Jan 292008

Papist has exclusive photographs of the pulpit, lectern, and chair that were chosen to be used for Pope Benedict’s U.S. visit in DC. Below is the winning design.

Chair pope visit US

Makes me wonder how bad the losing designs were? I could try to describe what my first impression was of the Pope’s chair and the image that came to mind, but I think it is better to show you what came to mind.

Chair pope visit US_Kirk

The chair immediately reminds me of what I think would be the perfect chair if Captain James T. Kirk was elected Pope. Surely he would feel right at home in such a chair. I have commented on Kirk chairs used as celebrants chairs in the past, though this is the first Papal Kirk chair I have noticed. Maybe IKEA is now designing liturgical furniture?

Now the design is not exactly ugly, but beauty does not come to my mind when I look at this rather cold and stark set. The designs on the pulpit and lectern are kind of interesting, but incongruent and they bring nothing to mind of the Church. They could easily be used in any non-liturgical setting without looking out of place in for example an auditorium.

It does make me wonder about Captain Kirk as Pope on the U.S.S. Vatican. Currently though we do have theologians who have gone where no theologians have gone before
In fact I think many bishops have a Prime Directive towards theologians in their diocese – that is a non-interference policy – I guess in hope that one day they might develop intelligent life.

I would like to see a Star Trek movie
developed along Kirk as Pope lines – surely if the Enterprise could
visit one planet with Cowboys and another with Gangsters, and so surely there is a parallel world that is explicitly Catholic.

How about “The Wrath of Kung”?

Pope Kirk: Kung is denying my Papal authority again! We must return to Switzerland. Scotty give me warp factor nine and your opinion on Kung’s latest treatise.

Cardinal Scotty: Captain, I am engineer not a theologian!

  32 Responses to “Pope Kirk I”

  1. One thing that should be remembered in evaluating the liturgical appointments for such events is that there are certain criteria mandated by the Vatican security authorities. For instance, the chair must be several feet tall and at least 5 inches thick. The altar also has to meet several criteria. These are all security measures that were implemented after Pope Paul VI was attacked in Manila.

  2. Typical 70’s-Protestant-Spirit of Vatican II style.

    Or better yet, 20th century Hans Kung style.


  3. Careful, this may degenerate into a discussion of whether Kirk or Picard would make a better pope!

  4. Totally Picard. What a silly question. A better question is whether Presbyterians or Methodists would do more sinning in the Holodeck.

  5. Kirk is to Benedict as Picard is to Paul VI

  6. infinitely clever, jeff. Great. Pope Kirk would be firing all phasers at the Jesuits.

  7. High-laire. Looks like the perfect Star Trek set indeed. The designs at the base of the lecturns are very “final frontier”-ish.

  8. And now to design the velour vestments…

    (And I can understand the security concerns that are factored into the design, but the chair looks like it was designed to discourage loitering.)

  9. Too too funny.

    As to who would make a better Pope? Call-to-Action would say Janeway.

  10. Here in metro Detroit there is a Presbyterian Church called “Kirk in the Hills”.


    I checked – no “Spock in the Valley”.

    Oh – and referring to the “Wrath of Kung”? Their differences were obviously theological – they fought over the best way to interpret Genesis.

  11. Maybe the design will look better when used (I’m thinking of scale), but I doubt it…just odd stuff. Love the Kirk jokes.

  12. You jest, but let’s not forget that Capt. Christopher Pike was Jesus in King of Kings (of course, that was before all Capt. Pike could do was beep and flash a red light).

    Besides, what kind of chair do you think the Space Pope, Crocodylus I, would sit in?

  13. What comes after the Wrath of Kung?
    The Search for the Tridentine Rite,
    The Journey to Rome
    The Undiscovered Liturgy

    I would hope that Pope Kirk would obey the rules on priestly celibacy. Though I think I would pay money to hear someone broadcast on all subspace channels “Kung, I’m laughing at your superior intellect”.

  14. Is getting your jollies and appearing witty really worth offending the young people who designed it? If the Vatican has no problem with it, who are you? I don’t recall any press releases mentioning the appointment of the blogosphere as arbiter elegantiarum.

  15. Yesterday in the newspaper article about the design, the designers were said to have been inspired to do the arcs by the arches at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. I just don’t see it. I’ve been there and I just don’t see it.

