Christopher West’s Theology of the Body

David L. Schindler
Provost/Dean and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family

Regarding his interview on Nightline, Christopher West says that his remarks were taken out of context. In some sense, this is surely true. However, the comments as aired are the latest in a long list of statements and actions not inconsistent with the context set by the Nightline editors.

Though occasioned by West’s Nightline appearance, the present statement addresses his theology as a whole.

Let me stress that I agree with those who vigorously defend West’s intention of fidelity to the Church. Certainly he has had positive results in drawing many Catholics into a deeper understanding of their faith. As for myself, I do not initiate anything about West in my classes, but only respond when asked a question. Then I begin by emphasizing West’s intention of orthodoxy. As I have often put it, “he would throw himself in front of a bus for the Church.” It is important to understand, however, that good will is not synonymous with sound thought; and I must say, not without reluctance, that West’s work seems to me to misrepresent in significant ways the thought of John Paul II.

The following examples have been verified by persons directly involved or by things written by West himself (and I regret the necessary adoption of West’s own language).

West’s work has involved suggesting that a man and woman bless their genitals before making love; blessing the ovaries of women in his classes; advising young men in college and the seminary to look at their naked bodies in the mirror daily in order to overcome shame; using phallic symbolism to describe the Easter candle; criticizing “flat-chested” images of Mary in art while encouraging Catholics to “rediscover Mary’s … abundant breasts” (Crisis, March 2002); referring to the “bloodied membrane” of the placenta as a “tabernacle” (Colorado Catholic Herald, 12/22/06); stating that, while “there are some important health and aesthetic considerations that can’t be overlooked,” “there’s nothing inherently wrong with anal penetration as foreplay to normal intercourse,” (Good News About Sex and Marriage, 1st ed., emphasis in original), though qualifying this in the revised edition and stressing the subjective dangers of lust in such activity; and, on Nightline, praising Hugh Hefner for helping rescue sex from prudish Victorian attitudes, saying that there are “very profound historical connections between Hefner and John Paul II,” while emphasizing that John Paul II took the sexual revolution further and in the right direction.

I offer these examples not merely because they are vulgar and in bad taste, not to mention sometimes bordering on the just plain silly, but because they indicate a disordered approach to human sexuality. An objective distortion in approaching sexuality does not cease to be such simply because it is theologized. West to be sure will point toward the “orthodox” intentions and context of the examples, but my criticism bears on the substance of his preoccupation as reflected in the examples. (As a Thomist friend of mine used to say: pay attention to a man’s subjects, not his predicates.)

What, then, are the objections to West’s theology?

First, West misconstrues the meaning of concupiscence, stressing purity of intention one-sidedly when talking about problems of lust.

When I first pointed this problem out to him several years ago, his response was that he refused to limit the power of Christ to transform us. My response is that concupiscence dwells “objectively” in the body, and continues its “objective” presence in the body throughout the course of our infralapsarian existence; and that we should expect holiness to “trump” temptations or disordered tendencies in the area of sexuality exactly as often as we should expect holiness to “trump” the reality of having to undergo death.

Second, West has an inadequate notion of analogy. He conceives love in a reductive bodily-sexual sense, then reads the Christian mysteries as though they were somehow ever-greater and more perfect realizations of what he emphasizes as key in our own experience, namely, sex.

But sex is not even the most important part of human love, let alone the key to the Christian mysteries–the Eucharist, for example. Missing in West’s work is an adequate idea of the radical discontinuity (maior dissimilitudo) between the divine love revealed by God–and indeed the (supernatural) love to which we are called–and sexual love or intercourse. To be sure, the spousal love between man and woman is central in man’s imaging of God, and the gendered body and sexual relations are an integral sign and expression of spousal love, which also includes what John Paul II calls all the other manifestations of affection. However, as Joseph Ratzinger says, it is only because man has a capacity for God that he also has a capacity for another human being. The former indicates the “content,” the latter the “consequence,” of man’s likeness to God.

In the end, West, in his disproportionate emphasis on sex, promotes a pansexualist tendency that ties all important human and indeed supernatural activity back to sex without the necessary dissimilitudo.

Third, West’s treatment of shame and reverence is marred by a too-male vision of things–not only too much maleness but distorted maleness. If we could just get over our prudishness and sin-induced guilt, he seems to think, we would be ready simply to dispense with clothes and look at others in their nakedness. He has no discernible sense of the difference between what might be a feminine as distinct from masculine sense of unveiling. He (thus) lacks a reverence for the body entailing a modesty not reducible simply to shame, or again a patient reverence presupposing the “veiledness” proper to what essentially contains mystery. His work is preoccupied with what is external to the detriment of the interiority proper to persons. In this context, we can say that West’s theology ultimately lacks a Marian dimension: not in the sense that he fails to make references to Mary, but because his work is not adequately formed, in method or content, in Mary’s archetypal feminine-human sensibility.

Fourth, a style of preaching is not merely a matter of “style”–a difference in personality or taste. It is always-also a matter of theology itself. West often tends to treat resistance to the content of his lectures, for example during the question periods, as matters of resistance to the Holy Spirit (to the Spirit now speaking in and through West’s “charism”), urging questioners to pray to overcome the fear induced in them by their bad theological-spiritual formation. Well-balanced persons have spoken of how West makes them feel a sense of guilt, of resistance to the Holy Spirit, if they experience uneasiness about what he is saying.

Pope Benedict XVI’s sacramental “style,” integrated within the objectivity of a larger truth that always first calls ourselves into question even as we preach to others, provides a helpful lesson here.

Regarding Hefner: West fails to see that Hefner at root does not correct but misconceives and then only continues the error of America’s Puritan Protestantism. For both Puritanism and Hefner, the body is merely a tool, though to be manipulated differently: by the former exclusively for reproducing children and by Hefner for pleasure. It is not only Puritanism but also Hefner that fails to understand properly the body and bodily desires in their natural meaning as good.

In sum, West’s work provides a paradigm of what is most often criticized today in connection with John Paul II’s theology of the body–and rightly criticized, insofar as that theology is identified with West’s interpretation: namely, that it is too much about sex and too romantic.

West presents a problem for the Church, not because he lacks orthodox intentions, but because his unquestionably orthodox intentions render his theology, a priori, all the more credible. His work often deflects people from the beauty and depth of what is the authentic meaning of John Paul II’s anthropology of love, and thus of what was wrought in and through the Second Vatican Council. It is scarcely the first time in the history of the Church that abundant good will did not suffice to make one’s theology and vision of reality altogether true.

West has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Church. However, if his work is to bear the Catholic fruit he so ardently desires, he needs to subject basic aspects of his theology to renewed reflection.

David L. Schindler
Provost/Dean and Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology
Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
The Catholic University of America
Washington, D.C.

The Christopher West Show: A Neo-Catholic Scandal

Christopher A. Ferrara
REMNANT COLUMNIST, New Jersey

from the Remnant Newspaper

Christopher West at a recent Theology of theBody road show in Hawaii.

(Posted 07/01/09 www.RemnantNewspaper.com) Christopher West’s appearance on Nightline, during which he praised Hugh Hefner and asserted that John Paul II advanced the sexual revolution “in the right direction,” is but the latest in a long series of scandals arising from West’s promotion of “John Paul II’s Theology of the Body” (TOB).  [Caveat: I am forced to quote some of that scandalous material here—not for the sake of multiplying scandal, but rather to demonstrate its existence as a warning to Catholics to keep themselves and their children away from this man’s morally offensive presentations, and those of his fellow “experts” in TOB.]

Based on his rendering of John Paul’s 129 deeply obscure audience addresses filled with the Pope’s clearly personal “reflections”  and “meditations” as a private doctor, West has turned TOB into a veritable branded product, complete with a Christopher West logo, which he markets in every conceivable venue with all the fervor and conviction of the late TV pitchman for OxiClean.  And the marketing pays off big: a million books and three million audios sold.  Yet another success story in Neo-Catholic Land.

TOB, West  exclaims, “has already begun a ‘sexual counter-revolution’ that’s changing lives around the world. The ‘fire’ is spreading and in due time we can expect global repercussions.”  Not impressed? Wait, there’s more!: “Brace yourself! If we take in what the Holy Father is saying in his Theology of the Body, we will never view ourselves, view others, view the Church, the Sacraments, grace, God, heaven, marriage, the celibate vocation…we will never view the world the same way again.

Oh come off it, will you?

The brilliant David L. Schindler, for one, has had quite enough of West, who was one of his students ten years ago at the John Paul II Institute.  After the Nightline appearance, Schindler wrote a subdued and (in my view) overly respectful but devastating critique of West’s “work,” including this catalogue of some of the countless examples of his former pupil’s notorious gutter-mouth at work (which I have separated into bullet points for easy reading).  The following are not to seen by children:

·                     suggesting that a man and woman bless their genitals before making love;

·                     blessing the ovaries of women in his classes;

·                     advising young men in college and the seminary to look at their naked bodies in the mirror daily in order to overcome shame;

·                     using phallic symbolism to describe the Easter candle;

·                     criticizing “flat-chested” images of Mary in art while encouraging Catholics to “rediscover Mary’s … abundant breasts” (Crisis, March 2002);

·                     referring to the “bloodied membrane” of the placenta as a “tabernacle” (Colorado Catholic Herald, 12/22/06);

·                     stating that, while “there are some important health and aesthetic considerations that can’t be overlooked,” “there’s nothing inherently wrong with anal penetration as foreplay to normal intercourse,” (Good News About Sex and Marriage, 1st ed., emphasis in original), though qualifying this in the revised edition and stressing the subjective dangers of lust in such activity;

·                     and, on Nightline, praising Hugh Hefner for helping rescue sex from prudish Victorian attitudes, saying that there are “very profound historical connections between Hefner and John Paul II,” while emphasizing that John Paul II took the sexual revolution further and in the right direction.

Predictably enough, Janet Smith, the doyenne of neo-Catholicism, rushed to West’s defense against Schindler. “I want to add my voice to those who are enthusiastic about the West/Theology of the Body phenomenon,” she writes. In Neo-Catholic Land, you see, one must always applaud and defend the latest “phenomenon,” for phenomena and movements, rather than traditional Roman Catholic doctrine, dogma and liturgy, are what neo-Catholicism is all about—first and foremost the meta-phenomenon of Vatican II.

But what can one say in the face of the damning evidence Schindler presents?  One can only cavil about “context” and offer, as Smith does, the lame excuse that “it is important to keep in mind… who West’s audience is. It is largely the sexually wounded and confused who have been shaped by our promiscuous and licentious culture.”

Poppycock. Smith knows quite well that West is not speaking to little groups of sexually abused people in hushed tones in the privacy of their homes or in small meeting halls. He shoots his big mouth off and struts the stage in front of cameras and large audiences of well-adjusted Catholics, including parents who have had to flee the room in horror with their children. He plies his trade on his website, on EWTN, on YouTube, on network radio and television.  He wants the whole world to hear his “message,” and millions have.

Schindler, in a terribly difficult position because he is criticizing one of his own students, nevertheless has the integrity and the concern for souls to declare that West’s statements “indicate a disordered approach to human sexuality. An objective distortion in approaching sexuality does not cease to be such simply because it is theologized.”   Spot on.

The necessary implication of Schindler’s assessment is that West himself is inflicting a form of sexual abuse on his listeners.  And indeed he is. Running amuck with the all-but-impenetrable ambiguities of the original audience addresses, which he has no authority to interpret for anyone, West has turned the Pope’s “reflections” into the neo-Catholic novelty I explored in EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong: the “sexualization” of Roman Catholicism by elevating the physical aspect of marital relations to the level of a quasi-sacrament.

“Sex is holy,” West assures us, along with a host of neo-Catholic TOB apostles vying for the pulpit on EWTN and elsewhere. These include the equally foul-mouthed Gregory Popcak, whose work is heartily endorsed by West.  Popcak’s utterances have included the filthy and blasphemous suggestion on EWTN (“The Abundant Life,” broadcast of November 15, 2001) that married couples pray a “Lover’s Prayer,” in which they  “say something like ‘Lord, help me to kiss her with your lips. Help me to touch her with your hands and to love her with your undying passion….”

According to Popcak the answer to Deepak Chopra’s question “Does God have orgasms?” is “Absolutely yes. My own faith tradition teaches that God is a lover and that the cosmological orgasm physicists refer to as the Big Bang… is the model for human sexuality. Who wouldn’t give their eyeteeth for a night like that with their beloved?”

West gleefully offers the following disgusting endorsement of Popcak’s book “Holy Sex”:

Think of this book as Thomas Aquinas meets Dr. Ruth and enjoy…. Popcak goes right between the sheets, shall we say, providing a very frank, honest, and practical discussion of the sexual joys and challenges of the marriage bed…. Give Holy Sex a prayerful read and you will be on your way, as the good doctor puts it in classic Popcak-style, to “a toe-curling, eye-popping, mind blowing, deeply spiritual, and profoundly sacramental sexuality.”

“Dr. Ruth,” in case anyone doesn’t know, is Ruth Westheimer, the Jewish TV “sex therapist” whose presentations are so sexually explicit that not even West would dare quote them. Yet West is delighted by a book that (so he claims) somehow combines her obscene approach with the teaching of the Angelic Doctor.

At any rate, the Magisterium has used a number of terms to describe the sexual act, but “holy” has never been one of them. The physical act involved in reproduction (as distinguished from the soul infused at conception) can no more be holy than eating a good meal can be holy. Both are bodily goods, but goodness and holiness are two different things—a distinction that has been lost in the general conflation of grace and nature in post-conciliar thinking.

Further, the sexual act involves a dark mystery to which West is apparently oblivious. As Pope Pius XI observes in Casti Connubii, a classic statement of traditional Catholic teaching on human sexuality: “the very natural process of generating life has become the way of death by which original sin is passed on to posterity…” (Casti Connubii, n. 14).

The sexual act, while of course not evil in itself, is nevertheless by the divine command an instrument for the transmission of death itself and the corruption of human nature on account of Adam’s transgression, even though it also results in the creation of an immortal soul. Then, of course, the sexual act is fraught with our inherited concupiscence. Hence as John Paul II himself admitted in his audience address of October 10, 1980: “Man can commit this adultery in the heart also with regard to his own wife, if he treats her only as an object to satisfy instinct.”  (There is nothing new here, as the Church has always spoken of the right use of the marital privilege, and the avoidance of a lustful abuse of it.) For these reasons alone, any attempt to declare the sex act “holy” is offensive to pious ears at best.

And if “sex is holy” (as opposed to being a mere bodily good) why does the Catholic mind reel in horror at the thought of Our Lord or Our Lady engaging in even legitimate nuptial relations?  Why is the celibate state exemplified by Christ Himself and the very Mother of God higher than the married state according to Sacred Scripture and all of Tradition?  Why will there be no “holy sex” of any kind in heaven, if holy it is?  The answer is that the sexual act is a lowly and passing thing of this world to which a penalty must attach because of original sin, and that in the divine plan it will never be anything but an ephemeral aspect of earthly existence having no part whatsoever in the life eternal of the blessed.

But the answer to the problem of Christopher West is really much more basic than all this. Has our sensus catholicus been so dulled, our standard of decency so abased by forty years of novelty in the Church and depravity in the culture, that we cannot muster enough outrage to declare that someone who says the things that West says is simply a vulgar pig who should be silenced by ecclesiastical authority for the good of souls?

As for the “theology of the body,” I see no duty to pay it any mind in the absence of a binding Magisterial pronouncement on what, if any, binding doctrinal content is to be found in 129 talks filled with such tentative expressions as “It can be said,” “we can think,” “can convince us,” “seems to confirm this,” “it can be affirmed,” “it is admittedly not possible to amplify this implication too much,” and “we are trying to penetrate the specific meaning of these words and these chapters.”

As even TOB enthusiast George Weigel has written: “A small, even microscopic percentage of the world’s Catholics even know that a ‘theology of the body’ exists.  Why? The density of John Paul’s material is one factor; a secondary literature capable of ‘translating’ John Paul’s thought into more accessible categories and vocabulary is badly needed.”  (Witness to Hope, p. 343).

I rather doubt that theological truths of momentous importance for the Church and the world were left unspoken for nearly 2,000 years, only to emerge suddenly in “John Paul’s thought” by way of little-known addresses so “dense” they need to be “translated” by “secondary literature.” Yet the lay “translators” of TOB preposterously “interpret” a series of opaque commentaries as nothing less than the hope of the world in our time, the implication being—and this is classic neo-Catholicism—that the Church’s teaching on marriage and procreation before Vatican II was all pretty much worthless.

The Magisterium does not teach by “secondary literature” written by “translators.” It teaches by unequivocal pronouncements of Popes and Councils concerning what Catholics must believe. No such pronouncements have been forthcoming on this nebulous subject.

Much less does the Magisterium teach through the likes of Christopher West, the self-anointed lay prophet of a novel theology he seems to think is the Church’s only claim to credibility concerning marriage and procreation.  As one tribute to him explains:

Christopher West was not always a spokesperson for the teaching of the Pope and the Catholic Church…. A very passionate but not exactly chaste young man of 21, Christopher nearly left the Catholic Church because what he considered the repressed and antiquated teaching of the Church against contraception. But before checking out of the Church of his youth, West decided to allow the Church a chance to explain herself….  [H]e read Pope John Paul II’s  129 Wednesday audiences on the theology of the body.  “They changed the way I see the whole universe,” said West.  “I knew then that I would spend the rest of my life studying the pope’s theology of the body and making it accessible to others.”

We see here the essence of neo-Catholic arrogance and selective deference to the Church: the sadly deficient Church was given a chance to explain herself and—lo and behold!—the Church restored her claim to allegiance with the novel remarks of John Paul II, which this layman will now “make accessible” to the world.

And this from a man who finds deep meaning in rock music and the movie Spiderman III (which he admits has occupied his thoughts for several  years), publicly brags about his own rock drumming, and pounds his chest to the beat of a U2 song while belting out “DEE-SIIIII-RE!” to illustrate one of his excruciatingly sophomoric “theology” lectures.

In a video available on his website, West expresses sympathy for Katy Perry, the rock star whose lesbian-tinged hit “I Kissed a Girl” represents, according to him, an example of how rock music explores themes “from the depths of the human heart…” whereas “saccharine Christian music” is “afraid to go there.” West contends that because Perry was “raised in a Christian home” in a “repressive Christian atmosphere” in which “her parents forbade her to listen to anything but Christian music,” she just had to turn to rock and roll to express how “deeply wounded” she is. West admits he is “only guessing” about Perry’s “repressive” upbringing, but this does not prevent him from calumniating her parents on the World Wide Web.

To appreciate how “deeply wounded” poor Katy is, West suggests watching her video on YouTube in which she is “in bed with one guy, thinking about this other guy” or another video in which “she is cutting herself with this knife, blood is all over her cleavage.”  We must not condemn this sort of thing mindlessly, he insists, but rather try to understand its meaning concerning the wounding of Perry’s soul by her Puritanical upbringing. “I am sick and tired of this Puritanical BS that passes for Christianity!” he declares to his worldwide audience.

And this is the man who peddles the product called “John Paul II’s Theology of the Body”® to audiences filled with impressionable young Catholics. Have good Catholics completely lost their minds? Even if there were bona fide Catholic doctrine to be found in the “theology of the body,” could the situation in the Church have become so parlous that we would have to learn it from an oversexed man-child with a dirty mouth?

No matter what his intentions, Christopher West’s “mission” is but another sign of the apocalyptic decline of our time in the midst of the worst crisis in Church history. West deserves prayers for his conversion and repentance no less than the public condemnation his scandals require. And may God bless Dr. Schindler for having the courage to speak out against this wildly popular false prophet who was once his student.

