It may seem at times that when a pastor dares to add a snippet in his sermon about dressing appropriately for Mass, or a paragraph in the Sunday bulletin on what attire is considered respectable for the Holy Sacrifice, it doesn’t usually go down well. Some parishioners may complain, or a visitor may become angry, the Bishop may even be called. But a pastor giving proper guidelines to his sheep on what the Church deems appropriate wear for THE Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not new, nor is it something the Church has ever condemned. In fact, it has been a longstanding tradition to guide the faithful in appropriate wear, and has been so for hundreds of years. And it is a part of the job of the pastor to guide his flock in all things moral, especially when it comes to the Mass.
The Church as always taught the importance of Christians dressing properly, specifically for inside the Church in front of God Himself truly Present in the Eucharist. There are numerous Saints, Doctors and Fathers of the Church, Popes and holy priests that have spoken on this very topic. Though because of the volume of information on this subject, we will only be focusing on the 19th to 21st centuries here, and focusing mostly on Bishops, Cardinals and so on. Not priests or saints.
The Outlines of the Dress Code which we can see is still promoted even today, we can trace back to Pope Benedict XV.
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Carelessness and immodesty of dress leads to impurity, episcopate of Quebec, 1946 Jean-Marie Rodrigue Cardinal Villeneuve (1883-1947) (…) 9. It is first of all in the dress in general that the carelessness manifests itself which, too often, unfortunately, leads to impurity. How many people are slaves to these fashions which ignore the elementary rules of modesty and which sometimes constitute a direct provocation to evil. 10. Thanks be to God, Christian women in our circles appear in church and, generally in public assemblies, only decently dressed. Likewise, we are pleased to note that most of the women go out onto the streets, suitably dressed. But what will it be tomorrow, if one thinks of the growing vogue for “these clothes so cramped or as they seem made rather to highlight more what they should veil”, as Pius XII observes ( 1). Too many young girls easily accept indecent, sometimes provocative shortcuts, daring necklines where they sometimes have the impudence to place the cross of Our Lord, Master of purity!
Too many of them are showing off in “shorts”, still timidly on the street, but without embarrassment in the game! Often they reduce their beach costume even further. Immodest by their very nature, these clothes should be banned from our mores, even in sports (2). Note also that wearing pants under the slightest pretext, or, what is worse, with the aim of showing off in public, is not worthy of a true Christian. 11. To the undressing and carelessness of life in the open air is added the deplorable and too widespread use among even practicing Christians of circulating inside their homes in the lightest attire. How far we are from the delicacies of our Christian mothers of old! 12. We pity women of dubious morals who accept these shortcuts, these necklines, these negligee. But that a Christian, a wife, a mother, a young girl, far from reacting against these perverse currents, too often engage in them to their heart’s content, gradually unlearn modesty, ignore it, even despise it, how not to be amazed and saddened to tears!
13. The man himself does not escape the taste for the exhibition of his flesh: we go topless in public, we wear pants or a tight-fitting jersey that is too short. We thereby commit offenses against the virtue of modesty, when we are not the occasion of sin, in thought or in desire, for our neighbor. 14. What seems even more serious to us, not certainly as a provocation to evil, but rather as a harmful habit which can lead very far, is, in the girls’ costume, the dress that is too cropped, the complete nudity of the arms and legs. legs, when it does not go up to that of the torso. Without knowing it, these poor children thus scandalize, and often, their little brothers. How can a Christian mother forget it? If these children see some cassock in the street, a sign of the guardian of modesty and morality, they hasten to pull off what remains of their clothing to cover themselves. These little girls will grow old. To be modest, and often to be pure, they will have to go up a whole current which has carried them so far. Will they really be able to? Poor mothers, you are violating, know it, your serious duties as educators. 15. Immorality therefore uses fashion to corrupt souls;
she also uses sport, yet so useful and so necessary for the health of the body. It is a ruse of Satan to divert from their end games, pleasures, amusements, amusements whose primary goal is to rest the body by making life in society more pleasant. Satan rejoices in these “sports parties which take place in conditions of clothing, exhibitions and camaraderie incompatible with even the least demanding modesty” (3). In fact, so much care is taken to create clothing for sport that undresses or that seduces, and, in truth, under the most fallacious pretexts; one participates with so much without embarrassment in those parties of pleasure which make young men and young girls life companions for a day, far from the eyes and protective glances; camaraderie quickly becomes misplaced familiarity, and, with the help of alcoholic liquors, familiarity turns into shameless companionship. Thus the excursions, the parts of ski or chalet, the exercise of the skating in all its forms, still other amusements, become directly or indirectly occasions of faults all the more tempting that they present themselves under the guise of ‘legitimate self-relaxation. (…)
42. This then is the Christian’s judgment on this agonizing problem of modern immorality. Aware of his dignity as a man and a Christian, aware of the disastrous consequences of immorality on the family and civil society, he esteems the beautiful virtue of purity at a high price and he practices it according to the requirements of his state of life. . He understands that morality is superior to pleasure and fashion, that there are limits that it is never allowed to cross without injuring his conscience and his faith. For him, morality, and especially purity, are treasures that must be protected against any violation. By protecting them, with all the necessary sacrifices, he has the joy of increasing the glory of his Mother Church and the satisfaction of helping his brothers. (…) 51. The struggle is therefore inevitable. You will accept it courageously, and to emerge victorious, you will watch out for the occasions of sin, you will avoid them with the grace of God: you will not entertain bad thoughts, you will not warm up any shameful desire, you will flee bad company, you will refuse to allow your mind to be corrupted by obscene literature and provocative illustrations, you will keep your heart firm and upright by avoiding risky dating, immoral dances, corrupting cinema, pagan social gatherings, idleness, mother of all vices, and intemperance in the use of intoxicating drinks. In short, to practice purity, you will cultivate modesty, which is an instinctive fear of the soul at the first approach of evil; you will cultivate modesty, which is moderation, a sense of proportion, which usually avoids anything that is likely to arouse sexual passion in yourself and in others. Modesty and modesty, such are the ornaments and the guardians of purity. (…) 57. Your [that of fathers and mothers of families] educative action will be exercised from an early age, at this period when habits are created which will influence all life. Please do not get your children used to the negligee, we dare say, to nudism. “O Christian mothers,”
exclaims the Sovereign Pontiff, “if you knew what future of anguish and perils, of ill-contained shame, you are preparing your sons and daughters by accustoming them imprudently to live barely covered, and making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and you would dread the insult that you do to yourselves and the harm that you cause to the children whom Heaven has entrusted to you to bring up them in Christianity ”(4 )
Notes (1) Pie XII, La Mode, Discours du 22 mai 1941, E.S.P. (2) Synode de Québec (1940), décret 102, note : « Que si l’on demande en quoi consiste un habit modeste et décent pour une chrétienne, on comprendra que c’est celui qui couvre la poitrine et les bras d’étoffes non transparentes, qui descend au moins à mi-jambe, et dont la coupe d’une ampleur convenable protège la pudeur en dissimulant les lignes du corps » (Cardinal Rouleau, 8 décembre 1930, Mandements des Évêques de Québec, vol. XIII, Supplément 45) [en fait : 36]. S.[on] E.[xcellence] le Cardinal Villeneuve, Communication de l’Archevêché de Québec contre les modes païennes, 27 juin 1945. Semaine Religieuse de Québec, 57e année, n° 44, 5 juillet 1945. p. 690. S. E. Mgr Arthur Douville, Mandements des Évêques de Saint-Hyacinthe, vol. XXI, p. 354. (3) Pie XII, La Mode, Discours du 22 mai 1941, E.S.P. (4) Pie XII, ibid.
