As summer is now upon us, we thought it might be well to refer our readers to some helpful good reads on proper modesty in dress. How the devil and the modern world can be tempting in our choice of dress during these warmer months! It is my hope for this post to encourage our readers to stand up to this terrible trend and be a shining witness of true Christ or Marylike modesty! The best good deed we can do for others in this regard is to provide the proper example. On that note, we have attached this excellent link on Modesty from The Fatima Center:
We also recommend this excellent short article from the SSPX below. Since the stance concerning women wearing trousers can even sometimes seem controversial to Catholics of good will, we also attach Cardinal Siri’s 1960 notification to Catholic educators concerning this matter. Besides simply covering our bodies, the temples of the Holy Ghost they must be, we ought to also dress in a manner that does not contradict our God-given nature. We do not intend for this post to sound judgemental or “fundamentalist”, but rather that it may encourage others to show good example, so that little by little, Christendom may be restored in all of its glory!
~Damsel of the Faith & Knight of Tradition
How Catholics ought to dress
Now that the heat of summer is upon us, this is a good opportunity to briefly review the topic of how Catholics should apparel themselves.
Pastor’s Corner for Sunday, June 21
Summer is on us and with it, the heat. Which makes us feel the need to discard layers of clothes and be freer with our movements. With this desire though, necessarily comes the obligation to continue dressing modestly, and here are some tips about accomplishing this in our own day and age.
It is good to review the dress code that should be posted at the entrance of churches in accordance with Canon Law (CIC 1262, 2). Though this reflects the Church’s mind for sacred places, it nonetheless also comprises a general rule of thumb for public life.
And while every Catholic has rights (to receive the sacraments), he or she also has duties to fulfill in order to maintain these rights; thus why the Holy See has gone so far (for the preservation of souls) to prescribe: “to remove from Communion and even from Church, improperly dressed women.”—this rule can of course be applied also to men.
Another quick rule of thumb is to dress in a dignified manner that will evoke respect. For in addition to providing an edifying example, our dress also defines who we are in society. Thus the appropriateness of a mother’s or father’s dress (particularly in the privacy of home life) can positively or negatively impact the formation of their children—this important aspect is not only contingent upon the modesty of the clothes worn by the parents, but even by their quality, that is, dressing shabbily versus well within one’s means.
An even further consideration for men and women is to dress properly according to their nature, or respectively, according to their masculinity or femininity. For men, this means they should not wear tight-fitting clothes or in general, go shirtless in public (especially for fathers, even around the home in front of their children).
For the ladies, to dress like a man (such as wearing pants) is improper and contradicts a woman’s God-given femininity. That this is not merely an “old fuddy duddy’s” quibble, should be evident when we realize that the proponents of unisex clothing have also been the same “gender theory” people behind the promotion of sins against nature.
It is interesting to note that the “Lion of Campos”, Bishop de Castro Mayer, once famously remarked in a pastoral letter that he would prefer a woman to wear a mini-skirt rather than pants. For while the mini-skirt was immodest, it was at least feminine, while pants contradicted a woman’s nature (thus the former attacked the senses, while the latter warped the intellect).
Therefore, so-called “woman’s pants” (usually worn out of pleasure or commodity) are not the proper garb of a Catholic (or Marian-like) girl or lady, either in the parish, domestic or social life. However, if the wearing pants by women cannot be completely avoided due to the circumstances of our time (profession, security, extraordinary activity, etc.), they should at least disappear from family, social and parish life.
Concerning modest dress—and this applies to both men and women—the underlying principle is that it should more cover, rather than expose oneself to the allurement of the public eye. Thus both men and women should dress so as to inspire respect and chaste love, as opposed to the enkindling of lust.
Albeit, finding proper clothes today can be very difficult today, as most fashions are terribly provocative and have been designed to induce impurity. This is especially the case for women’s fashions; however, good women (using a bit of resourcefulness) can still manage to dress with modest attractiveness and charm—and without appearing that they have just stepped off a set of Little House on the Prairie!
A last word regarding the issue of swimming. Unfortunately there is little available in the stores today that is even half-way decent, or modest, though some have attempted to alleviate this deficiency by wearing t-shirts over their swimwear. But even more importantly perhaps are the oft-ignored ecclesiastical admonitions against the dangers of swimming in public places. Thus we are compelled to exhort families to make the effort to find a secluded place to swim amongst themselves—or not at all. Better to forgo the recreational (and optional) pleasure of swimming then to endanger the souls of one’s family (or of others)!
In concluding this brief review on the importance of dressing modestly, here are some pertinent quotes (and one illustrative example)—which far from being ancient, are of recent date, and thus ever new.
G.K. Chesterton: “unless we live as we believe, we’ll end up believing as we live.”
Pope Pius XII: “The purity of souls living the supernatural life of grace is not preserved and will never be preserved without combat.” Many women and girls stubbornly persist in “following certain shameless styles like so many sheep.” “They would certainly blush if they could guess the impression they make and the feeling they evoke in those who see them.”
Padre Pio (+1968) repeatedly refused to absolve women who did not wear a skirt that extended at least 8 inches below the knee, while also insisting that they did not wear slacks.
