Rorate Caeli

The abandonment of the cassock, the primary cause of the decay in ecclesiastical discipline

I deem it necessary to draw attention to a problem that is becoming increasingly important: that of ecclesiastical dress. […] In fact, we are witnessing the greatest decadence in ecclesiastical dress. […]Clothes strongly condition and sometimes even forge the psychology of those who wear them. (Ecclesiastical) clothing, in fact, is a commitment at the taking of the habit, for its conservation and for its substitution. It is the first thing that is seen and the last thing that is laid aside. It is a reminder of commitment, of belonging, decorum, union, team spirit and dignity! It does this continuously. It consequently creates limits in action, calls to mind these limits incessantly, instigates the barrier of modesty, of a good name, of one’s own duties, of public resonance, and of the consequences of malicious interpretations. […] 

 It is not the habit that makes the monk (at least not 100%) but it does so in a noticeable way; mostly according to (the way) an individual grows with his temperamental weaknesses. […] For this reason, the question of a uniform is magnified in ecclesiastical spheres and imposes awareness on the ones who want to save their vocations and persevere in the duties they have accepted, in discipline, in piety and in holiness! […] 

In some Italian cities(we are obviously not going to mention the names, but we are certain of what we are saying), with the absence of enforcement regarding the “holy uniform”, some have arrived at participating in entertainment still prohibited by the [1917] Code of Canon Law: night-clubs, places of ill-fame and worse. We know of round-ups of seminarians in ill-reputed cinemas and other unsuitable premises. All this because the religious habit has been betrayed! […] 

Here is the outcome that results: 
*insinuations, some of which are grave; 
*priests who, begin with the dismantling of their religious habits and of their first humble defense, end up where these end up…;
*priestly crises, for which those responsible are at fault, because they were started by rejecting the necessary prudence, demanded by Canon Law and the counsel of the Bishops… with displaced and heartbreaking results…;
*seminaries that are emptying and that are not surviving; while around the world, in Europe as well as in America, seminaries are overflowing, when organized according to their authentic origins, with the rigorous wearing of ecclesiastical dress, in true obedience to the conciliar Decree Optatam totius
*souls that are dragged along lacking any capacity in decision-making, after their contamination with the world. 

I believe it is difficult for the ecclesiastical spirit to exist in our times, because of its characteristics, if the desire and respect for the ecclesiastical habit is absent. […] It is not only with “ecclesiastical dress” that we are concerned here, but with the cassock itself. 

And let us face reality, without any fear of what can be said about it. […] Some, in order to boycott the use of the cassock or to justify giving in to the current fashion against it, affirm: “Anyway, the cassock is a liturgical garment” - with this, they want to reduce the cassock to liturgical use only. This is openly false and insidiously hypocritical! […] Frankly, it is clear that the clergyman's suit […] is not the most desirable solution. Will he who does not love his cassock be able to resist and love his service to God? Our neighbor does not substitute God! He who does not love his uniform is no soldier. […] 

The line to take is the following: 

*Even if the law admits the clergyman's suit, among the people, it does not represent the ideal solution; 
*Those who mean to have an intact ecclesiastic spirit must love their cassock; […]  
*That the defense of the cassock be the defense of vocation and vocations. 

My duty as Pastor obliges me to look at things very much from afar. I had to reproach the introduction of the clergyman's suit above the law, and the degradation of ecclesiastical dress are a cause, probably the primary one, of the serious decay in ecclesiastical discipline in Italy. Those who love the priesthood do not play around with the uniform! 

(Excerpts of “A Te Sacerdote [To you, Priest], vol. II” by Cardinal Giuseppe Siri. Casa Mariana, Frigento, 1987, pp 67 -73 - Source: Cordialiter; translation: contributor Francesca Romana; image: Eugenio Pacelli, Seminarian)


  1. Neil Obstat8:04 AM

    I have a friend who successfully made the grade at the SSPX seminary proving ground. I recall his early observations that they make the cassock become a part of your very being, something you live with daily. The early American missionaries were known as "Black Robes." They never were seen in other clothes. That was their identity.

    I know a priest who is not SSPX but a pastor of a traditional chapel, usually wears a cassock. But for his annual Easter Egg Hunt and potluck party, he came in pants and a T-shirt. It simply didn't seem right to me. He was trying to be cool or whatever, but I don't think it works. There is something important about the habit.

