I’m Not Mad About the Met Gala, Except That I Wasn’t Invited: Catholic Stuff Saturday

by | May 12, 2018 | Can of Worms, Catholic Living, Catholic Stuff Saturday | 49 comments

Happy Saturday folks, the winner of last week’s giveaway is at the bottom!

If you are a fashionable celebrity who reads this blog, you’re probably aware of last Monday’s Met Gala. For the rest of us, the Met Gala is a yearly red carpet/costume party thing where famous people get dressed up by famous fashion designers, in over the top outfits based on the theme of a special exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This year’s gala was especially noteworthy for Catholics as the theme was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and The Catholic Imagination.

The exhibit features art, design, and even architecture on loan from the Vatican, and paired by the Met curator with notable works of fashion design. It sounds really amazing. If I didn’t live very far away from New York City, I’d go see it.

I enjoyed this article on how the exhibit came to be:

The Costume Institute Takes On Catholicism

and especially this quote from the Catholic exhibit curator: “Beauty has often been a bridge between believers and unbelievers.” Truth.
But the exhibit at the museum always seems to get less press than the red carpet in front of it, and this year was no exception. I started hearing buzz about the theme a few weeks back, and I was immediately SUPER excited. I appreciate fashion, particularly Catholic fashion. I own and wear and love Annunciation Stained Glass Leggings, that aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but are totally my cup of tea. I was pretty confident that I was going to enjoy the spectacle. I was a little disappointed when my invitation never arrived in the mail.
I had to be content to just enjoy perusing photos of the red carpet looks from the comfort of my home. Anyway, it lived up to my expectations. I thought some of the dresses were beautiful and creative and I would TOTALLY wear them.
The Marys! The beading! I swoon. If we could put some cap sleeves on there I’d wear it every day. Or maybe Joan of Arc for every day, and Marys for Sunday?

The Joan of Arc dress is a beautiful interpretation, and she’s even got the hair!

Some, I appreciated the effort, but they just didn’t QUITE work for me.
The sorrowful heart on this dress is WAY cool and I would totally rock it at next year’s All Saint’s Day Pageant. I also am totally there for her St. Lucy’s eyes on a stick.
I’m just not getting them together, and with a winged halo. Apparently Sarah Jessica Parker’s hat on the right features a miniature nativity scene. A for effort!
Some were predictably tacky, and tackily predictable. Sigh.
Despite rumors to the contrary, that is definitely not a mitre lent to Rihanna by Archbishop Dolan. He was joking. All the Catholic imagery and imagination of the last two thousand years and all you can come up with is a sexy cardinal costume? It looks like she got it off the rack at the Halloween Store.
I’m disappointed. But I’m not mad. 
Art is always going to be hit or miss. That’s what this gala is, and always has been. It’s a chance for fashion designers to take inspiration from a theme and go wild with it, and create clothing that wouldn’t usually get to exist. Some art is going to be to my taste and some isn’t. I’ll even be so bold as to say some art will be good and some will be bad. But I want art to exist in the world, and, for the good art, I’m willing to suffer the bad to exist as well.
I am happy that Catholic art and history was recognized as it should be. Our art is the BEST ART. I’m glad to see it honored and appreciated by a new generation.
And cultural appropriation is not a term that should be applied to Catholic culture. Our culture is for everyone. It’s for every country and people and time. If you like it, please have some. That’s how we roll.
This was one of the most interesting takes I read after the event. 

Make Catholicism Weird Again

It’s an opinion piece on the fascination with Catholic culture on display at the Met Gala, and why Catholics might want to take note, and embrace our own culture more loudly . . .

