Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Dressed Up for Politics

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Dressed Up for Politics

Article excerpt

Sitting in Senator Barack Obama's office and watching my fellow Catholics tell his staff about the need for affordable housing was my personal highlight of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Social Ministry Gathering. This year, my second at the gathering, I wore black pants and a tasteful salmon-colored sweater to visit the offices of Illinois senators Obama and Dick Durbin.

What does that matter? To gain the senators' respect, of course, I wanted to look nice, as did a priest in our group, who wore his Roman collar. I mention our clothing choices because the sight of a priest in clerical garb on Capitol Hill made me wonder: Did his clothes make him a stronger witness than the laypeople in the Illinois delegation?

This may be an election year, but fashion was on the minds of U.S. CATHOLIC readers and website visitors responding to this month's Sounding Board, Bring back men in black (pages 30-35). Author Father Damian Ference argues that clerical garb is a strong, visible witness for the Catholic faith.

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Having read more than 400 responses to the Sounding Board, I appreciate both the pros and cons of clerical garb. I was proud that this priest was lobbying with us in his collar, but I also felt that the number of us Catholics standing up for our values--about 20 in the Illinois delegation and 700 total at the Social Ministry Gathering--was an amazingly strong, visible sign of the church. …

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