Cassock Albs, Surplices, and all that

  1. Cassock Albs

I left the Church (Episcopal) over 35 year ago, and returned about 5 years ago. When I came back, I discovered that an abomination had been introduced: the Cassock-Alb. It used to be that priests would put on a cassock, then an amice, then the alb, then the cincture. Now, most of the time, they put on an cassock-alb only. At some places, the cassock with alb and amice can still be seen, notably Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, where it is cold enough to make you want the extra layer, but this is not usual. When I became a Lay Eucharistic Minister (like Catholic extraordinary ministers), I bought an alb with amice. My priest was bemused the first time I put in on as he had never worn one.

How does this go in the Roman Catholic church?

  1. Surplices

I went to a Catholic wedding where there was no Mass and the priest wore an alb with stole. I know this is not correct, but how incorrect is it?

  1. Stoles

It seems that most younger priests do not wear the stole crossed over their chest, but rather hanging straight down, sometimes not even tucked into the cincture. If a second priest is participating in a celebration, the second priest does not wear a chasuble, but does wear the stole hanging straight down, not over the shoulder and hanging down on the opposite side the way the same priest did when he was a deacon, even when said priest reads the Gospel. When I was young the priest who was not celebrating wore the stole as a deacon as that was his function.

Finally, this is more of an open question: If a bishop is functioning as a deacon in a Mass, should his stole, normally hanging straight down (ex officio) be worn as a deacon, or as a bishop?

  1. Chasubles

I like the priest to put the chasuble on after the ante-communion (liturgy of the Word, or whatever you call it). This symbolizes the sacramental part of the Mass. Is this sort of an optional thing or what?

Your learned and erudite comments are appreciated.

I can’t address anything with regard to what Episcopaleans do, but I can address what is done by Catholics.

If the priest is presiding at a wedding outside of Mass, he can wear the cassock/surplice/stole or the alb/stole or the cope over the alb/stole.

A priest always wears the stole hanging down straight in front. He never wears it like a deacon, nor does he wear it crossed in front. Unless the Mass is celebrated in the Extraordinary Form a priest always vests as a priest, even if he is doing the deacon’s parts because a deacon isn’t there (and he’s still concelebrating)

Concelebrants should always be fully vested including the chasuble. A concelebrant can only be vested in alb and stole if it’s not possible to wear full vestments (if they’re not available for example).

Bishops don’t function as deacons at the Mass. Bishops always vest as priests (sacerdos). There’s nothing actually preventing the bishop from being a concelebrant with a priest (presbyter) as the main celebrant and the bishop taking the deacon’s parts (if there is no deacon). But the bishop doesn’t vest as a deacon.

A priest always wears the chasuble for the entire Mass. There is no option to only wear the chasuble for the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The only “exception” to this would be that sometimes the priest may wear the cope for the introductory rites (especially if the Rite of Sprinkling is used, or at a funeral Mass, or some similar situation) but the priest must change to the chasuble before the opening prayer.

I’ve always thought Almy’s cassock-alb was exceptionally beautiful. If they made one in my size, I’d get one!

Present discipline in the Latin Church–which affects Episcopalians, of course–no longer has presbyters crossing their stoles over the alb. (I think Western Orthodox still cross stoles, however.) However, it has always been worn pendant over a surplice.

I think that current Latin rubrics require the chasuble ONLY for the principal celebrant. I saw one 10th anniversary celebration of a priest’s ordination. Only the jubilarian and bishop wore chasubles. All the rest of the priests wore crossed stoles over albs (this was in 1970).

When I was an Episcopalian, the priest would wear a cope at the main Mass on Sunday, and assume the chasuble only for the Eucharistic Action, then take it off and resume the cope for the recessional. This must be a particularly Anglican thing.

With all due respect, I think you might be forgetting one minor detail. During solemn Papal Masses (Christmas, Holy Thursday, Easter–high holy feasts), the Holy Father is accompanied by two Cardinal Deacons. These Cardinal Deacons, who are also bishops, wear their mitres, but, they vest as deacons. Inasmuch as they don’t have a liturgical role, as far as I can tell, they still have the vesture. In fact, when the Holy Father delivers his Urbi et Orbi address and blessing, the Cardinal Deacons, vested as deacons, also accompany him on the loggia.

Regarding the cope, there is an option for the priest to wear this particular vestment for Palm Sunday. He can wear it for the procession. My PV also wore the cope for the Holy Thursday procession (with humeral veil) and for the Corpus Christi procession. He also would wear it for benediction. And, he’s even worn his biretta and zucchetto (with magenta piping, as he is a monsignor). But, the head wear is for another thread.:smiley:

In our archdiocese, the GIRM posted online states that lay lectors and EMsHC do not normally vest in an alb.

Youth altar servers usually do, though. In our archdiocese, these tend to wear a white cassock alb. Some parishes have brown things like a monk’s habit, which I don’t care for, personally, even though they have to be easier to keep clean and free of stains than the white ones, and probably last much longer on that account. I think a few parishes still have traditional cassocks and surplices for altar servers, for special Masses. When adults serve at Mass in the OF, though, they also dress in normal lay clothing.