Our Lady of Fatima:
The sins of the world are too great! The sins which lead most souls to hell are sins of the flesh! Certain fashions are going to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much. Those who serve God should not follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions; Our Lord is always the same.”
From Cardinal Siri:
Men’s Dress Worn by Women
Giuseppe Cardinal Siri
June 12, 1960
- To the Reverend Clergy
- To all Teaching Sisters,
- To the Beloved Sons of Catholic Action,
- To Educators intending truly to follow Christian Doctrine.
- I. The first signs of our late arriving spring indicate this year a certain increase in the use of men’s dress by girls and women, even mothers of families. Up until 1959, in Genoa, such dress usually meant the person was a tourist, but now there seems to be a significant number of girls and women from Genoa itself who are choosing, at least on pleasure trips, to wear men’s dress (men’s trousers).
- The spreading of this behavior obliges us to give serious consideration to the subject, and we ask those to whom this Notification is addressed to kindly give this problem all the attention it deserves, as befits those aware of being answerable to God.
- We seek above all to give a balanced moral judgment upon the wearing of men’s dress by women. In fact, our thoughts bear solely upon the moral question.
- Firstly, when if comes to covering of the female body, the wearing of men’s trousers by women cannot be said to constitute as such a grave offense against modesty, because trousers certainly cover more of woman’s body that do modern women’s skirts.
- Secondly, however, to be modest clothes need not simply cover the body but must also not cling too closely to the body. Now it is true that much feminine clothing nowadays clings closer than do some trousers, but trousers can be made to cling closer, and, in fact, generally do; hence, the tight fit of such clothing gives us no less grounds for concern than does exposure of the body. So the immodesty of men’s trousers on women is an aspect of the problem which is not to be left out of an over-all judgment upon them even if it is not to be artificially exaggerated either.
- II. However, there is another aspect of women wearing men’s trousers which seems to us the gravest.
- The wearing of men’s dress by women affects firstly the woman herself, by changing the feminine psychology proper to women; secondly, it affects the woman as wife of her husband, by tending to vitiate relationships between the sexes; thirdly, it affects the woman as mother of her children by harming her dignity in her children’s eyes. Each of these points is to be carefully considered in turn.
- A. Male Dress Changes the Psychology of Woman.
- In truth, the motive impelling women to wear men’s dress is always that of imitating, nay, of competing with the man who is considered stronger, less tied down, more independent. This motivation shows clearly that male dress is the visible aid to bringing about a mental attitude of being ‘like a man’. Secondly, ever since men have been men, the clothing a person wears conditions, determines and modifies that person’s gestures, attitudes and behavior, such that from merely being worn outside, clothing comes to impose a particular frame of mind inside.
- Then let us add that a woman wearing men’s dress always more or less indicates her reacting to her femininity as though it were inferior [to masculinity] when in fact it is only diverse. The perversion of her psychology is clearly evident.
- These reasons, summing up many more, are enough to warn us how wrongly women are made to think by the wearing of men’s dress.
- B. Male Dress Tends to Vitiate Relationships Between Women and Men.
- In truth when relationships between the two sexes unfold with the coming of age, an instinct of mutual attraction is predominant. The essential basis of this attraction is a diversity between the two sexes which is made possible only by their complementing or completing one another. If then this diversity becomes less obvious because one of its major external signs is eliminated and because the normal psychological structure is weakened, what results is the alteration of a fundamental factor in the relationship.
- The problem goes further still. Mutual attraction between the sexes is preceded both naturally, and in the order of time, by that sense of shame which holds the rising impulses in check, imposes respect upon them, and tends to lift to a higher level of mutual esteem and healthy fear everything that those impulses would push onwards to uncontrolled acts. To change that clothing which by its diversity reveals and upholds nature’s limits and defenses, is to level the distinctions and to help pull down the vital defenses of the sense of shame.
- It is at least to hinder that sense. And when the sense of shame is hindered from applying the brakes, then do relationships between man and women sink degradingly to pure sensuality, devoid of all mutual respect or esteem.
- Experience teaches us that when woman is de-feminized, defenses are undermined and weakness increases.
- C. Male Dress Harms the Dignity of the Mother in Her Children’s Eyes.
- All children have an instinct for the sense of dignity and decorum of their mother. Analysis of the first inner crisis of children when they awaken to life around them, even before they enter upon adolescence, shows how much the sense of their mother counts. Children are as sensitive as can be on this point. Adults typically leave all that behind them and think no more on it. But we would do well to call to mind the severe demands that children instinctively make of their own mother, and the deep and even terrible reactions roused in them by observation of their mother’s misbehavior. Many lines of later life are here traced out — and not for good — in these early inner dramas of infancy and childhood.
- The child may not know the definition of exposure, frivolity or infidelity, but he possesses an instinctive sense to recognize them when they occur, to suffer from them, and be bitterly wounded by them in his soul.
- III. Let us think seriously on the import of everything said thus far, even if a woman’s appearance in men’s dress does not immediately give rise to the same disturbance caused by grave immodesty.
