QUAERITUR: “bishops in soutanes with big, gaudy riiiiiiings”

We now shift away from the less important issues – salvation outside the Church and American exceptionalism – to focus on something of momentous significance.

From a reader:

At times I have seen priests wearing a short black cape over their
cassock, and in my research, I have not been able to figure out if
there are any restrictions for their use. Certain religious orders,
Bishops and the Pope, I see, are allowed to wear it, but how about
your normal run-of-the-mill parish priest? Thank you for your time,
and keep up the good work!

The little cape over the shoulders was once upon a time a mark of jurisdiction.  Bishops use it.  Pastors of parishes could use it I believe (back when there was far more complicated ecclesiastical clothing).

These days, I think most priests use it because it looks nice.  I have a cassock with one of these.  I used it because it was warm.

Paul VI did away with a lot of the things that clerics used to wear.  For example pompoms on the ends of fascias were abolished.  Some priests use them anyway.   Back in the day, priests were not to use black watered-silk fascia.  These days some do.  Why?  They look nice.

“But Father! But Father!”, some will say.  If these things are forbidden, then they shouldn’t be used!  You are antinomian!”

To which I respond: big deal.

If using these things makes their black (or purple) socks roll up and down, great.

It was a mistake to simplify ecclesiastical garb to the degree that it was simplified.  We will see that usage, praxis, will reintegrate some of the old things back into general use.

I don’t know if this is part of the “gravitational pull” that the older forms are exerting on the new or if this is something else.

One think I do know – liberals hate stuff like thisAll the more reason to use it.

Meanwhile…

[CUE MUSIC]

From the official WDTPRS parodohymnodist to the Sound of Music tune “My Favorite Things”:

Dalmatics on deacons and cassocks on priests,
habits on nuns and immovable feasts,
bishops in soutanes with big, gaudy rings -
these are a few of my favorite things.

Devotions to Mary, novenas and stations,
fasting and penance on Days of Rogation,
High Mass and Low Mass and papal blessings –
these are a few of my favorite things.

Rosaries and incense and fiddleback vestments,
BINGO on Mondays with homemade refreshments,
statues of angels with halos and wings –
these are a few of my favorite things.

When RENEW strikes!
When the rail’s gone!
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply pop into a Solemn High Mass
and then I don’t feel so baaaaaad!

[MUSIC CONTINUES IN BACKGROUND]

When you’ve had a hard day sorting out what fancy gear priests can wear, … nay rather… when you have had a hard day biting your tongue over the shabby way most priests usually dress these days…. for the love of GOD can’t these men put on clerical clothes?  Can we have a little liturgical decorum?   In the name of all that is holy, isn’t about time that clerics start dressing as if both their own role in the Church and what they are doing in church might be slightly Buy some coffee!important, rather than throwing on something they rummaged up from the laundry bag behind the “Tasty Bakery” after the night shift?

It’s enough to make you….

Why not relax with a WDTPRS mug filled to the brim with piping hot Mystic Monk Coffee?

Refresh your supply now!Not just Monk Coffee … Mystic Monk!

It’s swell!

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "But Father! But Father!", ASK FATHER Question Box, Our Catholic Identity, Parody Songs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to QUAERITUR: “bishops in soutanes with big, gaudy riiiiiiings”

  1. Alice says:

    But Father! How could you post this? I would never let my children watch such soul-rotting slush as the Sound of Music!

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  2. rakesvines says:

    I’ve heard many stories about vocations that started with an attraction to the clerical or religious habit. I particularly favor those with supernatural origins e.g. scapulars given by our Lady; that’s a reason to keep those as is.

    That said, I do admire the divestiture that was done lately – specially with the garbs and trinkets of hierarchy. It seems to be more faithful to the Lords invitation and example to live simply and in solidarity with the poor. I may be wrong but if we go through the writings of the saints and their example, I think there will be more leaning towards less gaudiness afterall, the kingdom of the Lord is not of this world and the authority of the bishops is more for service rather than for lording it over the lay folks. If people recall the washing of the feet as a paradigm for leadership and the trappings thereof, then there will be more fidelity to the evangelical spirit – imho.

    Wasn’t all this pomp and worldliness what St. Francis of Assisi refudiated as a first step to rebuild the church?

  3. Konichiwa says:

    I love the traditional vestments. In fact, my rediscovery of the traditional Latin Mass began with my disappointment in the styles of modern vestments that priests wear at the Novus Ordo. They often lack substance and either look commercial or were designed by a kindergartener.

  4. benedictgal says:

    I am wondering if wearing magenta socks is alright for monsignori, given the fact that I have invested in a few pair for a friend of mine who is of the rank. They match his magenta watered silk fascia.

