QUAERITUR: Are priests required to wear clerical dress at all times?

From a reader:

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.

I’ll explain.

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
President, NCCB

Reverend Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr
General Secretary

“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.

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51 Responses to QUAERITUR: Are priests required to wear clerical dress at all times?

  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Pshah! Until you’ve seen a priest play dodgeball in his cassock, you’ve no idea how versatile traditional clerical garb can be. (Mind you, it occasioned the question: if it’s an excommunicable offense to strike a priest, does that mean you can’t pelt him in dodgeball….)

    Even some of our diocesan clergy have started wearing their cassocks.

  2. I hope that I live to see a time in which priests regularly wear the cassock as their street clothing. :)

  3. Melchisedech says:

    I wonder what the regulations on the white cassock are. I have a friend in seminary with the Institute of Christ the King who wears the white cassock during the summer months but have never seen it otherwise. What are the regulations of the white in the USA?

  4. APX says:

    I recall one day I almost smashed my dad’s truck into the back-end of a vehicle because I was too much in shock by a priest walking down the street in actual clerical garb. This is something that had pretty much died out in my home town. Now the new young priests are bringing it back, including cassocks. I’m still of the strong belief that priests should dress like priests when out in public.

  5. jflare says:

    I would like to add a few thoughts on this matter:
    – During my years in the military, I had one or another uniform that I wore daily. By doing this, we all “expressed” solidarity with one another in terms of our intent to defend the country, possibly with our lives. When we went out “into the world” we could be easily spotted because nobody else wore camo. ..It had the oblique effect of requiring us to exhibit our best behavior, so as not to bring unwanted attention to ourselves or our unit.

    – During my years in Boy Scouting, I had similar requirements. I recall hearing from an old Scouter during my first year at summer camp about how people would always look to Scouts in uniform in emergencies, precisely because most people knew that Scouts tend to have some amount of training in handling difficult situations.
    By the way, military members occasionally wind up filling unexpected roles for the same reason: There’s a chance they might know what needs to be done or can at least find someone who does.

    – As a pizza store manager, I and my employees are required to wear a particular uniform. This way, customers know who to pester if they have difficulties.

    – As an aside, it’d be wise to remember that we have cold weather months coming. Having grown weary of being either cold or looking tacky, I’ve begun considering my winter wardrobe in the interests of having warm, but semi-formal wear available for use at Mass or at choir rehearsals.
    I think it’d be great to see men and women dress slightly more formally for Mass in most parishes.

  6. FXR2 says:

    Father,
    Do I remember seeing a hockey game of priests vs. seminarians in cassocks? Oh yes, that was the SSPX. I also recall seeing a French priest “paratrooper” jumping out of airplanes in his cassock. My sons were intrigued.What a call to vocations. [I call playing hockey in a cassock just plain silly.]

    fxr2

  7. jflare says:

    I forgot to mention a moment ago:
    While I don’t expect my experience to be all-encompassing, I CAN say that the priests that I’ve respected the most have tended to be decent homilists, make time for confessions, offer Mass properly, AND wear cassocks when possible. When not possible, they’ll usually wear something slightly more practical, but still clerical-looking and a roman collar. They’re still easily ID’d as priests.

    Of note, a few years ago, when I considered the seminary, I attended a Mass during which our Archbishop ordained a deacon. Noticing that all the priests wore mostly identical garb, I commented about this to the priest who gave me the ride to the event. He informed me that our pastor had made particular effort to arrange for a common..outer garment (sorry, the names escape me right now)..for the priests who’d be present for Archdiocesan events. My pastor is SO COOL!

  8. frjeremiah says:

    Thanks for a very enlightening and convincing post on clerical dress. One quibble: Why do you say, ‘If I am going to be with a group priests only, I go in mufti…’? Enclosed nuns don’t discard their habits when they are with the nuns only. [I am not an enclosed nun.] Does going in mufti among fellow priests not suggest an attitude of priesthood as mere performance for the lay people? [No.]

  9. kbf says:

    Who’s the priest talking to Saddam Hussain?