Référence Archevêques et évêques de la province de Québec, « Croisade de pureté », Lettre pastorale collective, n°114, 5 mai 1946 ; paru dans : Mandements, lettres pastorales et circulaires des évêques du Québec, volume 17, 1943-1954, Chancellerie de l’archevêché, Québec, 1955, p. 241-243 ; p. 253-254 ; p. 257 ; p. 259.
Concerning dressing decently as Catholics, many have asked the question “What is so sinful about women’s shoulders!?” This is a perfectly valid question and we felt it deserved to be addressed in its very own post.
Temples of the Holy Spirit
“Do you not know, says St. Paul, that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, the members of the Mystical Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ”
First of all, shoulders are not sinful, just as the marital embrace, breasts, legs, ankles etc are not sinful. God made them, and He made them good. What makes something “sinful” is,
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992) defines SIN as, ” an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law (St. Augustine, Faust 22:PL 42, 418). It is an offense against God. It rises up against God in a disobedience contrary to the obedience of Christ. Sin is an act contrary to reason. It wounds man’s nature and injures human solidarity. The root of all sins lies in man’s heart. The kinds and the gravity of sins are determined principally by their objects. To choose deliberately – that is, both knowing it and willing it – something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin. This destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible. Unrepented, it brings eternal death.” (CCC 1871-74)
In every sinful act two things must be considered, the substance of the act and the want of rectitude or conformity (St. Thomas, I-II, Q. lxxii, a. 1). (CatholicAnswers) So, to make something sinful, it would be:
Perverting something from its God-given purpose: Like masturbation, Sex outside of marriage, unnatural marital relations between husband and wife, adultery…
Being in itself an evil act: Murder, stealing, vanity, pride…
The marital act, for example is not sinful when it is used how God ordained it: between husband and wife. But it can be perverted from its God-ordained use: masturbation, pornography, adultery, used outside of marriage, unnatural instances and so on. But this does not mean that the marital act, when proper, can be viewed by others, or spoken of crassly / in the wrong situations and so on. There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things.
Just as there is a right and wrong way of dressing in public. Pope Pius XII spoke on May 22nd, 1941, “Fashion itself isn’t bad. It arises spontaneously from human sociability, following the impulse which inclines to put oneself in harmony with one’s fellows and with the habits of the people among whom have lived. God does not ask you to live outside your time, to remain indifferent to the demands of fashion to the point of making yourself ridiculous by dressing yourself against the common tastes and customs of your contemporaries, without ever worrying about this. that they like. Thus, the angelic Saint Thomas Aquinas affirms that in the external things which man makes use of there is no vice, but that vice comes from man who uses it immoderately in relation to the uses of those with whom he lives, distinguishing himself in a strange way from others”
On November 8, 1957, Pope Pius presented the still-valid principles of modesty in dress.
Clothing fulfills three necessary requirements: hygiene, decency and adornment. These are “so deeply rooted in nature that they cannot be disregarded or contradicted without provoking hostility and prejudice.”
Hygiene pertains mostly to “the climate, its variations, and other external factors” (e.g. discomfort, illness). Decency involves the “proper consideration for the sensitivity of others to objects that are unsightly, or, above all, as a defense of moral honesty and a shield against disordered sensuality.” Adornment is legitimate and “responds to the innate need, more greatly felt by woman, to enhance the beauty and dignity of the person with the same means that are suitable to satisfy the other two purposes.”
Fashion “has achieved an indisputable importance in public life, whether as an aesthetic expression of customs, or as an interpretation of public demand and a focal point of substantial economic interests.
“The rapidity of change (in styles) is further stimulated by a kind of silent competition, not really new, between the ‘elite’ who wish to assert their own personality with original forms of clothing, and the public who immediately convert them to their own use with more or less good imitations.”
The Pontiff then isolated the difficulty with fashion. “The problem of fashion consists in the harmonious reconciliation of a person’s exterior ornamentation with the interior of a quiet and modest spirit.” Like other material objects, fashion can become an undue attachment–even perhaps an addiction–for some persons. The Church “does not censure or condemn styles when they are meant for the proper decorum and ornamentation of the body, but she never fails to warn the faithful against being casily led astray by them.” (Monsignor Charles M. Mangan)
Bare Arms / Serious Importance of Modesty in Dress Held by the Church
The problem that arose concerning women wearing sleeveless dresses and shirts to Mass arose in 1925. Many Bishops exhorted their priests to post a sign on the doors of the Churches to make sure women knew what was considered appropriate in the House of God. Their main concern, aside from the rising Vanity, Pride, Materialism that was becoming so fashionable was “bare arms” and “Décolleté / Décolletage” which is ” the upper part of a woman’s torso, comprising her neck, shoulders, back and chest, that is exposed by the neckline of her clothing. However, the term is most commonly applied to a neckline that reveals or emphasizes cleavage.”
In the Pastoral Letter of His Eminence Cardinal Luçon, Archbishop of Reims, the clergy and the faithful of his diocese, a scathing account is written concerning the seriousness of indecent dress at Mass, where he specifically mentions “bare arms” and low cut dresses, “There is at least one point on which we see ourselves as certain to encounter a unanimous obedience: that nobody will afford to appear to church with these unseemly fashion, that is to say, low-cut dress or bare arms. If there is one place where the frivolous fashions and nudity are particularly displaced, is not it the House of God?” he concluded, “
We strongly urge women and girls of our diocese to observe in their clothes the rules of Christian modesty.
They should absolutely abstain from appearing at the church, especially in the public offices and during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, cut dresses and bare arms.
They will not be admitted to in Confession nor the Holy Table.
And will be, this pastoral letter with the command which terminates, read and published in the main advocates of Mass in churches and chapels of our diocese on Sunday that following receipt.”
And in July, 1925, Mgr Besson bishop of Lausanne, ordered a letter to be read at all Masses in churches and chapels of the diocese that was very similar. He then also spoke to parents, concerning the upbringing of their children, “You have a moral duty to raise them and maintain them in modesty. You have to dress them with reserve and in particular require that the dresses of your girls cover their arms and down below their knees.“
Cardinal-Vicar of Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Pompili on 24 September 1928 issued Guidelines to help Catholic women with regard to Fashion – and what they could consider to be Modest and proper for Mass (and so on). “A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers’ breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.” There has been a concession with regard to sleeve length, because of market conditions.
