ASK FATHER: Revealing tops and dresses… dress code?

People-in-their-Sunday-Best-GettyFrom a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Do you think there should be a dress code for attending Mass? I am talking about girls and women wearing shorts and revealing tops and dresses?

It would be a bad idea to have a dress code at Holy Mass, especially one where girls and women would be required to wear shorts and revealing tops and dresses. If it were required for females to wear shorts and revealing tops and dresses, it would be very difficult to distinguish church from the supermarket, the mall, ball park, or almost any other venue.

As a priest, I might end up forgetting that I’m at church and, instead of reciting the prayers at the foot of the altar, I might start looking around for the concession stand. In colder climates, requiring shorts would be very difficult for those women who have become accustomed to wearing jeans, quilted jackets, and baseball caps, just like their brothers.

But seriously, fashions change over time, which is why enforcing a dress code would be nigh on impossible. We would have to pick a particular moment in the evolution of fashion and determine that it is optimal and beyond improvement, as our Amish friends and certain Old Calendar Russian Orthodox have done, not to mention some homeschool groups.

What has been the practice for centuries is the concept of wearing your “Sunday best” for Holy Mass, on Sundays and Holy Days. Wear what you would wear if you were going out to a nice restaurant (with tablecloths, silverware, and without plastic cups and a serve-yourself soda station).   Rather, wear what you ought to wear to such a restaurant.

If you were to have a private meeting with the President, or – better – someone respectable such as Pope Emeritus Benedict, what would you wear?

Why not wear that for an audience with the King of Heaven?

Outside of schools and certain work environments, dress codes are probably not the best way of enforcing any sort of dress code.

Perhaps public embarrassment would do the trick? From lay person to lay person. “Oh my dear. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but I do believe that you forgot to put a dress on over your slip this morning. Oh. That IS the dress you intended to wear? Oh. Well, pardon me then. You might want to talk to Sr. Euphrasia, she has some very nice second hand things folks have donated if you can’t afford a complete outfit.”

You get the idea.  Once again, it’s about decorum.

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50 Responses to ASK FATHER: Revealing tops and dresses… dress code?

  1. Elizium23 says:

    I saw a photo circulated on Facebook recently that was taken from the rear of a church nave, looking across the pews at a bridal party. Everyone was wearing strapless gowns and there was basically no clothing showing in the photo. It looked like all those women were sitting nude in church.

    My parish has something, let’s not say dress code, but there is a perennial announcement that goes forth to coincide with the beginning of summer (where summer is defined as approaching 120 degrees F.) Our pastor prefers that people not come half-dressed. As the receptionist I was supposed to request that people cover up if they came into the office not decently dressed. One of my first encounters with my pastor, I had just hopped off the bicycle wearing a tank top, with a long-sleeved button shirt in my backpack. He took one look at me and said “I hope you brought some clothes!” And that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I appreciate my pastor and his hardline stance on moral issues, even grey ambiguous ones about proper dress. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  2. jfk03 says:

    Shouldn’t we draw the line at spandex?

  3. greenlight says:

    I can only imagine how difficult this topic must be for a parish priest too address and navigate. Still, imagine something like this appearing in the parish bulletin a few times a year:

    “There will always be an element of subjectivity to what constitutes ‘appropriate dress’ for Holy Mass, and while the Church does not have, and will not enforce, a specific dress code, parishioners are encouraged to consider the solemnity of this holy sacrifice and to dress accordingly.”

    Come to think of it, I think that, properly worded, little blurbs in the parish bulletin are a great way to educate and catechize in a non-confrontational manner.

  4. pelerin says:

    Fr Z mentions that perhaps public embarrassment might do the trick. I saw this in Lourdes last summer for the first time when light capes were being handed out to those entering the Grotto area who were dressed in revealing strappy tops more suitable for the beach. The girls I watched looked decidedly embarrassed at having to accept and put on the capes but I had no way of knowing if on the next occasion they dressed with more decorum in order to avoid the embarrassment.

