(Pictured above: Cardinal Timothy Dolan and James Martin at the Met exhibition “Heavenly Bodies.)
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On May 7, 2018, the annual Met Gala took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This year, the event coincided with the opening of the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibition, also at the Met. The primarily contributors to the exhibition, as well as the Gala, were Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman and the fashion house Versace. In 2015, Schwarzman gave the largest donation ($40 million dollars) ever received by the Archdiocese of New York.
While the exhibition proved relatively uncontroversial, except for the addition of a disturbing bondage mask embellished with crosses and a headdress mimicking Christ’s crown of thorns by designer Sean Leane, the Gala itself has a reputation for pushing the boundaries of fashion. Probably the most notorious incident occurred in 2016 when the singer Madonna arrived wearing a Givenchy dress that exposed both her breasts and buttocks.
Each Met Gala event has a theme which usually determines the style of dress worn by the various celebrity attendees. For the 2018 Gala, the theme was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Perhaps the most controversial costumes on the red carpet were S&M singer Rihanna (who was also an honorary chair of the Gala) wearing a low-cut bodice and mini-skirt with a miter on her head, Solange Knowles in an alien-nun bondage outfit and Lana Del Rey dressed as the Our Lady of Sorrows complete with swords piercing the Immaculate Heart. While this fashion could be interpreted as a homage, it actually reduced sacred symbolism to the level of kitsch.
Since at least 1999, when the Brooklyn Museum hosted the controversial exhibition “Sensation,” intentionally sacrilegious “artwork” with exclusively Christian themes, particularly Catholic, are entirely acceptable, even lauded by an elitist group of art critics and museum curators.
The Sistine Chapel Choir also provided a surprise performance at the Gala.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York attended both the opening of the exhibition and the Met Gala. At the Exhibition, he said:
What’s the Church doing here? What is the Cardinal-Archbishop of New York doing here? Well, because the Church and “the Catholic imagination,” are all about truth, goodness, and beauty…
What about the truth for the LGBT community?
On May 15, 2018, the official LGBT ministry, Out at St. Paul, located at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in New York City, will host a “Rooftop Social” at gay sports bar Boxers in Hell’s Kitchen. However, this is not the first time Out at St. Paul has held meetings at gay bars. On March 22, 2017, Out at St. Paul hosted a “Spring Social” at the Hell’s Kitchen gay bar Bottoms Up. Then again, on January 31, 2018, they hosted their “Winter Social” at the Rise gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen. In the past, Out at St. Paul sponsored and promoted a Mass at the site of the Stonewall Riots, “countertraditions” to Adam and Eve, and “Christian” theories in support of same-sex marriage.
Jesuit priest James Martin, who also attended the Met Gala, served as a consultant for the exhibition. In a post to his Twitter account he highly recommended: “The triumphant new exhibit.” He also praised the curator of the exhibition, Andrew Bolton. The Jesuit-educated Bolton is openly gay and has been in a relationship with fashion designer Thom Browne for the past several years. When Bolton asked Martin to find anything “inflammatory” in the exhibition, Bolton remarked: “To my disappointment, there actually wasn’t.”
In an interview focusing on his involvement with the Heavenly Bodies exhibition, when asked about the Catholic Church not being accepting of LGBT people, Martin said:
It depends who’s asking. Often I say, “What part of the church?” The parish next-door-to-me, St. Paul the Apostle, is extremely accepting. They have an LGBT outreach group, retreats…
Following the Met Gala, Dolan spoke with Fr. Dave Dwyer, the host of the Busted Halo Show on SiriusXM, and a vocal defender of James Martin’s outreach to the LGBT community; Dwyer is also in residence at St. Paul the Apostle Church. During the interview, Dolan spoke about the singer Rihanna and his experiences at the Met Gala, he said:
“I was teasing my auxiliary bishops, who were teasing me about Rihanna and I said, ‘Hey, you guys should not complain because she’s volunteered to do some confirmations.’”
In 2011, concerning the importance of art, Pope Benedict XVI stated:
Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite…a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and of the heart, impelling us upward.