The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench


Why a priest should wear the collar

posted by jmcgee

cb_collar_091120_mn.jpg
How often do you see priests without collars? (Can you even tell?) Why should they wear them?  I stumbled on this compelling explanation. (Full disclosure: It was written by two priests. I know one of them, Fr. Gerald Murray, who’s been on a guest on “Currents” a time or two).

Take a look, and share it with a priest you know:

#1 The Roman collar is a sign of priestly consecration to the Lord. As a wedding ring distinguishes husband and wife and symbolizes the union they enjoy, so the Roman collar identifies bishops and priests (and often deacons and seminarians) and manifests their proximity to the Divine Master by virtue of their free consent to the ordained ministry to which they have been (or may be) called.

#2 By wearing clerical clothing and not possessing excess clothes, the priest demonstrates adherence to the Lord’s example of material poverty. The priest does not choose his clothes – the Church has, thanks to her accumulated wisdom over the past two millennia. Humble acceptance of the Church’s desire that the priest wear the Roman collar illustrates a healthy submission to authority and conformity to the will of Christ as expressed through his Church.

#3 Church Law requires clerics to wear clerical clothing. We have cited above number 66 of the Directory for priests, which itself quotes canon 284.

#4 The wearing of the Roman collar is the repeated, ardent desire of Pope John Paul 11. The Holy Father’s wish in this regard cannot be summarily dismissed; he speaks with a special charism. He frequently reminds priests of the value of wearing the Roman collar.In a September 8, 1982 letter to Ugo Cardinal Poletti, his Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, instructing him to promulgate norms concerning the use of the Roman collar and religious habit, the Pontiff observed that clerical dress is valuable “not only because it contributes to the propriety of the priest in his external behavior or in the exercise of his ministry, but above all because it gives evidence within the ecclesiastical community of the public witness that each priest is held to give of his own identity and special belonging to God.”In a homily on November 8, 1982 the Pope addressed a group of transitional deacons whom he was about to ordain to the priesthood. He said that if they tried to be just like everyone else in their “style of life” and “manner of dress,” then their mission as priests of Jesus Christ would not be fully realized.

#5 The Roman collar prevents “mixed messages”; other people will recognize the priest’s intentions when he finds himself in what might appear to be compromising circumstances. Let’s suppose that a priest is required to make pastoral visits to different apartment houses in an area where drug dealing or prostitution is prevalent. The Roman collar sends a clear message to everyone that the priest has come to minister to the sick and needy in Christ’s name. Idle speculation might be triggered by a priest known to neighborhood residents visiting various apartment houses dressed as a layman.

#6 The Roman collar inspires others to avoid immodesty in dress, words and actions and reminds them of the need for public decorum. A cheerful but diligent and serious priest can compel others to take stock of the manner in which they conduct themselves. The Roman collar serves as a necessary challenge to an age drowning in impurity, exhibited by suggestive dress, blasphemous speech and scandalous actions.

#7 The Roman collar is a protection for one’s vocation when dealing with young, attractive women. A priest out of his collar (and, naturally, not wearing a wedding ring) can appear to be an attractive target for the affections of an unmarried woman looking for a husband, or for a married woman tempted to infidelity.

#8 The Roman collar offers a kind of “safeguard “for oneself. The Roman collar provides a reminder to the priest himself of his mission and identity: to witness to Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, as one of his brother-priests.

#9 A priest in a Roman collar is an inspiration to others who think: “Here is a modern disciple of Jesus.” The Roman collar speaks of the possibility of making a sincere, lasting commitment to God. Believers of diverse ages, nationalities and temperaments will note the virtuous, other-centered life of the man who gladly and proudly wears the garb of a Catholic priest, and perhaps will realize that they too can consecrate themselves anew, or for the first time, to the loving Good Shepherd.

#10 The Roman collar is a source of beneficial intrigue to non-Catholics. Most non- Catholics do not have experience with ministers who wear clerical garb. Therefore, Catholic priests by virtue of their dress can cause them to reflect – even if only a cursory fashion – on the Church and what she entails.

And that’s just for starters. There are more than a dozen other good reasons. Check ‘em out.



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Yvarra

posted July 23, 2010 at 8:37 am


Got to the original post at the “Courageous Priest.” Any reason for changing the picture from a “colored” priest with a goatee to a “white” priest? Any subjective preference of race as a model? Hhmmm? Careful here.
[Yvarra ... I didn't like the original picture, because my eye was drawn to the goatee, not the collar. I hadn't noticed the guy's race. Other than the goatee, I don't see much difference between the two. Dcn. G.]



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Gerard Nadal

posted July 23, 2010 at 9:35 am


The flip side of this issue is the analysis of why a Priest would refuse to wear his collar and what that symbolizes/reveals in him.
Yvarra,
In case you are not a frequent reader here, Deacon Greg has spotlighted several black/hispanic clergy on this blog. He is ordained in one of the largest dioceses with one of the largest black/hispanic populations in this nation. His goodness and decency are absolutely beyond reproach.



