Skip to comments.QUAERITUR: Are priests required to wear clerical dress at all times?
Posted on 11/15/2012 1:58:03 PM PST by NYer
From a reader:
Are preist required to wear them at all times?
Im sure you’ve been asked this before. I’m a new reader I cant find the answer on your blog. I’ve tried for two months. Can you answer or refer me to it? Thank you. P.S I really like your site.
I have indeed written about this.
No… and yes.
First, let it be said that there is a relationship between habitus (dress) and habitus (character, disposition). This is one reason why Holy Church does lay down some guidelines for priests without making them iron-clad dictates. They are for the good of the priest himself and for the good of the Catholic people and for the good of society as a whole.
At all times? Let’s make some distinctions. When I, a cleric, put on clothing, it is therefore clerical clothing insofar as I, a cleric, am wearing it. But that is not what you mean. Moreover, most clerics I know don’t wear clerical clothing when sleeping or bathing or swimming, etc. We are not, after all, old-school jansenistic Sulpicians who required that sort of thing. I have worn a cassock when riding a bicycle… carefully.
Let’s see some guidelines.
The Directory for the Ministry and Life of Priests, issued in 1994 by the Congregation for the Clergy and approved by Pope John Paul II states:
In a secularized and tendentiously materialistic society, where even the external signs of sacred and supernatural realities tend to be disappearing, the necessity is particularly felt that the priest man of God, dispenser of His mysteries should be recognizable in the sight of the community, even through the clothing he wears, as an unmistakable sign of his dedication and of his identity as a recipient of a public ministry. The priest should be recognizable above all through his behavior, but also through his dressing in a way that renders immediately perceptible to all the faithful, even to all men, his identity and his belonging to God and to the Church.
For this reason, the cleric should wear “suitable clerical clothing, according to the norms issued by the Episcopal Conference and according to legitimate local customs.” (Canon 284) This means that such clothing, when it is not the cassock, [NB: the cassock is the norm, the default, for the whole Latin Church.] should be distinct from the manner in which laymen dress, and in conformity with the dignity and sacredness of the ministry.
Apart from entirely exceptional circumstances, the non-use of clerical clothing on the part of the cleric can manifest a weak sense of his own identity as a pastor completely dedicated to the service of the Church (# 66).
On 18 November 1998, the Latin Rite de iure members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (now the USCCB) approved complementary legislation for canon 284 of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States. This was granted recognitio by the Holy See.
Complementary Norm: The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 284, hereby decrees [So, this is not merely a recommendation.] that without prejudice to the provisions of canon 288 [Permanent deacons are not bound by the provisions of canon 284], clerics are to dress in conformity with their sacred calling.
In liturgical rites, clerics shall wear the vesture prescribed in the proper liturgical books. [NB:] Outside liturgical functions, a black suit and Roman collar are the usual attire for priests. The use of the cassock is at the discretion of the cleric. [This is interesting, because of the history of the use of the cassock in the USA. And I believe it is still illegal to wear a cassock in England.]
In the case of religious clerics, the determinations of their proper institutes or societies are to be observed with regard to wearing the religious habit.
As President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, I hereby decree that the effective date of this decree for all the Latin Rite dioceses in the United States will be December 1, 1999.
Given at the offices of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, DC, on November 1, 1999.
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston
Reverend Monsignor Dennis M. Schnurr
“Usual” attire. There are, of course, reasonable exceptions to wearing the black suit and military collar (that’s what it is, by the way, a development of the collar of old military uniforms) or cassock.
The cassock remains the proper dress of a Catholic priest in all circumstances everywhere, though regional/culture differences are taken into account. Moreover, the color of clerical garb will vary from region to region. In hot countries, white can be used. In Italy the bishops conference approved black, dark blue, and gray.
There can be particular law established by the local bishop. In Rome, for example, John Paul II directed his Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Poletti, to issue a decree that all secular priests in Rome must wear the cassock and religious their proper habits. This was pretty much ignored, but the law is on the books.
Moreover, a priest should know what clerical garb to wear in each circumstance. These days, Father can get by even at a formal occasion by wearing a black suit and Roman, military collar, usually with a shirt having doubled cuffs and links. However, the proper dress for a formal occasion (“black tie”, “white tie”, “evening wear”, etc.) would really be the appropriate house cassock and sash and ferraiolo.
The custom of the U.S. was not for the secular priest to use the cassock in public, on the street as it were. This is from the time of great anti-Catholicism in the USA. A Council of Baltimore determined that priests would instead wear the frock coat. The older generation of priests I was formed by instilled in me a resistance to wearing the cassock around town in the USA. I pretty much lived in my cassock in Rome. I note with interest that some young American priests these days are using the cassock as their street dress too.
Of course there are reasonable exceptions to wearing your “clerics”. If I am going to climb a ladder to fix a window, or change the oil in the car, or hide as a fugitive from Obama’s Domestic Security Force during his administration’s fourth term, I won’t wear clerical clothing. If I am going to be with a non-formally convened group priests only, depending on the reason for the gathering, I go in mufti, to borrow a military term. When I do some heavy cooking, I wear clothes I can get dirty and that will protect me from burns, hot spills, etc. As a matter of fact, sitting here in my B.O.Q. – aka The Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue – as I bash away at my keyboard, I have on blue jeans and a t-shirt. My Duluth Trading Company t-shirt and my Bates 8″ Durashock boots are both black, however! Does that count?
