Friday, August 25, 2006

Pope in a business suit


OK, I know, he wasn't pope then, but you get the idea.

I don't want to scandalize anyone with this picture; and anyone who is going to attack the holy father over this, please do so elsewhere. No, I don't know why he was wearing a coat-and-tie, but I take the man for who and what he stands for today; and I see no reason to spin dark speculation about the successor of Peter.

That said--let's talk about the coat-and-tie-on-a-priest thing.

When -- if ever -- would you say its okay? How bad is it? What do you think? (Food for thought: it used to be the case that in some places, a priest couldn't appear in public in clerical attire. Mexico at one time, and Turkey, if memory serves.)

Biretta-tip: Signore Rocco Palmo, who whispers in the loggia.

18 comments:

Jonathon said...

I've seen enough of it at seminary to say rarely if ever. If you need to be dressed up, then why not the collar? You're a soldier in battle and it is your uniform. Your people will be able to identify you and the enemies will know you are there.

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that this picture was taken approx two years before he became pope. He and his brother were on a retreat in a monastery. Apparently there is also a picture of he and his brother in the same outfits chosing a meal at the monastery cafeteria.

For men of their generation they probably wouldn't feel comfortable in tracksuits or jeans on their days off. The suits are probably their relaxation clothes! I have seen old pictures of men in suits and women wearing fancy hats at the football here in Australia.

Tracy said...

It's kind of like that age old question of whether or not a sister wears "clothes" under her habit. Does a priest where his collar to bed?!

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

I thought of that, which is why I ruled out any interpretation of the picture that would be derogatory to the holy father.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing in Scripture that tells us a priest, bishop, etc. must wear a uniform, costume, or habit. Vestments are worn for liturgy; clerical garb is simply a custom. When priests dress as normal men, it's a good thing.

tin83 said...

Honesty, I didn't recognize the pope. He looks great wearing that suit. Sometimes it's much better to see him not wearing the usual" clothes" he wears. But its so unbecoming of him too.

Ann said...

A wise young priest once told me he would never appear in public without his collar. He said it would be like a married man going out without his wedding ring. A collar signifies that you're married to Someone.

Mark Anthony said...

I certainly agree with anon. the second. Clerical garb is a custom and has its proper purpose, but this recent insistence among some Catholics that it be worn at all times in public as a pledge of true orthodoxy is excessive. Really, must a priest wear his blacks to the dentist, a ball game, dinner out with friends? Even John Paul dressed down on vacation. There is a fine line between being a sign and drawing attention to yourself.

And Colin, "soldiers in battle"? Really now...Christ never used the analogy; He preferred servant and son. Your "enemies" (does a Christian, much less a priest, really have the luxury of defining anyone as an enemy?) will know a priest is present by your acts of faithfulness, mercy and love, not your wardrobe.

Father Martin Fox said...

It was a problem the last time I went to the dentist: he kept knocking off my biretta!

Father Martin Fox said...

Seriously, and no offense, but my original question seems to have been lost: what about a priest in coat-and-tie? My question isn't, should a priest wear clerical attire, but can you see circumstances where a coat and a tie on a priest would be suitable?

What does it seem to mean when a priest appears in public in a coat and tie?

A real-world example is interacting with public officials, advocating public policy. A couple of months ago, I gave testimony before a committee of the state legislature on a prolife bill. I wore clerical attire; the opposition to the bill tried to distract by suggesting a priest speaking out was somehow inappropriate (as if I'm not a citizen, and the First Amendment doesn't protect me, too).

Now, I foresaw that, and went ahead, because I knew what I wore wasn't going really to change anything; they'd make the same arguments either way, and the votes will fall based on public pressure, not clerical attire.

But there could be times one would make a different call.

Anonymous said...

A priest can wear a coat and tie anytime except perhaps when celebrating the liturgy.
Your orig question was can a priest wear a coat and tie - respondents said a priest can wear normal clothes. A coat and tie ARE parts of normal clothes for men in our country. Go for it, Fr. Fox!

Jane M said...

When would you want to look serious but not like a priest? (That is a question not a snark.)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps next time you go to the dentist you could secure your biretta with a few bobby pins! lol

...circumstances where a coat and a tie on a priest would be suitable.

As a voice from the pew I think that if a priest is doing stuff as a priest e.g. visiting the sick, speaking to officials etc he should wear clerical garb. On his day off, doing the garden, going to dinner with friends it is his call.

40lovemom said...

It's not the clothes that make the man...

Perhaps he did not expect to be photographed when he was dressed that way.

I don't think it is a big deal. Is a doctor required to wear a lab coat all the time, or OR scrubs, does a police officer wear their uniform when off duty?? "Uniforms" are the order of the day when those required to wear them are "on duty," but what one wears on their own time, priests included, should be their choice.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I was at a diocesan function and there was a priest there wearing a tie. He was a military chaplin, in uniform.

Rich Leonardi said...

One argument for erring on the side of wearing one's collar is to be ready for the unexpected: the desperate soul seeking confession, a grieving widow seeking a blessing. A priest-friend tells me he always wears his collar in public and he frequently is presented with these situations.

Moof said...

Priests, bishops ... Popes ... are people. I have no qualms whatsoever about shirts and ties ... or even more casual attire under the proper circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Actually I think there is a time when a priest would want to look serious and may not want to be seen as a priest.
If a priest has a teaching function that is NOT related to the teaching authority of the Church (say he's a remedial math instructor at a local college), then he might not want to wear his clerical collar, because while it denotes obedience, it also denotes that authority bestowed upon you by the person to whom you're obedient (the bishop). Now obviously, the priest may still want to wear his collar, but I can also see distancing. And by all means, if he was teaching anything contrary to the faith, then he should not be wearing his collar (though he shouldnt be doing THAT anyway).