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Janet

posted July 23, 2010 at 9:45 am


In all my Years at my parish I have never seen my pastor without his roman color. And he has been here for 20 years. Shirt sleeves yes, but never, ever with out the color.



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Janet

posted July 23, 2010 at 9:51 am


a typo, ” collar!!!!” sorry



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Conservative

posted July 23, 2010 at 10:02 am


Yvarra, I cannot believe that you turned that picture change into a racial thing. Haven’t we heard enough about the race card in the last few days?
I think a priest should always wear the collar when ministering in the parish. I hope the author will allow the priest to wear civies on vacation or when going out to dinner.



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Joe Cleary

posted July 23, 2010 at 10:08 am


Deacon – I imagine I will be in the minority here again but while I fully appreciate the value and message of the collar in the public ministry of priests , I have also seen first hand in one diocese such a preoccupation with “collars” that sighting father anywhere, in any situation, ex- collar results in a phone call to the chancery. Ironically, as it relates to the photo on the link, this same bishop banned any facial hair on priests of his diocese as well. ( I well recall the Jesuits un-inviting to the annual bishop’s dinner any Jesuit with facial hair. They did not appear very disappointed!)
‘Sighting’ father leaving the CYO ( where everyone knows he is a priest so he is not using the occasion to run around and pick up women on the side) after a workout without a collar does not constitute scandal or a reason to call the chancery ( this was a real situation by the way from this diocese)
Heaven knows within our blessed but still populated by people who are not perfect church and world we have enough real challenges.



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Joe Cleary

posted July 23, 2010 at 10:24 am


Conservative– on the link the authors makes clear that their expectation for wearing the collar must be 365/24/7 which is why I brought up the seemingly extreme ( at least to me extreme) example above.
To be clear, in my example the priest left the CYO Building ( a gym with a pool, workout equipment, track, basketball courts etc) and was not simply leaving a CYO event as a spectator.



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John Quinn

posted July 23, 2010 at 11:16 am


Hello Deacon Kandra,
Thank you so much for posting this article. As you can imagine, I love when priests wear their collars.
Good morning Yvarra. Just for clarification, the Courageous Priest post is actually a white man. When comparing the two pictures, the Deacon’s picture is more appropriate than mine for the reason he gave. I chose that one because he looks like a priest I personally know.
I hope that helps.
Peace



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cathyf

posted July 23, 2010 at 11:18 am


In a discussion of women religious and habits I saw an interesting point made. Even in the early 20th century priests would wear swimsuits to swim, old grubbies to clean out gutters, tennis clothes to play tennis, etc. But religious women only had their habits, so when the job was washing 3rd-floor windows, they were on ladders in full habits. Which was a serious problem both from the perspective of safety AND modesty! And then there is the whole poverty question — a priest whose “collar” is part of a $1000 custom-tailored black suit with french cuffs and diamond cufflinks and $800 black shoes is making a statement about poverty, alright! So just make sure that the wearing of clericals doesn’t in fact violate those laudable principals put out in favor…
And then there is the situation that Joe Cleary describes, where the bishop has taken a matter of discipline with his priests and turned it into a spectator sport with the laity taking sides as cheering and jeering spectators, or worse, formed some up into an army of groveling snitches. Just a wild stab in the dark, Joe — this wouldn’t be a bishop who happens to, just a coincidence I’m sure, have a particular need to divert attention away from the fact that he diverted thousands of dollars from the diocese’s collection for the propagation of the faith into renovation expenses in the chancery offices? Just curious…



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Teresa R

posted July 23, 2010 at 11:51 am


Wearing a Roman collar allows a priest to be identifiable to members of the public.
The few young (less than 50) priests that I have come across seem keen to cast aside their habit and don their own clothes.
Our traditions are being eroded. It breaks my heart to see nuns that taught me as a child, cast of their habit, veils, rosary, to wear non-descript “ordinary clothes” to integrate into the community.
They now just look like any other middle-aged, old-age lady shopping in Marks & Spencer and certainly not one you would know you could approach for help if you were in trouble.
As laity we are encouraged to play our part – please read do all the donkey work – for the temporary priest flitting between two parishes, with 3 weeks holiday and staying in 5* London hotels – I know because I was staying in the same place with my husband!
I have three teenage sons – there is no role model in our parish to encourage them to choose the priesthood as a vocation.
I loved the nuns when I as a child, and I adored our parish priest – a quiet, holy man, living like a pauper, spending any money he had on the poor. Kneeling at the altar for First Holy Communion or Confirmation was a breathtaking, awe-inspiring moment, it was not clouded by the video-photographer or a wailing choir of ill-rehearsed children. There was no photograph on the sacred altar.
Our elderly priest was bundled out of our parish after 60 years+ service as a priest (22 of them with us). He is living out his days, celebrating Holy Mass daily, in his retirement home – confined to a small room – 50+ miles from his last parish. He receives very few visitors after a lifetime of service to God.
We should be ashamed.
Do you remember your parents or even you praying for a vocation?
Do you pray for your children to be called up to the priesthood?
With the advent of the internet, our beloved church should understand that we are aware of lapses of behaviour from a small minority of our priests. They have committed crimes and the police should have been informed. Hiding their misdemeanors and hiding these perpetrators and allowing them to abuse more children has brought the church into grave disrepute.
It’s not God we have forgotten to love and serve.
We get what we deserve.
Thank you to the people who wrote this article – I had given up ever reading something so concise, measured and true.
May God grant us peace



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Paul

posted July 23, 2010 at 12:14 pm


Jesus didn’t wear a Roman Collar and look what he accomplished in his short life. He wore ordinary clothes like everyone else and people were still attracted to him.



