and "men in dresses," as if that was on point. Speaking of these "old liturgies," Sullivan (a gay man) writes, ""I too love the old liturgies and ceremonies and drama of Catholicism. But for me, it's not sublimation but celebration of gay men's contribution to our churches." Of course, because the "celebration of gay men's contribution" is what the Eucharist is all about. I think gay people are capable of greater Christian witness than costuming.

Quite frankly, it's all off point. Whether you are in the closet or out, the problem with those "old liturgies and ceremonies and drama" is that they have not thing one to do with the gospel--and everything to do with maintaining an imperial, clerical church. It wouldn't be any less so if those celebrating it were self-accepting gay men or ordained women. Some defenders of Rode went on at length about how the Tridentine liturgies by definition require all this couture--to glorify Christ the King, for whom the priest stands in, royally arrayed. That, sisters and brothers, is the problem.

Jesus Christ may be sovereign king, but his throne was a cross and he ruled by washing feet; he told his followers that those who wished to be great should be servant of all. The liturgy is fundamentally a celebration of that mystery.

There's a good reason Vatican II required the liturgical reform: The liturgy had become an utterly clerical affair, far distant from its true historical roots, which deeper than the Renaissance! The liturgy should be something more than baptized imperial court theater, and I for one see nothing "transcendent" in such a display. There is nothing more immanent than making a spectacle of oneself, and I hardly see how 20 feet of red silk points beyond itself to the divine. If anything, it points to itself as something that clearly belongs in a museum.

Either way, let's have an argument about the what the liturgy is supposed to express, not the sexual orientation of those celebrating it, which is finally irrelevant at best and a bit rude at worst.