    Traditional nuns are a major example. Everywhere they go, people know immediately who they are and what they stand for. They don't even have to speak, their habit speaks for them. Amazing.

  2. P.K.T.P.8:10 AM

    I am well aware of all the arguments used for replacing the cassock with clericals on the street in most places, and so forth. No need to revisit them.

    The fact remains that, in the public mind, the cassock is the ordinary civil dress of the clergy (and bishops should burn their black business suits and wear only the simar in public). Therefore, as a general norm, the cassock should be restored, and clericals should be restricted as much as they can be. Naturally, there will be special exceptions (although, these days, clericals and cassocks would expose priests to risk from anti-Catholics in about equal degrees, since most Protestant ministers no longer wear clericals).

    Let's bring back the cassock. And, as every soda is graced by the cherry on top, add the black calotte as the ordinary cap of the priest in public. Yes, I know, it must be removed during Mass unless the cleric is has an indult or is an abbot. So what?

    Should the saturno go over the calotte? Well, we might have to hold on that for the time being.


  3. Ferraiuolo9:27 AM

    Cardinal Siri was right about this and about many other things. But it is certainly true that the priests who are most likely to fall are those who are unfaithful to the cassock or habit.

    It does not make the priest, but it reminds him of who and what he is. Some priests unfortunately, don't even use the clergy's suit, which is in itself unsuitable for the holy priesthood, let alone lay clothes!

    St Dominic slept with his habit out of the deep love the wondrous saint had for it. It becomes part of the religious and priestly identity and to forget it is to associate oneself with the world. What could the devil ask for more than that?

  4. Luciana Cuppo10:19 AM

    Quotable quotes:

    "If the habit does not make the monk, it reminds him that he is one."

    Guess who said it?

  5. Ceolfrid10:59 AM

    The abandonment of the cassock is *NOT* the primary cause of the decay in ecclesiastical discipline. The abandonment of the cassock is a symptom, not a cause.

  6. Alex B.11:06 AM

    Here are Archbishop Lefebvre thoughts on the matter written when he was still General Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers. I apologize for its length. I shall split it up into several parts:

    Letter to All Members of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost on the Wearing of the Cassock

    Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
    February 11, 1963

    My dear Brethren,
    The measures taken by certain bishops in various countries in the matter of ecclesiastical dress are deserving of thought, since they may have consequences which are by no means unimportant to us.

    In itself, the wearing of the cassock or clerical dress has meaning only in so far as this dress marks a distinction from that of the laity. The matter is not primarily one of propriety. At most, the high-buttoned waistcoat of the clergy marks a certain austerity and decorum; this the cassock does even more.

    It is rather a mark of the cleric or of the religious by means of his dress. It goes without saying that this symbol should be characterized by modesty, decorum, and poverty, not their opposites. Clearly, this distinction in dress must give rise to respect and suggest detachment from the vanities of this world.

    It is well to lay particular stress on the chief quality which distinguishes the cleric, the priest, or the religious as do the forms of the soldier, the police, or transport workers. This idea is manifested in all religions. The religious chief is easily recognizable by his garments, often by their accompaniments. The faithful attach great importance to these distinctive marks. A Moslem leader is immediately identifiable. The distinguishing marks are legion; rich garments, rings, necklaces, and surroundings declare the presence of one particularly honored and revered. The same is true of the Buddhist religion as of the whole Christian East, whether Catholic or no.

    The feeling of the faithful, particularly in its reverence for the sacred and its wish to receive the blessing of heaven on all rightful occasions through the ministers of God, is a legitimate aspiration.

    Until the present day clerical dress seemed designed to distinguish a person consecrated to God, but with the least possible outward sign, especially in those countries where the suit is exactly like that worn by the laity. In some countries such as Portugal and, not long ago, Germany, the jacket was knee-length. Priests accustomed to wearing clerical dress in those countries think of it as an outdoor suit, not worn indoors. Moreover, the wearing of such garments outdoors was made compulsory by anti-Catholic State legislation. That explains the desire to return to the cassock as soon as the priest was within clerical buildings, presbyteries or churches. The spirit in which clerical dress is worn in these countries is thus vastly different from the attitude taken by some priests to its adoption.

  7. Alex B.11:11 AM


    To estimate the import of the measures taken by the bishops, the considerations to which they refer must be studied. Confronted with the wearing of lay dress bearing no indication of the clerical state and in order that they may the more strongly forbid this practice, the bishops have authorized the wearing of clerical suits, but have not encouraged it and, still less, made it obligatory.