A Young Lady Looks at Life – St. Thérèse of Lisieux

This site compiled this information.

Extracts taken from A biography of a Soul

Pride

There was another fault I had when wide awake, which Mama doesn’t mention in her letters, and this was an excessive self-love. I will give only two examples of this in order not to prolong the recital. One day, Mama said: “Little Therese, if you kiss the ground I’ll give you a sou.” A sou was a fortune at the time and to get it I didn’t have to lower my dignity too much, my little frame didn’t put much of a distance between my lips and the ground. And still my pride revolted at the thought of “kissing the ground”; so standing up straight, I said to Mama: “Oh! no, little Mother, I would prefer not to have the sou!”

Vanity

Another time we had to go to Grogny to Mme. Monnier’s home. Mama told Marie to dress me in my Sky-blue frock with the lace trimmings but not to leave my arms bare lest the Sun burn them. I allowed myself to be dressed with the indifference a child of my age should really have, but I thought within myself that I would look much more pretty with my arms bare.

Vigilance of Parents

With a nature such as my own, had I been reared by Parents without virtue or even if I had been spoiled by the maid, Louise, as Celine was, I would have become very bad and perhaps have even been lost.

Flattery

I was six or seven years old when Papa brought us to Trouville. Never will I forget the impression the sea made upon me; I couldn’t take my eyes off it since its majesty, the roaring of its waves, everything spoke to my soul of God’s grandeur and power. I recall during the walk on the seashore a man and a woman were looking at me as I ran ahead of Papa. They came and asked him if I were his little daughter and said I was a very pretty little girl. Papa said, “Yes,” but I noticed the sign he made to them not to pay me any compliments. It was the first time I’d heard it said I was pretty and this pleased me as I didn’t think I was. You always took great care, Mother, to allow me to come in contact with nothing that could destroy my innocence, and you saw it, too, that I heard nothing capable of giving rise to vanity in my heart. As I listened to what you and Marie said, and as you had never directed any compliments to me, I gave no great importance to the words or admiring glances of this woman.

The World and Worldliness

God gave me the grace of knowing the world just enough to despise it and separate myself from it. I can say it was during my stay at Alencon that I made my first entrance into the world. Everything was joy and happiness around me; I was entertained, coddled and admired; in a word, my life during those two weeks was strewn only with flowers. I must admit this type of life had its charms for me. Wisdom is right in saying: “The bewitching of vanity overturns the innocent mind!” At the age of ten the heart allows itself to be easily dazzled, and I consider it a great grace not to have remained at Alencon. The friends we had there were too worldly; they knew too well how to ally the joys of this earth to the service of God. They didn’t think about death enough, and yet death had paid its visit to a great number of those whom I knew, the young, the rich, the happy! I love to return in spirit to the enchanting places where they lived, wondering where these people are, what became of their houses and gardens where I saw them enjoy life’s luxuries? And I see that all is vanity and vexation of spirit under the sun, that the only good is to love God with all one’s heart and to be poor in spirit here on earth.

Flattery again

With my nose in the book, I heard everything that was said around me and even those things it would have been better for me not to hear because vanity slips so easily into the heart. One lady said I had pretty hair; another, when she was leaving, believing she was not overheard, asked who the very beautiful young girl was. These words, all the more flattering since they were not spoken in my presence, left in my soul a pleasurable impression that showed me clearly how much I was filled with self-love. Oh! how I pity souls that are lost! It is so easy to go astray on the flowery paths of the world. Undoubtedly, for a soul a little advanced spiritually, the sweetness which the world offers is mixed with bitterness, and the immense void of the desires cannot be filled by the praises of an instant. However, if my heart had not been raised to God from the dawn of reason, if the world had smiled on me from my entrance into life, what would have become of me? O my dear Mother, with what gratitude I sing the Mercies of the Lord! Did He not, according to the words of Wisdom: “…drawn me from the world before my spirit was corrupted by its malice and before its deceitful appearances had seduced my soul?” The Blessed Virgin, too, watched over her little flower and, not wanting her to be tarnished by contact with worldly things, drew her to her mountain before she blossomed.

Possessions and Worldly Honors

During the course of the whole trip, we were lodged in princely hotels; never had I been surrounded with so much luxury. There’s no mistake about it: riches don’t bring happiness, for I would have been much happier under that thatched roof with the hope of Carmel in the offing, than in the midst of these sumptuous dwellings, these marble staircases, and silk tapestries, and all the while bitterness in my heart! Ah! I really felt it: joy isn’t found in the material objects surrounding us but in the inner recesses of the soul. One can possess joy in a prison cell as well as in a palace. The proof of this: I am happier in Carmel even in the midst of interior and exterior trials than in the world surrounded by the comforts of life, and even the sweetness of the paternal hearth!

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DECENCY and MODESTY PASTORAL LETTER OF HIS EXCELLENCY THE MOST REVEREND ALBERT G. MEYER, S.T.D., S.S.L. ARCHBISHOP OF MILWAUKEE May 1, 1956

DECENCY
and MODESTY
A PASTORAL LETTER OF
HIS EXCELLENCY THE MOST REVEREND
ALBERT G. MEYER, S.T.D., S.S.L.
ARCHBISHOP OF MILWAUKEE

May 1, 1956



To THE CLERGY, RELIGIOUS, AND FAITHFUL LAITY OF THE
ARCHDIOCESE OF MILWAUKEE: GREETINGS AND BLESSING!
Dearly Beloved in Christ:
I. INTRODUCTION – SUBJECT MATTER OF Tars PASTORAL

