Why do Catholic and some Protestant clergy wear vestments and clothing different from the people?

Why do Catholic and some Protestant (as in Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian) clergy wear vestments and clothing different from the people? When I was a Fundamental Baptist I was told this was to elevate the clergy above the people.
What is the truth of the matter?
Thanks! :thumbsup:

Think about this for a second. When you look around a Fundamental Baptist service, can you easily identify the pastor as the guy wearing the nicest suit? :slight_smile:

Seriously though, the idea in many traditions is that it gives significance to the office of the person wearing the vestment, and is supposed to take the focus away from the person inside it.

I think the jury is still out on that. :wink:

Within Catholicism (and Orthodoxy for that matter) the cassock, a long, black vestment, is worn by all clergy. The symbolism within the cassock varies from rite to rite, but in general, it is meant to be a mark of contradiction to society. In addition, the cassock makes a clergyman identifiable. If you see a man with a zucchetto and black cassock with purple trim, you can easily tell he is a Successor to the Apostles, a bishop, and address him as such (“Your Excellency”, kneel to kiss his ring, etc).

For Catholics, the use of Vestments by her clergy goes back to the time of the ritual garb of the priesthood of Araron. In the Catacomb days, priest and bishops were distinctively garbed when celebrating the liturgy. Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr, John Hardon SJ
Kissing the Bishop’s ring is a sign of reverence and respect for the office the ring signifies, that of an Apostle. God Bless, Memaw

I’m not sure about other traditions, but most of the Catholic vestments have their origins in being the everyday clothes of the day. But, over time, fashions changed and vestments stayed the same.

Also, over time, many of the vestments have taken on significance. It’s actually pretty neat when you look into it. It’s not about “elevating” but rather “setting apart for a specific purpose.”

Here’s a neat little article about vestments that I stumbled across on the Vatican website:


I think it’s been a long time since most diocesan priests wore cassocks - I can think of only 2 or 3 in our diocese. In addition, deacons are clergy and certainly permanent deacons don’t wear cassocks. And I can’t reall anytime in the last 25 years when one of our ordinaries permitted his ring to be kissed or to be addressed as “Your Excellency.” The practice has been a firm handshake and “Bishop.”

That’s because Catholics have stopped doing it, not because we shouldn’t! God Bless, Memaw

The short answer is because the Jewish priests in Temple did, as commanded by God.

BTW - the Orthodox Churches and the Church of the East wear vestments too.

From a Lutheran POV, there is a difference between elevated above, distinguished within. The ordained office of the public ministry is not higher or elevated above the Priesthood of all believers, but an important, distinct part of it. Important and distinct because they are called by God, and sent through His Church to preach and teach the word, and administer the sacraments.
Linked is an excellent blog article on the subject.



Most Bishops are still called “Your Excellency”

(though some American mistakenly call Archbishop’s “Your Grace,” should only happen in England and other secular, english speaking kingdoms)

  1. Just because many diocesan priests stopped wearing cassocks does not make it okay.
  2. As clergy, permanent deacons have the right to wear a Roman collar and cassock.
  3. Regardless of their “casual” attitude, a bishop is a Successor of the Apostles and should be addressed appropriately. A “firm handshake” is completely inadequate. Would you call your pastor “priest” (“Nice to meet you Priest!”)? I think not. If you met the Holy Father, would you give him a handshake and say “It’s a pleasure, Pope Francis”, or kneel to kiss his ring and address him as “Your Holiness”? This recent lack of respect/reverence for those ordained to the Order of the High Priest Melchizedek is truly alarming.

Interesting point about “Hey, Priest!” (:p) but I honestly don’t think most bishops (at least in the U.S.) mind being called “Bishop”. Those I have met seem to prefer that to “Your Excellency”. I think if someone knelt to kiss their ring nowadays, it would make many of them uncomfortable.

If I met the Pope, I would probably shake his hand and say nothing at all. If I called him anything, it would probably be “Papa”. I doubt I could kneel because there would probably be lots of other people pressing behind me. :slight_smile:

I can sympathize with the idea that our culture has somewhat lost something in the general shift to more casualness in the way we address others. But I don’t think that horse is going back in the barn anytime soon.

That’s the bishop’s problem… lol! Sorry Your Excellency! :wink:

If you can’t kneel, you can always bow at the waist and kiss his ring-- that’s what most people do at the general audiences! :thumbsup:

Priests and bishops are successors of the Apostles… most important people on Earth. While acting in persona Christi, they administer the Sacraments and consecrate the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. Just because the world is becoming more and more informal does not mean we should follow suit! If just a few of us practice formality, it can serve as an example to others and spread. :D:highprayer:

I can respect that. :slight_smile:

When they were garments in public that identify themselves as ministers, not to set them apart as special but to let people know there was a minister available if anyone required their services.

When I was young it was common for people of many professions to wear identifying garments even “off duty” for similar reasons…is there a doctor in the house? Call a priest, etc.

When they wear vestments during ritual and liturgy it usually has a historical tradition that goes with it.

I agree, we have lost so much respect/reverence over the past few decades, in many ways!!! God Bless. Mwmaw

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