    Now, it is observable that since these episcopal rulings the wearing of lay dress has made enormous progress, even where it had not previously occurred. In many dioceses these measures gave rise in practice to the abandonment of any sign distinguishing the priesthood. The rulings have been wholly overstepped. The question is no longer one of the cassock in the presbytery, or even of the jacket in the parish. It is important to ask ourselves: is it or is it not desirable that the priest should be marked out, recognizable among the faithful and the laity; or, on the contrary, bearing in mind the efficacy of his apostolate, should the priest no longer be distinguishable from the laity?

    To this question we will reply by the conception of the priest in the eyes of our Lord and His Apostles, the considerations brought to us through the Gospel, that we may know whether they still hold good today. In St. John, Chapter XV, particularly verse 19:

    Si de mundo fuissetis, mundus quod suum Brat diligeret, quia vero DE MUNDO NON EMS, sed ego ELEGI VOS DE MUNDO, propterea odit vas mundus-If you were of the world, the world would love his own, but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you (v. 19). Nesciunt eum qui misit me-they know not Him that sent me (v. 21); et vos testimonium perhibebitis, quia ab initio mecum estis-and you also shall bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (v. 27).

    In St. Paul to the Hebrews, Chapter V, verse 1:

    Omnis namque pontifex ex hominibus ASSUMPTUS pro hominibus constituitur in its quae sunt ad Deum-for every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in things pertaining to God.

    It is clear that the priest is a man chosen and set apart from others. St. Paul (Heb. 7:26) says of our Lord that He is "segregatus a peccatoribus-separated from sinners." This is what the priest who has been especially chosen by God should be.

    To this first consideration must be added that of the witness to God, our Lord, that the priest must bear to the world. "Et eritis mihi testes you shall be witnesses unto me" (Acts 1:Cool. Witness is a word often on our Lord's lips. As He bears witness to His Father, we must bear witness to Him. This testimony must be seen and heard without difficulty by all. "Men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in the house" (Mt. 5:15).

    The priest's cassock achieves both these ends clearly and unequivocally. The priest is in the world without being of the world. Though living in it, he is one set apart and protected from evil. "I pray not that Thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldst keep them from the evil, for they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (Jn. 17:15-16). The witness of the word, which is indeed more essential to the priest than the witness of the habit, is yet greatly aided by the clear manifestation of the priesthood given by the wearing of the cassock.

    The clerical coat, though it goes some way towards this, is more ambiguous. It is not a specific mark of the Catholic priest. As for lay dress, it does away with all distinction, renders the bearing of witness more difficult and the preservation from evil less effective. This disappearance of any outward witness by means of dress clearly indicates a lack of faith in the priesthood, a failure in respect for the religious attitude of one's neighbor, besides cowardice and a lack of courage in one's convictions.

  8. Alex B.11:18 AM



    For almost a hundred years popes have continued to lament the progressive secularization of societies. Modernism and Sillonism have diffused their errors on the duties of secular societies to God and to the Church. The separation of Church and State, accepted and sometimes regarded as the best constitutional solution, gradually penetrated every sphere of State activity, particularly that of the schools, with atheism. That harmful influence is still continuing, and we cannot but observe that many Catholics, and even priests, no longer have any clear concept of the place of religion, even of the Catholic religion, in a secular society and all its activities. Secularism has invaded every field, even our schools and our Catholic colleges. Religious practice is clearly on the decline in these institutions. There are fewer and fewer communicants.

    The priest, living in a society such as this, feels increasingly remote from such a world. He begins to feel out of place, a relic from a bygone and outworn past. His presence is tolerated. Such, at heart, is often the feeling of young priests. Thence arises the wish to fall into line with the secularized, dechristianized world, which betrays itself today in giving up the wearing of the cassock.

    These priests have no longer any clear conception of the place of the priest in the world and in regard to the world. They have traveled little, and their judgments in such matters are superficial. Had they lived for some time in less atheistic countries, they would have been heartened by the realization that, by the grace of God, faith in the priesthood is still keenly alive in most countries of the world.


