Traditional Catholics have been over the moon since Benedict was installed and started reviving ancient aspects of church life, including making it easier for priests to say the Latin Mass (yes, you need permission to do that) and encouraging the wider use of Gregorian chants and Renaissance music for worship, as opposed to contemporary spiritual genres such as jazz or gospel. They see his clothing choices as a powerful symbolic message saying one thing to a contemporary world: The Catholic Church ain't changing -- not on duds, and certainly not on abortion or gay marriage or priestly celibacy.
Noting that Benedict is choosing styles from the decades, even centuries, before Vatican II (the council in the 1960s that sought ways to modernize Catholicism), some reformers express concern about what the pontiff's clothing choices might indicate.
They "worry that this old-fashioned 'character' also comes with an old-style authoritarianism," David Gibson, a biographer of Benedict and well-known Catholic blogger, wrote in a recent essay published by the Religion News Service.
Why the pope is wearing fur and lace is a subject of some sensitivity. In 25 years as head of the Vatican's orthodoxy-enforcing office, Benedict developed a reputation for rigidity, even if that meant damaging the careers of Catholic theologians who challenged conventional thinking.One day last week in his office overlooking St. Peter's piazza, Benedict's top liturgical official played down the gossip, saying Benedict isn't trying to bring the church back into the Dark Ages.
Just a couple of centuries will do.