    I saw one young lady refuse to put a cape on and she was then beckoned to leave the area. She turned but then doubled back when the official was looking the other way! There are pictorial signs at both entrances to the Domaine saying that beach wear was not allowable and I had begun to think that the authorities had given up trying to stop girls entering in next to nothing so I was pleased to see that last year something is at last being done.

    Incidentally readers who occasionally look at the webcam in the Grotto on the internet will have noticed that the pyramid of candles and the altar are no longer in situ. They have been removed as the area in front of the Grotto is undergoing a facelift.

  5. Former Altar Boy says:

    At out parish, the pastor regularly reminds people that we have the same dress code at St. Peter’s. If I remember correctly, no bare shoulders (men or women), women’s dresses/skirts should fall below the knee, no shorts for men. Of course, if they are first time visitors who never saw the bulletin, it doesn’t work. At a Maronite parish I attended for several years the priest refused Holy Communion to any man or woman who presented themselves in short pants and would quietly but publicly correct them if they tried.

  6. Filumene says:

    I think dress codes are smart. Let the angry tank tops and “daisy dukes” go elsewhere. No amount of change in style can make cleavage ( and other things) acceptable in God’s house. And this is coming from a woman who would have killed for someone to enforce a dress code ( on me!) a few years back, for I had very little sense and struggled with modesty. A little tough love would have gone far for me. We have become intolerably fearful of troubling other’s feelings. Anyway, just 2 cent’s from someone who has been on both sides of it.

  7. little women says:

    I don’t think public embarrassment works anymore because there is no sense of public shame. There is no dress code at our parish, but there is a small leaflet requesting minimum standards of dress out of “charity of you neighbor”. Sometimes, it doesn’t help, but more often, it does. It’s not confrontational and does not point out any one person. I’m truly convinced people of the younger generations just don’t know any better.

  8. gramma10 says:

    In our parish certain ethnic groups wear what I think is inappropriate but they think they are dressing very well.
    At Catholic camp in the early ’60’s we all wore our camp clothes, shorts and tee shirts to daily mass.
    In our culture today, we need some guidance and teachings on modesty. So much confusion about the body prevails.
    Frankly I believe that every priest needs to embrace and learn the Theology of the Body so as to teach in it to his parishioners. We keep putting band aids on the problems and seem never go get to the root cause!

  9. ChesterFrank says:

    I can understand very specific guides on what is appropriate to wear in a Church, but I question generalities such as wearing your Sunday best. For specifics explaining that shoulders and kneecaps should be covered, and that bold logos should not be worn, and even a vague term such as modesty can be explained. For Sunday best though, one persons Sunday best might be custom tailored clothing costing thousands, and another best might be their least worn items from a thrift store. I also don’t think that hinting that people should go to mass dressed like they are from the 1940’s is helpful either; that type of clothing and the tailors who made them fit are not accessible to everyone. Dress codes can quickly be turned into a form financial exclusivity. The goal though is appropriately dignified attire, even if it is tattered. Then of course is the question of it is appropriate to wear Bermuda shorts while attending mass in Bermuda?

  10. Bea says:

    This is one of my pet peeves.
    A few years ago a priest told a young “lady” about dressing properly (She looked as if she had on a skirt-like bathing suit or wrap around towel) at a church bazaar. The father thanked the priest and said he’d been telling his daughter to dress more decently but the mother was on the girl’s side and he couldn’t fight the 2 of them. About a year later we heard she’d had a child out of wedlock.
    Don’t girls “get it”? or don’t they realize what image they are projecting or are they projecting this on purpose?
    Our Lady of Fatima said: “Fashions will be introduced that will greatly offend my Son.” We are in the midst of it.
    Men, too. There are men at church doing the collections that look like they’re going home to wash their car. A couple of these men I’ve seen at their work or out on the street in shirt and tie. “What is this?” I ask myself. “Church, the house of God and in His very Presence doesn’t deserve a shirt and tie? but the ‘world’ does?”

