QUAERITUR: the obligation of priests to dress as priests in public

From a reader:

In my former parish, the pastor wears his collar only during "business hours" (he gave a class in his jeans) and very rarely off parish grounds. I suggested that wearing his clerics around the town (we live in a Protestant area of Virginia) would be good for us and the church–we do have converts and his priestly presence may bring in more. He said no, he didn’t want to upset the locals. He recently blessed a house in his blue jeans, on his way to town to eat pizza…the folks were a bit taken aback by this but thankful nevertheless since it had taken them a year to get him out there.
Is there any Church guidance or practice on the wearing of the collar? Is this covered in seminary, especially the issue of being a priest in Protestant  "country"?  Is this an individual "taste" or a individual diocesan policy issue?

I notice you are talking about a priest from your former parish.  Perhaps you would do well to pay closer attention to your present parish.

Also, it might have taken a year to "get him out" to someone’s house. I suspect that the priest has a lot to do.  I am glad that he was able to do the house blessing, however.  

That said, it seems to me that while priests perhaps don’t have to wear their clerical clothing when they are washing the car or gardening, it would have been far better to have showed up to do something priestly in priestly garb.

In the days of violent anti-Catholicism in the United States, the bishops meeting in the Council of Baltimore determined that clerics were not to wear the cassock on the streets of the country, but – in a way similar to the practice in England – wear instead black secular dress, the frock coat.  They would use the cassock in church or when fulfilling other duties, but not for general wear around and about.  This established a long-standing practice for secular priests in the United States.

Times have changed, of course.  Many secular priests today are choosing to use the cassock also in public.

cassockThe 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).

Again, the custom of the U.S. is not for the secular priest to use the cassock in the street, as it were, but it is clear that he should use black clothing with the Roman, "military", collar (the Roman collar developed from military uniforms).

It is important for priests to wear clerical clothing in most circumstances.  The black suit or cassock isn’t just a uniform to put on in the course of "doing your job", much as a member of the military might do, or the burger flipper at McDonald’s, or the meter reader.  Clerical clothing points to the ontological, sacramental character of the ordained, or those who aspire to be.

Again, if a priest is on a ladder fixing a window, changing the oil in his car, skating, at his family home, or even perhaps – quod Deus avertat – in hiding from an oppressive regime persecuting the Church – clerical clothing is another matter.  We have to be reasonable.

But going to a home to bless a house…?  No-brainer.

There are good priests who are lax in wearing their clerical clothing in public and bad priests who wear little else.  We should not rush to judgment about priests in this regard.

But it remains that in normal circumstances priests are obliged to wear clerical clothing, certainly in the fulfillment of their priestly duties as well as for everyday dress.  The Roman collar is a witness to the man’s identity, whom he serves, and serves as a sign of contradiction in society.  He can be identified and therefore approached as a priest by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. He reminds himself of who he is when he dons it. 

In sum, while there are reasonable exceptions to the rule, priests are obliged to wear clerical clothing in the manner determined by the bishops conference.

In the United States you can refer to a letter on this matter written in 1999, found on the site of the USCCB:

On November 18, 1998, the Latin Rite de iure members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved complementary legislation for canon 284 of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States.

The action was granted recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops in accord with article 82 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus and issued by decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Eminence Lucas Cardinal Moreira Neves, Prefect, and His Excellency Most Reverend Franciscus Monterisi, Secretary, and dated September 29, 1999.  [So, this is not merely a recommendation.]

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["Usual" attire.  There are reasonable exceptions.  Also, this sentence confirms that the priest may use the cassock at all times, though at least the black suit/clothing is minimally required.  The cassock is the proper dress of a Catholic priest in call circumstances everywhere.]

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


This seems pretty clear.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mitch_wa says:

    What I find interesting is that in my diocese Deacons are not permitted to wear clerics, at a few parishes the permanent deacons will wear them when working at the parish. Some visitors are surprised to see deacons wearing the collar. When you talk to them about it, they often don’t see deacons as clerics, but special laymen… I find that more problematic then priests who don’t wear their collar all the time. To me it seems as if we as a Church are not understanding the ideas of cleric and lay person; and are blurring the lines then it becomes that much harder to convince people that the priesthood and the deaconate are more than professions or volunteer opportunities, but instead a calling from God. That’s my two cents on this anyways.

  2. Elly says:

    My friend told me that the priest who worked at his college would sometimes play basketball with the students and he would wear a black T shirt with a white stripe painted near the neck.

  3. nzcatholic says:

    I like the point you make Father regarding that some bad priest wear nothing else but clerical garb. I know a Preist who is very very liberal in terms of the teachings of the church regarding sexuality and he wears a cassock. Though I suspect in such cases its like a male ballerina showing off and playing dress up.

  4. JosephMary says:

    I appreciate priests who wear their clerical garb. Our priests most generally seem to at any parish function, etc. But even to have father come to the nursing home that I visit to bless patients, he did not wear his collar. He wore a black shirt and pants though.

    I am sure that it is not easy to always be seen as a priest. But it is always important. I do not mind that when father comes to supper, he wears a sports shirt and so forth though. I know some priests that are never seen out of clerics. One priest said that someone might meed to go to confession and he has heard them in shopping centers and parking lots and he is glad to reconcile sinners wherever he can. My own spiritual father will not ever be seen without his holy garb; he feels strongly about this.

    I hope that priests will wear their clerics, their sign of witness to a world that so desperately needs it, as much as possible.

    And I wish our religious sisters would wear their holy habits. My sons have grown up never seeing a live religious sister in a habit! Rather our sisters have NO sign of consecration at all but wear jewelry and new clothes, live in apartments and etc. like any secular woman. And they mostly are not at daily Mass. One sister was teaching tai chi across the hall at the same time as daily Mass! What a decision: should I go exercise or to the Holy Sacrifice? A number of people chose the former. Sad.

  5. TNCath says:

    Fr. Z: “I notice you are talking about a priest from your former parish. Perhaps you would do well to pay closer attention of your present parish.”

