Springfield Diocese Pastor Likens Priests in Cassocks to Men Wearing Dresses


This past week, at the Liturgy Guy Facebook page, we counted down the most viewed articles of the year. As it turns out, the top post from 2017 was about the return of the cassock.

The Priest in Cassock is a Living Sermon struck a chord with my readers. Profiling the incredible apostolate of the “walking priest”, Father Lawrence Carney, the article from last March touched upon the compelling presence and powerful witness of a priest in traditional clerical garb:

Walk the streets of St. Joseph, Missouri, and you may have a memorable encounter with a tall young priest wearing a black cassock and Saturno clergy hat, a rosary in one hand and large crucifix in the other. The priest is Father Lawrence Carney, ordained for the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, who for the past three years has devoted much of his time to street evangelism: strolling down inner city streets, praying the Rosary and sharing the Gospel with those who approach him.

Highlighting this reemergence of the cassock, and the (overall) positive effect it has upon both priest and laity, shouldn’t really surprise anyone. In recent years Monsignor Charles Pope has written on why he wears the cassock, as well as my friend Father Jay Finelli, and even the secular magazine Esquire published an article in which a journalist donned a cassock for the day only to discover that:

…when you wear a uniform, no one will touch you. Except the priest. People will touch a priest. On the wrist mostly. It happened to me twelve times, just a tap in the middle of a conversation. An assertion of connection, an acknowledgment of some commonality I could not fathom. Weirdly, the priest’s outfit was the most physically demanding uniform to wear. All day with the hugging, and the kneeling to speak to children, and the leaning in for the selfies.

An increasing number of Catholic priests are wearing the cassock again. They are looking to be beacons of light in a world darkened by sin. They are choosing traditional attire as a visible sign of their priesthood. Unfortunately, while most of the laity welcome the return of the cassock, some priests do not.

It’s a given that the world will attack our priests. Mock them. Look to drive their visible presence out of the public square (consider the outlawing of clerical attire so common to totalitarian regimes).  But when it is a priest doing the attacking, it’s even more distasteful.

Father Frank Lawlor of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts has decided to publicly insult priests who wear the cassock. He chose to do so on the Facebook wall of a brother priest, and specifically in response to my article about Fr. Carney. Amidst the amazing testimonials regarding the walking priest’s apostolic outreach, Fr. Lawlor could only offer the following assessment:


Fr. Frank’s attitude is all the more troubling considering his past and present responsibilities. Although ordained just three years ago, he is currently pastor of St. Mary’s Parish and School in Westfield, Massachusetts. Prior to entering seminary, (then Deacon) Lawlor was the development director for the Newman Catholic Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Fr. Frank, ordained at the age of 57 in 2014, garnered attention at the time for his unusual path to the priesthood. The divorced father of three, and now grandfather, required an annulment before entering Saint John XXIII National Seminary for the Diocese of Springfield.

What is most unfortunate about Fr. Frank’s comment isn’t simply its lack of charity (though that is telling), but rather his complete misinterpretation of the current ecclesial environment and sensus fidelium.

Outside of the staunchest ideologues from the Vatican 2/baby boomer generation, no one believes what Father wrote. His point of view on this matter is out of step with almost anyone born after the Council.

What is accurate, and I know this from the hundreds of comments and thousands of shares generated by my article, is that the faithful long to see our Catholic priests looking Catholic. The presence of the priest in cassock, as the earlier quotes above attest to, draws people to him. It isn’t the person, but the priestly office. Put simply: Fr. Frank’s anti-clerical bias is the self-loathing Catholicism of a past generation that we firmly reject today.

When all of this was brought to his attention, Fr. Frank’s rebuttal demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the post-conciliar crisis and resulting widespread apostasy:


What Fr. Frank and others who hold his views fail to understand is that they still view the factors which created the mass exodus as the very solution for the mass exodus they caused!

The movement to restore tradition, to rediscover the sacred and supernatural truth of our faith, isn’t going to accept the failed pastoral approach of the 1970’s & ‘80’s. The more Catholicism lost its identity as it rushed to conform itself to the world, instead of forming the world through grace, the more we failed in our apostolic mission. Where the Church looked to Protestantism to heal (largely) self-inflicted wounds, more Catholics became ex-Catholics.

Fr. Frank need look no further than traditional parishes, dioceses, and orders to see how very wrong he is about those “men in dresses.” Sitting there in Westfield, Massachusetts (in a diocese with over 70 parish closures in the last 17 years), he need only look over to Enfield, Connecticut and the thriving traditional Mass community of St. Martha’s to gain a better understanding of the situation.

In the end, what we must offer Fr. Frank Lawlor is our prayers. He is a priest of God in the order of Melchizedek and very much in need of our prayerful support. Many young souls are in his care, a daunting responsibility that should concern anyone with a healthy fear of the Lord.

Because his comments were public, this response is public. However, it is my hope that his brother priests who wear the cassock extend to him the fraternal charity that was so lacking in his words.

Photo credit: Francisco Osorio, Flickr

Posted on January 2, 2018, in holiness, liturgy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 76 Comments.

  1. When Cardinal Burke came to my parish (St. Mary’s, Norwalk, Connecticut) to celebrate a traditional Latin Pontifical Mass several years ago, there was a lengthy pause before the Mass itself began, as the two Masters of Ceremony placed the numerous articles of vesture upon the Cardinal. After about four minutes into this silence, I leaned over to my wife and whispered: “It isn’t the man; it’s the office”.