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Deacon Garth

posted July 23, 2010 at 12:49 pm


My PP wears a collar when the bishop calls – about once a year – or when he visits him. This makes life a little difficult when I wear one! Always found that wearing a collar helps me get into places without difficulty such as hospitals and care homes. I don’t wear one to my office during the week though!



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Mike Erickson

posted July 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm


I see both sides of this. In the midst of a crisis where too many ordained have hidden behind the collar, the ability to see priests as human beings just like the rest of us, sans collar ever once in a while, could be seen as beneficial. We have spent too much time putting our leaders on a pedestal. Perhaps it is time to tear down those pedestals and encourage our leaders to be simple servant leaders, eschewing public signs of power.
The best reason I have heard for the priest wearing the collar all the time came from my brother, a priest himself. If one is in a public place and feels like he or she is in need of a priest, the collar makes the priest easily identifiable.
Peace and all good.



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Magistra Bona

posted July 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm


A priest is a priest with or without a collar. A collar is truth in advertising. But, it is only a starched piece of cloth. A man is man. And they are imperfect. There are priests who flirt with either women or men, married or not, with the collar on. A little piece of cloth will not make a man moral. Clothes do not make the priest. His heart, his conscience, and his habits are his garment. St. Theresa of Avila once said: “His wounds are our livery”. That is, Christ is the indentifier of who we are. And that can only be known from our actions, our choices. That’s why we need to pray for priests–that God will strengthen them in the good they do. Leave the collars to the dry cleaner.



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Benedict newman

posted July 23, 2010 at 2:56 pm


But honestly, a diocesan priest should be wearing the roman cassock.



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Conservative

posted July 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm


“There are priests who flirt with either women or men, married or not, with the collar on.”
Magistra, that is a pretty broad statement. Have you experienced this behavior. I have never seen it in my life.
Also hope that 365/24/7 doesn’t mean the priest has to wear the collar to bed.



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oldestof9

posted July 23, 2010 at 3:06 pm


@ Magistra Bona
“A little piece of cloth will not make a man moral.”
You are right….but it may help KEEP him moral.
Peace to all



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Fr. Jim

posted July 23, 2010 at 3:33 pm


Indeed, “clothes make the man” in the sense of providing that identifying mark like, to use an example already noted, a wedding ring on a married man.
I’m a parish priest and, more often than not, I wear my Roman collar – around the parish, visiting homes and hospitals, etc.
I don’t, as a matter of habit, wear a collar in my room in the evening, when I’m going out to dinner, and when I’m on vacation. I understand the argument of being identifiable, but I also believe that it’s important to have some personal space when not “on duty” so to speak.
Teresa R, I would caution about being too critical. I certainly don’t know the situation, but it seems to be a disconnect to condemn a priest for staying in the same hotel that you were staying in! I will admit to staying in five star accommodations when accompanying parish groups on trips or when getting an upgrade to first class on a flight without cost. He may have been going with family or friends who paid his way or gotten an upgrade. I’m just saying be slow to judge.
The one think I can’t figure out is why deacons wear collars. It seems to mislead people. The deacons I’ve served with until now simply wore a jacket and tie and often and identifying badge and perhaps a “diaconal cross” on their lapel. I never heard that they had problems getting into a hospital room.



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oldestof9

posted July 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm


Fr. Jim,
See #3 in the article.
Peace to all



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Elle

posted July 23, 2010 at 4:22 pm


So what I’m hearing is that priests ought to wear the collar because of how other people will perceive them? I’m not so sure that’s the greatest reasoning ever, especially when the collar (particularly Roman) is perceived poorly by people hurt by the institutional church.



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Conservative

posted July 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm


Permanent deacons in the NY Archdiocese are not to wear the collar unless they are preforming some kind of ministry eg. visiting hospitals. Transient deacons and seminarians do wear it.



