by David Gibson
Before this year, when Pope Benedict XVI became best-known for his questionable record in dealing with the sexual abuse of children by priests, the pontiff often made headlines for his fastidious attention to high-end clerical fashion.
Soon after his election in 2005, for example, Benedict rummaged through the papal attic for ornate gold vestments last worn during the Renaissance, and he resurrected a 19th-century liturgical cape so wide is must be held up by two attendants. Benedict has taken to wearing ermine-trimmed capes and hats, as well — to the chagrin of animal rights activists — and he even commissioned a set of 30 new vestments modeled on those worn by the notorious Medici pope, Leo X, who at his election famously declared, “Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us.”
The pope’s daily attire has also drawn notice, from his sunglasses — rumored to be Serengetis by Bushnell — to his fancy red leather shoes, which were originally thought to be Prada but turned out to be custom made by a shop in northern Italy.
Now a lay woman who has been a leader in efforts to clean up Catholicism’s sex abuse scandal wants to link these two issues — sex abuse and papal fashion — and by doing so, help the pope, and her beloved church.
Anne Burke, a justice on the Illinois State Supreme Court and former head of the review board of lay people established by the U.S. bishops to oversee their new policies, says Benedict should ditch the shoes, the fur and all the other trappings of papal regalia and swap his hallmark white cassock for a simple black one for the remainder of his papacy as a powerful sign of penance for the scandal of the sexual abuse of children by clergy.
So can clothes really make the pope — and help heal the church.
by David Gibson