Gerald Warner is an author, broadcaster, columnist and polemical commentator who writes about politics, religion, history, culture and society in general. If it is an exaggeration to say that he believes the world has gone to the dogs, it is only a slight hyperbole.
Cappaphobia: mental disorder afflicting progressive Catholics
The stress of modern life is generating new kinds of mental illness, sometimes taking the form of irrational fear of certain objects. The latest example is an obscure disorder called cappaphobia. It is caused by cappa magna choralis and chiefly targets the elderly, many of whom may already be suffering from dementia. I first came across this clinical condition when shown a samizdat publication issued by a beleaguered group of progressive Catholics from an address in King Street Cloisters, which atmospherically evokes a huddled catacomb.
A letter to the editor began: "Seeing Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos vested in a cappa magna in Westminster Cathedral was a chilling experience."
The cappa magna, a ceremonial cloak for cardinals and bishops, was first regularised in 1464. In 1952 Pius XII, in a misguided fit of radicalism, shortened the cardinalitial cappa from six yards to three.
Now Benedict XVI, by resuming the ornamental half-sleeves on his soutane outlawed by Paul VI, has effectively signalled the repeal of the drabby sumptuary laws of 1969. This places cappaphobes at high risk of exposure.
Rumour has it, however, that Pope Benedict has commissioned a 30-piece set of baroque vestments modelled on those of Leo X, which could be equally traumatic.