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July 21, 2006


Ed Peters

a somebody wrote: "I know that one of my parish priests likes to sit in the back of other parishes and observe mass when he goes on vacation. Now I know that is not what he is supposed to do..."

Oh? Says who?

francis 03

So if an American secular priest is playing basketball, climbing a mountain, cutting brush or swimming, is that an "entirely exceptional circumstance," or does he have to wear either a black suit or a cassock then too? Or is there some other rule about that?


In Hawaii it is not uncommon for a priest to NEVER be seen wearing a collar. Many priests will forgo the collar even when wearing vestments and celebrating the mass.

Me? If I were a priest I would probably even sleep in the cassock. The cassock totally kicks!


Given England's religious history, it is understandable that "existing custom" is the default setting.


I agree that the cassock kicks.

I am a seminarian and am eagerly awaiting getting to use a cassock


Francis, I think a little common sense is in order. Priests of Opus Dei are basically never out of their clericals under normal circumstances, except when they would interfere with their activities. The only times I can remember seeing one not in suit and cassock was 1) playing volleyball and 2) painting a room. I would also imagine that one of our local rock-climbing priests would find something much more sensible to climb in. I think what irks most people is when clerical garb would not interfere with activities, yet the priest still chooses to wear civvies.

I recently met a new pastor at a dinner and HAD NO CLUE he was a priest because of his street clothing. And trust me, it's not because he was the one cooking the dinner. To me, that's like a married person not wearing their wedding ring. It has to come off occasionally, for damage protection from weed-whacking, say, but under normal circumstances is always worn.

Ed S

How about a priest on vacation at the beach? Roman collar or sunscreen? Swimming suit on the beach and cassock at lodge? How about a priest at a dinner-playhouse having a cocktail? Will he scandalize more people if he wore civvies or a collar? I have associated with priests in casual and sports settings since high school(50+ years ago), and I have never thought less of them, their integrity, or their counsel because they were not wearing a collar or cassock.


The priests here always wear clerics, except when exercising or playing sports.


I have no problem with a priest wearing casual clothes in certain circumstances (outdoor activities, sports, hard labor -- although I've seen nuns in full habit painting a room!).

When I see a priest in a formal portrait wearing a suit and tie, I wonder exactly why he's not wearing clerical garb -- is he ashamed? For example Father Richard McBrien of Notre Dame -- in his formal school portrait with his biography on the school Web site, he's wearing a suit and tie. In his accompanying bio, it's only in the last sentence that it mentions (as an afterthought, it seems) he's a priest.



I personally like Cassock and Beretta


It bugs me how often my parish priest is not in uniform. I've seen him with the collar on 3 occasions. 1: at my confirmation on Easter Vigil, he had it on under his vestments, kept it on for the reception afterward. 2: at confirmation when the Archbishop was present. 3: at the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe parade from our parish to the civic center where the Mass was said.

OTOH, I have seen him not wearing the collar: 1. Every Sunday. 2. When he taught a session of RCIA on the sacrament of reconciliation. 3. At a kick off event for team leaders in a church fundraising effort. 4. Every time I have been to confession. 5. When I have been in the church office on a weekday and he's in his office. 6. Various parish festivals.

My point is, I don't expect to see him in the collar when he's mowing his yard or hanging out at home, or even out with friends for a meal or something. But in those situations where he's in his official capacity as the pastor, he oughta look like the pastor. Meanwhile, a Marist who serves as our "associate pastor" whenever our pastor's away is always in uniform. I've never not seen him in the collar.

I've only ever seen one priest in the cassock, and that's the pretty well known Father Kevin Peek, who is known to be a pretty ultra-conservative priest.


I realize it can be hard for priests to be always witnessing all the time by wearing blacks and the collar. But it makes us feel a lot better to see them, to know that there are priests around. And it's a lot easier for Jesus to send people in need their way, if those people can tell they're priests.

