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Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: The abandoned Tiara

by Catherine Frakas 14 Jan 2001

The abandoned Tiara QUESTION from Robert Grey on February 13, 2002 Dear Mr. Slavek,
Firstly, I would like to say that I am a Catholic, that I have been a Catholic since the cradle, and that I am faithful to the Church and to its Magisterium. Because of the nature of my question, I want to make it clear that I accept, and hold as true, the definitions of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
My question is about the Papal Tiara. More precisely, it is a question about the abandonment of the Tiara. I have some ideas about that subject, and since I respect this Q&A; site a lot, I would like to hear from you on that matter. I believe that this is the appropriate Forum for this question, but if it is not, please refer this question to the appropriate Forum host.
In liturgy, we have the famous principle: lex orandi (law of praying), lex credendi (law of believing), according to which, the way we pray must conform to our beliefs, to the doctrine of our faith.
In a broader sense, this means that our actions must conform to our faith (lex agendi, lex credendi). This principle applies to the faithful, but it applies also to the sacred Pastors. Indeed, it applies to the whole Church, as a society. We must strive always to make our actions conform to our beliefs. The Pope is not infallible in his actions, but he is infallible in his teaching on faith and morals.
Well, the Papal Tiara is par excellance, the insignia of the Pope. The mitre is not. It is the insignia of all bishops, including the Pope. But the Tiara is the insignia of the Pope. The insignia used only by him who is, on earth, the Vicar of Christ, and the Universal Pastor of the Church of God. The Tiara remains being a symbol of the Supreme Pontiff, even on our days. We can see the Tiara on the Pope's coat of arms, and the coat of arms of the Holy See. The new fundamental law of the Vatican City State, that entered into force on February 22nd, 2001, maintained the old flag and seal of the Vatican City State, with the Papal Tiara above the crossed Keyes of St. Peter.
Indeed, one must recognize that in the Papal Tiara with three crowns, we have an excellent symbol of the Supreme Pontificate: one crown representing the ruling office, other representing the teaching office, and other representing the sanctifying office of the Church. We all affirm that Christ is King, Prophet and Priest, so it is indeed fitting that in the diadem of His Vicar, the Supreme Pontiff, we should see the three crowns. For indeed Christ delegated on St. Peter, and on his successors, the fullness of power and authority (Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven). Also, the Tiara represents the Triumphant, Suffering and Militant Churches, that are indeed one Church, and the role of the Supreme Pontiff as Universal Pastor of the world, Spiritual leader with the supreme ecclesiastial
Now, it seems to me that the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council has said nothing that contradicts the preceding paragraph. Indeed, the Church teaches that to Peter and His successors are the SUPREME Pontiffs, that is to say, the Supreme Bishops. The Pope is not a mere primus inter pares in the Council of Bishops, he is the Head of that college, the deputy in the place of Christ the King. And as such, the Pope reigns over the Church founded by Christ to be the first seed of His Kingdom.
The abandonment of the use of the Tiara seems a negation of the special, unique, and indeed monarchical role of the Pope as Supreme Pontiff. I am not saying that the intention of Pope Paul VI was to deny the role of the Pope as Supreme Pontiff when His Holiness discontinued the use of the Tiara. Also, I am not saying that the Church ever denied the Pope's role as its Universal Pastor. What I am saying is that by abandoning the Tiara, Pope Paul VI made it SEEM AS IF he was abandoning the doctrine according to which the Pope is the Head of the Apostolic College, the deputy in the place of the King. So, the lex agendi distanced itself from the lex credendi. The Pope now only wears the mitre, as if he was a Bishop like the other Bishops.
I have learned that the vestments in the Church, and all the Church's symbols and clerical insignia, are external signs of the inward grace, or are external signs of an office. Thus, we have special vestments for the deacons, for priests and for bishops. We have special vestments for cardinals, for metropolitans, for judges in the Curia, and. for the Pope.
Now, it seems that, even after the Second Vatican Council, the Tiara was still a good symbol for the Pope.
Firstly, because in October 1st, 1975, when Pope Paul VI issued his Constitution Romano Pontifici Eligendo on the vacancy of the Holy See and the election of the Roman Pontiff, he stated, in article 92: Infine il pontefice sarà incoronato dal cardinale protodiacono e, entro un tempo conveniente, prenderà possesso della patriarcale arcibasilica lateranense, secondo il rito prescritto. (The pontiff will be crowned by the cardinal protodeacon.) That Constitution was issued ten years after Vatican II, and remained in force until 1996. Everybody knows that Popes John Paul I and John Paul II decided that not to be crowned. But the general law was still for the Pontiff to be crowned. That law was not changed until 1996. Romano Pontifici Eligendo was indeed a post-conciliar Constitution, issued, as it was, on 1975.
Secondly, because Vatican II stated, in the Constitution Lumen Gentium: This Sacred Council, following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father;(136) and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion.(1*) And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this Sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful. Continuing in that same undertaking, this Council is resolved to declare and procl
Thridly, because it is still today in the Papal Coat of Arms and other crests. And, according to the Vatican Website: (, The Tiara is still today used to crown the bronze image of St. Peter at the Vatican Basilica on June, 29th.
If that is so, and if the Tiara is still a symbol of the Papacy, as proven above, and if it is still used to crown the bronze statue of St. Peter, and is still featured above the Keys of Peter in the Coat of Arms of the Holy See and in that of the present Supreme Pontiff, why is it that it has fallen out of use.
It seems that the Church is ashamed of the Tiara, which is ridiculous. I refer you to a question answered in the Church History Forum under the title The Monarchical Church?.
Now, I want to know your opinion on this subject of the abandonment of the Tiara, because perhaps you can convince me that I am wrong, or that I am overreacting, but it does seem to me that they will do everything for Ecumenism and collegiality, and that they are ashamed of the very true fact that the Pope is not merely a Bishop, but is indeed the holder of that unique office instituted by Christ on Peter, the PRINCE of the Apostles, who was commanded by Christ to feed His sheep, who was thus made the Universal Pastor of the Church. I strongly feel that it is wrong for the Pope not to wear the Tiara, especially in this age of irreverence.
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on March 5, 2002 Dear Mr. Grey,
Well first of all I think it was a good idea to start out my making it clear that we are loyal to the teachings of the church. Too many times small groups break away from the church because of SMALL reasons like this, small that is when compared to the Truth that the Church holds which She will never abandon.
I think that I agree with you saying that I miss the Tiara in the usage you described. But, it is a tradition with a small t, and the Tradition for which it stood (the supremacy of the papacy) isn't going anywhere ever.
For these matters of protocol, I think we can safely leave the decisions in the hands of those who are qualified to make them, (The church fathers, namely) and be confident that they are correct.
I don't see anything wrong with faithful Catholics praying for the return of the Tiara if they so felt to do. I don't do it myself, rather my prayer is simply that the Church makes the right decisions. I am confident that She does.
I welcome you to email me if you desire to discuss this further.
Mr. Slavek
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