  2. Fortunately, we all know well how effeminacy in the priesthood has receded since cassocks were thrown out.

  3. Michael Sean McArdle

    This is very sad for me to read because Fr. Ryan at St. Mary’s wears a cassock. I hope there are no bad feelings between Fr. Frank and Fr. Ryan. The people don’t need that ! I don’t know what else to say because it would take too long to express my true feelings. I’m “old school catholic” and I’m well aware that the Traditional Mass is not welcomed by many priests in the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts. It’s causing a separation between confused Catholics in favor of the Traditional Mass and the “new” way…. It makes me very sad but I saw it coming, even back in the 60s.

    • Yes it is very sad, the Church is attack from those outside the Church we don’t need our priest also attacking other priest. Father Ryan is a great man and a wonderful priest. We need to support our young priest.

  4. Several years ago when I was away from the Church, a family member was in the hospital and a priest wearing a cassock came in and gave my family member the Last Rites. The presence of the priest in the cassock and saying the Last Rites in Latin made such an impression on me. I truly felt the presence of the Catholic faith in the room that day, so I hope Fr. Frank realizes how wrong he is about priests wearing the cassock because that day was a big step in bringing me home to the Catholic church. It was a big turning point. I have never forgotten that day. Also, our Pope wears a cassock.

  5. In the 1980s, the vocation director for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City said that the cassock and other clerical attire was only for those who were interested in the “externalities of religion” even though he always wore a black shirt and pants and a clerical collar when involved in church business. The post-Vatican II era has been said to have ushered in “the age of the de-clericalization of the clergy and the clericalization of the laity” since many Extraordinary Ministers of Communion wear an alb and some Catholic parish choirs wear unisex robes just like the Protestants.

    Some religious orders had a whole theology devoted to the habit and would have many hours of instruction for the novice to understand the spiritual significance of the different elements of the habit. This theology spilled over into the secular clergy so there are pre-Vatican II sections of books and journal articles, usually directed at seminarians, which outline the spiritual significance of the cassock for the secular clergy.

    Historically, the cassock was the standard attire for medieval university students in all subjects and was not restricted to just the theology department. As time went on, other academic departments changed their clothing requirements while the theology department continued to required the old academic dress: the cassock for theology students.

    Selections from Wikipedia: Cassock (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassock):

    “The cassock derives historically from the tunic that in ancient Rome was worn underneath the toga and the chiton that was worn beneath the himation in ancient Greece.”

    “In the West, the cassock is little used today except for religious services, save for clergy in traditionalist Catholic orders such as the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) who continue to wear the cassock as their standard clerical attire. However, in many countries it was the normal everyday wear of the clergy until the second half of the 20th century, when it was replaced even in those countries by a conventional suit, distinguished from lay dress by being generally black and by incorporating a clerical collar.”

    “A Roman cassock often has a series of buttons down the front – sometimes thirty-three (symbolic of the years of the life of Jesus).”

    • Jesus said that you don’t hide your light under a basket but put it where everyone can see it, so it seems He was interested in “externality”.

  6. It is distinctly not a ‘dress’ for heavens’ sake. It is a very traditional and time honored priestly garment. In all my years I have never heard it called a ‘dress’ and that’s more than 50 years. I’m shocked to hear that word applied to a priests’ cassock.

  7. Fr. Lawlor notes that Catholics have abandoned the Faith in droves but doesn’t seem to notice that it was when priests and nuns abandoned their cassocks and habits that the mass exodus began.

    • John D. Horton

      During the 1960s it was quite a shock when father quit the priesthood and sister left the convent to get married, often to each other.

      In my home parish, of St. Barbara’s, Lawton OK, a newly ordained priest, Fr. Alfred Kelley, quit the priesthood in 1966 to marry one of the “Grail Ladies” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grail_(women%27s_movement)) who staffed the parish school.
      When I was 6 years old in 1966, my mother and I went to the local convenience store late on a Friday night and “caught” the two love birds leaving the convenience store with Father not wearing his clerical collar because he was hiding what he was up to. The clerical attire does put some restraint on the behavior of the clergy who might act differently if they were in civilian attire.

      • John, I am the current pastor of St. Barbara’s/Holy Family in Lawton, OK. The cassock has returned to the parish! So has chant and some very good sacred art. Come visit!

      • Sorry, I am currently outside of the USA.

  8. Fr. Donald Kloster

    I wonder if Fr. Lawlor is aware that when the cassock was the normal dress of the clergy, about 80% of Catholics went to Mass. Then too, I wonder if Fr. Lawlor is aware that when the cassock was the normal dress of the clergy, we had many more converts. There were small parishes back in the 1940’s and 1950’s that were pulling in more than 100 converts a year; they were’t fallen away Catholics, but converts! Now, even huge suburban parishes don’t even come near 20 converts a year.

    Early on in my priesthood, I had a friend in a neighboring parish (he was the assistant priest) who really only wore his cassock (with surplice & stole) when he heard confessions. There was an older feminist and habit-less nun in the parish. She chided my friend for wearing his “backwards and outdated” cassock and he had the perfect response; “Sister, I paid $250 for the cassock, I’ve got to wear it sometime!

    Sometimes humor is the only response that keeps us sane in the face of such barbarism.

