"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Wearing the cassock... is back.

2004 in the Tyrol.

It never went out, you say?

Well, it kinda did.  Rorate Caeli has an interesting post from a document written by the oft-ignored Cardinal Siri on the disuse of the cassock (and religious habit) as well as the role it played in the decay of ecclesiastical discipline.
From an earlier era.

A Te Sacerdote 
I deem it necessary to draw attention to a problem that is becoming increasingly important: that of ecclesiastical dress. […] In fact, we are witnessing the greatest decadence in ecclesiastical dress. […]Clothes strongly condition and sometimes even forge the psychology of those who wear them. (Ecclesiastical) clothing, in fact, is a commitment at the taking of the habit, for its conservation and for its substitution. It is the first thing that is seen and the last thing that is laid aside. It is a reminder of commitment, of belonging, decorum, union, team spirit and dignity! It does this continuously. It consequently creates limits in action, calls to mind these limits incessantly, instigates the barrier of modesty, of a good name, of one’s own duties, of public resonance, and of the consequences of malicious interpretations. […]

I believe it is difficult for the ecclesiastical spirit to exist in our times, because of its characteristics, if the desire and respect for the ecclesiastical habit is absent. […] It is not only with “ecclesiastical dress” that we are concerned here, but with the cassock itself.

And let us face reality, without any fear of what can be said about it. […] Some, in order to boycott the use of the cassock or to justify giving in to the current fashion against it, affirm: “Anyway, the cassock is a liturgical garment” - with this, they want to reduce the cassock to liturgical use only. This is openly false and insidiously hypocritical! […] Frankly, it is clear that the clergyman's suit […] is not the most desirable solution. Will he who does not love his cassock be able to resist and love his service to God? Our neighbor does not substitute God! He who does not love his uniform is no soldier. […] - Continue reading here

Top photos:  I thought it might interest readers to see photos of another Cardinal and how he sometimes dressed.
Cardinal Siri would have been proud of this guy.

But maybe not this nun.
Oh sure, she's wearing the habit,
but she's playing with
scantily clad young men.


  1. I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that I would agree with Cardinal Siri not only on cassocks but on most everything he stood for.

  2. So you agree he was oft-ignored. ;)

  3. Oooohhh, there are also photos of John Paul II when he was a bishop dressed in a t-shirt and shorts! And going hiking with young men and women similarly dressed! Just ask the faithful folks at TIA. They have the whole collection.


    1. Merc, I have seen those - how cool, huh?

  4. I think Cardinal Siri was ignored most especially outside Genoa. If there was ever a Cardinal who embodied the hermeneutic of Vatican II through the lense of "continuity" it was Cardinal Giuseppi Siri. We have Cardinal Siri to thank for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. He would have been a very great Pope. I don't agree however that he would have been against the nun playing soccer with a lad in shorts. He preached Catholic modesty but he was no prude. There is this mistaken notion that Catholic modesty is no longer part of Catholic identity. One have only to look at the photos of WYD. any Catholic worth his or her salt should be scandalised by that.

    1. Servus - I did not know that Siri was behind the Institute.

      You know I'm just kidding about the nun in the photo, right? I'm bad because I have never been scandalized by the way lay folks dress at WYD or for Mass.

    2. I am also not worth my salt. Whatever problems there are, I see millions of kids defying their culture to do something decidedly "uncool" -- seek God, and seek Him in the Catholic Church.

      If I find myself judging their clothing, that's my fault, and a damnable one at that.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Your comment was deleted before I could read it.

  6. This is the sort of thing I was referring to. Somehow I don't find it conducive to Catholic modesty or becoming as young Catholic men and women. I am reminded of Our Lady at Fatima speaking about fashions being introduced that would "offend Our Lord very much"... remember to ARROW to right to see the full GALLERY.....


  7. Terry,
    in German speaking lands there is a tongue in cheek name for prelates or priests who wear the shirt/jacket/tie as opposed to cassock.