  10. I would add ‘shopping’. One does not want all and sundry knowing what one likes to eat, drink, read or use in the bathroom! But wearing the habit/cassock also makes one available to those whom grace might just touch to seek help. It also acts as a reminder to the faithful of the Lord’s existence – like a wedding ring it reminds the Bride of the Bridegroom.

    A quibble- I wish we could do away with the term ‘secular clergy/priest’. I keep hearing ‘humanist’ after ‘secular’ – isn’t ‘diocesan’ more accurate?

  11. pelerin says:

    kbf – it does look like Saddam Hussein! However it must be an actor as the ‘priest’ is the great French comic actor Fernandel in one of his Don Camillo films.

  12. PhilipNeri says:

    There is one sure-fire way to get Dominicans arguing. . .ask a pack of OP’s: “Friars, when is it appropriate to wear the habit?” BOOM! It’s like throwing a stick of dynamite into a giant fire ant nest. In my experience, most of the friars formed in the US in the late 70’s and 80’s wear the habit as a liturgical vestment. You never see them in a habit unless they are celebrating Mass. I’ve also noticed that friars serving in parishes rarely wear the habit as “ordinary dress,” i.e. in the office, to parish meetings, etc. They are either in black clerics or street clothes. We weren’t even allowed to wear the habit in our studium (seminary) until several of us made a fuss! Fortunately, the younger friars are more tolerant and have embraced the habit as “ordinary dress.” Deo gratias.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  13. Batfink says:

    Fr Philip,

    That’s pretty much my experience (as a Lay Dominican) of Dominicans in the UK too. I think there’s enough of the younger ones now, though, who wear the habit pretty much full-time that it’s having an effect on the older ones too. The habit seems to be making a big come-back, hurray!

    Of course, you still have the distinction between the friars who wear the alb for Mass and those who wear the habit as an alb.

  14. New Sister says:

    I am really, really delighted when I see a Catholic priest out in public wearing the cassock. It’s a treat to get to honor him publically and witness before the world that we Catholic are proud to be associated with them.

  15. New Sister says:

    @FXR2 – I know an FSSP priest who has gone skiing in his cassock! (in France to boot)

  16. ncstevem says:

    I’ve watched a priest with the SSPX work in a large vegetable garden on his hands & kness in 90+ degree heat & humdity in his cassock. Never saw him not wearing a cassock in 10 years.

    On the flip side, I saw a priest at the grocery store on a Sat. morning wearing his civies. Typical spirit of vatican II type. Didn’t have much respect for before. Had even less respect for him after. The mindset it appears is when I’m not on the job, I wear what I want. [This is the sort of attitude I had hoped not to see here.]

  17. Philangelus says:

    It always irritated my mom that my school’s headmaster had himself photographed for the yearbook and all official correspondence wearing a suit and tie rather than clerical clothing. [That’s bad.] The other priests who taught at the school were a mix of “always wearing clerical clothing” and “I had no idea he was a priest” and one layman who occasionally dressed as a priest because he said if Vatican II meant “they” could dress like us, then “surely we can dress like them.”

    Fun times.

  18. Lepidus says:

    The priest at my parish growing up in the 70’s seemed to follow this rule: Cassock when doing specfically “priestly” things (getting ready for Mass), teaching religious education, visiting the sick, etc. Black shirt/pants with “real” Roman collar – not the 6 inch strip of plastic – when going about his daily business. The one exception was that the parish had some serious debt that he was managed to get us out from under. Therefore, he did a bunch of work around the parish himself (which I have not seen a priest do since). This included cutting the grass and maintenance. And by “maintenance” I mean that this priest went out and got himself a boiler-maker license so he could fix the heating system himself! For those dirty jobs – and only those jobs – he would wear jeans and a flannel shirt. I would guess he was in his 50’s at that time.

  19. MWindsor says:

    “Bates 8? Durashock boots ”

    Aren’t those the ones with the zippers? I always wondered if the zipper was worth it. It can take me 20 minutes to strap into my ODU jungle boots. But they are the most comfortable things I’ve ever worn. Would you recommend the Bates boots? [I have an insulated pair with zipper for winter and a pair that lace. They are both very comfortable. I have taken to wearing the lacing pair more and more often.]

