Monday, November 19, 2012

I Learn About The "Abito Piano" As Part Of My Catholic Education

This is an 'abito piano'.  It's just not the correct kind. It is properly Italian.

This is the correct kind.
This is the modern version as modeled by the CDF boss before he became The Boss and could model the less ostentatious pure white version.

The Vatican is really going retro with this lastest letter from Cardinal Bertone at the behest of Pope Benedict. Cassocks make the priest, and cassocks with capes are mandatory when the Pope is around.  I seriously don't know whether to laugh or cry.  The following is from   It was first brought to my attention by NCR's article by Joshua McEwee.
VATICAN CITY, November 19, 2012 – The cassock obligatory for cardinals and bishops during office hours. Cassock or clerical dress for priests and monsignors. Specific habit for religious, always and in every season. And for ceremonies in the presence of the pope or during official meetings in the Roman curia: "abito piano," or cassock with cape, for priests, embroidered cassock for monsignors, and cassock with embroidered cape (called a "pellegrina") for bishops and cardinals.

This is the code of service reiterated recently in the Vatican in the wake of the guidelines issued by John Paul II in a September 8, 1982 letter to the cardinal vicar of Rome at the time, Ugo Poletti:

> "La cura dell'amata diocesi di Roma..."

In that letter, pope Karol Wojtyla addressed his vicar, "who most closely shares my cares and concerns in the governance of the diocese, [. . .] so that, in conjunction with the sacred congregations for the clergy, for religious and secular institutes, and for Catholic education, he may study opportune initiatives destined to foster the use of ecclesiastical and religious dress, issuing in this regard the necessary guidelines and taking care of their application."

The new memo, which bears the date of October 15, 2012 and was issued during the last synod of bishops, was signed by cardinal secretary of state Tarcisio Bertone, who wrote it, as it reads, "at venerable behest," meaning at the direction of Benedict XVI.

It sounds as a reminder of the "duty of exemplarity that is incumbent above all upon those who render service to the successor of Peter."

But not only that. The letter is intended to be an "explicit encouragement" for all of those – "including for the episcopates," it emphasizes – who visit Rome.

There is no explicit reference in the text to the women religious who work in the Vatican, but by analogy with the male religious, the rule should apply to them as well.

The guideline is therefore very clear. Those who have the opportunity to frequent the Vatican offices will be able to see to what extent it is respected.


No more schlepping around Rome in Anglican style dog collars and black suits that have no piping to indicate rank.  The clerical troops are being called to account for themselves as to their dress, but not yet to their off hours shenanigans.  Covering up the clerics does not cover up the cover ups.  Has the Vatican really sunk to this level of performance expectancy? All will be well if we just all get together and dress like we used to dress before we were exposed.  I somehow think this might all a little too Freudian for my tastes. 


  1. In 1968 I was a student at a Catholic high school. The bishop issued a directive that the students were to "dress as Catholics, be seen as Catholics", which, of course, meant wearing the uniform. As a member of the student council I was part of the group to visit the bishop's chancellery arguing that they can "... tell we are Christians by our love", not our dress.

    To his great credit Bishop F. M. listened carefully, and revised his letter to the students. He told us that when he was made bishop he was told that he would never have to fear about missing a meal again and that he would never be told the truth again by those around him. He appreciated our forthright comments.

    By today's standards he would be considered a leftist radical in the American RC church. At the time he was a man concerned about tie-dyed t-shirts, boys with long hair, girls wearing their kilts too short (slutty!), and the general social foment that was forming in opposition to the Vietnam War. In the next few years he was to lose many, many religious and clerics.

    In retrospect, he was quite good on the issue of dress.

    Unfortunately, today's Vatican is more concerned about outward appearances than the inner spirit.


    1. Most of the Anglo bishops from the late 60's to the early 80's would be considered leftist radicals. Some of them actually were.:)

      I agree that today's Vatican is far more about externals than any forward movement of anyone's inner spirit. Or to put it differently they seem far more concerned about getting the lipstick on the pig just right, than the fact the pig is actually a pig.

  2. I disagree. Human psychology is intrinsically interconnected with the external world, and visual images can prompt the mind to think of something from distant past which, for the most part, might have been forgotten. Just think of how someone can look at a boat and remember a trip they took 20+ years prior.

    So this new initiative isn't external for the sake of external but rather it is to prompt people to think of God and the Church when they see someone undeniably Catholic. It is also a reminder to the priest that they are not meant to look and act like everyone else because they are called to be the mediators between God and man.

    1. If only some of them would act like other people. Anonymous, if the people you know sink to such moral depths as some of our priests and bishops I pity you.

    2. All I can say, Anonymous, is your statement is pure rubbish. If you need such a display of garb to remind you of God and the Church, one has to seriously question your entire idea of God and the purpose of the Gospels, which we are supposed to follow. This garb is garbage that these clowns are throwing at you as their idea of god; a narcissistic dummy wacko pervert. Psychologically, they are dressing themselves for a good old time and spending a fortune of money on this tasteless garb. I don't believe for a minute that you would recognize "someone undeniably Catholic."

      I will have to make sure to add the piano theme dress ware to my wardrobe when I play the piano. I'm sure everyone will think of the Catholic Church and God when they see me dressed in it. I'm sure it will just hammer that idea right into their deeper levels of consciousness!!

      And, colkoch, I feel pretty much the same that "I seriously don't know whether to laugh or cry."


  3. And I wonder how much all this piano costs. Somehow I don't imagine a rental service for the costuming of bishops and cardinals will be that popular with the Curia version of Tim Gunn (my apologies to the Venerable Tim.) Think on the parable of the Widow's mite. Just how many pennies from the poor will it take to clothe the bishop in this new finery and for what? A once every five year ad luminia visit? These are the same men who will never know the pain of an extra mouth to feed.

  4. Piping to indicate rank may be the precise point.
    The Roman Curial Church is all about hierarchy and the patron/client culture of the curia is all about deference. One needs to know instantly whether to defer to or lord over. How does a good curia soldier know who to salute if the rank insignia are not clearly displayed.

    It is downright embarrassing to not know that the fat, jolly guy in the black suit is the Cardinal Archbishop of Novum Eboracum.