✣ Catholic-inspired Met Gala provokes controversy

What happened?

Celebrities sparked debate by dressing in provocative Catholic-themed outfits for New York’s Met Gala, a fashion event. Rihanna wore a mitre, Sarah Jessica Parker a Nativity headdress. Cardinal Timothy Dolan was criticised for appearing at what he called “a powerful evening”. The gala launched an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, called Heavenly Bodies:Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, which includes 42 objects loaned from the Sistine Chapel sacristy.

What commentators said

Kyle Smith, writing at National Review, said the event was “expressly dedicated to spoofing the Church’s iconography”. He quoted a description of the items on show: “leather bondage mask draped in rosary beads … a fuchsia gown inspired by cardinals’ robes [with a plunging neckline]”. By appearing to bless the gala, he said, the Church “took the side of its enemies”. He said it was the “latest worrying sign” of a Church under Pope Francis “trying to ingratiate itself with outsiders who reject the Church’s goals”.

Elizabeth Scalia, writing at Word on Fire, disagreed that celebrities intended to mock Catholicism. Rihanna’s mitre was beautiful, she said. “Had she worn fishnet stockings or one of Madonna’s old cone bras, then yes, I’d have called it mockery.” Instead, Scalia wrote, she saw people “trying to address the theme in good faith, even as some were hobbled by how to do that while remaining ‘edgy’.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat said the gala was a reminder of the secular world’s fascination with the “weirder” parts of Catholicism – in particular, the Old Mass and the costumes and rituals associated with it – which the Church’s own leadership had decided “needed to be retired”.

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