My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at and I have a Facebook page.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

To Wear a Collar or Not


A reflection by Rev. Ray Grosswirth

To wear or not to wear; that is the question (a variation on William Shakespeare).

Since being ordained as a married priest, I have worn a Roman collar for either official functions or occasional videos or blog-posts. Obviously, Roman Catholic bishops would prefer that married priests not wear collars, due to the hierarchy’s fear that the public-at-large might perceive these persons to be celibate, diocesan priests.

The Roman collar can be seen in a variety of circumstances today. There is even a variation on collar styles, so as to separate Christian denominations. For example, Anglican/Episcopalian clergy have a distinctive circular collar. However, it is not uncommon to see some evangelical clergy or members of the Lutheran and Methodist clergy wearing the Roman collar.

I have received all kinds of advice concerning the question of whether or not I should wear a Roman collar. Some married priests, like myself, avail themselves for baptisms, weddings and funerals. In the case of weddings, I leave clerical attire up to the couples. Some prefer that I wear vestments, some prefer that I wear a Roman collar with a suit, and others simply ask that I wear a shirt and tie. At the very least, I try to be as accommodating as possible to those who seek my ministry.

Married priests are divided on the collar issue. For various reasons, some prefer not to wear them, even for official functions. In many cases, it is due to a recognition of the fact that some hurt has been caused by the clerical system, whether it was experienced by married priests themselves or by those they serve. However, I am amongst those who feel a Roman collar is appropriate for either official functions or public appearances in which priestly identity is important.

If you have seen my videos on YouTube, you are aware that in some of them, I wear a collar, and in others, I do not. It is often the circumstances surrounding a particular video that dictate whether or not I appear in clerical attire. While most of the videos are serious in scope, I will occasionally tap into my acting skills for videos of a more humorous nature. (When considering the entertainment venue, imagine how ineffective two British series would have been if neither the ‘Vicar of Dibley’ nor ‘Father Ted’ had worn collars.)

On a sadder note, I have spoken with diocesan priests who are afraid to wear their collars in public places with large crowds. Such a place is an airport. Prior to the sexual abuse scandal, which was officially publicized by the Boston Globe in 2002, priests often wore their collars in a variety of circumstances, even at social or dining events. However, due to the widespread publicity of the scandal, priests continue to relate awkward looks they receive in public places such as airports. Consequently, many priests now prefer to wear their collars only in official capacities. I must say, in retrospect, that even as a married priest, I don’t think I would feel comfortable with a collar in a large public place.

If you have followed recent news concerning the ordination of women, you are aware via photos of the events that most women priests choose to wear collars for their official functions. I support the individual choices they have made in this regard, although I am sure the issue of ordaining women is still an issue that makes bishops “hot under the collar.” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist a one-liner.)

In short, to wear a collar or not is not by any means an easy question. As stated above, I often leave my attire up to those I minister to. For the most part, I see a collar as an identity. Just as a uniform identifies a person as a police officer or fire person, a priest (married or celibate) is readily recognized by his or her attire as well.

In the end, it is not the clothes that make a priest. It is a combination of one’s spirituality and the call to be a servant to others that are of utmost importance. However, there are times when clear identities are important. Therefore, I respect the right of all priests, whether they be male, female, celibate or married, to make appropriate choices concerning the Roman collar.


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