Friday, 7 February 2014

Priests and moustaches

I return to pre Vatican II times to relate how we were always told that priest should not have moustaches.

"No" to a moustache but "Yes" to a dog collar

Why, oh, why should this be?

Because, of course, a moustache is an affectation, a sign of vanity.

You have to shave around a moustache or, at the very least, trim it from time to time.

You may even decide on one of a variety of styles for your moustache; from handlebar to Viva Zapata to Adolf Hitler - depending on your whim.

Whims are not for priests. Therefore, no moustaches for the clergy (sorry, Father R).

Here is what Father Clement Tigar* had to say about them:

Q. "Are priests allowed to grow moustaches? If not, why not?"

A. "In the Western Church priests are not allowed to have beards or moustaches.
Two reasons for this according to a sixteenth century ordinance are - the clergy should not seem to ape fashionable people, nor allow the hair on their upper lips to impede the drinking of the chalice (sic).
This is a matter of church discipline (remember when we had that? No?) and admits of exceptions.

In the East where beards are regarded as a mark of virility the law does not apply.

Moreover foreign missionaries and some religious orders, the Capuchins, for instance, are not bound by it.

Any priest, for health or other good reason, could be exempted."

So, there you have it. Moustaches are verboten, and quite right too.

Most of them look vulgar and pretentious.


* Extract from Papist Pie by Fr Clement Tigar SJ


  1. Somewhere -- wish I could remember where -- I read or heard a story about a priest who got his vocation from seeing a Capuchin friar when he was a little boy. He liked the friar's bushy beard so much he wanted to grow up to be a priest too, so he could have a beard like that.

    That said, the reasoning behind the no-facial-hair rule makes sense. So does the reasoning behind the exceptions.

  2. Beards are OK. The last bearded pope was Innocent XII (1691-1700). That long-serving curial stalwart, Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, sported a full beard, and the excellent Fr John Hunwicke is not clean-shaven either. Moustaches are a no-no as they are an adornment with military connotations - in the early 20th century army officers were actually obliged by King's Regulations not to shave the upper lip.

    On the other hand, RN officers are not allowed moustaches - it's a full set or nothing - and to see USN officers sporting them looks odd, as would Fr Rolheiser in the photograph were he in clerical dress.

    A lot of men shaved off their moustaches in the 1980s when the wearing of them became fashionable among metropolitan homosexuals and they found they were getting unwelcome attention from the uphill gardeners.

  3. Moustaches are a no-no as they are an adornment with military connotations - in the early 20th century army officers were actually obliged by King's Regulations not to shave the upper lip.

    Are you sure the military connotations are the reason moustaches on priests are objectionable? A Roman collar has military connotations. In fact, being Catholic has military connotations. We are the Church Militant.

    1. It's not the military connotation per se but the adornment aspect. A priest with an earring or a tattoo would be equally objectionable. I've noticed that Anglican priestesses tend to go for OTT earrings, and assume there is a reason for this, although what it is I have not the slightest interest in discovering.

  4. Beards are one thing. Moustaches are another.

  5. Well, when I lived in northern Alberta, my little family belonged to the Catholic Byzantine Church-all beards and mustaches. And, in this diocese, three out of the four TLM priests have either both beards and mustaches or (one) mustache. My sem son has both and sensitive skin which is a problem when he shaves. I think that this discipline has been relaxed for many reasons, including the culture. As to lay people deciding these things, no offense, but this is simply not our provenance, but that of the bishop or the Vatican. In case you have not noticed, as least on new cardinal made last year has a beard and mustache.

    Also, the religious orders have not enforced this either. Many, many monks of various types have beards and mustaches. I think the laity has better things about which to be concerned, like the very real dire shortage of priests in Great Britain.

    The vocations director here has both, btw. And, how about looking at some of the great saints in recent times-Padre Pio, and Vasyl Velychkovsky

    1. Supertradmum....please remember that my post refers to moustaches, not beards which embrace the upper lip. As to it being outside of my provenance, no offence, but I was quoting Fr Clement Tigar RIP., an eminent English priest.
      I had noticed the Cardinal in question and think that he appears rather foolish, both in appearance and words.
      Finally, I am writing only of the Catholic Church Roman Rite priests.

    2. Richard, I hope the cardinal you are referring to is not the redoubtable Tisserant, who actually sued the heretic Suenens of Mechelin-Brussels for defaming the Roman Curia. We need more of is ilk, beard and all.

    3. John, most definitely not. My man is HE O'Malley of Boston.

  6. PS should be one cardinal not on....and some priests did have both before Vatican II....In addition, is not Britain now missionary country?

  7. Some years ago I heard tell that according to the ?1917 Code of Canon Law a priest, like the RN officers referred to above, should be clean-shaven or not shave at all, anything else being interpreted as vanity. Unfortunately I am unable to vouch for the accuracy of this information nor for the reliability of my fast-fading memory...

    1. Mater mari, yes, you are correct (not sure of the dates though). Please see me reply to Joe et al.

  8. Joe, Patricius, Anita and John, thank you for your comments.
    I do believe that one of the later military rules regarding moustaches and beards, came from a concern that either gas masks or fight safety masks would be rendered ineffective if one had a facial incumbrance.

  9. Interesting comments. A retired Missionary Priest (who still wears a beard) told me that as beards were a sign of masculinity among certain African tribes, this was probably the reason so many Missionaries used to wear beards as in the past they always wore the soutane and did not wish the soutane to be mistaken for a dress!

    Incidentally the beard and moustache of Blessed Daniel Brottier, French Spiritain Priest, surpassed that of Cardinal Tisserant. Le Pere Brottier can be recognised on all the old photos by his very imposing white beard and moustache.

    I do agree that for some reason I do not like to see a Priest wearing a moustache on its own. Even worse is a Priest with a pony tail - and yes I have seen one!

    1. Westminster Diocese perhaps?

    2. Pelerin - yes, the White Fathers were especially renowned for their magnificent and lengthy beards.
      A pony tail plus a that would be something.

    3. Mater mari - yes!

      Richard - a pony tail and a moustache? Please don't give them any ideas!

  10. Pony tail ? Surely not.

    Unless they were part of "a Stable Group" ?

  11. For fun and I know we are talking about moustaches...

  12. Moustaches do tend to suggest a certain affectation, I think.

  13. Bunyin bluegum
    As noble thoughts the inward being grace
    So noble whiskers dignify the face.
    Bunyip Bluegum.? or anther character in the Magic pudding.
    We have had a PP with a (discreet )ponytail for a bit, Id rather he hadn't without being able to quote chapter and verse - did not our forebears but all do so before some of THEM?