QUAERITUR: Deacon tried to intimidate me out of wearing the cassock.

From a priest reader:

I recently spoke with the permanent deacon in our parish after he saw me hanging up my cassock after hearing confessions. He asked me, is the cassock again being proposed as normal attire for priests in the seminary? Of course, not having been in the seminary in 14 years, I don’t know the answer to that, but it seems many younger priests choose to wear it. He then proceeded to lecture me [?!?] about how wearing a cassock is not pastoral, and scares the people, who see it as a throwback to the “old” Church with its “doom and gloom” and “long list of rules.” Again, its the Church of Nice against the Church of Christ…Hermenutic of Rupture against the Hermenutic of Continuity. While the wearing of cassocks is becoming more widespread among younger priests, the older “generation” still tries to shame the younger out of wearing it, and it seems that the people also do not understand what the wearing of the cassock is about, and what it means, since many leave parishes where the pastor wears one, at least around here. I wish I could find a way to explain to people, including our deacon, in a way that they can relate and understand that the “new” church isn’t new at all, and that the “long list of rules” still exists, and that they protect the deeper values and principles of the Gospel that Jesus preached for us all, in every time and place, and that the wearing of a cassock in no way means that the priest is any less pastoral or caring for his flock than a priest who chooses not to wear one. It does make me wonder what the deacon and the people think “pastoral” really means…rightly shepherding, or anything goes.

Soooo many thoughts and responses.

What flashes through my head is:

  • “Reverend Mister X, when you hear confessions, wear what you want to wear.  Oooops!  No, wait!  You can’t hear confessions, can you.  So, how about BUTTING OUT?”
  • “If you have a problem with the cassock, send a complaint to the guy whose name is on the signature line on the bottom of the check I give you each week.”
  • “O dear deacon, I’m sure that people are not so shallow as all that. If someone is ‘scared’ by a cassock, then surely there’s a need for some psychological counseling, wouldn’t you say?”
  • “May I remind you, cleric, of the canons about sexual continence for all clerics, including deacons?”
  • “Stick it. Get back to work.”
  • Yawn.  Did you say something?”

The generation to which I presume your deacon belongs has been long accustomed to scare techniques – and largely successful at using them.

Does this sound familiar?

  • “If you don’t allow guitars at Mass, communion in the hand, felt banners, and liturgical dance, then…. *sputter*… dogs and cats! living together!… people will be leaving the Church IN DROVES!”
  • “If we don’t soften the academics in our seminaries, if we continue to exclude the same-sex attracted, if we demand that they spend time each day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, we’ll drive out the best and most ‘pastoral’ candidates!”
  • “If we sister keep wearing our habits, our strict community life and discipline, our common apostolate, no young girls will want to join!!”

It’s time to call their bluff.  They were demonstrably wrong in the past.  They are demonstrably wrong now.

Perhaps the best explanation to the people and to the deacon is simply to wear the cassock whenever and whenever it pleaseth you to wear it.

Also, I remind you of what I wrote here: Who are these ‘c’atholic liberals? Young Catholics don’t know and don’t care.

Aging-hippie liberals interpret everything within the Church still through the lens they formed during the anti-authoritarian civil-rights and anti-war protest movements.

When we try to uphold hierarchy and authority or rubrics or the older form of Mass or obedience to the Magisterium or decorum in liturgy and sacred music, or in the clerical life, an involuntary subconscious switch clicks in their heads. They take your faithful Catholic position of continuity to be an attack themselves and on Vatican II, on … niceness… on bunnies … on the poor… on the Democrat Party….

Vatican II cannot, in their minds, be separated from the protest movements they have idolized until they are actually paradigmatic, iconic, even mythic.

A myth that is now itself dying, and they don’t like it one little bit.

I am pretty tired of this B as in B, S as in S.  I have been tired of it for decades.  Yes, the Biological Solution is working on these aging hippies, but… sheesh!  Patience is called for with most lay people, but with a cleric… and from your deacon… and in your sacristy…?


Every young priest who has toyed with the idea of wearing a cassock, but has been intimidated by the nattering nabobs of negativism (or blustering Boomers of bellicosity?), should make a New Years’ resolution in 2014 to wear his cassock in public one day a week – or every day! Or maybe band together. Steal a liberal hippy Boomer technique and stage a sit-in, a “cassock-in”, somewhere really public and visible.

Furthermore, former-Father Greg Reynolds is still excommunicated.

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  1. Saint1106 says:

    Cassocks are are very useful, easy to take on and off (at least the Jesuit style is, with no buttons). So when I am on a retreat at a Benedictine monastery and go to office or to the refectory or con-celebrate with the monks, easy to put on a cassock over slacks and a sport shirt than put on a clerical shirt, collar.
    So the cassock is very useful and convenient garb. Especially if the Monsignor and the fathers have been out practicing on the putting green before going to hear confessions on a Saturday afternoon.
    Good grief, next thing, people will start complaining about golf.-playing priests.

  2. Legisperitus says:

    That first list of bullet points is happily reminiscent of Al Jaffee’s “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.”

  3. Unwilling says:

    I have not seen a priest wearing a cassock in several years (not counting movies etc.) As it is legally normal wear for priests, it should be normal. But disobedience or wilful resistance to Church teaching is the social norm. (A priest friend comes to dinner and usually mentions as an aside that it is a favour to his host that he wear his collar!) So I don’t really notice the absence.

    On the other hand, wearing a cassock would seem nowadays to be a claim to a commitment to obedience and orthodoxy. The only worry I would have is that, through human weakness and inconstancy, this pious gesture would become a symbol of hypocrisy and a scandal.

    For example, suppose someone with access to more than adequate funds for better symbolized his desire to identify with the poor by buying an old used car. If that person subsequently lived in real poverty or simplicity, the symbol would do good. If, however, a non-well-wisher found out that person consumes more than 2000 calories per day, the car ownership might become a joke, thus undermining any good.

  4. I was once criticized by a youth minister for using the Baltimore Catechism as a supplement to Confirmation prep with the reason being “it’s pretty old” . . . and my reply, which, thanks be to God, works well against this straw man argument and I will continue to use is: ‘well, so is the Bible.’

  5. philbert says:

    The cassock has advantages, as even Anglicans recognise . . .

    Now we know!

  6. Maria says:

    Fr. Michel-Marie, a Cassock in Deep Marseille — wearing cassock is pastoral for him — please read as it is really a very nice story — http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350378?eng=y

    Bring back tradition … bring back the cassock …

  7. Netmilsmom says:

    Our Senior Priest wore a cassock until the day he died.
    It gives me comfort to see a Priest in a cassock.

  8. I would like to invite that cassock-wearing priest to come and serve in my parish. I love to see priests in cassocks. Very few do in my diocese. However, at least most of them now wear clericals, as opposed to the street clothes of a couple of decades ago. Priests who are instantly recognizable as such are a consolation.

    Which leads me to a sweet story. Did you know that Sir Alec Guinness was led to convert to Catholicism because of priestly garb? When in costume for his role as Chesterton’s Father Brown, a little French boy came running up to him, took his hand and chattered away happily to him, apparently thinking he was a real priest. That clericals could inspire such a response from a little boy started him down the path to the Catholic Church, which he joined a couple of years later.

  9. Unwilling says:

    Maria, Fr Michel-Marie is a fascinating story. His use of that external has effect. But I am doubtful what he brings souls to. We are hearing these days about the intention of some to admit to communion people who have valid marriages (albeit legally divorced) and are “living in sin” [nod to Lady Marchmain]. But this priest says “Even the prostitutes. I give them communion. What should I say? Become honest, before you enter here? Christ came for sinners, and I have the anxiety, in withholding a sacrament, that he could bring me to account for it one day. But do we still know the power of the sacraments?” For me, the cassock is belied by his loss of principle in the face of “anxiety”.

  10. PhilipNeri says:

    The Baby Boomers in the Order have turned the habit into a liturgical garment. To wear it for anything other than liturgy is a sign that you are regressive, anti-laity, anti-woman, etc, ad. nau. I ignore them and wear the habit when I choose, which is pretty much all the time. So do the younger friars. . .who usually pay a price for doing so.

    When someone like the deacon above starts rattling on about clerical garb or the habit, insisting that “people” will be offended, put-off, etc., ad. nau. I quickly ask, “You mean YOU are offended, put-off, etc., right? Surely, you’re not claiming to speak for anyone else?” That usually puts to stop to their nannying.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  11. wmeyer says:

    When I see a priest wearing a cassock, I am reassured that his views and praxis are likely consistent with Church teaching. Not a guarantee, but a good sign.

