The Red Cape is Back

A recent edition of the National Catholic Reporter describes the celebration of a Tridentine Rite Mass in Rome, a liturgy recently restored by the current Pope. The photograph accompanying the article shows the celebrant entering the church with a red cape that is almost the length of the nave of the church. It beats any bridal cape you have ever seen. So let’s get this straight…Tridentine– that means a liturgy approved by the Council of Trent.

Let’s put this all in perspective. John XXIII was the spirit behind the Second Vatican Council, which met from 1963-1965. This was the council that called for a collegial church, one in which lay people were active participants (colleagues) along with priests, bishops, and the pope. John Paul II came along a few years later and took the church back to the First Vatican Council, which met from 1869 to 1870. This was the top-heavy church in which the pope was the only “talking head” and the bishops, priests, and laity were all rubber stamps. This is what gives us the current crop of bishops who have little to say except to condemn abortion and gay rights, two issues from which their lives are safely removed.

Benedict, the current pope, trumps John Paul II by taking us back to Trent, a council that met on and off from 1545 to 1563. And, along with this Tridentine Mass, we have the return of the red cape, the prominent feature in the photograph.

Now I for one am delighted to see the return of the red cape. I have written several books on the teachings of Jesus and it is clear that the teaching about the red cape is central. On many occasions Jesus declared that his followers could always be identified by their use of the long red cape in their liturgies. The sexual abuse of children, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the addictive habit of trying to settle disagreements by the deadly weapons of modern warfare—these were issues of little importance for Jesus. “Keep the long red cape”—those were the words Jesus stressed on so many occasions. What is the great commandment? Keep the long red cape. How will they know you are followers of Jesus? By keeping the long red cape.

How fortunate we are that all that talk of the Second Vatican Council is finally behind us, all that nonsense about “a preferential love for the poor”. How fortunate that we no longer have to worry about the sexual abuse of children. How fortunate that we no longer have to worry about the increasing number of people living in poverty, without health care, without food, without shelter, without education, without hope. Forgetting all of these trivial issues, we can at last focus on what was really central to the teachings of Jesus…. keep the long red cape. How can we have anything but gratitude for the pope who has brought us back to what is really important about Christianity.

By Ron Miller – May 26, 2010

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