Remember: There are good priests who are lax in wearing their clerical clothing in public and there are bad priests who wear it all the time.
Don’t rush to judgment about priests in this regard.
I would pay more attention to whether or not they hear confessions, say Mass properly, preach well, etc.
Oh my! That pic is from a movie adaptation of my favorite books of all time by Giovanni Guareschi the “Don Camillo “ series.
I always thought that if I won a lottery I would move heaven and earth to make a movie based on these books.
I used to play tennis with a priest (mixed doubles) and the only time I saw him out of clerical clothing was when he was playing.
Question; What is HOLY about “the” church?...
You know........ any church?..
Don't give him ideas!
Not being Catholic it’s not something I have ever thought about.
Being in Santa Barbara we have a really important mission here, and the brothers/fathers (sorry really don’t know) all wear these robes that look like brown blankets. They are so heavy and hot looking but you will see the men at the beach playing volleyball or jogging in these robes.
I think they look really uncomfortable, but of course the ones that don’t I guess I would never know.
My husband’s cousin is a Nun and she wears black (comfortable) shoes, a calf length gray skirt, white blouse, gray sweater and on occasion a short headscarf (habit?).
The only time I have seen her in a typical black dress was when she sent a picture of her at her 50 year celebration. It appeared to be a very formal affair, so maybe that’s why.
Again, it is an interesting question for Catholics.
Do Catholics consider this to be a necessary requirement for identification or just customary?
The Church is completely dedicated to the worship of God and the service of His people; it is set aside for that purpose.
To the extent that the Church lives up to its calling to worship The Lord, to bring His Gospel to the people, and to lead them to salvation, it can have a spiritually pure character.
Any holiness the Church has or displays is only reflective and derivative of the absolute Holiness of God to Whom the Church is dedicated.
Thank you for asking; I hope that you have found my answer to be interesting and edifying.
Why do priests never wear ‘choir dress’ anymore? When I was a kid, the halls of my paraochial school had photos of past pastors in garb I’ve never any priest wear in my 45 years.
I’m an Anglican Priest and can be found in a clergy shirt during my office hours, home and hospital visits and when I am out as a Police/Fire Chaplain. Cassock lots of times too.
Had a woman from the Parish once see me on a Saturday in the market where I was in shorts and a yard work shirt - her comment, “Gee Father, you sure look different in clothes” did raise a few eyebrows as she is an octogenarian.
It's not a "necessary requirement", and Fr. Z offers some examples of situations in which wearing clerical garb would be a bad idea. The "hiding from 0bama's thugs" bit echoes some real situations out of history.
In general, though, I think it fair to say that most Catholics consider the distinctive garb a good thing. It raises the visibility of the Church and offers mute testimony to the Gospel.
Well, let's begin with the distinction between a catholic 'brother' and a 'priest'. A Catholic priest is someone who is ordained and may celebrate the sacraments of the Church (apart from Holy Orders which is the responsibility of a bishop). A brother is a member of a religious congregation or order; he is not ordained but does take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He cannot celebrate the sacraments (apart from baptism in the case of an emergency).
Given the description "robes that look like brown blankets", you are probably referring to the Franciscan Friars of Santa Barbara.
Franciscan friars first came to the west coast in 1769, with the arrival of Franciscan Friar Blessed Junipero Serra in California. Franciscans from Mexico and Spain continued Serra's work, establishing a total of twenty-one missions from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay region. In 1872, friars from Germany arrived in California and founded a number rural and urban parishes. By 1915, the Province of St. Barbara had been formally established by the Franciscan Order.
The weather here is so nice all the time, they just look so hot.
Thanks for the explanation.
Makes sense, thanks
It's not as bad as it looks. Except in August. With lots of floodlights on the sanctuary.
Did I mention the church wasn't air conditioned?
It was great in the winter.
I have worked for a Catholic Priest for over three years now, and the answer is no. They get days off just like everyone else, and they don’t always have to wear their clerical clothes then. Sometimes it is for their own protection. There are times when they travel that it is also necessary to take identification (picture) without the collar, again for their own protection.
Don Camillo was my hero, especially when he was beating up the local communists. Read all of the Guareschi books.
“Il Prete” liked his guns, too.
I lived next to a rectory. The younger priest would ride his mower around the place with cut off shorts, tee shirt, and a 6-pack of beer. The older priest was finally sent to rehab for blessing his insides with way too much of the communion wine.
In my time, the altar boys always had their favorite cassock and surplice. If you served with someone who was bigger or smaller than you, they wouldn’t get dibs on it. You didn’t want a cassock that was short because it would look like a dress. LOL
Some were pretty frayed around the edges and were probably worn thousands of times before I became an altar boy. Maybe some were even worn by my father. They would get mended over and over, but never thrown out.
Of course! Like you, I work at the rectory, 2 days a week, and when needed for special meetings. When our pastor's family arrived from Lebanon last month, he drove down to JFK to retrieve his family, dressed in secular garb. When I arrived this morning to work on the bulletin, he was again dressed in secular clothes but showered, shaved and changed into clericals before driving to a local catholic hospital where he says mass. On those occasions when the bishop comes, he will usually wear a cassock over his clericals.