    Secularism, official atheism let us say, has at one blow killed the discussion of many religious questions in divers environments. Religion has become very personal, and a mistaken deference for the opinion of others has relegated it to the rank of personal concerns and questions of conscience. Hence, every human milieu thus secularized, is pervaded by a false shyness of such a subject of conversation. That is why we gratuitously assume that those about us in our business or chance relationships are areligious. True as it may be, alas, that there are countries where many know nothing of religion, it is a mistake to believe that such people no longer have any religious feeling, and an ever greater one to think that all the countries in the world are alike in this respect.

    There, too, travel has much to teach us, and shows us that by the grace of God, mankind is still deeply preoccupied with the question of religion. It is to know little of the human soul to believe it indifferent to the things of the spirit and the desire for those of heaven. It is far otherwise. These principles are essential in the daily practice of the apostolate.

  9. Alex B.11:20 AM


    Faced with secularism and atheism, to fall completely into line is to capitulate and remove the last obstacles to their spread. Through his habit, through his faith, the priest is a living sermon. The seeming absence of any priest, especially in a large town, is a serious setback to the teaching of the Gospel. It is the continuance of the baneful influence of the revolution, which despoiled the churches, and of the separative legislation which drove out monks and nuns and secularized the schools. It is a denial of the spirit of the Gospel, which foretold the difficulties to which the world would expose priests and disciples of our Lord.

    These three considerations have grave consequences for the soul of the priest who turns secular, and bring in their train the swift secularization of the souls of the faithful. The priest is the salt of the earth. "If the salt lose its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men" (Mt. 5:13). Alas! Is that not the result which always awaits those priests who no longer wish to be seen as such. The world will love them none the better, but despise them, The faithful, on the other hand, will be grievously affected by no longer knowing with whom they are dealing. The cassock was a guarantee of the true Catholic priesthood.

    In the present instance and in the context of history, we are not concerned with the circumstances, motives, and intentions of a trifling matter, a question of ecclesiastical fashion of purely secondary importance. It is the very role of the priest in the world and in relation to the world which is at stake. It is this which those priests and religious who wear lay dress despite the episcopal prohibitions claim to judge. It is for this reason that the authorization of the clerical jacket has had no effect where the wearing of lay dress is concerned; on the contrary, it has served as an encouragement to do so. The question is no longer whether the priest will keep the cassock, or whether he will wear a clerical coat outdoors and a cassock in the church and in the presbytery. It is that of knowing whether the priest will keep his ecclesiastical habit or not.

    In these circumstances, our own choice has been to keep the habit, that is the cassock, in those provinces where it has been customary until now and the clerical coat in those provinces where it is habitual, while wearing the cassock in the community and in the church.

    We say "in these circumstances," for it goes without saying that in the event of new regulations on ecclesiastical dress which would safeguard the two principles aforementioned-the outward symbol of the priesthood and the Gospel witness, and that in a discreet and seemly, though clearly distinctive, manner, we should not hesitate to adopt them.

    My dear Brethren, may these reflections bind us to our priesthood and to our mission in this world with our whole soul. May we, when our life draws to its end, be able to say, "Father, I have manifested Thy Name unto the men whom Thou gayest me out of the world-I have glorified Thee on earth, I have finished the work Thou gayest me to do."

    Taken from A Bishop Speaks: Writings and Addresses 1963-1976

  10. A Dominican friend of mine, on his summer break from University teaching, walked from his priory on a visit to a terminally ill laywoman. He wore a clerical suit and was shouted at, jeered and even spat at! He repeated the visit the following week, in his habit this time and there was no repetition of the aggression and abuse. He maintained that it was the habit itself that made the difference; it presented him as a religious rather than a clerical bureaucrat.

  11. Barbara1:50 PM

    Thank you Alex B. for this wonderful piece from the Archbishop!

    "If the habit does not make the monk, it reminds him that he is one."

    Tell us who said it Luciana!

  12. Kevin B.2:21 PM

    It wasn't that long ago in the United States that being seen in a cassock was grounds for immediate dismissal from the seminary. It's not quite that bad anymore, but among the seminarians of my diocese the joke is "Walking into a room full of elderly Irish priests in a cassock is like jumping into a shark tank with a nose bleed."

  13. Mr. Perkins (P.K.T.P),

    This is off-topic, but I just noticed that the "" website has posted a letter from "Peter (Can)" that is almost a verbatim repeat of one of your recent posts here on Rorate, in regard to the growth (or non-growth) of the Traditional Mass since the motu proprio.

    The entry in question is in their post for May 1.

    You may very well have written to "The Fathers," but given the odious nature of that particular site, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they simply purloined it from Rorate and are twisting your words for their own benefit. Just wanted to make you aware.