  12. Priam1184 says:

    A funny story about deacons of a certain age: recently the parish I attend decided to stop distributing Holy Communion under both species. We learned about this during the announcements at the end of Mass when this deacon of a certain age announced that distribution of the Precious Blood would be suspended because of the cold and flu season. Our much younger priest jumped in immediately and said that the parish was returning to distributing Holy Communion under the single species of the Host permanently because of all of the abuse that had been associated with distributing the Precious Blood, and because it was not necessary to distribute the Precious Blood because of the Church’s doctrine of concomitance. I would like to have been a fly on the wall after Mass.

  13. ASPM Sem says:

    As a young person myself, I am terrified of cassocks and very put off by them. So terrified, in fact, that I can’t wait for my next chance to wear it tomorrow at Bishop-elect Cozzens’ ordination.

    Some words of hope for all the readers: pretty much every young man at SJV loves wearing his cassock. I know that 6 1/2 years from now when I’m ordained (God willing) it will be a part of my wardrobe.

  14. Uxixu says:

    I laughed at a couple of the hypothetical replies, but think a more serious response would have more appropriate, particularly in correcting the deacon’s perception with another perspective pointing out the benefits of a distinct clergy and suggesting said deacon wear one, as well.

  15. Sandy says:

    My immediate reaction after reading – how disrespectful for a deacon to lecture a priest! That shows something lacking in the deacon’s formation IMHO! Call me old fashioned :) To all the priests who wear a cassock – bravo and God bless you!!

  16. LRC says:

    I love seeing a Priest wearing a cassock. It takes me back to my youth when most Priests wore a cassock. Last Sunday, our baby Priest, (as he calls himself – ordained June 2013) was wearing a cassock as he was praying before Mass. It just made me fee good seeing him.

  17. yatzer says:

    I am embarrassed by my fellow Boomers, but then never did fit in really well–which may be how I was fortunate enough to find the Catholic Church. Anyway, it seems the upcoming generation of priests are wearing cassocks and generally are more in tune with what the Church has always taught. I find it comforting; I need these guys to help me persevere into the next life. The glad-handing members of my age cohort are not much use there, especially since it doesn’t seem to concern them much.

  18. robtbrown says:

    PhilipNeri says:
    The Baby Boomers in the Order have turned the habit into a liturgical garment.

    It wasn’t the Baby Boomers, whose first high school graduating class was 1964. At the very earliest Boomer ordination couldn’t have occurred until after 1970.

    The group you have in mind was in formation 1955-65. They grew up in a highly structured Church and society, then the bottom dropped out.

  19. ladytatslace says:

    Wear your cassock please Father.
    Our parish priest wears one every now and then particularly on special feast days. I have told him thank you, and asked him to wear it more often.

  20. Athelstan says:

    …and scares the people, who see it as a throwback to the “old” Church with its “doom and gloom” and “long list of rules.”

    Perhaps that *is* the case . . . for certain septuagenarian middle class Catholic whites with false memories of childhood. And these people need help.

    But perhaps the good deacon might consider one witness of note for the positive value of the cassock, noted by Maria above (you beat me to it, Maria!): Fr. Michel-Marie Zanotti-Sorkine, a French priest who is managing to build a thriving ministry in the worst parts of Marseilles, recently profiled by Sandro Magister at Chiesa:

    Why the cassock? “For me” – he smiles – “It is a work uniform. It is intended to be a sign for those who meet me, and above all for those who do not believe. In this way I am recognizable as a priest, always. In this way on the streets I take advantage of every opportunity to make friends. Father, someone asks me, where is the post office? Come on, I’ll go with you, I reply, and meanwhile we talk, and I discover that the children of that man are not baptized. Bring them to me, I say in the end; and I often baptize them later. I seek in every way to show with my face a good humanity.”

    There. That wasn’t so scary.

  21. robtbrown says:

    I like the account by St Isaac Jogues himself who said that the cassock is a sign of the celibate.

  22. Tantum Ergo says:

    Darn! I haven’t seen Fr. Z share further adventures of Cossack priests. Talk about Church Militant! Just imagine one charging on horseback wearing a cassock (the priest, not his horse) into the liberal ranks, wielding the Catechism with one hand, and Sumorrum Pontificum in the other! I just hope the horse doesn’t slip on the volleys of spittle-flecks.

  23. A PERMANENT deacon lecturing a priest on the appropriate dress?

    I’d be more snarky than your first response, Father, I fear, combining all of them into one double tap to the spiritual forehead, ending with, as you say in your fifth bullet: “Stick it”

    And then find, through the diocesean personnel office, a more ‘bauhaus burlap and felt banner’ worshiping community of believers in the catholic tradition where he’d be more comfortable. It’s obvious that he and I would be on different tracks as to what the parish direction should be.

    That is, if I was the good Father who wrote you. Pray for our priests…they are under attack from outside and sadly, inside, the Church.

  24. iPadre says:

    That generation has a lot of fruit to speak of their “reformation.” Empty seminaries and convents, churches being sold off and demolished in the hundreds and the list goes on. By their rotten fruit you shall know them!

  25. robtbrown says:

    I should add that the Boomers with the no habit habit were those who made it through formation, i.e., they were liberals. Those who wanted to wear the habit were usually told they had no vocation.

  26. Nan says:

    Oh! We have sometimes had cassock-clad priests in the confessional. And as ASPMSEM mentioned, cassocks will be present tomorrow for Ordination. Along with bishops, priests and seminarians. I don’t think we expect more snow immediately although the random priest for Mass was unappreciative of the cold.

  27. robtbrown says:

    iPadre says:

    That generation has a lot of fruit to speak of their “reformation.” Empty seminaries and convents, churches being sold off and demolished in the hundreds and the list goes on. By their rotten fruit you shall know them!

    See my comment above: It wasn’t the Boomers who created the mess.

  28. Pingback: Cassock confusion | The Crossroads of Faith

  29. Kathleen10 says:

    Please allow me to chime, although this is a clerical situation.
    I’m imagining a “seasoned” deacon, an older gentleman perhaps, and a young priest. To the deacon, this is probably just “good advice”.

    There is nothing, virtually nothing on earth, that arrests my attention like seeing a priest in a black cassock or a nun in full habit. I mean, I am riveted on the spot. Hopefully the poor priest or nun does not notice me, because I know I stare as intensely as the lion stares at the gazelle. I’ve never thought about why really, but, the garb is such a sign. It represents something I can’t put into words exactly, it’s a deeply symbolic representation of the aura of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, as if, this person is deeply connected to Jesus, and is enveloped in that world, and I am mystified and intrigued by that possibility. And they are right in front of me. For a moment, I am near that as well. Scary? Oh my goodness no. Comforting! Comforting in that here is a glimpse of a life lived for Jesus Christ with all that sacrifice entails, and here is a visible symbol of the value of that sacrifice. Am I awed by that, yes, and very, very appreciative too.

  30. Scott W. says:

    Hmmm…I understand the choir can also wear a type of cassock. Anyone got a source?

  31. msokeefe says:

    It would be funny coming from a married permanent deacons, who’s ordination is most likely illicit, violating Canon 277 regarding the requirement of continence.

  32. FrSam says:

    I wear my cassock at least every Sunday. Never had anyone run away screaming, never had anyone say they felt they could not approach me, never had anyone afraid that there would be a barrier between us. On the contrary, many people comment that they appreciate seeing the cassock, it reminds older folks of their childhood, kids think it’s cool, and it has been an opportunity to engage in discussions about the symbolic/theological reasons behind vestments, art and many other things. And hey, easier to put on a surplice and stole to help distribute communion than to put on the amice, albe, cincture and stole (forgive me for my sloth!). Until I can see the evidence that the cassock is an obstacle to the Gospel, I’ll go ahead and keep wearing mine.

  33. Fern says:

    Let us see cassocks, clerical garb, habits!! Wear what you “say” you are!! We don’t wear your signs, don’t wear ours, please!

  34. Cafea Fruor says:

    I guess I’d be afraid of a cossack, especially one with a beretta, but a cassock with a biretta, on the other hand, would be a sight for sore eyes. ;o)

  35. cmnunis says:

    Can I, if I was a permanent deacon (and I think I am heading in that direction), wear the cassock and the biretta?

    ps: Why are those who become permanent deacons liberal heretics?