“Thus the only plausible approach for Catholicism is to offer itself, not as a chaplaincy within modern liberalism, but as a full alternative culture in its own right — one that reclaims the inheritance on display at the Met, glories in its own weirdness and supernaturalism, and spurns both accommodations and entangling alliances . . . “

I think it would be a mistake to assume that the attendees of the gala, even the sexy clergy types, were out to degrade and offend. I don’t doubt they are looking for attention, as starlets are wont to do. Some of them could have used some better advice. But the red carpet interviews, again and again, showcased a thoughtful interest in Catholic art and culture that went into the planning and wearing of this clothing. 

I loved how many reminisced about their Catholic upbringing. I hope it brings some of them back to a practicing faith. But mostly, I just thought it was fun and cool and there were a lot of pretty dresses.

And now for Catholic Stuff Saturday!

The winner of last week’s giveaway of The Rosary in Art for Children by Mary Cooney, and The Stations of the Cross for Children by Carolyn Cooney is . . .

Comment #6: Amanda! Amanda, congratulations! Your profile is hooked up to an email address, so I’ve emailed you!

Stay tuned for next week when I’ll have another great giveaway. If you are a Catholic artist, author, or small business owner who would like to be featured on Catholic Stuff Saturday, and offer a giveaway, email me at helpdesk@catholicallyear.com.

I wish you a very happy feast of the Ascension on Sunday (or on Thursday, if it was on Thursday for you), and a very happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and daughters out there, especially mine.


  1. Ann-Marie Ulczynski

    I wonder how the individuals wearing the garments felt? Did they have a sense of reverence or a feeling of something different while wearing them? Thanks for the writing, as always.

  2. Amanda

    You can’t appropriate our culture, it’s for everyone. What an interesting thought!

    “Make Catholicism Weird Again” seems exactly like a title you would use ����

    • Kendra

      It really put into words something that I’ve had simmering for a long time. We should be an alternative, we should embrace what’s different and noteworthy about Catholicism. Otherwise why bother converting? If it’s just about the same as anything else?

  3. Kathleen

    This seems like a very sensible take on this whole thing… I honestly just didn’t have time to even think about what I thought about it… But in my head when I was reading all these things online pro and con and I kept thinking “I wonder what Kendra thinks of this?” Thank you for writing this!

  4. Unknown

    I’m glad to hear you put this in writing! This is how I felt. Yeah there was some purposeful provocation (Lena Waithe’s rainbow cape). But for the most part I felt like it was more benign.
    And yes! I love the part about appropriating our culture! Everyone welcome!

    • Kendra

      Yes. Agreed. But I appreciated that she wore something that made her own statement without attacking us.

  5. Diane

    I believe that art is art and beauty is beauty when and because it gives Glory to God. In the event either fail to give Glory to God, they are not beauty, not art. It is then a perversion of the Good and is then offensive to God. 🙁
    It's kind of like when Jesus got angry with the misuse of His Father's House. It upsets the Catholics with this understanding to see the sacred vessels, sacred robes, and sacred images of our Holy Faith being used inappropriately.

    • Kendra

      Do you think it’s inappropriate for them to be on display at the museum?

    • Diane

      The problem is with this particular exhibit (some of the items on display and some of the juxtaposition of others).

    • Kendra

      I think it’s possible for people who don’t have the benefit of good Catholic formation to be striving towards Truth and Beauty, the fullness of which we know can only be found in a deep understanding of our Catholic faith. But the father of the Prodigal Son came out to welcome him “when he was still a long way off.” Perhaps they are still a long way off, but if they are attempting something good, and I believe they were, I’m willing to cut them some slack.

  6. Caroline

    I just can't see how these outfits honored our Lady or the Catholic Church. I understand how this might be a door opening for some people to perhaps investigate the Catholic faith further, and perhaps have a conversion. But from one Catholic to another, I don't see much honor in these outfits .. but we all have our tastes in tea…

    • Samantha

      I personally agree with you that most of these outfits do not honor Our Lady or or Faith. However, I’m a convert and I know for a fact that had I seen these outfits before my conversion I would have had absolutely no inclination that they would be disrespectful or distasteful. I would have seen them as art depicting images of the Catholic Faith, which they mostly are. I don’t really think it’s right to necessarily judge the outfits through Catholic eyes when most of the people wearing them were, presumably, not Catholic. I highly doubt most of them intended anything disrespectful by their depictions.