  14. Allan3:19 PM

    There necessarily arises the practical question: what can we as traditionally minded lay Catholics do about it? Encountering priests clad in normal civilian attire is the norm, not the exception. When was the last time anyone met a run of the mill Jesuit or Domincan in clericals?

    Here is what I do: when introduced to a man who is a priest in lay clothing, I express surprise, apologize for recognizing him, then extend my hand to him but instead of shaking it, I kiss the back of his hand and ask him for a blessing, while I kneel. I suppose there may an an underlying lack of charity in my conduct at some level, but I know that Father feels embarrassed and foolish giving a blessing to the faithful while dressed as one of them.

    As they say, "tu es sacerdotal in aeternum" etc.

  15. THE

    The power of the cassock
    Is to lure
    Like fishermen
    To nets secure.

    The power of the cassock
    Ebony shine
    A hull of hues
    On deck Divine.

    The power of the cassock
    Anchors the man
    Dead to the world
    In his sea-span.

    The power of the cassock
    Weighted strength
    Before the mast
    It's linen length.

    The power of the cassock
    Sails your soul
    To greater depths
    From shallow shoal.

    The power of the cassock
    Captains' pure
    The fishermen
    Our land-locked cure.

  16. Thank you for that note, Uncle Clairborne, that is quite interesting. I would just not believe it that Mr. Perkins would send anything to that group of people, it would be most disturbing, so they must have taken it from here.

  17. As far as I can recall, the clerical suit and collar were permitted in this country by the Council of Baltimore because of the prevailing times.

    In an incredibly polyglot and multicultural age, to wear a cassock on the streets in the US is no more extraordinary than a burka, or hajib etc....

    A fairly liberal OMI priest who always wore his white cassock and black sash when questioned said to me, the cassock is not trendy, like lapels and cuts in suits. It is outside the fashion world, that's why I wear it!

    FInally, when I was a monk, I faithfully wore my habit to the university where I was asked to take a degree in Historical Theology. There was one time that both habits were in the wash, so I wore the clerical collar. There was a practical uprising among the grad students particularly among the PCA Calvinists (Presbyterians)!! I was berated and told I should be wearing my habit.

    Message received!!!

  18. I agree, New Catholic. I can't imagine Mr. Perkins wasting his time with those "agents provocateurs."

    As a result, Mr. Perkins, please allow me to clarify what I wrote. "You may very well have written..." could be interpreted to mean I wouldn't have been surprised if you did. That wasn't my intent, and apologies if it came across that way.

  19. P.K.T.P.6:22 PM

    Uncle Claiborne:

    I am very happy that that 'odious site' published what I have written (although they did twist the words considerably). While I in no way support that site, I do want as many people as possible to know the situation regarding the implementation of "Summorum Pontificum" and "Universæ Ecclesiæ". Any vehicle which can achieve this end is helpful, and it is clear that at least Uncle Clairborne frequents that site to see what is there.

    It needs to be shouted from the rooftops that S.P. and U.E. are not being implemented. In fact, without revisiting the numbers carefully, I would say that there has been no discernible growth at least in numbers of dioceses offering the Traditional Latin Mass--no growth certainly over the last three years or so. While some new dioceses have been offering it in the last two or three years, about an equal number have cancelled every-Sunday T.L.M.s. So there has been no net growth in dioceses. As for growth in the overall number of Masses, it has been very small in the U.S.A. and a few other countries while, in the rest, there has, again, been no growth at all.

    One logical response to this assertion is that there is a finite number of dioceses. Hence growth in dioceses cannot continue indefinitely. While that is true, in all but about five countries, we cannot say that all or nearly all dioceses have every-Sunday Latin Masses.

    Take the example of France, which is certainly the most important country on earth for our movement. 15% of the dioceses do not have T.L.M.s on the every-Su. basis--not even at rotating sites. These include the Archdiocese of Cambrai, the eighth most populous see in France, having more than one million subjects. It also includes the historically and materially important Archdioese of Reims. Nothing is being done, and this needs to be trumpeted anywhere and everywhere, no matter how odious may be the organ in which by which it is made known. I will say it--no, scream it--here and encourage its repetition anywhere on line. That in no way suggests my endorsement of any given site. What we are seeing is a complete refusal of important bishops to implement the Pope's will. Did you know that there are 500 groups in France which have petitioned for our Mass? There is even a constant petition in the Diocese of Viviers, one of the least populous in that Republic. The Bishops are saying, also in very dramatic form, that the Pope can get lost, to put it politely.