    Perhaps the attitude and dress of the priest was part of the reason the questioner left that particular parish. Was the questioner overstepping his or her bounds by making the suggestion that the priest appear in public wearing clerical garb? While there are some priests, quite frankly, who resent suggestions from the laity, when you live in an area where Catholicism is a distinct (and often ridiculed) minority, especially in this age where the priesthood is under daily attack in the press, people are watching priests with a very critical eye. It may be an unfair thing to do, but this is the reality of the times in which we live. Added to that, when such high-profile rebellious figures such as Father Richard McBrien and Father Hans Kung appear dressed inappropriately, a priest dressed in jeans to bless someone’s house creates the impression that the priest is in their camp, regardless of whether he really is or not.

    As for the priest’s taking a year to bless the house, this sounds familiar as well. As much as we’d like to not say so, there are some priests who are simply more interested in doing some things more than others. It’s often a matter of priorities. Years ago, we had a pastor who was more interested in wiring the rectory for phone lines, himself, personally, than going on sick calls at the hospitals and would send lay ministers to distribute Holy Communion to the sick. I know because I personally witnessed this. A parishioner was scheduled for emergency surgery on Ash Wednesday morning. Rather than get up off the floor and finish installing telephone wires in the rectory, he sent a lady to the hospital with the Blessed Sacrament. He let it be known to his parishioners that he was NOT available to visit their homes, and, if you were going to the hospital and wished to be anointed, you’d better let him know ahead of time and be anointed ahead of time, but he “didn’t do hospitals.”

    Finally, I think the cassock was, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, a “hot button issue” for priests, very similar to the religious habit for nuns. It somehow represented the Church before the Council. I’m glad to see that many of the younger priests are rediscovering the wearing of the cassock as part of the hermeneutic of continuity with the historical Church. While the cassock does not necessarily a good priest make, it is not only a reminder to the faithful, but to the priest himself, of who and what he is.

  6. mitch_wa: “Some visitors are surprised to see deacons wearing the collar. When you talk to them about it, they often don’t see deacons as clerics, but special laymen… I find that more problematic then priests who don’t wear their collar all the time.”

    I agree. It’s absurd that some dioceses forbid deacons from wearing clericals. I recommend the wearing of cassock and collar for deacons as much as I do for priests (while on church grounds, at least).

  7. This is probably a sore subject for Cincinnati readers, as the diocesan paper’s recurring Year of the Priest feature, whereby local priests are interviewed, generally features a photograph of the subject sans collar. The gist of the profiles is that priests are “average Joes” just like you and me — hardly what the Holy Father had in mind for launching the priestly year.

  8. This will not, I trust, devolve into “I know a priest who [FILL IN THE BLANK]….”

    In other words, I don’t want this to devolve into “I know a priest who [FILL IN THE BLANK]….”

  9. Oneros says:

    The deacon example is one more reason I don’t buy this. Deacons are just as much clerics, and have just as indelible a character, and yet THEY aren’t expected to wear clerics all the time (in fact, in some places they are not allowed to). [Deacons are not priests.]

    I agree with priestly clothes for priestly duties. And certainly a priest should never wear a suit-and-tie to formal functions (because he has his own type of formal-wear). But when it comes to his down-time, his off-hours, his vacations (which secular priests DO get)…in other words, casual secular activities…I wouldn’t be all freaked out if a priest wasn’t wearing clerics anymore than a deacon. Secular clothes for secular activities in a secular priest doesn’t sound like a big deal to me. [Perhaps this is not about you.]

    As much as certain trads and neocons would like to imagine, [?] the clergy is not a separate social class anymore. It is not a separate Caste, there is no First Estate as this isn’t Christendom anymore. The model of the priesthood as a full-time celibate Caste with all sorts of markers of otherness and separation…is simply incongruous with our society today, and probably a big part of the clericalist mentalities that led to the cover-up of the child abuse. [You have caved in to the deceptive wisdom of this world.]

    Priests should adopt the model of permanent deacons. The clergy is not a separate caste anymore. [You don’t understand who priests are.]

  10. TrueLiturgy says:

    Fr. Z – I am looking for a little bit more information. You stated: “In liturgical rites, clerics shall wear the vesture prescribed in the proper liturgical books.” Could you, or someone else here please point to me where it states that clerical garb is to be worn under the alb for Mass? I feel like it is a rule, but have yet been able to find it.


  11. jeffmcl says:

    “Outside liturgical functions, a black suit…” I occasionally see priest wearing clerical garb in other colors. For example, a white or a light blue shirt with roman collar. I’ve always thought that is kind of Protestant looking, but I’m guessing it’s done in hot weather when the black might be a bit much. Is it permitted for priests to wear non-black clerical garb?

  12. jeffmcl: About other colors, bishops conferences can permit colors other than black. For example, the Italian bishops conference also permits gray and dark blue.

    There is also the possibility of white in some places where the climate is very hot.

  13. I didn’t realize the Roman collar started out as a military collar. That makes it even more appropriate than I realized!

  14. Clinton says:

    I think that the idea that a specifically clerical dress is “… simply incongruous with our society today ” has a fundamental flaw at its core.
    Namely, I don’t think that the Church must rush to make herself congruent with the world in all things. The aggressively secular society
    that has emerged from the 20th century–arguably the bloodiest and most Godless century in human history–has little room to demand
    that the Church erase all markers of otherness and separation from the world. In short, what gives the world in which we live the moral
    authority to expect the Church to embrace a sort of dhimmitude?

    As a layman, I have only Ash Wednesday to wear a mark that identifies me as a Catholic to the world at large. I’ve been met with mild
    curiosity to a very few instances of frank antipathy. I think those experiences give me a slight taste of the reactions a cleric must draw
    wearing collar or cassock in public 365 days a year. I can understand the desire some might have to nip down to the grocer’s in peace
    on occasion. But our world needs all of the evangelization it can get, and clerical dress bears a powerful witness.

  15. PomeroyJohn says:

    We have been blessed in our small (1300 people) town in far eastern Washington State to have had since we moved here two priests who have both been wonderful signs of our Church and our clergy and not afraid to wear their clerical collar and black shirt and pants when in public. Our current priest enjoys walking from the rectory to the post office and other downtown locations rather than driving and he often stops in at stores to talk with the owners and workers — Catholic or not.