  1. In the discharge of his pastoral office, a Bishop frequently
    remembers the solemn words which he heard chanted in the rite
    of his consecration as a Bishop: “Let him not put light for darkness,
    nor darkness for light; let him not call evil good, nor good evil.”
    In the desire to fulfill the charge given to us as your pastor, whose
    duty it is to protect his flock against the enemy (cf. Jn. 10:11-13),
    and as an appointed watchman of God, who must speak out m
    clear and explicit warnings, lest the sins of those who err be charged
    to his account (cf. Ezech. 33:8-9), we have decided to address
    this letter to you, on the occasion of the annual convention of our
    Chnstian Mothers’ Confratermty. In this letter, it is our thought
    to consider the general subject of Decency which has been a part
    of the special apostolate of this Confraternity. We wish to treat
    this subject only in several of the more obvious areas of everyday
    life, leavmg to future pastoral letters the further development of other
    topics which come under the general subject matter.
    a) Statements of Our Holy Father
  2. We are impelled to do this as we recall some of the recent
    forceful statements of our Holy Father, the Chief Shepherd and
    Teacher of the Church, particularly a special letter which he com-
    manded to be wnttcn 011 th1~ subject through the Sacred Congregation of the C ouncrl, under date of August 15, 1954 In this letter,
    the Cardmal Prefect of the Congregation, wntmg m the name of the
    Sovereign Pontiff, solemnly charged the Bishops of the world “by all
    means to consider the matter carefully, and to take under your care
    and promote with all your power everythmg which has to do wit~
    the protection of modesty and the furtherance of Chnstian morals.
    This solemn charge was in keeping with the whole purpose of
    the Marian Year of 1954, which was intended “not only to serve
    to revive Catholic Faith and earnest devotion to the Mother of
    God in the souls of all, but also . . . that each one of us ~hould
    according to his condition in life, avail of it for the acquisition of
    virtue. (For), the commemoration of the mystery of the Most Holy
    Virgin conceived immaculate and immune from all stam of ongmal
    sin, should, in the first place, urge us to that inn?cence and mte~tr,
    of life which flees from and abhors even the slightest stam of sm
    (Fulgens Corona, September 8, 1953).
    In the course of that Manan Year of 1954, our Holy Father referred
    many times to this important crusade for the revival and flowermg
    of Christian morals. Moreover, he did not confine l11S statements to
    general exhortations, but specifically pointed to practical areas of
    everyday life, where the application of Christian principles especially
    needs to be made.
    Thus, for example, wnting on January l, 1954, in a letter to the
    Bishops of Italy, on the general subject of television, h<;, called
    attention to the fact that this marvel of our modern day is very
    intimately bound up with the education of ~o~t~ and even the
    sanctity of the home.” Without in any way rnmmuzmg the actual,
    or, even more so, the potential good of television, th~ Holy Father
    warns nevertheless that there is much that it is failing to do. He
    savs therefore that “We cannot fail to proclaim to all who have
    a;y’ position ~f responsibility in television that _the1~ duties and
    responsibilities are most grave before God and s_oc1ety … There rests
    upon public authorities, the Holy Father continues, the duty. of
    taking every precaution that the air of punty and reserve which
    should pervade the home be m no way offended or disturbed.”
    In connection with television, he mentions that he has constantly
    in mmd “the painful spectacle of the power for evil and moral ruin
    of cinema films.” He is “horrified at the thought that the poisoned
    atmosphere of materialism, of frivolity, of hedonism, can by means
    of television be brought into the very sanctuary of the home.”
    Television, he says, requires a greater vigilance for secunng telecasts
    2
    unobjectionable from the moral point of view than is required for
    pubhc entertamment, precisely because this modern invention “penetrates the sanctuary of the family.” Here, in the bosom of the family,
    higher values are at stake “than the pretended nghts of absolute
    freedom of art, or of havmg recourse to the pretext of freedom of
    information and of thought.”
    Agam, m a notable address to the Swiss National Catholic Convention (May 16, 1954), our Holy Father spoke of the great dangers
    of matenalism. Among other thmgs he said: “Material progress
    through research and the exploitation of natural forces contmues
    its unceasing advance. The Church approves of this advance, even
    in regard to its principles. But, she adds an urgent warning concernmg it: When matenal progress is not counterbalanced by powerful
    religious and moral forces, rt nsks becommg the cancer of human
    society.”
    The Marian Year, our Holy Father further stated in the same
    address, was mtended to help strengthen our faith “as a dam against
    the rismg tide of materialism.” This materialism he defined as “the
    process of the secularization of all life.” He stated that “it is
    spreading in the spiritual and religious domain. The idea of God,
    respect for and fear of God are more and more being banished from
    public life, from the family, and, almost mevitably, therefore, from
    the hfe of the individual as well. THE PROCESS IS ALREADY
    FAR ADVANCED.”
    Hence, there falls upon us the duty of confronting this evil “by
    our prayers, our love for Chnst, our struggle against sin, and for
    purity of soul in every sense, by all those supreme values of the
    religious life and the things which are its fruit, and by our public
    enlistment in the cause of God, of Christ, and of His Church …
    In the fight against materialism the watchword must be, ‘Let us
    return to the Christianity of early days.’ This is especially applicable
    now. The Chnstians of those early times were confronted by a
    pagan and materialist culture, which reigned as mistress. They dared
    to attack it and, finally, to overcome it, thanks to their stubborn
    tenacity and by means of heavy sacrifices. IMITATE THEM!”
  3. Most pertinent to our present letter is the point frequently
    made by our Holy Father that the spread of so much immorality
    is due not to the lack of regulations, but “to the lack of reaction or
    the weakness of reaction of good people, who have not known how
    to make timely denunciations of violations against the public laws
    of morality.”
    This lack of the proper kind of public reaction is referred to agam
    3
    m the letter of August 15, 1954, and applied specifically to the matter
    of dress: “A” all can easily see, the current mode of dress among
    women and especially among girls ( during the summer months
    particularly) constitutes a senous offense against decency.” Because
    he is convinced of the intimate relationship between the decent
    and the modest, and between the modest and the chaste, the Holy
    Father exhorts: “Therefore, it is altogether imperative to admonish
    and exhort, m whatever way seems most apt, people of all stations,
    but particularly youth, to avoid the dangers of this kind of vice,
    which is so directly opposed and potentially so hazardous to Christian and civic virtue.”
    Hence, the Jetter continues: “It is the earnest desire of the
    August Pontiff that this cause be taken up enthusiastically. He desires
    that bishops m particular leave no stone unturned which can help
    remedy the situation; and that with their counsel and leadership the
    rest of the clergy work prudently, assiduously, and earnestly within
    their own jurisdiction, toward the happy attainment of this goal.”
    Further, “he wishes fathers and mothers of families to remove
    their children from these dangers, first by their own example, and
    then also by timely admonitions which come from a stern firmness of
    spirit as befits Christians; and that they never be satisfied until they
    see the faces of their children shine with the splendor of modesty.”
    As may be seen, the language of this letter constitutes a real
    challenge. It is directed to us in the form of an “imperative,” to
    “people of all stations,” to the Bishops and Clergy, to fathers and
    mothers of families. It is a cause to be taken up “enthusiastically,”
    in which “we leave no stone unturned which can help to remedy
    the situation.”
    b) Our Own Former Statements
  4. In keeping, therefore, with this and other repeated exhortations
    of our Holy Father, we have wished in vanous ways to fulfill our
    duty, and to bring this subject to your attention, either directly
    or indirectly.
    Thus, for example, toward the beginning of the Mauan Year, we
    addressed a pastoral letter under date of February 5, 1954, on the
    g~neral subject of modesty. At that time we wished particularly to
    give encouragement to the program of the Legion of Decency, and
    to the work which the vanous organizations of our Archdiocese were
    doing to promote the ideals of Chnstian modesty in the movies, in
    4
    literature, and in dress. Also, we called especially upon our fathers
    and mothers to defend the castles of their homes against the inroads
    of pagan standards of morality.
    Annually, we have exhorted you to take the pledge of the Legion
    of Decency, . in the full r~lization of the meaning of this pledge.
    We have tried to make it clear that decency involves more than
    motion pictures; that it extends to the whole realm of living. We
    have stressed the truth that decency in a special way is involved
    ~th public morality, and with the creation of strong public opinion
    m favor of. the moral orde~. Hence, we have insisted that the Pledge
    of the Legion of Decency is a call to crusade for decency in all walks
    of life, not merely in the field of motior pictures, but also in all
    related fields of public communications and public living. There is
    need today, we stressed, to apply the spirit of the Pledge to the
    matter of dress, of reading material, of radio and television and of
    company-keeping. ‘
    To. further implement these exhortations concerning the true
    me~ung of the Pledge, we have organized a special Archdiocesan
    Legion of Decency, which is intended to exert its influence and
    extend its help through other existing organizations of our men
    and women. Thus we have endeavored to give more practical direction and efficacy to the general crusade for decency.
    Again, ~ few months ago, we addressed a pastoral letter to you
    on the subject of the Catholic Family, in which we appealed, through
    the Holy Name Society, and especially to fathers of families to lead
    the way within the bosom of their own families for this much
    needed crusade on behalf of decency. We begged you to make the
    home a tr~~ sanctuary, so t~at those who live in it “will be guided
    by th~ spmt of reverence, m the decorations which hang on the
    walls, m the dress which is worn, in the magazines and papers which
    are read, in the words which are spoken, in the company which is
    kept, and in the manner itself of company-keeping.”
    . In_ our ~ent~n Pastoral of this year, we spoke at length upon the
    dignity which 1s conferred upon us by our Baptism, and we appealed
    to you to remember this dignity as Baptized Children of God:
    “P aren t s an d e d ucators, ” we state d , ” are urged to develop in children a profound sense of their dignity as children of God, and to
    teach them to recognize this dignity in others. Thus our children
    ~il! _develo~ tha~ sense of personal conscience and individual responsibility which is the fundamental solution to the problem of
    juvenile delinquency.”
  5. Because this subject is from many different viewpoints so con5
    tmuously urgent, we have wished to seize the occasion of this annual
    meeting of the Archdiocesan Confraternity of Chnstian Mothers to
    speak to you, and especially to the mothers of our families, about it.
    This meeting is being held close to the Sunday which our nation
    has set aside to honor our human mothers. In the words of a former
    president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, “the mother is
    the one supreme asset of national life, she is more important by far
    than the successful statesman or businessman or artist or scientist.
    In other words, we cannot as a nation get along at all 1£ we haven’t
    the right kind of home life. Such a hfe rs not only the supreme
    duty; but also the supreme reward of duty.”
    More sigmficant even than these considerations for us is the fact
    that this meeting is held in the month of May dedicated to our
    Blessed Mother. As Catholics we believe that Jesus is the Son of
    God, Who willed to receive His own true membership in the human
    family through Mary, and Who also willed to confide to her
    maternal protection the whole human race in the person of John,
    when He said: “Behold thy mother.” We tum, therefore, to Mary
    in our modem days of crisis and penl, and call upon her to save us
    from ourselves. We ask her to bless us in our efforts to contribute
    toward the solution of the moral crisis as it affects our own mdividual lrves, and those of our family and our community.
    II. THE PROBLEM
  6. One phase of this problem in the moral cnsis was described
    in the letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Council of August
    15, 1954, and referred to above 111 our letter. “Everyone knows,”
    this letter states, “that durmg the summer months particularly, thmgs
    are seen here and there which are certain to prove offensive to
    anyone who has retained some respect and regard for Chnstian
    virtue and human modesty. On the beaches, in summer resorts,
    almost everywhere, on the streets of cities and towns, in private and
    public places, and, indeed, often even 111 buildings dedicated to
    God, an unworthy and indecent mode of dress has prevailed …. Add
    to this fact that newspapers, magazmes and every kmd of pubhcation
    bla~ntly p_ublicize all the evil happenings m public and pnvate life.
    Motion pictures, also well attended as they are, present their
    attractions in such glowing light that not only weak and unwary
    youth but even the adult is swayed by their evil allurements.”
    6
  7. This problem is referred to from another viewpoint in the
    annual statement of the American Bishops of 1953, on the general
    subject of the Dignity of Man, in the following words: “Heedless
    that his nature has God for its origin and destiny, and reason and
    revelation for its divinely commissioned guide, man will do what
    no other creature can – he will deny his true nature and will destroy
    all that is good within himself. Such a process of degradation is
    viciously at work in our own country, where the deification of the
    flesh continues to enlist new devotees. Through its liturgy of advertisement, entertainment and literature, this cult bids fair to corrode
    our national sense of decency. . .. The Catholic Church has never
    failed to accord the human body an immense measure of honor.
    She affirms that it was originally created by God; in one instance
    actually assumed by Him; in every instance meant to be on earth
    His special temple, and destined eventually to rejoin the soul in
    His Beatific Presence. Whatever is uncompromising in her teaching
    about the body stems from her realism on two points: The body,
    though good, is not the highest good; and the undisciplined body
    is notoriously bad.”
    a) Concern for the Problem
  8. This is a problem, then, which concerns the individual, the
    family, and society at large. Chastity, and the means of preserving
    it, have a tremendously important bearing on the family, on the
    eternal and temporal happiness of every individual, and indeed on
    the welfare of society at large.
    History is replete with the story of nations that once were great
    and that collapsed because the morals of the race ceased to control
    the lives of the people. The poet of ancient pagan Rome wrote:
    “Vice necessarily follows upon public nudity,” while its great
    orator, Cicero, lamented the decadence of civic virtue precisely
    because “we see too often those who are stripped of shame and
    who are past all hope of reformation.”
  9. We do not mean to imply that others, outside the Church,
    are not also concerned about chastity, as well as the defensive virtues
    of decency and modesty. They are, even though their concern may
    not stem from the same motivation which impels us. A government
    report has this to state: “Pornography is big business. The extent to
    which the profit motive has brushed aside all generally accepted
    standards of decency and good taste and substituted inferior moral
    7
    standards, has become not only a national disgrace but a menace
    to our civic – elfare as well.”
    This report stems from the criterion of decency and good taste,
    and is based on sound mterest and responsibility for the good name
    cf our nation and the civic welfare of our people. As Christians
    and Catholics, however, we must proceed from a higher standard,
    and a more powerful motive. We proceed from the recognition of
    sin as a violation of the law of God, and we are motivated by the
    eternal salvation of souls; it is the welfare of souls, whom we wish
    to save from hell, that is at stake.
    There rs indeed much discussion of the topic of chastity in our
    secular magazines, but generally only to the extent that the spectacularly tragic forms of unchastity are highlighted, while little or no
    interest is shown in the virtue itself. The attitude of the world
    seems to be that if only we could do away with such things as
    juvenile delinquency in its external forms, unmarried motherhood,
    venereal disease, ugly degeneracy and rape, there would be no problem of unchastity left at all. As a matter of fact, many in the world
    have adopted and promote certain forms of unchastity, such as
    contraception and multiple successive marriages, not to mention the
    crime of abortion, without recognizing the inevitable connection
    between these things and the breakdown of chastity all along the
    line. In some of the very magazines and newspapers that carry
    articles deploring sex delinquency, there will often be found inflammatory incentives to lust in the form of seminude and suggestive
    pictures, or advertisements for the movies, or cartoons with suggestive dialogues, or even news stories with suggestive overtones.
    Even, at times, feature stories, highlighted by perfectly proper
    pictures, will suggest, with amusing ( to them) toleration or approval
    for public consumption, the bawdy attitude of the peek show or the
    burlesque performance – something which no self-respecting newspaper or magazine would have dared to do in former years when
    a less secularistie way of life prevailed. Such papers lead their readers
    to the doorstep of impurity and unchastity through these stones,
    pictures, cartoons, and advertisements, and then bewail the fact
    that so many of them step across the threshold.
  10. Others show their concern for and recognition of the problem
    by advoca!ing an indiscriminate dissemination of knowledge, in the
    thought that knowledge alone will solve the problem. Surely, it is
    most important that our growing youth be properly instructed. All
    solid moral guidance is based upon adequate instruction. This is
    basic for the practice of the faith in general, and specifically for
    8
    the practice of the virtues under consideration in this letter.
    Nevertheless, we wish to seize this opportunity of calling attention
    to a fatal trend of our times which takes prerogatives that belong
    essentially to the family out of the home, and invests them in the
    State or an agency of the State. Here we would like to remind our
    people of the statement of the American Bishops in their pastoral
    letter of 1950: “We protest in strongest possible terms against the
    introduction of sex instruction into the schools. To be of benefit
    such instruction must be far broader than the imparting of information, and must be given individually. Sex rs more than a biological
    function. It is bound up with the sacredness and uniqueness of
    human personality. It can be fully and properly appreciated only
    within a religious and moral context. If treated otherwise, the child
    will see it apart from the controlling purpose of his life, which is
    the service to God.”
    This statement is not to be construed to mean that educators have
    no function whatsoever along these lines. Carrying through with the
    basic concept of the school as an extension of the home, we do
    recognize also in this field a place for the educator to assist the
    parent. But the obligation rests primarily with the parent; and
    education in these matters must always be within the religious and
    moral context which the home should give to it. That the Church
    is not opposed to the proper kind of instruction in these matters
    should be clear from this one quotation from our Holy Father:
    “Modesty will suggest and provide suitable words for parents and
    educators by which the youthful conscience will be formed in matters
    of chastity. ‘Wherefore,’ we said in a recent address, ‘this modesty
    is not to be so understood as to be equivalent to a perpetual silence
    on this subject, nor as allowing no place for sober and cautious
    discussion about these matters in imparting moral instruction.’ In
    modern times, however, there are some teachers and educators who
    too frequently think it their duty to initiate innocent boys and girls
    into the secrets of human generation in such a way as to offend their
    sense of shame. But in this matter a just temperance and moderation
    must be used, as Christian modesty demands” (Encyclical on Holy
    Virginity, March 25, 1954).
    b) Challenge and Opportunity for Our People
  11. In confronting the problem, in the dimensions outlined in
    our present letter, we do so primarily for the guidance of our own
    9
    people, through an appeal particularly to our Christian Mothers.
    We are realistic enough to recognize that the simple writmg of a
    letter of this kmd is not gomg to change over those whose view of
    hfe sharply disagrees with our own. We think, however, that it is
    important to point out the truth that our society has become secularistic and materialistic to a degree that many of us have failed
    to recogmze. In the words of Pope Pius XII, quoted above, “the
    process is already far advanced.”
    Therefore, we address this letter primarily to om own people.
    We Catholics constitute a minority group m the general society m
    which we live and move This fact places before us both a challenge
    and an opportumty. In many ways, it is not unlike the situation
    which faced the early Christians.
    The challenge may be expressed in these words of our Holy
    Father: “The civilization of the Western people cannot sink into
    a materialism which, at least implicitly, finds its ideal in the enjoyment of the comforts of life. On the contrary, it must dedicate
    itself to liberatmg those spiritual values which are so bitterly opposed
    in many modem institutions” (September 18, 1955).
    This challenge must be met by a willmgness on our part to be
    different. We cannot compromise our traditional Catholic moral
    and cultural values, but rather we must bring these values to bear
    on public and private life, and must defend them as modem witnesses (martyrs) to Christ, Again, to quote our Holy Father: “If
    it is more than evident that evil tendencies and the forces of
    degradation and destruction are unceasingly attacking the hearts of
    individuals and the collective conscience of nations, is it not necessary to work at all levels of the social structure – the family, places
    of employment and amusement, political and cultural organizations
  • to eliminate demoralizing factors and all that keeps egoism alive
    and encourages a spmt of pleasure or power? Certainly, men are
    not lacking who are eager to meet the demands of their consciences” (ibid.).
    Hence we are pleased to encourage our Christian Mothers to
    recall here the challenging statement found in the resolutions drawn
    up by the National Council of Catholic Women at the close of
    their 1952 convention:
    “Offenses against decency are not only the cause of personal offense
    to women but give them serious concern for the welfare of their
    loved ones and their fellowmen. Not overlooking the praiseworthy
    exceptions, for which we are profoundly grateful, we are confronted
    on all sides, in newspapers, magazines, in every type of advertising
    10
    media and displays, in all fields of entertainment, including radio
    and television, in beauty contests, and elsewhere, with constant
    affronts to public decency and good taste.
    “This can only result, and has already resulted, in the lowering of
    ideals of modesty and decorum, assaults on purity and chastity,
    the degradation of womanhood, evil consequences for the sanctity
    of married life, stimulation of unworthy thoughts and desires, morbid
    emphasis on sex, with consequent corrupting influences on youth –
    and especially on the youth in the Armed Forces – an increase of
    sex crimes among adolescents, whose moral stamina has been undermined by constant pictorial assaults, scandal to the people of other
    countries, who obtain an entirely false impression of the American
    way of life, and the exploitation by communists of such pictures in
    their propaganda against the United States.
    “As individuals and organizations of Catholic women, we here
    express our determination to put a stop to the irresponsible or
    deliberately-evil flood that has had these alarming consequences.
    We are happy to acknowledge not only the concern of Catholics,
    but also of other men and women in private and in public life
    who have the discernment to see the extremely serious harm that
    is the result.
    “We pledge full support of corrective action programs that are
    suggested by the National Council, and assume individual responsibility for doing everything possible to restore decent standards
    where they have become debased.
    “Producers, publishers and distributors have a real and definite
    obligation to the nation that has made possible the opportunities
    that are theirs. If they make financial advantage their main end, they
    are unworthy of this great nation. If they cannot see higher considerations in these critical times, then at least they should open
    their eyes to what is at stake: Life in the fulness of moral integrity
    and responsible freedom, or slavery under a despotic state which
    forces all men and all media to serve its ends.”
  1. We appeal, then, to our people to be, both through word
    and through example, a leaven in the modem world. It is up to
    us to prove ourselves useful for the spiritual and moral progress
    of the environment in which we live. In the specific matter under
    consideration in this pastoral letter, this challenge and this opportunity will prompt us to proclaim in every possible way the truth
    of the Christian virtue of purity and chastity, and the beauty of
    the Christian virtue of modesty and decency. “Thus may we hope
    to see emerging more clearly the true countenance of man, master
    11
    not only of things but above all of himself and aware of his transcendent destiny, individual and social, as well as his responsibilities
    as a creature made in God’s image” (Pius XII, September 18, 1955).
    Thus may we show to all the world our complete acceptance of the
    teaching of St. Paul, that “the body is not for immorality, but for
    the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13).
    m. THE VmTUE oF CHAsTITY
  2. We cannot, Dearly Beloved, write intelligently about the
    virtue of modesty, unless we emphasize first of all in strong and
    clear terms the universal importance of chastity. For, modesty, by
    its very definition, is looked upon as the shield and safeguard of
    chastity. The breakdown in modesty is due fundamentally to a disregard of the virtue of chastity as a necessary virtue for all, in all
    the circumstances of life.
    The only right approach, therefore, to modesty is through a
    reaffirmation and a re-emphasizing of the universal importance of
    chastity, not merely for the sake of preventing sex crimes and
    tragedies, but for the eternal and temporal happiness of every
    immortal soul.
    Hence, we would like to explain briefly three incontrovertible
    teachings of our holy Faith, which impose a corresponding threefold
    obligation upon us.
    a) Teaching of Our Faith
  3. The first teaching of our Faith is that the law of chastity is
    imposed on every human being. It binds him in public and in
    private, in marriage and outside of marriage, in youth and in old
    age. It is one of the serious laws that God has made, which means
    that it is one on which the salvation of our soul depends.
    It is quite obvious that this law of chastity forbids the evil deed
    and the evil word. St. Paul says: “Do you not know that neither
    fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor
    sodomites will possess the kingdom of God?” ( 1 Cor. 6:9-10.)
    And again: “But immorality and every uncleanness, let it not even
    be named among you” (Eph. 5:3).
    12
    However, it is most important to remember that the same law of
    chastity equally forbids the unchaste thought and the unchaste
    desire. The words of Christ in this regard are crystal clear: “I say
    to you that anyone who even looks with lust at a woman has already
    committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt. 5 :28).
    Unchastity, therefore, in thought and desire, as well as in word
    and in deed, is a serious violation of God’s law, and a transgression
    of the right order of nature, established by God Himself. Unchastity
    is seriously wrong precisely and primarily because it transgresses the
    law of God. The evil effects of unchastity, remote or proximate,
    private or public, spectacular or ordinary, merely confirm that it is
    a serious violation of God’s law. Whether these evil effects follow
    or not, the important point is that unchastity is a serious violation
    of God’s law.
    Moreover, the external act, which seems to be the sole concern
    of the world, when it is concerned at all, is merely the fruit of the
    internal thought and desire. It is this internal thought and desire
    which is the source of the external act: “Out of the heart come
    evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, immorality, thefts, false witness,
    blasphemies” (Mt. 15: 19).
  4. The second teaching of our Faith which we ask you to recall
    here is the doctrine of original sin. Every human being, except the
    Immaculate Mother of God, has through original sin inherited a
    tainted nature, which manifests itself more intensively perhaps in
    inclinations to unchastity than in any other way. The resulting
    battle with concupiscence is not limited to a given age or state of
    life; it must be waged by all and at all times.
    It is fashionable to deny original sin. But to the Catholic, the
    doctrine of original sin is fundamental for the true understanding
    of the whole economy of grace and salvation. The denial of original
    sin ultimately leads to a denial of Christ and the purpose of His
    Incarnation and Redemption. The denial of original sin leads to a
    completely false appraisal of the meaning of life. Such a tragic denial,
    for example, underlies much of the theory of some progressive
    educators. And such a tragic denial is implicit in much of the
    ostrichlike approach to the very real connection between modesty
    and chastity, between unchaste thoughts and unchaste deeds, between
    the unchaste picture or book or dress or film and these unchaste
    thoughts, desires, and deeds.
    It is the teaching of our Faith that through original sin man’s
    nature has been wounded, although not totally corrupted. The wound
    in our nature is universally experienced through the struggle which
    13
    we have to control our imagination and our passions. Imagination
    by itself, we know, is Simply a picture-making power. It certamly
    is of real use to the intellect of man, but because of original sin it
    plays a part in the mind’s affairs totally out of proportion to its
    ments, and has passed far beyond the condition of a useful servant.
    Hence, to feed the imagination with all sorts of pictures which
    serve to excite the passions in man’s bodily nature is obviously
    against God’s plans and God’s will. Such pictures tend to make
    the passions rebel against the control of the intellect and will, and
    to draw the will itself away from conformity to God’s will. That is
    sin. Original sin and its consequences in our fallen nature impose
    upon us the obligation of keeping the imagmation in proper subordination to the intellect and the will.
  5. The third teachmg of our holy Faith is that this weakness
    of human nature, which is the result of original sin, can be met only
    by following the natural counsels of prudence and right reason, and
    by using the plentiful means of supernatural graces that have been
    provided for us by our Divine Savior. The world uses neither.
    Prudence tells us that we must reasonably avoid whatever tends
    to make the imaginauon rebellious to the intellect and will, and to
    draw both of these away from God. Prudence is a dictate of the
    natural law. Prudence sees the intimate and necessary connection
    between the thought and the deed, between the sensory impression
    of the imagination and the thought and desire. The prudence,
    therefore, which sees that the virtue of chastity is a desirable and
    necessary good, also sees that certain things must be avoided to
    assist the will in the pursuit of that good. The world does not use
    prudence in the matter of chastity, because, instead of avoiding, it
    provides a constant flow of incentives to lust, completely heedless
    of the intimate and necessary connection between modesty and
    chastity, and indeed often denying the sin of unchastity itself.
    Emphasizing the dictates of prudence, Christ requires that we
    also have recourse to both natural and supernatural means. How
    forceful are those warning words: “If thy hand or thy foot is an occasion of sin to thee, cut it off and cast it from thee! It is better for
    thee to enter life maimed or lame, than, having two hands or two
    feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if thy eye is an occasion
    of sin to thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee! It is better to enter
    into life with one eve, than, having two eyes, to be cast into the hell
    of fire” (Mt. 18:8–9).
    The world does not heed this admonition of Christ because it
    denies the reality of the sin of scandal, and because it ignores or
    14
    despises !he supernatural means for preserving chastity, and the
    helps which come through the sacraments and prayer.
    b) Our Obligations
  6. These three incontrovertible facts of our holy Faith point to