    • Indeed. If Fr. Lawlor is looking for statistics of correlation regarding the cassock, what is cited about Mass attendance and conversions would be more accurate.

      A priest consistently wearing clerical attire, and when and where possible the cassock, manifests a Church of strength, not weakness.

  9. Rev. Charles Di Mascola

    Not only does Pope Francis wear a cassock but so does our own Bishop, Mitchell Rozansk . What is this “priest” saying about them?? St. John Paul, in a Holy Thursday letter to priests, asked that priests never abandon their cassock or clerical dress even when on vacation because, as he said, “it is the first sign of witness!” I wonder why a priest is so embarrassed by his vocation and why he wants to “blend in” and be so invisible? Is he shy? Does he simply want to deny his priesthood and avoid being a public witness? Can he really “minister” more effectively as an “anonymous priest?” Should we be ashamed of our Vocation? Is he ashamed of his Vocation?
    If we are truly concerned about the harm of priestly “clericalism” — think of the effect of the priest enthroned at the highest point and at the center of the sanctuary where formerly Our Eucharistic King was worshiped and enthroned. Talk about the priest putting himself on a pedestal! He feels the cassock is out of place and a sign of “clericalism”? I think a priest on a throne is out of place and the absolute height of “clericalism!”

  10. Priests who mock other priests who wear cassocks as ‘dresses’ are normally EXACTLY the same priests who are wearing dresses in, er, other circumstances. Just sayin’….

  11. He’s also a divorced man who the diocese ordained and put in charge of a parish with one of the largest youth groups in the diocese, which has since seeing a rapid decline in membership. Hmmm… I wonder what the real cause of the client in practicing Catholics is maybe it’s bad heretical priests.

  12. Franklin P. Uroda

    Thankfully, the ephemera-cassocks is one of them-are not Articles of Faith, the denial of which will send the discontented to Hell. Some of the art and fashion which the European Roman Catholic Church brought during the great migrations to the USA, impressed me when I was a child, especially the life-sized, realistic statues of Jesus suffering on the cross. Others bothered me, e.g., incense. I have several allergies; the smoke aggravates them. Paintings of the Crucifixion, with the BVM, apostles, and others facing Jesus-in the middle of the drama- as He offers Himself to His Father, puzzled me when I was a child: “Why is the priest turning his back to us?”My parents, Sisters in school, and parish priests told me “That’s the way it is.” However, priests-public persona-are supposed to be unifying influences. As the recent past has so powerfully shown, some have caused problems and bad feelings-not ephemera by any stretch of the imagination-by what they say and do.

  13. Salvatore Circosta

    This saddens me greatly as a Catholic layman in the Diocese of Springfield. It is clear he was attacking his vicar, a good and holy priest, Fr. Ryan Sliwa. It is scandalous for Fr. Lawlor to air his erroneous opinions of a brother priest on his Facebook page, it displays a great lack of intelligence and maturity.
    Additionally, how is the cassock likened to a dress? Isn’t the alb a dress then too? How about a chasuble? Is a kilt a dress as well? Fr. Lawlor’s idiotic statements represent a lack of good formation and understanding of rather simple ideas. When Fr. Lawlor had a massive heart attack due to his weight issues, it was a priest in a cassock that took over for him. It’s only fitting since the robes our Savior wore could be called a dress in Fr. Lawlor’s book.

    • John D. Horton

      Not to make too many excuses for Fr. Lawlor:

      — Was it mentioned on this post that Fr. Lawlor attended Pope St. John XXIII Seminary in MA?

      — Isn’t this seminary uber liberal with the usual cadre of ex-priests who are married and ex-nuns who are married and current and ex-priests and nuns who are rabidly homosexual as their esteemed faculty all while the Cardinal O’Malley says that we must love the sin and the sinner (didn’t O’Malley have a canonization ceremony for pro-abort Sen. Edward Kennedy and O’Malley did not even blink and eye when doing so)?

      — To get through the vocation office of most diocese in the USA and most seminaries in the USA you are required to hate God and profess Marxist Communism (i.e. just like Pope Francis)? In today’s Catholic Church, if you don’t hate God and the Church you are considered “rigid” and in need of endless psychotherapy? And they wonder why so many priests turn to teenage boys for companionship and sex, when the alternative is to put up with a nutty bishop and his brigade of female psychotherapists for any priest who does not tow the uber-liberal-Communist line.

      Maybe Lawlor took his formation seriously and actually believes all the garbage that was fed to him in the seminary?

  14. They are shepherds of sheep and goats {animals} and not for religious catholic people. Now they are afraid of going out as Jesus desired.They want to go out unidentified as catholic priests,as somebody likes to go out in darkness to do something so that other people won’t watch their activities.Now they started hating the light which is a hindrance to their activities.They are unidentified graves as it is written in the gospel.(Sorry for my poor English)

  15. Wasn’t Fr. Lawlor the one who painted smiley faces on the bottom of his shoes during his ordination so that when he was kneeling, everyone in the congregation could see how serious he was about his call to the holy priesthood? I hope his Bishop has the fortitude to offer correction to this man. Might that include a public retraction and apology?

  16. I will pray for Fr. Lawlor as he probably should not have been ordained. His understanding of the Church and the laity is non-existent. His comments on social media also show a lack of humility and common sense. Some of the holiest priests I know wear a cassock and they are found in great number in the Seminary where I live. His public comments are a scandal and I am happy that he is not in a parish in my Archdiocese. We are all awaiting priests like him to retire.