    To be continued ....


  20. P.K.T.P.6:23 PM


    In the U.S.A., there are 176 Latin dioceses. The three least-populous, all in Alaska (Juneau, having only 5,000 subjects; Fairbanks; Anchorage) have every-Su. T.L.M.s. So where is the one for the Diocese of Las Vegas, which has roughly one hundred times the population of Juneau? Where is the one for the Dioceses of Laredo, Saginaw, Greensburg, Springfield (Mass.), all having large Catholic populations? Why has one celebrant been relieved (and has disappeared)? Why has another been sent to a psychological counselling centre run by feminist nuns, all because he wanted to say the T.L.M.? And this is recently. This is in 2011.

    So we need to shout, trumpet, yell, holler and scream from any place possible that many bishops refuse to implment the motu proprio. Of those 176, more than 25 American bishops refuse the Pope. May God open their hearts!

    In Latin America, there is little to report because, where 46% of the world's faithful live, there is only a handfull of Latin Masses, most of them concentrated in Brazil. Only one T.L.M. for all of Peru? Zero for Venezuela? Three for Colombia? Zero for Uruguay (one on alternate Sundays)? About three for Chile and maybe five or six for Argentina?

    The rest of the world? Zero for India. Zero for Ceyon. Zero for Korea and Zero for Japan. Only one in Lebanon. One for all of Catholic Portugal and zero in Malta. Growth at a snail's pace in Spain. No instrument is fine enough to measure the slowness of the change in Italy. I'll say it: What the hell is going on?

    The Pope could make two changes to help the situation:

    1. A law that there must be at least one every-Su. T.L.M. per diocese having over, say, 10,000 subjects (and not including missionary junior sees, such as vicariates and prefectures), even if this means one priest and one server saying the Mass with no congregation present;

    2. A universal structure to allow the Ecclesia Dei societies to offer our Mass anywhere with no possible obstruction in law from these bastards who call themselves bishops.


  21. P.K.T.P.6:39 PM

    Dear JBaz Chicago:

    My understanding is that a clerical suit was permitted from the 1880s in the U.S.A. at a decision at the 3rd (?)Synod of Baltimore. The reason was that priests were being attacked on the streets, and they continued to be attacked in the no-nothing incidents.

    The U.S. policy was spread gradually into English Canada diocese by diocese, although, in rural Quebec, priests wore the cassock on the streets right through the 1960s.

    The justification for the change to a clerical suit has been forgotten. It would make our priests indistinguisable from Protestant ministers, thereby protecting them. That distinction is no longer present, as, first, very few Protestant ministers wear clerical suits these days (in Canada, anyway) and, secondly, the days of the no-nothing riots are over.

    Nowadays, the justification for the clerical suit is one of custom, for it has become a custom , and it does tend to identify a priest, since, again, few Protestant ministers wear such suits. But the form of the clerical suit is a compromise with lay dress: it looks like a formal lay dress for clerics. What is needed is an ecclesiastical dress. The cassock, for whatever reason, projects that. I don't think that it's because the public realises the symbolism of the one cloth or the symbolism once intended in having 33 buttons (or five on each sleeve to represent the Sacred Wounds). No, more likely Hollywood is responsible for entrenching the symbolism in the public mind. But it is there, for whatever reason.

    In the 1970s, our bishops mostly dispensed with the lovely simar and replaced it with a black business suit and a disappearing pectoral cross. I hate that outfit and I hate it with a burning passion. In fact, it makes me furious. It makes our bishops look like Methodist funeral directors. Are they afraid to dress as bishops? Also, there is something fundamentally in appropriate about decking out a bishop in what looks like a *business* suit. Are bishops God's businessmen, put here on earth to collect money to enrich the Church? Are they God's gentlemen, put here to socialise with the lay gents and the ladies in hats? That is not their primary function.


  22. On a similar note: Back in the 1950s my aunt became a nun. I remember her at family reunions in her full habit up to bat when we played baseball. Boy, could she send that ball flying!! Very impressive from my vantage point.

  23. Mr. Perkins,

    Uncle Claibourne checks out that site periodically to see what the enemy is up to. :) And I do consider them enemies to the cause.

