Deacons and the collar: Fr. Z goes there

After much dissection of the norms, he concludes:

Sadly, I think, bishops still have little idea what to do with deacons.

The idea of denying the Roman collar to men duly ordained as clerics, while permitting it for those merely studying for the priesthood, as is the case in many seminaries, doesn’t make sense to me.

A deacon is a deacon is a deacon.

You’ll want to read the whole thing.

UPDATE: If you visit Fr. Z’s link, scroll through some of the comments.  There are some, um, interesting opinions.  (I especially like the one from a reader who is shocked, simply shocked, that deacons engage in unbecoming activities like dancing!)  Anyway…one who has just added his voice is Deacon Bill Ditewig.  Drop by and see what he had to say.


  1. In our archdiocese deacons have the option of wearing the collar when they are functioning in an official capacity. However most of them don’t. My husband is a deacon; he wears a deacon’s cross most of the time. He has a collar, but says it is pretty uncomfortable. He feels it is important to give witness and to make himself available to people, which is why he wears the cross. I didn’t know any of them wore cassocks, I don’t see that becoming a trend!

  2. Deacon Bill says:

    Dear Melody,

    I’m with you! I don’t think many deacons are getting in line to buy cassocks.

    You kinda have to consider Fr. Z’s audience.

    Blessings to you and your deacon-husband.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  3. Deacon Greg, your response was far more polite than mine :)

    It really saddens me to see such disrespect of the Office of Deacon. I suppose I have a personal, vested interest. My father is in formation for the diaconate in the Diocese of Camden, NJ. He will be ordained deacon two years or so before I am ordained a priest (all God willing, of course). I get goosebumps thinking about my own ordination and knowing that it will be he who calls me forward and presents me to the bishop, and it will be he assisting me at my Mass of Thanksgiving. So yes, the Office of Deacon holds a special place in my heart :)

  4. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Well, for what it’s worth, Michael, your response was perfect. And long overdue. Thank you for weighing in!

    Prayers and good wishes to you and your dad as you continue this amazing journey!


    Dcn. G.

  5. Deacon Bill – As Deacon Greg Kandra pointed out in his comment on Fr. Z’s blog, “Some serve as MCs for the bishop at mass.” I happen to do so and I wear a cassock and surplice sans Roman collar.

    I had a Deacon in the transitional state comment to me at Midnight Mass that “You should be allowed to wear the collar with your cassock. It looks kind of silly.” I must admit that it does make me look like a over-age altar server!

    In fact, the following day I was MC again and was directing a SECOND YEAR seminarian (college kid of my son’s age!) He being non-ordained was of course wearing his collar and I being ordained and serving as MC wasn’t! Kind of makes me understand Fr. Z’s opinion that it is quite silly!

    Another silly thing is that our Director of Formation had been in seminary years ago. Now at the twilight of his very dedicated service as an ordained Deacon in the permanent state (CLERIC), he has never been permitted to wear the collar while ordained. He longs for the day when, in his words, he will be permitted to live out the fullness of his call to the Diaconate and be a witness to others who do not know him!

    I also chuckle when I hear many of the same priests/bishops who oppose Deacons wearing the collar pontificating about how great it is that certain nuns still wear the habit! What an inconsistency!

    One excuse I hear is, “It will cause confusion.” Then why are they in favor of seminarians who are still discerning a call to the priesthood wearing the collar from day one? I’m sure that like me, you and Deacon Greg have had countless people call you “Father” after Mass and elsewhere. A simple opportunity for brief catechesis I say!

    (Not sure what you meant by, “You kinda have to consider Fr. Z’s audience.” Please clarify.)

    Thanks, God bless, and Happy New Year!

  6. Deacon Bill says:

    Michael, may I add my own thanks for your response. It was wonderful and perfectly timed.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill Ditewig

  7. Thanks Deacon Bill :)

  8. ‘”It really saddens me to see such disrespect of the Office of Deacon.”

    Here is why I think there may be such disrespect. From my experience, I see lay people and members of religious communities “living” diaconia and they don’t wear a Roman collar.

  9. Fr Ray Carey who led our Deacon’s Retreat this last Fall told a wonderful story. Fr. Carey is a clinical psychologist who wears street clothes, I think, all the time. He also teaches at Mt Angel Seminary in Oregon. One morning he was asked at the last minute to preside at a morning Mass at the seminary. He went into the sacristy where he encountered a seminarian, not a yet a deacon, let alone a priest, wearing a Roman collar. Upon seeing Fr Carey, the seminarian curtly asked him “Who are you?”, to which he responded with something like “I am the priest who is saying Mass this morning.” The seminarian replied in snooty manner, “Well, you don’t look like a priest.” Fr Carey said: “Isn’t the way God works funny. I don’t look like a priest, yet I am one and you look like a priest, but aren’t.”

