Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Should there be a dress code for priests?

                                           "Yup, I'll hear your Confession"

OK, I know that there is a dress code for priests, it's a clerical black suit and a dog collar. at least, that's what you see mostly on the streets of Rome.
Generally, however, there seems to be a trend amongst some for dressing down; even to the point of slobbishness. Should priests normally appear in public in trendy three quarter length slacks (if that is, indeed, trendy). How about jeans and T shirt complete with trainers?
Now I may be showing my age here but I believe that a priest should look like a priest. There was a trend in the backdraft after Vatican II, for priests to wear, at first, Anglican Grey, then it morphed into a sort  of Baptist Blue and now, it seems that some young and not so young priests like to dress casually. I don't like it and, what is worse, casual often seems to drift into sloppy and even dirty! I speak from personal experience when, a few years ago I was in hospital and was visited by the Catholic Chaplain. He was in his late 60s and dressed in an old, stained cardigan and baggy trousers. He proceeded to pray over me and even lay hands on me which I was not very keen on, especially as I was a touch fragile at the time and he was none too gentle. No screens were drawn and I wondered afterwards, what the other residents of the ward must have made of it. A total stranger wandering around bashing patients over the head.
Catholic clerical garb has a meaning and purpose, not least of which is its instant recognition which may provide a lost soul with a chance to spontaneously approach in public having perhaps consistently put off an arranged meeting with a minister for whatever reason. Nuns, of course, largely seem to be a lost cause having forsaken the habit and wimple for twin set and pearls and discarded the crucifix for a stainless steel brooch that is only vaguely cross like.
My impression is that there are two schools of priests those who 'do' and those who 'don't' but, surely  we need a norm? You can't have an army with troops kitted out in multiple styles of gear (OK, I know the Chindits did it and the SAS do it, but, generally the case holds).

How do you regard this issue? Would you prefer the 'civvie' priest above or the 'uniform' priest below?
All comments appreciated.


                                           "Certainly, I'll hear your Confession"


  1. Love the uniform priest-he has my vote! I like your comparison to the dress code for the military, I never would have thought of that, but the leaders of all Soldiers for Christ should be in uniform so we know who they are! Nice post!

  2. Hi Richard

    Great post, thank you. I definitely prefer the priest in clerical garb, not the other guy, er sorry, other priest!

    God bless you, Richard.

  3. I tend to think that if a priest is not prepared to look like a priest when carrying out his priestly duties, he is sending a message that he is ashamed of being a priest.

  4. The obvious sign is at least the collar for a priest / robe for a monk / veil for a nun - these should always be seen. Priests / monks / nuns must let it be known they are, at all opportunity for several reasons. Here are a few:
    1) People they come in contact with may be in dire spiritual need
    2) They need to reclaim the good name of Catholic priesthood / religious life
    3) A priest / monk /nun needs to remind people around them that they have made special vows all parties must respect
    4) If they are persecuted in any way for what they represent, it is nothing less than what they have signed up for - namely to carry the Cross of Jesus.

  5. Definitely the clerical dress. I can't understand why a priest or nun wouldn't want to be recognized as such.

  6. Sisters and nuns, I believe, are the worst offenders. I didn't realize the administrator at our church was a religious until someone affixed "sister" in front of her name.

    To be fair, she would talk to me about her pregnancies and grandchildren while I was pregnant. I had forgotten that you can become a religious if you are widowed. Anyways, I believe the confusion could have been avoided if she was wearing a traditional "uniform."

  7. If a priest is dressed like a priest someone in need of help - e.g. confession - may see him in the street, on a train, wherever and approach him (or it may jolt his conscience and he may go to his local priest). A priest in shirt and tie, football top or tie-dye and afghan coat [right on man] is just another dude in the street.

    I also think a priest [or religious] being seen as such reminds all ad sundry that this is a Christian land with deep Catholic roots.

  8. Not only is it 'nice' to see them in clericals (or religious in habits) but it is also a wonderful witness. A sign that whilst they as Priests, Monks/Friars and/or Nuns are part of this world, the work they do is centred on something else!

  9. I totally agree. I loved traveling in Italy where you saw many priests and nuns dressed traditionally. I think this is right.

  10. Our Priests (FSSP)always wear the soutane. It sets them apart, and enables one to constantly be aware of their dignity as a Priest - and I'm so glad that they are not afraid of being recognised for what they are. They are a great witness.

  11. I agree with you 100%. Oddly, I was just talking about this today. I think priests and nuns should go back to wearing clerics clothing and the habit respectively. It showed their dignity and calling as a religious.