One of the greatest moral casualties of the Second Vatican Council(which Archbishop Lefebvre called the “Third World War”) has been the degradation of the virtue of Modesty. Our Lady certainly warned strongly at Fatima about the arrival of these modern fashion, many of which would be mortally sinful and lead to those sins of the flesh that cause the loss of legions of souls.
Even while Our Lady appeared at Fatima in 1917, sinful fashions had become fairly widespread. However, there was still a good sense of modesty overall in the world because of the strong stance taken by Rome at the time. After the errors of Vatican II were illicitly affirmed, this common sense started to be uprooted in the world. Those errors of Ecumenism, Religious Liberty, and Collegiality, just as in the French Revolution, promised the “liberation” of mankind and the result is the loss of everything sacred. It is now unfortunately true that the majority of mankind now regularly dress in a manner displeasing to Our Lord.
How may we break this trend? By practicing obedience to the lawful commands of the Church. The Cardinal Vicar of Pope Pius XI penned the following statement in response to the modern fads of that age:
“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 knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.”
This rule was repeated often by Popes Pius XI and Pius XII and as the standards of Modesty cannot essentially change, they are binding under pain of sin. Priests such as Fr. Bernard A. Kunkel even formed apostolates to insist on this binding universal standard.
What kinds of dress are unacceptable then?
- Tight, torn, or see-through clothing
- Bikinis and most modern swimwear
- Low Neckline
- Skirts that do not comfortably cover the knees while sitting
- Sleeveless or exposed back
Traditional Religious have affirmed that the American Bishops did permit a quarter-length sleeve for women in the 1950’s on the basis that it was difficult to find proper clothing in our age. However, if a quarter sleeve is worn, care must be taken that it is well-fitting and does not unnecessarily expose. In church, veils ought to be worn in the presence of Our Lord, as St. Paul exhorts.
- Effeminate clothing and fashions
- “short shorts”
- Tight shirt or pants
- Undershirts(when worn alone)
It is recommended, although not required, for men to wear a suit and tie to Sunday Mass. Longer, loose-fitting shorts and sweatpants may be worn by men for certain outdoor work and exercise, but should not be worn in the regular fulfillment of one’s daily duties.
A short commentary by sspx.org on Modesty:
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.”
END OF ARTICLE
The traditional stance on women wearing pants is often seen as controversial by even those of good faith. This shows the prevalence of feminism in the present day. To combat this custom, I highly recommend this article by Dr. Carol Byrne (http://www.ecatholic2000.com/cts/untitled-393.shtml) and have posted the most pertinent parts of the article below:
The moral consensus
Feminine modesty has been understood as being distinctive from its male counterpart in every society since the dawn of history, even in places where God’s word has never reached. (St Thomas Aquinas holds that the behaviour of all is subject to moral judgement, whether or not they know of the Revelation of Christianity.) Women have never, in the entire history of civilization, in any era from earliest antiquity or in any part of the world until our times, stalked about in trousers that delineated the lower half of their body and gave visual prominence to their hips and legs. Why not? Because they had the good sense to realise their physical vulnerability as the ‘weaker vessel’ vis-à-vis male readiness to exploit it, and besides, they wanted to be cherished and respected for their personal qualities other than their physical endowments. The fundamental issue is that a bifurcated garment worn as outer attire was considered by people of all civilisations, even the most barbarian and pagan, to infringe basic levels of feminine decency and identity.
The custom of women wearing trousers did not start with Catholic women. Like the New Mass, the fashion was inaugurated and promoted by liberal-minded people, particularly feminist agitators, intent on discarding Christian traditions and altering people’s understanding of Christian values. (It is true that the Dress Reform Movement was also a protest against the cruelly restrictive clothing of the 19th century that was injurious to women’s health, but there are modest and immodest solutions to every problem.) Just like the New Mass which broke with the whole of liturgical tradition, the custom has in no way developed from the innate sense of decency passed down from one Catholic woman to another throughout 2000 years of the Church’s influence on society. The skirt-trouser dichotomy had become established within all civilisations, including Christian culture, as one of the main differences between men’s and women’s clothing. Only very recently has this difference been obscured.
As we shall see later, Catholic clergy, nuns and educators before the Council denounced the fashion of women wearing trousers as unbecoming in the sense of being unfeminine (appropriate only for men) and indecent (inviting immodest regard). Thus, in the period before Vatican II, a Catholic dress code for girls and women was closely linked with the concept of feminine decorum and the avoidance of the occasion of sin. From their knowledge of the Gospels in which Our Lord demanded purity in glances, thoughts, desires and actions and warned against giving scandal, Christians generally understood that immodesty is related to lust and causes temptation to others. And so a moral conscience was formed which told them that immodesty, particularly in a woman because of her nature as the temptress of man, involves an offence against God and a lack of respect for ourselves and our neighbour. Not to disapprove of trousers for women is to shrug aside the seriousness of the situation.
* In non-Christian countries such as India and parts of the Far East, where women wore trousers, they took care to cover them amply with a flowing robe or a long tunic that concealed the outline of their body below the waist.
