14 Reasons Why Priests Don’t Wear Collars


Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray – Homiletic & Pastoral Review – These brave priests give 14 reasons why a priest chooses not to wear his collar and then debunk them.    This is a follow-up post to 23 Reasons Why A Priest Should Wear His Collar.

Father Richard McBrien

Fr. Richard McBrien - "My Roman collar is my television uniform. You don't see the apostles with Roman collars on. It's a custom. "

  1. “I need time for myself.” Priests, of course, need time for themselves, especially for prayer. Yet, a priest is a priest – always. Apart from the times noted in the introduction (recreation, vacation, etc.), there is no need to dress as a layman. The priest should take his personal time as a priest and nothing else.
  2. “I want to relax.” We make a big mistake when we equate wearing the collar with not being relaxed, and relaxing with being out of the collar. The naturalness of the priest should include wearing the collar without constantly averting to it. We should go about our daily duties, which include relaxing, without feeling uncomfortable about our priestly garb. It should become second nature to us.
  3. “My ministerial and personal lives are separate.” To have a “split personality” is never healthy. No priest can temporarily put his priesthood on the shelf. To hide one’s priesthood may often be symptomatic of a desire to engage in something sinful, or – at the very least – disedifying.
  4. “I need diversion.” If you mean the type of diversion that you would be ashamed to be seen enjoying while in a collar, then forget the diversion, not the collar.
  5. “Those who always wear their collars are insecure and seek to hide behind their uniforms.” The Roman collar is hardly a work uniform which is removed at the end of one’s day. Rather, the tried and true wisdom of the Church has determined that such garb best represents who the priest is. The collar is the established manner in which ordained ministers live out their ecclesial vocations both in the private and public spheres. True, some may think themselves better because of what they wear. But the collar and habit should not be dismissed out-of-hand on that basis. Priests and religious are weak and tempted. Wearing the appropriate clothing can strengthen those who totter on the brink of grave sin. On the other hand, those who do not want to appear in public as they really are seem to be suffering from a type of insecurity.
  6. “I do not want to stand out in a crowd.” This is part of the glory and at times the sacrifice of being God’s chosen servant: priests stand out not because of their own accomplishments or merits, but because they represent Jesus Christ. Priests are different, but not thereby strange.
  7. “The Roman collar erects a barrier between me and my people.” Some priests have publicly stated such. (For example, a priest-tribunal official and another priest involved in ecumenical work both asserted the necessity of not wearing the Roman collar for fear that they would insult non-Catholics and those hostile to Church teaching.) Could it be that some think that what the collar signifies – Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, the priesthood – are obstacles? Priests must relate to others as priests, never in spite of being priests.
  8. I can’t be one of the guys when I am ‘dressed up.”‘ To which we answer, “Good, because a priest is never just one of the guys.” Furthermore, wearing the collar is not “dressing up.” Rather, a priest wearing lay clothing (apart from legitimate exceptions) is himself constantly dressing up as someone he is not.
  9. “I don’t want to offend non-Catholics or be provocative in our pluralistic society.” Some took offense at Jesus as he walked the streets of Palestine. Are we trying to be “nicer” than he? Are we perhaps afraid to suffer for the sake of his name?
  10. “Clerical clothing is for a clerical Church – I believe in the radical equality of all believers.” There is no such thing as a clerical Church which will pass away. There is just one Church, and the priesthood is a constitutive part of the Church which cannot be abolished. The equality of all believers does not contradict the diversity of vocations and states of life in the Church. For priests to self-exempt themselves from one of the duties of priestly life – the wearing of the Roman collar – is a form of clericalism which denies the faithful their right to know who their priests are in order to call upon them for priestly ministrations whenever necessary.
  11. “My work with young people is hampered by the collar.” Many priests attest that their ministry to youth is enhanced, not hindered, by the wearing of the collar. Young men and women cannot help but detect the priest’s love for and dedication to the Lord and the Church. Since there is no reason for the priest to demonstrate that “I’m just like you” (because he is not) the priest can be content to wear his collar when around young people, knowing that he has nothing to prove or hide. He need only show the love and compassion of the Savior.
  12. “Clothes do not make the man – the people of God can see my priesthood by the way I live, not by the way I dress.” This statement as it stands is true. But the legitimate, Church-sanctioned vesture of the priest does not somehow mask who he is; instead, it highlights that he is indeed a priest who is required by the Church to dress accordingly as he seeks to imitate the First Priest.
  13. External symbols are not my thing – I am who I am, not what other people want me to be.” Exactly. As priests, we should be priests and happily, humbly give that clear message to others. When collars were quickly taken off a few decades ago, the common argument proclaimed was: “What’s really important is what’s inside me . . . I don’t need an article of clothing to define my priesthood.” Our lives should unabashedly display these characteristics; otherwise, we might be simply seeking our own interests and not Christ’s. We use symbols all the time, and need not be embarrassed by them. To obediently and humbly wear the collar expresses one’s submission to the authority of God and his Holy Church.
  14. “Priests who always wear the Roman collar are rigid, arch-conservative, inflexible, elitist, vain and selfish attention-seekers. I am not one of them.” The assertion is made that priests who dress as priests possess an unhealthy desire to be continually needed and recognized; they only wear the collar for adulation and to “lord it over” the laity; they are looking for “clergy discounts” and “freebies” at stores and restaurants. That is an unfair assessment of men who are trying to live as the Church mandates. The collar should mean a simplicity of life and a corresponding humility before Almighty God. For a priest to say, “I’m not like those poor guys who wear this Tridentine-imposed relic of clericalism,” is perhaps a means of easing his conscience when it rebukes him for not doing what the Church demands of her ministers.