  20. James Joseph says:

    What about the black zucchetto hat-thing? I have seen that before worn by the priest at Our Lady Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton.

  21. PhilipNeri says:

    Batfink, my experience with European OP’s indicates that they simply do not fuss about the habit at all. The question never comes up. While at Blackfriars, Oxford, we wore the habit at all priory functions and pretty much anytime we wanted. No one insisted that we wear it or not wear it. This ethos prevailed in Rome as well. It was refreshing!

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  22. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Fr. Philip, the O.P.’s at my parish tend to go out dressed like bankers. I asked one priest about it and he said the new habits are too light material to be worn outside, they blow around too much and I can see they are made out of what amounts to sheeting. He said back when they were made of horse blanket material it was easier to wear them as regular clothing. I notice most priests wear street clothes underneath as if it were an outside layer and not regular clothing. They also want pockets.

  23. acardnal says:

    Br. Tom Forde OFM Cap says:
    A quibble- I wish we could do away with the term ‘secular clergy/priest’. I keep hearing ‘humanist’ after ‘secular’ – isn’t ‘diocesan’ more accurate?”

    No. Because not all secular priests are diocesan priests, e.g. priests of Opus Dei.

  24. Southern Baron says:

    The young Jesuits who taught me in high school were bringing back the “black robes” of their predecessors, around school and when we were on official trips. Went to the March for Life; wore their cassocks. Went to World Youth Day; wore their cassocks. Went to Paris before WYD to see where the revolutionary martyrs were; wore their cassocks. Hiked to where Jean de Brebeuf was killed in Ontario; wore their cassocks. In that case especially it connected them to their history, and helped us, the young men, to see that history. These were not the first black robes to pass between the trees.

    And before everybody goes “jesuitsgeorgetownbostoncollegeheresyheresy” please note that there is a new generation in that order, too, who are just as bothered by many of their brethren as you are, and are trying to save it.

  25. dominic1955 says:

    When I was in the seminary I got a taste of this whole when to and when not to wear clerical garb and what type, etc. At the time, we could wear the basic (tab collar shirt, Roman collar, just slacks or suit) pretty much whenever and the cassock on grounds (tolerated out as well). At first I wore my cassock/collar pretty much whenever possible. As time went on, you got a better sense of just when it was best to or not to. All Church events or academic events off campus, yes. Just going to the store to get a sixer or stopping in the local greasy spoon to shoot the breeze freely? Not so much.

    I learned that pretty much all the laity you run into like the cassock, even if they are not dyed in the wool traddies. Cassocks and their accessories were great conversation starters and good sources of catechesis. Only laity and priests of a certain generation hated it but oddly enough, if you gave them a practical reason (it’s comfortable, it cuts down on my wardrobe and laundering expenses, it makes getting ready in the morning quick and easy, etc.) why you wore it they usually were then totally cool with it. The hats and capes that go with them are neat, but usually overkill for seminary use. They are also expensive if you don’t have your “people” to hook you up with hand-me-downs or freebies. Actually, I wish I could still wear my cassocks, they are the perfect guy-wear. Super easy to make yourself look like you really put effort into looking presentable and you can wear pretty much anything under it as long as you roll up any pants and wear long black socks.

    Personally, I found the rest of it you would wear with a suit coat pretty uncomfortable. I think they look decent, but I never liked to wear the Roman colars and shirt fronts and such you had to pin in front and in back. I also didn’t like how much the little black collar holder thing costs. The main thing was actually that my skin never liked base metals and the pins would irritate and my trick with the free floating cloth collar pinned together with a plastic tux stud didn’t work with the shirts. I don’t like the looks of the tab shirt, but now totally see why priests wear them.

    Long story short, after experiencing all the fun of clerical attire, I have no problem with what priests wear at all unless they make it a point to make a point they don’t wear blacks for some stupid progressivist reason.

  26. wmeyer says:

    My former pastor only infrequently wore his cassock, but whenever I saw him in it, or the subject came up otherwise, I always encouraged it.

  27. wolfeken says:

    I am hoping for an official ban on the use of the “tab” collar.

    A priest in a tab collar and short sleeve clerical shirt is the equivalent of Homer Simpson wearing a clip-on tie and a short sleeve dress shirt.