    I am fortunate to serve in a diocese where I could wear a collar if I chose to, but I only do when required, like when visting the hospital or the county jail. I also wear a collar on Holy Saturday. I serve at our Cathedral with a wonderful deacon whose ministry is very different from mine and he wears a collar most of the time. Whenever I serve as a MC, which is rare these days, I wear cassock, surplice, and collar.

  10. HMS – not sure I know what you mean? Do you mean that they are charitable with their service? If so, why would the fact that all Christians are called to serve be a reason to be disrespectful to the ordained office of Deacon, a biblical office which necessitates the Sacrament of Holy Orders? Your comment is unclear to me…

  11. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    I don’t own a Roman collar and really don’t wish to. Not because I am against it, but because in this archdiocese very few do so and I would feel I was “putting on airs” –as the old saying goes.
    However, I have always said that if I were to be assigned to a parish at the same time as some seminarian who was wearing a Roman collar, I would buy and wear one immediately.
    I am a big supporter of religious identifying insignia or clothes (as in nuns should wear habits). I only wish there were something all deacons could be asked or told to wear while doing diaconal ministry of any type (from teaching in the parish to visiting the sick) that would identify us as such.
    In the fastest growing religion in the world–Islam–people wear all sorts of religious garb and men are regularly shown counting their prayers on their version of “rosary” beads (They count the 100 attributes of Allah, as I understand it.)
    But we in the west have become almost embarrassed (or cowardly)
    at any outward show of religious identity by clothing, beads, or sign (of the cross).
    When I was a kid playing sandlot baseball you could always tell the Catholics among us because they would bless themselves before going to bat or make a sign of the cross in the dirt with the bat handle.
    I notice Hispanic kids still do in our area, but not our assimilated, warmed over semi-Protestant Anglo kids (who, of course, are copying our cop-outs).

  12. In my archdiocese out here on the Left Coast deacons wear a collar at their own choosing. Most do not because those who were in charge of formation ingrained in them the ideas that

    1) It was a (bad) sign of wanting to become of priest.
    2) The bishops want deacons of look like laymen.

    Those who do wear the collar do so while engaged in ministry or when attending a function (ecclesial or civil) in an official capacity.

    It seems to me that of bishops think a mature man with family and often in leadership positions in the secualr world than most pastors have in a parish cannot be trusted with when or when not to wear a collar…well he ought not to have ordained that man.

    As for the title or form of address. Out here, even at our cathedral, all printed materials even from the bishops office uses “Reverend Mister” and that is what maodt of us use as well. It seems the PERFECT title combining the clerical and the secular states. Someone in formation did a count of this a few years back by perusing church bulletins and found that Reverend Mister was the preferred title in print.

    Personally, I think that one of the elephants in the room whever this topic arises is TURF. I firmly believe from my experience that the main reasons deacons are treated as “less than” when it comes to clerical state is 1) marriage (what this really means is ‘having sex’) and 2) kids (what this really mean is ‘we had sex’). :)

  13. Deacon John – a minor point, but I would include all religious (meaning men and women) in the call to wear the habit, not just the nuns (says the not-yet-ordained novice :)

  14. Deacon Bill says:

    Dear Diakonia,

    Yep, we’ve all had those experiences! I’ve worn a collar as a seminarian (too many years ago to go into!), as a deacon candidate (our Archbishop required that we wear collars when engaged in prison ministry), and as a deacon. In some dioceses, like the one in which I’m currently living, deacons never wear collars, but in other dioceses we wore them whenever in public ministry.

    One of the wierdest things I’ve seen, though, was the worship aid that listed the liturgical ministers:

    Principal Celebrant: Most Rev. Bob Bishop
    Deacon of the Word: Rev. Mr. Tony Transitional
    Deacon of the Eucharist: Deacon Paul Permanent

    I know it’s a crazy and illogical situation. But I’m convinced that it will level out over time (probably long after we’re gone, unfortunately).

    Oh, and my comment about “Fr. Z.’s audience” was simply an observation that most comments I’ve read there are focused on “restoring” the Church to a more Baroque time.

    God bless,


  15. Deacon Bill -

    (Caution: This is gonna be bad!) Well, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it!” Hmmm, that raises an interesting question!

    We have a transitional Deacon who is with us on weekends. He wears a collar and I don’t. Yep, our parishioners are so very confused! “You both are ordained Deacons. Why don’t you wear the collar like he does?” My only response can be, “Because our Bishop doesn’t allow us to.”

