Seminarians & clerical attire


While in seminary (actually there and taking classes) and/or doing parish work, the seminarians in my diocese wear clerical garb. Some just wear black suits w/ a collar while others wear a cassock.

I have noticed lately that many of our younger seminarians though, are ALWAYS wearing their clericals, even when they are home for vacation, and not doing “parish work”. I am not sure that this is the best practice, especially considering that the men that are permanent Deacons are forbidden from wearing them. Which I don’t understand. After all, they are clerics, a seminarian is not.

I have no problem with the seminarians wearing clerical garb, in general. What I am not too sure about is the wearing of clerical garb like it is a “status symbol” when you are out shopping or at the movies or at a coffee shop with friends.

I did check with a friend who works in the Vocations department of my diocese, and there is no real “rule”, per se, except for the one that forbids permanent Deacons from wearing them.



I think it is a fantastic sign. It’s not good when you see priests who walk around in jeans and a t shirt when they aren’t working as though they are two different people. They are cultivating a good habit, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Fr Wilfrid Faber once said: ‘I walk down the street in my habit and I feel I dispel invincible ignorance wherever I go’


Isn’t that wonderful?


One possible reason is that Deacons function both as marrieds and ordained.
The seminarians are still information, and constantly aware of their formation and example to the outside world. The Deacons may be an example even in their “civvies”.
I VERY seriously doubt that anyone wears their cassock as a status symbol. not in our society anyway. The ordained are attacked daily by people who think all priests and anyone with a collar is a pedophile. I had a priest tell me that he never goes on a place with his collar on, or else he is trapped with a plane full of hostility.
God bless those not ashamed of their clerical garb and who wear it as an outward sign of Christ active in this world.


When I was in the seminary (as a religious) the diocesan seminarians would walk around with these on their feet:

I hope things have changed for the better!


Look – that rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide!!! :smiley:


It’s killer bunny.

Unfortunately they probably caused invincible ignorance.:frowning:


Right – it’s the Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Look at the fangs!

(I have a plush version, but not the slippers. Perhaps I have only vincible ignorance. :wink: )


I once heard Fulton Sheen say it was illegal for a priest to wear a cassock or habit outside of their church in the United States. This was probably in the 1950s. I’m not sure anything is different today though this is perhaps an old forgotten law no longer enforced. In the seminary near me the seminarians there from the diocese wear suits while the ones there for the order that runs it wear their habit.


Rules regarding seminarians wearing clericals (or not as the case may be) are set by individual dioceses and / or seminaries.

I have no problem with the seminarians wearing clerical garb, in general. What I am not too sure about is the wearing of clerical garb like it is a “status symbol” when you are out shopping or at the movies or at a coffee shop with friends.

Granted, there are risks with seminarians of over zealousness, vanity or trying to hide behind the collar but I think that the seminary formation staff are best placed to identify and address these.

While I think that the idea of (priests) wearing clericals is great I also think that the idea of them having “time off” is also important. Obviously a priest doesn’t stop being a priest when he takes off the collar but a priest who is unable to relax is a priest who’s on the short road to burnout. For seminarians, the seminary is the place to learn this, just as it’s also the place to learn about what it means in terms of self-identification to be a priest which is obviously about much more than a collar or clerical garb.


One of the Baltimore councils, probably the one in 1852, prohibited wearing of cassock or habit off church property in the USA.

The rule was a reaction to the violence and discrimination against Catholics which took place in the US during the 1840’s and 1850’s. Waves of European immigrants were entering the US and Catholics took the brunt of anti-immigrant discrimination. Political cartoons of the day depicted Catholic immigrants as invaders with an agenda to take over the US government at the word of the Pope. The Know Nothing Party was prominent anti-Catholic rhetoric and violence. Several priests were murdered and at least on Church was burned. It’s a sad time in US history and not well known.

The result was a prohibition against wearing cassock or habit off church property to protect clerics and religious. They were told to wear the clerical attire of the Anglican and Scottish Churches instead. The prohibition against cassock and habit has since been lifted but most secular clerics continued to wear the Anglican “Roman” collar. The collar is called “Roman” because it is Italian, not because it is Catholic. Anglicans wore it first.