  11. Nora says:

    Keeping the nave temperature at about 64F is this sacristan’s method. Not completely fool proof, but generally works.

  12. Kathleen10 says:

    Many parents are accompanying young girls and women who are not dressed appropriately for church. Tight pants, tops, bared shoulders, all are seen in church, and there are the parents, many times.
    Little pictographs in the bulletins would help. People need reminders in simple language. But a regular reminder from the pulpit is better, and why, or why not to wear this or that. Modesty before God as a concept, and the idea that one does not want to be an occasion of sin for someone else, is something that will need to be directly taught again. Too many have not heard of it or have forgotten it.

  13. Gentillylace says:

    Do you think that people should dress for church as if it were a job interview? I was thinking that that standard might be a good idea, but then I realized that I prefer to dress myself in clothing, however modest, that does not need to be dry cleaned (or even ironed). Besides, since I am on SSI, I don’t have any clothes that would be truly suitable for a job interview — I have no suits, for example.

    Also, it is not just girls and women who should have a dress code, if one is necessary: boys and men should have one as well.

  14. vandalia says:

    When this subject comes up, I tell people that when dressing for Mass, the goal should be that no one remembers what you were wearing 5 minutes after Mass is over. If I think back to a Mass, and I remember what someone was wearing, it is almost certain that the dress was inappropriate in some respect. However, of course, I am a man. This may be a less reliable standard for women who generally pay more attention to dress.

  15. moconnor says:

    This one baffles me too. I think it all started in the 70s with “God only sees the inside” attitude. Here in deep S. Florida, it’s commonplace all year round to see men in shorts and women in clothes that would once have only been worn by “professionals.” I understand that one should not be wary of going to Mass because impoverishment and lack of nice clothing, but I see very rich people wearing the merest of coverings, even though the church A/C works very well. I wear long pants to every Mass and have not yet fallen out in the heat. It’s certainly a visual marker of how casual worship has become….

  16. ocalatrad says:

    Dressing With Dignity is a fabulous book that addresses this topic and our pastor leaves copies in the vestibule. We’re in central Florida–retirement capital–and many of the parishioners dress for Mass like they’re out at the links or the beach. And older folks, at that.

    I don’t think a shirt and tie for men is too much to ask. And it gets HOT down here. I would think women down here would not mind skirts as they breathe more. Look at the Bedouins of the desert with their long, free-flowing robes. They’re not wearing shorts and tank tops!

  17. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    One thing that is really not mentioned (or never mentioned at all) is that it is a near occasion of sin for many men (I’m including myself in this).

    I don’t like going into Confession and saying: “Bless me Father for I have sinned, I had a hard time paying attention at Mass again during your homily during your homily I kept thinking that it would be fun to crack open an egg on pews blond chick two pews ahead on me and see if it would cook because she was so hot…”

    Not only should women have a dress code, but men as well. And it should be strictly enforced.

  18. APX says:

    One thing that is really not mentioned (or never mentioned at all) is that it is a near occasion of sin for many men
    To which I respond, http://thesaltcollective.org/modesty-whensuitsbecomestumblingblock/ and would you guys please stop rolling up your sleeves and baring your forearms?! Don’t you know that that’s the male equivalent to women in lowcut shirts?

    As far as I am concerned, this is something that should be left to pastors to handle pastorally on an individual level in a sensitive and discreet manner. Far too many congregants self-deputize themselves as the church fashion police and think they are at liberty to address someone whom they feel isn’t dressing up to the standards.

    On a personal note, I do my best to dress modestly within my very limited means with the figure God gave me. Unfortunately I only own one skirt, two blouses, a blazer and a couple dressier shirts and sometimes when sitting clothing sits a bit differently, but nothing scandalous. Nevertheless, I get busybodies who come up to me in an attempt to “offer some fashion advice woman-to-woman”. Funny though, whenever I ask them if they’re offering to take me clothes shopping and pay for a new wardrobe and alterations, they need to go talk to someone else.

