From a seminarian:
I am currently a Seminarian and still have 5 years ahead of me until, God willing, ordination. I personally feel a priest should always wear his clericals if not also a cassock, I plan to be in collar always. But my question is, I have always liked the idea of wearing a crucifix around the neck as a witness of faith, are priest allowed to wear a crucifix with the collar and what is your opinion on the subject? Of course I’m not speaking of a pectorial cross.
I am reminded of a story told about the late Bp. Alphonse Schladweiler, great old gent. At a confirmation he once said, in his booming voice, “Now children, the bishop has been asking you questions. Do have any questions for the bishop?” Always dangerous. One lad piped up, “What’s a Monsignor?” The priest at the place was a Monsignor. Without missing a beat the old bishop said “Why, sonny, a Monsignor is the Cross that hangs around the bishop’s neck!”
I don’t believe anything prohibits a secular/diocesan priest from wearing a crucifix suspended from his neck. Bishops do this routinely.
I am talking only about Latin Church priests now. I don’t know what the customs of my Eastern brothers are. I suspect they use Crosses abundantly as part of their regular garb.
In any event, I don’t think there is any law prohibiting a priest from wearing a Cross or Crucifix.
For my part, I find it a bit odd. I can see a label pin, but a Cross? Not so much, for me at least. Some religious have the Crucifix or Cross as part of their habit. But that’s a habit. I think the military or Roman collar says a great deal and it was not really the custom of diocesan priests to wear Crosses like that.
As far as the cassock is concerned, in the USA it was once ecclesiastical law that secular/diocesan priests were not to go about in cassocks except in the course of, say, bringing the Last Sacraments or Communion. They would wear the cassock at home and church and in the course of their regular duties, such as teaching. Otherwise they were to use black secular dress with clerical bands or military “Roman” collar. I think I am old enough and had enough influence from older priests to the point that that is my preference when in the USA. In Italy I pretty much live in my cassock most of the day.
That said, those laws for the USA which were established at the Council of Baltimore are no longer in effect. The Directory for Priests indicates that the cassock is the dress of the priest and, as a substitute, the clerical suit.
The Directory says:
[66.] … For this reason, the clergy should wear “suitable ecclesiastical dress, in accordance with the norms established by the Episcopal Conference and the legitimate local custom”. This means that the attire, when it is not the cassock, must be different from the manner in which the laity dress, and conform to the dignity and sacredness of his ministry. The style and colour should be established by the Episcopal Conference, always in agreement with the dispositions of the universal law.
I believe that in the USA the conference has permitted as colors for priests to wear just black clothing. In Italy priests can use black, dark blue, or gray.
The USCCB, dealing with CIC 1983 can. 284, on clerical dress, said:
In liturgical rites, clerics shall wear the vesture prescribed in the proper liturgical books. Outside liturgical functions, a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric.
We had some discussion once about what deacons can wear. Apparently, according to this note of the USCCB, if deacons perhaps should go about in the black suit and Roman collar, they can in the cassock. I think someone didn’t have their coffee that morning.
In any event, many young diocesan priests these days, in the USA have made the choice the wear the cassock everywhere. That’s fine. It gives me pause, I must say. This must be because I am a bit old fashioned and my sensibilities about this were formed by contact with men such as the fabled late Msgr. Schuler and those coeval priests who were in orbit around the place. This is also why I have never taken to facial hair or jewelry, etc., which were prohibited in the old days for diocesan priests.
Bottom line: Worry about getting through seminary with good grades and good formation. If they say were clerical dress, wear it when they tell you to.
Worry about what to wear as a priest when you are a priest.
My practice in the USA, which is open to adjustments, is to stick to the American custom of the black suit on the streets and cassock when in the course of liturgical or other functions.