Dress the part

Mark Shea responds to a commenter on his blog:

I hope this doesn't sound like nitpicking, but it really bothers me the lavish dress, gold, kissing of his ring by Catholic Christians, Pope-Mobile, inter-religious dialogue etc... If Peter gave himself up to be crucified upside down and Jesus rebuked him for trying to defend him with the sword, why does the Pope have body-guards, a bullet proof car, a lavish cathedral that is well guarded??? I hope this doesn't sound like a foolish question. I really mean it from my heart.

As far as the Pope goes, the style thing actually comes out of Jewish liturgical practice.  Note the (typically neglected) prescriptions for liturgical dress in Exodus.  The priest’s garment are “for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2). Liturgical garb performs a revelatory function, as all liturgy does.  It’s not for the comfort of priest (and when you think about it, it’s quite cumbersome).  It’s for the benefit of the worshipper.  Chesterton remarks on this wisely:
For instance, it was certainly odd that the modern world charged Christianity at once with bodily austerity and with artistic pomp. But then it was also odd, very odd, that the modern world itself combined extreme bodily luxury with an extreme absence of artistic pomp. The modern man thought Becket's robes too rich and his meals too poor. But then the modern man was really exceptional in history; no man before ever ate such elaborate dinners in such ugly clothes. The modern man found the church too simple exactly where modern life is too complex; he found the church too gorgeous exactly where modern life is too dingy. The man who disliked the plain fasts and feasts was mad on entrees. The man who disliked vestments wore a pair of preposterous trousers. And surely if there was any insanity involved in the matter at all it was in the trousers, not in the simply falling robe. If there was any insanity at all, it was in the extravagant entrees, not in the bread and wine.
“Clothe yourself in Christ” is precisely what is happening in the vestments a Pope or any priest wears, because he stands in the place of Christ. Likewise, with the ring and such like, it’s very much like when you go to receive communion and bow: you aren’t bowing to the priest, but to the Host.  Likewise, to kiss the ring is to honor the office established by Jesus.  And the Popemobile?  Even St. Peter didn’t *try* to get himself killed.  When he escaped from prison, he skipped town and didn’t wait to be re-arrested and killed.  The Pope is under no obligation to make himself a target for assassins.  Nor, to be honest, is the Swiss Guard a particularly formidable force should somebody really decide to lay siege to St. Peters.

I think Mark underestimates the formidable skills of the Swiss Guard, who are among the most highly trained squad of militia in the world today. He also eschewed the obvious, which is that the Pope, along with the Cardinals are princes of the Church, and entitled to wear suitable attire. Furthermore, every item in their wardrobe is replete with biblical or doctrinal allegory, from the number of buttons to the meaning of the colors.

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