I hear the MET did something that horribly misunderstood Catholicism and some people who are famous wore clothes that were bad and stuff. It was all very naughty. Curious, I checked out some photos, and I have questions.
Is it blasphemous? Well, yes. Some of it, at least. I’m not quite sure where to draw the line and Cardinal Dolan was there, so I guess he thought it was okay. I wouldn’t say I’m too worked up over it as an affront to the faith because the people involved honestly don’t know enough to scandalize the faith. Here’s why I’m really angry about this Gala – the clothes are boring. I’m all for costume parties, and dressing up like a saint and being creative is great fun, and that’s definitely going on here with some of the attendees, but as an overall expression of the beauty of style the efforts fail miserably.
Do these people know anything about religion at all? Most of these outfits appear to be in earnest and that’s sad because they look so terrible. They clearly don’t even know enough about religion or have enough imagination to properly blaspheme it. “Hey, I’ll wear a Cardinal’s outfit and make it, like, super sexualized!” and “What if I dress up like a sexy pope?” does not exactly make for high-level satire. Neither do they make for a thoughtful invitation to dialogue about the intersection of faith and the arts. Catholic symbols are dense and deeply meaningful because they’re about something real. Catholic symbols are challenging because they stand athwart a world that is blandly secularized and propose that there might actually, truly be a deeper meaning to the surface veneer of life as usual. To take those symbols, hard won by the generations of artists and thinkers who built up Christendom on the foundations of the pagan world and reduce them to accesories to surgically-augmented body parts does amazing violence to those symbols.
Didn’t Fellini already do this? Yes. Yes he did. This has all happened already.
Why is the fashion so ugly? Because fashion objectifies the human form. I’ve never been into high fashion, probably because I care too much about style. The difference, of course, being that style adheres to the eternal principles of harmony and form whereas fashion tends to be wrapped up in power, wealth, and virtue-signaling. One side effect of this is that style emphasizes the beauty and nobility of the human body and fashion detracts from it.
So, you’re kind of taking this personally? Yes. Yes I am. My imagination is already so dulled and shallow that I need all the support I can get from a robust culture, and instead all I get from pop culture is blandness. Let’s face it, secularization has killed the imagination and now we’re all stuck with art that has devolved into political statements, posturing about wealth and fame, and transgressiveness as a substitute for depth. We ran a piece here at Deep Down Things not long ago that argues it is only Christianity by which the imagination is vindicated, because it is only Christianity that holds a sacramental worldview by which hope attains its proper end. Take away Christianity, and everything flattens out. Sure, a temporary jolt can be delivered by the cultural appropriation and banalization of Catholic culture but it doesn’t last long.
Matthew Schmitz gets it exactly right when he writes at First Things, “It is foolish to suppose that either the Church’s teaching or its relics are mere artefacts that now have lost their power.” This is the heart of the problem with the MET Gala and why the participants come off as sadly naive. It is not art. It is not subversive. It is not thoughtful. The splendors of the Church are predicated on the fact that God really walked this earth, that he made the human body sacred, and all of creation is hurtling toward a reckoning with that very God. Catholicism is engaging mightily with reconciling that reality, isn’t anything less simply child’s play?