Catholics/dress

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QUESTION: Are Priest required to dress in a certain way? Anf why do Priest wear black and a white collar?
And does wearring black help Priest become better Priests?

ANSWER: In the country of America Priests generally wear black clerical shirts with white collars.  Other colors may be worn such as blue, gray or white, but most Catholic priests wear black.  Some bishops mandate the wearing of black for priests of their dioceses because the bishops for whatever reason feel that this helps distinguish priests from Protestant clergy. Protestant clergy often wear black shirts like Catholic priests so wearing black does not automatically identity one as Catholic even in a Protestant area. The wearing of black is often popular among Anglicans and Lutherans, even some Methodists.  Baptists and Presbyterians tend to wear suits.

Catholic Priests traditionally wore a garment called a "Cassock."  A Cassock was a long gown like garment.  As priestly life changed or evolved priests began to wear black clerical shirts as opposed to a Cassock.  Cassocks because of their nature are not always practical for modern priestly ministry.  Clerical shirts are far easier to manage and work in.

The color black is traditional because black in America is the color of death.  The collar is white because in America white is the color symbolizing life.  Black denotes the fact that a priest as died to the world, white denotes the fact that the priest has been given the life of Christ for the sake of "Fathering" God's people.  The collar was round because it denotes a yoke.  A priest is "yoked" to Christ.  It is a slave collar.  Priests are slaves of Christ.

Does wearing black help priests become better priests? Clerics do not make the priest, the priest makes the clerics.  A bad priest will still be a bad priest in clerics.  

However there are some priests that argue clerics are analogous to a wedding ring.  Clerics are a sign and symbol of WHO a priest is: a slave of Christ.  Thus when going out because clerics are so different from the normal dress, it forces a priest to always act and behave as a priest, and also clearly identifies him in case people need his assistance.  

For example: a priest in clerics who is out to dinner with fellow priests might think twice about taking a second drink---realizing that people are probably observing him.  A priest in clerics who is out with friends, or shopping, etc, might mind his speech a little bit, etc, again, realizing that people are observing him because he is representing Christ.  

I take neither extreme myself.  I fall in the middle.  I believe clerics are an important part of the dress of the clergy.  I believe clerics indeed denote who and what a priest is.  At the same time no one wears a uniform 24 hours a day.  When one is not working or doing parish work or ministry, but just relaxing with friends, or having fun, I think it is appropriate to wear "civilian" clothing.  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: why would a Priest (unless he is a Premonstratensian)wear white?

Answer
As I said in my original answer: White is the color of life.  Priests have new life in Christ in order to Shepherd their people as Fathers.

However the color White has a practical purpose: it is cooler during the summer months. Some priests may wear white or blue during the summer months due to the heat.  Black absorbs more heat than lighter colors.

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Father Dave Bechtel

Expertise

I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.

Experience

I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Education/Credentials
Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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