Priest Without Collar In Public


A few days ago, at a festival in my city, I had seen someone I knew and said hello. A short time later he introduced me to someone and said “he’s a bishop.” Without thinking I replied “Alright and I’m the pope.” It turns out he is an auxiliary bishop for my diocese. I gave an apology and went along to enjoy the rest of the festival.
How wrong was I??? Do I just assume everyone is whatever they say they are??? I certainly hope not. He had on, like many priests I’ve seen, just plain clothes like everybody else. There must be something in the CCC or Canon Law that encourages any priest or religious to wear the clothing of their office especially when amongst the people.
I personally feel like it’s kind of cowardly not too. So what if people don’t like you, or joke, or threaten, etc? Did Jesus not say that if they persecuted Him then they will persecute us? Why hide ourselves. Especially today, we need a reminder every now and then of who we are and the holiness we should strive for. Why encourage the faith (by being seen) inside the walls of the church only?


I don’t know where in the world you are, but in USA it’s very common to see clergy in ordinary casual clothes without the collar. If they’re introduced to me as “Father X” or “Bishop X”, and they reasonably fit the profile (i.e. they’re mature men) I presume they are a priest or a bishop.

Edited to add, it’s also fairly easy for anyone who poses as a priest to just get a collar or fake one up - con men do this all the time - so having a collar isn’t a “guarantee” that someone is a clergy person.


My old priest used to ride bike on the trail, my husband bumped into him wearing a t-shirt and shorts a few times😊


In general, I think it’s reasonable to accept that a person is who they say they are unless you have good reason to believe otherwise. Not wearing full liturgical garb at an outdoor event in the heat of summer doesn’t seem too unusual to me. An auxiliary bishop used to stay at our parish rectory and we frequently saw him outdoors, jogging, gardening, walking the dog, and doing all sorts of stuff in regular clothes. Besides, some Protestants refer to certain clergy as “bishops” as well, so I think your verbal response was inappropriate. Rather than accuse a holy man of cowardice, I think you should just accept that you made a mistake and misspoke and it’s no one’s fault but your own.


These good men need some time to just blend in. Let them have some incognito recreation!


So, if someone introduces you to, say, a doctor – do you automatically disbelieve them? I’m not sure why you’d assume people are other than what they say without good reason.

It’s quite common for diocesan priests to be in “civvies.” Unless the occasion is somewhere that a suit would be the expected attire of other men, or an official Church function, I don’t see anything inappropriate in him being dressed casually.


It’s easy for us to foist extra things on the shoulders of the clergy. But can you imagine having a job where you are always “on” no matter where you go? Because even when people don’t know you personally, the clothes give you away?

I think we should spend more time worried about how we can assist our priests and less time worried about what they are wearing.

And, yes, some bishops do encourage their priests to keep their clerical garb on when they are out and about. But even in those cases, I’ve never seen a case where it is an absolute requirement in all circumstances. That’s just not reasonable.


If a man is walking around in a roman collar in America, and goes into a store, the store detectives likely think he is just there to boost something.

Wearing religious garb is thought by thieves to be a way of lifting suspicion, but in actuality it just bring attention to them.

Sometimes of course, priests are up to no good, I had one in my cab back in the 1980’s and 1990’s a few times.


A Bishop should be setting an example for his Priests, and wearing a collar in public.

How are the reputation of Priests ever going to improve if Priests are not easily identifiable and seen doing the right thing in public?

You can’t win hearts and minds if you are hiding in plain sight.


Is this a setting where everyone is dressed up? A festival does not sound like that. Sometimes, people are just out to have a nice evening – even priests.


In many countries around the world, at some point and time there were laws that were created (some temporarily and others permanently) that forbid priests and nuns from wearing any visible sign of who they are whether it was a collar or a habit. This was to discourage the faithful and have them keep their faith practiced only in private. They refused those laws. As punishment they were imprisoned, tortured, and some died because they would not hide who they were. Sad that many hide who they are because they need a break from their vocation. It’s kind of like saying people need a break from marriage so let’s just remove the rings and worry about the marriage matter after we’ve relaxed for awhile.


Why assume cowardice? That’s a very uncharitable charge and your assumptions are very poor form indeed.


You’re going to burn out our priests that way. They deserve some time to relax and enjoy a quiet life. Also, for comfort levels, it’s just not appropriate to be wearing religious clothing to a hot festival.