    • John D. Horton

      One of the keys to the mystery of Fr. Lawlor is that he was a permanent deacon.

      In most diocese, the key requirement for the diaconate is that you are rich and won’t be a financial burden on the diocese which has to pay most of its money to pay sex law suits. In the dioceses I have lived in, incredibly worthy men (including celibate men who are considered unfit because according to USA bishop-think: “The diaconate is for married men only” because according to Vatican II-think: Holy Orders and Matrimony are equal sacraments) are passed over for the diaconate because they are not rich and might cut into the bishop’s profit margin by drawing a full or partial salary or living in a rectory or other clergy housing.

      If you are a permanent deacon and somehow mange to ditch your wife while she is still alive, you are almost guaranteed a slot as a priest somewhere because the priest shortage is so dire. Right now in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City with 100 parishes, 50 of the parishes are staffed by “supply” priests from India who are shipped back to India every 7 years for new supply priests. Once all the American clergy die out in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, there will be one American Archbishop and all the clergy will be from India because the Archbishop is too cheap and lazy to promote and pay for American seminarians and clergy. It is far easier to deal with “supply priests” from India who you can dismiss at will and don’t have to pay for their seminary than an American priest who you have to pay for his major seminary (4 years of graduate theology at $40K / year) and are generally stuck with him until he dies or the bishop suspends him.

      • John, it is true that a good portion of the priests in the OKC Archdiocese are “international” priests (from India, Africa and Mexico). But we ordained 5 American born priests three years ago, 3 the following year and one last year. Deo volente, we will ordain 4 in 2018.

        Importing clergy from other countries has nothing to do with the Archdiocese being “cheap” but more to do with the lack of promotion of vocations in parishes AND families. Our international priests are usually here for 3-4 years, not 7 unless their Ordinaries agree to them staying for a longer time.

        The last group of vocational deacons (as opposed to those going on to priesthood) ordained in Nov. 2017 was filled with middle class and poorer working men. There were none who were “rich” or independently wealthy.

        We have not had a priest suspended in this diocese in many years.

        A priest, Blessed Stanley Rother, of the Archdiocese of OKC was beatified by the Catholic Church as the first American born priest martyr in Sept. 2017. Not all is or was terrible in the Archdiocese.

        The Archdiocese, like most has many faults, but many of your criticisms are unwarranted, inaccurate and misleading. I am not always thrilled with what goes on in the Archdiocese but accuracy and truth matter.

      • John, you are correct about the suspension you mentioned, my apologies.

  17. I think there is nothing wrong with a priest wearing a garment that the world sees as gender neutral. A Roman Catholic priest in some ways is above gender be it in dress or in that he does not perform the defining male act.

    That being said, the cassock is the same garment as the judicial robe and the academic gown (and also of the medical doctor’s lab coat — white is a modern development that arose from the 19th century Sanitary Movement). It is a sign of scholarship and not a liturgical garment. This is why priests teaching at universities wear a jacket and tie in the classroom. Their dress evolved along with the academic community they are part of, with the cassock/gown reserved for commencement and convocation ceremonies. I would refer you to photos of Dr. Professor Joseph Ratzinger teaching in the classroom.

    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      Kurt, your comment is beyond inaccurate. The cassock is indeed a liturgical garment. Formerly, almost every priest wore the cassock underneath the alb. The priest would first remove the fascia if worn as a part of their cassock when he vested for Mass. It is still the standard item of clothing for priests. The clergy suit was only allowed by indult originally. The only reason priests ever wore a coat and tie was because they were trying to be “relevant.” In fact, they were being disobedient. There has never, ever been a Roman Curia permission for priests to wear a coat and tie. St. John Paul II famously reinforced the timeless teaching of priests in distinctive clerical dress when he told priests that they should not fail to wear their clerical attire in public. Furthermore, please consult Canons 284 and 288 in the Code of Canon Law. Posting things like the above does nothing for your credibility.

      • So Professor Ratzinger was a disobedient liberal? Are you SSPX?

      • John D. Horton

        Kurt is right on this one. The cassock was originally medieval university student attire for all academic departments. Other academic departments (law, medicine, history, mathematics etc.) changed dress to keep up with the times while the theology department did not depart from their original student dress.

        The cassock is not liturgical but the attire worn while not engaged in a liturgical activity. The cassock is worn as an “under” garment with the surplice or alb over it when engaged in a liturgical function:

        “This ordinary wear (e.g. cassock) does not constitute a liturgical vestment, but simply acts as a means of identifying the wearer as a member of the clergy or a religious order.” — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestment

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        @Kurt Perhaps you didn’t know that Fr. Ratzinger indeed had his more leftward days; he did. Then too, I lived in Switzerland two years. Almost none of the priests there wore their clericals. The same goes for a lot of Germany. A great majority wore coat and tie. I reiterate: please supply any supporting document; any one that agrees with what you have asserted. I can assure you there has been absolutely no official document giving priests permission to wear a secular semi-formal suit. I am a priest of 22 years, loyal to the Holy Father, and incardinated in a USA Diocese. I also had the pleasure of meeting Pope Benedict XVI personally in a private audience a few years ago. I am a great admirer of his. I too had my more progressive days in college. If I were SSPX my audience would have not happened. Just do a little more research instead of consulting the sources that lead you astray from the truth about the cassock and its place among the clergy. Then too, remember the words of Winston Churchill: “If you are young and not a liberal, you have no heart. If you are old and not a conservative, you have no brain.” He was talking about politics, but the same applies in Church circles among progressives and traditionalists.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        @John Horton I can’t believe you actually consulted wikipedia on the cassock! Every priest, before 1970, wore the cassock underneath his alb during Mass! One can’t get more liturgical than that! Then too when presiding at a Marriage without a Mass, the priest would be in cassock, surplice, and stole. Very liturgical. When hearing confessions; cassock, surplice, and stole. Very liturgical. When assisting in choir; cassock and surplice. Very liturgical. When baptizing a baby; cassock, surplice, and stole. Very liturgical. When graveside at a funeral; cassock, surplice, and stole. It’s all very liturgical!