Brother Raymond-Marie Rouleau, Archbishop of Quebec, wrote in 1930: (loosely translated from French) “In order to determine precisely what is to be considered what is appropriate, (or) improper attire to be worn by the person assisting at Mass…We take the following rule to the letter of His Eminence Cardinal Vicar [ Basilio Pompilj ] addressed on 24 September 1928 to all higher schools of sponsorships and girls in the city of Rome..We hope that all the girls and women of our diocese will be a duty to comply with these provisions and to set an example of Christian modesty with the submission to the will of the Vicar of Jesus Christ. It goes without saying that sanctions brought by the Sacred Congregation must be applied with equal prudence and firmness , to stop immediately and as effectively as possible the scourge of immodesty.”
In 1945, Cardinal Jean-Marie Rodrigue Villeneuve likewise, told those in his diocese ” The priests will not let people enter churches who are not dressed properly. Those who have sleeveless dresses, too low cut or too short, must put on a cloak before crossing the threshold of our temples.” While the Bishops Synod of Quebec stated, “What if we ask what is a modest and decent outfit for a Christian, it is understood that this is the one that covers the chest and arms non-transparent fabrics, coming down at least mid-leg, and whose cup a suitable extent protects modesty hiding body lines “(Cardinal Rouleau, December 8, 1930 . Mandements of Bishops of Quebec , vol. XIII, Supplement 45 [in fact: 36]).
Church Dress Code: Still A Practice Today
The standard of bare arms being improper for Mass and in Church still exists to this day; we can see it being enforced in the Vatican. In particular, the Papal Audience Dress code states that women must cover their shoulders.
Pope Pius XII condemned the idea that a sin such as wearing an immodest fashion is acceptable (i.e. not sinful) if it is customary at a given time and/or place. The principle of majority is no rule of conduct. (There are many evil practices that are widely accepted.) “Yet, no matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of styles may be, there is always an absolute norm to be kept after having heard the admonition of conscience warning against approaching danger: style must never be a proximate occasion of sin.” (An ADDRESS of Pope Pius XII to a Congress of the “Latin Union of High Fashion” November 8, 1957.)
Concerning the seriousness of modesty and purity, St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests cried, “Oh God, how many souls does this sin drag down to Hell! . . . . No, my dear brethren, this beautiful virtue is not known to those worldly and corrupt girls who make so many preparations and take so many cares to draw the eyes of the world towards themselves, who by their affected and indecent dress announce publicly that they are evil instruments which Hell makes use of to ruin souls- those souls which cost so much in labours and tears and torments to Jesus Christ! . . . .” Now he wasn’t one to mince words! Yet he had thousands and thousands flock to Mass and Confession because of it!
In 2016, Fr. Carmelo Arada of Manila Archdiocese Commission on Liturgy said certain decorum must always be observed for liturgical functions.“Going to Mass in the parish and going to Mass in the malls must be celebrated with the same disposition, including the attire. Dress properly,” said the priest. He called for the observance of the proper dress code during mass. “Male Catholics are also discouraged from wearing caps, basketball jerseys, tank tops or jersey shorts, and shorts while women are urged to refrain from wearing spaghetti-strap tops or tank tops, short skirts, skimpy shorts or sleeveless shirts with plunging necklines during Mass.” Which is the same dress code the Archdiocese of Manila had laid down back in 2007.
Fr. Dominic in a homily on EWTN spoke, “Many people come to Church dressed like they are ready to go to the beach. You should not come to Church dressed in shorts, miniskirts, swimsuits, bikinis, tank-tops, dresses above the knees, bare shoulders, bare arms, low cut dresses, sleeveless shirts, very tight fitting clothing, etc. If you come to EWTN or the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, AL and you are not dressed properly don’t expect to get out of your car because we have a dress code here. And don’t even dare to come into the Chapel before our Lord. If you do, hopefully you will be caught by our security guards and asked to put on more clothing. We must return to having a holy fear for God and for His true Presence in the Eucharist and for being in His house. How can we expect to grow in the spiritual life if we are dressed like we don’t care? How dare we approach the Holy Eucharist dressed like we are going to the beach.”
However, all this aside, what we wear to swim, or what we wear in our own homes is certainly a little less “standardized.” (see video below) Though we must never forget our proper role as Catholics; children of God and heirs of Heaven. And our duty to be holy examples to others, especially those under our care. When it comes to bare shoulders, it is more or less not much of an issue outside of Church. But of course then we are faced with the questions, “How thick must our strap be? Two inches? Spaghetti straps? How wide can our sleeves be? Does it even matter at all?” For we know that when we are wearing sleeveless shirts / dresses then the showing of our bra / breast can become an issue when there are large, gaping holes.. We recommend sleeveless shirts / dresses that do not show our bra, and cut close to under our arms, just so that we need not worry about our chest showing when we bend down or lift our arms.
Conclusion / Final Notes
The Catholic Church isn’t dumb; we are not expected to wear old fashioned or ugly clothing, covering our bodies likened to Sharia Law! Pope Pius XII actually calls us to follow the fashion, but with prudence! He called it an act of charity! He has even said that Fashion and Modesty go together.
We are called to look to these guidelines for the sole reason that we know without a doubt that our dress (and, remember we must be modest in our looks, thoughts, words and actions also!) will never be a source of scandal or sin to others.
It’s not “two more inches and you are sinning!” but rather “here is a Standard that will make it easier for you to be able to build a wardrobe around, without having to worry about Modesty at all!” And even if some willfully dress immodestly, it is never our place to hate those people, or treat them badly! Never! We are called to be examples, and to tell the truth when it is charitably necessary (if people don’t know what is modesty they cannot dress modestly), but we are not called to judge if a person is purposefully dressing sinfully to make men lust after them! Most people have no idea anymore! And then need our prayers, our charitable information when possible, and most of all … our example It would be really easy to believe that we could dress how we think is modest, but as mentioned before; something are more difficult than others when it comes to temptation. It is up to both genders to dress modestly, be pure in heart and mind, “flee thou youthful desires, and pursue justice, faith, charity, and peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” [2 Timothy 2:22]
If we tried to “cover up” parts of ourselves that were a “stumbling block” or “temptation” for others it would be impossible. As even the mere thought of a person can bring about temptation. It is up to us to fight these temptations, yet not making it harder for our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
Few “dress codes” have been made by some Christians that have proven to make no sense at all concerning “inches” and “situational outfits”. Is Original Sin merely situational? Prudence and common sense calls us as Catholics to follow a moral guideline, not our feelings, as most Catholic issues. As the Catholic Church has so very much pointed out the importance of Modesty in dress, as well as other areas, we should at least adhere to the seriousness, and the importance.
