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Was Cardinal Raymond Burke muzzled or silenced?

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Anyone looking at Cardinal Raymond Burke can see he clearly understands a thing or two about fashion, so it must have been disconcerting for him to learn that he'd fallen out of it last month.

Talk about an unforeseen plot twist.

One of the most conservative voices in the American Catholic Church, and one of the least forgiving, Burke must have thought the world had turned upside down on the morning of December 16.

That day he learned he was losing his influential role in the appointment of bishops – in the same week that the nations most prominent gay rights magazine The Advocate was choosing Pope Francis as their Person of the Year.

It wasn't a coincidence. The new pope has said he wants to move away from the 'obsessive focus' on divisive social issues, and to do that he has begun to muzzle some of the most prominent conservative cultural warriors. So bye bye Cardinal Burke. You're going the way of shoulder pads and leg warmers.

It probably didn't help that Burke himself is such a conspicuous peacock. A throwback to the medieval age when Cardinals wore the 'cappa magna' and dazzled the public with their scarlet robes, Cardinal Burke likes to supplement his visual magnificence with scathing verbal beat downs of gays, feminists, uppity women in general and anyone with an unorthodox interpretation of canon law.

But times change and so does fashion. The fashion under Pope Emeritus Benedict was to relentlessly hit hot button social issues and the people who promoted them. Benedict didn't tailor his conscience to the fabric of the times, but instead remained hopelessly, often hilariously anachronistic. He governed like it was 1406, not 2006. He was a man after Cardinal Burke's heart but in tone and substance, and especially in style, Benedict was a PR disaster for the Church.

Finally the Vatican decided it was time for a fashion makeover. That means a new focus (and often a new face). Thanks to Pope Francis the hot new trend for 2014 is to promote social justice and lament poverty.

But spare a thought for Cardinal Burke. He is rarely photographed smiling and no wonder. It must be especially galling for such a noted clothes horse to discover he's suddenly yesterday's model. But that's exactly what he is. For now.

Anyone who knows the world of fashion the way Burke does knows how quickly it can all turn around again. It'll be interesting and instructive to see how long this populist trend of the new pope's lasts. After all, how long can you bemoan poverty whilst running one of the oldest and richest social networks on earth?

One thing is for sure: if his star rises again Cardinal Burke will have an outfit ready.

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