  19. Elizabeth D says:

    I do not believe modesty is completely relative and culturally conditioned. I really do not. I make no bones about stating today’s fashions, such as wearing leggings not as an undergarment but actually instead of pants, tight jeans, mid thigh length skirts, short shorts, low cut tops are immodest, and while there may be some contexts where you could make a case for some of these garments (ballet class, the beach), they never belong at Mass. I advise this to my catechism children, I enlist the Bible and homework readings from the Fathers of the Church to promote modesty.

    There should be an enforced dress code for catechists and people with some kind of liturgical role (including: skirt length BELOW the knee, preferably well below the knee, so your knee is covered when seated) because they should be giving a good example and at least not dress in a way that is a distraction or distresses others (such as people receiving Our Lord from immodest women EMHCs). I would argue there should be a dress code also for catechism students!

    And I agree with APX that dress codes apply to men also.

    As far as dressing for Mass goes, thinking about what the Mass IS: the Last Supper, the Cross, the Resurrection, and how one might appropriately dress for that makes sense to me.

  20. Elizabeth D says:

    The other thing is, immodest wedding dresses. The white dress should be a symbol of the bride’s virtue, so subversion of this and serious disrespect to self, others and God when brides wear an immodest gown, is a real sin. Many have their bridesmaids wear immodest dresses. Women invited to be a bridesmaid should offer to wear something else or else back out if they are asked to wear an immodest dress.

  21. Susan M says:

    We have a dress code at work – no sleeveless tops, no bare shoulders, no plunging neckline, no open toe shoes, no short skirts, no straggly hair, and so forth. Professional dress is required. But on the weekend, only the Protestants properly dress for Our Lord . Catholics look normal – like they’re going to see a friend….but with less clothes.

  22. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    Modesty and decorum are both well and good.

    I think there is a tendency that can sneak up on people: assigning too much of the responsibility for my chastity to other people. I have had more conversations than I would like to have had, which consisted of a devout, traditional Catholic’s recitation of the length of the sleeves or the distance from the “pit of the throat” (always good to quote old Popes, you know) of the necklines of the last twenty or thirty women said traditional Catholic had encountered.

    If a person can get other people’s responsibility for his chastity down to zero, well. What could be better?

  23. allan500 says:

    Father, modest dress in not primarily a matter of fashion, but of morality. The Church has many times offered instructions about what is required for apparel to be considered modest. The CCC speaks of it:

    2521. 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. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

    2522. Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires ones choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.

    2523. There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body…. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.(Actually all of Chapter 2, article 9 speaks of it).

    Our Lady of Fatima was more explicit: “…the sins which 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…the Church has no fashions; Our Lord is always the same…”

  24. Imrahil says:

    I think that on this topic (where of course there are problems around; and where, also, many of the more orthodox Christians seem to fall into exaggerations on their own part), you are offering some wise advice, Father.

    Some rather less wise musings of my own.

    “What is this?” I ask myself. “Church, the house of God and in His very Presence doesn’t deserve a shirt and tie? but the ‘world’ does?”

    I won’t pretend that the standard of decorum to be expected has not gone down compared to times past. It has. But that said, one reason people nowadays do not wear a suit with tie for Mass is the same why in the past they objected to wear jeans for Mass. To them it’s work-clothing.

    Then (as our reverend host also implied), the Sunday best is called Sunday best because it’s worn on the Sunday. I think people who appear for a Mass they are not obliged to attend should not be held to the same dress-code. In fact I’d personally have no bad conscience if I went swimming in the summer dressed in shorts (which are male shorts, though, i. e. at least barely reach the knee) and attend a weekday Mass afterwards (but not in the bathing-shorts). People who could just as well not go to Church at all, who (by hypothesis) are not wearing clothing that is sinful in general, and who are Catholics wishing to attend a Mass, need not, in my opinion, stay out of Church just because they are not dressed appropriately for Sundays.

