An extensive change in the garb of both men and women Religious was foreseen as a likely result of the completed schema on the renovation of Religious life.
The ecumenical council vote on the amendments to the text included the recommendation that the garb of men Religious as well as women coordinate more closely with modern times. How extensive this change will be is left in the document to “the judgment of the Holy See,” according to Msgr. Mark J. Hurley, vice chancellor of the San Francisco archdiocese, speaking at the U.S. bishops’ press panel.
Whether the change would involve extensive adoption of the clerical suit, such as priests in America already wear except for church services, is not decided in the document. However, such practice has been steadily gaining ground in many sections of the world, notably in northern Europe.
Although Italy and Spain have generally maintained laws requiring priests to dress in cassocks whether in church or not, at least one diocese in Italy — Trieste — broke the suit barrier last year. This caused something of a sensation at the time, since the synod of Rome as late as 1962 had reaffirmed the cassock rule for priests. Vatican sources have said this directive was kept at the specific request of Pope John XXIII.
Whether the recommendation for a change in dress will be extended to diocesan clergy as well, perhaps through the yet-uncompleted schema on priestly life and ministry, is not known. But for Religious women it is nothing new. Pope Pius XII near the end of his life specifically asked them to update their garb. As a result, some have already made extensive changes, others have changed slightly, still others not at all. The present document on Religious is expected to step up the program considerably.