      • Generally a priest wears undershorts while saying Mass. That does not make his BVDs a liturgical garment.

      • The cassock is the ordinary daily attire of the clergy and is presumed to be wore at all times while the clergy are awake.

        Non-liturgical attire of the clergy:
        — cassock,
        — shoes except for bishops,
        — socks except for bishops,
        — habit (for religious),
        — a cappello romano (pl. cappelli romani; Italian: “Roman hat”) or saturno (pl. saturni; because its appearance is reminiscent of the ringed planet Saturn) is a hat with a wide, circular brim and a rounded crown worn outdoors in some countries by Catholic clergy, when dressed in a cassock. — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cappello_romano
        — greca, or more properly the douillette, is a clerical double-breasted overcoat worn over the cassock.

        Liturgical attire of the clergy:
        — birreta,
        — stole,
        — alb or surplice,
        — chasuble,
        — maniple,
        — cope,
        — rochet,
        — zucchetto,
        — mitre,
        — humeral veil,
        — tunicle,
        — dalmatic,
        — amice,
        — cincture
        — cappa magna (for liturgical processions).

        Book Reference:
        — Vestments and vesture, a manual of liturgical art http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/608656723 (“The cassock is not a liturgical vestment…” p. 136).

        Website References:
        — “The black gown of the priest, called a cassock or soutane, is not a vestment. It is simply the ordinary outer garb [of a priest used frequently in the past. The Columbia Encyclopedia states: “The cassock, a close-fitting gown buttoning down the front and reaching to the feet, is not a vestment so much as the daily uniform of the Western priest.”” http://www.awakentoprayer.org/vestments.htm
        — “The cassock, though part of the canonical costume of the clergy, is not a liturgical vestment.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/cassock
        — “In the Christian religion, the cassock (also known as a soutane) is not technically a liturgical vestment, but simply the daily clothing of the priest.” https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=50&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjy8fzo5MPYAhUHPhQKHcguBrY4KBAWCF4wCQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.religionfacts.com%2Fcassock&usg=AOvVaw0MARR4-u2j4usuTQYyjK3y
        — “The Cassock, since it is historically the ordinary garb of the Clergy, is not usually classified as Vestments.” http://www.everything-vestment.com/vestment_blessings.html

      • Photos of Dr. Joseph Ratzinger while he was a theology professor, following the custom of priests in the academy wearing academic dress only at the times when it is also customary for others in the academy to do so:



        Father Joseph Ratzinger



        Frankly, Father, I am rather shocked you are so ill-informed about this Catholic practice, which is long standing and predates any “liberal reform” you might imagine.

        My guess is that on the issue of calling secular priests “Father” you are also woefully unaware that such practice is a recent invention, initiated by Cardinal Manning of Westminster.

        Defend tradition all you want, but please educate yourself about what tradition really is.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        @Kurt Where is your proof that a priest may wear a coat and tie? I’m waiting. Just one citation; any citation. I can send you any number of picture with Fr. Ratzinger in clericals and sans clericals; none of those pictures proves your point. The cassock still is the standard dress of priests; period. It matters not one iota what your preference might be.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        @Mr. Horton Perhaps we are splitting hairs here. I could be wrong, but I seem to recall the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia series in the library of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, PA specifically stating that the cassock was indeed a part of the liturgical vestments of a priest. Again, perhaps I am mistaken in the strict sense of the classification of the cassock. Many of the online sources are heavily redacted and come from many outside sources that are sometimes hard to verify. I like to get my references from original sources when possible.

        What I will not back down from is the fact that there are only 3 constants that any priest wore prior to 1970 (for at least 400 years) to celebrate any of the sacraments. They were the cassock, the alb/surplice, and the stole. It matters not one bit that an academic technicality fails to admit that the cassock was worn for every liturgical function for hundreds of years.

        Furthermore, if you were to show 100 people on the street three pictures; one of a man in a cassock, one of a man in a clergy suit, and one of a man in a coat and tie; probably not one person would identify the man in a coat and tie as a priest. Even secular society strongly identifies with the cassock as the normal dress of a priest. One thing is for sure, Rome does. One look around the city of Rome reveals cassocks everywhere.

        One final point, consult your local exorcist. The demons absolutely despise the cassock and Latin. I would never want to been their side in any discussion or aspect of the Catholicism. In the words of Gamaliel, we must be careful lest we find ourselves fighting against God Himself.

    • John D. Horton

      “gender neutral” not:

      The cassock was always restricted to males because:

      — only males could attend the Medieval university, and
      — to be accepted into minor or major Holy Orders at which point (i.e. First Tonsure) it became obligatory to wear the cassock.
      — females can not receive “First Tonsure” and therefore can not be admitted to the clerical state because they lack: the proper “Matter” for the Sacrament of Holy Orders i.e., a male, human being.