  36. I tell people that wearing a cassock smooths out my lumps–worsening every year.

  37. smittyjr63 says:

    Father Z, next time you are asked if the cassock is again being proposed as normal attire for priests in the seminary, you should respond to them….”What would Jesus say? How do you think Jesus would feel about me wearing it? Do you think Jesus would be offended?”

    I’m pretty sure that would shut them up.
    : )

  38. Patti Day says:

    My parish was fortunate to have two seminarians visit for a month in 2012. They wore their cassocks and it set a very reverent tone. Our priest (in his seventies) even wore frequently while they were there. I haven’t seen him wear it lately, but he has put on some pounds, so that could be why not. I don’t remember anyone looking “scared”. In fact the only thing I heard were exclamations of approval. Please seminarians, bring the wearing of the cassock back to our parishes.

  39. Ed the Roman says:

    Jesus never said anything about cassocks beyond “take no thought to what you are to wear.”

  40. Lin says:

    Thank you for wearing a cassock! We have been on three pilgrimages where the priest wore a cassock everyday. I rarely see it in our diocese although pre-Vatican II, it was common. Our pastor (66 years of age) did not wear a clerical collar to a funeral prayer service!!!! I pray I do not die before he retires. I have only seen him in a clerical collar once, last Christmas Eve. I find it comforting when I see priests and religious in religious garb! My daily prayers include all priests and religious (and many by name)!

  41. CatholicMD says:

    Reason # 234674365438 to get rid of permanent deacons.

  42. JimGB says:

    My parish is staffed by a religious order who wear habits, so this is not an issue ( plus we have no permanent deacons). However, when my great nephew was baptized in a parish in the diocese of Arlington, Va. several years ago, I was impressed by the fact that the priest wore cassock, surplice and stole. In almost every other instance, the priest would put on an alb and a stole over the black pants and black clerical shirt (usually short sleeve). The priest was in his early 40s it appeared. No one at the baptism fainted, or got the vapors, or ran screaming from the church at the sight of a priest in a black cassock.

  43. sunbreak says:

    I wish these things were more standardized. The last pastor only wore religious garb for Mass. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know that the cussing, chain-smoking guy you saw at other times was the pastor. The current pastor wears a cassock for religious activities and in the rectory. Otherwise he wears the black suit with collar when he goes out except if he’s on vacation.

  44. JimGB says:

    Lin, I once experienced a priest coming to a wake service on a hot summer evening wearing a gray suit and a pink clerical shirt with Roman collar, I kid you not. On another occasion, the priest showed up wearing a black windbreaker with a black clerical shirt underneath but the top was open and the white tab sticking out. Don’t these guys think about how they appear when coming to pray over the body of a deceased member of the faithful with the decedent’s mourning family?

  45. I’ve been a sheep of the same shepherd for almost 15 years and he has always worn the cassock. As far as I know, he has worn one since ordained in the 90s. I, nor anyone I know, have ever seen him out of clerical dress for any reason.

    Advise for the priest in this article…. try to keep the deacon from teaching any kind of religious class. There is no telling what he is making up as he goes along. Scary!

  46. ghp95134 says:

    If one lives in the San Jose, California, area I would recommend attending Our Lady of Peace Shrine. The shrine is in the care of the IVE (Institute of the Incarnate Word) whose priests ALL wear cassock, and sisters wear habits: those are the “uniform of the day.”

    It is nice to bump into the priests at Safeway when they are shopping …. just seeing a priest in cassock or sister in habit in “civvy street” is heart warming. Last week at San Francisco International Airport two sisters of the Missionaries of Charity were right behind me waiting to pay their parking fees at the pre-pay kiosk. Recognizing them immediately as Religous, I paid their fees — something I never would have considered were they wearing pants suits. I received a warm thank you and Miraculous Medal (^__^) .


  47. St. Epaphras says:

    Priests in cassocks: a sign of Hope.

  48. adeacon says:

    I would like to chime in. It seems that this conversation is becoming anti-deacon – because of the comments of one deacon about cassocks. The deacon should probably have kept his thoughts to himself. Still, we know comments like this come from all sides – deacons to priests, priests to deacons. Who here is not a sinner?

    I am a permanent deacon. The Lord called me to this vocation, the same as he called all my ordained brothers. I am not a liberal heretic. I have no issue with cassocks. I feed the “poorest of the poor.” I am conservative – as many of my deacon brothers are. Some are not conservative. Still, we give our all for Mother Church. Please, love your deacons.

  49. Unwilling says:

    WWJS? Weeeeellll…

    The selection of what Jesus said that is found in the Bible is explained explicitly in the written and implicitly in the Tradition of the Church. As Catholics, confident that Jesus speaks through the Magisterium, we can more securely ask: WWCLS?

    But some contributors may have forgotten that Jesus did have something to say on what we wear. The exhortation not to be concerned with what you wear, as he taught it, might superficially seem to be against cassocks than for. Matt 23: 5-7 “They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.” There is a human tendency to wear not what we are, but what we hope to be thought to be. [Right after the above, Jesus says to call no one Father — not including Fr Z.]

    WWCLS = What would Canon Law say?

  50. Hank Igitur says:

    All of our priests and all our seminarians from their second year wear cassocks, including when they play football. [Sorry, but that’s silly.]

  51. Pingback: Deacon tried to intimidate me out of wearing the cassock. | Fr. Z’s Blog | Deaconjohn1987's Blog

  52. lsclerkin says:

    Was at Adoration today at St. Francis DeSales Seminary in Milwaukee, and a young, rather newly ordained priest wore a cassock. Accompanied by a class of teenagers and very very traditionally dressed nuns.
    i know a young Jesuit seminarian who asked to be able to wear a cassock, was declined (for now) and wears his clerics all the time. As soon as he gets the green light, he’s wearing the cassock. He’s got one, but is not given permission yet to wear it.
    These young guys want to wear their cassock.

  53. Nan says:

    @FrSam, we like your type of sloth!

    @Cafea Fruor, some cossacks are provided military surplus so far more likely you’d find one with an AK-47 than with a beretta. People do frequently mistake Slavic autonomous military classes with clerical attire.

    @semperficatholic, when priests aren’t seen out of clerical attire, I imagine they have clerical pajamas.

    I just read Bl. John XXIII’s prayer to the Holy Spirit for the Ecumenical Council. In our fallen world the prayer was not answered in a manner we recognize.

  54. robtbrown says:

    Ed the Roman says:
    Jesus never said anything about cassocks beyond “take no thought to what you are to wear.”

    Which is of course a prime reason for the cassock or religious habit–no need to think about what to wear.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  55. Matthew the Wayfarer says:

    I grew up a non-Catholic and became a Byzantine rite Catholic in 1975. The Priest AND the Permanent Deacon ALWAYS wore cassock in Church and the Chancery. Hate seeing Priests not wearing it around Church and Chancery. Deacons are a different story as I know that Latin Rite deacons apparently are forbidden to wear outside of Masses.It’s as if the Latin/Romans are afraid of deacons being clergy.

  56. The only problem with criticizing a permanent deacon is that deacons don’t get transferred. Priests do. An unhappy deacon can make life pretty miserable for a priest, especially if that priest isn’t the pastor. Such a priest may consider himself fortunate if all that happens is a quick transfer elsewhere less unpleasant. Of course, these days, if a priest leaves before his term is up, people will start whispering, justified or not. So while everything Fr. Z suggested is quite reasonable under the circumstances, any priest who challenges a deacon had better be prepared for a rough road ahead. It is unjust and unfair but it’s life.

  57. kimberley jean says:

    Keep wearing the cassock but don’t make the deacon mad. A well connected permanent deacon with money can have the bishop make an assignment change. It’s happens before.

  58. Mike says:

    Everytime I see a priest in a cassock I am re-affirmed in my lay state. Period.

    Let cassocks be the norm, and let the laity be laity!

  59. Ed the Roman says:

    robtbrown says:

    Ed the Roman says:
    Jesus never said anything about cassocks beyond “take no thought to what you are to wear.”

    Which is of course a prime reason for the cassock or religious habit–no need to think about what to wear.

    Exactly. Also one of the things I liked about active duty.

  60. Oh Nan, how funny. I started to say something concerning that and decided against it, but since you brought it up I will say it.

    I have joked with my pastor’s mom about what Father’s PJs probably look like. I told her that I bet they are black with a white collar because sometimes people will go to a rectory with an emergency and if they went to the rectory at our parish they would find Father in clerical dress even if it were three in the morning. :) She thought it was funny. Now, I don’t know if he would find humor in it so I will feel very fortunate if he does read this thread. lol

  61. Nan says:

    Of course they’re black with a white collar! Fine cotton for summer. Flannel for winter. Pastor’s mom probably thought it was funny because you guessed right.

