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Move over, Aretha. Justice Scalia takes center stage!

If singing legend Aretha Franklin took the prize for the most outre' hat at the 2009 inaugural, Justice Antonin Scalia outdid her this time around by dressing as St. Thomas More from the famous Holbein painting.Initially, speculation was rampant on the Internet as to what the hat was. Matthew Schmitz at First Things cleared that up by noting that the not-so-snappy brim was a gift to Scalia from the St. Thomas More Society of Richmond, Virginia after their annual Red Mass and dinner in 2010.What remains unclear is whether Scalia was taking his More shtick seriously, or whether his conservative followers will. Because, ya know, Scalia is in immediate danger of being executed by the monarch who took the oath of office yesterday after he was democratically-elected by U.S. Catholics and lots of others.Ah, the joys of being a martyr who is in no danger. Doesn't get any better than that.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Most likely, we are suppose to be reassured by grumpy old men like Scalia where clown hats. It's good to reflect that Scalia takes cues even for his fashion from the 15th century.

Far out! I noticed that hat. I wondered if it was one of those little black caps English judges put on their heads when they sentenced someone to death, maybe as a subtle statement for the literati and lawyerati.

David:Hasn't the biretta been worn by males in various professions for centuries? (My favorite lawyer is wearing a similar one in a graduation picture on my desk.)Priests wear them. Judges wear them. Etc.(Scalia's hat was not as bad as the long prayer about the "golden dome" or the singing by James Taylor or the "poem" by that other guy.)A beautiful day, not marred by a hat. Thank God it was Barack Obama being inaugurated. (The justices he will appoint to the Supreme Court will have better things on and in their heads than the Opus Dei trio.)

Irony of ironies! Scalia is the author of Employment Division vs. Smith, one of the most anti-religious libery decisions written by the Court! It said that if it is a "neutral law of general applicability," then tough, you don't get a religious exemption. What kind of hat did Richard Rich wear?

Gerelyn, yes, the biretta style (as I recall) migrated from medieval law universities to the college of cardinals, and there was much swapping of fashions among cleric and monarchs and scholars. But Scalia's was specifically a Thomas More/Holbein replica.

The hat looks like a poor match for the one in the Holbein. It kind of looks like they took a random tam and called it Moore's, sort of like how like one-armed Herman on the Simpsons would take a fez and sell it as Napoleon's.

There was a mistake on the great Boardwalk Empire, one of the very few I've noticed. The priests in one scene were wearing birettas when they should not have been. Why don't shows about Catholics get a Catholic to watch for errors? E.g., on Blue Bloods, they say grace wrong: "Bless us, O Lord, FOR these Thy gifts." And the kids say the Protestant night prayer, "Now I lay me." And the adults referred to a priest as "the father." Etc.

Whatever the intended meaning, he looks silly.

Gerelyn:Re your comment: "the poem by that other guy."I assume that you are referring to Richard Blancos verbal masterpiece of poetry (in my very humble opinion), One Today with his moving words, e.g., about his mother who would ring up groceries, for twenty years, so I could write this poem, for all of us, today.or about the massacre at Newton CTAll of us as vital as the one light we move through,the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,the I have a dream we keep dreaming,or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that wont explainthe empty desks of 20 children marked absenttoday, and foreverMaybe, you do not appreciate this poem and prefer other kinds or poetic expression. (Some people, sad to say, do not like poetry at all.)In addition, I think that his delivery matched his words perfectly to be able to say such emotion packed words in a dispassionate way is a gift. He allowed the words to speak for themselves without the distraction of any personal external emotion.I suggest that you hear it again on YouTube or better, read the words yourself.

Am I the only one who thought of Rerun on What's Happening!!

Scalia may have looked goofy, but as I watched suit after suit of dark or navy blue I thought how little imagination we have with men's clothing. What about some color coding for red and states and blue? Or Dems and GOP -- with a little green for iIndependents? How bout wearinga suit for your favorite uiniversity or team? At least there'd be something to gtalk about! And I didn't even get to Rainbows!!!! I'd rather see Karzai at a jerga or Native Americans/Aboriginals who bring some individuality and color to their gatherings!