    a threefold obligation on our part. First, to love chastity for itself
    as bi~ding on all of us in all the public and private relationships of
    our lives, as necessary for the salvation of our immortal souls. Second,
    to use prudence and common sense to protect it. Third, to use the
    sup~rnatural means of prayer and the sacraments to preserve chastity.
    Listen to these words of our Holy Father in this regard: “It is
    abundantly clear that with this warning [quoted above from Mt.
    18:8-9], our Divine Savior demands of us above all that we never
    consent to any sin, even internally, and that we steadfastly remove
    far from us anything that can even slightly tarnish the beautiful
    v~rtue of purity. In this matter no diligence, no severity can be considered exaggerated …. Flight and alert vigilance, by which we
    carefully avoid the occasions of sin, have always been considered
    by holy men and women as the most effective method of combat in
    this matter. ~o.day, however, it does not seem that everybody holds
    the same op1mon. . . . Moreover, to preserve chastity unstained
    neither vigilance nor modesty suffice. Those helps must also be
    used which entirely surpass the powers of nature, namely prayer to
    God, the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist, a fervent devotion to the most Holy Mother of God” (Encyclical Letter on Sacred
    Virginity, March 25, 1954).
    IV. THE VIRTUE OF MODESTY
  7. This brings us to a consideration of the virtue of modesty in
    the general scheme of virtues, and more especially as it relates to
    the virtue of chastity.
    The virtue of modesty, in general, may be described as that virtue
    which prompts us to be decorous, proper, and reserved, in the way
    we ~ress, sta~d, . walk, sit – in general in the way we behave
    exteriorly. This virtue of modesty bears a relation to other virtues
    besi~es that of chastity, especially to the virtue of humility. In a
    special manner, however, the virtue of modesty is particularly
    15
    regarded as tb guardian of chastity in thou~ht, word, and action.
    St. Thomas says that it is the virtue by which we nghtiy regulate
    our conduct in respect to those things that can lead to impure
    thoughts, desires, and actions, in ourselves and in others. He says
    that, while chastity deals with the regulation of difficult thin~s,
    powerful passions and strong desires for pleasure, modesty deals ~1th
    the regulation of easy things, the remote and proximate occasions
    and conditions that lead to unholy desires. Thus we see that modesty
    is a virtue allied to the virtue of temperance, or the general habit
    of self-restraint.
    It is this virtue of modesty, in its relation to chastity, which
    prompted the Holy Father to address himself to the Bishops of
    the world, through the Sacred Congregation of the Council, and to
    remind them that “it is altogether imperative to admonish and
    exhort, in whatever ways seem most apt, people of all stations, but
    particularly youth, to avoid the dangers of this kind of vice which
    is so directly opposed and potentially so hazardous to Christian
    and civic virtue. ‘How beautiful then is modesty and what a gem
    among virtues it is!’ Therefore, let it not be offended or violated
    by the easy allurements and attractions of vices which arise from
    that manner of dressing and from other actions what we have
    mentioned above and which decent people can but lament.” Again,
    in his encyclical letter on Holy Virginity, our Holy Father writes
    about modesty: “Educators of the young would render a more valuable and useful service, if they would inculcate in youthful minds
    the precepts of Christian modesty, which is so important for the
    preservation of perfect chastity, and which is truly called the
    prudence of chastity. For, modesty foresees threatening danger,
    forbids us to expose ourselves to risks, demands the avoidance of
    those occasions which the imprudent do not shun. It does not like
    impure or loose talk, it shrinks from the slightest immodesty, it
    carefully avoids suspect familiarity with persons of the other sex.
    … He who possesses the treasure of Christian modesty abominates
    every sin of impurity and instantly flees whenever he is tempted by
    its seductions.”
    Now, there are three areas of human life in which modesty particularly must exercise its influence on those who would be chaste
    and to help others preserve this virtue: in dress, in deportment, in
    the pnnted and pictured word. We would like to discuss these three
    points with you.
    16
    V. MODESTY AND CLOTHES
  8. The first of these areas is in regard to dress and clothing. It is
    this matter which was specifically treated in the letter of our Holy
    Father referred to immediately above. It is not our purpose in this
    letter to give you an essay on clothing. Clothing unquestionably
    serves other purposes besides modesty, especially protection and
    adornment: “Clothing in addition to its obvious utilitarian aspect,
    has a truly esthetic character, visibly and in a permanent way
    expressing the position of a person” (Pius XII, Address to Tailors,
    September 10, 1954).
    Nevertheless, our Holy Father deplores “the materialistic spint
    that inspires so great a part of today’s civilization, which has not
    spared the field of fashion …. Instead of ennobling the human
    person, clothing sometimes tends to degrade and debase it” (ibid.).
    Indeed, the Pope does not hesitate to write through the Prefect
    of the Sacred Congregation of the Council: “Yet as all can easily see,
    the current mode of dress among women and especially among girls
    constitutes a serious offense against decency, and ‘decency is the
    companion of modesty, in whose company chastity herself is safer.’
    Feminine adornment, if it can be called adornment, femmine
    clothing, if that can be called clothing which contains nothing to
    protect either the body or modesty, are at times of such a nature
    that seem to serve lewdness rather than modesty.”
    a) Two Principles
    ~- With regard to clothing, modesty requires especially two
    thmgs: first, care that one does not make chastity difficult for
    oneself, or for others, by one’s own mode of dress; and, second,
    a prudent but firm and courageous resistance to the styles and
    customs, no matter how popular or widespread, or adopted by
    others, which are a danger to chastity.
    In setting down these two general principles, there is no thought
    on our part to attempt to define details. In general, that form of
    dress may be said to be immodest which serves to arouse the lust of
    men, or which serves as a scandal, that is, a stumbling block, to the
    practice of virtue. With an honest respect for the innate sense of
    shame with which every human being is endowed, and with
    17
    ordinary knowledge of human nature tainted. by the 7
    ffects of
    original sin, one can wrth fair accuracy determme what is modest
    and what is nnmodest in given circumstances. Unquestionably,
    custom does help to establish some norms which can be safely
    followed up to a certain point. .
    It is here especially that our young people need to be guided
    by their elders, especially their mothers, and the mothers themselves
    need to remember that custom and style and fashion do not justify
    everything. Listen to these pointed words of the Holy Fath~r:
    “How many young girls there are who do not see any wrongdomg
    in following certain shameless styles like so many sheep. They
    certainly would blush if they could guess the impression they make
    and the feelmgs they evoke in those who see them” (July 17, 1954,
    Discourse to Children of Mary).
    Here, then, is also a call to parents to lead the way m en~ouraging
    their growing children not to make any compromise with immodest
    beach and summer wear, no matter how many thousands make use
    of such; with immodest evening gowns, though such may be seen
    m the most fashionable social gatherings; with immodest styles of
    dress that have been a feature of so much of the television entertainment almost from the beginning; with picture magazines that
    exploit nudity and suggestiveness in every issue; with dangerous
    associations, readings, shows.
    As our Holy Father exclaimed in the same context of the discourse quoted above: “How lax have consciences become, how
    pagan morals!”
  9. We wish to repeat again: there is no thought on our part to
    attempt to define details. But we do hold that there are standards
    of modesty which are also objective, simply because of the fact of
    original sin. The very fact of the freer relationships which are
    tolerated in our environments, far from excusing submission to the
    pagan styles of the day, merely emphasizes the greater obligation that
    Christians and Catholics have to resist these pagan and materialistic
    trends. It simply is not true to human nature, tainted by origmal
    sin, to say as some do: “that one can become used to anythmg m
    matters of dress”; or, to say, “to the pure all things are pure.”
    Remember that our Lord condemned not only the act of adultery,
    but everything that leads to it. It is a fact of human nature that
    undue exposure and emphasis act as stimuli to evil thoughts and
    desires. The cult of nudism is promoted today in varying degrees.
    It is to be found not merely in the extreme form of those few who
    defend the belief that both sexes should hve together m the state
    18
    of complete nudity. Such an aberration is indeed an omi~1o~s sign
    of corruption of our public morals and manners. More significant,
    possibly is the constant partial exposure, and emphasis on such
    exposure, promoted and tolerated by dress, by picture, by the
    printed story, and the leering cartoon. Nourished by the sights of
    such exposure, the passions of fallen mar. constantly grow stronger.
    This is the teaching of all experience. ‘1 hough it may be true, in
    some instances, that external sins do not follow as readily as formerly
    because of the familiarity of the sight, still it cannot be denied that
    evil desires are fostered and even solicited by such exposure, or such
    emphasis in picture and print, which evil desires easily lead to
    external deeds of impurity. Again, we must emphasize in the
    strongest possible language that it is Catholic teaching, based on
    the most clear words of Christ Himself, that impure thoughts and
    desires freely indulged are senous sms. To mvite such impure
    thoughts and desires through dress, action, or the printed and pictured story cannot help but participate of the grave sin of scandal
    and co-operation.
    Hence, the grave sinfulness of certain features of beauty contests,
    particularly those which emphasize the undue exposure of the body,
    as the great majority of these contests do. It is encouragmg to note
    that such emphasis is condemned in these words of a prominent
    columnist: “This new and current obsession with a girl’s measurements, put into a news story, seems to me to be vulgar, even
    degenerate and a mark of a decaymg civilization” ( George Sokolsky,
    The Milwaukee Sentinel, April 14, 1956). For the Catholic, we add
    the most important consideration: it is not only vulgar, or degenerate, it is sinful.
    In this connection, it seems possible to apply a principle which
    our Holy Father stated about books: “You should be persuaded that
    there are bad books – books which are bad for everyone, like those
    poisons against which no one can claim immunity.” Thus, also, it
    seems to us we can say: there are certain modes of dress in vogue
    today, notably in summer time, or in beauty contests, or other
    similar exhibitions, which are a source of temptation to every
    normal person, who is a child of Adam, and against which no one
    can claim immunity.
    b) Higher Christian Standards
  10. Here, we would like to go a step further, and also assert that
    there are standards of modesty in dress, which are rooted in our
    19
    traditional Christian cultural values, centering in the Blessed Mother
    of God. These are standards which view the whole problem not
    merely from the standpoint of what is actually sinful or leading to
    sin, but from the positive standpoint of what is truly helpful in
    assisting fallen man to observe the difficult virtue.
    Hence, as Catholics, we have a tradition to preserve which looks
    at the whole problem from the higher vantage point of virtue. On
    the basis of this consideration, we appeal to our Catholic people
    to maintain a firm and courageous resistance to pagan standards of
    naturalism in this matter. This does not mean a one-sided or wrong
    emphasis on a problem which admittedly extends to areas of greater
    sigmficance than dress. Neither does it mean that we Catholics
    must retire from the world, or adopt a purely negative attitude
    of condemnation.
    Our Holy Father met the difficulty head-on when he spoke to a
    group of master tailors. He pointed out to them the truth of history
    and of human nature that “it is altogether normal for man to try
    to enrich through the exterior brilliance of his clothes the extraordinary occurrences of life, and through them to show his feelings of
    joy, pride, or even grief.” Nevertheless, he insisted that we must
    “instead of following the materialistic current which is leading so
    many people astray today, deliberately put ourselves at the service of
    spiritual ends.”
    Here, then, we have a program which is positive, and which best
    defines the traditional ideals of the virtue of Christian modesty with
    regard to clothes. Those clothes are truly modest in the Christian
    tradition which serve spiritual ends. Clothing should have the
    purpose and effect of “elevating and ennobling the human person.”
    Speaking again to the tailors and to all those who participate in this
    kind of work, the Pope exhorted them: “As the maternal hands of
    the Blessed Virgin busied themselves to make Christ’s clothes, so
    it is God Whom you continue to clothe in the men of today.”
    c) Organized Efforts
  11. It is our wish, therefore, through this letter to give encouragement to the efforts which various organizations, both here and elsewhere, are making to promote these traditional ideals of Christian
    modesty in the matter of dress. We do not believe that these
    organizations are creating oversensitiveness and confused consciences
    with regard to chastity, nor are they overemphasizing one aspect of
    20
    virtue at the expense of others. We recognize that their zeal may at
    times lead them to some undue excess in the promotion of their
    cause, and we caution against such excess, urging them to be guided
    by the norms set forth in statements of the Holy Father and of
    their Bishops.
    We wish, nevertheless, to give every encouragement to such
    organized efforts, because it is only through such united efforts
    that most individuals can achieve the moral courage not to succumb
    to the tyranny of custom. Listen to these clear words of Pope
    Pius XII on this point: “In your association, you will find not only
    light but strength. . . . You must give yourselves wholeheartedly
    and conquer human respect. A group of girls who have reflected
    and prayed together will fearlessly accept a clear-cut attitude which
    one girl by herself would hardly dare to adopt.” Such united effort
    is necessary, the Holy Father further stated, because “you live in a
    world which is constantly forgetful of God and the supernatural,
    where the only interest of the crowd seems to be the satisfaction
    of temporal needs, well-being, pleasure, vanity” (July 17, 1954).
    Therefore, we do not look upon such organizations as pressure
    groups to impose upon others a moral code which these others
    do not wish to accept. We look upon them as associations of our
    own, who are determined through united action to be willing
    courageously to set an example in defense of traditional standards –
    who are willing to be different, as the early Christians were different
    when they challenged the moral standards of the pagan world of
    Greece and Rome; who are unwilling to sit idly by while the evil
    spirit of immodesty goes about brazenly seeking whom he may
    devour. We look upon them as particularly needed forms of
    Catholic Action, to exemplify to the world the teaching of St. Paul:
    “Do you not know that your members are the temple of the Holy
    Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are
    not your own? For you have been bought with a great price. Glorify
    God and bear him in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
  12. In this wise, we will carry out the injunction of our Holy
    Father “not to leave a stone unturned which can help remedy the
    situation.” “Let those,” he continues, “who serve in the ranks of
    Catholic Action take up the promotion of this wholesome enterprise
    as a principal duty. First, let them take care that everyone with
    whom they come into contact, whether close associates or not,
    can see in their manner of dress and action the shining beauty of
    Christian morals. Let their innocence of soul shine forth from their
    eyes. Let their words and deeds savor of virtue. For only then can
    21
    they easily move others by their persuasion and counsel to decent
    and proper d-essing and a good life” ( August 15, 1954).
    In seconding these words of the Holy Father, we earnestly remind
    parents of young and growing children that boys and girls must
    be taught as tiny tots to love modesty and must be corrected for
    immodesty. Even though they are too young to sin, they can and
    ought to be impressed with the beauty of modesty. Training in
    modesty is pre-eminently the function of the home, to be begun
    from earliest childhood.
    d) Sacred Places and Functions
  13. J n this matter of dress, we would like finally to call your
    attention to the even higher standards of modesty required by the
    added consideration of the respect due to sacred places and sacred
    occasions. Our Holy Father mentions that “indeed, often even in
    buildings dedicated to God, an unworthy and indecent mode of dress
    has prevailed.”
    In this letter, we do not propose to lay down precise regulations,
    which it would be our right to do where matters regulating the
    House of God and Liturgical functions are concerned. In general,
    we are confident that our good people are fully conscious of these
    higher standards befitting the House of God. We appeal to them,
    therefore, to observe carefully that sense of propriety which is in
    keeping with the inspired words: “Holiness befits your house, 0
    Lord, for length of days” ( Ps. 92: 5) .
  14. Nevertheless, we feel constrained to call special attention to
    the decorum required in the House of God on the occasion of
    weddings, and we call upon our pastors to be insistent on preserving
    that decorum. Our attention has been called from time to time to
    the fact that some bridal parties come to the Church attired in gowns
    which perhaps do not even satisfy the requirements of modesty,
    much less that decorum which befits a sacred place, and a sacred
    occasion such as the holy Sacrament of Matrimony. We cannot but
    deplore such a lack of the reverence due to the Church of God,
    and we wish to insist in earnest language that the dress of the
    bridal party be in all ways befitting the sacred place and the
    sacred occasion.
    In this connection we may also mention other solemn occasions
    such as First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Generally, there
    is no difficulty on the former occasion, since traditional standards
    22
    of dress are being maintained. Occasionally, however, it is a source
    of great embarrassment to notice how an innocent child has been
    allowed to present herself for confirmation in a style of dress not
    befitting the sacred occasion.
    These same general principles are easily applied to less formal
    occasions, and to the simple attendance at Church services. From
    time to time, we receive letters from people asking us whether we
    cannot do something to impress people with the importance of
    observing a special etiquette in this matter. We can only put it up
    to the people themselves, reminding them that there is a decorum
    befitting the Church of God, which is entirely compatible with
    simple and even poor clothes, and with the ordinary requirements
    of ease and comfort, even though the Church may not be airconditioned.
    VI. MODESTY AND BEHAVIOR
  15. The second general area in which modesty particularly must
    exercise its influence on those who would be chaste and help others
    to preserve chastity is in regard to behavior with others.
    a) Good Manners
  16. Modesty is something more than good manners, but it is
    important first of all to stress the usefulness and necessity of good
    manners and the rules of politeness. These can and should serve
    as the natural basis for modesty of behavior. Good manners and
    the rules of politeness are fundamentally natural virtues. They are
    a partial recogrntion of our social obligations in our dealings with
    our fellow men, and also an exemplification of the golden rule. To
    tolerate or to neglect the correction of bad manners and impoliteness, particularly among the young, is to invite a disregard also of
    virtuous habits. For, grace builds upon nature, and presupposes
    nature. Good manners, and the rules of politeness, are intimately
    related to the Christian virtues of obedience, modesty, and charity,
    which ennoble and elevate the natural, and, where necessary, also
    correct it. Hence, good manners, important as they are, are in
    themselves not enough. In fact, when not elevated and directed
    by Christian virtue, good manners can merely serve as the cloak
    for hiding evil intentions.
    23
    b) Occasions of Sin
  17. It is an old saying that people do not plunge into impu~ty
    without first having cast modesty aside. Now modesty of behavior
    with others is intimately bound up with the question of the
    occasions of sin. Our catechism teaches us that we are seriously
    bound to avoid what is called the near or proximate occasion of
    sin unless there is a proportionately serious reason for exposing ourselves to such an occasion. When such a serious reason does exist,
    we are nevertheless bound to use all the natural and supernatural
    means needed to help us not to fall into sin. The near or
    proximate occasions of sin are, in general, all persons, places, ?r
    things that may easily lead us into sin. Hence, an occas:on of s1′?
    is called near or proximate when the person, place, or thing constitutes either in general a great danger of sin, or is such for some
    particular person because of his individual disposition ‘. Such a near
    or proximate occasion of sin may be a free one, that is, one freely
    chosen by us without there being any neces~ity; or, it ~a~ be a ~ecessary one, because of certain grave reasons, i.e., when 1~ is physically
    or morally impossible to avoid it without danger ~o life, health,. or
    reputation. Experience teaches us that there are various intermediary
    stages between the near and the remote occasions of sin. The greater
    the danger of sinning, the more serious must be the reasons to
    justify one in not avoiding the occasion of sin.
    Whoever does not want to avoid a near or proximate free occasion
    of sin, i.e., an occasion which is not justified by any serious reason,
    is not disposed to receive absolution in the sacrament of Penance.
    Again, one who finds himself in the near occasion of sin because of
    some necessity as mentioned above, but refuses to use the natural
    precautions of prudence and the supernatural means of grace, commits sin by that very fact.
    c) Company-Keeping
  18. These principles on the occasion of sin may be briefly considered in their application to the important question of “companykeeping.” We call it an important question, because there are many
    loose and false ideas on this subject, many of them proposed by way
    of advice to the teen-ager, the couple contemplating marriage, or
    24
    the person separated from a lawful spouse. In applying these principles, we do not wish to enter upon details, but merely to set forth
    some well-defined conclusions.
    WHAT IT Is
    First of all, we would hke to make clear what we understand
    here by “company-keeping.” We refer here to the “regular and
    frequent compamonship of man and woman which in the normal
    course of events leads to falling in love and wanting to marry.” In
    this description, the key words are “regular” and “frequent.” By
    the former, we mean to imply the kind of company-keeping which
    is based upon either a mutual understanding or an explicit planning
    to devote the time spent together to each other and morally to
    exclude others; generally, such company-keeping is referred to in
    popular language as “going steady.” The word, “frequent,” may
    vary from almost nightly to weekly, either personally or by letters.
    Now, company-keeping in this sense is looked upon by all moral
    theologians in the Church as a near or proximate occasion of sin.
    It should be noted that we have not said that it is looked upon as
    smful, but only as the occasion of sm. It is so looked upon as an
    occasion of sin simply because of the facts of experience based upon
    human nature in its fallen condition. Because it is a near or proximate
    occasion of sin, this kind of company-keeping can be justified only
    when certain circumstances are present. These circumstances are:
    ( l) if the parties involved are keeping company with a possible view
    to mamage within a reasonable time; ( 2) if they use the means necessary to prevent undue familiarities, namely the natural means of
    prudence, and the supernatural means of prayer and the sacraments.
    The possible view to marriage can be based only on the desire
    to marry and the freedom in the eyes of the Church to marry.
    If either of these conditions is not present, company-keeping as
    descnbed cannot be justified morally.
    1) Company-Keeping and the Teen-Ager
  19. These principles need to be carefully weighed, first of all, in
    the guidance given to the teen-ager, and must be conscientiously
    realized by the Catholic teen-agers themselves. It is well known
    that teen-agers often “go steady” simply because it is convenient,
    or because it is a matter of pride, to have a steady partner to the
    exclusion of others. In keeping this kind of “steady company” they
    25
    have no intention or desire of looking toward marriage. Again, even
    though such a desire or intention may be present, teen-agers often
    cannot contemplate marriage within a reasonable time, for a vanety
    of reasons, such as lack of the necessary parental consent, economic
    conditions, and the like.
    Hence, despite the views of so many who look with indulgence
    on this practice, we cannot condone it, and we must raise our voices
    against it, to let both parents and teen-agers know what we think
    about it, and what is the approved teaching of moral theologians of
    the Church. This kind of steady company-keeping on the part of
    teen-agers is the source of neglect of schoolwork, and of the serious
    preparation for life that schoolwork implies. More than this, however, it carries with it the grave dangers of sins against modesty,
    chastity, and purity, and ultimately also of attempted mamages
    contrary to the laws of the Church. As a free near occasion of sin,
    which is not justified by other circumstances, the practice of such
    company-keeping in itself must be classified as sinful.
    We wish, therefore, seriously to exhort parents to instruct their
    children more fully in these matters, to urge them to be interested
    in group activities, and to exercise prudent supervision over the
    conduct of their growmg children. We are not unmindful of the
    grave burdens which the responsibilities of parenthood place upon
    fathers and mothers. Such responsibilities can be met with the help
    of God’s grace, Who will assist parents to be kind and understanding, to be generous and loving, and yet at the same time to be
    prudent and firm in the direction which they give to the lives of their
    growing youngsters. In the words of our Holy Father: Let “fathers
    and mothers of families remove their children from these dangers,
    first by their own example, then also by timely admonitions which
    come from a stem firmness of spiiit as befits Christians” (August
    15, 1954).
  20. For the teen-agers themselves, we wish to remind them of the
    obligations placed upon them by the fourth commandment. The
    law of obedience binds children as long as they are minors and
    unmarried. Disobedience is a grievous sin if it concerns an important
    matter and the parents have given a real command. Even adult
    children, as long as they stay at home, must obey in all things
    necessary for domestic order, e.g., to return home at a reasonable
    hour of the night.
    O_bedien~e to t?e law of G?d, of co~rse, ~ust be . the supreme
    motive. It is obedience to God s law which obliges us m conscience
    to avoid the free near occasions of sin, and to take the proper pre26
    cautions in the necessary near occasions of sin. “He who loves danger
    will pens~ in it” is the inspired word of the Wise Man (Ecclus.
    3:27); while the Apostle St. John wntes: “Do not love the world
    or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, th;
    love of the Father is not in him; because all that is m the world is
    the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of hfe:
    which is not from the Father, but from the world” (1 Jn. 2:15-16)’.
    No o~e, surely, wishes to deprive our young people of the legitimate diversion and recreation which come from association with
    other~. Ne~erthel.ess, i_t must be pointed out that there are many
    ways m which this legitimate diversion can be had without recourse
    to company-keeping as described above. It should also be noted that
    aside from the kind of company-keeping described above, there is
    also such a thing as immodesty of place and circumstance. Suffice
    it to mention the out-of-the-way parked car, or the intimacies which
    so many in the world look upon with indulgence and condone in
    the name of experience or of growing up. Modesty of behavior with
    others must govern all so-called expressions of affection. The kissing
    and embracing which so many defend under the name of affection
    or simply because it is the accepted thing, are in reality but a surrender to immodesty that destroys the last defense of chastity in
    the world. Thus also the type of dancing indulged in by some lovers
    is but an invitation to the spint of impurity to take possession
    of their souls.
    In defense, therefore, of Christian virtue, and in the discharge of
    our pastoral duty to our people, both young and old we must
    state in certain and clear terms the teaching of the catechism which
    in~ists: “W_e must avoid as far as possible any person, place, or
    thm? that is hkely to tempt us to immodesty and impurity, and
    special care must be taken to avoid the near occasions of sin.” Let
    us always recall the exhortation of St. Paul: “I exhort you therefore,
    brethren, by the mercy of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice
    living, holy, pleasing to God-your spintual service” (Rom. 12:1)’.
    2) Company-Keeping and Divorced Persons
  21. These principles need to be carefully weighed, in the second
    pl~ce, ~n connection with the question of company-keeping by or
    with divorced persons. Smee the prospect of a future valid marriage
    alone makes company-keeping, as described above, licit, it follows
    that such company-keeping is illicit and sinful when marriage is
    not possible either permanently, or for a long time, or probably
    27
    impossible. A penitent who persists in such kind of company-keeping
    is not properly disposed to receive absolution.
    It should be recalled here that all marriages are presumed to be
    valid until proved invalid by due process of Church law. Only
    Catholics and those marrying Catholics are bound to be married
    before a priest. Non-Catholics marrying non-Catholics before a civil
    official or minister contract valid marriages unless there is present
    an invalidating impediment. Divorced persons are still married in
    the eyes of God and must regulate their conduct with others
    accordingly. There are indeed marriages which are invalid from the
    beginning. The clearest of such cases are those which involve Catholics who have attempted marriage before a civil official or a minister.
    Nevertheless, the possibility of eventual freedom of a divorced
    person, based on a founded hope or not, does not change the nature
    of the voluntary proximate occasion of sin. Only the due process
    of Church Law can state definitely whether or not a given marriage
    was invalid from the beginning. No individual may use a private
    opinion, either his own or that of another, in this matter, as the
    basis for excusing company-keeping with such divorced persons.
    Company-keeping with or by divorced persons shows a public
    disregard of God’s law and the sacredness of the marriage vows.
    It is an invitation to others to act in like manner, and an encouragement to those already acting in this manner. Company-keeping with
    or by divorced persons carries with it all the dangers referred to
    above – the danger of committing sins against the sixth and ninth
    commandments, the danger of attempting a merely civil marriage
    with a consequent life of public sin, and of dying in this state. In
    fact, pastoral experience abundantly proves that it is the failure to
    apply these principles on company-keeping which more than anything else leads to so many invalid marriages involving divorced
    persons.
    Again, as we stated above, we would like to repeat here that these
    principles are based upon the law of Cod, and are bound up with
    the commandments of God and the doctrine of original sin. The
    doctrine of the morality involved in an occasion of sin is simply
    the logical conclusion which flows from the application of these
    principles to areas of practical living. It is obedience to God’s law,
    therefore, which obliges us in conscience to avoid the free near
    occasion of sin, and to take the proper precautions in the necessary
    near occasions of sin.
    It may be noted here in passing that it is also wrong to encourage
    or to abet such company-keeping by others. Even more so, it is
    28
    wrong to give encouragement or approval to any marriage attempted
    invalidly by or with a divorced person. Such encouragement and at
    least tacit approval is given by those who attend such weddings, or
    offer gifts on such an occasion, or otherwise through their words
    or actions seemingly approve of the sinful action.
    We fully realize the demands of Christian charity. Charity is
    the supreme law and criterion, but charity begins with the love of
    God. Love of God is expressed above all in the keeping of the commandments: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).
    Again: “He who says that he knows him, and does not keep his
    commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him” ( 1 Jn. 2:4).
    True love of neighbor can never give approval, therefore, of our
    neighbor’s sin, since love of neighbor is based upon love of God.
    Moreover, true love of neighbor considers especially the spiritual
    welfare of our neighbor. It is not true love of neighbor, therefore,
    which either explicitly or implicitly conveys to him the impression
    that we approve of his sinful action. It is also true that we should
    not judge lest we ourselves be judged (cf. Mt. 7: 1). It is not however
    an act of rash or hypocritical judgment of the actions of others to
    recognize the clearly sinful character of such actions. The subjective
    imputability of an action we must always leave to the judgment of
    God, Who alone can read the consciences of men. But over and
    above such subjective imputability, the actions of men have an
    objective morality according as they are, or are not, in conformity
    with the law of God. We not only have a right, but a duty to
    recognize this fact, and to regulate our own conduct accordingly. It
    is necessary that we state these principles in clear and precise terms,
    so that the proper application may be made to individual cases.
    d) The Church and Pleasure
  22. Nothing, therefore, of what we have said in the above, should
    be construed to conclude that pleasure in itself is wrong. It is not.
    Neither, therefore, that pleasure which is derived from association
    with others. Quite the contrary, our love of neighbor is an essential
    part of the great commandment (cf. Mt. 22:37-39), and the proof
    of the true follower of Christ (cf. Jn. 13:35). The notion that
    pleasure in itself is wrong is heretical in origin, and most harmful
    to the spiritual life of man. God made pleasure; man made pain.
    All pleasure that is not inordinate, no matter how intense it is, can
    be offered to God. It is only when pleasure becomes inordinate,
    29
    that is, contrary to the will of God, that it is wrong. No one can
    live without some pleasure, just as no one can live without some
    food and some rest.
    Hence, the Church does not make the mistake of condemning
    pleasure as evil. In fact, during the long course of her history the
    Church has been frequently accused of both extremes of laxity and
    of rigorism. The Church teaches that man is not evil or totally corrupted, even though he has within himself the effects of original
    sin. Nevertheless, the Church teaches that the passions of man
    need to be held in check by man’s spiritual nature, that his free
    will be guided by reason, and reason and conscience be guided by
    revelation. Hence, in her teaching about the obligation of avoiding
    the near free occasion of sin, the Church is merely insisting on
    the minimum mortification needed in order to avoid mortal sin.
    We fully realize that the viewpoint of many in the world runs
    counter to what we have been saying. The spirit of secularism, and
    of a militant paganism, resents the law of God for interfering
    with the full expression of human freedom. Even more so the
    spirit of secularism resents and rejects the guiding hand of authority
    which is evident in the obedience to the law of the Church required
    of every Catholic. Nevertheless, we speak out, because the heart of
    a shepherd is deeply moved by the sight of so many who are led
    astray by the viewpoint of secularism in these important matters.
    VII. MonESTY AND THE PRINTED WoRD
  23. The third general area in which modesty must particularly
    exercise its influence on those who would be chaste and help others
    to preserve this virtue is that of the printed and pictured word.
    Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are influenced by the
    books, magazines, and papers which we read, and all of these leave
    their imprint on us as individuals. Back in the eighteenth century,
    Samuel Johnson expressed the same idea when he said: “Books have
    alw~ys a se_cret influence on the understanding; we cannot at pleasure
    obhte~ate ideas; ~e that _reads books of science, though without any
    fixed idea or desire of improvement, will grow more knowing; he
    that ent:rtains himself w_ith religious treatises will imperceptibly
    advance m goodness; the ideas which are offered to the mind will
    at last find a lucky moment when it is disposed to receive them.”
    Add to these observations the truth about our imagination already
    30
    referred to earlier in this letter. Our imagination is the power which
    we have of making mental pictures of the material umverse. The
    imagination can reproduce whatever our senses have experienced,
    either as these sense experiences came originally through the senses,
    or in any variety of combmations. The imagination cannot make
    pictures of what the senses cannot experience. Obviously, then,
    the picture-making power of the imagination is in direct proportion
    to the stimulation of the senses. Now, as a result of original sin,
    the imagination of man constantly tends to get out of hand. It is
    a commonplace of experience how the imagination can storm the
    will by conjuring up pictures to solicit and entice; and it is likewise
    commonplace to experience the interference of the imagination in
    the process of thinking by way of distraction, or by censoring or
    substituting for whatever the intellect is to accept.
    All these observations are true of adults, and even more so of
    children and young people, who have, as we say, impressionable
    minds. And these observations need to be kept in mind in applying
    the general principles discussed m this pastoral letter on decency
    applied to the printed and the pictured word.
  24. Again, we wish to point out that it is not our purpose to
    attempt to detail every possible application of these principles to
    the printed and pictured word. Thus, for example, there would
    be much that should be said with regard to this problem as it is
    involved in the ethics of advertising. Limiting ourselves to the
    problem of decency and modesty in the printed and pictured word,
    whatever is said about books and magazines in this regard can
    readily be applied to the field of advertising.
    a) The Problem of Indecent Literature
  25. “Literature mirrors the times.” No better proof of the urgency
    to return to the living of God’s law is provided than by a visit to
    the local newsstands. We do not expect a sinless literature in a
    sinful world. Evil is not something new in the world. This is a
    smful world, and the readmg habits of people will all too frequently
    reflect this sad condition. But we have a right, and a duty, to call
    sin by its proper name, and to recognize it for what it is. Adultery
    is not romance, business cheatmg is not success. Love is more than
    sex, and religion more than a funny feelmg. Civilization and culture
    are based on the dignity of man and his living, and not on the
    sordid elements of life.
    31
    Now, the moral and mental attack made by much of the current
    literature is well calculated to promote the advance of irreligion
    and atheism, and thus also foster communism. This literature is a
    contributing factor to types of crimes progressively troubling our
    lawmakers and the great body of our people. Under the guise of art,
    or romance, or travel, or science a vast output of books, booklets,
    magazines, and comics continues to stream forth from the printing
    presses of our nation, to become, in the words of an objective
    governmental survey, “the media for dissemination of artful appeals
    to sensuality, immorality, filth, perversion and degeneracy.” In fact,
    according to this same report, “so great is the exaltation of passion
    above principle, and so prevalent is the identification of lust with
    love that the casual reader of such literature might easily conclude
    that all married persons are habitually adulterous and all teenagers completely devoid of any sex inhibitions” (U. S. Cong. Committee, Union Calendar, No. 797, House Report No. 2510, p. 3).
    Thus are our national morals sabotaged and our nation’s moral tone
    brought lower and lower.
    As we have stated above several times, we wish to repeat here
    again. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Divine Savior condenms
    not only adultery, but everything that leads to it – all impure looks,
    desires, thoughts and actions. “Anyone who even looks with lust
    at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart”
    (Mt. 5:27-28). In the light of these clear words, there can be no
    misunderstanding about the gravely sinful nature of reading material,
    or movie and television fare, which pander to such lustful thoughts,
    desires, and looks. This means, therefore, that generally speaking
    such material is sinful for all, and not merely for the young. “We
    would warn you that there are books which are bad for everyone”
    (Pius XII).
    b) Scandal and Co-operation
  26. On another occasion, when our Lord had dramatically placed
    a small child before the Apostles, He solemnly said: “Whoever
    causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were
    better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and
    to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because
    of scandals! For it must needs be that scandals come, but woe to
    the man through whom scandal does cornet” (Mt. 18:6-7.)
    Scandal is any word, act, or omission that is in itself evil or has
    32
    the appearance of evil and which can be the occasion of another’s
    sin. Closely allied to the sin of scandal is the sin of co-operation,
    by which one concurs in the sinful deed of another. Such co-operation
    can take place either by concurring in the evil intention of the one
    committing sin, and then it is called formal co-operation; or it can
    take place by concurring only in the sinful act, without agreeing
    with the evil intention, and then it is called material co-operation.
    There are many different ways in which one can co-operate with
    the sin of another. Whether or not we are allowed to co-operate in
    the sinful act of another ( material co-operation), without of course
    making his evil intention our own, will depend on different circumstances, and especially on the measure of our co-operation. There
    are some things which from their very nature can have only an
    evil use. When such is the caae, no matter what our intention may
    be, we cannot co-operate with another, even under grave moral
    pressure, precisely because it is impossible to dissociate ourselves
    from the evil nature of the thing or the act.
    Thus, material co-operation in the dissemination of some books
    and magazines is permissible only for a grave reason. But professedly
    immoral literature cannot be disseminated at all without committing grave sin. This is the clear teaching of our Faith, enforced
    by the Canon Law of the Church, which states that “booksellers
    shall not sell, lend, or retain books designedly treating of obscenities”
    ( Canon 1404).
    c) The “Designedly Obscene”
  27. That much of the stuff which is being peddled through pocketsize books, the magazines, and comics is “designedly obscene” can
    hardly be denied. This conclusion is true, despite the difficulties
    which the courts may have in arriving at a satisfactory definition
    of the word “obscene.” The teaching of both experience and competent theologians makes it abundantly clear that the “designedly
    obscene” would probably include a great deal more than our legislative statutes and our courts would or could include. Moreover, it
    is also evident from experience and the teaching of moral theology
    that even though much of this material might not qualify as
    “designedly obscene” in the strictly legal or canonical sense, it does
    serve as the proximate occasion of grave sin for the greater majority
    of people, both adults and young. In other words, no Catholic
    publisher, or distributor, or reader could guide himself in this ques33
    tion of scandal, or co-operation, or sin, on the basis of what a legal
    statute or a court decision may state is the meaning of the word
    “obscene.”
    d) The Current Situation
  28. There are some hopeful signs that the comic book mdustry
    has initiated a movement to regulate itself. How sincere this effort
    is or how effective it will be can only be judged after it has been
    in operation for several years. While comic books have been and
    continue to be detrimental to the welfare of our children, it does
    not seem to us that they have been the principal source of the harm
    being done, although certain types of publicity ( especially that
    promoted by the publishers of other kinds of literature) have tned
    to make it seem so.
    The magazines, in recent years, it seems to us, have become worse
    rather than better. The reason is to be found in the doleful fact
    that “pornography is big business.” The pressure of other types of
    publications, particularly the pocket-size books, has induced many
    magazines to lower their standards in order to meet “competition.”
    Even the best family magazines run occasional articles along these
    lines. Also, it is to be noted that some court decisions have opened
    the way to the adoption of these lower standards, by granting the
    use of the mails to magazines containing the pictures of untouched
    nudes. Thus the sensational type of picture or photography magazine
    has been economically pressured to become even more sensational
    in their photography and display. Added to these magazines is
    another type which specializes in gossip, slander, and the revelation
    of the secret facts of people’s lives, thus adding calumny and
    slander to the degrading list.
    The worst offenders continue to be the pocket-size books. This
    situation is at once the most difficult and the most pernicious. It is
    the most difficult because of the constant flux and quick turnover
    in the market, and because of the deceptive appearances of the
    covers. Sometimes, some of the finest classics bear very salacious
    frontpieces – a trick of advertising also noticeable in the film industry. It is the most pernicious, because the content of the bad
    pocket-size books continues to be very bad, and their number does
    not seem to diminish. It is the most pernicious, because this type
    of book is being sought out not only by our young people but by
    adults as well.
    34
    e) Our Challenge
  29. In striving to do something about this grave menace to the
    morals of our nation, it is important to begin with a recognition of
    the fact that there is a serious problem, and that we cannot remain
    silent or inert in the face of this problem, and thus by our silence
    to condone or to approve the evil.
    For some time now, our Christian Mothers’ Confraternity, together
    with other organizations in the Archdiocese, have engaged themselves
    to cope with this problem m one way or another. We are grateful
    for what has been accomplished in the past, and we wish to
    encourage them in their united efforts for the present and the
    future. From reports which reach us from time to time, we are
    convinced that it is necessary through these organizations to continue to bring this matter again and again to our people as a whole.
    For this reason, we wish to encourage our Christian Mothers in
    their particular apostolate, asking them to continue their co-operation
    with the National Organization for Decent Literature (NODL)
    and to bring the principles, classifications, and applications of the
    NODL work to other organizations in the Archdiocese, to parish
    societies, and to families and individuals as well.
    For this reason, also, we encouraged the establishment of an
    Archdiocesan unit of the Legion of Decency. The principal aim of
    the Legion of Decency, which was set up by the American Bishops
    in 1934, is to discourage the production and patronizing of films
    which are “not worthy of the rational nature of man” and “which
    are not morally healthy.” For this reason the Legion criticizes and
    classifies entertainment solely and exclusively from the viewpoint
    of Christian morality and decency. It is a fact that too many of our
    Catholics are frequenting motion pictures without being sufficiently
    informed as to the religious and moral quality of the film being
    shown. Some even do not seem to have any consciousness of their
    duty in this matter, particularly in protecting the young.
    The classifications of the Legion of Decency, as those also of the
    NODL, represent a practical application of the norms of moral
    theology, especially those dealing with the occasion of sin, the sin
    of co-operation, and the sin of scandal. These classifications enable
    the individual person to determine readily, promptly, and easily
    whether or not a certain film involves an occasion of sin, or the sin
    35
    of scandal or co-operation. In speaking of the right of the Church,
    through the Pope and the Bishops, to guide the faithful, our Holy
    Father, Pope Pius XII, calls that theory “reprehensible” which
    denies the Church the right to make such practical applications in
    the realm of moral conduct (November 2, 1954).
    We take this occasion, therefore, when speaking of the program
    of the Christian Mothers in the field of indecent literature, to
    encourage them and all our people to continue their co-operation
    with the Pledge of the Legion of Decency in the related fields of
    the movies and television entertainment. We remind them that our
    late Holy Father, Pope Pius XI, warmly praised the Pledge, and
    called upon all pastors of souls “to obtain each year from their
    people a pledge similar to this one, in which they promise to stay
    away from motion pictures which are offensive to truth and Christian
    morality” (Vigifanti Cura, June 29, 1936). We also call to the
    attention of our people, and particularly of our various Study and
    Group Discussion Clubs the complete address of Pope Pius XII
    on “The Ideal Film” (June 21, 1955, and October 28, 1955),
    and we ask them to make a study of this significant discourse.
    Hence, in presenting the challenge of Decency to our people,
    we do so in the realization that decency in all walks of life is most
    intimately bound up with the spirit of reverence, which has frequently been called the soul of religion. This reverence is a consciousness of the infinite holiness of God, which serves to make us
    remember our dignity as children of God, and temples of the Holy
    Ghost through divine grace, which is a participation in the holiness
    of God. We do not look upon our efforts, whether individually or
    through organizations, as “pressure movements” or as “censorship
    imposing our way of life on others, who disagree with us.” Rather,
    we look upon our efforts as the articulate voices of our people, of
    all good people, who band together for the strength that comes
    from union, and who stand up in defense of the holiness of God, and
    the standards of Christian morality.
    f) Recommendations
    With regard to the problem of Indecent Literature under discussion in this point of our pastoral letter, we would like to make
    the following recommendations.
  30. FIRST, we ought to face the fact that the problem is local
    36
    r
    as well as national. In the words of one of our Representatives: “The
    thing that has appalled me is that this stuff is very big business,
    that it is going out in millions.” Almost any visit to a local store,
    newsstand, or other place of distnbution, will make anyone aware
    of the fact that some of these millions have reached the local scene.
  31. SECOND, the important work has to be done on the local
    level as well as on the national level. We readily grant with a
    Congressional Committee Report that “the source of this pornographic stream is the publishing house, and while the distnbutor,
    the wholesaler, and the retailer all participate as purveyors, it is
    the publisher who is primarily responsible, since he is the architect
    and creator without whom the chain of distribution could not
    function.”
    These powerful sources, of course, have also to be reached on the
    national level, through some action resulting from Congressional
    investigations. It is hopeful to note here that the National Orgamzation for Decent Literature, of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, has had its influence felt through certain indications of
    some further attempt at self-regulation within the publishing industry.
    It is most hopeful that the concept of self -regulation has finally been
    mentioned and considered, since legal statutes will never suffice
    in matters of this kmd, The NODL, and all who co-operate with
    it, subscribe wholeheartedly to the principle of self-regulation,
    and sincerely hope that it progresses from the correction of salacious covers to the much more important correction of salacious
    content.
    On the local level, we have both the responsibility and the opportunity of achieving definite results. It is on the local level that the
    nation-wide protest began, which led to certain congressional investigations. Through such local protests, public opinion has been
    aroused, and can continue to be aroused. Through such local activity,
    greater diligence on the part of local prosecuting agencies, in
    enforcing statutes already on the books, is brought about.
    We are happy here to commend the work which has been done
    by our Metropolitan Commission on Crime Prevention, which instructed its secretary to write to more than one hundred organizations
    in the Milwaukee area urging the formation of committees to attack
    the problem. These committees, the commission said, should carry
    out educational programs to arouse parental action to combat this
    ever mcreasing blight on the youth of our community.
    We are also pleased to note the Ordmance No. 662, to create
    Section 106-7.5 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances, relating to
    37
    the. sale or distribution of obscene literature in the City of Milwaukee,
    which was passed and approved by the Common Council and the
    Mayor on March 7, 1956, and March 9, 1956.
    A great many communities in Wisconsin have now begun organized action to cleanse the newsstands and other points of distribution
    of this sort of thing. Effective representations have been made by a
    number of our local organizations to our representatives and senators.
    We repeat, the Federal Government can and must continue to
    do its part to help preserve civic virtue. The post office, also, can
    take legal action wherever this is indicated, and law-enforcement
    officers can prosecute according to the tenor of the law. But there
    is no substitute for effective local enforcement and effective action,
    by groups such as our Christian Mothers, and all the other organizations of men and women – parents and citizens who are truly
    interested in the welfare of their children, of themselves, and of the
    community at large.
    Most important on the local level, the small distnbutor of such
    reading material can be reached and influenced. Perhaps with all
    the promises that the publishers give, there is little hope of obtaining
    lasting effective results from that quarter. But at least we can do our
    utmost to try to remove this occasion of sin on the local level.
    Without trying to minimize the evil which is done by the publisher,
    as indicated above in the words of the congressional report, or by
    the printers, the distributors, and wholesalers as well, in the last
    analysis, it is the retailer who actually unleashes the flood of filth
    on the reading public. The retailer has the right to refuse to accept
    them. He can refuse to display them. He can refuse to sell the
    dirty ones.
    That there are many retailers who are co-operating, is evident from
    the fact that the Congressional Report states that the amount of
    unsold salacious material returned by dealers to the distributors
    . ‘
    m some instances, runs as high as 40 per cent. The report further
    states that this action is due, in part at least, to local protests. The
    records also show, in other sources, that such local action has influenced the stores on the local level which are controlled by
    national chains.
    We submit that it is our conviction that the great majority of
    local dealers, the country over, are honest, God-fearing men. Even
    though many of them do not share the same Catholic Faith which
    we cherish, they believe in the natural law and in the ten commandmen~s, and_ are also bound by them. When we protest against this
    salacious literature, we are not trying to impose some specific
    38
    \
    “Catholic teachmg” on them. We are appealmg to their own sense
    of decency and belief m the natural law, and to their concern
    for the morals of their own children.
  32. Fmally, when we speak of the local level, we are thmkmg
    first and above all of the homes of our own people. This pastoral
    letter, we have said several times, is primarily directed at our own.
    What we have said about this particular point is therefore also an
    appeal to our own people to safeguard their own homes against this
    type of literature. And here may we mention again that we are
    thmkmg not merely of the evidently or designedly bad or indecent
    literature, but also of that vast output which mingles so much of
    the indecent with what is otherwise proper and decent. Hence, lest
    our recommendations be considered merely negative we exhort our
    people as follows.
    There are two pnncipal ways in which we can safeguard ourselves
    agamst the worldly mfluence of secular readmg. First, we can reduce
    the amount of such secular reading: and, second, we can increase the
    amount of our spmtual readmg. It is almost impossible to lay down
    ~ hard and. fast rule. Certainly, the layman in general must keep
    m touch with the world and modern society in which he lives and
    moves. But he must do so prudently, and in keepmg with his Chns-
    ~an vocation. The amount of secular readmg will surely vary accordmg to the particularized vocation that we have. Professional people,
    such as teachers and lawyers, will surely be required to do a great
    deal more. For all, however, it seems that we can lay down this
    general rule: we must be resolved to avoid that which is indecent
    and salacious, and that which endangers our faith. More positively,
    we must be resolved never to cease from regular reading of the
    right type.
  33. THIRD, we should always remember that we are working
    for the cause of Christ. Hence we should not become discouraged.
    We are working for the purity and the integrity of our children, and
    of ourselves. This is the kind of virtuous effort which requires constant renewal of intention, and the manly determination not to be
    ?iscour~ged by the lack of success on a large scale, or the seemingly
    impossible odds. If we succeed in persuadmg even one dealer to
    eliminate the distribution of such literature, we shall have done
    something very worthwhile. Nay much more, if we are God’s instruments in helping to prevent the commission of even one mortal
    sin, we shall be blessed by our Lord. We are also working for
    the welfare of our country, which can become greater and stronger
    only in proportion to the moral health of its citizens. Above all,
    39
    however, we are working for Christ, and therefore we must perform
    our work with great charity.
    In the light of these exhortations, we caution our Christian
    Mothers, and all others who unite with them in this work, not to
    expect too much from legal statutes and court decisions. These never
    will, nor can they take the place of the intensive personal, local
    activity, and the follow-through on such efforts which count. We
    urge them not to lose heart, in the remembrance that spiritual works
    of mercy are of greater value than corporal works of mercy. Hence,
    of spiritual works of mercy the words of our Lord apply with even
    greater force: “As long as you did it for one of these the least my
    brethren, you did it for me.” Most earnestly, do we caution against
    the resort to threats or recriminations. Charity, in the language
    of St. Paul, is tactful, charily is patiently persistent. We must not
    forget that there are many people who honestly disagree with us
    in fundamental issues. The fact that these people are sincere in their
    opinions does not mean that we must concede these opinions themselves, or that we ourselves should be less vigorous in the defense
    of what we hold to be the truth. But it does mean that we must
    treat them with charity and with respect, and that we cannot use
    force successfully in a cause of this kind.
    VIH. CONCLUSION
  34. Thus, Dearly Beloved, we have wished to bring these matters
    to your attention in conjunction with the annual convention of our
    Archdiocesan Confraternity of Christian Mothers. We have concluded the writing of these various points at the beginning of this
    month of May, which we dedicate to the Immaculate Mother of
    God. The convention of our Christian Mothers itself is annually
    held during this month, during which also our nation sets aside a
    special Sunday on which to honor mothers. Hence, we have felt
    that it is most fitting to appeal especially lo mothers to give us
    the greatest possible assistance in the important matters discussed
    in this letter.
    We have not indeed touched upon all the subjects which are of
    concern to us in the general matter of decency and modesty. Neither,
    as we have stated several times in this letter, have we attempted to
    spell out the detailed application of principles. Like St. John the
    Baptist, we have wanted, however, to be a voice crying out in defense
    40
    of our cherished Christian standards of modesty and punty. We
    realize fully that the aggressive attitude of modern matenalism and
    exaggerated freedom will dispute, or even scorn what we have said.
    Lest it be thought, however, that silence gives consent to these
    modem trends, as a shepherd of souls, heeding the call of our Chief
    Shepherd, the Vicar of Chnst, we have felt obligated to proclaim
    to our people that we cannot approve these violations of Christian
    modesty and decency: “If thou dost not speak to warn the wicked
    man from hrs way, that wicked man shall die m his irnquity, but
    I will require his blood at thy hand. But if thou tell the wicked
    man, that he may be converted from his ways, and he be not
    converted from his way, he shall die in his iniquity but thou hast
    delivered thy soul” ( Ezech. 3 3: 8-9) .
    Dearly Beloved, the struggle against immodesty is only part of
    everyone’s battle against the world, the devil, and the flesh. We do
    not say that modesty and purity are the chief virtues of the Christian.
    The chief virtue and adornment of the Clmstian soul is charity –
    love of God above all things, and love of neighbor for the love of
    God. Charity is the essence of Christian perfection. But we do
    say that the struggle for purity is a most important element in the
    warfare against the enemies of chanty. Immodesty and indecency
    are the chief means of enslaving men to the vice of unchastity and
    impurity, and this vice is particularly corrosive of true charity. Let
    us heed, therefore, the warnings of our Divine Savior to pluck out
    the eye that causes us scandal (cf. Mt. 18: 7-9). Let us hold high
    the true ideal of the Christian who accepts fully the charter of
    Christian perfection: “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall
    see God” (Mt. 5:3-12).
    In calling particularly upon our Christian Mothers to assist us in
    this crusade, we ask them m their prayers, in their studies, and in
    their activities to strive to reduce what we have said to the practical
    level of everyday living. To encourage them further not to lose
    heart m the daily battle, I would like to recall these following words
    of Pope Pius XII, addressed several years ago to a gathenng of
    Catholic Mothers:
    “You have to prepare your sons and daughters so that they may
    pass with unfaltermg step, like those who pick their way among
    serpents, through that time of cnsis and physical change; and pass
    through it without losmg any of the joy of mnocence, preservmg
    that natural instinct of modesty, with which Providence has girt
    them as a check to wayward passion. That sense of modesty, which
    in its spontaneous abhorrence from the impure, is akin to the sense
    41
    of religion, is made of little account m these days. BUT YOU
    MOTHER:; WILL TAKE CARE that your children do not lose
    it through anything unbecoming in dress or self-adornment, through
    unbecommg famihanties of immoral spectacles; on the contrary,
    you will seek to make it more delicate, more alert, more upnght,
    more smcere.”
  35. Finally, we ask our people to make the following pledge to our
    Blessed Mother, with a prayer for her abidmg maternal assistance:
    a) Pledge of Modesty
    “I believe in the virtue of modesty as the guardian of chashty.
    I pledge myself to hve and fight for the ideals of the virtue of punty
    and the observance of modesty. In particular, I pledge myself to
    live and fight for more decency in the prmted and spoken word, and
    for a Mary-like modesty m dress and action. I promise also to set an
    example for my family and my associates, and to let others know
    where I stand m such matters, in the hope of leading them to greater
    punty of life. I hope to maintain these ideals by cultivating a strong
    personal devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate
    Heart of Mary.”
    b) Prayer
    “O Mary, thou art the most fruitful of mothers, and the most
    chaste of virgins. With the most profound respect, I venerate the
    mysterious union of these prerogatives in thee; and I congratulate
    thee on thy exemption from all these miseries of our condition –
    on thy spotless purity, and on thy divine motherhood for which it
    prepared thee.
    “O Virgin Mother! protect me through thy heavenly purity,
    and defend me against so many enemies who surround me, and seek
    to deprive me of this most precious possession. Obtain for me, most
    pure Virgin, the grace to aim at the perfection of this virtue, by
    cautious vigilance over my unruly passions, and by carefully avoidmg
    whatever might render me unworthy to be called thy child.
    “Help me to assist others, as far as it lies in my power, in the
    practice and observance of modesty and punty. I am resolved never
    to give scandal to others, and to do what I can to remove the occasions of sin. 0 Mary, Mother of pure souls, show thyself a mother
    42
    to me now and at the hour of my death, and bring me to the
    blessed happiness promised to those who are clean of heart – the
    contemplation and enjoyment of God m Heaven. Amen.”
    With blessing upon all, I remain
    Very sincerely yours m the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
  • ALBERT G. MEYER
    Archbishop of Milwaukee
    Given at the Chancery Office
    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
    May 1, 1956

