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Introducing the Not That Christian Column

by ervte

Every week, as I scour the wilderness of contemporary life in search of stories, I come across a few that, while super interesting, I brush aside because it’s just not that Christian.

When I say “not so Christian”, I don’t mean unchristian stories. Nor am I referring to the vast ocean of stories others view as an important Christian issue that seems insignificant.

Christian stories, if you will. I’m talking about stories with a “Christian” angle, but that isn’t related to big things happening in the Christian world, what Christians are doing, or even what Christians care about—The media equates to the lyrics of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. Do you know what I mean?Introducing the Not That Christian Column

Anyway, instead of leaving such utter quality on the floor of my research process, I thought maybe I’d collect them in a weekly column, only to be thrown in the trash now and then on a Friday afternoon when you possibly need a lite read, and I might need a lite to write.

And here we go.

It’s all about a “Catholic aesthetic” at weddings these days, apparently

This week, reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker made headlines when they molded their Portofino wedding with a “Catholic aesthetic.” Kardashian wore a wedding romper with a Virgin Mary veil that matched her new husband’s tattoo from designer Dolce and Gabbana. Barker, who is truly Catholic, was wearing a tuxedo.

Kourtney converted to the Armenian Apostolic Church in 2019, but that didn’t stop the outcry that the couple’s style choices were sacrilegious.

“A little weird that Kourtney’s wedding is such a Catholic’ aesthetic,’ like the Virgin Mary on her dress and her bridal veil???” one person reportedly wrote.

A second added: “I feel like Travis & Kourtney [sic] wedding mocks the catholic religion? They don’t symbolize religious people; it just feels like mockery. I’m not Catholic, but it just doesn’t suit me.”

“I’m just going to say it pointlessly. Kourtney Kardashian’s use of the Holy Mother in her outfit(s) during her wedding weekend was extremely offensive to me as a Catholic…I have every right to be offended by this,” they wrote on Twitter.

Exactly how Catholic the service was is unknown, but this Eternity writer recognizes the future Rev. Chad Veach of LA, and he is certainly not Catholic.

As exciting as that is, the event’s pasta course was the real controversy. Imagine a pile of steaming Italian pasta. Think again.

“The size of the portion of pasta at Kourtney Kardashian’s wedding is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen,” a Twitter user tweeted.

Beer brittle shaken by craft beer hipster competition

America has lost its only Trappist brewery due to the competitive beer market in other not-that-Christian foodie news. That’s right, folks; if you plan on getting a Trappist beer soon, you’re out of luck as the first and only certified Trappist brewery in the US has said it will close, citing a lack of financial viability.

A monk at work in the Spencer Brewery lab. Image: Spencer Brewery Spencer Brewery

“After more than a year of deliberation and reflection, the monks of St Joseph’s Abbey have come to the sad conclusion that brewing is not a viable industry for us and that it is time to close the Spencer Brewery,” Spencer Brewery announced on Facebook on May 14.

“We would like to thank all our customers for their support and encouragement over the years,” added the brewery. “As long as stocks last, our beer is available at our regular points of sale. Please keep us in your prayers.”

The brewery was launched in 2014 to help create a new source of income for the monks of St Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, who lead a life of contemplative prayer.

“All of our activities are designed to support our prayer life,” Spencer Brewery president, Father William Dingwall, told The Boston Globe.

The website reports that the brewery’s peak production was 4,500 barrels, about 60,000 crates. The beers were distributed domestically and in eight countries.

Dingwell said they had been considering closing the brewery for a few years. He said he thought the beer market was “starting to change radically” and that the abbey’s brewery was facing more competition from other craft breweries.

Since the monks were unwilling to open a taproom — a lucrative endeavor for many brewers — because such things presumably didn’t go well with contemplative prayer — the decision to close was easy for the monks.

“Beer was a particularly interesting and engaging activity, but we’re not here for the beer,” Dingwell said.