We must always remember WHY we are trying to dress with decency and modesty:
Because we are temples of the Holy Spirit
Because we are children of God and heirs of Heaven
Because it honors God
Because it allows us to become good examples for Christ, as well as keeps us pure
THOSE who have had the misfortune to give bad example, and to wound or cause the perdition of souls by scandal, must take care to repair all in this world, if they would not be subjected to the most terrible expiation in the other. It was not in vain that Jesus Christ cried out, Woe to the world because of scandals! Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh! (Matt. 18:7)
Hear what Father Rossignoli relates in his Merveilles du Purgatoire. A painter of great skill and otherwise exemplary life had once made a painting not at all conformable to the strict rules of Christian modesty. It was one of those paintings which, under the pretext of being works of art, are found in the best families, and the sight of which causes the loss of so many souls.
True art is an inspiration from Heaven, which elevates the soul to God; profane art, which appeals to the senses only, which presents to the eye nothing but the beauties of flesh and blood, is but an inspiration of the evil spirit; his works, brilliant though they may be, are not works of art, and the name is falsely attributed to them.
They are the infamous productions of a corrupt imagination.
The artist of whom we speak had allowed himself to be misled in this point by bad example. Soon, however, renouncing this pernicious style, he confined himself to the production of religious pictures, or at least of those which were perfectly irreproachable. Finally, he was painting a large picture in the convent of the discalced Carmelites, when he was attacked by a mortal malady.
Feeling that he was about to die, he asked the Prior to allow him to be interred in the church of the monastery, and bequeathed to the community his earnings, which amounted to a considerable sum of money, charging them to have Masses said for the repose of his soul. He died in pious sentiments, and a few days passed, when a Religious who had stayed in the choir after Matins saw him appear in the midst of flames and sighing piteously.
“What!” said the Religious, “have you to endure such pain, after leading so good a life and dying so holy a death?” “Alas!” replied he, “it is on account of the immodest picture that I painted some years ago. When I appeared before the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, a crowd of accusers came to give evidence against me. They declared that they had been excited to improper thoughts and evil desires by a picture, the work of my hand. In consequence of those bad thoughts some were in Purgatory, others in Hell. The latter cried for vengeance, saying that, having been the cause of their eternal perdition, I deserved, at least, the same punishment. Then the Blessed Virgin and the saints whom I had glorified by my pictures took up my defence. They represented to the Judge that that unfortunate painting had been the work of youth, and of which I had repented; that I had repaired it afterwards by religious objects which had been a source of edification to souls.
“In consideration of these and other reasons, the Sovereign Judge declared that, on account of my repentance and my good works, I should be exempt from damnation; but at the same time, He condemned me to these flames until that picture should be burned, so that it could no longer scandalise any one.“
Then the poor sufferer implored the Religious to take measures to have the painting destroyed “I beg of you,” he added, “go in my name to such a person, proprietor of the picture; tell him in what a condition I am for having yielded to his entreaties to paint it, and conjure him to make a sacrifice of it. If he refuses, woe to him! To prove that this is not an illusion, and to punish him for his own fault, tell him that before long he will lose his two children. Should he refuse to obey Him who has created us both, he will pay for it by a premature death.”
The Religious delayed not to do what the poor soul asked of him, and went to the owner of the picture. The latter, on hearing these things, seized the painting and cast it into the fire. Nevertheless, according to the words of the deceased, he lost his two children in less than a month. The remainder of his days he passed in penance, for having ordered and kept that immodest picture in his house.
If such are the consequences of an immodest picture, what, then, will be the punishment of the still more disastrous scandals resulting from bad books, bad papers, bad schools, and bad conversations?
Vae mundo a scandalis! Vae homini illi per quem scandalum venit! — “Woe to the world because of scandals! Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh!
Scandal makes great ravages in souls by the seduction of innocence. Ah! those accursed seducers! They shall render to God a terrible account of the blood of their victims.
Summer is upon us, bringing vacations, picnics and beach parties. Actually we have been blessed with summer-like weather for several weeks. The warm weather has also brought out summer apparel earlier than usual. Unfortunately, skimpy garb more suitable for vacations, picnics and beach parties has also made its way into church as the clothing of choice for many people. In visiting many of our parishes this spring for confirmation as well as attending some commencement ceremonies, I have noticed more and more people wearing short shorts, tank-tops and flip-flops. Even the more formal wear with slit-leg dresses, bare midriffs and strapless tops looks more suited to a House of Blues than the House of God.
Now I’m sure some people will immediately object to my making these observations, rationalizing that it is better that these people come to church even if they’re not properly dressed rather than not have them there at all. They argue that we should just be happy that they’re in church, regardless of what they wear. I disagree.
St. Paul said “to dress modestly, with decency and propriety,” adorned “not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Similarly, St. Peter wrote, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
In the parable of the wedding banquet, Jesus said that “when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:11-14).
Of course, Jesus did not tell this parable to give a literal instruction on how to dress at a wedding, but to illustrate God’s righteousness as “garments of salvation” and “robes of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10), where the acquisition of these qualities is likened to clothing given us at a wedding. But Jesus could tell this parable because his listeners were familiar with the custom that refusal to wear a proper wedding garment was an insult to the father of the groom and could get a guest ejected from the festivities.
The church is the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27) and the faithful, clothed in their wedding garments, are called to the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:8-9). Our revised translation of the Roman Missal now brings out that imagery more clearly when the priest presents the Body and Blood of Christ to us at Mass saying, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” As we go up to receive Jesus in holy Communion, we should not insult the Father by not dressing properly for this foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
In contrast to the casual dress now commonly seen, people were much more formally attired at the Solemn Pontifical High Mass in the Extraordinary Form that I celebrated at the Shrine of St. Rose of Lima in Quincy last Sunday. During this celebration, I consecrated new altars, administered the sacrament of confirmation, offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and carried the Blessed Sacrament in procession in honor of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. The ceremony took fours hours, which is usually how long it takes me to run a 26.2 mile marathon, so one could say that this was certainly a marathon liturgy!
St. Rose of Lima Church just marked its 100th anniversary, and it looked splendid for this grand occasion. I commend Father Arnauld Devillers, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, and all the faithful who made this such a dignified event by which we gave glory and praise to God.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote an Apostolic Letter called Summorum Pontificum, in which he said that it was “permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church.” Last year, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, said that the pope hopes for the eventual development of a newly reformed liturgy, combining elements of both the traditional Latin Mass and the ordinary form of the liturgy that has commonly been used since the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965. Cardinal Koch said that Summorum Pontificum, with its call for expanded use of the traditional liturgy, is “only the beginning” of the pope’s overall scheme for liturgical reform.
For now, one very practical area that we could work on would be for everyone to dress with proper dignity for Mass, whether it is celebrated in the ordinary or the extraordinary form.