Well, the Cardinal Deacons are a very exceptional exception.

Sure there are a lot of times when the cope can be worn for parts of the Mass–my list wasn’t meant to be exhaustive.

No, all the celebrants are required to be fully vested. Concelebrants are permitted to omit the chasuble only in certain circumstances, and for practical purposes this applies only if there is an insufficient number of chasubles to accomodate all the concelebrants.

And we have to keep in mind that there are two things an Anglican minister can never bring but a Catholic priest can–a valid ordination and the Eucharist. I bring that up because I am very concerned that Catholics might read this thread and go away with a false impression about Episcopalean ministers. Just because they might wear something to make them look like priests, doesn’t make them priests. It is an essential point that needs to be made.

FrDavid96 wrote:

A priest always wears the chasuble for the entire Mass

Unless a flak jacket/kevlar vest can be considered a chasuble, I think Fr.David96 has forgotten about another exception. Of course, when to stand and when to kneel can also take a beating in this case.

No. Didn’t forget about it–and believe me, I never forget about it. It just wasn’t relevant to the topic at hand.

Rock of the Marne!

I’ve seen papal masses where the Cardinal Deacons act liturgically as deacons and not as concelebrants.

It might be because EWTN shows more of Benedict’s papal masses than JP2’s, but I have seen B16’s masses in a large array of “configurations”:

*]Celebrating the mass by himself.
*]Celebrating the mass with actual deacons.
*]Celebrating the mass with cardinal concelebrants and deacons.
*]Celebrating the mass with cardinal concelebrants and cardinals vested as deacons.

Originally posted by recondelta

Unless a flak jacket/kevlar vest can be considered a chasuble, I think Fr.David96 has forgotten about another exception. Of course, when to stand and when to kneel can also take a beating in this case.

Peace, my brother.


Father David has correctly stated the position of the Roman Catholic Church with regard to Anglican orders. I obviously believe otherwise, but I plead with him and others not raise this subject in this thread. I therefore refrain from responding further.

It’s not my intention to make this thread about the invalidity of Anglican orders.

However, this is a Catholic message forum. As a Catholic, and especially as a priest, I have my concerns that when comparisons are made between Catholic and Anglican practices, some Catholics might read these messages and fail to understand that there are essential (and unavoidable) differences between a Catholic priest and an Anglican minister. If a Catholic comes away from reading these posts with the impression that Catholic and Anglican orders are simply a matter of some slight differences in vesture, then the experience of reading this thread could cause serious misunderstandings in the mind of that Catholic reader. There’s nothing wrong with the discussion, as such. However, leaving something so important unsaid can either lead-to or reinforce that misunderstanding among Catholic readers.

While Father David’s response is a direct statement of the teaching of the Catholic Church, we might learn something from reading John Allen’s piece in the National Catholic Reporter, October 10, 2003:

Relationships are tested in moments of crisis. Thus the new Archbishop of
Canterbury, Rowan Williams, came to Rome in early October in an ideal
moment to probe the strength of the bonds between Catholics and Anglicans,
since the Anglican Communion is in the middle of an ecclesiastical “perfect

The first visit of an Archbishop of Canterbury to a pope in modern times came
on Dec. 2, 1960, when Geoffrey Fisher paid his respects to Pope John XXIII.
(Prior to that, the last Archbishop of Canterbury to come to Rome had been
Arundel in 1397). In all, there have been 12 such visits, a sign of a budding
ecumenical friendship. Observers consider it significant that Williams is the first
Archbishop of Canterbury to come to Rome at the beginning of his mandate,
almost as if to acknowledge that his ministry and that of the successor of Peter
are somehow connected.

These are troubled times in the Anglican world.
On Aug. 5, the American branch of the 77 million-member Anglican
Communion approved the election of Bishop Gene Robinson, who
acknowledges a same-sex partnership, triggering threats of schism from more
conservative factions, especially in Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, the Canadian
diocese of New Westminster has approved a rite for same-sex blessings. The
leaders of Anglicanism’s 38 provinces will hold an emergency summit in
Canterbury Oct. 15-16 to try to defuse the crisis.

If there is no clear rejection of the decisions of the American province and the
Canadian diocese, this could put the Anglican/Catholic dialogue in serious
jeopardy, since it would mark a major difference between the two traditions on
a matter of moral doctrine.

One hint of Catholic/Anglican fallout came in early October in Florida, where
Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine withdrew an invitation to allow an
Episcopalian bishop to be consecrated in a Catholic church in Jacksonville, Fla.
Galeone acted after the Episcopalian bishop who was to preside at the
ceremony defended Robinson’s appointment and denied that the Bible
condemns homosexuality.