There’s no place like ho— a plastic bag slipped into a shoebox, lost in the theater department for years.

Returning to not-that-Christian entertainment news, there’s chaos at the Catholic University of America (that’s your weak link, friends) about who owns the iconic blue gingham dress worn by Judy Garland as Kansas Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz.

The dress was supposed to go up for auction on May 24. Still, on May 23, a federal judge May 23 prevented the University of America from selling the 1939 movie costume until its rightful owner could be determined.

This is the context you need:

The dress was discovered in a plastic bag shoebox that had been slid on top of a faculty letterbox in the theater department during a pre-renovation clearance last year.

A note taped to the bag said, “I found this in my office.” the drama department’s teacher and operations coordinator, Matt Ripa found it. He thinks it was there when a retired drama department professor discovered it during a pandemic cleanup and sorting.

(Side note: This has happened in pre-Reno cleanups at Catholic University. In 2010, Bishop David M. O’Connell, then president of the university, found a REMBRANDT etching in a lavatory in his residence.)

Ripa knew immediately what it was. It had long been rumored that the dress was still in college, but he had spent years searching for it in the theater’s archives and filing cabinets before finally giving it up.

The university worked with the Smithsonian to verify its authenticity. Yes, this was the actual dress.

One of the real dresses, to be exact. The Treasure in a Shoebox was one of four blue and white pinafore dresses made for the film and one of only two existing dresses with the original white blouse. This is believed to have been worn when Dorothy faces the evil witch in her castle.

The other well-known version of the blue and white dress was auctioned in 2012 for $480,000 and resold in 2015 for $1.6 million. In 2014, the Cowardly Lion costume worn by Bert Lahr sold for over $3 million.

Vader Hartke shows off the iconic costume in a photo for the university newspaper, The Tower.

Preliminary evaluations of the dress estimate its value between $800,000 and $1.2 million by an international auction house hosting a “Bonhams Classic Hollywood: Film and Television” sale in Los Angeles.

And in April of this year (2022), the Catholic University announced that it planned to auction the dress.

“We love the dress, but it has never been widely shown or shared in the last 50 years, and we hope it will be now,” said Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, dean of the school for music, drama, and arts. The money would set up a new film acting program and a faculty president.

A few weeks later, 81-year-old Barbara Ann Hartke filed a lawsuit claiming she was the rightful owner of the dress, not the university.

Barbara is the niece of Dominican Father Gilbert Hartke, the playwright and director who started the university’s theater department in 1937.

Father Hartke was an interesting man. He was involved in Washington theater efforts and civil rights advocacy and was friends with American presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. Hartke was even one of two priests called to reside with President John F. Kennedy’s body in the White House for his funeral.

Both parties agree that Hartke received the dress in 1973 from actress Mercedes McCambridge, an artist-in-residence at the university that year. It even made it to the university newspaper, The Tower.

But Barbara Hartke claims that McCambridge gave the dress “specifically and in public” to her uncle, not to college, as a thank you for “his guidance and support” during her fight against alcohol and substance abuse.

Barbara claims it was a personal gift to her uncle, even though no one knows where he has been since he died in 1986.

She says the university “has no ownership interest in the dress, as … there is no documentation showing that the deceased ever formally or informally donated the dress to Catholic University,” and it is, therefore, part of his estate. And, as her uncle’s closest relative, the dress is hers.

In their indictment of the lawsuit, Catholic University lawyers said the dress could not be considered part of the priest’s estate because he took priestly vows “never to accept gifts in his capacity”. They say they have “overwhelming evidence” and look forward to presenting it in their case.

Maria Mazzenga, the curator of the university’s American Catholic History Collections, was not surprised that a famous actress would have given such an adorable costume to the priest. She said the priest had a flair for the unique and owned a silk jacket from India, a six-foot aviator scarf, and a Russian fur hat.

“People gave him clothes because they knew he would like them,” she told Catholic News Service.

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