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by Marielena Montesino de Stuart
for TheRomanCatholicWorld.com

Who controls the environment around Benedict XVI?

Part of the environment surrounding the Holy Father is cause for concern.

The recent performance of the Pellegrini Brothers at the Holy See (featured in a video below) — also referred to as the “Pellegrini Affair”– is an example of such a concern.  And as is well known in these situations, the word “affair”carries negative connotations.

Legitimate questions are being asked as to who has access to the pope, and who has influence over certain decisions at the Holy See, which continue to create controversy.   Sometimes these decisions lead to actions contrary to Church teachings, and contrary to the atmosphere of reverence expected at the Vatican.

But most important, will the Holy Father publicly acknowledge these wrongful acts and correct them?

At a time when the Catholic Church is surrounded by scandals involving sexual abuse, it would seem appropriate that the Holy See make every effort to enforce reverence.   Even some of the stories being printed by L’Osservatore Romano (a newspaper at the service of the thinking of the pope“– overseen by his right hand man, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, the Secretary of State) have raised more than a few eyebrows, because of their absurd nature.

If the newspaper’s description is correct– then, the pope has been thinking about Ringo Starr, Michael Jackson, Homer Simpson and some pretty eclectic stuff.  That’s hard to believe, considering the challenges that Benedict XVI faces as the head of 1.1 billion Catholics.

But there’s more being added to the eclectic mix.

Now, it looks like Vatican dress formalities are being tossed out in the name of “artistic expression”– as in the case of the Pellegrini Brothers.

But first let’s examine the attire required when visiting the Vatican,  as well as artistic expression– since these are factors involved in the Pellegrini scandal.

Vatican protocol

“The throne of Peter”,  “The Vicar of Christ”– are some of the words that we utter when we think of the Holy See.  The Vatican is a solemn environment commanding the most formal protocol, in manners and in dress.

Case in point:  Catholic News Service (the official news service of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) printed a story on July 17, 2009 outlining Vatican protocol as relates to attire:


Journalists not abiding by the dress code outlined by the Vatican press office or the Pontifical Council for Social Communications will be barred from entering the papal palace.

One sound engineer for a major U.S. news outlet got bounced at the door when he showed up without a jacket for the pool covering U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit.

His producer, who was dressed in the required dark suit and tie, had to fill in and was saddled with the soundman’s heavy recorder, battery packs and boom mike, which he then had to carry and operate while still trying to write up his own news report. The show must go on.

Pilgrims to the Vatican may have their own stories of disappointment or near misses to tell. On sweltering summer days in Rome, scores of visitors are turned away from St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museums because they’re not dressed decently.

Transparent clothing, halter and tank tops, spaghetti-straps, and shorts or skirts that don’t reach the knees are strictly forbidden.

Slap-dash adjustments are accepted; for example, a shawl or sweater can be draped in such a way that it covers bare knees or shoulders. One tourist was begrudgingly allowed in the basilica after using her spaghetti straps to secure two paper tissues over her bare shoulders.

A museum employee told CNS that dressing decently is a common courtesy; one is after all a guest in “a place deserving respect” when visiting the museums or a pilgrim in a place of worship when visiting the basilica.

Clothes do indeed make the woman and the man, and they can also make or break a visit to the Vatican.

Artistic Expression in the Vatican… “the breath of the Sacred”

The Vatican has a 2000-year history of collecting and archiving some of the most sublime creative expressions ever known to man.  All carefully preserved in the Vatican Museums– including the Pinacoteca, created under Pius XI (1922-1932) in a special building near the new entrance to the Museums.  All  for the glory of God.

Antonio Paolucci, Director of the Vatican Museums, offers the following introduction to visitors:

…you are entering into one of the most important sites for the history of human civilization. Here, in the Museums of the Popes of Rome, built-up and enriched over five centuries, you will resonate with the rich buzzing of great history and, almost, the breath of the Sacred. On entering into the Vatican Museums you will be immersed in the glory of Art and of Culture put in the service of Faith.
The greatest artists of all time will welcome you: Raphael in the Stanze, Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, Giotto, Leonardo, and Caravaggio in the Pinacoteca, Van Gogh, Matisse and Moore in the area dedicated to modern religious art. You will encounter, through the Laocoön Group and the Apollo Belvedere, the greatest masterpieces of Classical Antiquity. You will encounter centuries and millennia as you enter the Etruscan and Egyptian Museums, along with non-European civilizations in the Ethnographic Missionary Museum.

Le Moulin Rouge at The Holy See

For Roman Catholics, and non-Catholics alike, the Vatican has always been a holy place.   A different place.  A place unlike Le Moulin Rouge.

The recent performance of the Pellegrini Brothers challenges the notion of Vatican formality, as a sacred space– and has opened the door to legitimate scrutiny and speculation— because of the dissonance of this decadent performance in a holy environment.  As such, it is hard to understand how the following display could have taken place in front of Benedict XVI:

Marielena Montesino de Stuart

Read about L’Osservatore Romano here and  here.

You may read Marielena Montesino de Stuart’s observations and opinions through:

RenewAmerica, USAToday, U.S. Politics Today (EIN News Service for Political Professionals) Poynter Online, Spero News, The New Liturgical Movement-Poland, The Naples Daily News, Les Femmes-The Truth, Culture War Notes,  ProLife Blogs, The Wanderer, etc.

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