    As for the clerical attire, I find it most fitting for priests and bishops to dress as they should. There is nothing wrong with wearing the cassocks, the soutane and other ecclesial garb. When they wear this attire, they are also giving witness. I am proud of my friend because he wears his cassock and his black clerical suit.

  5. joanofarcfan says:

    I love this post, Fr. Z, and couldn’t agree more. It was pretty funny the way you put it, but it couldn’t be truer. Some people just don’t get it.

  6. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    Would I be correct in guessing that this little cape is also called a “simar”?

  7. merrydelval says:

    I was given to understand that the 1968 simplifications were for the hierarchy. I have heard it claimed that they did not get around to abolishing the privileges of canons and priests. Given that most of these privileges were part of a whole ay of thinking that does not exist anymore, I can see why some clergy would try to use them now, if for no other reason that they are beautiful and edify those who want to be edified.
    In Rome, the parish clergy defend their privileges while never using them (the title monsignor, red buttons on the soutane, etc.). I do believe, though, that watered silk is reserved now for cardinals and the diplomatic corps, even down to the priests.
    In the seminary, there was a lot of discussion over the use of the fascia. As we were considered part of the Papal Household (the Roman diocesan seminary), we were allowed to dress as monsignori, use buckled shows, but under no circumstances were to use the fascia until we were made pastors. By 2000, we were in black cassock alone. But shoes with buckles “on the side” a la italiana were very de rigueur among the smart set. What distinguished us was the use of the soprana, little blue cape over it all. Yet the fascia was a definite no. After ordination, I went back to the seminary and my superiors were livid that I had appropriated the use of the fascia (even though I was an Administrator of a parish). They would have been happy if I were in jeans a grey clerical tabby, though.
    Also, in the seminary, we used to justify certain things merely “pro ratione fasti”, a concept I have never heard anyone outside my seminary use. If it is beautiful, use it. I remember sometimes a seminarian being dressed up in tunicle to serve as subdeacon at the OF Mass, just because no one dared to not have “Messa in terza” because it would look stupid!

    The drastic oversimplification, and uglification of the ceremonies is lamentable. But how and when to wear what is not very easy to say. if it is part of a received tradition, I think it is great. Making it up as you go along, because you like it – well, that is just vanity, I fear.

    I also found that the use of these things of clerical haberdshery: the kids love it. My school children would call me out if I omitted the fascia; the loved the clerical cape. And, I can’t tell you how many of my African-American neighbors went out of their way to compliment me on the way I looked. Rather funny, in a way, but all of it does give a sense of purpose, of mission, of God.

    I would never judge my brother priests who prefer a grey clerical shirt and jeans, to look more, “earth Father” or whatever. But I have found that the clerical dress in its glory does have a point.

    And if the liberals hate it, well – get used to it . . .

  8. basilorat says:

    Technically, the shoulder cape over the cassock is part of a simar, which is an entirely different garment (NOT vestment) from the cassock/soutane. It has with it, the oversleeve which makes it a simar. This is why it is tragic the post conciliar reforms did away with it, since it is an entirely different garment. The simar is more of a “lounging gown” and is not a cassock. You will see the pope wearing his simar, and on occasion, will wear his cassock. Vestment makers have taken to selling/making detachable capes to convert them into simars since the oversleeve was abrogated.

    What Catholics (usually of the liberal ilk), and Protestants DON’T get, is that all of these vestments and clerical clothing (there is a difference…cassocks are not vestments), is part of Catholic Culture. Benedict is sending very definitive and clear messages that faith must be grounded in culture and always has been. Because of that, there is a lot of overlapping which can lead to confusion. The Church dictates vestments for Mass with some guidelines… the culture will define what they look like…lace is out, back in, out, back in again…damasks…vs simple wool etc…

    This is true with how our clerics dress too! We retain these things because it’s a cultural thing so essential in our identity as Catholics…they are not essential for salvation.

    That being said, it’s amazing how impressive the traditional Catholic culture is! I recall as a monk showing up at university for the very first time in a simple Roman collar instead of my usual English Benedictine habit. The Protestants, and I mean die-hard evangelical Protestants were scandalized and asked that I please return to wearing the habit in case I had any ideas of switching over to just a roman collar for my daily wear!

  9. Tim Ferguson says:

    I recall one chilly late Fall evening at St. Agnes, sitting around the table at dinner and Msgr. Schuler came in, wearing his house cassock, with the short shoulder cape. One of the visiting priests jokingly shivered and said that he was cold and wished that he was a papal house prelate and could wear a cassock like that with something to keep his shoulders warm. Monsignor, also joking, said, “If you’re that cold, just go to the hall closet and throw a cape on.” The associate pastor, the ever-droll Fr. Ince, looked up from the soup and said, “How would throwing a castrated rooster in the closet keep him warm?”