    They are referred to as the order of "Krawatiner" or the order of "Tie wearers"

  8. Servus - I see what you mean, some of it is a bit extreme - two kids making out under the fire hose does not scream "Catholic morality." Neither does the guy in tightie-whities and a straw hat, or the girl barely contained in the tube top.

    At the same time, the form modesty takes can vary from time to time and place to place. I know lots of South Americans who are very Catholic, and sometimes what they wear can be perceived as sexual to an American, yet they would never think anything like that. To them, "it's hot".

    Also, I can't tell you how many Germans I talked to who found it appalling that Americans find nudity to be per se sexual, and they see nothing sexual at all in mixed saunas. I also know a very traditional Catholic professor who grew up in Japan and said that they also saw nothing sexual in that.

    And I hope you don't think people shouldn't wear shorts or bathing suits on the beach ... :)

  9. btw "it's hot" = "it's hot out here,"

    I totally forgot the double meaning!

    1. Of course nudity doesn't have to equal sexual. Germans are nude at the beach or the lake. I remember American soldiers hiding in the woods and peering at everyone because it was such a novelty. So if I am understanding you correctly Catholics such as Cardinal Siri and Pius XII were products of their time. Their rather "narrow" views of what constitutes catholic modesty was coloured by their time of European (Italian) Catholics saw as modesty and not necessarily that of the gospel? People have changed, fashions have changed what was modest then is prudish today?

      Bathing suits at the beach? of course within reason.

      I guess I am an outdated crank like Cardinal Siri and Pius XII

  10. Servus I don't mean their views are outdated, but that surely in *absolute* terms, what is modest in one time / place / culture is not immodest in another. All moral theologians I have read (they are all from the 30s - 50s) say that nothing can be said *absolutely* since what people react to and what things mean will differ wildly, and that any particular recommendations will necessarily be limited by time and place.

    Now, some styles of clothing serve no other purpose than to entice the viewer sexually - miniskirts come to mind, or really deep cleavage. But then again, look at paintings of even famously devout noblewomen of 18th century - they're practically hanging out of their bodices, and it seems very sexual, but are looking at it through or eyes and not theirs. They'd have never THOUGHT of exposing their shins, though.

    But it is also true that the German bishops in 1913 were outraged at exposed clavicles on women, and that in 1900 exposed ankles were a huge deal.

    St. Thomas and St. John Chrysostom recommended that women cover their heads in public, and several Church Fathers said they should cover their faces.

  11. So explain to me today's current standards of what constitutes Catholic modesty? and how are today's standards of Catholic modesty different from that of "the world"? or are today's modesty the same as that of the world?

  12. Since the Catholic Church is universal I'd say there no universal standards except "do not dress in a way designed to deliberate provoke unchaste thoughts in the opposite sex".

    At one time, exposed shins did this. They do not today. At one time, deep cleavage did not do this. It does today. A typical one-piece swimsuit would have been scandalous even on a beach in 1920. It's considered relatively modest now.

    Things do change. You cannot deny that, or we'd have to simply make all women adopt the standards of the Church Fathers, which is essentially what modern Muslims wear.

    1. “ . . . no matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of styles may be, there is always an absolute norm to be kept after having heard the admonition of conscience warning against approaching danger; style must never be a proximate occasion of sin.” pius xii


  13. Yes I have read that quote. But the "absolute norm" is that "style must never be a proximate occasion of sin" - the absolute norm is that one must not dress in a way that causes undue sexual provocation in one's neighbor.

    But what causes this is what varies. A dress cut right below the knees would have been an absolute scandal in 1900. The low necklines of the 18th century which were designed to show femininity and motherhood would be entirely inappropriate today.

    Clothing designed to cause arousal is always bad, but clothing not designed for that purpose - it depends, it depends, it depends.

    Are you willing to consider it indecent for a man to wear a t-shirt? Or do we want to forbid women from doing so? Because it WAS very indecent at one time.

  14. Oh, and Pius XII was well-versed in moral theology. He knew exactly what the orthodox moralists at the time were saying, which was "you cannot make up rules that will apply in all times and places and contexts". The "absolute norm" really is just "do not dress in a way *likely* to provoke your neighbor to sin".


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