    I don’t think these are as awful as some here seem to think, though. Remember they have less than three months to construct everything, it has to be portable and easy to set up and take down, and is only going to be used once.

  16. “Is getting your jollies and appearing witty really worth offending the young people who designed it? If the Vatican has no problem with it, who are you? I don’t recall any press releases mentioning the appointment of the blogosphere as arbiter elegantiarum.”

    I don’t recall reading any insults or offensive comments about the people who designed the papal lectern et al. Jeff was comparing the look of the chair to a Star Trek set. He’s entitled to his opinion that it’s a “rather cold and stark set”. There’s nothing Magesterial about the selection of the winning design. Personally, I like it, but that’s just me. Not going to stop me from making a couple good-natured comments about it though, or the “Pope Kirk” idea (which really has nothing to do with the designs per se).

    Don’t read more into these comments than is intended – if this blog’s style isn’t to your liking, you’re entitled to your opinion. Just as everyone else is regarding the designs.

  17. There is a vast difference between saying something looks like a Star Trek set and saying it looks offensive.

    And I do recall seeing worse sets. The Vatican pretty much accepts what is given on the local level, without complaint. The Holy Father, if he does not like something, will just offer it up. He’s that kind of guy.

  18. I linked, but the trackback thing didn’t work.


  19. I assume Father Pavel will again be in charge of bringing the Liturgical “Wessels” for the Mass?

  20. *applaudes all present*

    But seriously what about Sisko? But if your choice was between the two, Picard would make a waaaay better Pope than Kirk.
    I can see his take on reforms now:
    “I will not sacrifice the Church. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire countries and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!”

    As for Catholics in Star Trek: I can only refer you to the end of episode 43 of the Original Star Trek: http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Bread_and_Circuses

  21. Maybe IKEA is now designing liturgical furniture?

    After visiting my brother’s parish, I would be inclined to think so. The altar and ambo have a distinctly minimalist butcher-block look to them. You have to use a magnifying glass to find the Stations of the Cross, and when I asked my brother where the Tabernacle was, he pointed down a side hall. If I were Pope Kirk, I’d order a full spread of phasers and photon torpedoes on the place and start over.

  22. Dear Jeff,

    Thomas at American Papist also included an explanation the students wrote for these pieces. I believe you have done a disservice by not mentioning them.

  23. I don’t know…to quote The Final Frontier, “I miss my old chair…”

  24. While I enjoy the Star Trek humor, the chair does remind of of the “papal chair” sitting in the Basilica in Newark. The chair used for John Paul II when he said Mass at Giants stadium is quite similar. Yes, one could argue that there is time to build a nicer chair, to have it all ready on time means having a simple chair, and maybe they can cut a bit off the top.

  25. “Is getting your jollies and appearing witty really worth offending the young people who designed it?”


  26. Sorry, this design is just unimpressive and lacks the dignity of the Mass.

    The American Church needs to get with the times. The fads of the ’60’s and ’70’s are over. Let’s get back up to date. Tradition is “in” … and always will be.

  27. Does anyone remember the “chair” used by Pope John Paul II in 1999 in St. Louis? I see this every week at the Cathedral Basilica, sitting in the All Saints Chapel (designed by Tiffany, no less), and your post reminded me of just how plain and kind of odd it looks there. I’ll have to take a picture this weekend and upload it.

  28. Would the chair come with that button which jettisons parishoners from the observation pod? Would Kirk have to face a court ecclesial when records suggested he used it before rather during ringing of the consecration bells?

  29. Catholic University, while being a very good orthodox Catholic school, setting it apart from Georgetown, does not have a particularly good architecture school. From what I hear, they are run by mediocre architects at best, and at worst antithetical to any sense of traditional or classical.

    I only wish the Pope had decided to come to visit us here at Notre Dame. I am sure that our students here could have designed something really wonderful, something that would be preserved for generations just based on its intrinsic beauty, not simply just because is was an altar that the Pontiff celebrated mass.

  30. The image of Kirk must have been reversed. The emblem on his shirt is on the wrong side.

  31. Well, I must say that with this post your blog has SO lived up to its main role in my life: the best treatment for depression I have ever experienced (I just gotta skip over the ‘progressive’ stuff).

    Thank you. I am still in tears (from laughing).

    So, at the end of mass, Father now says “Mass is ended. Let’s get the hell out of here.” (City on the Edge of Forever)

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