Saturday, June 30, 2007

Return of the pharisees

YAYA badly mashed the onions she was slicing as she recounted that our parish priest now forbids women from hearing mass in jeans. When I asked her for the priest’s name, her look speared me.

It must fill her with frustrated fury that a devout, albeit trousered, mass-goer like her is in the same batch lined up for excommunication as soulless heathens like me, who last went to mass, pure in heart, during my baptism.

To pacify her, I looked up the dress code for the faithful. In the website Civilization of Love, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the Archdiocese of Manila clarified that the dress code is a mere “guideline” and that violators will not be “instantly ejected” from the church.

Included in the Archdiocese of Manila’s list of proper attire are collared shirts for men and long-sleeved blouses and long gowns for women, as well as school, office and corporate attire.

Prohibited are “caps, jerseys or undershirts and shorts for men, and spaghetti-strap (sic) or tank tops and other sleeveless blouses, plunging necklines and skimpy shorts and skirts for women.” An archdiocese spokesperson also clarified that acceptable clothing can still be considered improper if these are “too tight, translucent or too brightly colored.”

There is hope though. In the online dress code, jeans have not been denounced as verboten for women. This apparel is popular because for most folks, it is durable and functional.

What is after all better for mass salvation: blue-jeaned pews or near empty rows except for a long gown or two?

Clothing was by no means the only aspect that showed the Church leadership cares as deeply about the externals of faith as it does about the eternal fate of souls.

Pope Benedict XVI has signed a universal indult (or permission) for priests to bring back the Tridentine Mass said in Latin.

According to, the elaborate, heavily ritualized and—for those who don’t speak Latin as a mother tongue or a second language—incomprehensible Traditional or Classical Mass was used for nearly 1,500 years by the Church. Dating back to the time of St. Gregory in the sixth century, the Tridentine Mass was restricted by the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65.

Reform-oriented bishops then introduced the New Mass in the vernacular to “make it more accessible to contemporary audiences,” reported Times Online.

Pope Benedict’s move has been interpreted as favoring Church conservatives that want a return to orthodoxy. As an AWOL Catholic, I’m not really excited about the strategies of those who manipulate the faithful like “pieces on a chessboard.”

But I remember my friend walking out of a mass said in another friend’s wake. The magnetic young priest sang and gesticulated beautifully; it must have been his Latin—or Korean or Venusian, who knows? I did not think that my fuming friend was exaggerating when he walked out, muttering about “colonial relics.” But I did so want to see if our departed friend—a non-government worker who spoke as many dialects as the decades she spent living and working with the people—would not step out of her coffin and smack hard this beautiful, deaf young man.

I respect the desire of those who wish to experience the Latin mass whose beauty, according to its advocates, lies in the prescription of perfect uniformity in the priest’s movements and gestures. I can also appreciate that the return of orthodoxy may solve some of the Church’s problems.

In the Traditional Latin mass where the priest faces the altar, it should be of little concern if the Dress Code is upheld or violated by a spaghetti strap as the priest does not even see the congregation he has turned his back on. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 1, 2007 issue

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