    No wonder some say we’re just glorified altar boys when we’re treated so differently. It’s more than just that. Other priests treat them so differently than us. They fawn all over them, coddle them, and call them Deacon while they call us “Tom,” “Joe,” “Mike,” etc. They truly act like there are four levels of Holy Orders. A priest in my parish irks me when we’re with another guy in my parish and he publicly says, “This is my ordained Deacon and this is my non-ordained Deacon.” It really demeans the Office of Deacon. We also regularly have to pray in the Intercessions that we pray for an increase in vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. Nothing about the Diaconate.

    I had heard about some of this stuff prior to ordination, but we were promised that it would not be that way in our Diocese. Ha!

    God bless you too good and holy Deacon!

  16. deaconnecessary says:

    I serve in a diocese where the collar is permitted for deacons.
    I teach theology in a diocesan regional high school, and I wear mine every day. Do I wear it at home or when I go out with my family? No. I wear clerics only when I am ministering.

    At certain liturgical functions I wear cassock, surplice, stole and collar.

    My bishop believes that since deacons are clerics, they should be able to dress like clerics when they practice their ministry.
    He calls us his “brother deacons.” He says his clergy are his “right and left arms, his presbyterite and his diaconate.”

    And thankfully, in my neck of the woods, when we pray for an increase of vocations during the Prayers of the Faithful, we pray for Priesthood, Diaconate and Consecrated life.

  17. “If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it!” LOL!

    People’s perceptions, or lack of them, are frustrating sometimes, but I think one just has to let go of it. It doesn’t sound like the original seven guys in Acts got much recognition, either, except for the bad kind (from the authorities).

  18. As a mother of 7, 42 years married DRE of 28 years, I find it puzzling that Permanent Deacons 20+ years ordained seem to get less defference than “future priests” who have not yet celebrated their 30th birthday.

    The parish in which I reside has supported a number of men through their discernment, formation, and ordination to the permanent diaconate. Currently, three fine men share their very diverse gifts with our parish community.

    Our departed, much loved, pastor daily included an Intercession for: “An increase in vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, and ministries of service among the members of our parish family.” When a member of our PreCana team approached this pastor seeking sponsorship for his application to diaconate training, the response that he received was that our parish already had “enough deacons”. Fortunately, Bob was persistant and was ordained. After a brief period of service here, he is now happily ministering in a parish in another county!

    As an aside, we had a pastor who, when asked: why this parish has multiple Permanent Deacons while neighboring parishes have none – would reply: “We grow them here, we keep them here!” This caused me to consider how priestly staff would be allocated if it was proportional to its number of “priest sons of the parish”!

    As a professional religious educator, I find it very difficult to discuss the three levels of orders even as I observe the confusion within and among the ordained. Personally, I have experienced disasterous relationships with a singular transitory deacon, and some priests (generally ordained fewer than 5 years).
    Overall, in my personal parish and the six parishes (in two dioceses) in which I’ve served, I’ve had the honor to work with and for idealistic transitional deacons who are open to collaboration and new ideas; humble, dedicated permanent deacons who view the DRE as a partner in ministry, and priests who fall within all of the above categories.

    My conviction is that the Catholic Church, a Family of families, incudes all family difunction, discord, forgiveness, joy and grace. Isn’t the journey grand!

  19. Fr. Deacon Daniel says:

    “My bishop believes that since deacons are clerics, they should be able to dress like clerics when they practice their ministry.
    He calls us his “brother deacons.” He says his clergy are his “right and left arms, his presbyterite and his diaconate.”

    Absolutely! That is the analogy I often think of when it comes to the presbyterate and the diaconate – we serve as the two hands of the bishop. Together we collaborate in the bishop’s spiritual fatherhood in his Church.

    It sounds like you have a wonderful bishop, deaconnecessary, who understands and, what is more, appreciates his deacons!

    Happy New Year, my brother!

  20. Fr. Deacon Daniel says:


    I am of the opinion that there can never be enough deacons. Every parish should have at a minimum two with no threshold whatsoever for a maximum.

    I can never imagine such an attitude of a “maximum number” as applied to the priesthood. Then why should it be applied to the diaconate?

    And since when did priestly vocations become the vocation of the younger man and diaconate the domain of the retiree? The vocation to diaconate, while open to all, is traditionally a younger man’s vocation (iconographically deacons are often portrayed with either no beards or light beards signifying their youthfulness). I’d personally like to see deacon vocation offices start targeting younger vocations as well as older vocations.

    But I digress…

    God bless!

  21. “The vocation to diaconate, while open to all,…”

    To all?


  22. Deacon Bill says:

    Dear HMS –

    Perfect timing! Read my next book (co-authored with Phyllis Zagano and Gary Macy).

    We take up that VERY issue!

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill


  1. RT @TopsyRT: Deacons and the collar: Fr. Z goes there

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