Criticizing How Others Dress: Charity is Needed!

We at OfficialCatholicModesty.com could not agree more with this lady who wrote a letter to the Editor objecting to the crude and terrible lack of charity and just plain mean way Marion Horvatt dissected pro lifers and how they dressed, using them as “examples” of vanity and vulgarity.. when truly these are young people laying their lives on the line for the precious unborn. There are few things as nasty and decidedly un-Christian as this.

Photo used as “evidence” of immodesty in women by Ms. Horvatt.
National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 2002

Below is the Letter to the Editor written by Julia Howell.


Objection to the Article ‘Three Photos Tell the Story:
Good Ideas Fit with Good Customs’

Letter to the Editor of The Remnant

I am writing in protest at Marion Horvatt’s article “3 Photos Tell the Story” (15th Dec 2002) in which she saw fit to criticise the appearance of those taking part in a pro-life rally.

I was appalled by the bitterness and lack of Christian charity shown by Dr Horvatt. How dare she criticise women on a pro-life demonstration! A demonstration is not the time when a woman’s elegance is of any real relevance to the issue. I took part in a Rescue in London in the late eighties when I was a student at London University in which Joan Andrews also took part. As we were being carried away by policemen I was glad that I was wearing trousers.

Horvatt cites a letter Cardinal Siri written in 1960, but the voice of one Cardinal is not the voice of the Church. There is a great danger in traditionalists setting themselves up as arbitrators of Catholic teaching. Some traditionalists carry this argument to an extreme, in saying that women should not go to University because, among many other things, their education would, apparently, make it difficult for them to obey their husbands. (SSPX website for Canada). While asking what it would actually say of Catholic teaching if it were indeed true that the success of a marriage can only be built on the ignorance of women, I also ask wheredoes that leave Ms. Horvatt with her PhD, if this is the type of extreme thinking that she adopts?

In our cold climate I regularly wear trousers as a way of keeping warm. I can assure Ms. Horvatt that my gender has never been called into question. Those who distort the issue into a question of gender identifiction gratuitously insult women. If one morning I suggested to my husband that he wear a pair of my trousershe would give me the most weird look imaginable! If I went into a local men’s store and asked to be measured for a pair of trousers, they would direct me to the women’s store where I would find WOMEN’S trousers.

If women wearing trousers is women cross-dressing, then men shaving is men imitating women. Dr. Horvatt cannot have it both ways. A blanket condemnation of trousers is out of proportion, and is turning young people away from the traditional movement since it does not reflect reality.

However, what alarms me the most about Dr. Horvatt’s article is her distinct lack of charity. One of the women’s crimes in the top photo is that she is “not as pretty” and is shorter and fatter than the woman on her right.

The poor young man who’s spending his free time at a pro life demo is accused of vanity since Dr. Horvatt speculates “his sleeves are rolled under for vanity’s sake (to give an even tan on his arms).” Horvatt does seem possessed of quite a fertile imagination when it comes to the people’s motives for what they are wearing, and she always imparts uncharitable motives to them.

No, that’s not quite true. The women from the 1972 demonstration calling for divorce is Italy is praised for her “well-coiffed hair..pulled back into what would be an elegant twist or roll. Her outfit is distinguished by tasteful jewellery that reflects a desire to appear distinguished and noble.” The poor young pro-lifers and other Catholic demonstrators way of being and walking is later contrasted with the pro-divorce woman’s “Catholic way of being and walking”.

So women who are pro-divorce Horvatt sees fit to praise with the adjective “Catholic” and the pro-lifers of 2002 are described as “vulgar”. What sort of twisted values are these? Perhaps instead of spending so much time analysing photographs Dr. Horvatt should spend some time reading the Bible where Our Lord in his life on earth condemns the Pharisees more than any other single thing and the Our Lord in the Divine Mercy apparitions (which are accepted by the Conciliar Church and traditionalists alike) condemns those who lack mercy.

No one escapes Dr. Horvatt’s arrogant and obsessive censure! She comments on one young lady’s “not so elegant legs”. She also condemns this young woman for drinking “straight from a gallon jug container.” I advise Horvatt never to go on the Chartres Pilgrimage. I can only speak for the one organised by the SSPX , not that organised by the SSPeter so enthusiastically promoted by the Remnant, but I can assure Horvatt that, horror of horrors, women actually drink from wine bottles, and yes, wear trousers…

Horvatt ends her article with a warning that “I hope these photos will serve as a warning to traditionalists…”. Sadly, it is not the photos which serve as the warning but her article, which shows that we are becoming those “ugly traditionalists” which I recall the editor, some issues ago, was

 Yours sincerely

 Julia Howell, London, England

Understanding Modesty: Objective Standards and Practical Insights

Originally posted on this website —> here.

BY STEFANIE NICHOLAS

This article is featured in the current Print Edition (August 2019) of Catholic Family News (subscribe HERE; current subscribers can access the E-Edition HERE).

Editor’s Note: In preparation for tomorrow’s great Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, we offer the following essay by Stefanie Nicholas, who candidly shares about her own journey from worldly to Marian standards of dress and behavior. Once again, her honesty about past faults, as well as her zeal for God and souls, is truly an inspiration and a gift for the Church at this critical time.

Miss Nicholas will be addressing the Fatima Youth Conference next month (Sept. 20-22, 2019) in Cleveland, Ohio. This conference, hosted by The Fatima Center, is designed specifically for young adults (under 30) and features first-class speakers and great Catholic camaraderie. Spread the word and consider either attending or sponsoring a young Catholic in your life to attend!

*****

Conversion to Modesty

By the time I converted to Catholicism in the spring of 2018, I already thought myself to be quite modest in my dress. I never wore shirts that showed my midsection or with super low necklines. I didn’t wear “daisy dukes”, or leggings as pants, or bikinis without a t-shirt and shorts, or skirts that would show my underclothes if I were to bend slightly over. When I first converted and began attending a Novus Ordo parish, I immediately started wearing only dresses or skirts on Sundays, and then over time I gave myself the same rule for daily Mass. At a minimum, I began wearing long shirts or sweaters that covered over the top of my jeans at Mass, and then outside of it, realizing that my favorite comfy skinny jeans showed pretty much everything.

Several months later, I attended a traditional Catholic conference in Ireland and realized that, compared to the majority of the women there, my dresses and skirts were far too short and my necklines were far too revealing. I feel the sting of humiliation when I look back on how I looked when speaking to holy nuns and priests, all of whom who treated me with the utmost kindness and respect despite my attire!

I felt a conviction stirring in my heart after that conference, but it was not a new longing. I remember that even years ago, while I was living an entirely secular life, I would look at photographs and blog posts from women who went “skirts only”. I saw the beauty of it, I wanted to take those steps myself, but I was terrified of what people would think. And, as a functional agnostic, I had no reason to really follow this wild dream! My conversion to Catholicism was a surprise to me. My conversion to modesty? Not so much.

Profound Impact of Veiling at Mass

My whole experience with dress parallels my journey to veiling at Mass, and I believe it was through the practice of veiling that I was able to find the courage to go the rest of the way. Truly, it’s often the little “unimportant” things we do that have the deepest impact!

It took me a few months after wanting to veil while still in the Novus Ordo to actually take the plunge. Often, I was the only woman veiling in the entire building. Divine Providence is often incomprehensible, but I believe firmly that a large part of the reason God permitted me to remain in the Novus Ordo for as long as He did was so that He could teach me something very important: if I provide the will, He will provide the courage. Eventually, I realized I didn’t mind being one of two women wearing the veil anymore. I didn’t mind praying the Rosary in a public street or on an airplane anymore. I didn’t mind praying before eating at a restaurant. I stopped worrying about a whole lot of things that used to send my anxiety through the roof.

When I was blessed to begin attending a diocesan Traditional Latin Mass, I knew that it was time to do what the law written within my heart had been calling me to do for a very long time. It was during Advent, the season of joyous anticipation, and I prepared myself for the coming of my Lord as well as for the beginning of January, when I had decided I would stop wearing pants in public and try my best to adhere to what is commonly called Marian modesty standards (more on this subject later). It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I seek to keep making it for the rest of my life. It’s also a decision I share with joy, posting photos on my social media of this feminine creature God is molding me into, clad in skirts and dresses in snow and summer alike, a woman I hardly recognize when I think of my old self. It’s here where the trouble usually starts.

