sporadically authentic priests

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 06, 2003

Q: How can you tell your pastor's an arch-conservative?

A: He wears a collar even when he's not on the way to his arraignment.

An article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discusses the controversy caused by priests who are alleged sex-abusers turning up in court wearing clerical garb.

Richard Waites, a lawyer and psychologist who heads a nationwide jury consulting firm, said that more often than not he recommends that defendant priests wear their collars to court.

"In general, jurors are looking for any person to be as genuine as possible," Waites said in a telephone interview. "And since the defendant is under a great scrutiny, he needs or she needs to be as genuine as possible and as authentic as possible."

By "as genuine as possible," of course, Waites means the opposite. He knows perfectly well the odds that some jurors -- enough to acquit, at any rate -- may respond to the uniform covering the defendant instead of the genuine article inside. One of my favorite examples comes from the U.K. Telegraph (20 October 2000), regarding a priest from Wales, who confessed to six counts of molesting a 12-year-old before he became a priest, and to indecent assaults on two 9-year-olds after ordination. His game was to get little boys to join a soccer club he had started:

Fr Joseph Jordan was a modern priest, always dressed in baseball cap, tracksuit and trainers. One mother remarked that the only time she had seen him in clerical garb was in the dock at Cardiff Crown Court.

Love these guys. When it's a matter of bar-hopping, or going to restaurants, or taking in a movie, they're invariably in civvies ("I find the collar to be a vestige of an antiquated clerical caste system that puts a barrier between me and the people I serve"). When their recreations finally catch up with up and they end up facing a five-to-eight for conducting underage Listening Sessions, what emblem of 1950s piety and propriety do they hide behind?

Why, how did you guess?

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  • Posted by: - Nov. 06, 2003 7:17 PM ET USA

    I know a pastor at a local parish that you never see in clerical garb except during Mass. Know what! He is a heretic and a lunatic when you hear him talk the Catholic Faith.

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Nov. 06, 2003 5:44 PM ET USA

    And might it also serve as a bless reminder to the man wearing the collar that he wears a small reminder of God is among us. Also, the same should be for the Nuns. A business suit with a cross on the lapel doesn't cut it. Innocent people are being blamed while you go over to school to finish your paper work or are at some benefit at a bar giving friendly kisses to men.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 06, 2003 5:29 PM ET USA

    I'm with the traditionalists on this one; priests not in clerical garb should be rare exceptions; I am willing to listen to valid reasons for things like the heat (when its 100 degrees with 100 % humidity in Florida for example, I am sympathetic to the restrictions of black garb). However, I would like to the Cassock make a comeback. It reminds me of the Jesuit Ironmen of old who were martyred attempting to convert Native Canadian Aboriginal peoples.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 06, 2003 4:28 PM ET USA

    Sorry, cassocks are in style and make the priesthood attractive. The cassock, among other things, is a symbol of authority and, we all hope, sanctity. It is a priest's version of a police officer's uniform, except a priest is never off-duty--he's a priest 24-7. And so, if I walk into a bar and see a cop in uniform, I will remember to do nothing stupid. Similarly, if there is a priest in collar or cassock at a bar, I will remember to act like a Christian. The dignity of either merit respect.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 06, 2003 3:43 PM ET USA

    Insistence that priests/bishops be always identifiable by clerical garb is ridiculous. As pajamas or softball uniform? On a vacation beach? In a bar, for that matter? Like U.S. military uniforms, clerical garb is advisable for official functions when clear identification is desired. Dress, (and undress, vg. in a doctor's office), won't dictate moral behavior. A priest/journalist in clerical dress will get skewed answers in an interview. The cassock in public is outdated. Collars in tropics?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 06, 2003 12:41 PM ET USA

    Which goes to show Diogenes, that lawyers will be lawyers. It is analogous to the situation where the defendant who was a scuzzy-looking reprobate when he did the crime, shows up in court in suit and tie looking like a stockbroker. Of course, given recent developments at the SEC and NYSE, 'looking like a stockbroker' might not be the best image to project when proclaiming your 'innocence'...