    Coming to think of it, one of the reasons the Sunday best has gone down might be the general amnesia concerning the third commandment even among those who actually fulfil it. It became unmodern to speak of obligation w.r.t. to Church going (“I am not such a hypocrite and Sunday-Christian to go to Mass because I have to; noone has to; I want to” and other such nonsense). But if I needn’t be there at all, it’s better if I’m there in lax clothing than not going at all because not willing to dress up. As I think too, only I think there are obligations.

    Then, I do not consider the thought “how great it is that God created this beautiful woman there in the front pew, third counted from the right, and that both of us belong to the Mystical Body” and even “how I’d love to give myself to her in the sacrament of Marriage” sinful or even (if it remains momentaneous) distracting in the proper sense (provided, for the second part, that the one who thinks so is in a position to be allowed such wishes). There are sinful looks, of course, but they are different. I don’t think, for instance, that much sinful thoughts are triggered by women not wearing mantillas, etc. (Which is not to say that women should not wear them.) We have to distinguish questions of downright chastity from question of modesty (dependent of the habituations of a given time) and questions of decorum (dependent even directly on the fashion), in descending order of importants.

    These things do not seem to be explainable by a simple formula, btw. I was once talking a walk on a Sunday with, among others, a female acquaintance. We met a Church on our way (so to speak) and wanted to visit it, where she got genuinely embarrassed at a sign that said her dress was out of place in there. Alas, none of us had a pullover, scarf, or any such thing at hand to help her out (it was summer). Well then, an older woman came out of the Church, saw the look on her face and said that the dress code was meant to prevent immodesty, and hence as she was obviously modest not applying to her. :-)

    Dear APX,
    Nevertheless, I get busybodies who come up to me in an attempt to “offer some fashion advice woman-to-woman”. Funny though, whenever I ask them if they’re offering to take me clothes shopping and pay for a new wardrobe and alterations, they need to go talk to someone else.
    I pity you. And interesting observation.

  25. Oh Father. You are a brave man for bringing this one up again.

    It’s hot weather here right now, but we are pretty lucky at our church; most of the locals seem to have absorbed the idea of dressing modestly.

  26. Ipsitilla says:

    Perhaps I have an unfair advantage when it comes to Massgoing attire, because I’m typically sequestered in a choir loft wearing a floor-length robe – the better to be heard and not seen. However, once after observing multiple heated discussions about modesty both online and off, I was inspired to compose a brief verse:

    The portal of lust for a man is the eye,
    The woman’s is lodged in her mind.
    To salvage her soul, then, the woman must die,
    The man simply has to go blind.

  27. Deacon Don says:

    I always enjoy these discussions simply because there are no “rules” and the variants from those who would impose “rules” run the gambit from suits to shorts, from chapel veils to tiaras.

    There is one group whose dress is regulated both be rules and traditions … those who preside at the liturgies … and how often are those rules simply ignored, or the choices in attire far from appropriate. … construction boots, flannel shirts, jeans.

    How many parishes actually own a set of dalmatics for their Deacon(s)? Multiple sets of chasibles, but not a single cross-body stole in sight, let alone a proper dalmatic.

    In how many parishes is the clerical collar of the presider clearly predominate? [Good points about having the proper vestments for deacons. However, around here we say “priest”, not “presider”.] No amice here, ever … to restrictive. Please don’t discuss liturgical colors.

    It is a two-way street. Those who demonstrate respect can expect to see respect.

  28. Matt Robare says:

    Well, if you’re a lay man and you love the EF you have to wear a vest and tie to Mass. I think it’s in the Code of Canon Law somewhere.

    Related to that, at NO Masses I’ve been to one can generally tell who is going to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion by their dirty jeans, sandals and tee-shirts. I’m pretty sure, based on their grey hair, that they were from the 60’s, too.