  62. JKnott says:

    We have a permanent deacon in our OCDS community who wears a cassock. We love it. He has made a conscience decision as to the importance of wearing it. Of course, he also has a high regard for the priests in our area who say the EF Mass and who also wear cassocks.
    In addition, I am able to attend a daily Mass at a seminary in my town. Being there in a sea of cassocks (about 80 or 90) is beyond words. So o o o reverent. The carriage and peaceful demeanor of these men in black is truly inspiring. Deo Gratias!
    Very sorry for the priest in this story. Maybe he should turn the tables on the deacon and suggest the benefits of wearing one himself. Pray for Father.

  63. dominic1955 says:

    I liked it in St. Louis where the permanent deacons had to wear clerical attire. Some even came to the Latin Mass in cassocks themselves.

    I have nothing against permanent deacons, I even think extending the clerical state in this way is a good idea. I’d like to see the old Minor Orders and Subdiaconate restored and given to men who were not on the priesthood route, even if they wouldn’t be given “clerical” status in Canon Law.

    Its all a matter of execution, however. The permanent diaconate was instituted at a bad time in Church history and often the formation programs are…weak…for lack of a better word. It certainly could have been a boon to the Church is the diaconate trained more than glorified altar boys with errant opinions. That is not to say there aren’t any good permanent deacons, there are plenty, but the programs by and large let them down. Much like the seminaries trained deficient priests for many years and still often do.

    As to the cassock, I used to wear mine all the time and I got lots of good responses from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The only negative responses were from priests or laymen of a certain ideological persuasion or ones trained in that mould. One could have many good responses, and all it took to get crap from someone who’s opinion mattered to your ordination was for someone to bellyache about how the cassock wearing made them feel like you were unpastoral or aloof. Its stupid, certainly, but its the way this ideological war is being fought-passive-aggressively.

  64. disco says:

    You know who else hates cassocks? Satan

  65. Lavrans says:

    May a permanent deacon wear a cassock? I am discerning that vocation.

    Also, I am not a liberal nor a heretic.

  66. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    “Work with what you have, not against it.” May I suggest that this priest start to work on “common grounds” with the Deacon, cultivate a friendship and do this “brick by brick” to quote Father “Z.”

    Although, you did not say the diocese, I wonder if it was my Uncle, he is a Deacon and surprisingly not as ‘traditional’ as he was when I was a child, and it does sound like something he would say.

  67. robtbrown says:

    Ed the Roman,

    I almost mentioned the military uniform as an example–but priests don’t spit shine shoes. [I sure do, at least one pair. And I heat the polish and spit even with a bit of scotch or bourbon to get that glossy look.]

  68. Charivari Rob says:

    To the one or two who asked – particular requirements of diaconal dress are set by the diocese.

  69. GCC Catholic says:

    I am a recently ordained priest (6 months ago), and I make frequent use of my cassock — nearly every weekend Mass, as well as for confessions, and often for religous education and youth ministry (both of which happen during the weekend at my parish). My experience has been very similar to FrSam’s — the conversations that do arise with parishioners have been positive, and it allows me to prepare quickly for confessions and other liturgical celebrations outside of Mass. I have even worn it for several diocesan events as a deacon and now as a priest — and even here have received no adverse reactions (in a diocese where cassocks are not often seen except for MCs and for monsignors at formal events).

    That all said, I have tried to be respectful of by brother priests when I do wear the cassock — I wear it but don’t make a big issue of it, nor do I criticize my brothers who choose not to wear it. I think this is part of the reason why I have not encountered any criticism from them for wearing it.

    Remember that per the US complementary norm to canon 284 (from 1998), the black suit with clerical collar is considered the normal attire for clerics outside of liturgy; the cassock may be worn at the discretion of the cleric (emphasis mine). I think this is the non-polemical answer to the original priest-reader’s situation – that long ago the US Bishops said the cassock is “suitable ecclesiastical garb” in the United States, as is the more common clerical suit. It is likely that the permanent deacon in question is unaware of this.

    [It doesn’t look as if that “complementary norm” is prescriptive, in regard to attire, but rather, descriptive. “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.” The Directory for Priests reminds us that the cassock is the default. Exceptions are then described.]

  70. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    I am a married priest who always wears the cassock whenever I serve. I also have children. There are 22 particular churches within the Catholic Church who ALL have married priests, and in all of these particular churches the cassock is the norm, not the Roman collar. There is only one particular church within the Catholic Church that suppresses their priests from marriage, and canonically expects their deacons to abstain from normal and healthy relations in marriage, and that particular church is the Roman church. Bringing up “canons about sexual continence for all clerics, including deacons?” is painting with a real broad brush, and offensive to the majority of particular churches in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. [Breathe deeply and remind yourself that you are listening in on a Latin Church sacristy discussion and my response to my questioner about Latin Church attire. ‘K? o{]:¬) ]

  71. tzard says:

    This is case of someone being a busybody. It shows a certain lack of charity. Such sins are not uncommon even among the laity – for all sorts of subjects, not just “liberal” political planks.

    Snappy answer #74 = “let’s talk about this next time I’m sitting in the confessional box, instead of after.”

  72. Uxixu says:

    @Subdeacon No need to be so defensive as context was clearly for Latin Rite. Neither is being offensive in the other direction going to solve anything. That one particular church is also the largest by a couple orders of magnitude and has been the discipline for just as long. I’ve seen a little debate on continence for Latin Rite Deacons, but haven’t heard of any attempts to enforce it.

  73. I’m with you subdeacon Joseph…let us not be anti-deacon…It seems that the deacon made a huge error in judgement…

  74. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    @ Uxixu

    It is not enforced because to do so would would make the life of the all ready overworked Latin rite priest that much more difficult. Latin Rite deacons baptize, marry, and bury which is a huge help to the priest, and they do it in most cases without pay. There would be far fewer deacons in the Latin church if clerical celibacy was enforced, and thus you need your deacons. It may be honorable to fast from relations for periods of time in marriage, but to suppress what God made optional to clerics should be rethought in the Latin Rite.

    And yes I will concede that your particular church is by far greater in magnitude, but size has nothing to do with the matter at hand…

  75. Nan says:

    @Subdeacon Joseph, it is pretty clear that since this blog relates to Latin Rite, the post relates also to Latin Rite. As you know, there are two codes of canon law and you know that the above discussion doesn’t apply to your church. There are different rules for the 22 sui juris Churches than the one; however, as to at least one of them, in the US, you’re absolutely wrong; married men are not ordained in most US eparchies although I’m told that one eparchy does ordain married men, despite rules against it. There’s really no reason to nitpick. It’s not like anyone in the US has suppressed your Rite. Oh, and the priest at my church? He just dresses like any other Eastern European guy outside of liturgy.

    @GCC Catholic, thank you. We need priests.

  76. Nan says:

    @Subdeacon Joseph, Seriously? Do you forget that it is with Rome that your Church is in communion? While I don’t know which Church you’re from, assuming that you’re not from one that never broke with Rome, your Church was brought back into Communion with Rome, with few restrictions on your liturgy, under the supremacy of the Pope. Yet you have the audacity to suggest that Rome is wrong, simply because your tradition differs? Wow.

  77. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    @ Nan,
    When the Vatican suppresses married men from being ordained to the priesthood in the Eastern churches in North America a tradition sacred to our rite IS suppressed. A rite encompasses far more than smells, bells, and rubrics. Thank God there are at least four Byzantine Catholic bishops quietly ordaining married men to the priesthood in North America, and if bishops are hesitant to ordain married men to the priesthood here then the candidate for ordination will be married and then ordained overseas and sent back to North America.

  78. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    @ Nan

    What I take issue with is that there are people in the Latin Rite Church who want to forbid their married deacons normal, healthy, and fruitful sexual relations. And yes, I think the Latin Rite should no longer suppress a married priesthood because there is a long and time honored tradition of a married priesthood that is authentically Catholic and ancient.

  79. I like your hypothetical responses to this deacon, Father. I would only add this one:

    Shut up.

