Are preist required to wear them at all times?
Im sure you’ve been asked this before. I’m a new reader I cant find the answer on your blog. I’ve tried for two months. Can you answer or refer me to it? Thank you. P.S I really like your site.
I have indeed written about this.
No… and yes.
First, let it be said that there is a relationship between habitus (dress) and habitus (character, disposition). This is one reason why Holy Church does lay down some guidelines for priests without making them iron-clad dictates. They are for the good of the priest himself and for the good of the Catholic people and for the good of society as a whole.
At all times? Let’s make some distinctions. When I, a cleric, put on clothing, it is therefore clerical clothing insofar as I, a cleric, am wearing it. But that is not what you mean. Moreover, most clerics I know don’t wear clerical clothing when sleeping or bathing or swimming, etc. We are not, after all, old-school jansenistic Sulpicians who required that sort of thing. I have worn a cassock when riding a bicycle… carefully.
Let’s see some guidelines.
The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, issued in 1994 by the Congregation for the Clergy and approved by Pope John Paul II states:
In a secularized and tendentiously materialistic society, where even the external signs of sacred and supernatural realities tend to be disappearing, the necessity is particularly felt that the priest – man of God, dispenser of His mysteries – should be recognizable in the sight of the community, even through the clothing he wears, as an unmistakable sign of his dedication and of his identity as a recipient of a public ministry. The priest should be recognizable above all through his behavior, but also through his dressing in a way that renders immediately perceptible to all the faithful, even to all men, his identity and his belonging to God and to the Church.
For this reason, the cleric should wear “suitable clerical clothing, according to the norms issued by the Episcopal Conference and according to legitimate local customs.” (Canon 284) This means that such clothing, when it is not the cassock, [NB: the cassock is the norm, the default, for the whole Latin Church.] should be distinct from the manner in which laymen dress, and in conformity with the dignity and sacredness of the ministry.
Apart from entirely exceptional circumstances, the non-use of clerical clothing on the part of the cleric can manifest a weak sense of his own identity as a pastor completely dedicated to the service of the Church (# 66).
On 18 November 1998, the Latin Rite de iure members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (now the USCCB) approved complementary legislation for canon 284 of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States. This was granted recognitio by the Holy See.
Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 284, hereby decrees [So, this is not merely a recommendation.] that without prejudice to the provisions of canon 288 [“Permanent deacons are not bound by the provisions of canon 284”], clerics are to dress in conformity with their sacred calling.
In liturgical rites, clerics shall wear the vesture prescribed in the proper liturgical books. [NB:] 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. [This is interesting, because of the history of the use of the cassock in the USA. And I believe it is still illegal to wear a cassock in England.]
In the case of religious clerics, the determinations of their proper institutes or societies are to be observed with regard to wearing the religious habit.
As President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I hereby decree that the effective date of this decree for all the Latin Rite dioceses in the United States will be December 1, 1999.
Given at the offices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC, on November 1, 1999.
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
Reverend Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr
“Usual” attire. There are, of course, reasonable exceptions to wearing the black suit and military collar (that’s what it is, by the way, a development of the collar of old military uniforms) or cassock.
The cassock remains the proper dress of a Catholic priest in all circumstances everywhere, though regional/culture differences are taken into account. Moreover, the color of clerical garb will vary from region to region. In hot countries, white can be used. In Italy the bishops conference approved black, dark blue, and gray.
There can be particular law established by the local bishop. In Rome, for example, John Paul II directed his Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Poletti, to issue a decree that all secular priests in Rome must wear the cassock and religious their proper habits. This was pretty much ignored, but the law is on the books.
Moreover, a priest should know what clerical garb to wear in each circumstance. These days, Father can get by even at a formal occasion by wearing a black suit and Roman, military collar, usually with a shirt having doubled cuffs and links. However, the proper dress for a formal occasion (“black tie”, “white tie”, “evening wear”, etc.) would really be the appropriate house cassock and sash and ferraiolo.
The custom of the U.S. was not for the secular priest to use the cassock in public, on the street as it were. This is from the time of great anti-Catholicism in the USA. A Council of Baltimore determined that priests would instead wear the frock coat. The older generation of priests I was formed by instilled in me a resistance to wearing the cassock around town in the USA. I pretty much lived in my cassock in Rome. I note with interest that some young American priests these days are using the cassock as their street dress too.
Of course there are reasonable exceptions to wearing your “clerics”. If I am going to climb a ladder to fix a window, or change the oil in the car, or hide as a fugitive from Obama’s Domestic Security Force during his administration’s fourth term, I won’t wear clerical clothing. If I am going to be with a non-formally convened group priests only, depending on the reason for the gathering, I go in mufti, to borrow a military term. When I do some heavy cooking, I wear clothes I can get dirty and that will protect me from burns, hot spills, etc. As a matter of fact, sitting here in my B.O.Q. – aka The Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue – as I bash away at my keyboard, I have on blue jeans and a t-shirt. My Duluth Trading Company t-shirt and my Bates 8″ Durashock boots are both black, however! Does that count?
Remember: There are good priests who are lax in wearing their clerical clothing in public and there are bad priests who wear it all the time.
Don’t rush to judgment about priests in this regard.
I would pay more attention to whether or not they hear confessions, say Mass properly, preach well, etc.