  10. Clinton says:

    Father, I’ve got to say that I’m one of those people that believe that if something like mantellettas
    and pompoms on the ends of fascias and double sleeves on a simar have been abrogated, then
    they shouldn’t be used. Please don’t get me wrong, I dearly love a priest who publicly embraces
    Catholic culture by wearing clerical dress. And I agree with you that if a priest troubles himself to
    dress in clericals and do it properly it does tell the world that he believes in the importance of
    his role in the Church and what he does in a church. Vesture is not unimportant.

    That said, I’d worry were I to see a priest who disregards the (unfortunate) legislation of Paul VI
    and continue to wear vesture that has not merely been made optional but abolished. How
    could one who picks and chooses which legitimate papal legislation to observe call out those
    liberals who do likewise?

  11. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Clinton: You have a point. It is easy to want to ignore Paul VI, and dismiss him as a weepy, sappy, tormented Hamlet who emoted his pitiable hangups onto the entire Church instead of investing in a good therapist. But we must ask ourselves if that angst and anguish of Paul VI was not also an instrument of Providence. He sincerely wanted the clergy to project a noble simplicity in their appearance. Yes, priests are men, and should be allowed to put on the finery of their office as all men do who possess offices of importance. And the diocesan clergy make no pretense of taking vows of poverty or living as destitute beggars.

    But just because we (diocesan clergy) are not vowed religious does not mean we cannot make some attempts at simplicity. A priest, monsignor, or bishop wearing the cassock, the capalette (shoulder cape), sash, biretta and/or zuchetto, nicely shined shoes, and even the simple black, outer cape in cooler weather, looks quite dapper and spiffy. I don’t know that we have to add the oversleeves, monster sized pompoms at the end of the sash, watered silk, and shiny, big silver buckles on the shoes.

    At the same time, spiffy and fine clerical wear befit a diocesan priest who interacts with professional men and women and must not scandalize with tacky, frumpy, and homely appearance which says, “I work for the Church…please feel sorry for me.” The office of the priest out in the world must project confidence, learning, and leadership; he is the ambassador of Christ and of the True Religion.

  12. wmeyer says:

    I feel guilt over it, but I’d have to say that whatever irritates the liberals is probably good. Or at least, pleasing.
    Of late, at dismissal, I have been giving the local catechists more than a few surprises. They’re utterly disarmed when they go off on a Vatican II speech about the liturgy, and I then simply state that I have read Sacrosanctum Concilium… several times, and have actually committed a degree of study. They seem to run out of steam when I then mention that whatever little twist they have just been discussing was not in the document.

  13. Dr. Sebastianna says:

    This is a complicated issue.

    In these times, I am happy when I see a priest wear his Roman collar and/or a religious wear his/her habit. It doesn’t always happen, but it would be a great witness. It would remind people that, contrary to what the media says, the Church is not dead.

    I attend a Jesuit parish sometimes… About 8 Jesuit priests are in that community. M-F, one priest celebrates Mass, and the others attend the Mass as members of the congregation, dressed in regular secular clothing (no collars). When I realized that these men were priests (after attending Masses for a few weeks and recognizing their faces), I felt a little “strange” about it…. Because they: 1) were not dressed as priests, and; 2) thus I didn’t know that they were priests. Regrettably, my reaction was similar to coming across an unmarked police car. I also have a friend who is a religious order priest but usually doesn’t wear his habit outside of the building he lives in/the church… His explanation is that he has been/will be persecuted because of the scandals going on currently. What kind of world is this?

  14. Jayna says:

    Now, when we talk about these little capes, is this what’s being referred to? If so, it’s something my priest (who is the one in the picture) almost always wears on the admittedly rare occasions that he dons his cassock.

    If it isn’t, can someone explain to me exactly what we’re talking about? I’d actually be mightily surprised if my priest owned something that would be considered uber-traditional in nature.

  15. Dr. Sebastianna says:

    Here is an interesting article from Catholic Encylopedia on “Clerical Costume.” It was published in 1908.
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04419b.htm

    Thurston, H. (1908). Clerical Costume. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

  16. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Clinton: You have a point. It is easy to want to ignore Paul VI, and dismiss him as a weepy, sappy, tormented Hamlet who emoted his pitiable hangups onto the entire Church instead of investing in a good therapist. But we must ask ourselves if that angst and anguish of Paul VI was not also an instrument of Providence. He sincerely wanted the clergy to project a noble simplicity in their appearance. Yes, priests are men, and should be allowed to put on the finery of their office as all men do who possess offices of importance. And the diocesan clergy make no pretense of taking vows of poverty or living as destitute beggars.