    • Caroline

      Samantha, I understand that these clothes may not be seen as disrespectful from someone outside the Catholic faith (and I guess, sadly, from some within the Catholic community). As I said in my comment, seen through Catholic eyes, I found them to not honor Our Lady or our Faith…(the same way I would see my own family in a more tender way than I would a stranger’s). We all make judgements, we make them each day. When to cross the street, what food to eat, what clothes to wear, what we teach our children, what we spend our time on…we are constantly judging our actions- what is best, what is not best. I am a Catholic, how can I view these dresses outside Catholic eyes? My initial comment was just that speaking from a Catholic perspective. I am not even angry, or “rage-y” as one commentator on Kendra’s Facebook described anyone who disagreed with Kendra’s point of view. To me, these dresses were like someone, verbally attacking my mother or father, and I just sitting by passively with a stupid grin on my face. Some of the attackers could just be onlookers or lackeys, not really meaning any harm- yet they are there, behind the bully. There is only a feeling of disappointment when I hear some of these Catholic views, thinking nothing is truly upsetting about this whole thing. Have you seen that Vogue video featuring some of these dresses? It’s demonic.

    • Kendra

      The Vogue video is literally people walking around in a museum. The models are walking like models. The singers are dancing around. I’m not getting demonic from that, and frankly, I’d have a care with how I used that word, myself.

      I’m really trying to understand this, and am not. If *I* were wearing that gorgeous hand-beaded icons of Mary dress, would that also be an affront to you?

    • Caroline

      The whole theme was dark, some of the women were sticking out their tongues as they walked in an overt sexualized manner- it was very dark. Perhaps we are seeing different videos, because I found that Vogue one that someone posted on your FB comments deeply disturbing and evil. I am referring to the one with Rihanna in it, as well as some other women making lewd gestures with their tongues and dancing in the manner they were dancing. I called it demonic because that was the under-current in it- particularly in the way they were dressed and behaving. They are wearing these gowns, with these images of Mary, and knock offs of Pope regalia, and they are behaving in this manner. They were base.

      Now, if you were wearing these gowns, I wouldn’t be impressed either. Much like the American flag, I don’t find images we are supposed to revere and respect used as fashion. I will admit I don’t understand why you like those tights you wear of the Virgin Mary, when her face and image are skin tight on your legs and beyond. I wouldn’t like seeing anyone’s face, for that matter, wrapped around anyone’s legs. I just can’t see how that reveres Our Lady, to have her image used in such a manner.

    • Kendra

      But then that’s your preference and an American cultural preference, rather than a Catholic cultural issue or an issue of faith or morals. It’s common in, for instance, Latin American cultures to have depictions of Our Lady on clothing.

    • Caroline

      Yes, perhaps it’s my preference – but coincidentally, I was born in Mexico, and my father was Mexican, and I lived my childhood there. I don’t believe it’s a cultural thing. I don’t recall many people we knew doing that. My father always taught us to treat pictures of our Lady with great reverence, and to honor her and the Catholic Church. To me, it doesn’t do her justice to use her in such a manner. I guess I would first ask the question: how is this honoring her, how should I best use her image?

    • Caroline

      And by the way, that dress with the beaded images of our Lady you like, the entire backside is covered with pictures of Our Lady… if you plan on sitting down at all, you’d be sitting on Our Lady’s face.

    • Caroline

      Oh Kendra, my children sit on me all the time too… but is off-point. Would you feel no qualms about sitting on an image of Mary’s face just for the sake of a fashion? How about an image of the Eucharist, or a picture of the Blessed Trinity. Would sitting on those images not in some way, belittle them?