* Among Eskimo women and those who inhabited the Polar region there was a tradition of wearing long dresses made of hide or an ensemble consisting of seal skin leggings worn under a poncho-style garment that descended well below the knees. Whether they were the early Celts or Vikings or the women of the tribe of Attila the Hun who swept down from the Steppes of Central Asia, there is no recorded case of a fashion for women to wear trousers as an outer garment until the 20th century.
* In the eighteenth century, the Empress Elizabeth of Russia known as the ‘Merry Tsarina’ organised costume balls in which she regularly required that women dress as men and vice versa. Trousers were indeed worn by women as part of a fancy dress costume but they were only partly visible under shortened skirts, and their use was restricted only to a frivolous occasion.
* During the Napoleonic era and in the American War of Independence there were women volunteers called ‘vivandieres’ and ‘cantinieres’ who wore trousers as part of the military uniform. These were the ‘filles du régiment,’ wives, mothers and daughters who followed their men to war to share the dangers of battle and the hardships of life in the camps. They braved the bullets to administer sustenance to the soldiers and tend the wounded. The important feature of their uniform was that all wore calf-length dresses over trousers or baggy ‘Zouave’ (Turkish-style) pantaloons.
* Moralists of all denominations raged throughout the Victorian era against the emergent fashion of trousers on women. Amelia Bloomer gave her name to a revolutionary style of dressing, but even her ‘shocking’ innovation (1851) that sent ripples of indignation through polite society and drew fiery condemnations from every pulpit, came with a mid-length skirt worn over billowy pantaloons that were tied at the ankle.
* There is no doubt that from Victorian times women wearing trousers were considered both immodest and unfeminine. The early feminists who wore trousers were often lampooned in the press in their attempt to ape manliness. A common criticism was that trousers gave a woman ‘an extremely mannish look.’
*Here is what G.K. Chesterton thought about women wearing trousers:
‘And since we are talking here chiefly in types and symbols, perhaps as good an embodiment as any of the idea may be found in the mere fact of a woman wearing a skirt. It is highly typical of the rabid plagiarism which now passes everywhere for emancipation, that a little while ago it was common for an ‘advanced’ woman to claim the right to wear trousers; a right about as GROTESQUE as the right to wear a false nose . . . It is quite certain that the skirt means female dignity.’
This commentary was written in 1910 when the custom was in its infancy; it may be a century old, but it is even more relevant in our times than it was in Chesterton’s.
* All dictionaries up to the early 20th century defined ‘trousers’ as ‘a garment worn by males.’ This identification of trousers as a male garment did not change until the 60s after women began to liberate their legs publicly in the 50s, thus altering the public perception.
* In wartime, women workers in munitions factories wore dungarees under overalls.
It is evident that trousers were historically associated with men, and wherever they were adopted by women they were subject to ‘purdah,’ that is skirted around by cultural restrictions and limited to specific circumstances. There is thus no recorded history of women adopting the fashion of wearing trousers like their menfolk until the 20th century.
We can deduce two things from this enduring and universal phenomenon:
– a moral consensus, based on instinctual feelings of shamefacedness, existed up to modern times among all women, and that their desire to conceal rather than reveal was not a social construct but a natural reaction.
– trousers as an outer garment are not and never have been feminine apparel, and by putting them on women (with a different designer label) does not make them any less men’s clothing.
This evidence quite escapes those who deny the significance for our time of God’s edict given to Moses: ‘A woman shall not be clothed with a man’s apparel; neither shall a man use woman’s apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God ‘ (Deuteronomy 22:5). The mere mention of such an edict is enough to make some people hiss ‘Old Testament fundamentalist’ in my direction, but it was the basis on which the Church formed her teaching that women must dress in a distinctively feminine manner and be modest in heart as well as apparel (I Peter 3:3-4).
The Church’s teaching before Vatican II
The Church’s teaching on dress is an authority prevailing over every social tendency and every fashionable choice, because it was to her and not to society that Christ entrusted the supernatural wisdom to discern what constitutes a spiritual danger and to fight soul-destroying customs such as immodest and egalitarian clothing. Many of us are too quick to write off the Church when it comes to subjects like trousers on women. It is claimed that the Magisterium has not issued any prohibition on them and that in dubiis libertas (where a doubt exists freedom should be granted). But this argument overlooks the fact that it was only in the second half of the 20th century that women in general began to exchange their skirts for trousers, and that by the time this fashionable option had become widespread, the post Conciliar Church had fallen silent, having already adopted a more indulgent attitude to the question of modesty in general and the sins of the flesh in particular. It is hardly to be expected that in their condemnation of immodest fashions the pre-Conciliar Popes would have given particular emphasis to a fashion that was rarely seen in public. (Certainly before 1960 it was unheard of for women to wear trousers to church). However, it was customary before the Council for individual bishops, especially in Catholic countries such as Ireland, Italy and Latin America, to make statements regarding the unacceptability of trousers on women.
The Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, John Charles McQuaid C.S.Sp., was well known for his tirades against women wearing trousers. He continually denounced women’s participation in athletics for reason of dress in mixed company. For example, in a sermon to a congregation in his native Cavan, he voiced his opposition to young women rowers being dressed in men’s scanty athletic attire. There is no doubt that throughout his lengthy career (he reigned for more than three decades from 1940 to 1972 before resigning in 1972 in disgust at the reforms of Vatican II and dying, they say, broken-hearted the following year), the legendary Archbishop McQuaid exerted an enormous influence on every aspect of Catholic Ireland. It was common knowledge that Dr McQuaid had a direct influence on University College Dublin, and this has been confirmed with the recent opening of the Archbishop’s archives. I have a vivid recollection of an incident that occurred during my university days in Dublin when a foreign female student wearing trousers was approached by a woman official and asked to leave the premises because she had infringed the dress code. What would McQuaid have said about today’s trousered women? He would have used up all his vocabulary, and have had nothing left but tears.
The last official document on the subject was, significantly, issued shortly before Vatican II. It took the form of a letter by Cardinal Siri of Genoa warning all the clergy, teaching sisters, those involved in Catholic Action, and educators in his diocese, of the grave dangers in women wearing trousers. Written on the 12th June 1960 at a time when Italy was more or less still a Catholic country, the letter addressed people who still had some instinctual sensibilities concerning modesty, formed by centuries of Catholic culture. Its very title, ‘Notification concerning men’s dress worn by women,’ indicates that slacks and shorts were considered as men’s clothing, and that the fact that the offending garments were tailored for the female figure and therefore not bought in the menswear department of clothes shops, does not justify their adoption by women.
Cardinal Siri condemned trousers on women from a two-fold perspective: firstly that they involved a degree of immodesty (albeit not as grave as abbreviated skirts), and secondly that they were a symbol of feminist ideology,’the visible aid to bring about a mental attitude of being ‘like a man’.’ (Incidentally this is exactly what Bishop de Castro Mayer meant when he said that trousers were even worse than mini-skirts because the latter attacked the senses while the former attacked the mind, thus constituting an ideological weapon in the feminist battle for the de-feminising of women). Since the clothing a person wears ‘modifies that person’s gestures, attitudes and behaviour,’ the Cardinal predicted that the change from skirts to trousers would modify the Christian perception of womanhood as essentially ordered towards motherhood, and that it would subvert the divinely ordained order in which the husband is the protector of his wife and head of the family.
Alas, it has all co me to pass as he had forecast: women have adopted men’s dress, and there has been a wholesale paradigm shift in society’s perception of femininity. Misled by the tenets of feminist dogma, women are being won over to the idea that the Catholic teaching of the man being the head of the woman and family is all irrelevant nonsense, and totally absurd in the modern world. The effect of this is to blur God’s purposes in giving men and women distinctive, though complementary, roles in society, and to abolish the ‘headship of man’ doctrine in every area of life- Church, family, education, government etc. As Cardinal Siri put it:
‘First, the wearing of men’s dress by women affects the woman herself, by changing the feminine psychology proper to women; second, it affects the woman as wife of her husband, by tending to vitiate relationships between the sexes; and third, it affects the woman as mother of her children by harming her dignity in her children’s eyes. . . . This changing of the feminine psychology does fundamental, and, in the long run, irreparable damage to the family, to conjugal fidelity, to human affections and to human society . . . Nobody stands to gain by helping to bring about a future age of vagueness, ambiguity, imperfection and, in a word, monstrosities.’
Because shorts and slacks break both the modesty and gender barriers, we have a superb medley of immodesty AND ‘masculinity’ all gift-wrapped nicely for today´s modern career woman!
No such thing as modest trousers on women
If women are ‘dressing to kill’ these days, there is no doubt that they have succeeded in killing the morals of men and endangering their souls by wearing provocative styles, particularly midriff-baring tops and how-low-can-you-go jeans. Some women appear to have been melted down and poured into their garments. A good question to ask oneself by way of analogy is: ‘Which outlines the form of the hand more, a mitten or a glove?’ and then apply the question to a skirt and a pair of trousers, both of which provide adequate coverage. It is obvious that there can be varying degrees of immodesty depending on the cut of the trousers, but that there is no such thing as ‘modest’ trousers’they may look modest on the clothes rack, but they behave like any other trousers when you put them on. The ‘crux’ of the matter, (if you get my meaning), is that even if trouser legs are of generous width and not particularly clinging, the fitted area is bound to offset the female form to a greater or lesser extent, and its very visibility is what causes an immodest impression to be fixed in the mind. Any woman who does not agree should take a long, hard look in the mirror and try to see herself as others (especially men) see her! Perhaps then she will agree that trousers reveal much more than gender.
END OF EXCERPT
To conclude, we must strive as Catholics to combat this Modesty crisis with an uncompromising, but charitable mindset. Let us obey the constant teachings of the Church and seek by good example to draw souls to do the same. The foundation of Christendom may then be reestablished.
~ Steven C.