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Milites Domini! - TEXAS

posted July 23, 2010 at 8:19 pm


ADDITIONAL REASONS WHY A PRIEST MUST ALWAYS WEAR HIS ROMAN COLLAR:
“23 Reasons Why a priest should ALWAYS wear his Roman collar.” – Posted: 22 Jul 2010 09:46 AM PDT – “Courageous Priest” – Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray. “Why a priest should wear his Roman collar.” Homiletic & Pastoral Review (June, 1995). :
1. The Roman collar is a sign of priestly consecration to the Lord.
2. By wearing clerical clothing and not possessing excess clothes, the priest demonstrates adherence to the Lord’s example of material poverty.
3. Church Law requires clerics to wear clerical clothing. We have cited above number 66 of the Directory for priests, which itself quotes canon 284.
4. …popes: “clerical dress is valuable “not only because it contributes to the propriety of the priest in his external behavior or in the exercise of his ministry, but above all because it gives evidence within the ecclesiastical community of the public witness that each priest is held to give of his own identity and special belonging to God.”
5. The Roman collar prevents “mixed messages”.
6. The Roman collar inspires others to avoid immodesty in dress, words and actions and reminds them of the need for public decorum.
7. The Roman collar is a protection for one’s vocation when dealing with young, attractive women.
8. The Roman collar offers a kind of “safeguard” for oneself.
9. A priest in a Roman collar is an inspiration to others.
10. The Roman collar is a source of beneficial intrigue to non-Catholics.
11. A priest dressed as the Church wants is a reminder of God and of the sacred. The prevailing secular chaos is not kind to images which connote the Almighty, the Church, etc. When one wears the Roman collar, the hearts and minds of others are refreshingly raised to the “Higher Being” who is usually relegated to a tiny footnote in the agenda of contemporary culture.
12. The Roman collar is also a reminder to the priest that he is “NEVER NOT A PRIEST”.
13. A priest in a Roman collar is a walking vocation message.
14. The Roman collar makes the priest available for the Sacraments, especially Confession and the Anointing of the Sick [Extreme Unction], and for crisis situations.
15. The Roman collar is a sign that the priest is striving to become holy by living out his vocation always.
16. The Roman collar serves as a reminder to “alienated” Catholics not to forget their irregular situation and their responsibilities to the Lord.
17. The wearing of clerical clothing is a sacrifice at times, especially in hot weather.
18. The Roman collar serves as a “sign of contradiction” to a world lost in sin and rebellion against the Creator.
19. The Roman collar helps priests to avoid the on duty/off duty mentality of priestly service.
20. The “officers” in Christ’s army should be identifiable as such.
21. The saints have never approved of a lackadaisical approach concerning priestly vesture.
22. Most Catholics expect their priests to dress accordingly.
23. Your life is not your own; you belong to God in a special way, you are sent out to serve him with your life. When we wake each morning, we should turn our thoughts to our loving God, and ask for the grace to serve him well that day. We remind ourselves of our status as His chosen servants by putting on the attire that proclaims for all to see that God is still working in this world through the ministry of poor and sinful men.



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cathyf

posted July 23, 2010 at 8:52 pm


Many years back a friend, at the time a jesuit scholastic, was driving, perhaps a mile or two over the posted limit, and looked up in his rear-view mirror to see flashing lights. He handed over his license and registration, and the car was owned by the jesuits, so the registration read “Society of Jesus”. The cop handed back the paperwork with a breezy, “Next time wear your collar, father, so that we’ll know not to pull you over!”



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praesta

posted July 23, 2010 at 9:43 pm


The corporate world and society in general is more accepting of more casual clothes at work. The line between work and casual has blurred. A priest should wear clerical clothes for “work”, i.e. Mass, funerals, weddings, etc. I don’t expect a priest to wear a suit to Walmart or the supermarket. Lay people don’t wear suits to shop. Why should priests?
Lay people that criticize priests for not wearing their clericals on errands should wear a business suit all day one Saturday.
Actually, lay people should just butt out of priests’ personal lives unless the priest is abusive or committing some other felony. Otherwise it’s all good.



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plavo

posted July 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm


Milites: #23 should apply to all the baptized, not just priests…..that’s something wrong with all this; putting the priest in isolation in order to make him “holy”; read what Jesus said in matthew 5-7 about holiness; it is for all, not just those wearing the roman collar, as if all that clerical trapping and isolation made priests holy….what a line!



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Dante

posted July 23, 2010 at 10:59 pm


Assuming secular bishops, piests and deacons (collar isn’t just for priests its clerical attire)are mature spiritually dedicated men of the Church it is ridiculous to have mandates as to when to wear the collar, etc. Canon Law and custom deal with that already. Now if we are talking about clergy in a religious community that’s a horse of a different color because monastic/religious garb has always had a different origin and function in symbolism that clerical attire for the secular clergy.