This article is in response to a question concerning the idea supposedly promoted in the book, “Love & Responsibility’ by Karol Wojtyła, before becoming Pope John Paul II.
The book supposedly promotes the idea that, “an attire (he explicitly mentions attire that would include one being ‘partially nude’) in it’s proper place and function is modest! The Church teaches that our sexuality is to be integrated in the entire of our being. Not eliminated! It is not about ‘what’ is worn but about why and where it is worn. This includes bikinis.”
Here is our reply.
“Love and Responsibility” is a book written by Karol Wojtyła before he became Pope John Paul II. Therefore, it is not infallible and can be only taken as his opinion on the subject, and is not in any way an explicit example of what the Catholic Church in her entirety promotes and teaches concerning how we are to properly dress our bodies in a way that keeps with its dignity.
Also important to note, “Theology of the Body”, is not magisterial teaching. “In short, the whole argument is about a fascinating and potentially useful constellation of ideas that do not form part of the essential teaching of the Faith…. It’s just somebody’s opinion, not the End of the World or the Consummation of All Things.” source
Logically and Theologically, what the Church teaches concerning these matters has much more weight than one Cardinal who had an opinion, that seems to contradict previous Church Teaching, Theology, Papal Encyclicals, and Father / Doctors of the Church’s counsels on the matter.
Does this mean that men and women who are unaware of the dignity of their bodies and who dress immodestly are sinning? God knows the details. But those who are aware of the inherent dignity that our bodies have, will be held accountable.
Let us first break down the inherent dignity of our bodies.
We know that our bodies are not bad, for when God completed the six days of creation, “He saw that it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) They were created specifically to give honor and glory to God. Alice von Hildebrand, gives a good explanation of this in her article, “Nakedness or Nudity” :
” The most perfect among all the creatures mentioned in Genesis, is man, (homo) for he is made to God’s image and likeness. There is an endless hierarchy among creatures, but those that are “images” (imago) of God are greatly superior to those who are just traces (vestigium) of His power.”
” Adam and Eve were created beautiful. I am not only referring to the ontological beauty of creatures made to God’s image and likeness, but also “artistically” beautiful. The body of a human person is a masterpiece. Magnificent as animals are and can be, none of them has the dignity and nobility of a human body. “
” Nudity calls for covering because of its mystery, and this mystery should be unveiled only in the privileged moments when God allows the spouses to reveal themselves to each other in the sacrament of matrimony.” (Which is pretty much what Karol Wojtyła was talking about in his “Theology of the Body” and “Love & Responsibility”. He was not giving us the “OK” to walk around half naked.
Original Sin gave us Concupiscence; we now have the obligation to honor our God-given bodies by covering them with dignity and modesty, and are unable to live without being subject of the rebellions of the flesh, as Adam & Eve were before the Fall.
Before Original sin came about, Genesis Chapter 2: 25 says that “And they were both naked: to wit, Adam and his wife: and were not ashamed.” Then, in Genesis Chapter 3 verses 6-10 it relates:
” And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened: and when they perceived themselves to be naked, they sewed together fig leaves, and made themselves aprons. And when they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in paradise at the afternoon air, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord God, amidst the trees of paradise. And the Lord God called Adam, and said to him: Where art thou? And he said: I heard thy voice in paradise; and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself. “
The Douay-Rheims Bible has a footnote that explains something very important, ”  “And the eyes”: Not that they were blind before, (for the woman saw that the tree was fair to the eyes, ver. 6.) nor yet that their eyes were opened to any more perfect knowledge of good; but only to the unhappy experience of having lost the good of original grace and innocence, and incurred the dreadful evil of sin. From whence followed a shame of their being naked; which they minded not before; because being now stript of original grace, they quickly began to be subject to the shameful rebellions of the flesh.”
A question one might ask oneself is, “How exactly could something of such great importance, as called by the Church, suddenly no longer be so? Have we lost our concupiscence which we have been born with, thanks to Adam and Eve’s sin? Have we gained a miraculous ability to no longer be tempted?Is Original Sin merely situational?“
Alice von Hildebrand speaks volumes concerning this in her article, saying this of downplaying of temptation and the like, “King David’s sins underscore how sexual desire can degenerate into what Dietrich calls “diabolical” temptations. Some of the most atrocious perversions occur when the Devil takes over completely. And one should never downplay, or minimize, the gravity of these evils. It is plainly false to claim that such abuses are “tragic,” rather than “filthy.””
“ Never, absolutely never would a saint say, “I am beyond and above temptations of the flesh”. Never would a saint declare that, were he to see a naked woman, his acquaintance with the Theology of the Body would guarantee that he wouldn’t be subject to temptation. As Monsignor Knox points out, to believe a Christian, however faithful, can place himself in spiritual danger and never fall prey to it, is a common error among religious enthusiasts. The Beghards come to mind: Thus these enthusiasts “looked upon decency and modesty as marks of inward corruption, as the characters of a soul that was still under the dominion of the sensual, animal, and lascivious spirit, and that was not really united to the divine nature. This was the account they themselves gave of their promiscuous lodging, and the nudism practiced in their assemblies.” (Enthusiasm, 1950, p. 125) Such people, writes Msgr. Knox, believed that once “they yield their bodies to the Holy Ghost,” they ”would never sin again.” (p. 567) In the presence of a living woman, he continues, the enthusiast, is “ trained to feel as though he were standing by a wall of stone. His eye must be rendered cold, his pulse must be kept calm.” (p. 573). But this is to commit the sin of presumption.
It must be remarked, however, that there are situations in which a priest can find himself in dangerous situation “without being endangered”: for example when a slightly clad prostitute is struck by a car, and calls for help. It is the duty of a priest to respond to this call: God will give him the grace to concentrate exclusively on his mission, bringing the dying person to God. Professional grace is also given to doctors: otherwise, no doctor should accept operating on a very beautiful female body because, instead of operating on a sick patient, he would be preoccupied with sexual fantasies.”
And again, back to Genesis, Alice von Hildebrand notes ” we have been profoundly affected by original sin.
‘In paradise there was perfect harmony between Adam and Eve. There was no concupiscence.’
‘After original sin, not only were we separated from God and condemned to losing eternity. On top of it, every single human faculty was affected. Our intelligence was darkened. Our will was weakened. And all of a sudden, we had the dreadful experience of something called concupiscence.
Before the Fall, there was no inner temptation to impurity between Adam and Eve even though they were naked, After they sinned, the two started to look at one another with concupiscence.
The Fall had consequences that are ‘so serious’ that it was only the Redemption and the grace of God could remedy.
The fight against concupiscence is not an easy process. It is something that calls for holiness, which very few of us achieve. It is a sheer illusion to believe that by some sort of new technique we can find the solution to the problem.”
