Every family has at least one — the “How much did that cost?” guy. Maybe it was your Dad, or an uncle who visited on holidays. In either case, there’s a middle-aged guy in the corner watching TV. Years ago, it would have been during the grand wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di. Everyone is enjoying the splendor and beauty of the gala, then this guy pipes in with, “I wonder what that’s costing them?” Or “Who do you think picks up the tab for that?”
You can pretend he hasn’t ruined the fun, but it’s too late. Now you can’t stop thinking about the invoice for the flowers, the clothes, the security, the food… or, maybe last week, the funeral.
That’s when a Cardinal turned me into the “How much?” guy. In a lighthearted moment during a week of somber reflection and mourning, the Cardinal grinned into a news camera and talked at some length about the great treatment the Cardinals get as they stay in Rome to assist with the business following the passing of the Pope. Sayeth the Cardinal: “You don’t have to go out anywhere. Your favorite food, your favorite dessert or cake… they have it all right here.”
The next day, CNN ran an informative piece on the clothing Catholic Church dignitaries wear, especially the fancy dress gear for a Pope’s funeral. While Rome has six clerical outfitters, the Gammarelli shop in Via Santa Chiara tailored robes and vestments for the late Pope during his tenure. The work is, as you would expect, exquisite. According to CNN, Vatican monsignors and visiting Bishops refer to it as “Glamourelli.”
A typical cassock at Gammarelli runs $514, although because the materials for the Pope’s clothing were finer, his threads were more expensive. Another television package on Gammarelli estimated that one funeral outfit alone might cost as much as $20,000.
That’s why page one of Saturday’s LA Times, with a cropped photo with at least 120 members of the College of Cardinals in beautiful red robes, prompted me to daydream about the cost of the clothing alone. Yup, there I was, thinking, “Who picks up the tab for that?”
Can the Vatican afford to put on such a regal ceremony? Having at least the opportunity to accumulate wealth since the time of Caesar, there are those who claim the Vatican has “billions” and that it might be one of the richest entities on earth. Certainly, if one includes holdings like buildings and artwork, they’re not broke. Others claim that the Euro and bad stock investments have, of late, caused the Vatican to suffer deficits.
Since it’s doubtful the Vatican itself will ever allow a public accounting, unless it’s by Arthur Andersen, let’s at least agree that last week all citizens of the global village were able to witness an elegant sequence of ceremonies that featured a lot of, well, nice-looking stuff. Depending on who’s telling it, it was right around A.D. 313, when Constantine recognized the growing forces of Christianity, that the church founded on the teachings of an impoverished carpenter started to vest itself in the raiments of the world, to reflect it’s growing power.
Or as one Cardinal might put it, “We can get our favorite dessert!”
I was raised Methodist and, to be honest, I’m not in an actual church that often. I can tell you that my mother’s United Methodist Church back in Wisconsin just had a huge rummage sale where they exceeded their goal of raising $2000. That would barely cover the cost of a few cassocks. In fact, the money will be used to help build simple houses for the poor in Mexico. The volunteers going there to do the work are not expecting any CNN coverage.
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) Silt from rainfall has created
(a) new surf breaks.
(b) locations for condos.
(c) “Mud Bay Shopping Mall.”
2) Maria Shriver says she does not want
(a) Arnold to run for President.
(b) Arnold to run for Senate.
(c) Arnold to run a can opener.
3) It’s possible Michael Jackson has groped
(a) movie stars.
(b) innocent children.
(c) everything but reality.
1) (a) “Dude, surf in either direction!”
2) (a) “Herr Dude, don’t do it…”
3) (a, b, c) “Dude, uh, dude…?”