Some folks are huffing and puffing about Cardinal Dolan and gay-agenda activist Fr James Martin attending the tacky Met Gala Heavenly Bodies shindig.

They’re offended that a Cardinal of the church and a celebrity priest should be there among the trashy glitterati of New York society. Charges of sacrilege and blasphemy have been thrown about, and the presence of Cardinal Dolan and Fr James Martin SJ seem to add insult to injury.

Are these complaints just some further grumblings from the thin skinned, traddy Pharisees of the church?

We should listen to the voices of criticism. I had a few choice words about the event myself yesterday at my Patheos blog. Interestingly though, I had some emails attacking me for not being negative enough.

On the other side of the argument, one has to be reminded that Jesus went to parties with notorious sinners, cheats, frauds, prostitutes, gluttons and drunkards. Furthermore, it was the uptight religious people who looked down their nose at Jesus for doing so. They castigated him for mixing with the low life.

Maybe Cardinal Dolan and Fr Martin are just paying attention to the old bumper sticker, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Yes, perhaps, and that argument is pretty strong.

Certainly we should get out of our religious fortresses and get out among the people as Pope Francis encourages us to do. Certainly we must be present to those who are away from the church or who have no belief at all. There is therefore, nothing wrong with being a presence at worldly gatherings, and it is good that Cardinal Dolan and Fr Martin turned up in their clerical gear making it clear who they were and who they represented. In fact, if he was going as a Cardinal, I was disappointed that he didn’t really get into the spirit of the event and turn up in the full cappa magna, miter, crozier, gloves and rings, train bearers in knee breeches, powdered wigs, ruff collars and buckled shoes–the whole cardinalate clobber.

Joking aside, the fact that the clergy were welcomed as a positive presence is also a good thing.

So I have no axe to grind about clergymen appearing at secular and even worldly events if they are there to bear a witness.

However, there are some problems with this particular event. Given the present climate, it was easy to assume that the event was a mockery of the faith. While most of the outfits were relatively modest and uncontroversial, there were others that were not. The one gal who dressed as a mini-skirted mini pope complete with be jeweled miter was, let’s face it, at least trashy and at worst sacrilegious. She wasn’t just mocking clerical outfits. She was mocking the faith. I am also told that in the display in the gallery the clerical vestments are mixed with modern ecclesiastical-styled fashion items, including a leather bondage helmet used in sado masochistic kinky sex games. Does that mean the Cardinal and Fr Martin approve of such things? Of course not–no more than your Netflix subscription means you approve of every program on offer.

Was the event intentionally blasphemous or scandalous? Probably not. Offense was more likely to be done out of ignorance or stupidity or both. As I wrote in yesterday’s blog post at Patheos, the most offensive thing about the event was the sense in which it illustrated the overblown egotism, vulgarity and vanity of celebrity culture in America. Gold plated chicken wings…

If you feel disgusted and annoyed by the event, that’s understandable.

If you want to be open minded and read the other point of view, there is an interesting defense of the event and Cardinal Dolan’s positive reflections on the evening here at CRUX Now.

Finally, one should put such things into perspective. It may have been glitzy and trashy and vulgar. It may have illustrated the shallow, culture in which we live and pushed the envelope in disrespect to Catholics, but that IS where we are and maybe that is the event’s best value: it showed us what many Americans value.

So the question remains…

Would Jesus have gone to the Met Gala?

I’ll let you answer that question.