After some years of waiting, the next, new edition of the Directory for the Ministry and the Life of Priests has been issued by the Congregation of Clergy, which is now under the direction of His Eminence Beniamino Card. Stella. He was appointed by Pope Francis.
The PDF in English HERE
This is going to take a while to absorb, but I want you priests and bishops to take note of a paragraph right away.
Go to PAGE 82 in the PDF.
The Importance and Obligatory Nature of Ecclesiastical Attire
61. In a secularised and basically materialistic society where the external signs of sacred and supernatural realities tend to disappear, deeply felt is the need for the priest – man of God, dispenser of his mysteries – to be recognisable in the eyes of the community by his attire as well, and this as an unequivocal sign of his dedication and identity as holder of a public ministry. The priest must be recognisable above all through his conduct, but also by his attire, which renders visible to all the faithful, and to each person, his identity and his belonging to God and to the Church.
Clerical attire is the external sign of an interior reality: “Indeed, the priest no longer belongs to himself but, because of the sacramental seal he has received (cf. Catechism of Catholic Church, nn. 1563, 1582), is the ‘property’ of God. The priest’s ‘belonging to Another’, must become recognisable to all, through a transparent witness. […] In the way of thinking, speaking, and judging events of the world, of serving and loving, of relating to people, also in his habits, the priest must draw prophetic power from his sacramental belonging”. For this reason the priest, like the transitory deacon, must: [transitional deacon…]
a) wear either the cassock “or suitable ecclesiastical dress, in accordance with the norms established by the Episcopal Conference and legitimate local customs”; when other than the cassock, attire must be different from the way laypersons dress and consonant with the dignity and sanctity of the minister; the style and the colour are to be determined by the Conference of Bishops; [Once again, the default dress for the priest is identified as the cassock.]
b) because of their incoherence with the spirit of this discipline, contrary practices are bereft of the rationality necessary for them to become legitimate customs and must be absolutely eliminated by the competent authority.
Outside of specific exceptional cases, the non use of ecclesiastical attire may manifest a weak sense of one’s identity as a pastor dedicated entirely to the service of the Church.
Moreover, in its form, colour and dignity the cassock is most opportune, because it clearly distinguishes priests from laymen and makes people understand the scared [sic – just a typo] nature of their ministry, reminding the priest himself that forever and at each moment he is a priest ordained to serve, teach, guide, and sanctify souls mainly through the celebration of the sacraments and the preaching of the Word of God. Wearing ecclesiastical attire is also a safeguard for poverty and chastity.
As far as the local custom is concerned, as I have written here many times before about clerical dress, in these USA, the custom was – and I think still is – not to use the cassock as street dress all the time. This goes back to the Councils of Baltimore which, while obviously no longer in force now, shaped custom in these USA. This is shifting among younger priests. How quickly will this shift? It is sure interesting to watch!