Yet both the symbolism and the content of William’s visit seemed calculated to
say: This too will pass. The dialogue will survive, just as it did a previous crisis
generated when the Anglican Communion decided to ordain women.
On Oct. 4, for example, Williams and English Cardinal Cormac Murphy-
O’Connor jointly delivered the final blessing at an Anglican service, tracing the
sign of the cross together. The same day, John Paul II presented Williams and
his fellow Anglican prelates with a pectoral cross commemorating the pope’s
25th anniversary, the same gift Catholic bishops will receive for the occasion.

During his Rome visit, Williams wore the episcopal ring that Paul VI gave to
his predecessor Michael Ramsey in March 1966 (see accompanying story).
All these gestures seemed to underline a determination to keep talking, even
when what the two sides have to talk about is not always pleasant.

One of the stumbling blocks in the Anglican/Catholic relationship has long
been the 1896 bull of Pope Leo XIII, Apostolicae Curae, which declared the
ordinations of Anglican clergy invalid. In 1998, a commentary from the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the 1998 Vatican document Ad
Tuendam Fidem
listed the invalidity of Anglican ordinations as a de facto
infallible teaching.

Yet the various gifts given by modern popes to the Archbishops of Canterbury,
from Paul VI’s episcopal ring to the pectoral crosses given by John Paul, seem
to suggest a different understanding. These are the insignia of the bishop’s
office, and popes do not simply give them away to laymen dressed up in
clerical dress. In some sense, they seem to imply recognition of fellow members
of the episcopal fraternity.

I approached Murphy-O’Connor about this after the Oct. 4 press conference at
the Venerable English College in Rome, asking him what he thought the
theological significance of these gifts might be.

“It’s more than nothing,” he said, smiling.

I completed his thought for him: “Even if it’s hard to say exactly what that
‘more than nothing’ is?”

“Exactly,” he replied.

Murphy-O’Connor said that however one interprets the meaning of these
gestures, they clearly imply that in some sense the Catholic church is already
beyond the position expressed in Apostolicae Curae.

During the news conference, Cardinal Walter Kasper fielded a question about
Apostolicae Curae. He made the argument that to the extent Catholics and
Anglicans grow together in faith, the question of ordinations can be examined
in a fresh light.

I can’t say for sure that all priests do, but in some of the Anglican Use Catholic parishes the priest wears a cope and changes into the chasuble before the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

They also wear birettas.

Yours in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary


I’m not sure how similar these would be:

In the “standard” Roman usage, the priest may wear the cope for the beginning of the Mass, if there is some ritual at the opening (as I said in the earlier post, this is prevalent at funerals, or if the rite of sprinkling is used, or similar situations too numerous to mention). However, the priest switches from cope to chasuble before the opening prayer. The alb/stole alone without chasuble or cope is never permitted for the main celebrant.

In the Anglican usage of the Church do you recall at what moment the switch is made?

[And so that readers here understand, the Anglican use Catholic form is a perfectly legitimate and completely Catholic “expression” (I’m searching for the right word there). This happens when a large number of Anglicans convert to Catholicism (sometimes entire parishes) and they are permitted to use a modified version of the Anglican ceremonies, but we must keep in mind that the priest himself must first be validly ordained by a Catholic bishop.]

If I recall correctly, in an Anglican service, which is likely the same as the Anglican-use one, it is before the priest goes up to the altar with the deacon and sub-deacon. So they process up to the bottom of the sanctuary, the cope is laid aside and the chasuble put on, and then the three of them go up to the altar and bow and say the opening prayer.

What I can’t remember is the little confession that they say standing in the bottom of the sanctuary, where they pond their chests (I know there is a name for it which escapes me at the moment) - if that is before or after they remove the cope.

I was interested to hear that the RC priests no longer cross their stoles - back when I was a server 10 years ago in an Anglican chaple, they crossed their stoles, and the deacon wore his over one shoulder I think. And they and the sub-deacon all wore maniples too.

I looked further into this subject of crossed or straight stoles. Apparently the reform goes back to Vatican II, and is in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal (Wikipedia: stoles). However, there are Roman Catholic priests currently who do cross the stole. I saw a photo associated with the New Liturgical Movement showing a priest in cope and alb with a crossed stole. Also, he was outside and in a graveyard for a burial. His stole was black. Unfortunately I cannot find that picture as I write.

Perhaps Father David could answer this: If a priest is celebrating a Tridentine mass (especially in Latin), do the General Instructions of the Roman Missal apply?

Well, I’m not Father David, but I’ll try to field this one…

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal governs the celebration of the Mass in the ordinary form of the rite. The “equivalent” of the GRIM used for the extraordinary form of the rite would be found in various documents like the Rubricae Generales Missalis (General Rubrics of the Missal), and the Ritus servandus in celebratione Missae (Rite to be observed in celebrating Mass).

Thanks. Can I assume then that the RGM governs vestments? If so, would the priest be required to wear an amice, as there is a specific vesting prayer for that purpose? Would a cassock-alb be permitted?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit