The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

A deacon sticks his neck out …

… on the topic of wearing the collar, after this post veered off the rails and became a debating exercise for deacons. 


Should deacons wear clericals? In my opinion, this is a decision best left to the deacon in question. The reason that the OBLIGATION to wear clerical attire is waived for permanent deacons (canon 288) is because there could be a conflict with the deacon’s secular employment. I, for example, was a career Navy officer. Without canon 288, I would have had an obligation to wear clerical attire as well as an obligation to wear my Navy uniform. This is the rationale behind c. 288, not to deny deacons the ability to wear clerical attire in appropriate venues. The policy of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, is, in my opinion, the best-stated policy I’ve seen: “If, in the professional judgment of the deacon, the wearing of clerical attire will enhance his ministry, he may do so.” This puts the emphasis where it should be: It is not a question of a deacon exercising a “right” to wear something (which could border on clericalism), but rather, a deacon wearing attire that will make him more accessible to the people he serves. For example, I was once taking communion to some folks in a retirement/health facility. I noticed that when I made my rounds wearing “civvies” one woman would never receive communion. She was struggling with senile dementia, and she would look up and when she saw a collar, she’d receive; if she didn’t see a collar, she’d refuse. This was not the time for a long doctoral dissertation on why she should receive, regardless of the minister! The poor lady just looked for a simple sign, and from that point on, I wore a collar when visiting that facility.

Read the whole thing, which contains an interesting history of clerical attire.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of the collar on deacons, but I can appreciate its value in certain circumstances.

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posted November 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

As Saint Paul said, we have to be all things to all people. If the Roman collar helps the ministry, us it. If it hurts your ministry, don’t us it. The Deacon has to use his discernment, unless his Bishop has issued definite rules on the matter.

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