“Let Your Light Shine Before Men”

As is common whenever one shares anything about the good that God has done for them and within them, a handful of commenters will be quick to spout some portion of Matthew 6:1-5[1] while neglecting to recall Matthew 5:16[2]! I post these things not to receive praise or because I think I’m holy, but because I remember the impact that seeing real, relatable women in modest dress had on me, even while I was still living as a worldling. If I can be that example for one other woman, without falling into sins of spiritual pride myself (I know I need to pray for humility every single day), it’s worth it, particularly in a world where contemporary examples of modesty are virtually nonexistent.

These sorts of negative comments seem to follow the common idea that the internal disposition of modesty is not only disconnected from the exterior proof of the virtue but is somehow negated by it! Quite the contrary, modesty of heart and behavior are integrally connected to modesty of dress. St. Jerome, the great Scripture scholar and Doctor of the Church, once counseled a young widow in a letter to her that “we must either speak as we are dressed, or else dress as we speak. Why do we profess one thing, and practice another? The tongue talks of chastity, but the rest of the body reveals incontinence” (Letter 54, n. 7).

Recently, I prodded the subject of modesty standards with a ten-foot pole, posting on Facebook that “[…] choosing to wear skirts and dresses exclusively is a decision I wish I’d made sooner. I was so scared of what people would think that I was content to ignore God convicting my heart” and referring to it as a “countercultural choice”. It didn’t take long for a woman from Patheos Catholic to share the post to her page, spawning dozens of negative comments, many of them outright nasty personal attacks on my character. The problem, so far as I can ascertain it from the words of the commenters, was not that I chose only to wear skirts and dresses, or that I took photos of it, or that I personally felt like God called me to it and that it was best for me, but that I dared to even hint at the idea that “my way” was superior to the equally valid paths to modesty that other women have chosen.

Objective Standards of Modesty

We see this same acceptance of relativism-as-dogma in so many areas of Catholic life, and modesty is no exception. The vast majority of Catholics today, whether consciously or not, have accepted the idea that there exists no objective standard of modesty that is a morally binding norm for men and women, at least when it comes to calling them to a higher standard than they currently hold. However, barring the sort of “Catholics” who think that Pride parade attire is acceptable at Mass, even the more progressive among us would acknowledge that there is a line of decency somewhere. In other words, most people hopefully recognize that certain fashion choices are objectively unacceptable (although some do give evidence to the contrary), but very few seem willing to ask the question, “How does God want me to dress?”

I find it all the more disappointing that so many “conservative” Catholics are apparently unwilling to ask this basic question, those who would surely think short shorts and crop tops at Mass are unacceptable. It is here that the debate really comes to a head. These Catholics want people like me to provide authoritative, binding, magisterial documents proving that “my” modesty standards are the correct ones, while providing no such proof for their own claims. By their own standards of what rises to the level of binding Church teaching, how do they know that it’s unacceptable to wear short shorts and crop tops at Mass?

Oh, sure, they’ll cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) published by Pope John Paul II (likely unaware of the non-infallible nature of almost all catechisms as such), which includes the line, “Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden” (CCC, n. 2521). Well, who is to say that short shorts and crop tops, which technically cover the obvious “intimate centers” of a person, aren’t modest? Many “conservative” Catholics have been rightly scandalized to see popular Catholic convert and YouTuber Lizzie Reezay defending the Victoria’s Secret fashion show on the specious grounds that “[m]odesty is completely cultural” (i.e. totally subjective – see here, time stamp 13:56-13:59), but their views of modesty differ from hers only in degree, not kind.

The reality is that popular standards today for what is “modest” – the same standards to which I myself used to subscribe – are based entirely on their relation to more extreme present trends. In other words, they are subjective by definition and are not tied to any fixed norm of modesty. Our Lady of Fatima, on the other hand, made it very clear to little Jacinta Marto, the youngest of the three child seers, that modesty is something objective and unchanging, as evidenced by the following words of Jacinta to one of her caregivers shortly before her death in 1920:

“My dear Mother [Godinho], the sins that bring most souls to Hell are the 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.”[3]

Authoritative Sources on Modesty Standards

It’s common when engaging a debate about modesty for the other side to demand a universal, infallible, and thus binding list of what is modest and what isn’t. From time to time, I witness fellow traditional Catholic women believing that they are obliging this request by linking to the “Marylike Standards” document released under Pope Pius XI, and far too often doing so from poorly designed personal websites that do not appear credible and in some cases add their own words to those of the Cardinal-Vicar who approved the document. While it is true that truth is truth even if presented poorly, and also true that these guidelines are excellent, we must be careful not to seek to prove too much and lose entirely the spirit of the law, that is, the proper Catholic principles pertaining to discerning modest attire. However, that being said, this document is likely the most specific set of guidelines the Church has ever given on this issue, so it is not something we should dismiss as unworthy of our obedience in conscience.

It’s important to note there are some elements of modest dress that can be relative to other factors, and that those who debate with members of the Marian modesty movement are right in that the Church has not decreed definitively that a dress must always reach the ankles, or that sleeves must always extend to the wrist, or even that women wearing any form of pants is an intrinsic evil in all circumstances. The very documents used to argue in favor of the Marian modesty movement, for example, often “contradict” each other in terms of things like whether sleeves can be quarter length or must go past the elbow. In light of correct principles these differences represent no contradiction at all, but they do speak to the peril of desiring to defend objective standards in a way that lacks nuance.

In the May 2019 edition of Catholic Family News, I wrote about the modern problems surrounding Natural Family Planning (namely, the idea that it is acceptable to use it for any reason whatsoever within marriage), and I dealt with very similar objections. In both debates, we find the same apparent dearth of binding magisterial documents that pertain to specifics. And in both debates, the reason for this is the same: during the time period when the Pope and the Bishops were still bothering themselves with guiding souls, these popular ideas being preached today were so alien to Christian sentiment that they scarcely needed mentioning. To put it bluntly, it doesn’t matter that the Church has never released a document explicitly condemning the common wearing of pants by women. Even setting aside the implicit conclusion of the teaching in the “Marylike Modesty Standards” document (mentioned above), it seems evident to me that in light of unchanging moral principles, common sense, and the natural law that wearing pants (without perhaps some grave reason) would have been unthinkable to our foremothers. To understand this in our confused age, we must look first to the reason that modesty is mandated by Divine decree.

Reasons for Modesty

It is popular today to proclaim that the purpose of modesty is solely to preserve personal dignity before God and within society. While that is of course a very good reason to dress oneself properly, it is not the only reason. We have a moral obligation in charity to dress in such a way that we do not intentionally or carelessly lead others to sin. As Pope Pius XII stated in a pamphlet written for women’s organizations in Italy (quoted here), “The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts. If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up.”

St. John Chrysostom, another fourth-century Doctor of the Church (like St. Jerome), preached about the serious need for men to practice custody of the eyes in reference to Our Lord’s prohibition against looking with lust (cf. Matt. 5:27-30). At the same time, though, he did not hesitate to affirm the importance of women dressing modestly, stating that “assuredly, should one deck herself out, and invite towards herself the eyes of such as fall in her way; even though she smite not him that meets with her, she incurs the utmost penalty: for she mixed the poison, she prepared the hemlock, even though she did not offer the cup” (Homily 17 on St. Matthew’s Gospel, n. 2). We could point to many similar quotes by Saints and Popes, and the fact that they were not given as part of a solemn decree is irrelevant. The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Catholic Church has always taught that causing a man to sin by dressing immodestly is in itself sinful, and in many cases mortally sinful.

Though modesty is mandated for both men and women, it is my experience that women in particular find these teachings to be “hard sayings”. Men frequently sin against the virtue of modesty in our day and age, but it is my honest opinion that women do so more commonly and more gravely, particularly because of the biological differences between men and women in how they react to visual stimuli. Most women today, and even devout Catholic women, are operating under very innovative ideas about how God created men and women. This should come as no surprise when we examine the history of feminism in general, and note the ways in which changes in women’s dress was part of the broader ideological subversion of natural gender roles.

The Pants Question

It is here that the “pants question” finds real context. Anyone who has ever dared to state publicly that pants are not fitting attire for women (let alone implied that they can be sinful to wear!) knows that doing so draws more ire than defending the Inquisitions ever could! I agree entirely with this presently controversial position, but as with Marian modesty in general, it’s often too easy to make true arguments which still miss the crux of the issue. In a 1960 document entitled, “Notification Concerning Men’s Dress Worn By Women”, Giuseppe Cardinal Siri rightly noted that some women’s pants cover more and cling to the figure less than certain skirt and dress styles do. However, the Cardinal further stated that “it is a different aspect of women’s wearing of men’s trousers which seems to us the gravest.”

The entire document is well worth reading and rather prophetic, noting the ways in which this egalitarian and utilitarian shift in women’s attire has affected her own psychology, her relationships with men, and her dignity in the eyes of her children. Of particular note is this passage:

“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, demands, imposes 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.”

In light of the Cardinal’s words, an important question comes to mind: Who was it who began the trend of women wearing pants in Christian societies? It should come as no surprise that it was feminist activists, including such big names as Susan B. Anthony and Cady Elizabeth Stanton, who first began to clothe themselves in trousers. These early advocates of trousers for women were unambiguous in their belief that women were not simply wearing pants for simple stylistic interest or even for comfort, but as part of their broader attempts to craft a more “egalitarian” society. In other words, trousers began as a direct attack on natural gender roles. As much as certain people may wish to twist themselves into knots in order to try and prove that women wearing pants doesn’t really contradict Deuteronomy 22:5,[4] in light of the deep impact this simple shift in clothing has had on modern society it seems these words of Holy Scripture are just as relevant and convicting today as they were at the time they were written.

Conclusion – Imitate Our Lady

In a little-known but excellent 1957 address entitled, “Moral Problems In Fashion Design”, Pope Pius XII concluded his remarks with these poignant words: “It is often said almost with passive resignation that fashions reflect the customs of a people. But it would be more exact and much more useful to say that they express the decision and moral direction that a nation intends to take: either to be shipwrecked in licentiousness or maintain itself at the level to which it has been raised by religion and civilization.”

Perhaps instead of asking how far we can go without overstepping the customs of modesty, we should be asking how we can dress in such a way that strengthens the whole of society by bringing it up to a higher level of Christian virtue. As faithful Catholics, our models of conduct should not be culled from the exalted figures of the ever-changing world, but from the Saints who gloried God in their bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 6:20) and are now with Him eternally in Heaven. What better way is there to bring the world closer to Christ than by placing ourselves as willing servants in the hands of she who brought Christ to the world?

It is the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the standard for modesty, and though the Church in using her as a model has given us trustworthy and necessary guidelines, we must never forget that Our Lady is a person, not a simple list of hem lengths and preferred fabrics. She dressed with perfect modesty, which reflected the perfection of the internal virtue of modesty within her soul. She certainly did not wear pants, nor did she feel the need to “wear the pants” in any way pertaining to her behavior or even her internal dispositions. Despite being the Queen Mother of Christ the King, she submitted in perfect charity and humility to her carpenter husband Saint Joseph.

My main reason for choosing to wear exclusively dresses and skirts is simple: If it’s good enough for the Mother of God, it’s an honor for me to imitate her.

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[1] “Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father Who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1).

[2] “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father Who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

[3] This is quote is found in The True Story of Fatima: A Complete Account of the Fatima Apparitions (originally published in 1947) by Fr. John de Marchi, I.M.C. (p. 72 of the paperback edition printed by The Fatima Center). As Sister Lucia (in her Memoirs) and Fr. de Marchi both relate, Jacinta continued receiving private apparitions of Our Lady until her death on Feb. 20, 1920. “After each visit of Our Lady,” Fr. Marchi explains, “Jacinta spoke with wisdom far beyond her age, education or experience.” (True Story of Fatima, p. 72). For an excellent resource on modesty from The Fatima Center, see the booklet “Our Lady of Fatima Stressed … Modesty in Dress”.

[4] “A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use woman’s apparel: for he that doeth these things is abominable before God” (Deut. 22:5).

Holy Mass Etiquette and Attire – What Every Good Catholic Must Know

Reposted from FishEaters

Cover photo: Caramia Caballero | @caramiaelenakatarinakristina

The basic idea of how we should behave in Church is summed up by the Second Council of Lyons, A.D. 1274:

It is fitting that He Whose abode has been established in peace should be worshipped in peace and with due reverence. Churches, then, should be entered humbly and devoutly; behaviour inside should be calm, pleasing to God, bringing peace to the beholders, a source not only of instruction but of mental refreshment. Those who assemble in church should extol with an act of special reverence that Name which is above every Name, than which no other under Heaven has been given to people, in which believers must be saved, the Name, that is, of Jesus Christ, Who will save His people from their sins. Each should fulfil in himself that which is written for all, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow; whenever that glorious Name is recalled, especially during the sacred Mysteries of the Mass, everyone should bow the knees of his heart, which he can do even by a bow of his head. In churches the sacred solemnities should possess the whole heart and mind; the whole attention should be given to prayer.

Attire

People have no problem, it seems, dressing for weddings, funerals, office parties, or dates — but seem to think that dressing to meet Almighty God at the Mass is passé. But dressing for Mass is simply a matter of showing proper respect, not only for God, but for others around you. It’s certainly not a matter of showing off one’s finery — lots of people don’t even have fine clothes. Certainly, too, some people may attend certain Masses — say the 5:30 PM Masses — on their way home from their construction jobs. Fine! There is nothing to worry about in these things! Never let circumstances out of your control make you feel embarrassed or keep you away from the Sacraments! But one should always wear clothes that are modest, and, if possible, all things being equal, clean and the nicest clothes one has.

Below are some guidelines for proper attire (which also apply for other liturgies, such as Eucharistic Adoration or the Divine Office, etc.):

Shorts & Sweats:

Just say no.

Blue Jeans:

Nice blue jeans can be “OK” (but just OK), especially if dressed up, but are not ideal. But if jeans are all you have, then, by golly, wear jeans!

Ties and Jackets:

Typical for men and considered the mark of the “well-dressed” male in the West. If you have no suit or jacket, then come in the best you have, if possible.

Head Coverings:

Laymen never wear hats in churches (except for rare ceremonial reasons on the part of some confraternities and lay associations).

On the other hand, women do cover their heads and have from the very first day of the Church. Headcoverings (mantillas, scarves, hats, etc.) are put on before entering the church — at least before entering the church proper; they aren’t necessary in the narthex) and are removed after leaving the church (or in the narthex). Please read more about veiling here. Some parishes and chapels will have veils available for women who don’t have any.

Special to Women:

Like men, women should wear their “Sunday best,” which in the West is typically considered to be a dress or skirt. If dresses or skirts are worn, hemlines should cover the knees when standing and sitting, shoulders should be covered (i.e., “tank top” dresses and spaghetti straps are not kosher), and necklines should be modest. If you have no dress or skirt, then wear the best outfit you have, if possible.

Just a note on lipstick: if you wear some, be sure to blot really well before kissing icons, statues, the priest’s hands, etc. (“Girlfriend Tip”: get the kind that doesn’t “kiss off” or smudge…)

Cell Phones/Pagers:

Turn them off. Oh, please, turn them off. Or at least set them to vibrate if you truly need to know if you’re getting a call.

Etiquette

This is beyond “etiquette,” but I will note here that you are to fast before receiving the Eucharist, and are to refrain from receiving the Eucharist if you are in a state of mortal sin. If you are a public, unrepentant sinner, the priest has every right and duty to not offer you the Body of Christ.
General deportment in a church and at the Mass should be based on these Truths:
Christ is present in the tabernacle. Therefore, respect the sanctuary as the holiest area of the church; it is the Holy of Holies.
During the Mass, we are at the foot of the Cross, witnessing the re-presentation of the Sacrifice at Calvary. How would you behave if you could see, in a way very apparent to the senses, Christ on the Cross, pouring out His Blood for you? What sort of gratitude and reverence would you exhibit? Look upon the Mass with the eyes of faith, and know that the all too common focus on the Mass only or primarily as “celebratory meal” or a “happy gathering” is in no way Catholic and in no way represents the Truth of what the Mass is.
If you’re not shy, greet newcomers outside or in the Narthex (NOT in the church itself!) as they come in or leave. Make them feel welcome; learn their names. Give them eye contact, a warm handshake, a friendly pat on the back. Introduce them to the priest after Mass if they haven’t already met. Let them know they are welcome, wanted, and entering the House of God. If they are new parishioners, talk to them sometime about events and associations in your parish. If there are coffee and donuts or some such being served after Mass, invite them! Go out of your way to make them feel at home. (Of course, on the other hand, some people are loners or are in very contemplative moods before Mass or just like to go to Mass and be left alone. Use your intuition and respect their wishes — but a smile never hurt a loner, either!)
When you enter the Church,
cross yourself with Holy Water and thank God for the grace given to you at Baptism.

When you reach your pew, genuflect toward the Tabernacle in the Sanctuary before sitting down.
Keep sacred silence in the church. Avoid unecessary conversation and keep necessary conversation to a very low whisper. The Church is a lot holier than a library, eh?
Please try to be on time for Mass! Sometimes things can’t be helped, without doubt — cars break down, babies need changing, alarm clocks fail to go off — but chronic lateness for the Mass is rude and disruptive.
Confession: If you go to
Confession right before Mass, let the priest know how many people are in line behind you for the Confessional. If you have an extremely long confession to make and there are many people behind you and Mass begins soon, mention only mortal sins or make your confession at a later date (and do NOT receive the Eucharist if any of the sins you need to confess are mortal!).

When someone is in the Confessional, keep a very wide berth of it. It’s very, very rude — very rude — to stand anywhere near the Confessional when it is in use by another. (I always put a hand over my ear that faces the Confessional if I have to pass by it and someone is in there with the priest. It’s not that one can overhear what is going on inside the Confessional — I never have, at least — but it helps signal to others that the Confessional is a very safe, private place that all Catholics understand needs to be respected as such).
Children: Children sometimes can’t help making a bit of noise at Mass — but it’s usually the kind of noise we Catholics love to hear (what’s better than new Catholics, especially little tiny ones?). If your child is out of control, though, or disruptive enough to distract people or makes it hard for others to hear or contemplate, take him to the Narthex, the “Cry Room,” or outside. Remember, too, that an acceptable level of noise to you as a parent might be one thing because you are so used to hearing your children that you take their sounds for granted; others might find that same noise very distracting. And, please, don’t let your children kick the backs of the pews or turn around and stare at people behind them.

Note that children under the age of reason (7 years old) aren’t required to assist at Mass, so, while it is extremely laudable to bring children of ALL ages to Mass, it is also OK to leave them at home, too, if it makes things easier on you or if they are particularly cranky or boisterous one day (my prayer, though, is that parents do bring their children to Mass as often as possible!).

It might be best if couples with tiny infants and very young toddlers sat in the back of the church and at the end of the pew, if possible, so that if you must leave to tend to your children, your departure won’t be distracting. Children who are old enough to pay some attention, though, might be better off sitting in front so that they can watch more closely what the priest and altar boys do. This will not only help them learn about the Mass, but will keep their attention occupied so they’ll be less restive. Children who are old enough to read should have children’s missals so they can follow along.

Encourage your child’s attention at the Mass by teaching him and by asking him questions beforehand, giving him things to watch for. As an example, you could ask him: how many times the priest makes the Sign of the Cross during the Mass, and let him try to count them; what side of the Altar the priest chants the Epistle from; at what times the bells ring; how often the exchange “Dominus vobiscum” and “Et cum spiritu tuo” is made; to discover what his favorite chanted melody is and what the words mean, etc. Ask him to look and listen for things that help us to know what liturgical season it is, for example the presence or absence of the alleluia or gloria, the liturgical colors used, etc.