    John in Pomeroy on the Palouse

  16. Peggy R says:

    When Bp. Braxton arrived in Belleville, one of his early tasks was to require the clergy to be in appropriate clerical clothing. with reasonable exceptions such as those Fr Z noted. Apparently, under Bp. Gregory (and most likely his predecessors), the priests got used to wearing street clothes. [The progressive priests had been reportedly running the whole show since the late 70s+. Hmmm, I wonder how much abuse they were responsible for hiding, which Bp. G cleaned up.] Soon after, our pastor, who was among the street clothes-wearers, complied and I think it positively affected his sense of who he is as a priest.

  17. There is also the possibility of white in some places where the climate is very hot.

    Interesting. The chaplains that visited my father as he lay dying in Florida wore white.

  18. A friend and upper-classman from seminary came back to visit within a year of his priestly ordination. We got to talking about his experiences as a new priest and eventually came around to the subject of clerics. He told us that on one of his days off he was contemplating the idea of whether or not to wear the collar. He was running some errands and didn’t anticipate being out long. Out of the blue, the thought came to him ‘I’ve never heard a confession at a bookstore’. So he wore his clerics… and sure enough, someone came to him while he was browsing the bookstore and asked him to hear a confession, which the priest did.

  19. Ed the Roman says:

    If deacons started wearing clericals routinely, priests would have to start wearing birettas so we could distinguish them. };->

  20. TNCath says:

    In our diocese, permanent deacons have been recently permitted to wear a gray clerical shirt and collar to distinguish themselves from priests.

  21. Mitchell NY says:

    Takiang into account the world today I understand why they do not like to wear clerical garb. However, that being said, I have always felt proud being a Catholic on a subway and seeing Father sit down accross from me. It initiates a smile or Good Morning Father that I just can’t say to everyone else around me. It gives me the opportunity to show some respect to the men who offer us the sacrifice. A respect that they deserve and otherwise (without garb) goes unnoticed or unspoken. I think it also allows lay people to identify a Priest and steer clear in some regards. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people on subways initiate conversations because they are attracted to someone they see. Wearing clerical garb may just prevent those people from taking the iniative and thus avoiding any temptations on the part of the Priest. What can start as a harmless flirtation can quickly turn into something much more damning.

  22. PomeroyJohn, I lived on the Palouse for several years myself, on the Idaho side. St. Boniface in Uniontown is one of the loveliest little churches I have ever seen. I hope they have Mass in the Extraordinary Form there these days; it’s hard to imagine a better setting.

  23. I know that was a digression, but I had to speak up for St. Boniface. Long may it prosper!

  24. momoften says:

    I think lack of formation is part of the lack of priests wearing clerics in public. For example. my sons are in the back sacristy with a deacon and a priest, they are all in cassocks for Divine Mercy Sunday service. Another priest walks in and says…whoa! Everyone has cassocks but me! One son says no problem Father, and goes to their server closet and pulls out a cassock for him to wear and a surplice (Yes, he should have had something better but hear me out) He wears it and sons gush over it and other Father and Deacon tell him he really should have one of his own. Father in cassock grins and says, why I haven’t worn one of these since seminary! Makes me think that if priests were perhaps taught in seminary about the importance of wearing clerics it might help.(Many commented at how nice all priests and servers looked) I sometimes think some (not all obviously) don’t realize how wearing clerics can affect people in a secular /religious setting. One very old priest(since deceased) often told me of people coming up in parking lots (strangers) wanting to make a confession and he obliged them. It had many times been the first confession in 20 or 30 years. It happened ONLY because he was wearing his collar…as he did everywhere he went. When I see priests in public without a collar, I cringe…I think they should wear it as a sign of their commitment and respect I SHOULD honor them with. After all, priests are other Christs–how will I know otherwise if there is a priest present with no sign of their identity? I thank GOD for ALL priests, they are a GREAT blessing from the Church. They should not be afraid that wearing a collar/ clerics is a bad thing as I think many do.

  25. Cath says:

    Maybe the next time we see a priest on the street in his clerics we should thank him for being a witness to the Faith. Like when you see a soldier and thank him for his service to our country. A simple thank you can be very encouraging.

  26. kradcliffe says:

    A priest I know here was waiting at a red light when some guys got out of their car and came towards him, shouting at him and calling him “pedo.” Luckily, the light changed and he was able to get away.

    Today, another priest I know had someone run up and kick his car as he was driving away after celebrating the Mass.

    And, I know another priest who has been attacked in the street while walking through a heavily Protestant part of Glasgow.

    It’s not always easy to be a priest and we should definitely thank them.

  27. jt83 says:

    One of the young Dominican friars who ministered at the Newman Center I attended wore his white habit seemingly at all times. Gardening, shopping at the grocery store, travel, eating out, playing basketball and even showing off his skate board skills with the frat guys across the street. I always admired the love for he had for his beloved habit and what it symbolized to him. This was in stark contrast to the older director at the time who would usually be seen wearing street clothes whenever he was around the church.

  28. Mark Pavlak says:

    I completely agree with you, Fr. Z. “We have to be reasonable.” If we see a priest not wearing his clerics, perhaps we can give him the benefit of the doubt with regards to his clothing rather than make judgments about his entire ministry as a priest. Maybe he was working on something in his home and needed to run to the store for a missing part. Maybe he is coming back from the gym. Of course, there are instances when we lay faithful know when a priest should be wearing his clerics (at his parish, underneath his vestments, among others).

    I have become close friends with a particular priest who does not always wear his clerics (or wears a nuanced version of clerics – perhaps a blue cleric shirt with a rabat or something similar). Sometimes he may just be in a button down shirt. But his theology and ministry is completely sound and wholly Catholic. Fr. Z. is right, we should not rush to judgments about priests in this regard.
    Priests are men, too. They enjoy their more comfortable clothing (when appropriate) and comfortable shoes just like the rest of us. I would even venture to say that the Holy Father when vacationing or enjoying some family time with his brother may even don a sweater or something other than the white cassock.

  29. Luce says:

    I love that our priest always wears his cassock. When we take him to concerts or out to dinner, everyone knows we are Catholic when we walk in, and that we are not afraid, ashamed, or extinct.

    As far as I know, all of the priests of ICKSP wear their cassocks in public. It is a statement of who they are, and their willingness to profess their priesthood to the world. I think most hope they would choose martyrdom rather than deny their faith in public, so some verbal abuse is not something to warrant not wearing the cassock.

