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Caitlin Kennell Kim
Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ
General Questions
Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP
Ecumenical, Interfaith
Neela Kale
Culture, Moral Theology
Ann Naffziger, M.A., M.Div.
Mike Hayes
Our readers asked:

Are seminarians supposed to wear something distinctive so women will know they are unavailable?

Neela Kale Answers:

Although Roman collars, habits and wedding rings are widely recognizable signs of the wearer’s life commitment, these visual markers are customs, not requirements (except in the case of some religious orders that do require the habit.) The fact that a person is not displaying one of these signs does not automatically mean that he or she is available for romantic attachment: engaged people, those called to the single life and those who for the time being are not seeking relationships, for example, are also unavailable, but don’t necessarily have an easy way to show it. No one should be deceptive about whether or not he or she is open to an exclusive relationship. Thus a seminarian should be forthcoming and firm if someone approaches him with romantic interest, just as a married person would be forthcoming and firm to anyone who made an advance. But seminarians are not obliged to preemptively broadcast their status any more than the rest of us are, unless their diocese or religious order asks them to wear the Roman collar at particular functions or under certain circumstances. Some men in formation for the priesthood do wear the collar for various reasons; discerning a lifelong call to celibacy is not easy, and they may find that this distinction helps them in the process. But it is not required.

The Author : Neela Kale
Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Musette G Buckley

    There is NOTHING braver than a priest in a Roman collar.Every priest should pack up all of his lay designer clothes and give them to the poor .What happened to the vow of poverty?I think it is a mockery to see a priest in lay clothes . I pray for good p riet every day of my life . The Devil is after their soul …..

  • Brother Mark

    I am in formation with a particular religious order. There have been a few times I have been out in public in my black habit, I have been mistaken for a jedi, a wizard from hogwarts, and the grim reaper. I would like to wear it to witness, but if it is no longer an identifiable marker it is not a witness to something identifiable that I would wish to witness too.
    Conversely, in my experience being a seminarian does not actually tell women that I am unavailable. On more then one occasion declaring that I am in a religious order, or preparing for the priesthood was understood as “Oh he just hasn’t found someone yet,” or “he’s just running away from love, until he meets the right person.”

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