And as folks said, I don't think anyone is calling for priests to wear black swimtrunks and a little white collar choker to go down to the pool. But yeah, we want to see them in black most of the time, just as we're perfectly okay with policemen having guns around during their offduty hours. It comes with the job.


In the 19th Century, there was a persecution in Africa (Uganda, perhaps). A Church group sent word that they wanted to help. The reply was: "Send us 100 clerical collars." The Church group sent a message: "You don't understand; we have food and medicine to send you." The reply was: "YOU don't understand; when the people are being persecuted, they need to know who their priests are."

Bishop Sheen brought many people back to the Church while travelling. He heard many a confession in airports.


This reminds me of a line from Fr. George Rutler: "God does not need undercover agents".

I think the wedding ring analogy is perfect. There are times when it's impractical to wear one. But the ring is a statement about who you are, about the promise you made before God. It's unhealthy to want to avoid wearing it.


Here in Melbourne Australia you know when a man is a priest because he will be wearing a tiny, cross pinned somewhere on his upper body or he will be wearing a business suit and tie. You could probably count the priests who wear clericals when 'on duty' on the fingers of both hands. I have only seen one priest wear a soutane in the last 20 years.


That fingers of both hands comment didn't include our wonderful Opus Dei priests.


Cassocks certainly do say something....



Oops - live link for the above here

Some of the rad-trad sites have vatican II era photos of pope benedict in a suit and tie. Does anyone know if that was the norm for german priests back then?


Jimmy, I have often thought you would make a fantastic priest. Congratulations on being accepted to studies at the seminary. Thank you for all you do for our faith. I love your blog.

Mary Kay

txfan, I think it was the reader aka letter writer who was accepted into the seminary. That is, unless Jimmy has another Secret Project going.

mary martha

I just blogged about this last week with my Open Letter to Catholic Priests

Cassocks do totally rock but a Roman collar would be good. Just if theyw ould wear *something* to identify themselves as priests.

When a priest doesn't wear clerical garb I always think that tehy are somehow ashamed of being a priest. My sister in law is convinced that they are being dceptive to try and trick people.

I totally agree that there are situations (athletics, casual relaxation) where clericals are not required. However, I have been very annoyed that every Theology on Tap (a clearly religious function) that I have been to with priests... no clerical garb.

Eric G.

Now here's my question:

What does the Catholic TARDITION dictate when and whether a priest wears his clerical suit or the cassock? In other words, when is the clerical suit worn, and when the cassock? When should the biretta (outside Mass) be worn, when the zuxhetto, and when the long-brimmed clarical black hat?

Again, I'm not inquiring into the law, but what the traditional custom is.


This past winter I saw some really neat pictures from a clergy ski competition in Poland . The competitors were actually racing in their cassocks - how cool is that!


Unfortunately Fr. McBrien's business suit seems rather orthodox for Notre Dame's Theology Dept. A cursory look at the rest of the faculty depicts most priests in business casual or less.
On a good note, I found 3 priests in Roman collars.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for our priests!


I remember the pleasant shock the first (and only) time I saw a priest in a cassock waiting for his plane.....

To spread the topic a little, the only time I've ever seen Nuns in habits is here, in Japan.


Once upon a time, I lived in a cloistered monastery in a Southern locale that had the policy of wearing the habit on the grounds, but civvies off. The reason? The local populace would simply see our religious garb as odd and not evangelical. And it's true. Traffic would stop when we hit the streets. The point of the US bishops' statement and the abbot's wise instruction was to convey signs that are recognizable without confusion. With this in mind, I can't see cassocks and birettas as "off grounds" garb that will do much more than make the wearer a fashion spectacle. In our day and age, this apparel will likely strike the viewer as a costume rather than a religious uniform. Unlike the priest's typical slacks and shirt topped with a Roman collar, the "half dress" cassock and "funny hat" biretta have no secular counterpart. I think then that discretion is called for when exercising the discretion offered by the bishops.