- The changing of feminine psychology does fundamental and — in the long run — irreparable damage to the family, to conjugal fidelity, to human affections and to human society. True, the effects of wearing unsuitable dress are not all to be seen within a short time. But one must think of what is being slowly and insidiously worn down, torn apart, perverted.
- Is any satisfying reciprocity between husband and wife imaginable, if feminine psychology be changed? Or is any true education of children imaginable, which is so delicate in its procedure, so woven of imponderable factors in which the mother’s intuition and instinct play the decisive part in those tender years? What will these women be able to give their children when they will so long have worn trousers that their self-esteem is determined more by their competing with the men than by their functioning as women?
- Why, we ask, ever since men have been men — or rather since they became civilized — why have men in all times and places been irresistibly borne to differentiate and divide the functions of the two sexes? Do we not have here strict testimony to the recognition by all mankind of a truth and a law above man?
- To sum up, wherever women wear men’s dress, it is be considered a factor, over the long term, in disintegrating human order.
- IV. The logical consequence of everything presented thus far is that anyone in a position of responsibility should be possessed by a sense of alarm in the true and proper meaning of the word, a severe and decisive alarm.
- We address a grave warning to parish priests, to all priests in general and to confessors in particular, to members of every kind of association, to all religious, to all nuns, especially to teaching Sisters.
- We ask them to become clearly conscious of the problem so that action will follow. This consciousness is what matters. It will suggest the appropriate action in due time. But let it not counsel us to give way in the face of inevitable change, as though we are confronted by a natural evolution of mankind, and so on!
- Men may come and men may go, because God has left plenty of room for the ebb and flow of free-will; but the substantial lines of nature and the no less substantial lines of the Eternal Law have never changed, are not changing and never will change. There are bounds beyond which one may stray as far as he pleases, but to do so ends in death. Empty philosophical fantasizing may let one mock or trivialize these limits, but they constitute an alliance of hard facts and of nature which chastises anyone who oversteps them. Certainly history has taught — with frightening proofs from the life and death of nations — that the reply to all violators of this outline of ‘humanity’ is always, sooner or later, catastrophe.
- Since the dialectic of Hegel, we are fed what amounts to nothing but fables, and by dint of hearing them so often, many people end up acquiescing to them, even if only passively. But the reality of the matter is that Nature and Truth, and the Law bound up in both, go their imperturbable way, and cut to pieces the simpletons who, upon no grounds whatsoever, would believe in radical and far-reaching changes in the very structure of man.
- The consequences of such violations are not a new outline of man, but rather disorders, harmful instability of every kind, the frightening dryness of human souls, a shattering increase in the number of human castaways driven out from among us, left to live out their decline in boredom, sadness and rejection. On the beach of this intentional shipwreck of the eternal norms are found broken families, hearths and homes grown cold, lives cut short before their time, the elderly cast aside, our youth willfully degenerate and — at the end of the line — souls in despair and taking their own lives. All of this human wreckage gives witness to the fact that the ‘line of God’ does not give way, nor does it admit of any adaptation to the delirious dreams of the so-called philosophers!
- V. We have said that those to whom the present Notification is addressed are asked to take serious alarm before the problem at hand. Accordingly they know what they have to say, starting with little girls on their mother’s knee.
- They know that without exaggerating or turning into fanatics, they will need to strictly limit how far they tolerate women dressing like men, as a general rule.
- They know they must never be so weak as to let anyone believe that they turn a blind eye to a custom which is slipping downhill and subverting the moral standing of all institutions.
- They, the priests, know that the line they have to take in the confessional, while not holding women dressing like men to be automatically a grave fault, must be sharp and decisive.
- Everybody will kindly give thought to the need for a united line of action, re-enforced on every side by the co-operation of all men of good will and all enlightened minds, so as to create a veritable dike to hold back the flood.
- Those of you responsible for souls in whatever capacity understand how useful it is to have for allies in this campaign men of the arts, the media and the crafts. The position taken by fashion design houses, the brilliant designers and the clothing industry, is of crucial important in the whole question. Artistic sense, refinement and good taste meeting together can find suitable but dignified solutions as to the dress for women to wear when they must use a motorcycle or engage in this or that exercise or work. What matters is to preserve modesty together with the eternal sense of femininity which, more than anything else, all children will continue to associate with the face of their mother.
- We do not deny that modern life sets problems and makes requirements unknown to our grandparents. But we state that there are values more in need of protection than fleeting experiences, and that for anyone of intelligence there is always good sense and good taste enough to find acceptable and dignified solutions to problems which arise.
- Moved by charity we are fighting against a leveling debasement of mankind, against the attack upon those differences on which rests the complementarity of man and woman.
- When we see a woman in trousers, we should think not so much of her, as of all mankind: of what will be should women masculinize themselves. Nobody stands to gain by helping to bring about a future age of vagueness, ambiguity, imperfection and, in a word, monstrosities.
- This letter of ours is not addressed to the public, but to those responsible for souls, for education, for Catholic associations. Let them do their duty, and let them not be sentries caught asleep at their post while evil crept in.
- Giuseppe Cardinal Siri
- Archbishop of Genoa