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Red hat, red face, red card
The so-called experts got it wrong yet again on the subject of Ireland's new cardinal receiving "the red hat"
Eamonn McCann, 15 Mar 2001
Here's a mystery I take my hat off to. Or rather, Cardinal Desmond Connell's hat... But really, it's hats off to Pope Paul VI!
Or, David Quinn gets it wrong again.
Yes. Quinn, the editor of the Irish Catholic is both oin error and in the bad company of the Indo, Times, Examiner, Today FM and RTE .
But not hotpress. We take Catholicism seriously. Rather in the way that lovers of football take Manchester United seriously. The ancient principle tells us: Know Thine Enemy.
Archbishop Desmond Connell of Dublin went to Rome last month and, according to the Irish Catholic, Times, Indo, etc. "received the red hat".
No, he didn't. He was made a cardinal. But cardinals don't receive red hats. Not any more.
The galero, the unfeasibly wide-brimmed hat the colour of Scarlet O'Hara's petticoat which has been traditionally associated with cardinals, was abolished by Pope Paul VI in a maelstrom of modernisation in the summer of '69. I'd have thought that the editor of the Irish Catholic would have known that. But then, I suppose, in these days of al la carte Catholicism, ignorance is no impediment to advancement in Catholic Church affairs.
The prelates who joined the College of Cardinals last month received only, as headgear, a neat little red skullcap and a cool biretta.
Paul also did away with the sapphire-encrusted gold rings which once were presented to all new princes of the church. Connell and the other new cardinals had to make do with a simple band of frugal gold.
Nor were they able, Zorro-like, to swirl their red tabarros behind them as they processed towards their appointment with, or by, the Almighty. The fabulous silk-lined cloak was yet another item of liturgical extravagance consigned by Paul to the musty attic of prelatical memory.
Paul's document - essentially, setting out the sartorial correlates of the Vatican II reform programme then under way - likewise declared that red shoes and silver buckles were OUT, black brogues with ordinary laces IN. Red socks, though, survived - just. Under the heading of "Hosiery", the 1969 guide merely abjured the wearing of red socks with a black cassock. (This may have been no more than a fashion statement.)
All in all, anyone who travelled to Rome hoping to see the ecclesiastical equivalent of a Mardi Gras parade will have been sorely disappointed. I earnestly hope, though, that they will not have cursed poor Paul for his ascetic innovation. The disembellishment of the prelature had begun as far back as the early 1950s, when Pius XII ordered cardinals to cut their cloth to suit the changing times. Hitherto, on ceremonial occasions, each cardinal had been accompanied by two footmen treading softly behind in a sussuration of silk holding the corners of a three-metre expanse of shining fabric. Parsimonious Pius laid down a maximum of one and a half metres.
Their plummage cruelly clipped, cardinals were never the same again.
But it's the passing of the red hat which has most clearly symbolised the drift to dreariness.
One saddening aspect of the matter is that it's impossible now to tell how long cardinals burn. For centuries, each cardinal's galero was hung from the rafters of his cathedral at his death, where it would remain until he was let out of purgatory. The hat would fall to earth as its owner ascended into heaven.
In New York a couple of years back I nipped incognito into St. Patrick's to check that Cardinal Spellman's galero was still dangling. Spellman, sixties people will recall, once preached that US soldiers headed for Vietnam to kill Asians were "doing God's work". The hat was still there. And while I am no expert, the ribbon attaching it to the roof looked good to me for another hundred years.
Some church historians have claimed that the galero was instituted by Innocent IV in 1250 or thereabouts and that the colour represented the willingness of cardinals to shed their blood in defence of the faith. Anybody who has studied the Vatican shenanigans of the mid-thirteenth century will know that that's a likely story. True enough, the cardinals of the period were great men for shedding blood, but, like Spellman, not their own.
No. The red is the red of the Roman Senate, whose leading members signified their status by donning red-trimmed robes. Down through the centuries when the Vatican was the centre of temporal as well as spiritual power in Europe, the cardinals operated as senators, or "Princes of the Church", and garbed themselves appropriately.
In this, as in so much else, the beliefs and traditions of the Catholic Church, as of all Christian churches, are rooted in the material interests of the ruling elite. It's when material interests change that hallowed tradition and huge-brimmed hats are tossed into the rubbish heap of history.
Here's a mystery. The traditional musician and song-writer Sean Corcoran was passing through Tokyo airport one day a while back when he noticed a most intriguing double-CD on a rack in the airport's record store - Lord Of The Dance and Riverdance (and other famous Irish music and dance). Not the most imaginative of titles, perhaps, but well-aimed to attract the custom of people who know nothing of Irish music but 'Lord Of The Dance', 'Riverdance' and other famous Irish tunes like 'Danny Boy'. So he picked it up and turned it over, read the credits and shelled out the yen.
He had discovered, to his astonishment, that almost half the tracks on the album comprised songs from another album Crooked Stair, by his own band, Crann. Not cover versions, but the actual original tracks.
All of them. All 14 songs on Crooked Stair were included among the total of 35 tracks on Lord Of The Dance, Riverdance... Neither Sean nor Crann were credited on the inlay card.
The play list was constructed along the principle of interspersing numbers from Crooked Stair with Riverdance - or 'Lord Of The Dance'-style numbers sung by a choir of Dublin singers.
Sean was mightily perplexed as to how it had come about that his band's album has been, in effect, re-released in an unusual format, seemingly for the Japanese market.
But not only, as it turned out, the Japanese market. Some time later, passing through Amsterdam airport, Sean spotted the self-same CD on sale. And then again in a record store in a small Dutch town. He has never received royalties in respect of these sales of his music.
I ask myself the same question as Sean: How could it have happened that mainstream outlets in well-regulated countries like Japan and the Netherlands carry music from a well-regulated country like Ireland without the person who made the music being aware that this was happening or receiving any credit or other recognition of the fact.
The officers of the Irish Music Rights Organisation and the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society will, obviously, feel outraged that such a situation could have arisen. I shall endeavour to keep readers abreast of developments as IMRO and MCPS move to bring this shocking abusive situation to an end and to secure the rights and entitlements of the Irish musicians and writers whom these the organisations exist to defend.
Watch this space.