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does a dog collar represent?
December 10, 2007
As protests from the
clergy go, it was a pretty powerful one. The Archbishop of York,
Dr John Sentamu, cut up his clerical collar - known as a dog collar
- on live television on Sunday. He said it was a protest against
Robert Mugabe and he would not wear it again until Zimbabwe's leader
is out of office. He told Andrew Marr - who was interviewing him
at the time on his BBC One show - his collar is about identity and
Mr Mugabe had taken the identity of the Zimbabwean people and "cut
it into pieces". But what does such a collar actually represent?
The clerical, or Roman, collar is a sign or mark of a person's holy
calling, according to the Church of England. It is an identifying
badge that can be recognised by people of all faiths. Worn by both
Anglican and Roman Catholic priests around the world, the narrow,
stiff, upright white collar fastens at the back. Part of both formal
wear and day attire, it is often seen as a small white rectangle,
peeking from under a black tab-collar shirt. It wasn't until around
the 6th Century that clergy identified themselves outside the church
building with special dress, and it has developed and changed over
the centuries. The collar is thought have been invented in the late
According to the Church,
it became popular with Anglican clergy during the Oxford Movement,
which attempted to revive Catholic religion in the Church of England
in the 19th Century. Church rules on the subject are vague. Canon
law - the rules and regulations of the Christian church - says the
apparel of bishops, priests and deacons should be "suitable
to office" when on duty to communicate their "spiritual
charge". Canon law states that it can be removed if there are
"justifiable" reasons and there is no punishment for not
wearing one and many evangelical clergy chose not to. "Like
so many things, the rules on this issue can be interpreted in many
ways," says a spokesman for the Church of England. "However,
to say there is no requirement in canon law for the collar to be
worn is wrong. But in this case the archbishop's protest would be
viewed as a justifiable reason for not wearing it. His actions are
certainly no empty gesture. What he did is a very big deal."
The issue was recently debated when National Churchwatch - which
provides personal safety advice - advised clergy to take off their
dog collars when on their own, to reduce the risk of being attacked.
It said vicars are attacked more often than professions such as
GPs and probation officers.
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