    And, yes, I am currently wearing a long sleeve dress shirt and a real necktie. We can all dress it up a little, all of the time. Photos of pre-Vatican II dress don’t have to be just admired, they can also be imitated.

  28. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I know a fair number of guys who wear black _all the time_, so it just makes sense for diocesan priests to have a black off-duty/on-duty wardrobe. IMHO, of course.

    Re: kicking back, of course that’s the priests’ business to decide, as long as their bishop allows it.

  29. Jon says:

    I’m fifty. I grew up in a small town in the Diocese of Buffalo. Population: 15,000. We had four Catholic churches, each with an elementary school, a diocesan high school, a Catholic hospital, and a nursing school staffed by the Sisters of Mercy. Each of the schools also had a convent attached. Each of the parishes, into the eighties, was staffed by three to four priests. There were also another six churches in the surrounding countryside, each of those with multiple priests and most with schools.

    Needless to say, there was ample opportunity to see clerics and religious in day to day life. I recall seeing habited nuns strolling for evening walks, and in the grocery store, Newberry’s, and Grant’s. We saw priests in clerical suits at restaurants and ball games. When Father visited your house, he wore cassock, overcoat (it was the Diocese of Buffalo!) and fedora or sometimes biretta. If he visited you in the hospital, he wore his biretta. The only time he didn’t was on the golf course, or up at Lake Ontario fishing.

    Both of my parents and my grandmother were employed at the hospital. I have lots of memories of life there. I remember when Father would bring the Blessed Sacrament to a patient, a bell would ring when he emerged from the elevator into the hallway. The bell was rung by a nun who led the way. She also carried a red lamp on a chain. When Father passed by, conversation ceased, and if you were Catholic, you were expected to drop to your knees. He was invariably vested in cassock, surplice, and stole.

    This all lasted until I was in high school in the late seventies. Some of it lasted longer. Everyone received Holy Communion kneeling at the largest parish in town until – get this – 1992, when the priest who’d been pastor there for thirty years passed away.

    I now attend an FSSP parish. Some of our priests have been inseparable from their cassocks, others have worn them less often, but when not wearing them have always worn clericals. The positive effect this has on the young in particular, both boys and girls, I can’t begin to describe. And when common, it’s not a thing to be stared at, but a thing to be accepted as normal. It’s a visual reminder that even at the grocery store, God is present.

    With that said, all is not lost. What was, can be again.

  30. frjim4321 says:

    I have no tab collar shirts, they are despicable.

    Just a Toomey shirtfront with collar (ghastly expensive) and black suit when appropriate.

  31. APX says:

    @wolfeken
    I am hoping for an official ban on the use of the “tab” collar.
    A priest in a tab collar and short sleeve clerical shirt is the equivalent of Homer Simpson wearing a clip-on tie and a short sleeve dress shirt.

    Yes. Thank you. Finally someone said what I have been thinking and unable to put into words. I’ve noticed they seem to be worn by priest mainly ordained during a certain era, who normally go out in regular civies, but will bear it and priest it up a bit briefly for a diocesan Mass, but as soon as Mass is over and the vestments come off, the tab is removed and the collar is opened wide.

    Can we please bring back the dignity and decorum of the Priesthood? My goodness, I’ve seen police officers in the trenches put more effort into their dress and deportment than some priests.

  32. The Sicilian Woman says:

    Our young (35) pastor often wore his cassock, and when not wearing his cassock, wore the black clerical attire of a secular (I don’t like the term, either) priest. He even spoke about how important to him that he was always dressed in clerical clothing.

    Our temporary pastor is a Dominican. I haven’t seen him in a cassock, nor in his habit. He has always worn, since he’s been here, the clerical clothing of a secular priest. Our pastor told us before he went on leave that Fr. O.P.’s Dominican habit was impressive, and we should ask Fr. O.P. to wear it. I’m sure Fr. O.P. has his reasons for not doing so, but I hope he does so at least a few times before he leaves. We have no orders in this area, so his habit could be a conversation starter, perhaps lead to a Dominican vocation down the line, especially for the boys in our school?