Sister Lucia of Fatima wrote a last book that she finished on the 25th of March 1997 , in this book, Lucia speaks about the customs of her country at the time of the apparitions and, naturally, she speaks about the clothing:
“..one cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and condition; made foolish by desire to please, they do not see to what a degree the in decency of their clothing shocks every honest man, and offends God. Most of them would formerly have blushed for those fashions as for a grave fault against Christian modesty; now it does not suffice for them to exhibit them on the public thoroughfares…..
In what concerns specially the Tertiary Sisters, We ask of them by their dress and manner of wearing it, to be models of holy modesty for other ladies and young girls; that they be thoroughly convinced that the best way for them to be of use to the Church and to Society is to labor for the improvement of morals.”
In the Encyclical, “Ad Salutem“, April 30, 1930, Pope Pius XI stated that, ” Christian women can never be at too great pains to abolishimmodest fashions of dress.”
Cardinal Sbarretti Sabine wrote in the Instruction to Diocesan Ordinaries on Indecent Women’s Fashion by the Sacred Congregation of the Council, January 12, 1930,
“Often when the occasion arose, the Pope disapproved and condemned severely indecent modes introduced everywhere today in the clothing habits of women and girls even Catholic; not only these modes gravely offend the dignity and feminine grace, but unfortunately cause temporal damage for the woman and, what is worse, his eternal loss and others.”
Pope Pius XII condemned the idea that a sin such as wearing an immodest fashion is acceptable (i.e. not sinful) if it is customary at a given time and/or place. The principle of majority is no rule of conduct. (There are many evil practices that are widely accepted.)
“Yet, no matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of styles may be, there is always an absolute norm to be kept after having heard the admonition of conscience warning against approaching danger: style must never be a proximate occasion of sin.”
This was before the Bikini came out in 1946; Designer Louis Reard was unable to find a ‘respectable’ model for his costume and the job of displaying it went to 19-year-old Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris. According to research, it was banned in Catholic Countries such as Spain, Brazil & Portugal and deemed sinful by the Vatican.
Father of the Church St. Clement of Alexandria wrote,
“But by no manner of means are women to be allotted to uncover and exhibit any part of their person, lest both fall — the men by being excited to look, the women by drawing on themselves the eyes of the men. But always must we conduct ourselves as in the Lord’s presence.”
We know that the Catholic Church is not Sharia Law, and does not mean to cover women’s bodies from head to toe. Prudence and common sense is called for, and for Mass there are Modesty Guidelines.
St. Ambrose, a Doctor of the Church also spoke of Modesty, “All outside appearances reveal the condition of our mind; although our passions are hidden, they manifest themselves exteriorly… Modesty is suitable for all ages and for all classes of persons; for all times and places.” (De Officiis 1:18-19)
St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church writes in his book, “True Spouse of Jesus Christ“,
” Almost all our rebellious passions spring from unguarded looks; for, generally speaking, it is by the sight that all inordinate affections and desires are excited.
The devil first tempts us to look, then to desire, and afterwards to consent. St. Jerome says that Satan requires ‘only a beginning on our part.’ If we begin, he will complete our destruction.”
He also speaks of immodesty in his “Full Ascetical Works:
“A mortal sin of scandal committed by women that go with them shamelessly exposed breast, or that expose their members incorrectly. Also by the actors in lewd comedies , and more par people who make up these comedies ; also by painters who paint obscene images or like, and by the heads of families who keep these photos in their homes . The father who speaks obscene or blasphemous saints in the presence of her children, and the mother who brings in her home to live among his girls young men who are in love with them Or fiancées or other suspects, are guilty of a more serious sin of scandal. Some mothers say, “I do not think any harm.” I reply that it is their duty to suspect; otherwise they shall give account to God for all the sins that can follow.”
( Full ascetical works of St. Alphonsus , vol 15, p. 399-400)
In Ven. Pope Pius XII , Allocution to the International Congress of High Fashion, (November 8, 1957, Petrópolis: Vozes, 1958, pp. 12-13.) He speaks thoroughly on fashions and the issues of immorality but also of prudence,
” The Church does not reprove or condemn a fashion when it is intended to be a fair decorum and adornment of the body. However, she never fails to warn the faithful against its easy deviations. This positive attitude of the Church derives from higher motives than the merely aesthetic and hedonist ends defended by a new paganism.
She knows and teaches that the human body, a masterpiece of God in the visible world at the service of the soul, was elevated by the Divine Redeemer to be a temple and instrument of the Holy Ghost, and must be respected as such.
Its beauty, therefore, should not be exalted as an end per se and still less as in a way that degrades that acquired dignity.
In point of fact, it is indisputable that, besides an honest fashion, there is another immoral one, which is a cause of disturbance – if not a stimulus to evil – to tranquil spirits.
It is always difficult to set out universal rules for the boundaries between honesty and immorality, since the moral evaluation of clothing relies on many factors. However, the alleged relativity of fashion regarding different times, places, persons and formations is not a valid reasont a priori not to issue a moral judgment about this or that fashion that transgresses the boundaries of a normal modesty.
Modesty, almost of itself, immediately sounds an alert to the presence of indecency and seduction, materialism and luxury – or even just frivolity. If the architects of the immoral fashions are skilfull in disguising perversion by mixing it with an ensemble of honest aesthetic elements, still more skilfull and quick is human sensuality to discover it and feel its fascination.
One who has sensitivity to discern the insidious character of evil should not be censured, as if this were an effect of an inner depravatity: on the contrary, such sensitivity is a sign of purity of spirit and vigilance over the passions.
No matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of fashion may be, when a danger is noticed,there is always an absolute norm to be maintained after having heard the admonition of conscience: fashion must never be a near occasion of sin.”
The Bikini and Nudity – a pagan practice?
Ven. Fulton Sheen spoke of the three Characteristics of the Diabolical, with “Love of nudity” being among them.
In a secular article titled, “Paganism: A Naked Rebellion: A look at paganism, its affinity for nudity, and how it differs from mainstream religions”, Brian Dunning, a science writer and author writes about the popularity of nudity in paganism:
“One popular allure of paganism is its embracing of free sex and public nudity. I’ve always believed that more people secretly appreciate free sex and public nudity than are willing to admit it. Wiccans have even institutionalized nudity, calling it ‘skyclad.’ “
The Jesuits in Brazil, 1549, had found the nudity of the Brazilian Indian women to be of the most trying native custom. But later, they found the newly-converted Christian women then wore clothing. (source)
Forms of the Bikini has been around for thousands of years: Archaeologist James Mellaart described the earliest bikini-like costume in Çatalhöyük, Anatolia in the Chalcolithic era (around 5600 BC), where a mother goddess is depicted astride two leopards wearing a costume somewhat like a bikini.
It was around the year 203 A.D. that Early Christian Martyr St. Perpetua was known to cover her legs as she was thrown to and fro in the lion dens – to cover her modesty! “When she was thrown into the air by a savage bull in the amphitheatre at Carthage, her first thought and action when she fell to the ground was to rearrange her dress to cover her thigh, because she was more concerned for modesty than pain.”