And just the other day, I heard of the reverse problem (sorta) on Catholic Answers LIVE:

A layperson with a prison ministry was commenting that Protestant minsters were coming into the prisons with the white clerical collar tab, causing some confusion among prisoners as to who was Catholic!

Now, when Protestants are going to start dressing like Catholic priests, it should send a message to our priests that they could do the same.

As a side note, almost every priest I know (and I know quite a few, having grown up across the street from my parish church) wears his clericals in public. It makes me feel good to see them in public.

God bless our priests.

Cajun Nick

Oops! Didn't mean to post anonymously. :)

I was the one who posted the one right above this post.


During my years in the Seminary, I couldn't wait for the day where I would be proudly wearing the roman collar to show my consecration to Our Lord and my identity as a priest of Jesus Christ. I would often criticize priests who didn't wear a clerical shirt in public, thinking too that maybe they were somehow ashamed of their identity as a priest.

But the reality of everyday life as secular priest in a society that has strong anti-Catholic sentiments and/or thinks (thanks to the mass media) that most priests are either homosexuals and/or pedophiles much more complex than simply the question of being "ashamed" of one's identity as a servant of Jesus and the Church.

"Outside of entirely exceptional cases, a cleric's failure to use this proper ecclesiastical attire COULD manifest a weak sense of his identity". But some cases might not be so exceptional. Exercising, playing sports are good examples. But consider the following situations: (*)A priest goes to see a movie in the afternoon during his "day" off. Collar or no collar? Even if he goes to see a film that's rated G, most people won't necessarily understand that he's actually doing this on his day off. "Doesn't he have anything better to do?" This could actually be a (small) scandal for some people. A priest goes shopping at the Mall (again, during his day off, not Sunday!). Collar or no collar? I think it deserves a judgment call. Sometimes it might be appropriate (and even create some pastoral opportunities), sometimes not.

I always wear clerics when performing religious functions and I usually keep them on all day. I usually wear them when I travel, when I go out to eat with friends (and brother priests) and in any other situations that seem fitting for a pastoral witnessing. If I could, I'd probably wear the cassock as well (but I'd be alienating myself from most of the priests of my diocese including the Bishop).


So when a priest is in civvies, may I still call him 'Father'? It gave me pause a few times when running into a priest at the bookstore or library, as I thought maybe he was having a bad day and was incognito.


If I meet a priest I know, I call him "Father" (or Monsignor, or whatever as appropriate). Same as when I was a private and once met my troop sergeant in a mall in civvies; I addressed him as "Sergeant".
Problem is that even when priests are wearing their collars, you can't tell the "Fathers" from the "Reverends", since up here in Canada you could be taking to an Anglican, United, Presbyterian, etc. In that case, whenever I meet a gentleman in a Roman collar (whom I do not immediately know to be a priest) I call him "Padre", a nice (and very respectful) military catchall which just so happens to mean "Father" in Spanish.
(BTW: My first post! Huzzah pour moi!)

I wasn't going to comment for fear of embarrassing myself, but here it is: I'm all for priests wearing clericals while out and about. Especially if they're good-looking priests with whom women are apt to flirt. Or, in my case, ask out for coffee... 'nuff said.


I agree that God does not need "undercover agents". I think Priests and Sisters should wear their Clerics and Habits all the time, except for in extreme circumstances. People need to know Priests and religious when they see them. Remember, good guys wear black.

As far as married laity, I have been married for 14 years and have *NEVER* taken my wedding ring off. Not even once. And yes, I have done plenty of construction work over the years--demo work, plumbing, carpentry, electrical etc...Let us married people not forget that the rings are not only symbolic, they are in fact a Sacramental, that is on the day of your wedding they were specially blessed by the Priest.



There are certain Priests, Brothers and Sisters that I personally know that I have *never* seen in lay clothing. Not even once.
Now, when doing constuction or outside work I notice they have their "work" clerics, because I have seen the men wear simple black pants and black shirt with a roman collar--nothing fancy...and the Sisters I have seen wear a "work" habit with a apron over it. But no matter the occasion, they always wear their clerics. I am still waiting for the day to "catch" one of them in civil clothes.