    P.S. I don’t really appreciate clerical collars in public as much as the cassock, since many who wear the collar are not Catholic priests.

  30. wolfeken says:

    Mark Pavlak — actually, a reporter once asked if Benedict dresses down while on vacation and it was made clear that he does not. He always wears white.

    Luce — I tend to agree with you. F.S.S.P. priests almost always wear the cassock as well. And they indeed get lots of people who would not otherwise come up to them asking questions that would not ordinarily get asked. Wearing the cassock (and full Roman collar) has been the norm around the world with, as noted, few exceptions (the U.S. during the Know-Nothings, the British suit with giant exposed collar, etc.)

    It always baffles me to see Vatican spokesman Fr. Lombardi, S.J., wearing a black suit and a tab collar when surrounded by the pope and dozens of others in cassock. It is like going to an event in a suit when everyone else is in tux. It is encouraging, on the other hand, to see so many younger diocesan priests choose the cassock as their full time “habit.”

  31. Mark Pavlak says:

    wolfeken: I stand corrected. Thanks for that!

    And your analogy was great about wearing a cassock vs. black suit and a tux vs. suit at an event.

  32. Jerry says:

    re: Mark Pavlak – “I have become close friends with a particular priest who does not always wear his clerics (or wears a nuanced version of clerics – perhaps a blue cleric shirt with a rabat or something similar). Sometimes he may just be in a button down shirt. But his theology and ministry is completely sound and wholly Catholic.”

    If, as you suggest here, this priest is not wearing approved clerical garb when required by the directives from the Congregation for the Clergy and the USCCB, then, by definition, his ministry is not *completely* sound or *wholly* Catholic because he is, at least on this one point, not in union with the Church. Even 99.999999% compliance is not complete or whole.

    “Priests are men, too. They enjoy their more comfortable clothing (when appropriate) and comfortable shoes just like the rest of us”

    “Where appropriate” is the key constraint. For a priest the appropriate circumstances are far more restrictive than for the rest of us. Giving up certain comforts of secular life is one of the many sacrifices priests are called to make — yet another reason they need our constant prayers.

    My point here is not to be critical of this priest, but to point out the flaw in your reasoning. It’s all too easy to let these same types of errors creep into our self-evaluation of our own actions, inching us ever so slightly (or perhaps not so slightly, depending on the circumstances) down the slippery slope of moral relativism.

  33. Ed the Roman says:

    One of the cool things about cassocks: if properly fitted they obviate the need for trousers in hot weather, and when I vested for choir in South Florida in July (that choir wears red cassocks and surplices) that was a great help.

    All our recent young new ordinands have worn cassocks at least some of the time. I always say something along the lines of “lookin’ good, Father – kickin’ it old school.” Because I’m hep to the jive.

  34. The Egyptian says:

    Ed, please don’t suggest the kilt analogy, please!

    As a kid at our little country parish see photo


    all we ever saw was our priest, Fr Robert Stock, in full cassock and the huge cross and chain wore by the precious Blood Society. When he passed away suddenly from a car accident at the end of his driveway, his replacement showed up in a suit with a collar, nothing wrong with that but to a 11 year old sheltered country boy it was shocking, then the Sisters of the Precious Blood shedding their habits, never quite recovered from that one, we always thought they had wheels instead of feet :->

  35. “All our recent young new ordinands have worn cassocks at least some of the time. I always say something along the lines of “lookin’ good, Father – kickin’ it old school.” Because I’m hep to the jive.”

    Kickin’ it old school. I have GOT to remember that one.

  36. Cath says:

    “lookin’ good, Father – kickin’ it old school.”

    That is so funny. You made my day!

  37. ndmom says:

    Many of the CSC priests here at Notre Dame do not wear clerics, sometimes wearing street clothes under their vestments when celebrating Mass. I have met lots of priests, at various functions, who dress like laypersons and introduce themselves as “Joe” and “Dan.” Maybe they assume that everyone knows who they are, and are trying to fit in with the college kids. But it is disconcerting to chat with a guy for some time at a party, discussing the latest developments on “24,” only to have him look at his watch and say “Sorry, I’ve got to run and say the dorm Mass in ten minutes.”
    We hosted a diocesan priest friend at a football game last year. He worse his clerics, as he always does, and reported nothing but positive remarks from people all over campus. It’s a shame when seeing a priest in a collar is a novelty on a Catholic campus.

  38. Andy Milam says:

    Ya know, clerical garb has always been a point of consternation in this country, as noticed above. My view is quite simple, if a priest has the chance to be seen, he should be in said clerical garb (black suit w/rabat, Roman collar (not the tab collar, it is tacky and a trifle lazy, IMHO) and slacks, cassock (in the US the cassock has never been the “street wear” outside his campus and absolutely should be worn there); that doesn’t matter so much to me). Remember, the priesthood is not a job, it is a lifestyle. This isn’t to say that he cannot dress in non-clerical garb, in certain circumstances, but a priest has to be a witness to the office he holds. The easiest way, is by his dress.

    Regarding deacons, Fr. Z is quite right, they are not priests, but they do share in holy orders and they should be witnesses just as the priest should. Again, the easiest way is by their dress. Should there be a distinction? No. Why should there be? Is a preist not a deacon? Is a bishop not a deacon? If they share in the same holy orders, albeit a different rank, then why should they not witness in the same way as a priest or bishop?

    Clerical garb is about one thing, witness. If a bishop, priest, or deacon is opposed to wearing clerical garb, then one should ask the question, why doesn’t he want to witness to his priesthood.

  39. Henry Edwards says:

    Our TLM priests always wear cassocks in public. Several years one played in the diocesan tennis championship match. When he was announced, he sprinted out onto the court wearing his cassock, which to wild cheers he removed to reveal black shorts and T-shirt. In reporting the event, the diocesan newspaper commented that “Everyone knows that Father O always wears his cassock on important occasions, and for him this occasion was important indeed.”

    More seriously, more than once I have seen a stranger approach a cassocked priest in a public restaurant, mention not having been to Mass in x years. I understand that some of these chance encounters, which would not have occurred sans conspicuous clerical dress, have led to reconciliation with the Church.