Source:  Msgr. Charles M. Mangan & Father Gerald E. Murray. “Why a priest should wear his Roman collar.” Homiletic & Pastoral Review (June, 1995).


Msgr. Charles M. Mangan has been appointed by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, to a position serving the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Ordained in 1989, Msgr. Mangan formerly served the Diocese of Sioux Falls in several parishes.

Father Gerald E. Murray is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and was ordained in 1984 after completing studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N. Y. Currently he is studying canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome.

Why Does Your Priest Choose Not Wear Their Collar?

Please Leave Your Thoughts.

P.S. – Would you do Courageous Priest a favor and share this info with your friends on Facebook, Twitter or Email right now? We truly appreciate it. Or leave a comment, we would love to hear what you think.

22 comments to 14 Reasons Why Priests Don’t Wear Collars

  • Fr. Nameless

    I am a priest but don’t wear a collar because I’ve been stripped of my faculties. Wearing it would be an advertisement: available to celebrate sacraments! Able to hear your confession! Those are not options for me–have not been for many years. Please pray God restores my faculties.

  • Gloria

    I like to see the priest in his collar, so please wear it.

    Thank You!

  • Hmmmmmaybe doctors should carry medical items everywhere or mailman do the same or judges akways wear black or anyone whose work requires a uniform of some kind

  • I founded sanctuary house where any priest can visit and they do to be relaxed and take his collar off …. tho I am a layman I provide this ‘one of the guys’ scenerioes for those who sense they need ‘time off’
    Contact me fathers :
    [email protected]
    The welcome sign is always here.

  • Beverley Ann Price

    Our now Archbishop when Parish Priest and I mentioned how wonderful he wore a collar.. said
    “Beverley when I walk down the street I want people to know I belong to Jesus” I have always remembered his words. Police , army, and once nurses so many were uniforms proudly , so should our Priests..

  • Nancy Cosgrove

    who wear the roman collar…..sorry

  • Nancy Cosgrove

    I am so proud of clergy who wear. It is a great sign of faith and commitment. I am much more comfortable knowing the priest who is my confessor thinks of his noble vocation and is not ashamed of being humble before God. Why should a priest decide that he is off-duty? His calling is to the holy Priesthood as Alter Christus… is life-long .

  • Virginia

    I am from the Philippines, and priests in our country no longer wear their collar or priestly frocks in public but only during Mass. How I wish they would be like the priests that I see on EWTN – be they are Franciscans or Jesuits, they are wearing their Order’s proper priestly wear. I really hope Pope Benedict would require Filipino priests at least to wear a collar considering the weather in the Philippines. They should be recognized by everyone, not just by their parishioners.

  • MY APPOLOGIES BRETHREN, i am not catholic,
    i am ordained, but the subject came up on the “news” as
    a side comment to the validity of clergy.
    comments about clergy collars.
    write me if you will
    but i am also on twitter and my space
    trying to read through the bible KJV
    in no specific order.

  • can you do your job as a minister
    can you train as a minister
    are you called and ordained
    what is the type of work you do as ministry
    how will it reach
    the poor
    the ignorant
    When the question comes as “not doctrine” but rather
    preference it is a choice only
    but if i say i am one thing then
    i smoke or drink or carouse
    why would i call my self to the cloak of a minister
    smoking causes canser
    drinking causes allergic affects
    The subjects begin to come together in a
    news article about what “catholics” do to bishops
    and one stated a bishop who was not catholic but wore a collar.
    Either he/she is ordained or not
    now as to doctrine if they claim that they ought to
    be brought forth to tell what it is they minister to.
    do you quibble about text messages when it has litteraly change the way we do and communicate?