    I agree with just about everything you wrote. I just don't agree that "shouting it from the rooftop" on a site that regularly refers to the Holy Father as "The Pedophile Pope," and Bishop "Bernie" Fellay as a Judas who has been "entered into by Satan" is a good idea.

    I referred to "The Fathers" as "agents provocateurs" for a reason. They stir up strife and conflict amongst us traditionalists ourselves. I of course can't prove it, but their odious rhetoric is so far over the top, I can't help but suspect they do it deliberately for that purpose.

    Nevertheless, as I say, I almost always agree with, and enjoy reading, your literate and well-thought-out posts.

  24. PKTP:
    Thank you for your kind reply. Yes, that was my understanding.

    Let's back up a minute. While I wholeheartedly concur the preference and indeed the effectiveness of the cassock over the clerical suit, I don't think we should assign more than need be to it.

    Remember, clothing is essentially symbolic. So the clerical suit does in fact, "do the job". It is of course more weak than the cassock or simar (I presume from your writing you know the difference). And I think no one can argue that deep down, the Catholic faithful love to see their priests in bishops properly attired in full canonicals. I personally lament the dispensation of the ferriaolo (cape of protocol) from the pontifical court.

    Remember though, clergy attire is no exception in the overall relaxation of societal norms. It started in the 60's when men dispensed with wearing hats in public, white-tie affairs all but disappeared, black tie became the "most formal" of occasions instead of the white-tie affairs.

    In the clerical world, the "worker-priest" movement saw the introduction of the "tab collar". Priests, in my opinion, as a false sense of "poverty" or "simplicity" assumed the tab collar instead of a proper "roman collar" (actually invented and used by the Anglicans and adopted by the Catholic clergy) with French cuffs.

    So the disuse of the cassock is, in my humble opinion, the result of converging fronts, Catholic social movements, a change in secular social mores, and a definite anti-clericalism.

    But strange. The Anglicans have no problem using the cassock as part of their arsenal. I think that because the cassock was required dress upon tonsure in the seminaries, and was still required in the parishes and such, once things relaxed it was ditched because of the childish notion, that "because I don't hafta, I ain't gonna!!!"

    Lastly, clerical dress has always evolved and has been evolving. Even the style of the cassock changes. The so-called "French cassock" with pleats and darts in the back, is now the norm over the less tailored "roman cassock" with no pleats or darts. The collar has always enjoyed various styles. The origin of the cassock is academic more than clerical.

    I don't mean to devalue it's use. But let's be "traditional" and not "antiquarian" about it. In the end, it's a symbol, so let's not affix too much more to it than necessary. That said, again, it is an impactful and witness to the glorious patrimony of our Church, and part of our Catholic culture, which is so easily identifiable even today! Even Hollywood prefers it's priests in soutanes....they're in the business of symbols and they know what makes an impact!
    Are you sick of me yet??

  25. NIANTIC9:42 PM

    P.K.T.P at 18.23 said under #2; "A universal structure to allow Ecclesia Dei societies to offer our Mass anywhere with no possible obstruction in law from these bastards who call themselves bishops".
    Hear,hear! I concur wholeheartedly. It is a great scandal that any bishop or priest seems to be able to disregard any directive from our Holy Father at will. I truly wish Pope Benedict XVI would make the Traditional (True) Mass mandatory in every Diocese. No exceptions, no excuses. And secondly that he would publicly offer the True Mass as soon as possible and on a continuous basis at various venues. Right now everything is done wishy washy and on a please be nice basis leading absolutely nowhere. What a truly miserable mess we are in.

  26. Marty Jude11:11 PM

    NIANTIC said...

    Well said. I doubt it will happen though. 'Rules [appear] to be made to be broken' still...!

  27. Luciana Cuppo4:57 AM

    The source for my quotable quote is the conclusion of the book 'Concilio Vaticano II. Il discorso mancato' ['Vatican II: The Story never Broached']. Here is the context:

    "The persons consecrated to God and to the service of their brothers were robbed of that religious habit which, if it does not make the monk, reminds him that he is one."

  28. When I went to a seminary in Nancy to begin vocational studies in the 1980s the Sacred Heart Fathers of Betharram told me I was not to wear anything vaguely religious. I was not allowed to wear my Rosary under my shirt and I was also advised to look like any other civilian. Ah yes! my vocational director was an alcoholic and chain-smoker. There were also only two other seminarians in the vast building complex. Nearby The SSPX was establishing a well-attended Holy Mass and worrying the local Catholic community with it.