      • Thank you John. You are correct that Medieval universities banned women. I think you overly simply the evolution in academic wear. It would be an error to say the cut of the cassock today matches the medieval fashion. And the academy did not abandon academic wear. You might recall seeing films set in Cambridge and Oxford in the 19th century with students and teachers still in academic wear in class (sometimes with the front of the gown thrown over the shoulder). American judges (male and female) preserve the custom and in Commonwealth nations the lawyers as well. Medical doctors dressed like priests in the Middle Ages but in the 19th century, they abandoned black for white lab coats as a part of the Sanitary Movement.

        I’m not sure gender has a lot to do with this. At the point in history when women were allowed in law, medicine and the academy, they adopted academic wear by the standards of the time. While there was resistance to their admission I am unaware of any suggestion of allowing their admission but not use of academic wear.

  18. The cassock is the official dress of the Catholic priest. The clergy shirt is Protestant. (I’m not surprised because it’s Massachusetts, the ground zero for American Catholicism and patriotism in general.)

    • The cassock or gown is the official dress of Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed Christians. I don’t know if the clergy shirt originated with Catholics or Protestants. You have some reference?

  19. Anyone Blansett

    As a soldier, I wear a uniform. I am proud of my uniform as I am a soldier in the service of my country. A priest wearing a cassock is in the service of God. I applaud the priest in the cassock as he is noticeable to the community. If you can’t stand wearing a cassock, stop being a priest. Enough said.

  20. I am extremely delighted that priests are starting to wear cassocks again, THEY ARE NOT DRESSES…………………Father Frank should go to another seminary and receive a true Roman Catholic education. I am truly disgusted with him. It’s ideas like this that have caused Mass attendance to dwindle.

    • John D. Horton

      In the 1960s, when I was a child aged 1 – 10, I was confused when the sister’s hemlines were going up several inches a year and the excuse given was that it was mandated by Vatican II. I thought that if Vatican II had mandated that hemlines start rising that father’s hemlines on his cassock or alb would also have to rise because it was “mandated by Vatican II” so we little kids were told.

      I now realize that “political correctness,” cultural Marxism, feminism, radical egalitarians and Communism (i.e. Liberation Theology) affected the sisters to a degree far exceeding that which it affected male priests and male religious and that is why the hemlines of priests and male religious did not go up: Male clergy attire are not “dresses” like females (aping the styles of Paris, Detroit or other gutters) but religious robes that are supposed to be a means of conveying the faith and the male wearers commitment to a religious vocation.

  21. Meriweather Bells

    I am a Catholic of the Springfield, MA diocese. I strongly suggest Fr. Lawlor read the book In Sinu Jesus. Let’s all get on the right track according to the will of God…

  22. Deacon Augustine

    A few years ago in our clergy deanery meeting a very wise old priest (may he RIP) took issue with his younger confreres who did not wear the collar and cassock except when on church business. “What’s wrong with you all?” he said. “If you are doing something you don’t want to be seen doing in your clericals, you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place!”

    Not one of them had a rejoinder for him. I will never forget him and will always follow his example. I can count at least one reversion, three conversions and four baptisms which took place simply because I was a visible public symbol of Christ and His Church. I can’t count the number of people I have a directed back to the Sacrament of Penance because of it. Far from repelling people, the collar and cassock are an open invitation for people to engage with you.

    I would recommend that Fr Lawlor actually try wearing the cassock in public for a month and see what happens. Then let him comment.

  23. Deacon Augustine

    @ Kurt: “Generally a priest wears undershorts while saying Mass. That does not make his BVDs a liturgical garment.”

    On the contrary, undershorts are a liturgical vestment specified for priests by God Himself, long before any Code of Canon Law was drawn up:

    Ex 29,42: “Thou shalt make also linen breeches, to cover the flesh of their nakedness, from the reins to the thighs:

    43 And Aaron and his sons shall use them when they shall go into the tabernacle of the testimony, or when they approach the altar to minister in the sanctuary, lest being guilty of iniquity they die. It shall be a law for ever to Aaron, and to his seed after him.”

    • You got me there, deacon. Are they to be the classic white like the alb or should a priest’s undershorts match the color of the liturgical season? And is it permissible for Catholic priests to wear Calvin’s? 🙂

  24. timothysflanders

    Dear brother in Christ,

    I agree with your points in this article, but I feel compelled to say that bringing up Fr. Frank’s past divorce and annulment not only has no bearing on your argument, but detracts from it by being extremely uncharitable to a man who has received the Sacred Office of Priesthood. I ask you to publicly retract this part of your post not only to further the cause of the Faith, but even more to practice charity toward a member of the priestly Office.

    With respect,


    • Wise and charitable words, Timothy. This discussion surprises me. I understand the affection for the cassock. I don’t understand the lack of charity for those who do not have that affection. As I’ve shown, the custom is for priests in the academy to wear coat and tie in the classroom. It is also customary for priests in service to our nation as military chaplains to wear the military uniform. Any quick review shows that the cut and style of clerical attire has varied and evolved over time. (Google images of “17th century priests” and then poke in other centuries. I leave an example below. ). It seems the clerical suit is a perfectly fine alternative to the skirt style cassock.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        @Kurt There is no lack of charity in fraternal correction. It is actually quite biblical. If it offends you that someone is trying to enlighten you about the cassock, then maybe your skin is too thin.