Now, are religious who choose to wear their clerics and habits all the time "uncomfortable"? I am sure they are. But, is this not a form of penance and reparation? And, since when is penance comfortable?

And how many graces they must recieve from God for this daily sacrifice that they make. For some religious this is just one of the many sacrifices and penances that they make on behalf of themselves and all of humanity each day. If only the world had more of such Priests and Sisters!

J.R. Stoodley

I generally agree with Mitch that it is not worth it for a priest to wear a cassock. You might personally like it and have an attraction to it's being traditional, but if it led to negative steriotypes being applied to you and impeading your ministry then it is clearly not worth it.

On the other hand, if I were a priest I might have a cassock to wear at formal events, like family funerals or something, where dressing up is appropriate and the danger of scandalizing someone is minimal.


What is the traditional dress for seminarians?

Minor seminarians?


Major seminary?

Any differences?

francis 03

When I mentioned swimming or rock-climbing or whatever, I was just asking what the state of the law was. I didn't mean to make it seem like there should be all kinds of exceptions to when clerical garb is appropriate. But the law doesn't seem to provide for that kind of situation, so I thought I'd ask what a priest/religious is supposed to do there.

As to clerical garb at movies or in shopping malls-- I realize I'm only one person and my opinion may not correlate with that of the public, but I would LOVE to see more priests and religious in those places! A priest or religious in clerical garb is like a walking, talking, breathing, living reminder of holiness and Christ's love, and the one or two times I've seen them in such ordinarily-secular or even godless places I've felt like they were just shining grace all over the place. It made me feel so joyful I was afraid I would burst. It also made me think of Jesus at a time when I otherwise almost certainly would not have. I guess maybe there are difficulties that come along with wearing clericals into those places, which would have to be balanced against the benefits. But please don't underestimate what a wonderful breath of fresh air that kind of thing can be for the faithful who often feel worn down by the world!

A Simple Sinner

In the last newsletter I got from the FSSP - the Fraternity of St. Peter - they had photos of the priests and seminarians wearing cassocks while playing dogeball with some kids at summer camp.

Pretty cool.

George Lynch

This whole debate is a bit like moving the deck chairs on the Titanic. surely the church in the U.S.A should have more to concern it e.g morality of the killing in Iraq, capital punishment in the U.S. and of course its use of the earth's limited resources.


Yup. The Church should be more concerned about being secular-progressive than Catholic.

Dr. Eric

Dear Mr. Lynch,

A great guitar player you may be, but your line of reasoning is specious at best.

Actually, instead of the protesting the war, the Church in America should concern itself with the well being of our fellow Christians in the Middle East who are being driven from their lands by the millions.

There is even a Patriarchate which has its headquarters outside of Chicago. I think it is the Syriac Orthodox.


A priest I know was having lunch in a restaurant in his blacks and collar when an annoying man (who happened to be black) approached him.

Annoying Man: "When I see a Catholic priest I only see a molester."

Priest that I know: "Oh really? I would think that as a black man you would be more hesitant about lumping people into groups."

Annoying Man: "..."

Ed Cumming

Posted by: francis 03 | Jul 21, 2006 1:53:27 PM
"If I were a priest I would probably even sleep in the cassock. The cassock totally kicks!"

When I was employed by Six Flags Astroworld in Houston (now defunct), each fall we had a "Catholic Day" whereby the Diocese rented out the whole park for their laity and clergy to have a fun family day together. It was not unusual to see the priests running around in full cassocks riding the various roller coasters. In fact, I saw one of the Auxillary Bishops riding a coaster with a group of Nuns while wearing his cassock and skull cap!

Now that REALLY kicks!

(a/k/a/ Ed Cumming -Houston, TX)

Father Bob

Priests need "down time" like everyone else. Wearing the collar calls attention to yourself. It's nice to blend in once in a while. I don't see a need for wearing the collar on vacation or when I go to a movie.

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