  80. Nan says:

    @Subdeacon Joseph, it actually isn’t suppression when priests are available. Do you get that just as you don’t think the Latin Rite should call the shots in your Church, you don’t get to call the shots in the Latin Rite. Canon law calls for continence and whether it’s actually required is another question; permanent deacons become such knowing the rules ahead of time and having their wife’s agreement before they can be admitted to the program. Traditions developed over centuries and in the Latin Rite, a married priesthood is no longer the tradition so it’s misleading to characterize the lack of it as suppression. That would be like me declaring that since the communion host is traditionally made of unleavened bread and that because there is a long and ancient Catholic tradition of receiving communion as separate species, the Byzantine Rite Churches should stop their innovations and go back to communion the way it was before.

  81. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    @ Nan

    The married priesthood has nothing to do with there being a need for priests in the Eastern rites. A married priesthood is the norm, and as the norm it is an integral part of our rite. If you go to the old country by far the majority of priests are married, and they still would be in North America if it wasn’t for over reaching Latin rite Irish Catholic bishops of days gone by.

    The word culture comes from the word cult which means the way a people worship. Thus the cult forms the culture. When the Vatican suppress our tradition of a married priesthood she does suppress our cult, culture, and thus our rite. Vatican II wanted the Eastern Catholics to go back to our traditions and get rid of the Latinizations. Suppressing the married priesthood in North America is an offense to the guarantees made to us at Vatican II.

    If the Latin rite wants to maintain clerical celibacy it can, but what happens to the married deacons and few married priests in the Latin rite who have children after ordination? Should they be defrocked, or just made to feel guilty?

    [I think some have taken a minor comment in the top entry and made it into a big deal that really has little to do with the true topic. I hope everyone gets my drift.]

  82. av8er says:

    The new priest assigned to the base chapel where I drill wears his cassock and also makes use of the communion rails…..

  83. Nan says:

    @Subdeacon Joseph, I know the Archbishop of whom you speak and pray at his grave. He did the best that he could under his circumstances; there are people from many countries who immigrated to this state and he wanted to avoid having ethnic parishes to avoid what we have now, which is way too many parishes in the same neighborhood, now clustered or merged and people are unhappy about it. He didn’t understand how St. Alexis could possibly be a priest when he was widowed. You’re mistaken about when the guarantees were made. In referencing Abp. Ireland, I assume you mean the guarantees made at the Union of Brest and Uzhorod a few hundred years before St. Mary’s was founded.

    Nobody tries to make married deacons or priests feel guilty for having children. That’s ridiculous and you have a huge chip on your shoulder. You’re generations removed from the rite’s true suppression and are still whining about it. You’re married and a priest so get over it; you’ve stated that bishops ordain married men or send them away for ordination. The priest at my Church was ordained in London and came here later. That’s a minor annoyance, not true suppression; however, in the Latin Rite, priests are frequently sent wherever for their education. My diocese sends one to Rome each year to be educated. And sometimes receives seminarians from other locales to be educated and ordained here.

    Try having no idea why some of your family is Orthodox and some Catholic; you at least know the answer. Your reference to things that happened in days gone by clearly indicates that you don’t believe those days have gone by.

  84. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    @ Nan,

    I will believe those days have gone by when Eastern Catholics in North America can freely ordain married men to the priesthood. Also, there will never be unity with the Orthodox as long as the Vatican enforces the Latinization of priestly celibacy on Eastern Catholics in North America and elsewhere.

  85. bernadettem says:

    Every Ordinariate priest I know wears a cassock when at the church. When out and about the ones I have had interaction with wear the collar and priestly clothes. I am speaking of the the US and don’t know about England’s Ordinariate.

    A few months ago when I was at a store I saw an Orthodox priest in his cassock and his child. Maybe Orthodox priests wear them in public. He was not Catholic and had a full beard.

  86. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Late to the discussion, but maybe the priest who was questioned by the deacon may have replied as follows:

    “Well, Deacon X, I am simply following the example of a holy, elderly priest who lives in southern Europe near the Mediterranean Sea. The only difference between his cassock and mine is color. His is white.”


  87. adeacon says:

    Regarding formation of P. Deacons, in my Archdiocese we have a 5 year formation period, one year of discernment (monthly meetings with priests and deacons) and 4 years academic. Deacons must have a BA, after 4 years of academic will come out with a MA in Theology. Of course this all includes physiological testing, FBI / Motor vehicle investigation.

    Deacons are now informed that if there is a greater need in another parish, they can be transferred.

    Regarding Andrews comments, in my experience, it is usually the priest that makes life a bit difficult for the deacon. Let’s face it, some priests do not like deacons. For me it is difficult to understand, for we are there to freely serve. Most deacons, myself included, are obedient. I adhere to whatever the pastor / priest requests. That even goes as far as being told to wear a stole that is not liturgically correct. In my parish, even outside the context of Holy Mass, I am not allowed to baptize. In my ministry contract it clearly states that I CAN baptize. I mention that to you here, but I do not complain. I must be like Fr. Solanus and Brother Andre – accepting the duties placed on me by my pastor/superior.

  88. Deacon Augustine says:

    As a deacon who wears his cassock frequently, I would advise your priest correspondent to tell his deacon to “Stick it!”

    Alternatively, if he wants to be less confrontational, I found the following kind of approach to be quite effective when a lady of a certain age took exception to me wearing clericals on one occasion:

    “Madam, I am 45 years of age and can inform you that I ceased taking the advice of women on what I wear from the age of 12 – when I was old enough to tell my mother that I did not want her interfering in my choice of dress. I have been married for 22 years, and it has been a constant lament of my wife that that I dress like a tramp and have never been willing to listen to her advice on decorous attire either. As you are neither my mother, nor my wife, in what possible fantasy existence do you exist in which you can imagine that I would give one fig in hell for your opinions about what I wear? I will not return your act of rudeness by commenting upon the sack of potatoes with which you have adorned yourself today, therefore, I bid you good morning, madam!”

    She did have a little moan to my priest, but he told her to mind her own business!

  89. Ben Kenobi says:

    It is odd, the Byzantine Catholic admonishes the Latins and yet the Latins respect the Byzantines.

  90. The Masked Chicken says:

    The fear of sacred objects or priests (also a sacred object) is hierophobia. Fear of priests in cassocks would be cassock-induced hierophobia (CIH). Of course, exposure therapy would mitigate the fear, so, contrary to the deacon’s assertion, this militates for a greater presence of cassocks.

    Now, clowns wearing cassocks – *shudder*.

    Also, cassocks might be so frightening because, put a scythe in the hands of a cassock-wearing priest, and they might remind one of the Grime Reaper, which, as a form of, memento mori, is a good thing. Thus, I am led to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter how scary the priest is – as long as he gets you to Heaven. Who is likelier to do that: Fr. Graveyard or Fr. Everything-is-nice? I guess it depends on the individual. Not that priests are, necessarily, supposed to be scary, but, really, some people really need to be scared out of their sins.

    The Chicken

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  91. teejay329 says:

    My vote is for the cassock.
    I was born in 1969 and grew up as a Baptist. My Catholic conversion occurred in college and continues to this day (there is so much history and substance omitted in the RCIA program.) I never realized the profound impact of VaticanII until I started attending the traditional Latin Mass. WOW…what a giant upheaval for traditional Catholics.
    I never got to experience the Church as it was before and I have come to symbolize cassocks and full habits, among ther outward expressions of piety, as beautifully reverent. They not only assist the wearer, but the observer as well.

  92. nykash says:

    I, too, might be a bit more direct. “Here’s a liturgical sock – pop it in your mouth any time you’d like to tell me what to wear as a priest.”

    Sidebar: my wife and I watched ‘Firewalker’ a few months ago. Yes, with Chuck Norris. Anyway, he and his companions needed a disguise when trying to get past government soliders. The result: cassocks and biretas (with a woman in a full habit). Clothes make the person… .and if Hollywood can get it in a B-movie from the 1980s, it should be as clear as day for us in the present.

  93. robtbrown says:

    adeacon says,
    Let’s face it, some priests do not like deacons. For me it is difficult to understand, for we are there to freely serve.

    I understand why you are puzzled. Some of what I’ve heard from priests about PD’s:

    1. They are available to preach but not at all the masses. Thus, the priest still needs to prepare a homily.

    2. Sacramentally, they are clerics, but lead the life of a layman.

    3. They haven’t really studied theology (NB: IMHO, with new regs for PD formation, combined with priests poorly formed, this has to a certain extent been remedied).

    4. Some of the things PD’s could be doing, e.g., Communion to the sick, have been turned over to the laity.

    5. Most people just aren’t very interested in having a PD Baptise their babies or witness their marriage.

    6. The idea that the Permanent Diaconate could be restored was aimed at missionary areas that would seldom see a priest. In the priest’s absence a PD would Baptize, Marry, and Bury–keeping records. But in the West the PD has just become a kind of lay ministry.