Have him listen to the priest’s sermon and to the Gospel readings, and then have him repeat it back to you at the after-Mass breakfast or during dinner. Ask him questions about what he heard during the sermon and Gospel readings, what it means, what he thinks about what he heard, what questions he might have, to draw pictures that depict today’s Gospel, etc. Make these exchanges fun and interesting, though; we don’t want “Church” to be seen as a chore or a bore, and the child shouldn’t feel as if he’s being put through an inquisition.
Do not chew gum or bring food or drinks into the church. The only exceptions are discreetly breastfeeding or giving a bottle to an infant (or, of course, rare medical emergencies such as giving water to a person reviving from having fainted, etc. True charity trumps all law, and law exists to serve charity.).
Never applaud in church for any reason.
Do not pray in the orans position (with arms extended upwards or outwards) during the liturgy. Though it is an ancient, natural, and beautiful prayer posture — rather like a child reaching up to his Father — and though it is commonly seen among the laity in the Novus Ordo Mass, it is a posture reserved for priests during the properly-offered Mass. Pray in the orans position all you want at home.

Hand-holding during the Our Father: This is not a traditional Catholic practice. It’s fine if you want to hold hands with family or friends you’ve come with, but don’t grab strangers’ hands or engage in the pew-jumping and running down the aisles to find someones’ hand that goes on during the Novus Ordo rite.
During the Offertory (the very first part of the Mass of the Faithful) is when the collection is taken. Have your offering prepared before you get to church and ready to pull out at this time. The ushers will move from the front of the church to the back, away from the Altar. How much to give is left to your discretion, as we are not bound by the Old Testament laws of tithing but are bound, as a
precept of the Church, to support the Church as a general command.
If you’re not
receiving the Eucharist, be sure to raise the kneeler, if necessary, and make room for people to cross in front of you so they can go stand in line.
When you receive the Host, don’t chew on it like it’s a piece of steak; let it soften in your mouth, then swallow. One does not respond “Amen” or with any gesture but the
Sign of the Cross after receiving the Host, unlike in the Novus Ordo.
After receiving Communion, keep a “custody of the eyes.” Walk back to your seat with eyes in front of you, toward the floor. The most traditional posture after receving Communion is to walk with your hands in the “prayer position” — palms together, fingers pointing upward, held at chest level. When you reach your pew, it is customary to kneel after Communion.

Both before and after you’ve received, maintain this “custody of the eyes” and don’t watch people as they return to their seats. Though the Eucharist unites us into one Body, it is, paradoxically, a very intimate time that calls for intense gratitude and individual contemplation (you may see people cover their faces with their hands or veils for a sense of privacy).
The Mass is not truly over until the priest has left the Altar. Don’t sneak out after Communion.
When it is time to leave (i.e., after the priest has descended from the Altar and left the building), those sitting in the front pews generally leave first (“first in, first out”). This order should be maintained because we genuflect again upon leaving our pew — and we shouldn’t be genuflecting toward some guy walking toward us down the aisle or blocking his exit.

When you do exit your pew to leave the church, genuflect once again toward the Tabernacle. Some Catholics also again sign themselves with Holy Water when leaving the Church (a perfectly fine, pious custom, but one which isn’t related to the historically-rooted purposes of blessing oneself upon entering the church).
Non-Catholic Guests: If you bring a non-Catholic guest to Mass, explain to him the meaning of the Mass, its parts, what to expect, etc, beforehand. And definitely explain to him lovingly, before you arrive at church, why he is not allowed to receive the Eucharist. Assure him that he is most welcome, and that we are glad he is with us, but that we Catholics know that the apparent “mere bread and wine” are truly the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. Tell him that if that is not how he sees it, we believe he would be eating and drinking judgment on himself — 1 Corinthians 11:29 — and that we would be absolutely remiss in allowing him to receive the Eucharist without discerning the Body of Christ. Explain that even if he does believe it, Catholics who are not in a state of grace and young Latin Catholics who haven’t yet been properly prepared for their “
First Communion” don’t receive the Eucharist, so it’s nothing personal.

…and if he does believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, teach him about the rest of Catholic teaching and get him to convert!
Refraining from judgementalism: Do not sit in judgement of those who come to Mass not knowing the proper attire and etiquette (I speak here of the good-willed who are simply ignorant, not of public, persistent, unrepentant sinners who use the Mass for political purposes, who flaunt Divine Law intentionally, etc. Even with that latter group of people, we are to refrain from personal judgements and are to love them in Truth, even as we judge their actions and protect our Church).

Instruct those who are new to the Church gently and lovingly — and mostly by good example. Ideally, churches and chapels will have the basic expectations written somewhere in the Narthex, in parish bulletins, in pamphlets in the pews, etc, but in any case, dirty looks and an accusing tone hurled at a newcomer are uncalled for; much more Christian — and effective — is a simple, “Ah! You’re new here! Welcome! It’s great that you’re here! Here is some information that will help you feel comfortable at this parish; please, if you have any questions, just ask!” — all wrapped up in a warm, genuine smile.

Instead of thrusting a veil at an unveiled woman and looking at her as though she’s the devil incarnate, give her a big smile and a “Oh, sister, you don’t have a veil? Here’s one that would look pretty on you!” or some other such thing (assuming you can speak genuinely). If she isn’t receptive, just mind your own danged business and let Father deal with it his way.

Finally, don’t assume the ill-dressed even have better clothes or were in the circumstance of being able to access better clothes (maybe they’d been in an hospital waiting room all night, who knows? None of your business!). While we do owe our Lord our best, the Mass isn’t a fashion show, and we’ve lost the Christian message entirely if we are are “like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful but within are full of dead men’s bones and of all filthiness” — which sitting in judgement of other people without knowing their situation and acting like holier-than-thou Pharisees would make us.

Marion’s Dream By Fr. Giles, O. P. M.

Published in the Magazine, “Our Young People: The Deaf-Mute’s Friend”

Page 7, Our Young People, Volumes 29-30, Copyrighted by St. John’s Institute, April 1919. Published with the approbation of Most Rev. S. G. Messmer, D. D., Archbishop of Milwaukee.

You may say what you will,” pouted Marion Ribeau, emerging from St. Delphine’s Tertiary Hall with a number of Sister Tertiaries after their regular monthly meeting. “Father Roch is good and pious and kind and jovial and all that, but he’s altogether too strict and old-fashioned when it comes to passing judgment on women’s styles.”

“Why, Marion Ribeau, I’m surprised to hear you speak so disparagingly of our Reverend Director,” exclaimed Jane Adams reprovingly.

“I, for one, think that Fr. Roch has very sensible ideas as to what we women and girls should and should not wear.”

“And I’m of the same opinion,” chimed in Jenny Riordan, with emphasis, “and I think it would be a real shame if we Tertiaries didn’t have sense enough and courage enough to dress decently in spite of the fashions.”

“Oh, you two needn’t worry, as you both look charming in the style of gowns Fr. Roch wants us to wear; but I must follow the fashions if I want to appear attractive.”

“That’s all nonsense, Marion, and you know it,” retorted Jane. “You’d look just as well in the dresses we wear and even better than in the improper gowns you persist in putting on.”

“I beg your pardon, they’re not improper,” Marion said quickly, her temper rising, “and my conscience is quite at ease on this score.”

“Pardon me, Marion, I did not mean to wound your feelings,” Jane hurried to assure her friend, “but what about others?”

“Let others take care of their own conscience and I’ll look to mine,” came Marion’s very un- Tertiary answer. “And, as I said before, you and Fr. Roch may say what you please I’ll continue to follow the fashions, and dress accordingly to my state in life, as our Rule expressly says we should.”

“I trust you’ll never have reason to regret it,” said Jenny, as she and Jane parted company with Marion at the street crossing.

Three days after, Marion Ribeau returned late at night from a birthday party at the home of one of her friends. She was in high spirits, for she had been voted the queen of the party and the most stylishly gowned young lady present. Entering her bedroom, she sank into the soft cushions of a large easy chair to live over again in sweet recollection the happy events of the evening. But, thoroughly fatigued as she was, she soon began to nod, and before long she was in the land of dreams.

She dreamt that she died and immediately after death soared aloft to seek admittance at the great pearly gate of Heaven. She knocked rather loud and boldly at the glittering portal, in the assurance that St. Peter would welcome her warmly. In response to her knocking, the massive door swung noiselessly open, and Marion almost lost her breath as she caught sight of the wonderful golden streets, and beheld myriads of angels and saints, clad in garments that surpassed the rainbow in beauty, moving about from place to place and singing, to the accompaniment of countless harps, the praises of the Most High. Her heart beating with joy, she stepped forward to enter the dazzlingly beautiful City of God, when she was startled by a gruff voice:

“And what may be your business here?”

She turned toward the speaker, and saw St. Peter seated near the door at a table of the most precious gold and marble studded with costly jewels of every hue. Before him lay a number of ponderous tomes, while numerous angels stood by ready to do his bidding.

“Oh, dear St. Peter,” Marion began in her most winning tones, although she wondered why her voice quivered and why St. Peter wore such a forbidding countenance, “don’t you know me? Why, I’m Marion Ribeau. I died just a few minutes ago and I beg you kindly to admit me into the joys and glory of Heaven.”

“In such a dress?” asked the holy doorkeeper, with a dark frown.

Marion noticed now for the first time that she was still clothed in her party gown, and she was much grieved that, in her hurry to leave the earth, she had forgotten to take her coat with her—the one she had been accustomed to wear when she used to visit Fr. Roch at the convent. But it was now too late, for St. Peter had already perceived how she was dressed. Still, it would never do to give up at once her endeavors to enter Heaven ,so she thought she would gain the good will of the Saint by counting up all the good works she had done.

“I led a good and pious life on earth, dear St. Peter,” she went on, folding her hands devoutly and assuming as pious an appearance as she could, “and I used to go to holy Mass every morning.”

“In such a dress?” repeated St. Peter, his face growing darker.

Marion acted as if she had heard nothing. “And almost daily Holy Communion.”

“In such a dress?” came the same question, with increasing sternness.

“And I often visited the poor and the sick, and—”

“In such a dress?” thundered St. Peter for the fourth time.

“Well, how could I have dressed otherwise?” she asked, somewhat piqued at the Saint’s persistent questioning. “It was the style. I merely followed the fashion.”

“I know no style but modesty,” was St. Peter’s curt reply.

This was too much for poor Marion, and she began to weep bitterly, saying: “Is this the way to treat a child of Mary?”

“A child of Mary?” reiterated the heavenly janitor, bringing down his clenched fist with a tremendous thud on the volumes before him and frightening the little cherubs that hovered near. “You a child of Mary, the paragon of all that is pure and modest! You dare to tell me this to OUR YOUNG PEOPLE my face, dressed as you are in that immodest gown? A child of Mary, forsooth that went to church, to the theater, to the parks, to parties, and on the public thoroughfares dressed in the garments of sin and shame!”

“Oh, my God!” moaned Marion, covering her her face with her hands.

“And don’t think that I’m making matters worse than they are,” he continued, taking up one of the great books and turning to Marion’s record. “Just listen to what the Recording Angel has written about you.”

While he was adjusting his broad-rimmed spectacles and jerking nervously at his fine white beard, Marion noticed that all the records in the book he held were written in ugly black ink, and her heart sank with fear over the out come of her interview with the stern Apostle. At last, St. Peter found the place and began to read slowly and solemnly: Unchaste looks and thoughts and desires—all in countless number.”

“No, no, that can not be!” interrupted Marion excitedly. “My thoughts and looks and desires were not immodest.”

“Your thoughts and desires may have been pure, but not those that you caused in others by your immodest attire,” replied St. Peter stiffly. “Or, do you suppose for a moment that people on earth go about blindfolded? And were you not taught in school that one may sin by being the cause of the sins of others? And do you imagine that all men are angels in the flesh, so that temptations have no effect on them? Nonsense!”

Then the Saint went on reading from the records: “Irreverences innumerable against Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.”

“Impossible!” cried Marion. “I was always so devout and recollected in church.”

“But was it not a crying sin of irreverence to appear in such a costume in church, in the presence of your Lord and God, where, instead of directing the minds of the faithful to Him in the tabernacle, you invited the immodest glances of some to your bare shoulders, and scandalized others by your utter lack of propriety?”

Here Marion suddenly became unpleasantly aware of the fact that Fr. Roch and St. Peter seemed to share the same old-fashioned ideas regarding woman’s dress, and again she rebuked herself for having forgotten to put on her coat.

“Didn’t you have a mirror at home to enable you to see how improper your dresses were?” enquired the Saint, looking sharply at Marion over the rims of his spectacles.

“Indeed, we had, dear St. Peter; but the dresses didn’t seem immodest to me,” she replied apologetically. “I considered them very beautiful.”

“O blindness of human vanity,” exclaimed St. Peter, throwing his hands to his head in astonishment, “that an innocent young lady should unconsciously become a stumbling block for so many young men! She looked into the mirror and saw there not sin, but only beauty! O insidious Fashion, how thoroughly dost thou blind those that follow thee! Thou art the helpmate of Satan, the destroyer of virtue, the sworn enemy of all that is pure and chaste!”

And the venerable keeper of the celestial portals closed his book with a crash that set the bottles of gold, silver, and black ink fairly dancing on the table. By this time, Marion had given up all hopes of mollifying her judge, when suddenly she thought of the many traveling bags, bandboxes, and trunks the angels had brought with them when she departed from the earth. Surely, they must contain the numerous good works she had performed during life, since these were not to be found in the book of the Recording Angel.

“Perhaps my good works in there,” she suggested humbly, pointing to the great pile of boxes and valises.

“Open them,” said the Saint gruffly.

Marion’s Guardian Angel produced a bunch of keys and proceeded to carry out St. Peter’s directions. This done, he had the trunks and bandboxes placed before the Saint, so that he could easily view the contents.

“Good works, did you say?” asked St. Peter, laughing sarcastically as the Guardian Angel, assisted by several others, began to take out the various articles—dresses, hats, perfumes, face powder, hand mirrors, powder puffs, rouge, false curls, rings, brooches, and a thousand and one other toilet articles.

“Good works, did you say?” he asked again, and Marion, utterly dumbfounded on beholding the contents of her baggage, saw his face twitch angrily. “Nothing but dresses and hats and vanity articles galore! Oh, had you but taken a few of these superfluous ribbons and laces from the hats and placed them on your dresses, those boxes might have contained a few good works. As it is, you have nothing. You may go!”

St. Peter waved his hand toward the door, and Marion turned sadly to quit the glorious city of the blessed. “Hold, what’s that?” enquired the Saint suddenly. Marion looked about and saw her Guardian Angel take her Third Order scapular and cord from the bottom of the last trunk.

“Well, well, well! That caps the climax! A young lady claiming, no doubt, to be a child of St. Francis, and unable to wear his scapular and cord on account of her dress! Indeed, this surpasses all my experiences at the gate of Heaven,” and the aged Saint shook his great white head in evident perplexity. Then, of a sudden, “Is this your scapular, young lady?” he asked.

“Yes, dear St. Peter,” replied Marion shamefacedly.

“And you claim to be a member of the Third Order of St. Francis?”

“Yes, dear St. Peter,” more humbly than be fore.

“Well, this is a unique case, and I suppose I shall have to lay the matter before St. Francis himself.” Hereupon he called little St. Rose of Viterbo, Marion’s patroness in the Third Order, who just happened to be passing by at the time, and begged her to inform her holy Father St. Francis that he wished to consult him on a matter of the gravest importance.

After a short interval, St. Francis arrived accompanied by St. Louis, St. THE DEAF-MUTES’ FRIEND Elizabeth, St. Elzear and Bl. Delphine, St. Rose of Viterbo, and a host of other saints and blessed of the Third Order. Marion noticed that, in spite of the glory that surrounded them all were dressed in very poor garments, that were mended in various places. Strangest of all, the very patches seemed to shine with special splendor.

“Excuse me for troubling you, good St. Francis,” began St. Peter in an altogether different tone of voice than he had used while speaking with Marion, “but there is a person here who claims to be one of your children. Her garments, however, seem to belie her words; I can’t possibly admit her in the dress she has on, and we have gone all through her baggage and have found that one dress is worse than the other. Oh, what’s to be done? She declares solemnly that she did not consider the dresses immodest; but that doesn’t blot out from these books the countless sins and scandal of which she has been the cause.”

“Have you anything else to say in your defence, my child?” asked St. Francis kindly.

“Nothing, holy Father, except that I thought Fr. Roch was too strict, and that the styles were not so bad as he made them.”

“Foolish girl, not to give more credence to your Reverend Director,” answered St. Francis reprovingly. “Now you know how vanity can blind the eyes of poor mortals. And, as it is impossible to admit you into the city of the all- holy God clad as you now are I can only advise you to return to the earth and have other dresses made. Use St. Elizabeth, St. Rose, Bl. Delphine, and my other blessed children as your models in the choice of apparel, and never put on a gown in which you would be ashamed to appear before me, and in which you would not wish to see our heavenly Queen, Mary Immaculate, clothed. In this way, you will always re main within the limits of decency and propriety. Go now, and thank God that he has granted you this special grace through the merits of your sainted sisters of the Third Order.”

“And thank Heaven, too,” St. Peter interrupted, as Marion prepared to leave, “that we discovered your Tertiary scapular in time. I would advise you to place it in future where it belongs—about your neck and not at the bottom of your trunk, lest you fare worse the next time.”

Marion, thoroughly frightened at the threatening look on St. Peter’s face as he spoke these parting words, hastened to make her exit, entirely forgetting to thank St. Francis for his timely intervention. As she came to the door, it opened of itself and—in walked her mother exclaim ing: “Marion Ribeau! Have you actually been sleeping in that chair all night?” Marion opened wide her eyes and for an instant could not realize where she was. Then it dawned on her that she had been dreaming. Mumbling an incoherent excuse about being so tired after the party, she dismissed her mother with the assurance that she would soon be down for breakfast. After her mother had gone, Marion fell on her knees and thanked God from her heart that he had opened her eyes so completely to the vanity of the world, and she solemnly promised him then and there that neither Fr. Roch nor St. Francis nor St. Peter would ever again have reason to complain of impropriety in her dress.

US Judge Arthur Tuttle: “Immodesty the Most Sinister Influence”

Published in a Catholic Magazine: Page 16, Our Young People, Volumes 29-30, Copyrighted by St. John’s Institute, April 1919. Published with the approbation of Most Rev. S. G. Messmer, D. D., Archbishop of Milwaukee.

“Judge Arthur Tuttle, of the United States district court, said in Detroit: “American morals, the future of our race, are speeding towards destruction because of a growing delinquency among the country’s girl hood, tolerated yes, fostered by unsympathetic and careless mothers and fathers. Modern clothes spell ruination for the young women of today; fashionable immodesty is the greatest menace to our national life; a disappearing institution—the family fireside—must be revived to save the American girl in her ideal form. “As a nation we are losing our home life. The family fireside is a thing of the past, banished by a diversity of interests. It is easily accounted for why the divorce courts are working overtime and white slavery flourishes. I consider our fashionable immodesty the most sinister influence in all our national life and believe it is pulling many girls from the path of righteousness. “For how is it possible for a woman, child though she may be, not to grow calloused to shame when she endures, day after day, open and suggestive stares at her gossamer clad legs, bare knees, bare breasts and face painted so that even Jezebel would not have dared? And for these things I say mothers are responsible.”