He's not Sir Thomas More. He's the Mad Hatter, stuck in one particular time.

God bless Justice Scalia, a worthy son of St. Thomas More.

I agree with Thorin.

2010? I'm pretty sure he wore it to the 2009 inauguration as well, because I remember seeing it before yesterday and thinking it looked medieval. Perhaps he's worn it to a State of the Union address or two, and THAT's where I saw it before.As much in love with the Founding Fathers (or his personal conception of the Founders) as Scalia is, I'm surprised he doesn't wear a powdered wig.

On "Tough Tony" Scalia, we can call his hat more the BERETTA style, dontcha think?It matches his judicial temperament.

Scalia probably checked the weather forecast, knew that President Obama and a few other hardy souls would be out there bareheaded in the cold, and decided he wanted to be More warm.

Thomas Cromwell had a hat like that, too.

Any chance you could edit the bottom image by doing a symmetry so that St. Thomas More looks towards the left?

"God bless Justice Scalia, a worthy son of St. Thomas More." Well, I suppose St. Thomas did like torturing and executing people!

Well, Justice Breyer was also wearing a cap of somewhat similar cut but smaller, and less conspicuous. Like John Prior above, I wondered whether both Scalia and Breyer might have been concerned about the cold. Some of the seniors present (for example the Carters) certainly looked chilled.

Jim McC. -- Ouch! :-)

He looked less like More and more like Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey. Or as King Henry (Robert Shaw) said when he stepped in the mud, "Ha haha haha haha."

I don't think More "enjoyed" torturing and executing people. But in a day when religious dissent was inextricably bound up with political dissent (and therefore subversion), dealing with heretics was part of his job description as Lord Chancellor. He was (I'm told) responsible for six executions of this kind, a number that pales, of course, next to the hundreds done away with in the reigns of both Bloody Mary and Good Queen Bess. And More's own boss, Henry VIII, didn't do so badly either, even with those who never had the misfortune to be his brides.Did anyone see the wonderful Joyce di Donato as Maria Stuarda in the Met broadcast last Saturday? Quite apart from questions of historical accuracy, the Schiller/Donizetti version offers something of a counterpoint to old fashioned versions of English history (or Whig history, as it's called).

Historian Jasper Ridley has called More "a particularly nasty sadomasochistic piece of work." There is evidence that he enjoyed seeing his victims suffer. The phrase is in early English and hard to understand, but I am told it is jocular. It was Pope Innocent III, the instigator of two crusades, that said that heresy was equivalent to treason. Circa 1530 More had a law passed which required the whipping of beggars until they were bloody if they dared to beg in a parish not their own. He frequently publicly insulted his second wife. Comparing More to a monarch is like comparing apples to oranges.According to the website Selected Death Tolls, Henry VIII (1509-47) had 308 executed as traitors between 1532 and 1540 according to historian Lacey Baldwin Smith. Professor Rudolph Rummel says Henry executed a total of 560 people per year, which must include executions for the crimes of theft and murder. Baldwin Smith says Bloody Mary executed 132 traitors and Prof. Morgan says that 277 Prostestants were executed after Feb. 1555. That totals 409.The Catholic Encyclopedia says that Good Queen Bess is responsible for the deaths of 221 Catholics. In any case if More has been made a saint for being judicially murdered for a cause pleasing to the Vatican, then his six victims should also get a special mention for being for being judicially murdered at his request. It seems to me that he got back what he dished out. More was also known for having his thugs break into houses looking for heretical books and for book burning.I thought that Whig History was the study of the progress of Liberalism which results in democratic and constitutional forms of government. The belief is that man is good and will progress toward liberty and enlightenment. What has this to do with Mary Stuart, a truly tragic figure in English history?

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