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The Deacon's Bench

I’d thought I’d toss this out there to see what “Bench” readers think.

Most of us would probably agree that the collar to the right, or a variation of it, is typically found around the neck of a Roman Catholic priest. Now and then you might see an Anglican or Episcopalian sporting the “tab” look. But my first reaction is “Ah. A Catholic priest.”

But I’m not so sure about this other style of collar, seen below — the full collar or (as it’s sometimes puckishly called) the “dog collar.” It strikes me as predominantly Protestant.

In my experience, I’ve met two Catholic priests who wear it. It always throws me. To my (admittedly biased) view, it screams “Anglican!”

I’m wondering if anyone has any ideas of why there are these two different styles of collars. I’d also like to know what you think about them. Do you guys ever see Catholic priests in the “full” collar?? Do you have any preference?

I know: in this day and age, we should all be grateful to see a priest wearing any kind of collar at all.

But do you have any thoughts?

(Oh: and we’ll leave the discussion about deacons and collars for another day…)

UPDATE: A priest friend e-mailed me the following tidbit:

The collar you describe as “full” and associate with Anglican clergy is in actuality THE Roman Collar. If you consult pictures of Roman Catholic priests prior to 1950 you will find almost every one of them wearing that traditional “full” Roman collar.

The collar we are familiar with today is called the Military Collar. It became more accepted in the 1950’s and by 1960 had almost completely replaced the Roman Collar as the style of rabi or stock that Catholic priests wore for street wear with a black suit and usually a white neck band shirt with French cuffs. It has, in the more recent past, been replaced by clergy shirts with the removable white tab. These only came into fashion in the late 1960’s. (I despise them, and wear only black neckband shirts with removable military collar.)

As an historical aside: Until the 20th century Catholic priests typically wore a black suit, white shirt, and black cravat for street wear. The custom of addressing diocesan priests as “Father” began in England with Cardinal Manning toward the latter part of the 19th century. Before that, priests were referred to and addressed as “Mister”. “Father” was the title given to the regular clergy, particularly those in the cloistered or mendicant orders.

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