NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - The archbishop of New York was "honored" to support a fashion exhibit that mocked Catholic beauty and the sacred, sponsored by million-dollar diocesan donors.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute's spring exhibit, "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination," attempted to show the influence religion and liturgical vestments have on fashion. The exhibit borrowed pieces from the Vatican and the archives of several fashion design houses, including Versace, Dior, Chanel and Balenciaga.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan spoke at the opening of the exhibit on Monday. He posted his comments on his blog, saying "he was honored to be here" and explained the Church is there "because the Church and 'the Catholic Imagination' are all about truth, goodness and beauty." He said that God's beauty and truth are reflected "even in fashion."
Dolan singled out for praise Steven and Christine Schwarzman, billionaires who have donated millions to the archdiocese, Catholic education and Catholic Charities. In 2015, they gave a record-setting $40 million to the archdiocese for the "Kids are Our Capital" endowment campaign. Days later, the couple got the honor to welcome Pope France to a school in East Harlem.
The Schwarzmans donated around $5 million to sponsor the Met Gala. Additional support for the exhibit was provided by Condé Nast, publisher of Teen Vogue, lambasted for pushing anal sex tutorials to 13-year-olds.
Forbes has estimated that Mr. Schwarzman's net worth is over $12 billion, and the New York Times reports that his charitable contributions can ignite controversy.
"This is partly because the gifts often come with conditions," it says.
Christine Schwarzman is Catholic, and not long after she married Steven — second marriages for them both — the couple began entertaining the late archbishop of New York, Cdl. Edward Egan. Steven Schwarzman "happily gave financial advice for Cdl. Egan to take back to the archdiocese."
Cardinal Dolan attended the Met Gala, the fundraiser for the museum and an event that often pushes the boundaries of fashion and decency, as outfits from past events are often skimpy and inappropriate. This year's theme was taken from the Heavenly Bodies exhibit and celebrities attending took their cues from the exhibit, profaning sacred symbolism with immodest outfits meant to emphasize sensuality.
While many of the exhibits were not offensive, some crossed the line, e.g., priestly cassocks made into women's dresses and a leather S&M bondage mask adorned with Rosary beads.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit's curator, Andrew Bolton, explained his vision in a blog post, saying "garments will reference the hierarchies and gendered distinctions of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the cult of the Virgin Mary."
He said "dress is fundamental to any discussion about religion" and went on to mention that most of the designers featured in "Heavenly Bodies" were raised as Roman Catholics but "many of them no longer practice Catholicism." He said their use of Christian symbolism reflects the influence of their Catholic sensibilities, noting that the observations Fr. Andrew Greeley made in his book The Catholic Imagination "reverberate throughout the exhibition's themes."
Greeley speculates in his book that "there is a propensity among Catholics to take the objects and events and persons of ordinary life as hints of what God is like," making the case that in certain erotically charged art shows, "human arousal is a hint of divine arousal."
Bolton consulted with homosexualist Jesuit priest, Fr. James Martin, during the creation of the exhibit. In an interview with WWD, Martin praised Bolton's Jesuit education and his knowledge of theology, saying "sometimes it's like speaking to a theologian."
"I would suspect that most people who are going to a show like this are pretty sophisticated and already understand the place of the Church in art history," Martin said.