    But just because we (diocesan clergy) are not vowed religious does not mean we cannot make some attempts at simplicity. A priest, monsignor, or bishop wearing the cassock, the capalette (shoulder cape), sash, biretta and/or zuchetto, nicely shined shoes, and even the simple black, outer cape in cooler weather, looks quite dapper and spiffy. I don’t know that we have to add the oversleeves, monster sized pompoms at the end of the sash, watered silk, and shiny, big silver buckles on the shoes.

    At the same time, spiffy and fine clerical wear befit a diocesan priest who interacts with professional men and women and must not scandalize with tacky, frumpy, and homely appearance which says, “I work for the Church…please feel sorry for me.” The office of the priest out in the world must project confidence, learning, and leadership; he is the ambassador of Christ and of the True Religion.

  17. Fr. Basil says:

    A bit of history: The “big gaudy ring” was originally the seal of the diocese.

    \\BINGO on Mondays with homemade refreshments,\\

    Churches should not look to Bingo or similar gambling games as a primary means of support. Aside from throwing stumbling blocks in the paths of those who gamble more than they can afford to lose, if the members won’t support the parish, is it just to expect outsiders to?

    As a monk I would wear cassock outside more often, but the garb of holy poverty is so expensive! (I’m not joking here.)

  18. When can we see YouTube videos of these famous and chart-busting parodohymns?

  19. FrFenton says:

    Father,
    Priests who live in countries once subject to the British penal laws (laws that penalized being Catholic, practicing the Faith, etc) were given the privilege of dressing in the cassock with shoulder cape and double sleeves (a.k.a. simar). In the reforms of vesture by Paul VI, this was not removed as it was all bishops other than the Pontiff. Bishops now wear the filettata or filettatura, which has the cape, but no double sleeves.

  20. Supertradmum says:

    I would love to see a priest or bishop in one, instead of the dockers and golf shirts popular here.

  21. samgr says:

    When John Cardinal O’Connor was archbishop of New York, several reporters noticed that his new red casssock apparently had been somebody else’s old red cassock: The hem was in shreds. Neither working for the NYTimes nor wishing to embarass His Eminence by writing about his ragged garment, they decided to take up a collection for a new one. Among reporters, of all unlikely suspects. When presented with the results of the soutaine subscription, retired Admiral O’Oconnor expressed his gratitude to the unlikely donors (who included the late Tim Russert), said something like “I like the clothes I have,” except more graciously, and gave the money to charity.

  22. dominic1955 says:

    The detachable shoulder cape does not make a cassock into a simar. Its just an addition to a cassock. A simar has the cape as an integral part to the garment.

    As to the “abolishment” of certain things like buckles for shoes, fiocchi for fascias, etc. etc. I think that is all ridiculous. If priests can wear all kinds of sloppy tennis shoes or velcro shoes with their faded out tab shirts, I don’t see why people get their knickers in a knot about buckles and fiocchi. I’d say let them wear whatever they want, but then probably many would just go that much sloppier.

  23. Dr. Lee Fratantuono says:

    A marvelous post, Father.

    The question inevitably arises here, what about obedience to Paul VI and his directives on clerical dress? My initial reaction is to note that there probably wouldn’t be a thriving traditional movement today if everyone c. 1970-1975 had “obeyed” Rome and adopted the liturgical books of Paul VI as replacements for their predecessors.

  24. Dr. Eric says:

    Does the bishop of Barcelona wear a big Gaudi ring? ;-) Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  25. The-Monk says:

    If some priests can wantonly introduce personal irregularities into the liturgy, why can’t other priests wantonly wear mantellettas and pompoms on the ends of fascias and double sleeves?

  26. Andy Milam says:

    If you got it, wear it….

    Not really. If we are going to be authentic, then we should hold to what is proper for the time. While I enjoy seeing a priest, cleric, or whomever really over do it with a nice surplice or a overly lacy alb, I do take issue with a priest dressing in a manner that is not proper to him. Now, if it is within his privy to do so, have at it. Example, if a pastor wants to allow for his MCs or servers to wear collarettes to create symmetry, fine, no issue. BUT, if a pastor is wearing a rochet or he is wearing a simar when not allowed to do so, then there is an issue.

    If we are going to promote and RESTORE these things, we should do it through channels, prove that it is necessary, needed, or broadly wanted, then go get it.

    On the otherhand, as Fr. Z says that if it keeps him warm, wear it….there is a lot of snow in the winter…. :0)