        I was an altar boy back in the 1970’s. Every priest in our diocese save a few exceptions wore the cassock. I wore the cassock as an altar boy. I wear the cassock now as a priest as well as the clerical suit (with Roman collar) for 22 years running. Believe me the hostility doesn’t come from my camp of friends and traditionalists…it’s quite the other way around.

        It would surprise me greatly if you have ever worn a cassock. I have and every priest had for hundreds of years before the disobedience after the Council. Ever heard of the Black Robes that evangelized North America? Exceptions don’t make the rule. That is an elementary rule in debate.

      • 1. Fraternal correction must be fraternal and not hostile or belittling. I have not found that you have worked to establish any fraternity with me.
        2. Yes, I have worn a cassock.
        3. Your observation of practices in the 1970s is not a definition of tradition. Even the most recent 1/20th of Christian history does not make tradition.
        4. Exceptions don’t make the rule but the rule allows for exceptions.
        5. The Black Robes that evangelized North America were the Jesuits, who wore an adaptation of the customary French secular clerical dress as their habit. God bless them and our Jesuit Pope, now gloriously reigning.
        6. I assume by your non-response you are aware of Cardinal Manning’s initiative, or, if unaware, have the humility to remain silent.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        Still no official allowance of the coat and tie. I am interested in seeing your citation. Cite your source about the cassock not being the official dress of the clergy and/or the allowance of the coat and tie for priests.

        If you think I have belittled you, that was not my intention. I apologize. I have often found that progressives take great umbrage at a quantity of things that wouldn’t affect me in the least. Perhaps I have much thicker skin than you and that is not to try and belittle you; just trying to figure you out.

        In no way was I transferring the practice of the 1970’s on to the history of the Church. It was quite the opposite. I was using personal experience from not that long ago (compared to the 2000 year history of the Church) to disprove that the wearing of the cassock is somehow unknown in the modern Church. There are so many references affirming the cassock that your continuing this tack is perplexing. Write your evidence for everyone to see. Prove me wrong and I will admit I am wrong.

        You call me “ill-informed” and needing an “education in tradition.” I don’t expect any apologies from you for “belittling me”, but then too I never expected you had ever worn a cassock either. I can be wrong (I was in my suspicions about you in a cassock) but I don’t expect you to admit your wrong about the cassock either. You keep dodging a any official reference that backs up your basic premise. The custom of coat and tie was never permitted by any ecclesial document. It was and currently is disobedient where Canon Law is concerned. The German Bishops never gave the ok for coat and tie. The cassock is the official universal dress of the clergy. Now prove that statement wrong. I’m waiting.

      • I’ve never denied that the cassock is the normative, formal dress for clergy. But immemorial customs as well as exceptions to norms exist. I previously stated that I understand the affection that some have for the cassock. At the same time, I have not insulted and disrespected our brave and dedicated military chaplains serving God & Country who wear the military uniform. In fact I think such accusations against them are despicable. The same for priests teaching in the academy. The cassock remains the normative clerical attire. The issue is on what occasions they wear such attire. At some universities a mere 100 years ago, the academic community — clerical and lay; students and faculty — wore academic attire in the classroom. As academic wear began to be reserved for commencement and convocation, clerical and lay members of the academy evolved together. After all, they are all part of the same academic community. This is not unique to Germany, but universal.

      • One added point, as I have friends who are priests in the academy, I am always pleased when I see them at university convocation with the 4-horned biretta that is proper to those who possess the doctoral degree. Those things are hard to come by.

      • Fr. Donald Kloster

        I just talked to two priests who are around the age of Pope Benedict XVI. One got his doctorate in Italy, the other in Spain. Their priest professors all dressed in the cassock. I think what you are missing is that neither Germany nor Switzerland were Catholic countries as of the early 20th century. There was a great pressure of anti-clericalism in those countries. The non-Catholics love to talk about clericalism, but clericalism is child’s play as compared to anti-clericalism! The anti-clericalist are brutal, unforgiving, hateful, and vindictive.

        Neither the Swiss Bishops nor the German bishops ever sanctioned priests dressing as secular men in any century after the peace of Constantine. But absolutely not since the 15th century.

        You now try to make me look as though I’m against the military? That was never even discussed before you made yourself look as though you were their great defender. I was a VA chaplain for 8 years. I was an insider and you don’t know what you are talking about with regards to priests and the military uniform. It has only been since WWII that priests have worn the uniform (back then it was seldom worn by priests). Many of my priest friends, who served in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan were forced to wear their uniforms by their head Protestant Chaplains or Protestant COs. Almost to a man, they preferred to wear their clerics. Why don’t you do some talking to priest chaplains in the military instead of looking at pictures on the internet?

        I would further add that an enemy combatant could very easily mistake a cleric for an enemy soldier (from their perspective). The priest wearing a military uniform looks almost exactly like an officer except for a small cross! A priest wearing his cassock or black clerics is obviously not a combatant.

        I repeat, yet again, that the coat and tie has never been allowed by any ecclesial authority. At least you now admit that the cassock is the ordinary dress of a priest. Now please kindly admit that the coat and tie is not in the realm of the priest dress code. Here in South America, there are a great number of priests who wear t-shirts and shorts/jeans throughout the day and during the official priestly apostolate. Their wearing that clothing can never be interpreted as being obedient to the bishops where publicly representing the priestly office is concerned.