  94. robtbrown says:



    A. Many sick want to go to Confession or be anointed.

    B. The priests who have sponsored the above comments have almost always spoke well about those who have become permanent deacons.

  95. Deacon Augustine says:

    robtbrown, with regards to your point 1. why not suggest to the priest concerned that if it is arranged for the deacon to preach, he should preach at all Masses that weekend – otherwise he doesn’t preach?

    With regards to point 5. in my experience the laity have no problems with deacons baptising their babies, witnessing their marriages (unless a Nuptial Mass is wanted of course), or burying their dead. I am sure the priest concerned would discover the same once he gets too old and tired to cope with it all himself.

  96. Gemma says:

    I thank you for wearing your cassock, Father. You made him feel uncomfortable. I am starting to see that this is the response for all those things that people do that take people out of their comfort zones and challenge them.

  97. robtbrown says:

    Deacon Augustine says:
    robtbrown, with regards to your point 1. why not suggest to the priest concerned that if it is arranged for the deacon to preach, he should preach at all Masses that weekend – otherwise he doesn’t preach?

    I’m just repeating what I’ve heard. I try to stay away from making suggestions to priests. If they want my opinion, they’ll ask.

    With regards to point 5. in my experience the laity have no problems with deacons baptising their babies, witnessing their marriages (unless a Nuptial Mass is wanted of course), or burying their dead. I am sure the priest concerned would discover the same once he gets too old and tired to cope with it all himself.

    That might be your experience. I’m just repeating what I’ve heard.

    It has been my experience that people tell me what they will not tell priests (or deacons), and priests tell me what they will not tell the laity.

  98. Deacon Augustine says:

    robtbrown says: “It has been my experience that people tell me what they will not tell priests (or deacons), and priests tell me what they will not tell the laity.”

    That is a fair point. I imagine a lot of problems in the Church have poor communication at the root of them. My priest and I get on very well, but a common frustration we both have is the inability to get feedback from people even when we ask for it directly. Maybe we need someone in the parish who people can tell what they are really thinking – I can’t believe everybody is always happy with the way things are!

  99. acricketchirps says:

    But don’t we need permanent deacons and subdeacons to have celebrations of Solemn Mass?

  100. JohnW says:

    I’m a member of a FSSP parish and our pastor is always seen in a cassock. Everyone who sees Father knows he is a priest.

  101. robtbrown says:


    Most of the laity is polite and respectful toward priests. That will not change.

    I don’t think, however, that this is failure of communication. The Permanent Diaconate is another entry on that list of post Vat II items that have been bungled.

    (Calling Dr Howard . . . Dr Fine . . . Dr Howard).

    IMHO, the problem could have been all but avoided if those ordained to the Diaconate:

    1. Would have to wear clerical garb (with a modified collar)–not just around the church.

    2. Not have secular occupations–lawyer, computer programmer, etc., but rather have ecclesial jobs, e.g, a DRO or Prof of Church History.

    3. Have the same education as a transitional deacon.

    4. Be obligated to the entire Breviary.

  102. Uxixu says:

    @robtbrown You’ve basically described the priesthood, with presumably the only difference being that they weren’t obligated to celibacy?

    I would definitely agree with 4 and mostly with 1 and 3 (though that speaks to being a part of proper formation which you admitted in your earlier post). I don’t think 2 should be strictly necessary, though it certainly wouldn’t hurt and should be desirable where possible. The majority, if not entirety of permanent Deacons are tied to parishes and that sounds like it could pose budgetary issues for parishes that might not need those positions (already filled, etc) and also raises the issue of their family and the relatively meager salaries most of our priests draw without the compensation of having them living in the rectory, etc. They could certainly assist in the biggest and most important purpose of the ancient diaconate: relieving the bishops and priests of many administrative and charity duties they’re currently up to their necks in.

    I think seeing a 2:1 ratio of deacon to priest in every parish would be a laudable goal to that end. It would also nicely facilitate the traditional roles of deacon and subdeacon in both a more reverent Novus Ordo Mass as well as the TLM. To that end, they need to be recognized as full clerics, instead of quasi-clerics which addresses your number 1. By the bishops, pators, and priests, as well as by the laity.

    I say all that as one who was a bit disappointed by having one of our parish Deacons Baptize my eldest. As with most theological issues, my earlier attitude was due to poor/incomplete catechesis. Now having a more educated grasp on it, I love our (permanent) Deacons for their service and have been feeling increasingly called to emulate those examples myself, and was most happy to see my youngest Baptized by one of our Deacons.

  103. iowapapist says:


    I wore cassocks as an altar boy (before 1969). Even as a boy serving Mass I felt pious and holy. Also, I married a Southern Baptist almost 28 years ago. She converted to the Catholic faith in 1997. I would like to say the same thing to you that I said to my wife upon her conversion-welcome home!

  104. Nan says:

    @robtbrown, I see a couple of problems with your suggestions:

    1. Requirement to wear clerical garb might not mix well with other profession. I once met a permanent deacon who wears a black robe in his day job as a judge. Another deacon is retired from his previous profession, MD, and works at the seminary.

    2. Which is great for those with proper educations for that type of work and for places with need; there are many permanent deacons with f/t jobs w/church, seminary or Catholic college which are in urban and suburban areas. Not a real need in rural areas;

    3. Where I am, there’s a suggestion to require admittance to the diaconate program only to men with 4 year degrees. This, in an archdiocese that’s a mix of urban, suburban and rural, will eliminate men, especially from the rural areas;

    4. I met the diaconate aspirants from a couple of years ago, who prayed the breviary, so they’re learning it before admittance to the program.

  105. norancor says:

    Priests, wear your cassocks!


    Just for the sake of clarity, even though I agree with you that permanent deacon ought to be continent (regardless of the determination of Rome) because they are in Major Orders and should be bound by its norms, the discussion on married deacons and continence has been going on for a while. It apparently got so heated, not just on blogs, but in scholarly journals, that it resulted in the USCCB submitting a request for clarification from Rome. The response came back with regards to (Prot. N. 13095/2011). Deacon Kandra, who I am no enormous fan of, gave a rundown on the decision in May of 2012. Notice his typically crude method of titling it:


    The letter circulated by the USCCB:

    In recent months, published opinions have appeared in scholarly journals and on Internet blogs that have raised questions about the observance of diaconal continence by married permanent deacons in the Latin Catholic Church. The opinions have suggested that the clerical obligation to observe “perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (c. 277, §1 CIC) remains binding upon married permanent deacons, despite the dispensation provided to them in canon law from the obligation to observe celibacy (c. 1042, 1° CIC).

    In response to repeated requests for an authoritative clarification on this matter, the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations and the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance requested the assistance of the USCCB President in seeking a clarification from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

    Earlier this week, we were informed that Cardinal-designate Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, with Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary, has forwarded to Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan the Pontifical Council’s observations on the matter (Prot. N. 13095/2011). The observations, which were formulated in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, clarify that married permanent deacons are not bound to observe perfect and perpetual continence, as long as their marriage lasts.

    Should you have any questions about this response, please contact Reverend W. Shawn McKnight, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. In addition, please feel free to share this response with those within your diocesan curia who will find it helpful.

  106. Iowapapist: “I wore cassocks as an altar boy (before 1969). ”

    As do the altar boys at the Novus Ordo Masses I attend (including even in a rather liberal parish). Unfortunately, so do the altar girls (including even in an otherwise rather conservative parish).

  107. robtbrown says:


    1&2. Note that I See my other suggestion that only those with with ecclesial occupations become deacons.

    NB: The US Bishops only obligate PD’s to morning and evening prayer.

  108. robtbrown says:


    What I have described is the life of a cleric.

    IMHO, there is a tendency to think of the PD as a lay ministry, rather than as a married cleric.

  109. cmnunis says:

    For us here in Australia, more so the Archdiocese of Melbourne, and the Melkite Eparchy (which I belong to), deacon candidates are required to complete 24 specified undergraduate units to make a Bachelor of Theology degree. This is, in addition to the various components of formation required to make it to the diaconate. If one already has an undergraduate degree, one can choose to do the same units as postgraduate units (it must still be 24) and be put together as 2 MAs in Theology, or an MDiv (18 units) + MTheologicalStudies (6 units). I am keen to do a little bit more, so I might do 43 units – equivalent to what the average Joe Seminarian at the RC seminary would do.