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Non-cleric cleric

posted July 24, 2010 at 3:01 am


Fr. Jim, your post concerns me because it is typical of the gap between priests and deacons. Are not all bishops, priests, and deacons clerics through ordination? Is not what we are talking about called clerical attire?
For the record – clerical attire should be worn by all ordained ministers of the church when performing their functions as ministers. I don’t understand why permanent deacons seem to be excluded from that.
The hierarchy seems to believe (and has stated) that permanent deacons wearing clerical attire would confuse the laity and blurr the line between Bishops/Priests and deacons. I find this incredible for the very fact that most seminaries allow their seminarians to wear clerics and men who profess vows but are not ordained (brothers) are allowed to wear clerics. I even see non-Catholic ministers (Protestant) in clerical attire at hospitals, Wal-Mart, McDonalds, their places of worship, etc all the time. Sometimes, I even see them with their wives. This does not seem to cause a flurry of calls to the chancery.
You may want to add the issue with titles of address – Rev. Mr. is used for transitional deacons but not permanent deacons. Permanent deacons are just referred to as “Deacon” according to the new directory.
It all goes to the point – are deacons (not permanent, not transitional but deacons) ordained? Do they receive Holy Orders? Are they members of the hierarchy?
I heard a presentation given about the new directory for the diaconate and the bishops were discussing the above two items. One bishop stood up (and I don’t recall who right now) and said, “We need to get over this. Either they are ordained or they are not.” He went on to say, “Deacons (meaning in his mind there was no difference between a permanent and a transitional deacon – they are all of the same order) are ordained clergy. In my diocese I will address them as ‘Reverend’ – not Reverend Mr. – because they are ordained.” I believe he went on to say that they were his clergy with the rights of clergy, which I believe included his opinion that they should wear clerical attire when ministering.
Now should deacons wear clerical attire at their secular job – no. In that role, they should minister through their actions and attitudes. That would be their outward sign.
We really need to get over this “turf” war.
Now also saying all that – its the man, not the clothes that make the ordained minister. In the same breathe, it is the person, not the position that make a great lay minister!



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George M.

posted July 24, 2010 at 6:50 am


For what it’s worth, I think that deacons should wear clerical grab – either a collar or a cassock. (Of course, that might be awkward at work, so appropriate clothes would be acceptable.)
With regard to the clerical shirt, I like what the Archdiocese of Washington does in having priests wear black and deacons wear gray.
It is a reminder of orders, but also that there is a difference. It thus serves as a good catechetical tool.
But, like deacons, perhaps it is a bit much to expect priests to wear clerical garb when on vacation or visiting family or close friends.



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Pedro

posted July 24, 2010 at 9:59 am


I have went golfing with my brother-in-laws and trust me the Black shirt, pants and collar make for an extremely hot round of golf!



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Fr. Jim

posted July 24, 2010 at 10:53 am


It seems that the Church continues to struggle with the identity of the diaconate, particularly as evidenced in the recent changes to the Code of Canon Law regarding the diaconate where a distinction (albeit subtle) is made between Bishops/Priests and Deacons. Presumably it has to do with the nature of the priesthood and how the priest acts “in persona Christi” – a description not ascribed to deacons.
This is most profoundly realized in the priest’s role as celebrant of the Sacraments of Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, and Reconciliation. The sacraments over which a deacon may officiate are sacraments that do not require priestly ordination or – technically – ordination at all. For instance, any person may baptize in an emergency and the ministers of the Sacrament of Matrimony are the bride and groom themselves. In special circumstances, such as in missionary territories where an ordained minister may not be routinely available (a situation not common in the US, but I have heard of cases in Alaska) – a “certified” lay person (canonically, a “catechist,” may officiate at weddings.
Therein lies the distinction I believe. Priestly ministry is full-time while permanent deacons are ordained for service, while remaining in “the world” usually holding secular jobs.
Most of what we are speaking of is cultural, of course. There are countries, for instance Germany, where it is more common for a priest NOT to wear clerical attire. (Recall the pictures of our Holy Father photographed in jacket and tie when we was a university professor and, yes, an ordained priest.)
Perhaps the Archdiocese of Washington is onto something with the distinction in colors.
For priests, though, I believe it appropriate – and expected in our country – to wear clerical garb when exercising one’s ministry. In the meantime, however, I think I’ll leave my clerical collar in the closet while I’m at the beach, in the pool, having dinner in a restaurant, or going to a football game. I think my archbishop will understand.



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anthony

posted July 24, 2010 at 11:25 am


I think Fr Jim has the right balance on this issue. I would just like to add my two cents on the churches struggle with the diaconate that he mentioned.
For almost 1400 years the diaconate was mostly a “step” on the way to priesthood with very few exceptions. And because of this historical reality, it will take a long time before the diaconate is seen and understood as a separate order. And this gets more complicated in the US because of the priest shortage is being used to “fill in the gaps” and so people still see them as a substitute for a priest.
Theologically the issue is deeper and not much real thought has been given to it.
Bishops and priests share the sacrament of priesthood. And only those who share the priesthood act “in persona Christi.” The church sees the priesthood as a sacrament instituted by Christ for those ordained to it.
The diaconate does not share in the ministerial priesthood. It was never seen as a sacrament instituted by Christ, but it was instituted by the church, (see the call of the seven in the book of Acts), to serve in ministerial needs of the church.
At their very root the two orders are different. And it is because of this fundamental difference that the church has left open the door for more reflection on the possibility of women being ordained to the diaconate.
When you put all this together and with a few more important items that can be included, it is no wonder that it will take a long time for the order of deacons be understood and received in the church. IMHO