  40. The white collar (which is the “Roman” collar) does not have its origin in military uniforms. The idea of a white collar at the neck developed separately. Rather, it is the style of collar most people think of as “Catholic”, namely the collar covered by an outer layer of black just showing the top edge of the white and the small square cutout at the front mimicking the appearance of the neck of a cassock that also mimics military uniforms.

    That’s really more of a reference to the black collarette or rabbi not the white “dog collar” underneath.

    In addition, cassocks and rabbis should be tailored so that the square cutout at the front extends low enough to show the stock underneath the white collar. This was one way that you could easily determine the rank of a clergyman in a suit. Priests have a black stock, prelates a purple one and cardinals a red one.

  41. Grabski says:

    Fr Z. The deacon example is one more reason I don’t buy this. Deacons are just as much clerics, and have just as indelible a character, and yet THEY aren’t expected to wear clerics all the time (in fact, in some places they are not allowed to). [Deacons are not priests.]

    I think it’s common practice in many dioceses for transitional deacons to wear clerics, but for for permanent deacons to be not allowed to.

    Not sure why there’s a difference among deacons; a deacon is a deacon.

    However, it does confuse the laity; a transitional deacon is not a priest. Not yet, and perhaps not ever.

  42. Some of you need a theology lesson: Bishops and Priests are NOT clerics “just the same” as Deacons. Priests share in the ministry of and are collaborators with the Bishop. Deacons serve it. BIG difference. In addition, there is no ontological change upon receiving the diaconate as there is with priesthood.

  43. jasoncpetty says:

    On our flight from the US to begin the pilgrimage to Santiago two summers ago, a Mexican man was sitting next to us on the plane. He seemed rather dejected. His English wasn’t great, but we chatted him up in Spanish and, after we told him we were peregrinos, he really livened up and told us that he was a priest going on vacation. He explained that he wasn’t wearing clerics because he had just been attacked days before in Mexico while wearing the collar. We told him not to be afraid and thanked him for being a priest. (We were probably more excited because we had packed a couple of new rosaries that hadn’t been blessed yet, so he was able to oblige, thanks be to God.)

    Dearest Fathers, wearing identifiable garb in airports is important. We are about to enter pressurized aluminum tubes doing 640 miles per hour seven miles above the ocean–no wonder I’ve seen people approaching priests in terminal waiting areas to make their confession!

  44. Larry R. says:

    There is a parish in our area where we frequently attend Mass that has a parochial vicar from Mexico. I am not certain of his status, whether he is viewed as a visiting priest or has some attachment to the diocese, but he never, ever wears clerics, whether celebrating Mass or performing any other function. He constantly wears blue jeans and a plaid shirt, which he will wear under the alb for Mass. I have never seen him in a collar, and we see this priest alot.

    Now, I know Mexico has a history of hostility to priests. Could it be that Mexican priests are actually told NOT to wear clerics under any circumstances? Would that rule apply while serving in the US, or would US norms apply? If US norms apply, would it be appropriate to ask him why he does not wear clerics?

  45. MikeM says:

    I like it when priests wear clerical attire in public, both because I think it’s good for people to see a Catholic presence around them… it might spark curiosity in non-Catholics, and I think it’s encouraging to Catholics to see other Catholics whose Faith is no secret. On the other hand, it’s not something I get all worked up about. One of the best priests I’ve known often opts out of wearing clerical clothes, but I think it’s a matter of humility for him. Whether that makes sense or not, or whether it’s for the better or worse, I don’t know, but I certainly don’t feel comfortable judging his decision on that.

  46. As a candidate for ordination to the diaconate in 2012 in the Archdiocese of Louisville, I also see a bit of confusion on the role of the deacon and their state by the laity and the clergy. Here the deacons used to be forbidden to wear clericals, but now are only urged not to except in special cases. Deacons here and it seems in most places are urged to focus almost exclusively on social/charity works, yet formation is almost entirely about the formal church ministry of a deacon. People in the pews seem to not understand what a deacon is and can do.

    So, some observations…

    If deacons are clergy, and they most certainly are, why are they so discouraged from showing it and from doing clerical things in some areas? I understand that a deacon is a cleric who lives in the world more than a priest or bishop, and I think it’s inappropriate to wear clericals to your day job. However, there seems to be a strong prejudice against them in performing one’s duties in the Church. Even the way most deacons vest confuses the issue I think, because most look like overgrown altar boys, thus helping with the confusion of the people in the pews. It seems there must be a middle ground that makes sense rather than the all or nothing approach.

    The duties of a deacon are almost always described as the ministries of the Word, Sacrament and service. Paragraph 1570 of the Catechism specifically mentions a deacon’s duties in this order. Yet many deacons, especially the longest serving ones in my diocese, seem to look down on anything other than charitable service as the primary calling of a deacon. If that is so, then why ordain these men? Anyone can do this service without ordination if that is the only thing a deacon should be doing? Again, a more balanced approach is needed.

  47. JosephMary says:

    We also had a priest from Mexico who never wore clerics, and did not even own them! I thought that was strange. I know that religious in Mexico were, at least at one time, forbidden to wear their holy garb. ISN’T IT INTERESTING THAT THE DEMONIC AGENDAS TRULY HATE THE HOLY GARB? ALL THE MORE REASON TO WEAR IT ALWAYS! The sad thing is that in the US so many voluntarily rejected their holy garb. I recall a picture that was floating around on the internet a year or so ago of Jesuits–maybe 50 or so of them and I think maybe only two were wearing clerics. Very sad. In their case, rather telling as well.

    Our seminarians in our archdiocese wear both clerics and cassocks. Our deacons also will frequently wear clerics. Coming from another diocese, I had never seen this and so I greeted one deacon with a “hello, father” and he pointed to the cross he wears with the slash sash and that indicates the diaconate.

  48. Mark Pavlak says:

    Re: Jerry.
    You are quite right in pointing out the flaws in my argument. Let me try to explain.

    You may be onto something when you said that his theology and ministry is not wholly in conformity with the Church because he occassionally is out of his clerics. My only point was that in the classroom – when he was wearing clerics – he didn’t teach anything against the Catholic Church. And when he was in the comfort of his own home, yet still around lay faithful – when he was NOT wearing clerics – he still didn’t teach anything against the Catholic Church. Still, I do see your point.

    When I said “when appropriate,” I meant that within the boundaries Fr. Z. drew up and ONLY WITHIN those boundaries (exercising, working around the house, etc). My additional point, though, was not to judge too quickly when you see a priest out and about and he’s NOT in his clerics because he just may have a good explanation.
    For example, maybe he needed to pick up a missing part at the store for something he was working on at home. Then maybe he needs to stop for gas. Then he passes the bread store and thinks, “I should probably stop to pick up some bread.” Then he passes the barber and decides it’s been far too long since a haircut. Now, he may not have known his trip to the store for a missing part would now turn into a day of errands. But since it has, was he obliged to get out of his grunge clothes, go dress up in clerics to go to the store (which led to all the other things) then come home and go back into grunge clothes to continue working on his project? A number of his parishoners may have seen him at the store, or gas station, or bread store, or barber shop wearing jeans and a t-shirt, but he’s got a perfectly good explanation. It’s situations like this one to which I’m referring. He just may have a good explanation.

  49. Andy Milam says:

    Fr. Sylvester, you say, “Some of you need a theology lesson: Bishops and Priests are NOT clerics “just the same” as Deacons. Priests share in the ministry of and are collaborators with the Bishop. Deacons serve it. BIG difference. In addition, there is no ontological change upon receiving the diaconate as there is with priesthood.”

    Pope Paul VI states in Motu Proprio Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, “Indeed while clearly recognizing on the one hand that “these functions very necessary to the life of the Church could in the present discipline of the Latin Church be carried out in many regions with difficulty,” and while on the other hand wishing to make more suitable provision in a matter of such importance wisely decreed that the “diaconate in the future could be restored as a particular and permanent rank of the hierarchy.””

    Pope Paul goes on to say, “Certainly in this way the special nature of this order will be shown most clearly. It is not to be considered as a mere step towards the priesthood, but it is so adorned with its own indelible character and its own special grace so that those who are called to it “can permanently serve the mysteries of Christ and the Church.””

    Continuing, “1. It is the task of the legitimate assemblies of bishops of episcopal conferences to discuss, with the consent of the Supreme Pontiff whether and where—in view of the good of the faithful—the diaconate is to be instituted as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy.”

    Finally, “36. Finally as regards the rite to be followed in conferring the sacred order of the diaconate and those orders which precede the diaconate, let the present discipline be observed until it is revised by the Holy See.”

    I would have to disagree with the statement about an ontological change. According to Pope Paul VI, there is an indellible change which takes place. Yes, the deaconal role is to serve, you’re correct, but it can be clearly shown that the Deacon is part of the heirarchy. With that being the case, I must respectfully disagree with your position, regarding the ontology of the deacon.

  50. MichaelJ says:


    Are you suggesting that Pope Paul VI instituted a new Sacrament?

  51. ghp95134 says:

    Whenever I see a priest or sister wearing clerics in “civvy street” I go out of my way to greet them. I’ve even been known to pay for a purchase or two simply because the Sisters were identifiable (they were most pleased and offered to pray for me!). My one regret is that I did not pay for Fr. Selvester’s lunch when I met him at a meeting a few years ago — he was wearing his clerics while on a family vacation.

    Fr. Selvester: next time you’re in the area of operations …. lunch is on me.

    –The “other” Guy

  52. Andy Milam says:


    No, I am most certainly not.

    What I am suggesting is that Pope Paul VI clarified that the diaconate is part of the heirarchical nature of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. This was always the case, however, with re-instituting the permanent diaconate, he is making clear that they also enter into orders just as the priest does. The heirachical nature of the priesthood is threefold; diaconate, priesthood, and bishop.

    In simpler terms, the deacon is the first step of the priesthood, and the consecration to the episcopacy is the completion of the priesthood. All three are part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. For one cannot become a priest without first being a deacon; just as one cannot be a bishop without first being a priest.

  53. Jordanes says:

    MichaelJ asked: Are you suggesting that Pope Paul VI instituted a new Sacrament?

    It doesn’t sound like it. Rather, he’s saying that ordination to the diaconate imparts an indelible character. That isn’t something that only started happening in the reign of Paul VI — it’s always been the case, ever since the Apostles ordained the first deacons.

  54. cl00bie says:

    This reminds me of something that happened to me a few years ago. I was sitting in the car while my wife was driving bemoaning the state of religious dress. The nuns all wear pantsuits, and you never see a priest in his clericals outside of church. I told her that a priests and nuns ought to wear a visible sign of their vocation.

    She pointedly looked at my left hand and said: “You don’t.” (I had put on some weight, and my wedding ring had become uncomfortable. I hadn’t worn it in a few years.)

    Ouch! That’ll leave a mark! :)

    So I went and had my original wedding ring resized and I gave it to *her* that next Christmas (to put on me), and I’ve worn it ever since.

  55. Andy Milam says:

    With regard to my positioning, I would posit that there should be no clerical garb distinction between deacon (permanent or transitional) and priest. Traditionally, the deacon was never distinguished from the priest in matter of garb, so it would stand to reason that this venerable practice could/should continue. As was stated above, if a transitional deacon dresses as a priest and the permanent deacon does not, there is an inaccurate separation of two clerics who are of the same order.

  56. Clinton says:

    Jasoncpetty and Larry R. both commented regarding priests from Mexico that did not wear cassock or collar. The constitution of Mexico
    actually forbids the wearing of clerical attire or habits outside of a church building. That is only one of the bluntly anti-religious laws
    enshrined in that document. Fortunately for the Church in Mexico, many of those laws are simply ignored now. However, I recall that
    just a few years ago the President publicly rebuked a bishop who’d spoken out against government corruption, reminding the prelate
    that the anti-clerical laws were still on the books…

    It is a testimony to the powerful witness of the cassock and the collar that the authors of that legislation banned them in public places.

    I leave it to others to decide for themselves if over one hundred years of legislation designed to diminish the influence of the
    Church on the Mexican public square has brought about the new dawn of a secular utopia to that nation.

  57. tired student says:

    Please, be as lenient as possible with those priests who wear civilian clothes because of persecution or long missionary service in hostile lands.

    One of the greatest confessors I ever had wore street clothes all the time. He would even drive to the hospital on sick calls with his street clothes on. Was he required to wear his clerical suit for pastoral work and the sacraments? Yea. He was also a missionary to Peru for thirty years and had to dodge Marxist rebels. True, he was back in the States almost permanently at that point. He never got used to wearing clerical suits or cassocks simply because doing so would get a missionary killed. Yeah, at armchair’s length we might say that he should have risked martyrdom. Yet the work that he did while alive was amazing. I’d never judge him for the choices he has made.

    He was a holy and honest priest. I trusted him much more than some of the arrogant cassock wearing “know it all” priests. It’s nice when a priest wears a clerical suit or cassock in public. I admire a priest that has the strength and conviction to do so. I wouldn’t make snap judgements against those who wear street clothes outside the church. You and I may not know the backstory.

  58. Mr. Milam,

    You still need a lesson in theology. Paul VI wasn’t reviving the diaconate, or clarifying that it is received through holy orders. All he was doing was reviving it as an office that could be held permanently as well as transitionally. While holy orders leaves an indelible mark for all three ranks indelibility and ontological change are not synonymous. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it clear that sacerdotal ministry (i.e. of a bishop or priest) is different than diaconal ministry. Deacons do not stand in persona Christi and bishops and priests do.So, your assertion that “The heirachical nature of the priesthood is threefold; diaconate, priesthood, and bishop” is incorrect. Deacons are not part of the priesthood.

    Perhaps you misunderstood me and thought I was asserting that deacons are not clerics? That was not what I meant. The emphasis is on the fact that they are not clerics THE SAME as bishops and priests. While deacons are called to configure their lives to Christ who made himself the servant of all they do not and cannot act in persona Christi thus underscoring a major difference between them and bishops & priests.

    No one is saying deacons aren’t clerics (which is apparently what you’ve decided to hear). No one is saying that they aren’t part of the hierarchical structure of the Church’s clergy. BUT, they are not “the same” kind of clerics as priests and deacons. The indelible mark left upon them in the reception of holy orders is not merely other words for an ontological change.

    CCC:1562 “Christ, whom the Father hallowed and sent into the world, has, through his apostles, made their successors, the bishops namely, sharers in his consecration and mission; and these, in their turn, duly entrusted in varying degrees various members of the Church with the office of their ministry.” “The function of the bishops’ ministry was handed over in a subordinate degree to priests so that they might be appointed in the order of the priesthood and be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by Christ.”

    1563 “Because it is joined with the episcopal order the office of priests shares in the authority by which Christ himself builds up and sanctifies and rules his Body. Hence the priesthood of priests, while presupposing the sacraments of initiation, is nevertheless conferred by its own particular sacrament. Through that sacrament priests by the anointing of the Holy Spirit are signed with a special character and so are configured to Christ the priest in such a way that they are able to act in the person of Christ the head.”

    and also

    1569 “At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands ‘not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry.”

    and later

    1594 The bishop receives the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, which integrates him into the episcopal college and makes him the visible head of the particular Church entrusted to him. As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the authority of the Pope, successor of St. Peter.

    1595 Priests are united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity and at the same time depend on them in the exercise of their pastoral functions; they are called to be the bishops’ prudent co-workers. They form around their bishop the presbyterium which bears responsibility with him for the particular Church. They receive from the bishop the charge of a parish community or a determinate ecclesial office.

    1596 Deacons are ministers ordained for tasks of service of the Church; they do not receive the ministerial priesthood, but ordination confers on them important functions in the ministry of the word, divine worship, pastoral governance, and the service of charity, tasks which they must carry out under the pastoral authority of their bishop.

    So, we see that the indelible mark that holy orders brings refers to the permanence of ordination (as it also does for baptism and confirmation) but it does not refer to the ontological change. Rather, as the Catechism clearly demonstrates bishops and priests share in the Apostolic ministry and are ordained into the ministerial priesthood empowering them to act in persona Christi. Deacons do not. They are ordained; they are clerics; but they are NOT the same as priests and bishops. In addition, they are not the “lowest step of priesthood” as you assert.

    So, having them dress differently actually makes perfect sense. Or, as Fr. Z simply put it much earlier, “Deacons aren’t priests”.

  59. Grabski says:

    Fr Selvester having them dress differently actually makes perfect sense.

    But they do not dress differently; only permanent deacons dress differently (in most dioceses and cases) And brothers also wear Roman collars.

    So that is what confuses the laity; why do lay brothers wear clericals but not clerics themselves? And why do some clerics of the same rank (?) wear clericals but others are forbidden to do so?

  60. jeffc says:

    I would like to know the answer to that myself. How should lay brothers dress when they are attending social gatherings at which the habit would be innappropriate?

    I was a Benedictine brother for a few years (I left before making solemn vows because it wasn’t my vocation) and I never liked wearing the Roman collar becuase I didn’t want to be mistaken for a priest. I made a black insert for a clerical shirt…which made people ask what I was, but I didn’t mind that. I would have preferred a rabat with a brother’s collar (like a Roman collar, but without any opening, only a thin band of white around the top http://www.michiganchurchsupply.com/collarette-brother-style-p-688.html?osCsid=3394c502384615f6c8868d5ebbbcb822), but I wasn’t allowed to get one by my superior for some reason. I had been told by one of the older Brothers (who had joined the community in the 1950’s) that in the “old days” brothers wore black suits, white shirts, and black ties. There was, and I suspect is, a great difference of opinion regarding the proper dress of Brothers.

  61. MikeM says:

    I’m for giving deacons as much responsibility as they can be given in their state… after all, they go through a pretty unnecessary amount of schooling if they’re only going to be used as glorified altar servers in a community service program.

    I think it would be appropriate for them to dress for their office, but I wish there were some sort of attire that made priests easily distinguishable from deacons and seminarians… that way people wouldn’t get confused at a time when they need a priest.

  62. MichaelJ says:

    I still do not understand the eagerness to blur the distinction between a Deacon and a Priest. Is it a kind of empathy for Deacons? Is the thought that if Deacons are not allowed to dress as Priests they will somehow feel bad or will think less of themselves? If that is the motivation, why not do the same for Priests and Bishops? Why prevent a Priest from wearing a Mitre or carrying a Crozier? While we are at it, why not extend this benificence to the laity as well? Wouldn’t everyone feel better at Mass if everyone (Bishops, Priests, Deacons and Laymen) were bearing Croziers?