    As we don’t have “seminaries” per se, the closest thing to it is our service in the parish, where we are mentored by other priests. I serve at the altar frequently, or cantor the Liturgy to ensure that the celebration of the Liturgy flows smoothly.

  110. Hans says:

    Brrr. These can be chilly waters for a permanent deacon to wade into.

    May I suggest that the good Father continue to wear his cassock as he sees fit. If my brother deacon again suggests that wearing it isn’t pastoral, he should reply that he finds that it is. He finds that (as I’m confident he does) it helps people to seek him out in need, and that the measure of how pastoral a priest is comes primarily from his words and actions and not his appearance — the appearance is a notice to others, and a reminder to himself, that those words and actions are available. Then he can expand on that theme as suits him.

    Really though, the doom and gloom in this life that should concern the good deacon is the mostly-empty Mass when it once (in those old dark days) have been standing-room only.

    Turning such a complaint gently back on its author not only can quiet them, it also sometimes can convert them. Though I make not guarantees in that last regard; I’ve only had partial success.

  111. Hans says:

    robtbrown rote:

    IMHO, the problem could have been all but avoided if those ordained to the Diaconate:

    1. Would have to wear clerical garb (with a modified collar)–not just around the church.

    If my ordinary so determines, I will, but for now his determination (and not yours) is the reverse.

    2. Not have secular occupations–lawyer, computer programmer, etc., but rather have ecclesial jobs, e.g, a DRO or Prof of Church History.

    In the interim before your utopia is reached, we are required to support ourselves financially. Interestingly enough (to me, at least), I have the same secular occupation that a Jesuit priest who used serve in my parish has: I am a professor of physics at a university, though mine is a secular university. We used to have some interesting conversations.

    3. Have the same education as a transitional deacon.

    That would make more sense if my role after ordination were the same as a transitional deacon’s, which other than in form it decidedly is not. I will stipulate that the education for permanent deacons has been sorely wanting in many (even most) instances, but that seems to be improving.

    4. Be obligated to the entire Breviary.

    I have no problem with that.

    Perhaps while you’re dreaming up requirements for others, you could make us a list of requirements to your satisfaction for those in the lay state?

  112. ASPM Sem says:

    @Patti Day

    Whenever I visit my parish I wear my cassock , surplice, and fascia for Mass. Donut Sunday afterwards? Take off the surplice, and I’ve got my outfit! When I visited for fall break, I helped out at our 6th/7th grade retreat, all in my cassock. I love wearing it! Our rector has even recently began allowing us to wear it when we go to pray outside the Planned Parenthood on Fridays.

    @Nan It was such a beautiful Mass today, was it not? Easily on my top five, if not top three, most beautiful Masses I’ve been to. After the priests and deacons overflowed into the seminarian section, I was moved into the sanctuary choir stalls. Best seats in the Lord’s house! I’ve probably seen you countless times but we remain anonymous…

  113. teejay329 says:

    with sincere gratitude….I am home. nothing in my life has been as radically profound as my conversion. and I shudder to think what my life would be like without it.

  114. Fr. Bryan says:

    I suppose that the acceptance of the cassock varies from diocese to diocese throughout the Church. Unfortunately, in my diocese, the use of the cassock is typically scorned and mocked, and the few priests who do make use of it are labelled negatively by other clerics, as well as by some of the laity. Usually the wearing of a cassock, here in this locale, is equated with clericalism, a lack of charity, and is considered Pharisaical. I have experienced this myself. Usually it comes from clerics, not so much the recently ordained who want to use it, but the “seasoned.” And while some of the laity have commented in the positive about the cassock when I have worn it, there have also been those who have expressed anger at even seeing it worn, and making comments about how “we can’t go back to those days.” The regrettable result: I wear the clerical suit, and the cassock hangs in the closet.

  115. Uxixu says:

    @robtbrown. I would suggest those perceptions that deacons are lay ministers are incorrect, as are yours in the other direction. Permanent deacons ARE clerics per Canon Law, no?

    @Fr. Bryan. What locale is that? Just curious what general area/state/province/country.

  116. Suburbanbanshee says:

    1. Pretty much every permanent deacon in the parishes I’ve attended was a pious man of hard work, responsibility, courage, learning, hard work, enthusiasm, love, and hard work.

    2. Unfortunately there are jerks in every profession, and every nice person is capable of moments of jerkitude or ignorance.

    3. One iffy piece of advice by one person does not call for the utter destruction of an entire class of clerics.

    4. Cassocks are nifty.

  117. robtbrown says:


    1. I am not arguing that I have the authority to make the decision on garb. His authority is juridical, mine is theological. (When I was teaching at the FSSP seminary, mine was in some way both).

    2. It’s hardly Utopia–it’s merely the clerical life. Jesuits have been physics profs (incl Al Haig’s brother–but they lived in a Jesuit house and followed the Jesuit life. I can see someone living in a religious community and having a secular job, cf. Opus Dei. And I can see someone living in a secular house with an ecclesial occupation. But living in a secular house and having a secular occupation makes no sense.

    And Fr Urban Schnaus, OSB, who taught physics at CU and used to say a weekly Latin Novus Ordo at the crypt of the Basilica. I told him that he had eyebrows like those of Edward Teller

    BTW, I have known two Jesuit MD’s. One had been a missionary, the other, from my Roman years, was an endocrinologist.

    3. Sacramentally, a permanent deacon is the same as a transitional deacon. In fact, I have known deacons whose presbyteral ordination was delayed, and they were placed in a parish. There was very little difference (if any) between their function and that of PD’s.

    BTW, I have a very good friend (also from Rome), Jewish convert from Canada, who was a permanent deacon. He and his wife (long story, that) ran a retreat house, and his bishop sent him to Rome for an S.T.L. She decided to become a sister, he had no obligations of temporal goods to her, and he is now a priest.

  118. robtbrown says:

    Uxixu says:
    @robtbrown. I would suggest those perceptions that deacons are lay ministers are incorrect, as are yours in the other direction. Permanent deacons ARE clerics per Canon Law, no?

    That’s my whole point. Deacons are clerics, and should live a clerical life.

  119. robtbrown says:


    I forgot to answer #4.

    The requirements for the lay state are to follow the life of a Christifidelis (cf JPII’s Christifideles Laici). Because I have various Pontifical theological degrees (and a devotion to the thought of St Thomas of more than 40 years), I have obligations to doctrine and the intellectual life that others don’t. For the same reason I have an obligation not to volunteer my opinion to a priest unless I’m asked.

  120. robtbrown says:


    A bit about priests with secular professions, e.g., physics, chem, engineering, or law profs: The Jesuit life includes (or included) a facility for that kind of missionary activity (and they did consider it missionary). They developed a very private spiritual life that allowed them to pursue secular studies, but those studies were intended to be more part of a missionary strategy than an effort at intellectual synthesis. Sometimes it didn’t work, as with Teilhard.

  121. Nan says:

    @SPM Sem. I ended up not going. I was visiting with my mom in long-term care and we were sidetracked, then her therapy team came to get her so I stayed to watch her exercise her left hand; her left side was paralyzed but is now gaining some movement. Today she was able to engage her muscles and work on straightening her fingers (from curled into a fist), move her palm up and turn her hand so it faced down, and move her hand toward her shoulder. As much as I love Mass, Bp. Cozzens and Ordinations, what I was doing was more important. I saw the livestream from Abp.’s homily to the start of Communion, then lost the feed so saw the important bits. Happy to know that you got the upgraded seats! I much prefer seminarians in the choir stall in the Sanctuary to having the choir there.

    We probably have crossed paths; I’m the one who genuflects before receiving (as though I’m the only one!).

  122. Hans says:

    And to your mind being a deacon in a secular profession isn’t a missionary activity??

    That would be contrary to the experience of most of my classmates, and me not most of all.

  123. The Masked Chicken says:

    All this talk about the trials of being a permanent deacon gives new meaning to PTSD: Permanent Traumatically Stressed Deacon :)

    The Chicken

  124. robtbrown says:

    Hans says:
    And to your mind being a deacon in a secular profession isn’t a missionary activity??

    See my comment above about Opus Dei members having secular occupations but living in a religious house.

    And you seem to think I’m saying something revolutionary. I have only advocated for permanent deacons what is required for typical for transitional ones.

  125. robtbrown says:

    should be: what is typically required . . .

  126. Hans says:

    Ah, but transitional deacons are transitional because they intend to proceed to presbyteral ordination, which is why their formation is different. You’re suggesting I have to go through formation to become a priest to become a deacon.