Priests (as well as lay people) will always be ‘on show’ for showing the old was of God. We don’t have to wear particular clothing to recognise that is our purpose. In fact, it could help with being a testament to God to others as some people could find the collar off putting.

Also, I trust my priest. He is not wearing normal clothes because he is a coward about his beliefs. It’s not so he can hide it away. Why on earth would he be a priest if that was how he felt?

Funnily enough, I quite like it when our priest goes incognito at some masses performed by the assistant priests. It’s actually hard to recognise him without his collar for some reason. It’s his booming voice which gives him away!


Made me laugh and reminded me of an incident from when we were stationed in England. One of the women in our American community was attending a horsey event and started talking to a British woman there. They eventually introduced themselves, and the Brit introduced herself as Princess Anne. My acquaintance responded, “Right, and I’m the Queen.”

Turned out it really was . . . Princess Anne. They laughed about the oops and became friends.

Sometimes it’s just better to take people at their word.



A few priests I know like to wear civilian clothes when they are out with their friends and family.

Back in 2015, I was speaking with a priest during the World Meeting of Families. He was wearing civilian clothes and then told me that he was a priest. At first, I didn’t believe him, but he told me he was serious and that he was there with his mother (he introduced me). He said that when he’s with his mom, he just wants to be her son and not be her priest. So he will wear civilian clothes when visiting with her.

I saw my parish vicar with one of his friends during Holy Week doing the same thing. He was dressed nicely, but was wearing civilian clothes. And another time, I saw a brand new priest at a play about St. Therese of Lisieux. He was there with a few seminarians, all of them were wearing civilian clothes (though a few of them were wearing crosses and/or polo shirt with the seminary logo on it).

I have also heard (because I’ve never seen him doing this) that sometimes that Archbishop Chaput goes to a particular restaurant close to the seminary for a late dinner by himself, wearing civilian clothes to avoid a potential scene.

Think about it, if you have a bishop (or a priest for that matter) come into your restaurant, it’s almost like a celebrity of political official coming into a restaurant. So you never know what someone who has a grudge against the Church might do.

I once heard someone say that today, few priests go to stores or out to eat in the clericals by themselves. They might do it as a group, or if stopping somewhere while on official business; but they often like to avoid drawing attention to themselves in today’s climate - esp post sex abuse crises era.

Honestly, it’s a shame because I love seeing priests walking around. But I understand why they might want to avoid it. I still remember hearing about Fr. Morris getting spit on by two men during the Gay Pride Parade. So let us pray for our priests and let them know that we really appreciate the sacrifices they make for us everyday.

God Bless


While I do think sometimes it’s done out of fear, sometimes it’s also done out of compassion (or misplaced compassion). Some priests might honestly feel that if they don’t wear the clericals in public, then people will not be tempted to sin.

I’ve seen this same thinking happen when a priest decided to remove a Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk because some homeless kept on breaking into it to steal the money. His solution was to remove the kiosk to remove the temptation, even though that kiosk used to provide a ton of people with educational information to help them grow in their faith.

Priests often think about helping the one, even if there is a chance it might put the flock at risk.

God Bless


Have you ever asked a priest in plain clothes why he’s dressed that way? Or are you just insulting priests based on no information?


Did you read both my first original story/questions and the reply that I added a little bit later? Or are you just adding a reply not caring?


I know a lot of people who don’t wear a wedding ring or not all the time. In many cases they have a job that would make it unsafe to wear one because they could lose a finger in a machine, get an electric shock etc. We don’t need to “show off” what we are all the time as long as we’re not being deceptive. If the Bishop was introduced to you as “Bishop X” then he’s hardly trying to hide the fact that he’s a Bishop, so your argument is not making any sense whatsoever.

Also, in countries where we don’t have a history of locking up the priest or killing him then why should they have to go around in a uniform 24/7? What example are they setting exactly? Do you also think a judge has to go around all day in judicial robes?


It’s not about it being a uniform reserved for certain occasions and for when it’s time to work. Their life is that of a priest because they are a priest forever. It’s not an 8am-5pm job that has a dress code in the office. The work is everywhere and all the time. They married the Church and are responsible to help lead all those they meet to become closer to Him. You and I as Christians are called on to evangelize throughout the world. They are our spiritual fathers in the community not only during certain times but at all times with no set schedule. When one has questions and doubts what a perfect way for them to come to understanding the truth when they turn around and immediately see the priest, whom they’ve never met, yet know that they might be able to assist them.

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