  63. Andy Milam says:

    Thank you Fr. Selvester…

  64. Grabski says:

    MichaelJ I can only speak for myself, but I don’t understand why transitional and permanent deacons should dress differently. Deacons are clergy. What’s more, I really don’t understand why lay brothers are OKd to wear clericals, but clergy (permanent deacons) are not

    No, I don’t think it’s about everyone bearing croziers. It’s about me, as a lay person, not understanding how our hierarchial church explains its hierarchy.

    Frankly, seems that the permanent deacons are some sort of 2nd class clergy. But as Fr Z has said: Deacons are deacons.

  65. Here’s a wild thought…why don’t we just observe the appropriate norms established in Canons 284 and 288 of the CIC (and the complementary norms from the USCCB)

    Can. 284 Clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical garb according to the norms issued by the conference of bishops and according to legitimate local customs.

    Can. 288 The prescripts of cann. ? 284, ? 285, §§3 and 4, ? 286, and ? 287, §2 do not bind permanent deacons unless particular law establishes otherwise.

    (U.S. norms for Canon 284: http://usccb.org/norms/284.htm)

    So, all clerics should wear clerical dress according to the established norms (except permanent deacons who have the RIGHT but not the OBLIGATION)

    In the case of Canon Law, we should “Do the Black” and leave all else alone.

  66. Andy Milam says:


    That would seem reasonable. Since the norm established by the Episcopal Conference is that clear, then it would follow that clerics should wear the black suit with collar and may wear the cassock at their discretion.

    They should dress in conformity to their sacred calling. I would posit that the permanent deacon would dress as a cleric in those times which call for it. Although it would seem that he is allowed to do so whenever he deems it necessary.

  67. MichaelJ says:


    Perhaps a military analogy would help? During the transitional period between when a young enlistd man is selected for promotion and the actual effective date of the promotion, that man is allowed the privilege of wearing the insignia of the higher rank. In some circumstances (usually due to a personal shortcoming) that privilege can be witheld, by the way. In any case, while he does not yet possess all of the authority of that higher rank, he is treated as if he were that rank.

    With that in mind, I see no problem in giving transitional Deacons additional privileges not routinely given to permanent Deacons. This in no way implies anything negative about permanent Deacons just as there is no negative implication raised by not allowing an E-3 to wear the insignia of an E-4 if he has not been selected for promotion.

  68. pmadrid says:

    MichaelJ: I see only one problem with your analogy. Neither the cassock nor the black suit are priestly garments. They’re clerical garments. So transitional deacons (E-3 in your analogy) are not wearing the insignia of priests (E-4). They’re wearing the insignia of clerics, and permanent deacons (E-3), who are just as much clerics as transitional deacons, cannot in some places.

    A more accurate analogy would be if you have some second lieutenants who cannot dress like officers, even though they hold the president’s commission, but are forced to dress as enlisted men at all times. However, all the other second lieutenants and the rest of the officer corps can dress like officers.

  69. pmadrid says:

    “Black suit” should read “Black suit with Roman collar.”

  70. MichaelJ says:

    I’ll leave it to others more versed to determine what the difference between “Priestly” garments and “Clerical garments.

    A cursory layman’s reading of the norms issued by the USCCB indicates otherwise. It states, in part:

    Outside liturgical functions, a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests.

    This seems to indicate, to me at least, that the black suit and Roman collar are priestly garments

  71. Michael,

    The traditional way would be for all clerics and seminarians to wear clerical garb. This would include deacons, obviously. This “let’s have the deacons dress differently” is decidedly not traditional. 50 years ago, men who were studying for the priesthood wore roman collars. I don’t think there was a big deal over priest-confusion. If in doubt you can always ask, “are you a priest?”

  72. Susan says:

    Fr. Z – thank you for posting this, as I’ve wondered for a while what the correct mode of dress is. The priest at our parish is very liberal and informed me, in no uncertain terms, that he was allowed to dress as he likes (shorts, t-shirts, very secular, etc), but that he is not “breaking any rules.” BTW – I wasn’t calling him out on his dress. He overheard a consecrated woman ask me how another priest was doing. This other priest is a good friend of mine, which was made clear by the conversation. This friend is known in our diocese for his “traditionalism” (for lack of a better word coming to mind right now). This traditional priest always wears his cassock, when able or appropriate. At other times, he wears the black suit. Still other times, when he is being casual, he wears the collar and a vest and white shirt with something over it (like a football jersey!). But, the point is, one always knows by looking at him that he is a man of God. Apparently, just the mention of my friend, the priest, was enough to initiate the conversation from my current pastor about how he dresses.

  73. MichaelJ says:


    This has gone far enough away from the original topic, but 50 years ago, there was no permanent Deaconate, as far as I know. I may be mistaken, but I was under the impression that before Pope Paul VI’s Motu Proprio, all Deacons were what would today be called transitional Deacons, studying for the Priesthood.

    That being said, I still se no problem with transitional Deacond dressing differently from permanent Deacons. To use pmadrid’s analogy (which I like better, btw), some second-lieutenants are Line Officers and some are Staff Officers. Their uniforms are different, and nobody thinks less of a Staff Officer because he is not a Line officer. Both serve different functions but both are needed.

  74. Grabski says:

    MichaelJ I believe it is Fr Z who pointed out that, rather than being different sorts of deacons, “Deacons are deacons”

  75. regis says:

    I’m sorry to comment so late, but I have a question in regard to the cited custom from the Council of Baltimore. I have before me No 77 from the third Plenary Council of Baltimore, which cites the second as well. It states that clerics must always wear the cassock at the parish, but allows (not requires) that outside this setting, clerics may (‘licet’) wear a shorter cassock, going to the knees and black. I have often heard the custom cited that “priests were never allowed to wear the cassock outside the parish,” which, unless I am missing something, is manifestly NOT the case. Granted, given the USCCB complementary norms on canon 284, this is a mute point; I just want make sure I’m not crazy.

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