  29. Mary Jane says:

    My husband and I live in a state where the summers are very hot, yet we and those at our FSSP parish dress modestly (suits – and suit coats! – for the men; modest dress / skirt & blouse attire for the women).

    It’s the job of the pastor to address the modesty issue at his parish…this should not be something that the laity take on themselves. If there’s a problem, take it to the pastor and let him handle the situation.

    If St Peter’s can have a dress code and enforce it, so can every other parish out there.

  30. chantgirl says:

    As a teenager, I really struggled to understand and accept the Church’s view of sexuality and the human body. As a married woman with children, I see it as the pearl of great price. What seemed restrictive and impossible to achieve as a teen I now see as the safeguard of goodness and beauty. Yes, men are responsible for their chastity, but women also should not allow themselves to become stumbling blocks. If Jesus says that a man commits adultery by looking at a woman lustfully, women should, within reason and out of charity, avoid clothing which is meant to be provocative. Some men will struggle with lust no matter what a woman is wearing and women aren’t responsible for that, but is it so hard to help our brothers in Christ out a bit by foregoing some of the attention we would get wearing skimpy clothes?
    On behalf of my sons, husband, my parish priests, the altar servers, the seminarians, and the men at Mass who are just trying to worship, I ask the young women to carefully consider their clothing choices.

  31. Carolina Geo says:

    I still remember one holy priest explaining it this way years ago:

    Poor people typically dress in their best attire – however lowly it may be – for Mass. Middle class people typically dress as if they are going to the beach. And upper class people typically dress as if they are coming back from the beach.

  32. KateD says:

    I have found an abundance of designer skirts in excellent condition at garage sales and church rummage sales with price tags of anywhere from .25 cents to $2. Often times, people will give them gratis, as they are just looking to de-clutter. Thrift shops are an excellent resource for attractive, inexpensive and modest clothing as well.

  33. marajoy says:

    This post is timely. This past Sunday, as people were leaving the Latin mass, I saw a teenage girl wearing a mantilla, but also wearing very short skirt that must have only been a couple inches beyond her panties. My dear, I think you’re missing the point.

  34. templariidvm says:

    What often comes to mind when I see “inappropriately dressed” men and women for Mass is a song we sang as a child, in which some of the lyrics are: We are poor but we brought ourselves the best we could. That answers the whole question as to clothing, for me.

  35. jeffreyquick says:

    The EF parish in my diocese has a dress code posted at the door. When I first went there with my wife, who had dressed in “Grandma goes to church” clothes, she said, “I’m in violation of the dress code.” Also, the pastor there ended the annual rummage sale after the person in charge would not remove immodest clothes from the sale.

    I always wear long sleeve shirts and ties (not necessarily a suit). I figure that if I want women to cover up, I should cover up in solidarity.

  36. MrsMacD says:

    Google “prison dress code for visitors,” enough said.

  37. Chris in Maryland 2 says:

    Here is a related story – a young woman, eldest of several, prepares for Mass by dressing in a strapless dress. Her parents ask her to change into something that is modest. Her honest reaction is that her parents “are treating her like a child.”
    Her parents explain that no, the purpose of having young children dress modestly is not because modesty if fitting only for little children. The practice of modesty in little children is to model adult behavior, which esteems modesty.
    Another Zeitgeist Falsehood: Rejecting modesty is a token of reaching one’s “majority.”
    The Truth: Expecting modesty is treating people like adults.

  38. Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick says:

    Carolina Geo, you reminded me of this:

    Upper Class: “He died.”
    Middle Class: “He passed away.”
    Lower Class: “He went home to Jesus.”

  39. frjim4321 says:

    As a general rule I find that people spend a lot more time worrying about what other people wear to church than they do worrying about their own preparation for liturgy. Rather then scanning the assembly and judging others I would suggest a few more appropriate activities such as reading the scriptures, reflecting on them, and praying. Work toward greater insight into the wooden beams in one’s own eyes rather than clucking over the specks in the eyes of others. I doubt that God, who created all of us in beautiful and innocent nakedness, cares a whit what a person wears to church. Comparing God to a king, queen or president is an absurdity. We create a god in our own image when we tell others how they should dress in church.