    • Kendra

      I can imagine a chair or a garment for some sort of satanic ritual meant to blaspheme or degrade. This dress appears to me to have been hand beaded over what must have taken months, in love for, if not Mary herself, then at least for the beauty of her images. To look at something that is empirically beautiful and is clearly intended to be beautiful and insist that it is ugly seems disordered to me.

    • Caroline

      The images on the dress are beautiful, I agree- I have never called that dress ugly- I simply am saying that wearing a dress, and then sitting on these same beautiful images doesn’t add up as respecting these same beautiful images. Although, I don’t like the buckles at the torso on top of some of the images of Mary. Some of those dresses at the gala were very beautiful- but those weren’t the ones showcased in most media outlets- the ones showcased were the ones many Catholics are unhappy with. I can’t be any plainer.

    • Kendra

      I'm glad the gala happened because some of the dresses were very beautiful.

  7. Ali

    I really enjoyed the "Make Catholicism Weird Again" article. I tend to agree with the author.
    Looking at the images from the Gala remind me of my daughter's protestant friend who desperately wanted me to give her some holy water. She had no understanding of what it was and probably had some major misunderstandings, but she was still drawn to it. There is a reason people have such strong reactions to our faith.

    Catholicism is both my faith and culture and I love some of the "weird" aspects of it.

  8. Christy from fountains of home

    I've been thinking about this this week in terms of how ragey everyone is over this "cultural appropriation". Catholicism is different than everything else, we're not a religion where you have to be born into it, we're not a religion that keeps it's teachings only for the select few, we're not a religion that forces belief. We're a religion that wants to reach everyone. Does that mean we may be misunderstood, misrepresented, and maligned? Of course. But we are offering ourselves to the world just as Jesus offers himself to the world in every tabernacle in every church. He is not holding himself back, He allows himself to be physically present when the world is full of people who don't understand and don't get it, who malign and disrespect Him. That's why we're different. That's why we will always be trying to reach everyone, no matter how vain, glamorous, material, and distant from the Church those people may be. We are not asked as a Church to hold our treasure only to ourselves and to those who are "real" Catholics, we're told to spread it no matter how misunderstood and maligned we are for it. I think this is an attitude all these rage-y Catholics need to get their minds around.

  9. Caroline

    Christy, first of all, rage-y is not a word. Secondly, those of us who are in disagreement with Kendra are not saying that we should hide our faith, or not share it- that’s ludicrous. There is a difference when we think nothing of how these images were used. They were aped from their true beauty and meaning. There was no reverence, no respect. That is the point.

    • Kendra

      How can you know that? Why must we assume that the gala attendees didn’t wear these clothes with reverence and respect, even if they aren’t Catholics. It may have been reverence for the beauty and history of our culture and art, and not yet a fullness of understanding. But why assume the worst?

  10. Caroline

    I am not talking about the people in the gowns, I’m talking about the gowns themselves.

  11. EmCath

    I love this article, thanks for writing it! I always hate assuming the worst all the time, so it’s nice to have a positive review on a pop culture event! And, as mentioned, beauty is often a bridge between believers and unbelievers – so good. Thanks!

  12. Julia

    I felt like this fashion show was a mockery and abuse of the Catholic faith and frankly can see nothing but rotten fruit here. From Rihanna's blasphemous wearing of the mitre with mini skirt to the cleavage of Joan of Arc, all truth and dignity were lost. What I did see was the sinful nature of man on full display. The celebrities see themselves, once again, as the center of the universe. (Not God). By praising these fahionistas/models/designers for their capacity to grow, and be drawn to, or their desire to emulate or adore the faith, you are allowing them "success on their own terms." Claiming that all of these celebrities have reverence for our faith (maybe) and the potential "to become faithful" or "drawn to the faith" completely relieves them of their moral responsibilities (assuming they do have an intellect). Thus any negative consequences this show might have had on the faithful, the remnant, or even larger society are forgiven, or subordinated for a small case of good.

    Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

    • Caroline

      With all due respect, and kindness, I say the following. It is true, we should never speculate what others are thinking, merely by what they say or do. But didn’t Christy in a comment up above, assume all those who didn’t admire the gala dresses were in some way “rage-y” and thinking themselves as “real’ Catholics because they didn’t give their stamp of approval to the whole thing? That somehow, we wanted to hide and hoard the Catholic faith for ourselves only? Didn’t you assume that we were thinking the worst of the people in the dresses rather than the dresses themselves?

    • Kendra

      There were other commenters who self-described themselves as “furious” over the gala.

    • Caroline

      But you didn’t say anything about that particular comment, which called people as ‘rage-y’, or assumed these people who didn’t approve of the gala as thinking themselves “real” Catholics… as you did in assessing Julia’s comment as less than acceptable. But, it’s your blog.

    • Kendra

      I'm not seeing anything in Christy's quote that calls anyone names or interprets what anyone said or did to tell us what they "really" meant. The commenter here, on the other hand, says: "The celebrities see themselves, once again, as the center of the universe." That is against my rules.

  13. MrsJFinnegan

    I keep thinking about this… I really appreciate the reminder to not judge peoples intentions and some of the outfits were beautiful. But there seems like there was an overall provocative feel to the event. I can't help but thinking about how much work goes into making those outfits. From the sketches and ideas, to selling the ideas to celebrities to wear, to the choice of all the details, colors, fabrics. Artists and designers think about the way the outfit will appear on the runway, how it will look in person, the feelings it will invoke. In doing their research for this event, which serious artists would have done, they had access to even the Vatican so I'm thinking they could have asked, "would this be offensive to practicing Catholics?" But even ignoring the artists responsibilities. What about the responsibility of the Vatican or the Cardinal of New York?

    I think the outfits were predictable and I think the Vatican could have been reasonably expected to deduce what the outfits may have looked like. I think Cardinal Dolan could have deduced what the outfits may have looked like therefore I am not sure why, and forgive me if I missed it, the Vatican didn't put some restrictions on their generous loan.

    Wouldn't it have been prudent of the Vatican to craft some guidelines for the sake of the faithful and all the lost sheep? Then at least after the event we could see that at least they 'tried' to protect the sacred items they loaned and, more importantly, their daughters who were then photographed for all the world to see in their provocative and disrespectful outfits?

    I think the feeling I'm left with is that once again Catholicism was on display and once again we had 'cool dads' instead of Fathers.

    • MrsJFinnegan

      And I don't mean to make this seem like I see it as black and white. I see it as a missed opportunity. If the intention of this event from a Catholic prospective was really to evangelize and or to expose the world to the beauty of Catholic art then I think that is a good intention but I think more prudence and explanation was needed.

      Any PR company worth their salt could have guessed there would be a 'sexy pope' or a scandalous version of the Virgin Mary. If the Vatican got out in front of it with public 'guidelines' or explanations then maybe some of this Catholic bickering could have been avoided. But I think the lack of clarity left a gaping whole of confusion. And funny comments after like the one you linked to with Cardinal Dolan only left faithful Catholic scratching their heads, 'Is it okay for Rihanna to dress as a sexy pope or not?' And Rihanna wasn't just any celebrity she was a co-chair.

      It leaves room to wonder if sexy priest is an appropriate Halloween costume. And how about the poor mother that fought her daughter tooth and nail for a less revealing prom dress? Did we leave her out to dry?

      So I'm not outraged and in general I can go about my day ignoring it. I am as surprised by the Vatican's room for confusion as I am about Rihanna's dress. But it does leave one feeling lonely in the quest to bring reverence back to the Church.

    • Kendra

      I understand what you’re saying, and I’m with you in being disappointed by some of the dresses. But it’s my understanding that the Vatican did have guidelines and stipulations attached to the exhibit and that it wasn’t even finalized until days before the event because of that.