  33. Springkeeper says:

    I am an RN and wear a white dress at all times in the hospital (Oxyclean is a regular on my shopping list), patients love it and I am instantly identifiable as a nurse. I was heading down the hall (and having a horrible, terrible day) when I ran into a priest in his full clericals with Roman collar et al, and I just stopped and stared in disbelief and then I couldn’t stop smiling. He made my whole day and I thank the Lord God almighty for men like that who have answered God’s call. Would I like priests to dress in cassocks 24/7? It would be nice but there are times it is neither practical nor safe. I think the reason why a priest dresses in non-clerical attire matters a great deal. Is he trying to “slide under the radar” or is he mucking stalls? Is he hanging out with friends and family at home or is he trying to avoid being identified as a priest? Attitude of the heart and mind is key.

  34. VexillaRegis says:

    Why is it illegal for priests to wear a cassock in England?

  35. dominic1955 says:

    Another aside I always found odd was that there is a document from the time of Pope Paul VI that goes into some detail about what prelates cannot wear (i.e. buckled shoes, certain kinds of cappae magnae, etc.) but yet, aside from these classical clerical things, pretty much anything else goes. So, the old “pilgrim buckle” court pump is out, but velcro or crocs are fine? Seems we went the wrong way in legislation in this field. It is fine to make it clear that some of the fancy things are not explicitly required, but I think common sense already had taken care of that at one time.

    The Order habits are also very inspiring. While I was in the Dominican and Benedictine brothers all wore their distinctive habits and sometimes the OPs wore the cappa nigra. Very nice. When the Jesuit novices would show up for things, they’d often have their “Jesuit cassocks” on. Seeing all the various orders and degrees of clergy and religious is like seeing an army in full parade dress or battle array (depending on how you want to look at it).

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  37. Simon_GNR says:

    I’m disappointed to learn that here in England priests are forbidden to wear cassocks in the “outside world”. What can the reason be? Surely being seen in public dressed as a cleric is a form of witness to the faith and to be applauded and encouraged? Just wearing a dark suit and black clerical shirt with Roman collar is the equivalent of the many nuns who have ceased wearing the habit. Clergy and religious should be seen to be distinctive if they are in the world.
    By the way, I’ve seen one or two “Anglo-Catholic” clergy going about the everyday world in their cassocks and very good they looked too, even if their theology and understanding of the nature of the Church is a bit dodgy!

  38. Random Friar says:

    @Melchisedec: I think that they would be governed by their own Institute’s regulations on the color. I’ve yet to see a diocesan who wears the cassock wear white, but if they allow it in the South/Southwest, I would not be shocked.

  39. Shirley J. Schultz says:

    I am a 65 year old woman who thanks God every time I see a priest who has the courage to wear his clerical garb whether “on duty” or “off” (my parish priest’s terminology, not mine). I can’t seem to convince my young parish priest that he will not know this side of eternity how many lives were touched by seeing him dressed as a priest. Something twists in my heart when I see him dressed in shorts or a shirt advertising his African ethnicity. He claims to need “me time” which is why he doesn’t wear his clerical garb all the time. Let’s pray for our clergy without ceasing.

  40. oblomov says:

    My spiritual director is a graduate student at the JSTB in Berkeley, and consequently I’ve sat in on a few classes there, and most of the Priest-Professors dress as secular professors (jacket and tie) not Priests.

  41. fatherpalka says:

    Melchisedech (third post) was looking to find regulations regarding the wearing of a white cassock. I found this in a book, “Costume of Prelates of the Catholic Church: According to Roman Etiquette” By John Abel Nainfa, (pg. 34, 35 in the 1909 edition; pgs. 33, 35 in the revised 1926) on Google Books.

    7. There are but two seasons in the year with regard to ecclesiastical dress, winter and summer. No rule, however, has been determined for the beginning or the end of these seasons. It is the Bishop who has to regulate this for his own diocese. Generally speaking, summer is supposed to begin about Easter, and winter, about All Saints’ Day.

    3. Since the seventeenth century, black is the obligatory color for the clothing of the secular clergy of second rank in all the Western Church. There is no exception to this general regulation, save for the clergy of tropical countries, who are permitted to wear white clothes on account of the exceedingly hot climate; and for seminarians and members of the Bishop’s household, who should wear a purple cassock.

    Random Friar, I know two Florida priests who, at least occasionally, wear white cassocks at the suggestion of their Indian and African brother priests!

  42. Burke says:

    Does anyone have a reference for a law making the wearing of cassocks in the England is illegal? I used to live in UK & saw CofE clergy wearing them in public frequently. And the wearing of a cassock is a normal part of choir dress, worn by clergy & choristers in cathedrals and parishes throughout the UK. One priest I know was based England for 20 years & he almost never appeared in public save in his cassock. So I’m wondering if this falls into the category of ‘urban myth’ or is perhaps some old law that fell into disuse long ago while remaining on the statute books – perhaps some relating specifically to Catholic clergy? In which case equality legislation would have made it invalid long ago.

  43. James Joseph says:

    Regarding England, the most Catholic country in Northern Europe, I am sure that it is one of those old laws akin to Catholics not being allowed call their wives anything but ‘Partner B’ in Massachusetts.

  44. fatherpalka says:

    Burke, “The Ornament of the Minister” by Percy Deamer, 1920, page 121 (Google ebooks) says, “By the 74th Canon of 1604 it (the cassock) was maintained with the gown, hood or tippet, and square cap, as the official walking dress of the clergy: and it was still universal in the 18th century–the Roman Catholic clergy being then as now forbidden by law to wear the cassock in the street, so as to prevent their being mistaken for Anglican priests.”

  45. frjim4321 says:

    This topic comes up cyclically.

    I can’t speak for anyone else but my own experience is that when I am feeling less secure and less adequate I tend to invest more energy judging what other people are wearing.

    With regards to extremes in clerical dress the way I look at it I’m fairly open about Amish people, hippies, people with tattoos and piercings and the like, so it would be hypocritical of me to care too much about the clerical eccentricities.

  46. Laura R. says:

    As to the illegality of priests wearing cassocks in England: I have done no actual research on this, but would guess that it dates from the time when Catholicism was outlawed. Church of England clergy (again, I’m guessing) likely didn’t wear their cassocks outside church services until the Anglo-Catholic revival in the 19th century, when (Roman) Catholicism was no longer illegal. If this is the case, then, as Burke suggests, the law against cassock-wearing would have fallen into irrelevance while remaining on the statue-books. I’d be interested to know if anyone has more definite information.

  47. doodler says:

    Regarding cassocks in England – it is my understanding that only Church of England clergy may wear cassocks in public to avoid ‘other’ denominations being mistaken for them. All other denominations, including RC clergy, are classed as non-conformists. I believe that the offence is something like ‘pretending to be a clergyman’ or ‘impersonating a clergyman’. Don’t know whether it is still on the statute books.

  48. Jack Hughes says:

    When I went to downside abbey for an LMS training event (for servers and Priests) I spent pretty much the entire week in a Cassock, only then did I realise why so many Priests start off as Alter Servers………… sigh

  49. JacobWall says:

    In Mexico, as far as I know, it’s still constitutionally illegal for priests to wear their priestly clothing outside of the church building. The ones I’ve spent the most time with dress in nice formal clothing according to the local fashion (dress pants, black shoes and guayaberas.) I think in a private home they’re allowed to dress as priest, but not publicly visible outside the home. I do believe the enforcement of this law was one of several issues that triggered the Cristero War. Others included stripping clerics of most rights, prohibiting Masses outside of the church building (sometimes prohibited all together) and closing of churches and monasteries. 90,000 people died fighting for their religion. To this day the Mexican Constitution remains extremely anti-clerical. Some modifications were made in the 90’s, but not enough.

    Funny how up here in Anglo North America, Catholics have been doing all of that by their own free will. They didn’t even need to have a war to force into submission; we just came up and did it all as though we really thought it was better this way …

    Fortunately, I think the trend is changing, at least in some places. Unfortunately, by the time we start getting it right, it’s entirely possible that we’ll be facing laws closer to those of the Mexican Constitution.

  50. Satan hates clerical garb and the positive effect it has on souls.

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