I saw at Pathetic from the esteemed Rev. Mr. Kandra a fluffy bit about more and more seminarians and priests – of the Latin Church – sporting beards. HERE
A couple things. It has not been the custom of Latin Church priests to have facial hair for a long time. As a matter of fact, the older, superseded 1917 Code of Canon Law, mandated simplicity in the matter of clerical hair. Local legislation often forbade facial hair. The newer, 1983 Code is silent. Going way back to the early Church, it was usual for priests to have beards. Also, in both the Easter Church and in Western Monasticism, beards are common and even expected.
Some Popes were, famously, bearded, such as 16th c. Julius II, who grew a beard in mourning over the Papal States defeat at Bologna, despite the biblical comment that shaving one’s beard was a sign of mourning (cf. Jeremiah). Thereafter papal portraits reveal that a long string of Popes (with the exception of a couple Medicis) had beards, the last being the reformer Innocent XII (Pignatelli +1700). From his successor Clement XVI (Albani +1721) onward, no Pope has had a beard.
I would note that, at Acton University this year, I heard a presentation about what the “Alt-Right” is really all about. One factoid was that, in one stream of “Alt-Right” the length of a beard is perceived even to exonerate a man from more and more moral norms, depending on its length.
In any event, in the Latin West, there has been a strong clerical cultural custom, even reinforced by local legislation, against the sporting of beards. I had, for a short time, a beard as a priest, but it wound up being too much of a bother. Gone. And, over the decades, I’ve just the right stuff for me to make shaving as least annoying and time consuming as possible. Frankly, I see clerical beards to be, right now, an affectation that follows a contemporary fad/style.
That said, there is no legislation and there are changing views throughout the Church’s history.
The fact remains that, going back into the depths of time, auctores scinduntur. Someone as esteemed as St. Augustine writes of the beard as a symbol of manly virtues. Durandus, in the Middle Ages, writes of the beard as being a symbol of sinfulness and being bad for the humors. In the 16th c., the great St. Charles Borromeo tried to check the affectation in his clergy and in 1576 wrote a letter De barba radenda. Smart guy.
There are good arguments on both sides of the razor. These days, freedom reigns.
For those Latin Church seminarians and priests who put time and energy and money into their attention drawing facial hair, I would simply ask…
… how’s your Latin?