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Modesty in Dress
09-18-10 01:16

"Those who keep the Law of God", Jacinta of Fatima said, "should not follow fashions".

 

On January 12, 1930, the Sacred Congregation of the Council, by mandate of Pope Pius XI, issued emphatic instructions on modesty of dress to all bishops, directing them to insist on these prescriptions: "We recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knee. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper.

 

"Let parents keep their daughters away from public gymnastic games and contests; but, if their daughters are compelled to attend such exhibitions, let them see to it that they are fully and modestly dressed. Let them never permit their daughters to don immodest garb."

 

Rufino J. Cardinal Santos, Archbishop of Manila, also quotes these standards as "The Church's Stand concerning Modesty in Dress" in his Pastoral of December 6, 1959. The feminine loss of the sense of modesty was indicated by Pope Pius XII who said: "Now many girls do not see anything wrong with following certain shameless styles (fashions) like so many sheep. They would surely blush if they could only guess the impressions they make and the feelings they evoke (arouse) in those who see them." (July 17, 1954.)

"O Christian mothers, if only you knew the future distress, peril and ill-restrained shame that you prepare for your sons and daughters by imprudently accustoming them to live barely clothed, and permitting them to lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves, and of the harm done to the little ones entrusted to you by Heaven to be reared in a Christian dignity and culture."

 

And, men also are held to the virtue of modesty; witness the admonition of Canadian bishops in May of 1946: "Man himself does not escape from the inclination of exhibiting his flesh: some go in public, stripped to the waist, or in very tight pants or in very scanty bathing suits. They thus commit offenses against the virtue of modesty. They may also be an occasion of sin (in thought or desire) for our neighbor."

 

Pope Pius XII calls this application of an ancient principle to the virtue of modesty, "the most insidious of sophisms." He calls attention to the fact that some people use this sophism "...in order to brand as 'old fashioned' the rebellion of honest people against fashions they consider too bold."

The Pope's pronouncements make no distinctions for various types of garments. Pius XII states "...an unworthy, an indecent mode of dress has prevailed" without any distinction of place, "on beaches, in country resorts, on the streets, etc." (Aug. 29. 1954)

 

His quotation: "Vice necessarily follows upon public nudity," applies as well to the beaches, or the streets, or resorts, or elsewhere.

 

Cardinal Pla y Daniel, Archbishop of Toledo, Spain, stated in 1959: "A special danger to morals is represented by public bathing at beaches... Mixed bathing between men and women, which is nearly always a proximate occasion of sin and a scandal, must be avoided."

 

Padre Pio

 

The saintly stigmatized Padre Pio was always a merciless enemy of feminine vanity: he never tolerated low-necked dresses, short and or tight fitting skirts, and forbade his spiritual children to wear transparent stockings. In the last few years of his life, his severity increased enormously, as fashions became more and more immodest.

 

He unrelentingly dismissed from his confessional, before they could step inside, all women he judged to be incorrectly dressed. By 1967, on some mornings, he turned them away one after another, until he ended up confessing very few. His brethren noticed this with a certain unease, then decided to post on the door of the church a warning: "By Padre Pio's explicit wish, women must enter the confessional wearing skirts AT LEAST 8 INCHES BELOW THE KNEE. It is forbidden to borrow longer dresses in church and to wear them to confession."

 

When Summer is Here

 

Our Lady said to Sister Lucy at Fatima: "There will be fashions which will greatly offend My Divine Son". Today's fashions prove Our Lady's words true, for these fashions are occasions of sin, occasions, alas, of serious sin, by reason of the sinful thoughts and desires which they provoke. In the Gospel, Our Lord warned us about such evil desires: "But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Mt.5:28).

 

In the life of Saint Frances of Rome, we read of a vision of Hell which was granted her, and which lasted for four hours. God willed to show her, in the fires of Hell, certain ladies whom she had known in Roman society. For what sins had these souls been damned? They had been damned:

* for guilty desires, even though these had not been put into act
* for indecent styles of dress, which were the fashion of the day, and which had been a cause of seduction and of sin
* for dances, considered inoffensive by the world

This vision of Hell so marked Saint Frances of Rome, that she had it painted on the murals of her chapel, as a constant reminder of the judgments of God. God then gave her the mission of drawing the Roman ladies out of their luxury and their vanity.

 

IN GENERAL, clothes should hide the shape of the body rather than accentuate it. Only this kind of clothing can truly be called "decent". This rule automatically excludes slacks (which are masculine apparel) for women. Feminine apparel is a skirt or a dress which must cover the woman's knees when she is seated. Decency in dress is to be observed, not only at Mass on Sundays, but every day of the week. The deciding factor is not whether slacks or culottes are more comfortable than a skirt, but rather to do the Will of God, by "loving Him in all things and above all things" (Collect of the 6th Sunday after Pentecost).

 

IN PARTICULAR, when attending Mass, we must be still more careful about how we dress. For instance, women must cover their heads: "Every woman praying ...with her head not covered, disgraces her head" (1 Cor.11:5). This rule has been the constant teaching of the Popes, and Pope St. Pius X had it included in the Code of Canon Law (Canon 1262). It is a sign of humility and submission for a woman to cover her head, and draws down God's graces and blessings upon her.

 

Both men and women must have their arms covered in church, even when the weather is warm. It is true that this is a sacrifice, and we should offer it to Our Lord, who suffered so much for us in His Body, in order to save us. Let us learn to imitate Him in mortifying our body.

 

Pope Pius XII said substantially the same thing, in an allocution to young Catholic girls during World War II: (May 22, 1941):

 

"...Numbers of believing and pious women...in accepting to follow certain bold fashions, break down, by their example, the resistance of many other women to such fashions, which may become for them the cause of spiritual ruin. As long as these provocative styles remain identified with women of doubtful virtue, good women do not dare to follow them; but once these styles have been accepted by women of good reputation, decent women soon follow their example, and are carried along by the tide into possible disaster."

 


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