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Daily Catholic Question

What's behind religious habits and black clergy garb?

Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) ordered the cassock for sacred and public functions. In the United States the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884) determined that clerics were to wear the Roman collar and cassock at home and in the church.

Outside, the Roman collar and a coat of black or somber color reaching to the knees were to be worn. This prescription was never formally revoked, but it has always been interpreted to mean clerics should conform to the style of conservative laymen.

In many instances religious habits and dress reflect the common clothing of people in the founder's time. The current Code of Canon Law rules, "Religious are to wear the habit of the institute made according to the norm of proper law as a sign of their consecration and as a testimony of poverty" (Canon 669). Each order's constitution or rule approved by Rome will describe that order's habit.

In 1972 a letter from the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes said secular clothes are permitted when wearing a habit would impede the normal activities of the religious.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013
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