Pope Pius XII, Allocution to the Girls of Catholic Action, speaking of St. Perpetua
This speaks volumes of the difference between the Pagans and Christians idea of modesty in dress.
To finish, Michael D. O’Brien of LifeSiteNews wrote, ” The naked human body will always be for us something about which we cannot remain absolutely neutral—precisely because this ‘something’ is not a thing, and never will be, no matter how determined we are to make it so.” and he adds, ” In former generations there was a good deal of unhealthy fear of the body, a kind of wound caused by the errors of puritanical sects or the heresy of Jansenism.”
Therefore, we can conclude with confidence, that nudity, partial or total is not Christian, nor is it promoted by Karol Wojtyła , and even if it was, it is not of Church Teaching and can be deemed invalid and not characteristic of Catholic Teaching.
June 18, 2006
Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As the hot weather has descended on us and we are in summertime or vacation time, it is appropriate to speak of modesty of dress especially in participation in the Holy Eucharist, the receiving of Our Lord in Holy Communion, the privilege of being a lector of the Sunday Bible Readings, and serving as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.
This time of the year, I (and am sure many of you also) hear complaints about a lack of respect and reverence for the house of God, the sacredness of the Lord’s presence in the liturgy, and lack of respect for others and the lack of consciousness of the battle for purity in which the opposite sex finds itself even while attending Sunday Mass.
Immodesty in dress is governed by two citations from God’s Law:
1) The Ninth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17);
2) Jesus said: “Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
To live our daily Faith as children of God (baptism), disciples of Jesus, and temples of the Holy Spirit, we are faced with moral choices constantly, many times a day. Conscience can either make a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law, or on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them (CCC: Catechism of the Catholic Church#1799).
Dressing or putting on one’s clothes is a moral act and wearing them is a moral act. There are different appropriate modes of dress for different occasions, e.g. in the privacy of our home, with our spouse only or with our children in our home, at work or school, in mixed company, at the lake or swimming pool, grocery shopping, at church, etc.
The four cardinal virtues are in play here (Wisdom 8:5-7). The wise person is guided by wisdom, the highest of riches that guides us to be prudent (doing and saying the right thing), justice (respects the dignity of other persons), fortitude (courage to go against popular, suggestive, provocative styles), and temperance (insures mastery over sensual temptations as occasions of sin). You can read more about these four cardinal virtues that play a pivotal role in our lives (CCC 1803-1809).
Our condition – all of us are beset with concupiscence. Concupiscence or covetousness: “Human appetites or desires that are disordered due to the temporal consequences of original sin, which remain even after Baptism and which produce inclination to sin” (CCC, Glossary).
St. John identifies and distinguishes the three kinds of inclinations of all human beings: “For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).
The road to modesty starts with the purification of the heart: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication…” (Matthew 15:19). Bible beginners should be encouraged to get the basic overview of Jesus’ teaching by starting with the beatitudes in Matt. 5 in Jesus’ first sermon: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Part of the essence of that teaching is a wholesome, orthodox, first hand appreciation of God’s plan for our sexuality – its sacredness, its fulfillment in marriage, its place in family, Church, and world.
The Catechism speaks next, after the purification of the heart, about “the battle for purity”. We, the baptized and the forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires (CCC 2520).
“Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden (CCC 2521).
“Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It is discreet (CCC 2522).
“There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies (CCC2523).
“Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person (CCC 2524).
“Christian purity requires a purification of the social climate. It requires of the communications media that their presentations show concern for respect and restraint (CCC 2525).
“So-called moral permissiveness rests on an erroneous conception of human freedom; the necessary precondition for the development of true freedom is to let oneself be educated in the moral law. Those in charge of education can reasonably be expected to give young people instruction respectful of the truth, the qualities of the heart, and the moral and spiritual dignity of man” (CCC 2526).
Yes, we can help the devil in many ways including the way we dress. In the Act of Contrition we promise “to avoid the near occasion of sin”. St. Paul writes about “provoking another” (Gal. 5:26).
The key to all modesty is rooted in our mother and daddy who model modesty for their children, i.e. a strong, but tender St. Joseph-like husband and father who is blessed with a wonderful wife and mother for their children. “Happy the husband of a good wife…choicest of his blessings is a modest wife, priceless her chaste person” (Sirach 26: 1, 15).
When the community of believers comes together for the Eucharist (Mass) let no one be a distraction from Jesus or provide temptation (an occasion of sin) to another because of our manner of dress.
Lectors, Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers, and Hospitality Ministers should model modesty of dress for the parish as parents do in the family, the domestic church.
May we cherish and bear witness to the virtues of prudence, temperance, chastity, and modesty for the sake of our own salvation and of others. St. Mary and St. Joseph, St. Ann and St. Joachim, parents and grandparents of their son and grandson, Jesus, intercede for us!
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. John W. Yanta
Bishop of Amarillo
by Bishop John W. Yanta
Basics of modesty in dress
“There are differences between male and female: physical, emotional, and spiritual differences. These differences result, by God’s plan, in a beautiful complementarity oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life” (CCC 2333).
“Men and women are equal but not the same obiously. There is equal personal dignity. Each of the two sexes is an image of the power and tenderness of God” (CCC 2334-5).
“The virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason” (CCC 2341).
“Christ is the model of chastity. Every baptized person is called to lead a chaste life, each according to his particular state of life” (CCC 2394).
“Temperance: The cardinal moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasure and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the mastery of the will over instinct, and keeps natural desires within proper limits” (CCC Glossary).
From the Dictionary
Modesty: “Propriety in dress, speech or conduct” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate p.798).
Dress, Apparel, Clothing: “Covering, adornment, or appearance appropriate or peculiar to a particular time” (Webster’s p.380).
Propriety: “Fear of offending against conventional rules of behavior esp. between the sexes; the customs and manners of polite society” (Webster’s p.997).
Compendium of the Catechism
“Purity requires modesty which, while protecting the intimate center of the person, expresses the sensitivity of chastity. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their communion. Purity frees one from wide-spread eroticism and avoids those things which foster morbid curiosity. Purity also requires a purification of the social climate by means of a constant struggle against moral permissiveness which is founded on an erroneous concept of human freedom” (Compendium of the Catechism 530).
“The Church, the house of God, is… the privileged place of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament” (CCC 2691).
Excerpts from a Homily Given by Fr. Dominic Mary, MFVA on EWTN Televised Mass (6-14-05)
“Included in the virtue of modesty is not only humility, but also in how one externally dresses (cf. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary, p. 356). But many today have rejected to practice this virtue so desperately needed in our current culture. Even to the most casual observer, immodesty in dress is seen as common place in our Churches.