  127. ASPM Sem says:

    @Nan, sorry to hear that, I’ll be praying for her! I tend to genuflect before receiving as well.

  128. Hans says:

    Hey, TMC, good to see you still knocking about. When I was a child learning to swim, it was always in the coldest water of the day. I have some experience with swimming in waters such as this; at least there are no sharks in it, which is rather more my day-to-day experience.

  129. robtbrown says:

    Hans says:
    Ah, but transitional deacons are transitional because they intend to proceed to presbyteral ordination, which is why their formation is different. You’re suggesting I have to go through formation to become a priest to become a deacon.

    Actually, that’s not right.

    1. Sacramentally, there is no difference btwn a trans and perm deacon. The only difference is that the former has a right to presbyteral ordination. He doesn’t need a bishop to decide formally to ordain him, but rather the contrary–a bishop must formally decide not to ordain him.

    I noted before that I have a friend who was a permanent deacon but is now a priest. How then was he in the permanent diaconate? Answer: He had no right to ordination.

    I have a good friend who was ordained a PD a few years ago, a ret 0-6 I was surprised when he told me once that he had a job interview that day as a PD.

    2. If I might preface the following by saying that I don’t think much of the US theological education in seminaries–men receive an MA in theology for less than 2/3 of the theology I had in Rome for an STB.

    In better times, the formal theological education of a deacon continued after diaconal ordination. In fact, in the Dominicans that education continued after presbyteral ordination.

    Although the US seminaries and priestly education of religious are much better than 20 years ago, IMHO, it still is little else than stop gap.

  130. KateD says:

    I am impressed by a person who publicly wears their vocation with no apologies, and would be proud should my children grow up to be that courageous……One of my favorite priests wears a cassock and a gigantic crucifix every where he goes. I have never known a more pastoral priest. He made Sundays my children’s favorite day of the week (even with the usual hour and a half Mass) and if I were to tell them that we had to go to mass an extra day that week for a holy day obligation, you’d have thought I’d told them we were going to Disneyland. He made that parish into a truly Christian community with miracles abounding. I have never found any truth in the charge that traddtional priests lack compassion, old or young. That’s just silly.

  131. deaconnecessary says:

    I am a permanent deacon in a cathedral parish where all three of our priests and a transitional deacon wear cassocks. In fact, I wear one whenever I have the chance. For example, I wear cassock and surplice (with stole and cope) when I celebrate Baptisms or graveside services and other times as well. On occasion I wear a cassock under my alb at Mass.

  132. Hans says:

    No actually, robtbrown, the intention to continue beyond the diaconate is a prerequisite to receive that right. The formation of transitional deacons reflects that intention. They are indeed not different sacramentally, but their formation reflects that difference in intention. Or perhaps the six months or a year that is typical between their ordinations is all the difference there should be in formation of deacons and priests.


    As for singing the woes of modern education, one has to audition to join that choir … .


    I agree, KateD, especially in places where it is, and as times make it, less acceptable in the secular world.

  133. robtbrown says:

    Hans says:
    No actually, robtbrown, the intention to continue beyond the diaconate is a prerequisite to receive that right.

    The intention does not produce the right. The right is granted by the ordinary–and it can be made known without the intention, which is the case with a Benedictine friend in Missouri.

    The formation of transitional deacons reflects that intention. They are indeed not different sacramentally, but their formation reflects that difference in intention.

    Formation is ordered toward function. And the function is what I’m disputing–your argument, therefore, goes nowhere.

    Or perhaps the six months or a year that is typical between their ordinations is all the difference there should be in formation of deacons and priests.

    I think you’re confusing the minimum for US diocesan presbyteral ordination (which has a history of of being bare bones) with universal practice.

    1. In the few US seminaries granting Pontifical degrees, those who are capable are often encouraged to stay and pursue the Licentiate after ordination.

    2. In Italy the practice is even more pronounced. Work on graduate degrees is expected of newly ordained diocesan priests, unless they lack the capability.

    3. For various reasons (almost all of them bad) the forces of anti-intellectualism have had great influence on US diocesan seminaries. Consequently, very capable men like Fr Martin Fox and Fr Angel were, IMHO, cheated. Ditto for a friend who was ordained for a diocese but is now an FSSP priest. Bright guy, son of a PhD in Chemistry, who never had the chance for grad study.

  134. Hans says:

    In a fit of humor, robtbrown wrote:

    Formation is ordered toward function. And the function is what I’m disputing–your argument, therefore, goes nowhere.

    I agree that formation is ordered toward function, and I have argued that permanent deacons should be formed to be deacons and priests priests. You have argued that (apparently) all deacons should be formed as priests, however much you disingenuously deny it. As much as you may dislike the specifics of their formation, transitional deacons are formed to become priests, because that is the goal. It would be foolish to do otherwise. It is likewise not the intention of a permanent deacon to proceed to the priesthood. That is the broad rule of the situation. Are there exceptions to the broad rule? No doubt. Allowing exceptions (within reason) to broad rules is both an act of charity and of wisdom; it in no way invalidates the broad rule, though you have argued otherwise.

    As for your disputing the function of deacons, I haven’t seen that. I have see arguments about the form of the lives of deacons (where we may live, what sort of jobs they may have, and so forth), but I have seen (maybe I missed them, I did skim for a bit) no arguments about what we actually do.

  135. robtbrown says:

    Hans wrote,

    In a fit of humor, robtbrown wrote:

    Formation is ordered toward function. And the function is what I’m disputing–your argument, therefore, goes nowhere.

    I agree that formation is ordered toward function, and I have argued that permanent deacons should be formed to be deacons and priests priests. You have argued that (apparently) all deacons should be formed as priests, however much you disingenuously deny it.

    You’re erroneously assuming—perhaps from nervous laughter due to inadequate knowledge of the topic–that the documents which explicitly refer to the Permanent Diaconate (both from the Congregation of the Clergy and the USCCB) refer to all deacons. Re the nature of the Sacrament itself, they do. But re the formation and ministry of the PD, they don’t. Both have been adjusted because so many PD candidates are married and/or have secular occupations. Their availability is limited, and so less can be asked of them.

    As much as you may dislike the specifics of their formation, transitional deacons are formed to become priests, because that is the goal.

    Incorrect. If the formation of the TD is oriented toward the priesthood, then there would be no reason to put them in the apostolate as deacons, as is the common practice.

    It would be foolish to do otherwise. It is likewise not the intention of a permanent deacon to proceed to the priesthood. That is the broad rule of the situation. Are there exceptions to the broad rule? No doubt. Allowing exceptions (within reason) to broad rules is both an act of charity and of wisdom; it in no way invalidates a broad rule, though you have argued otherwise.

    You missed the point. You said that the right to presbyteral ordination came from the intention of the deacon. I said that it is given by the Ordinary and can exist even when intention is lacking. And a permanent deacon, who at ordination makes it clear that he does not want the priesthood, does not gain the right if later he changes his intention and decides he does.

    And you seem to be thinking in terms of the American paradigm, which is obsessed with reducing formation to “A Program”.

    As for your disputing the function of deacons, I haven’t seen that. I have seen arguments about the form of the lives of deacons (where we may live, what sort of jobs they may have, and so forth), but I have seen (maybe I missed them, I did skim for a bit) no arguments about what we actually do.

    You said that teaching in a secular university is missionary work. And I agreed. Consequently, acc to our agreed definition, it’s included in the function of a deacon. And another thing you (and others) do is have a domicile, so it’s also included function.

  136. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Hey, TMC, good to see you still knocking about.”

    Chickens do not knock about – have you seen how skinny out knees are :) Most of the time, we spend our time trying to avoid the frying pan.

    The Chicken

  137. msokeefe says:

    Married permanent Deacons violate Canon 277. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_PY.HTM

  138. msokeefe: “Married permanent Deacons violate Canon 277.” [regarding continence]

    How would you know they do? Are you personally familiar with deacons whom you know to be incontinent?

  139. Hans says:

    Surely, TMC, you have almost as little to fear as I have, at least from the frying pan. That’s for young plump chickens. The stew pot, on the other hand …

    But even that should be easy enough to avoid: just watch out when you get invited to a “sauna”.

  140. msokeefe says:

    Henry Edwards, this is why married men should not be Deacons. Prior to Pope Paul VI reviving permanent Deacons, they were not married. He revived it and looked the other way when they allowed married Permanent Deacons. Ya I know, it’s just Canon law, right?

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