Damian Thompson on birettas

From Damian Thompson‘s blog:

Bring back the biretta: why hatless priests should reclaim their heritage

By Damian Thompson Religion Last updated: March 24th, 2011

Here is a splendid new blog devoted entirely to the subject of birettas – a wonderful reproach to those Magic Circle clerics who think nothing of celebrating Mass in an Abigail’s Party-style cocktail frock “for the larger lady” but sneer at the magnificent traditional headgear of the Latin Church.

The Domus Birettarum blog [There is such a thing?] not only illustrates the wondrous variety of birettas but also makes them bespoke for those priests brave enough to wear them. And I do mean brave. I know several young clergy who would like to wear a biretta, but worry that their right-on septuagenarian PP will dob them in to the diocese for doing so.

As for their other major anxiety, I’m assured that if the biretta is placed gently enough on the crown, it doesn’t create the dreaded “hat hair”.

Is Damian is treating the biretta with the gravity it merits?

Everyone knows that the best defense against hat hair is short hair.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    “And I do mean brave. I know several young clergy who would like to wear a biretta, but worry that their right-on septuagenarian PP will dob them in to the diocese for doing so.”

    Not only diocesan priests, but Lefebrist bishops! Well, one at least. When I entered the SSPX seminary in Winona, MN many moons ago, I was surprised to see no birettas anywhere. It was explained to me that rector Richard Williamson had banished the biretta from the seminary the year before. He would not permit it to be worn or carried in church at all, not during Mass (not even by the celebrant, assistant priest, deacon, and subdeacon), not during any office. One could only wear it outdoors (but only a few had the nerve to, and only on occasion).

    Nobody seemed to know why the biretta lost favour with Dubya, but it just goes to show you that, for whatever reason, this item of clerical headwear is not without controversy in any circle.

  2. Daniel Latinus says:

    The Domus Birettarum blog [There is such a thing?]…

    Yes, indeed, there is: http://domusbirettarum.blogspot.com/

  3. They should bring back shovel hats too.

  4. RichR says:

    To all the PV’s out there who are afraid of their PP’s turning them in over something like this………

    your time is coming soon. Be patient.

  5. Consilio et Impetu says:

    Yes, yes, yes! And, please God, not only for priests but for seminarians as well. The Universal Catholic Church needs to reclaim their traditional vesture (including Sisters and Brothers) to help combat the conversions to the Muslims, who proudly wear their traditional garments. For those who want to wear their cassocks, birettas, habits but are fearful, pray to the Holy Spirit for courage!

  6. Iowander says:

    A few years ago, I belonged to a very normal parish that was assigned a new young priest who wore a biretta. I (and many of my fellow parishioners) did not even know what they were before then (I vaguely recognized it as something I’d sometimes seen Bishops wear). I’d say that pretty much the universal opinion of the parish (especially the kids in the school) was that his hat was pretty neat. Perhaps the parish isn’t as normal as I thought, or perhaps the priest’s zeal and magnetic personality caused even his hat to be likable.

    I am amazed that there is such a controversy surrounding birettas!

  7. albinus1 says:

    Ah, Iowander, but the controversy arises from the fact that it is something traditionally Catholic. A priest’s wearing a multicolored frizzy wig during Mass (like the “John 3:16” guy at football games some years ago) would cause less consternation in some circles, and would probably even be celebrated by some as an expression of “diversity”.

  8. s i says:

    Oh would that Fr. Z would don one for us!

  9. disco says:

    I’m a firm believer in hats. If your chosen career (or vocation) has a hat associated with it — best that you wear it. Policemen shouldn’t wear baseball hats they should wear cop hats. Same goes for nurses, firemen, reporters, and doormen. Priests should wear their proper headgear as should all.

  10. jbas says:

    Someone needs to produce one that’s hand-washable and otherwise water resistant. Mine once encountered a sudden rain shower, and has not been the same since.

  11. albinus1 says:

    I’m a firm believer in hats.

    A pity that it was the Catholic president, JFK, who supposedly sparked the near-instantaneous cultural backlash against hats in the early 1960s, by delivering his televised Inaugural address hatless, despite the cold temperature on that day.

  12. aladextra says:

    JFK can be blamed for many things, but the demise of the hat in menswear is not one of them. He wore a hat to his inaugural, but did not wear it when he spoke, just like Eisenhower, Truman, FDR, and Hoover before him. I think the ubiquity of the automobile is the prime factor personally.

    I disagree with the good father about the short hair however. “St.-John-Vianny hair” fills out a biretta quite nicely.

  13. Fr. Basil says:

    There are all sorts of hats in Eastern Christianity. And I like to see them worn.

    When I’m not wearing my klobuk, I wear a Romanian style skoufia. It’s cylindrical, but soft, and has a red cross with IC XC NIKA embroidered on the front.

    Greek and Antiochian priests and deacons (Orthodox and Melkite) should wear a brimmed kamelavka from the Diaconate. However, headgear is an award in the Slavic tradition for secular clergy.

    Copts, Syriac, and others have their traditional headdress, too.

  14. Melody says:

    Hm… a thought just occurred to me. I sew pretty well, I do costuming as a hobby and own a sewing machine. Might there be a biretta pattern out there somewhere? I could make them and provide them for any priests on here that want one.
    Been thinking of making some spare mantillas for our chapel as well.

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