We have got to do all we can to help people to wake up and realize they are dressing way too immodestly, especially when it comes to entering a Church to worship God. We must be like the Vatican — just one example (cf., www. cathnews.com) – When there are heat waves in Rome the Vatican dress police, neatly dressed in pants, shirts and ties, turn back all tourists in shorts and bare shoulders trying to get into St. Peter’s Basilica. I’ve seen them do this with my own eyes. These immodestly dressed people have to go and buy paper pants and shirts from vendors eagerly waiting outside.
“Many people come to Church dressed like they are ready to go to the beach. You should not come to Church dressed in shorts, miniskirts, swimsuits, bikinis, tank-tops, bare shoulders, low cut dresses, very tight fitting clothing, etc. “We must return to having a holy fear for God and for His true Presence in the Eucharist and for being in His house. How can we expect to grow in the spiritual life if we are dressed like we don’t care? How dare we approach the Holy Eucharist dressed like we are going to the beach.
“When a person dresses immodestly he or she can become an occasion of sin for other people. And this is the fashion for today. Each year it seems that the latest fashion is to see how little clothing one can wear and how much of one’s body can be shown. And what flesh is not shown is revealed by extremely tight clothing.
“To knowingly and intentionally dress like this is sinful, and can be even seriously sinful, because one can become a temptation to sin for other people. We are all weak and can easily fall into many sins of impurity by someone else’s immodesty.
“Before we go out or buy new clothes we should do a modesty check”.
Fr. Hathaway, FSSP onModesty of Dress at Holy Mass
“We will speak on dress for women and men at the Holy Mass… especially on Sunday.
“But let me preface that I did not wake up this morning thinking, “I wonder how I can ruin their day?” I do not want to make you mad, but only advance your salvation. Our dress can be a touchy topic… but all of us should want to correct errors should they exist.
“First, we should give a definition. Modesty in dress is the virtue which regulates the type of clothing and the manner of its wearing so that it conforms to the purposes by which clothing is worn. Now the purpose of clothing is to protect against the weather, to reveal status or position or formality in society, and to preserve decency.
“Now how should women dress at Holy Mass?
“Indecency of women’s dress at the Holy Sacrifice is not a new thing. In 1921, Pope Benedict XV (Sacra propediem) lamented the indecent dress of women at Holy Mass this way: ‘…one cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and condition; made foolish by a desire to please, they do not see to what degree the indecency of the clothing shocks every honest man, and offends God.
“Most of them would formerly have blushed for those toiletries as for a grave fault against Christian modesty; now it does not suffice for them to exhibit them on public thoroughfares; they do not fear to cross the threshold of the churches, to assist at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seductive food of shameful passions to the Eucharistic Table where one receives the heavenly author of purity.
“Now how should a man dress at the Holy Sacrifice?
“If women exceed the virtue, it is common for men to come up short in practicing the virtue of modesty in dress. Men, we are inclined to be careless or slovenly about what we wear… (even at Holy Mass); and young men are prone to deliberately neglect their dress so as to attract attention.
“At Holy Mass, men should wear a coat and tie; or, at least, a collared shirt and nice slacks.
“Young men must be taught that baggy pants are not appropriate; that their hair be nicely cut and combed; that shirts be clean and without slogans or cross bones or a dragon,… or anything which may give Satan the appearance of being honored”.
On Galveston-Houston Archdiocese Website
“The Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Communion Under Both Kinds refers to reverent attire (cf. #29) but does not describe what is considered reverent. Does the Diocese of Galveston-Houston have guidelines describing what is considered appropriate attire for liturgical ministers?”
“Extraordinary Ministers should be appropriately dressed when distributing Communion during the liturgy. On several occasions I have directed that men, including young men, must wear a coat, and women modest dresses or pant suits. This directive is to be observed even for Youth Masses.”
The Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, Australia
“I am often asked about the dress requirements for people who perform the roles of readers and special ministers of communion in a parish.
“This usually comes about because complaints have been made about the way these liturgical ministers present themselves at Mass.
“A good place to begin tackling this question is to revisit the meaning of the word ‘ministry’. Readers and special ministers serve the liturgy and the gathered assembly by proclaiming the Word of God and helping in the distribution of the sacred elements. Their manner of dress should reflect the importance and dignity of the ministry in which they serve. “The term ‘Sunday best’ is sometimes used to describe what is acceptable. This does not mean expensive or fancy, but it does mean clothing that is neat, clean and reasonably modest. Outlandish or clattering jewelry, tee shirts with slogans or insignia, jogging outfits or see-through clothing are probably universally considered inappropriate.
“Liturgical ministers become channels of God’s presence when they carry out their ministry. Anything that blocks that channel – whether gesture, demeanor or clothing – is out of place. If a reader’s dress attracts the attention of the assembly rather than what he or she is proclaiming, or if a communion minister’s outfit prevents communicants focusing on receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, then something is clearly amiss”.
Ministers of Hospitality (Archdioces of Brisbane, Australia).
“Because all liturgical ministers, by their demeanor and attitude, send a message about the importance of what is taking place, it is helpful if they are attired in their ‘Sunday best’. “
In some parishes, ministers wear a uniform blazer for visibility so that they can be identified immediately in case of an emergency. In either case, a nametag identifying a person as a minister of hospitality would be helpful.
Diocese of Trenton, NJ
“Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should dress in secular clothing that is modest, clean, and appropriate for worship.
“If the local parish decides to use special dress for its Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, it must be distinctive and not confused with the dress of a priest or deacon.”
Diocese of Amarillo | Post Office Box 5644 | Amarillo, TX
This item 7056 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org
In July, 1925, Mgr Besson bishop of Lausanne, ordered to read the following letter at all Masses in churches and chapels of the diocese on 19 or 26 July 
Indecency modes, especially in the city, took scandalous proportions. The faithful, and especially mothers, should not forget that there has yet, in this area as in others, the rules of Christian modesty which no one can under any circumstances, be exempt. We need the moral level has fallen well down so that the woman is resigned to the toilet outrageous that the whims of a perverted world make him wear. We need the sense of propriety was greatly weakened so that we no longer know it is incorrect to leave home before he finished dressing. We are disgusted to see that such aberrations occur not only in the people of bad life that inspired them, but among Christian, even among those who should be more, because of their social position, set a good example. We are sorry to think that the light of so many mothers never compromises the soul of the poor children, especially girls poor, by accustoming them to certain ways of dressing that are losing their sense of modesty. Against such a revival of paganism, we have the grave duty to react, and it is the Christian spirit of the faithful that we use. Whatever vain pretexts that you can invoke, Ladies and Ladies, we do not assert that current methods are often a source of fear for unconscious sin that accept and an occasion of sin for those they scandalize. In the day when God will ask account and evil you have done and the evil you have done to make it not judge you or from your fashion magazine, or from the false principles of all materialized hygiene nor after the alleged worldly propriety, but according to the holy Gospel. Now the Divine Master said, “Woe to him who is a cause of sandal! “Heaven and earth will pass away; this word will not pass.