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Deacon Bill

posted July 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm


The terminology involved here is all over the map.
First, clerical attire ought to mean just what it says: clothing worn by (all) clerics. So-called “permanent” deacons (ALL deacons are sacramentally PERMANENT deacons) are exempted from the obligation to wear clericals (c. 288) because they are normally employed in secular occupations and there would/could be a conflict. When I was ordained, for example, I was still on active duty in the Navy. If I was under oblgation from the church to wear clericals at the same time I was under obligation to wear my Navy uniform, there would have been a problem! If a deacon-lawyer when to court in his clericals, that would be a problem. The release from this obligation has absolutely NOTHING to do with the sacramental nature or character of the diaconate vis-a-vis the priesthood. Regardless of any distinctions within the three orders of ordained ministry (ministerial priesthood of the bishop and priest, along with the ministerial diaconate of the deacon), ALL are ordained, ALL receive a special consecration (and sacramental character), and ALL participate in the sacrament of holy orders.
Second, the recent change to canon law is nothing new at all. The first time this distinction was made in the mid-1990s when this same language was modified between the French original of the Catechism and the later Latin “editio typica”. See Paragraph #875 to see what I mean. All this latest change did was to take the language from the catechism and put it in the law. Nothing new.
Third, be very, very careful in using/restricting the term “in persona Christi.” SOME theologians use the term to describe anything a priest does; others use the term to describe specifically what a priest does during the Eucharist. However, there is a much broader understanding of that as well. For example, Catholic believes that “it is Christ who acts” in all of the sacraments; repeat, ALL of the sacraments. That means when the deacon baptizes, it is Christ who baptizes, just as much as when a priest baptizes. It could also mean that the bride and the groom, who are after all the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony, are acting “in persona Christi” when they exchange their vows.
It is for this reason that in the late 20th century, yet ANOTHER term was coined to try to describe specifically what a priest does at Mass, and that is “in persona Christi Capitis” (in ther person of Christ the Head). There is even an argument to be made that ANY of the ordained may act in persona Christi capitis if they are extending the ministerial “reach” of the bishop who has ordained them.
In any case, these are very complex issues still very much open to debate in theological circles. And NONE of them gets resolved by who gets to wear and collar and under what grounds. For that matter, the so-called Roman collar was historically more associated originally with ministers of the Reform (i.e., Protestants) than it was with the Catholic clergy. Even as late as the late 1800s, “clerical attire” in the US did not include the collar; it was, rather, the plain dark “frock coat” that distinguished the Catholic cleric (including bishops), and during the same historical period, bishops and priests were often referred to as “Mister” or, on very special occasions, “Reverend Mister” or “Reverend Doctor.” Our contemporary preoccupation with specific clerical attire and titles is rather late-breaking and, in many ways,troubling.
Sorry for the intrusion on the conversation. As a deacon-professor of theology-retired Navy Commander, I sometimes just don’t know when to keep my mouth shut!
God bless,
Bill



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anthony

posted July 24, 2010 at 1:53 pm


Deacon Bill,
You sure opened a can of worms and lost me in most of your post. But this part I am very interested in hearing some more:
“There is even an argument to be made that ANY of the ordained may act in persona Christi capitis if they are extending the ministerial “reach” of the bishop who has ordained them.”
It is not important to just hear theological opinions, but to know if you have any way to back this up in the teachings of the church? It is the clear teaching of the church that it is always Christ who acts in the sacraments. So that is nothing new, and the only sacraments a deacon officiates at are baptism (as minister) and at marriage (as official witness of the church). But as Fr Jim has mentioned,
the deacon does this as the ordinary minister of the church as opposed to a layperson who can also be allowed to do it as an extraordinary minister. But in any sacrament it is Christ who acts. So to use you jargon, if a layperson baptizes or is an official witness of a marriage, it is still Christ who acts and they do not need any “ordination” to do this.
But when it comes to the area of the priesthood, that has always been reserved to those ordained to the priesthood of Christ. I use the phrase “in persona Christi” in a very specific sense, and there are specific sacraments resevered only to the ordained priesthood (Eucharist and reconciliation).
You also state:
“Regardless of any distinctions within the three orders of ordained ministry (ministerial priesthood of the bishop and priest, along with the ministerial diaconate of the deacon), ALL are ordained, ALL receive a special consecration (and sacramental character), and ALL participate in the sacrament of holy orders”
I would suggest you be much more precise and clear in your expressions. You are mixing many issues in a simplistic way that just is not clear. Yes, priests and deacons are ordained but to totally different orders. The priesthood is an order instituted by Christ, the diaconate is an order called for by the church. Yes, both are ordained orders of the church but in very different ways. And the easiest way to show this is that the church has restricted priesthood to men (because it understands that was his intention), where as there is a possibility that women could be ordained as deacons since it is an order instituted by the church.
When you state, “all participate in the sacrament of holy orders” YOU need to be very clear. Because Vatican II and the catechism are very clear that no one is ordained to some “generic holy orders”, but to a specific identity and ministry within holy orders. That is why there are three distinct ordinations in holy orders.



