The Catholic University of America


Final Examination
Br. Peter Killeen, F.S.C.
for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Monday, February 2, 2015
2:00p.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 125


The Development and Significance of the Religious habit of men
Director: Rev. Raymond Studzinski, O.S.B., Ph.D.
In light of the diminished status of the religious habit since Vatican II, this dissertation explores the development and significance of the religious habit of male institutes of the Western Church. At present, many older religious believe that consecrated life may be lived more faithfully without a religious habit, while a high percentage of younger religious desire to wear a habit as a visual expression of their consecration. This difference of opinion is a cause of tension within many religious institutes. Despite tremendous change in the use of the religious habit since Vatican II, the habit has received minimal scholarly attention, and practically none written in English.
This dissertation engages the initial legislative texts of numerous religious institutes in an effort to present the historical development of the habit of male religious of the Western Church. It also gives magisterial directives on the habit that have been issued throughout the history of the Church. The dissertation summarizes theological themes that have traditionally been connected to the religious habit, and it engages theological ideas that have emerged since the Second Vatican Council which have contributed to the diminishment of the religious habit.
Research into the development and significance of the habit of male religious of the Western Church affirmed the following ideas. Distinctive attire has nearly always been an important element of male religious life. Magisterial directives have consistently aimed to restore the discipline of the habit and to promote it in connection to poverty. Additionally, the religious habit has traditionally been connected with the notions of consecration, group identity, and rupture with the world. The diminishment of the religious habit in the post-Vatican II period has been influenced by the “Universal Call to Holiness in the Church,” the Church’s “turn toward the world” at Vatican II, and a renewed emphasis on baptism as the fundamental source of the dignity of every Christian. Time will reveal if future generations of male religious give the habit a more prominent role than it has been given in the decades since Vatican II.