  • Gus

    In complete contrast…
    I am a layman and I have a black suit. So I bought a clerical shirt and collar to try out in public.
    What a response!! People were respectful, courteous and obliging. Something I never receive as a layman!
    A new “career” beckons I think…

  • Pilgrim

    I always find it strange to run into a priest in layman’s clothes.

    And the more priests in cassocks the better…

  • Kathy B.

    I’ve know quite a few priests pretty well in my life, and the best of them always wore their collars, even when they were dressed in a more relaxed fashion, like with a sweater over the “blacks”. What a wonderful thing to see a priest in his collar. Why would anyone become a priest, and then want to hide that fact from the world by dressing like any other bozo? It denotes a life apart, in the world, not of it, and affords people the opportunity to great them as we should, with the respect and dignity they should be accorded. It’s always better not to forget who you are, and to remind others of that fact also. And as one of those very good priests said to one of my sons many years ago, you generally behave according to the manner in which you present yourself to the world. So, perhaps clothes really do “make the man”.

  • Karen

    It’s like a person who is married and takes off his or her wedding ring? Is it not?

  • Iris

    I think a Priest should always wear his collar – people would have more respect for him. It is very difficult to know if a man is a priest- without his collar. Besides, it would give us an opportunity to always pray for him (a priest) Does he think people would relax more with him – without a collar. NOT TRUE.

  • Barbkw

    In Old Testament Temple worship, a Levite man might wait his entire life to serve once within the Presence of God at the Holy of Holies.

    I don’t know how common this practice is, but our priest (25 years ordained – new to our parish) wore his civilian cloths under his vestment for the daily morning Mass.

    To top that off, he made a comment that it is not a requirement of the Church to provide daily Mass (Wednesday morning Mass has now been removed).

  • Cody

    An example for #14. A former pastor, who was hit and miss about wearing his collar, needed someone to pick him up from a car repair shop so I volunteered to follow him there and give him a ride back home. I saw him put on his Roman collar when he went into the shop to check in his car and he removed it immediately when got into my car! A few weeks ago around 200 Bishops had a 5 day getaway at a 4 star Tampa golf resort. The article I read about the get-together mentioned that several Bishops were seen wandering around shopping in sport shirts sans Roman collar. I have never seen my current pastor wear a collar, he always has on a casual black shirt with the tails hanging out. Don’t have the guts to ask him why! Our diocese has a booklet on priestly etiquette that states that the Roman collar must be worn when the priest is performing official functions. I guess when my pastor is roaming around the vestibule before Mass hob-nobbing with parishioners that must not be considered official? Since I have never seen him wear one maybe nothing he does around the parish is considered official? Eh?

  • Pamela

    Two years ago, my family was on vacation in Arizona and we went to Mass at a beautiful old mission church. Afterwards, we were looking around and I had a question, so I noticed a man who seemed to know his way around as if he were a parishoner. I stopped him by saying, “Excuse me; are you a parishoner here?” He looked pretty offended and said, “No, I’m a priest here.” His tone was not particularly graceful. I was tempted to say, “Well, dressed like that, how would I know?” Instead, I said, “Oh, I’m sorry…” and then asked him my question.

    The point is, my question wasn’t really that important, but what if I’d been in a spiritual crisis looking for a priest. I’d never have spotted him. Anyway, it made an impression on me. Priests should stand out.

    Also, my daughter, who attends a parochial school where the lone nun does not wear a habit made a comment one day when a couple of Dominican sisters, in full habit, were visiting. It was something to the effect of “Look, Mom, some real nuns…” Whoever said “The suit makes the man” wasn’t all wrong.

  • Mac

    The archdiocese of Boston is in serious decline. Here is one sign: Look at the photo of two new bishops who are signing their oaths of fidelity. They did not even bother to put on clerical clothing! http://www.cardinalseansblog.org/2010/08/13/the-annual-vianney-gathering-with-our-priests/

    Some of the other priests at this event are wearing their Roman collars, but they are few. What does this say about respect and fidelity, about witness to the world? (The photo is down some in this posting.)

  • Barbkw

    In my opinion, Catholic priests who wear civilian cloths are not making themselves more approachable.

    Civilian cloths might make a priest physically comfortable, but it has the opposite effect on me.

    It comes off as selfish, egotistical and disobedient.

    Priests are approachable by our perception of their personal attitude, by their office and by wearing cloths that signify their position.

  • Charles

    My priest wears his only on Sundays and we have gotten used to it; however I feel he doesnt because he wants to mask his priesthood out there where they dont know him incase he slips and falls, so that he doesnt loose his authority.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>