Since 2011, Canadians have been the largest contributors to Movember charities, which organize the annual growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men's health issues.
At ARCAT, we've had little cause to glorify the moustache because the historical clergy photographs in our collection feature, almost universally, clean-shaven priests. Imagine our excitement this week when, while perusing a carte de visite album, we came across a portrait of a moustachioed gentleman!
Upon closer inspection, however, it appeared to be a "faux mo" drawn onto the surface of the photograph in crayon. Vanity or sabotage? Unfortunately, we have very little contextual information for this album and the identity of the subject is unknown. The style of collar and shirt is not exactly clerical, according to our early diocesan regulations concerning dress code.
Amazingly, the same album yielded a carte de visite portrait of a bearded priest taken in Orangeville, Ontario.
Throughout the history of the Church, there have been bearded popes and saints. However, the fact that facial hair is rarely seen on clergy during the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries begs the question of whether whiskers were canonically forbidden. The 1917 Code of Canon Law required priests to have simple hairstyles, but did not strictly forbid beards (136§1). However, bishops were free to interpret and enforce the law more strictly. The current 1983 Code does not address the issue of hairstyle or beards.
In times when moustaches were in fashion (for example, the Victorian period during which our diocese was established), priests would have been discouraged from such a show of vanity and singularity. A more thorough answer to the question of forbidden whiskers is answered here.
In the archives, we have a single document that addresses restrictions on beards. It is an excerpt from a published article that was copied and sent to Archbishop Lynch around 1863. At issue was the growing tendency of Bavarian priests to wear beards. The nuncio in Munich issued a letter to all local bishops condemning the practice on the grounds of conformity and humility.
|Archbishop Lynch fonds, Roman Correspondence, LRC45.01|
As cited at the bottom of the second page, this is an excerpt from a published letter distributed to Bavarian bishops by the nuncio to Munich in 1863 regarding their bearded clergy. The letter appeared in Revue des sciences ecclésiastiques, Volume 8, pp 80-81. It was copied and sent to Archbishop Lynch.
[Translated from the French and Latin]
"Some of the Bavarian clergy seems to have forgotten the laws regarding the obligation to wear clerical garb...For ten years, the use was even introduced to wear beards. The nuncio in Munich, by order of His Holiness, just sent to the archbishops and bishops of Bavaria a letter in which he condemns this abuse, and calls for effective measures to bring its removal. The text follows:
....the discipline of the unity, and the perfect degree with the Church of Rome, is the mistress of the conformity of the man in all things and therefore also in the habit and the tonsure of the clergy is to be observed, or, if necessary, may be restored....."
It should be noted that priests in the Eastern Catholic rites are required by custom to wear beards, as well as some religious orders, such as the Franciscan Capuchins. In fact, when the second bishop of Toronto, Most Reverend Armand de Charbonnel, resigned the bishopric and returned to his native France, he joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and grew a distinctive beard.
|ARCAT Reference Library, 282.092 CAU 1931|
Photo of former Bishop de Charbonnel as a Franciscan Capuchin, 1876. Published in
Causse, Candide. Vie de Monseigneur de Charbonnel, évêque de Toronto, 1931.
Today, growing facial hair is a matter of personal choice for any diocesan priest. We have photographic evidence of quite a few seminarians sporting moustaches in the 1980s. Prior to that, they had to look forward to wearing faux mos during the annual Christmas play:
|St. Augustine's Seminary Photograph's Collection, PH26, Series 2.1|
Label on verso: "Christmas Play by China Mission Seminary, 1936"