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Deacon Bill

posted July 24, 2010 at 3:43 pm


Dear Anthony,
I agree that great specificity is demanded when addressing these issues, and that kind of depth is not usually achievable in a forum such as this (with all respect to Deacon Greg!). Books (many of them) are being written on “priestly identity” and so on.
Here’s the problem. For about 1200 years or so, to be “ordained” was equated (roughly, and incorrectly) with being “a priest.” In popular and theological imagination “to be ordained” meant the same thing as “being a priest.” Given the “cursus honorum” of coming up through the clerical ranks, and culminating in ordination to the priesthood, this is not hard to understand. In fact, it was not until 1947′s “Sacramentum Ordinis” of Pope Pius XII that the diaconate was included definitively as part of Orders, with the pope affirming that the matter of the sacrament for deacon, presbyter and bishop was the laying on of hands; the form for all three was the invocation of the Holy Spirit (the epiclesis).
Under the Code of Canon Law of 1917, bishops were told that they should not ordain a man to any minor or major order unless they had reasonable assurance that they would be ordaining that man eventually to the presbyterate. This is the Code that was in effect during the Second Vatican Council.
Now comes the Council and its decision to renew a PERMANENT diaconate. For the first time in over 1200 years it was going to be OK to ordain someone to an order OTHER than presbyterate and to have the person minister in that order permanently. This is a whole new paradigm (actually a recovery of the patristic paradigm), which required the pope (Paul VI) to modify existing law, and for a whole new theology of diaconate to develop. Remember, the only “theology of diaconate” which existed was really a theology of priesthood into which one inserted deacons; this was no longer going to be adequate or sufficient.
So what we’re discussing HERE is the development of this new theology of ministry, theology of diaconate, and theology of priesthood in light of these new Conciliar and canonical developments.
Yes, I agree with you that being ordained a deacon is different from being ordained to the presbyterate; no one would (or should) argue with that. But following Vatican II, the PRIME minister is the Bishop, who has “priests and deacons as assistants” in the governing and serving of the diocese.
Anyway, we’re far afield from the wearing of collars, and I’ll await the next installment!



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Noncleric Clerics?

posted July 24, 2010 at 11:49 pm


Sorry for pulling a pin on the hand grenade. That was not my intention – - – I think?!
I am reading in some of the previous posts that the presbyterial ministry was instituted by Christ himself where the diaconate was not. I will say this but I hope the expert(s) can discuss this more in-depth.
Isn’t it true that the fullness of Holy Orders, the idea of ministry passed on from Christ was seen more as the role of the bishop and less of the priest? Christ’s Apostles and Disciples were sent forth and took up their ministries in different areas of the known world. They had what we would call today, the fullness of the Orders which lies in the Bishops. Is this correct so far?
Next, came the institution of deacons. They were appointed by the Apostles to care for the widows and orphans under the Apostles (bishops). The deacon’s ministry flowed as the eyes, ears, arms, and feet (of the service) of the Apostles (bishop). They were the administrators, as well as preachers and the like, of the Bishop’s area (today’s diocese). In fact, was it true that when a bishop was replaced in the early Church, many times, if not most times, they were replaced by one of their deacons?
When it became evident that the bishops could not administer the sacraments to their flocks, the presbyters (priests) were created to carry the sacramental function of the bishop to the people (which were growing in rapid numbers). Their functions were limited from that of the bishop as the bishop was the only individual who possessed the fullness of Orders. Is all this correct so far?
So the functions of a priest were instituted by Christ as much as most of the functions (if not all) of the deacon were also instituted by Christ. The official roles of priest and deacon were made by human creation through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Has that grenade gone off yet??
Not that this means a whole lot in the scheme of things but to help place a historical reference on the discussions above, is this correct?
As has been stated, the fullness of Orders lies in the Bishops. The “priests and deacons are his assistants in the governing and serving of the diocese.”
What I hate to see is the divisiveness of who is what and who can do what. We are all in this together with roles and responsibilities – this includes the ordained and non-ordained. Our Baptism calls us to this role. This is why I wish this all could be cleared up. . . . but I have to go tilt some windmills tonight.
The collar is a uniform. Any uniform holds meaning. Like a fire fighter, police officer, military personnel, doctor, or nurse, etc, their clothing immediately allows the people they are with (or ministering to) to understand who and what they are all about. It is a sign of a commitment to a particular set of values, of teachings, of laws, of rights, and training. Isn’t this what the collar represents? The collar or other appropriate garment does the same thing.
Now, think of this. You are military personnel during the Vietnam War. People are against what your “team” is doing in Southeast Asia. Some label you as a “baby killer” or “murderer.” It maybe difficult to put on that uniform because of the amount of flack it may bring you even though you had nothing to do with Vietnam. You probably are very proud of what that uniform means to you. You were it with pride. You respect its meaning and cherish the good that it symbolizes. But, the association to the bad things that may have been happening during the war brings other meaning to some of those who see you in it. Now put yourself in the place of a Catholic priest putting on his collar in today’s world.
With the numbers decreasing in the priesthood and with priests having a difficult time identifying themselves as Catholic clergy because of the current state of affairs, we loose that Catholic identity in the secular world – in the hospitals, in the jails, in the community because we do not have our “team” out there in their uniforms. Why would you limit the number of guys on your team who are willing to go out into the streets and do the work that is so desperately needed. . . . and willing to identify their work as part of the Catholic Church. And I mean immediately identify it as the work of the Church by their uniform.