Maybe it is just me, but I would lay dollars to donuts that neither the seminary administration nor the diocese is aware of the “off the clock” wearing of clerical garb during vacations. Given that minor orders went somewhat the way of high button shoes, I would have to wonder about anyone who took it to that length and was not in parish work specifically; and even then, I would wonder about someone wearing a collar who was not a transitional deacon.


Not too long ago I was in a local eatery when a group of medical students came in for lunch…and every one of them had his/her stethoscope draped around their neck. I think it could be much of the same thing, kind of “hey, look at me, I’m a (fill in the blank here).” Maybe a little premature, maybe a little pride, maybe a little youthful exhuberance, maybe just that part of our human nature whereby many of us enjoy being noticed one and a while. :wink:


That one might get a pass for no other reason than that they may have been in either a classroom or lab requiring they have the scope.

Or, you may be right.

Someone said that the original sin and the greatest sin is pride, and that all other sins in one way or another reflect that one.

the older I get, the more I think they were right.


It would be hard for me to determine if seminarian was wearing the clerical clothing as a status symbol.

Perhaps it might help to assume good intentions on the part of the seminarian.
You could also say a prayer for him.

I like the idea of seminarians and priests and religous wearing their religous attire in community because it gives me a chance to greet them and pray for them as I see them.

I also love seeing them in the community and remembering as I see them that they pray also for me.

To me, the more we can help each other focus on our faith throughout the course of the day, the better.:thumbsup:

May God bless you.


Interesting, though Fulton Sheen actually said “…it is illegal…” from what I remember. I doubt he would have worded it that way if it were simply a conciliar rule. Who knows though? :shrug: Was what you describe still in force 50 years ago?


I was in college seminary in the mid 1960’s. At that time, we were in minor seminary; major seminary started with the junior year of college, through Theology. The minors (4 years of high school and 2 years of college) wore ties and white shirts.

At that time, the majors wore clericals (Roman collar) on campus, but I don’t recall anyone off campus while on vacation wearing clericals, other than deacons. It was a long time ago… and memories fade. However, I would suspect that the seminary which is the basis of this thread would have rules concerning wearing clericals - when, where, and by whom. On the other hand, I would be just short of shocked if the seminary personnel would go to various homes, parishes, etc. to determine that someone who was outside the guidelines was wearing clericals.

And while I am all for supporting anyone in the seminary while at home, my own impression (and it is just that) is that clericals normally are reserved for someone who is ordained at least to the deaconate. Ultimately, I would presume the rules are up to the individual seminary. But whether or not they would check up on the matter - I kind of doubt they would, unless someone brought it to their attention.


Thank you for your insights into this thread.

I brought the subject up because it seems to be happening more and more, and it does make me, and some others that I know (especially the permanent Deacons, who are “forbidden” to wear them) a little uncomfortable. I work for my diocese, so I have the opportunity to see many of our seminarians. Most of them do not wear their clericals all the time, but a few of the younger ones (we have a few who are in their very early 20’s, the rest of them are in their mid-30’s) seem to.

We do not have a “local” seminary, so these men are not in classes. I have no issue with them wearing them while doing parish duty. It just seems strange to me that they would be wearing them all the time. :shrug:


I suspect Fulton Sheen’s reference was to the same rule but don’t know for sure. Sorry if that was not made clear. It makes sense but 100 years for a rule like that to be in effect is a long time.

The rule might never have been lifted. It might still be in effect for all I know. :shrug:

The Know Nothings and trouble they caused have been largely forgotten in the wake of later events. It was a sad time in US history.



I am having a bit of a hard time wondering why anyone who was not at least a transitional deacon would wear clericals even while working in a parish or in some other church-related activity.

I can understand that they might be in theology, and I don’t have a problem with on-campus wearing clericals (they were doing that in the seminary I attended before Vatican 2 ended, at it was not a new tradition). They are on the serious track, not the preparatory track at that point in the seminary.

However, when out in public during vacations, wearing a collar gives an immediate image to anyone they meet, that they (presumably) have been ordained. If that is the rule, then I would not dispute the rule for no other reason than that I have better things to do. But I would question whether or not it is the rule from the seminary.

Oh well…:shrug:


Hi, at my seminary in California pretty much all of us wear our clerics every day for classes. We also wear them when doing our field assignments, which are at a variety of places outside. As far as wearing them in public, it is allowed but probably not done often. I will rarely wear mine in public because I don’t want people to think I am a priest when I am only a seminarian.

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