  29. I meant to add to my last comment that one of the factors that disturbed the NO seminary was the fact the SSPX priests wore the soutane.

  30. I forgot: The author is Brunero Gherardini.

  31. P.K.T.P.7:05 AM

    JBazChicago wrote:

    "The origin of the cassock is academic more than clerical."

    Actually, it is exactly the reverse, and the mortarboard developed from the biretta, not the other way around (or, rather, both developed from a clerical hat). This costume was worn at the University of Paris only becasue the scholars were once all men in minor orders, except in the medical faculty.

    I do attach enormous importance to it. While I have suggested reasons for the emotional impact of the soutane, these are only guessed. What I do know is only the outcome. To me, the simar says: this is a Catholic bishop or prelate; the cassock: a priest is here; clerics: what a fine Methodist minister this must be; and the black business suit of our bishops: Why this must be a Methodist funeral director, or it could be God's banker.

    There is an impulse to kneel and kiss the ring upon seeing the simar; to kiss the hand when seeing the cassock; to straighten one's tie when seeing clerics, and to throw up when seeing the black business suit.

    Then there is the argument that times change and lay costume does too. Yes, but the Church does no change in her essentials because God does not change. So what might appropriate is somewhat less change in ecclesiastical garb. The very lack of change in it says clearly: this man is in the world but not of the world.



  32. El Padre1:09 PM

    As a newly ordained priest in an ordinary diocese in the US, I felt that the cassock was an important counter cultural symbol in our secular age. I wore it all of the time sincerely convinved that it was a witness God was asking me to give to the world.
    I must say, that the faithful loved it. My greatest detractors were my fellow clergy. Sadly, it was not merely the liberal idealogues who would stop at nothing to humiliate me for wearing it, but my fellow traditionalists who acted offended that I was going against the practice established by the Councils of Baltimore which limitted the cassock's use to church grounds. I would point out to them that the current Directives from the Congregation for the Clergy had it as the normative dress during our pastoral work and up to the cleric's own discretion for its use at other times.
    I tried, by God's grace, to wear the "habit of a parish priest" with humility but I was constantly attacked by my brother priests for its use. I was told it was arrogant, a weapon, a distraction,and scandalous. I was constantly told that the cassock did not make the priest and that it was no big deal so I should stop wearing it. I thought I could win priests over by prayer,fraternal charity, and kindness. I was wrong.
    The greatest obstacle to recovering this beautiful part of our tradition is the clergy itself. Please pray for a conversion of heart among the ministers of God so that they understand that while the cassock may not make the priest, accidents (including one's dress) reveal and shape substance.

  33. Anonymous1:12 PM

    God bless you padre for your courage!

  34. Jeanne7:21 PM

    I work in a diocesan office and a co-worker once regaled another with a story of her weekend, how she had been at a popular restaurant and bar hangout and two priests came in for dinner, and one of them was wearing (in her words) "that frickin' dress." Heaven help us all!

  35. dominic19558:44 PM

    The problem is, the clerical "suit" is not some merely Protestant innovation. If you were to travel back in time, especially to the 18-19th Century, most clerics would be wearing a clericalized version of what laymen would have worn. Not until Pope Pius IX established the cassock/soutane as "abito Piano" did the cassock actually become generally worn all the time.

    What priests generally wear today is faulty not so much because it isn't a cassock but rather because of how sloppy it often times ends up being. The previous "clerical suit" was classy and courtly, what is worn now is poorly cut tab shirts w/ all sorts of mismatched blacks and the end result is a very shabby outfit.

    While it certainly can be done, its much harder to screw up the cassock. I am all for the cassock and used to wear one every chance I got when I was in the seminary. They are a thousand times more comfortable than a clerical suit (with all the little contraptions to make the collar work) and looks a thousand times better than a tab shirt and pants. I think they are not only more symbolically significant, they are also more in line with clerical simplicity while being very sharp too. However, we do not do its adoption a service by treating it as some Sacred Cow, as if it had been passed on from the time of the Apostles.

    Finally, I think the main reason people like us want it restored is that its a symbolic victory for tradition. While priests have not always worn cassocks as their out and about clothes and fiddlebacks were not the only chasuble style, they are emblematic of a time in living memory when things were right, at least on the surface, and they speak to a more far reaching sense of continuity and orthodoxy.

  36. There are still no TLMs in Malta and few cassocks...


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