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Belinda

posted July 25, 2010 at 11:39 am


Years ago, I was at a restaurant with some girlfriends. One of them was talking about the type of guy she’d like to meet. She then pointed out a man seated a table close by and said “Like that one!” I looked over and saw my parish priest, a young man dressed in regular clothes, no Roman collar. A good priest, but nevertheless dressed like a layman. I told her “That’s a priest”. I was embarrassed for both of them, frankly. Priests need to wear the collar for all the reasons you list above. Good article.



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anon97136@mypacks.net

posted July 25, 2010 at 3:31 pm


I am so tired and deeply offended to be thought of as a threat to a priest’s vocation because I am in a female body and single. My whole life I have experienced distance from most priests (especially parish priests) simply because I am a “single woman.” This is not the way Jesus treated women, related to women. He was not at all threatened by women, nor did he wear a collar. He was clothed with the love and Truth of his Father and the Cross was clothed with his body. That it is written above that one reason priests should wear the collar is for protection from women is a sure sign of insecurity and misconception. Do sisters and nuns feel the same way about single men and/or married men who might be unfaithful? Why always the focus on priests? I was stunned to learn many years ago that sisters/nuns/religious are not among the clergy. How very, very sad that the Church places women as inferior. This all comes from scripture and what seminarians are taught/not taught about women. I hope that seminaries include women theologians now.



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Joe Cleary

posted July 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm


cathyf – I do not believe it is the same diocese you reference – the diocese I reference has made the church news over the past year but not for the reason you listed. The Bishop in question retired several years ago and I am not aware that this type of “sport” has continued.
It would not surprise me that similar situations occur in other dioceses.
Given the situation in that diocese, I can say that the priest (a jesuit) who was my mentor and with whom I was the closest almost never wore a collar – but was always dressed in a suit and tie and was clearly a priest to any one who met him from his actions and presence.
My favorite memory related to the collar is the time he invited Father Dan Berrigan to town to talk about his protests against the military in the 1980′s. Both priests appeared on the front page of the local daily paper , identified as priests and both without a collar.
ring ring when the phone at the Jesuit residence….



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Conservative

posted July 25, 2010 at 7:34 pm


Anon, there are some women who look at priests as a challenge. They stalk them in the hopes of “catching the forbidden fruit”. If the priest is good looking, it presents a great challenge. It has happened unfortunately to priests I have known.
Just look up the recent stories of Fr. Cutie in Miami. Of course, in the end it takes two to tango.



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Fr. Jim

posted July 26, 2010 at 12:17 am


Anon,
Just because nuns/religious/brothers, etc. are not clergy does not classify them as “inferior.” I believe that is one of the major struggles that we face today in seeing ordained ministry as rooted more in power than in service.
Whether one is married, an ordained minister (of whatever office), or a consecrated religious … or a single person for that matter … No one is superior to the others. All are connected by a common baptism. The vocation is DIFFERENT, of course, in the ways that one is called to express love. In marriage, that love is directed towards one’s spouse and children. In religious life, it is directed towards God and his people. Likewise in holy orders it is directed towards God and in loving all people equally and no one exclusively. Of course, deacons, so to speak, live in both worlds.
Priests need to “guard their vocation” in the sense of not allowing themselves to be placed in situations that could be misconstrued – either by the other person or by a casual observer. It would not be prudent for a priest to be in a situation where he’s spending a lot of time with a single person, particularly a person where romantic attractions could develop. That’s not denying intimacy. It’s just being prudent. The married man would be expected to behave in like manner. At least I would think his wife would expect as much.



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Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk

posted August 1, 2010 at 9:27 pm


Hmm. I guess it never occurred to me to ever think of a priest that way. Even a handsome one. Of course, the woman in me has thought, “My, he’s nice looking!”, but the collar was never incentive to go after a man who had dedicated himself to marrying God as it were.
However, a word about the collar…I think there are times when a Priest is working with a specific group of individuals such as those younger than him in which he might decide to wear jeans and a T-shirt as a way to make them feel more comfortable, or perhaps he is visiting a unique culture and wants to express respect for their heritage by donning on a shirt with their kind of patterns and designs. I think a priest knows when such times arise and should be free to accommodate them.
As for dining out alone and receiving an appreciative glance from women, most of the priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, etc, I know of simply smile, say they are flattered, but that no, they are not available as they are married to their vocation, or in the instances of other faiths, also to their wives or husbands.



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susan

posted March 5, 2011 at 3:16 pm


Wow, loved your post and to tell the truth,
Read all the comments as well…
Do you have any more posts? Thanks for sharing it,
Susan.
How to Attract Ladies



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