A priest in the olden days was permitted to wear such a shoulder cape (look at pics of St Don Bosco – [A founder of a religious order]) and it was built together as a simar cassock, as you know. As you also know the simar cassock was abrogated by Pope Paul VI with the reforms. So prelates just used their house cassock and attached a shoulder cape to it, so as to manifest their jurisdiction or authority as a solution to the abrogation of the simar (I got all this info from William James Noonan’s book on customs and dress in the Church) I wear a shoulder cape from time to time, but ALL BLACK not the monsignor-ish types with colors which bespeaks authority. [Purple and red are not signs of authority. Simple secular priests are pastors and can be administrators of dioceses.] A priest who saw me once wearing the plain black shoulder cape told me I shouldn’t because shoulder capes NOW are only for those who hold jurisdictional authority of sorts.
I consulted with some of my priest friends and they basically told me that just to “ignore” Paul VI reforms and just wear one if I wish. One even told me that since there is not a strict document “explaining” the “purpose” per se of the shoulder cape by the Vatican then he will keep using it even though he bears no jurisdictional authority.
I would hope I can get a better answer and hopefully a quote of sorts from Vatican or at least to have evidence of its doubt so that i can comfortably continue to wear it from time to time even though I bear no jurisdictional authority or office. Can you help me?
A simar is sometimes used to describe a cassock with a pellegrina (elbow length cape). However, usually, even with the shoulder cape, they are just called cassocks.
In the legislation about ecclesiastical dress, there is very little to go on for diocesan priests. The Directory for Ministry and the Life of Priests clearly indicates that the default dress for the priest worldwide is the cassock. The Directory also says that conferences can approve other dress, in addition to the cassock. That’s important in places hostile to the Catholic Church.
So, we enter into some ambiguity. Cassock can mean just the cassock without the pellegrina or with the pellegrina. There is no agreement on this among various writers and there is nothing definitive in any Church document.
Another element which must be taken into consideration is the shabby way that many priests dress. I’m not talking just about when they wash their car or go to a ballgame or zip off to the hardware store on an errand. I mean when they are in their parishes or at official functions. Look at a group of priests and you will see quite a few variations of dress without any reference to custom or decorum. Some of them never learned how to dress properly, alas, because they were in formation when all the libs churlishly thought that this stuff was both outdated and beneath them.
I am all for reintroducing decorum among our clerical brethren.
As far as I am concerned, go ahead and wear the cassock with the pellegrina.
Really, in the midst of the chaos we are all now caused to embrace, who cares? I wouldn’t put on any strips of color that you shouldn’t wear, however. Stick to black.
Of course there is the old custom that priests ordained by the Roman Pontiff were privileged to have red buttons on their cassocks, just buttons, not piping, etc. You weren’t ordained by the Pope were you? You could add a dash of color, even though that might puzzle some people. (I’d dig mine out of storage, but I wouldn’t be able to get into it: the darn things shrink!)