    • I think a retraction is inappropriate. Clergy are public figures so the secular and ecclesiastical laws of defamation, libel and slander don’t apply especially when the cleric makes statements that call into question his history and where he comes up with his public statements.

      It is a legitimate line of inquiry for the Catholic faithful to know that a cleric is:
      — recently ordained,
      — previously married,
      — from an uber-liberal seminary that probably teaches that the Catholic Church sprang into existence in 1965 and did not exist prior to the “Heavenly Light Through Marxism” Council,
      — a “delayed” or late-age vocation and is still new to his priesthood.

      Vatican II provided the teaching that the faithful are not only supposed to “pray, pay and obey” but question clerics whose behavior falls outside of the realm of the normal in the manner of fraternal correction and understanding. See: Gaudium et spes and Lumen gentium.

      According to Timothy’s logic, when clerics have sex with teenage males, it is inappropriate to ask what father is up to? In other words, the whole clerical sex abuse scandal should never haven been discussed because it might upset the perpetrators?

      I would be interested in knowing the percentage of foreign born clergy in father’s home Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts? If the percentage of foreign born clergy is very high, that might be one indication that the diocese is not attracting all the US citizen talent it needs for the priesthood.

      Learned clergy with the doctorate in sacred theology have stated that “delayed” vocations are a challenge because the elderly are not as easily capable of “formation”: i.e. indoctrination in Communist “Vatican II-New Think.” Maybe Fr. Lawlor is the exception and has imbibed Communist “Vatican II-New Think” all too well, i.e. insult, mock and destroy everything in the Church that existed prior to 1965 which was the Church’s “Year Zero” according to the Communist proponents of Vatican II. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Zero_(political_notion)

  25. “Added to this will be the effects of secular education, which will be one reason for the death of priestly and religious vocations.

    The Sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed, oppressed, and despised, for in this Sacrament, the Church of God and even God Himself is scorned and despised since He is represented in His priests. The Devil will try to persecute the ministers of the Lord in every possible way; he will labor with cruel and subtle astuteness to deviate them from the spirit of their vocation and will corrupt many of them. These depraved priests, who will scandalise the Christian people, will make the hatred of bad Catholics and the enemies of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church fall upon all priests.”

  26. John D. Horton

    Fr. Donald Kloster | January 7, 2018 at 1:12 pm
    @Mr. Horton Perhaps we are splitting hairs here. I could be wrong, but I seem to recall the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia …

    The simplest explanation that the cassock is not a vestment is the following:
    — In the liturgy for any of the sacraments or the Divine Office, i.e. any liturgy, the cassock is never worn “by itself,” therefore, the cassock is not a liturgical vestment.
    — The liturgical vestment is what is worn over the cassock:
    —- At Mass for the celebrant: Alb, chasuble, etc.
    —- Other sacraments: Surplice and stole,
    —- Divine Office: Surplice only.

    • Fr. Donald Kloster

      The maniple is never worn by itself. The alb should never be worn by itself. The cincture should never be worn by itself. The amice is never worn by itself. The biretta is never worn by itself. The argument falls flat and is bad logic all around.

      Furthermore, a priest may not celebrate the Mass without shoes. I would argue that the shoes are liturgical as well. In fact, there is a rubric to remove the shoes of the priest during Good Friday (when the Mass is not celebrated). Thus, logic dictates that he is bound to wear shoes.

      I would hope a priest would never celebrate the Mass with only his shoes on (shoes by themselves)! That would be a bit scandalous to say the least! o{]:)

      The above emoji is me smiling at you while wearing my biretta.

      Blessed 3rd Day of the Epiphany Octave.

  27. Does Father Lawlor suggest the Pope get himself a nice white pair of pants?

  28. It is apparent that Father Frank Lawlor is out-of-touch with reality.

  29. Father Frank Lawlor is my pastor, and will say he is not a good priest at all. He shown no respect to the Holy Mass and looks down on traditionalist Catholic.

  30. Michael Mercer

    Whilst it is not necessary to wear a cassock in Public I do believe that an “on duty” Priest should be recognisable as a Priest.A few years ago in our Parish,the Parish Priest was away on holiday and we had a visiting Priest due to offer Sunday Mass.As MC I was setting up the Sanctuary for Mass and the Priest turned up in jeans,casual shirt and white trainers.He proceeded to check the readings at the Lectern when a concerned Parishioner came up to me and asked when was the Priest arriving to say Mass,I informed her that he was here and indicated Fr at the Lectern.She looked him up and down and said “are you the Priest?” He said yes,she then said”well you should dress and behave as one then”.Embarrassing for me and the Priest.I might add that this Priest always celebrates a lovely dignified Mass following all the Rubrics.

  31. Frank Lawlor is drawing statistics from a period of time when priests STOPPED wearing cassocks and attendance plummeted. How can anybody reason with such prejudice.

  32. Shame on him… 😥

  33. Bro In-Christ

    How would you respond to the claim: “since a cassock is defined in the GIRM as ‘clerical attire’ it is forbidden for anyone to wear except a priest (including seminarians)”?

  34. Father Lawlor is a freakin’ idiot with doubts about his own masculinity.

  35. Juan Fernanrez

    So from the “what ever happened to…” there’s this:


    Oh well.

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