      But how could the Vatican or Cardinal Dolan have been able to control what people wear to a party? I see girls and women in miniskirts as short as Rihanna’s at Mass every single week. And that’s the MASS. Every single sacrifice of the Mass is much more important than the Met Gala. But Jesus chose to be present with us there, even knowing that in 2018 there would be miniskirts.

      This is something good Catholics are allowed to have differing opinions about. But I feel strongly that the better play here would have been to praise the good, and ignore the bad. And to, in this instance, meet people where they were.

    • MrsJFinnegan

      It is true that it would be very hard for the Vatican and Cardinal Dolan to control what someone wore to a party or even if a party was centered on Catholicism but if they were participating in the party by supplying the main attraction, it would be reasonable to expect that they could ask at least the hosts of the party to dress appropriately or have firm but kind criticism afterwards. Or if they can't maybe not participate at all?

      I also think a short skirt at Mass might be apples and oranges. A short skit in our culture could be confused as appropriate because someone could reasonably think, "I bought this really nice skirt and I want to look nice for Mass." And modesty does have a subjective element to it. I do think the priest could make know reasonable expectations dress and if they are disobeyed then they are on the person disobeying.

      But Rihanna wasn't just wearing a short skirt. She was in a Pope costume. A very well made Pope costume but a Pope costume non the less and proceeded to pose salaciously.

      Again, my issue is not with Rihanna. She seems to be acting in a way that is consistent with our celebrity culture. My issue would be with the room our Church leaders left for the faithful to wonder the appropriateness of what appeared to be wildly inappropriate outfits and poses with holy objects and holy objects that represent the highest office of the Church and have been used at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

      Some of the outfits were lovely, some were a bit strange but not offensive some were offensive. I would say anything sexy clergy would be offensive. If there were guidelines given than why are the so hard to find. I have tried with no success.

      I do not find this whole scene shocking and I think it could have been put in a good light or ignored. But I do find the lack of clarity about moral behavior in media, colleges, celebrity relations a consistent issue in the Church. I think these large areas of confusion are detrimental to the everyday Catholics understanding of the faith. I think it pits Catholics against each other and makes it harder for Catholics who have had the privilege of learning their faith to go home to their Catholic families who have been poorly Catechized and have a leg to stand on.

      I think it makes it harder for pastors to demand excellent behavior from their faithful at the Mass.

      Overall I think we could use a PR overhaul and it might do a lot of good.

  14. Caroline

    I agree, the whole tone was "let's be the cool parents and let is all slide- it's all good" vive, when it's not all good, and we shouldn't let it slide. This has been a baffling topic I think, because one side is left scratching it's head as to why the other side can see it any differently, even when we are all Catholics discussing it here. Like you said above, I wish the designers would have been given a set of guidelines to follow in this whole Met Gala Affair. It wouldn't have meant stifling their creativity. There were some beautiful dresses out there, but the only ones the media published widely, were those that were at best, questionable in their respect for the topic they were supposed to represent.

  15. Joanna Rakoski

    Unfortunately most of the outfit at the Gala along with your leggings are distasteful.

    • Amy S.

      The gala distasteful? Maybe. The leggings??? I rebuke it.

  16. Amy S.

    Kendra, I tend to agree with you here. I was a little "my religion is not your prom dress!" for two seconds. Then I heard that a REAL Catholic choir was singing at the museum. SONGS ABOUT JESUS! And that was all I needed to be reassured that there is HOPE. Hope that people heard that and turned their hearts, even ever so slightly, toward God. I'm pretty certain there was a little mockery, and definitely some poor taste. But I don't think anyone looking at or involved in the gala decided "I'm leaving the Catholic faith because of this." But if one -ONE- person took even a second to think about God and our Catholic faith either from designing a dress or listening to the choir or seeing Archbishop Dolan…then I am happy. (Now, I won't go arranging an event like this at my parish or anything, but I can handle Hollywood tryna play Catholic."

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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