  40. bookworm says:

    My personal rule of modesty in church, or most public environments, for BOTH men and women is: cover everything between your shoulders and your knees, other than your arms. No bare midriffs and no bare shoulders. V-necklines are OK as long as no cleavage is showing. Basically, nothing that calls undue attention to itself or the wearer.

    While I admire the sentiment behind “dress for Mass as you would for the Queen, the Pope, etc.” I personally wouldn’t recommend it as a general rule of thumb for the simple reason that, for most non-wealthy and non-famous people, an audience with the Pope, etc. is not something they do on a weekly or daily basis — it’s a once in a lifetime event, for which one would feel obligated to splurge far beyond the norm. Nor are people with babies, restless toddlers, infirm parents, etc. normally obliged to bring them along to a papal or royal audience.

  41. Kathleen10 says:

    frjim, you’re a trip. You just can’t resist lighting that fuse. :)
    I respectfully disagree with you. I think your opinion on this encapsulates a great deal of the difference between many Catholics today. In your opinion, to have a standard is to judge others. In your mind, that’s wrong. To some Catholics, that standard is good and appropriate, because we know ourselves as weak and we comprehend God as majestic, deserving of our considerations in every respect. Modesty as a virtue probably does not appeal to you, you may consider it antiquated and Puritan. I wish you would respect that others do not feel that way. Look around at the culture and see what the removal of modesty has brought about. Is it good? I don’t know what your answer would be. I would say, it is definitely not. There is nothing judgmental about deciding what is appropriate attire when in the presence of God, and when one is considerate of not being an occasion of sin for others. Perhaps you have not considered that you are at the front of the church, but those of us in the pews have to gaze past many others as we look toward the altar. There are opportunities to be distracted unnecessarily. We ought to be very considerate of that, regarding others.
    Lastly, I cannot understand how you could say God is not a King. Of course He is a King. And more than any earthly King he deserves our maximum consideration and proper decorum.
    Happy New Year, frjim. :)

  42. acardnal says:

    frjim wrote, “I doubt that God, who created all of us in beautiful and innocent nakedness, cares a whit what a person wears to church.”

    Are you suggesting we attend Mass in the nude? If you’ve ever attended an LCWR convention you may change your mind.

  43. MrsMacD says:

    I’m pretty sure they have a dress code over at my local parish. I’m pretty sure the last time I was there it was black jackets and jeans, although I didn’t see a sign, few people didn’t conform.

  44. Per Signum Crucis says:

    In response to marajoy’s observation, the mantilla-wearing young lady in the very short skirt may not have entirely missed a point: after all, in the secular world, the fact that women may freely wear the flimsiest of clothing without any consequence (even the most obvious and / or severe) is more or less regarded as a legal norm; the mantilla meets the norm of a garment appropriate for attending a TLM. She may be doing nothing more than covering both bases, so to speak.

    On the other hand, Fr Jim makes a fair point about judging others but, in my travels from the UK to a number of European destinations which enjoy a better climate, it’s not that unusual to encounter a sign at church entrances requesting that bare shoulders and legs above the knee should be covered as a mark of respect. So someone ‘in charge’ feels entitled to make that judgement.

  45. timorgangrinder says:

    Modesty in church is essential. I believe we learn from our superior’s example. This reminds me of a picture I saw of Pope John Paul II at a mass in some African country where a topless woman was reading from the podium. We here of women in immodest apparel being turned away from holy shrines. This seems like a double standard to me. I’m not saying the Pope was responsible for this action but certainly some one in authority knew of this. If you say that this is the customary dress well so are bathing suits just not to mass. We are living in an era where our superiors are telling us “do as I say not as I do”. I think that these bad examples are plaguing us today. These bad examples seem too numerous to list here.

  46. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Fr. Jim, you do realize that Genesis says that when He had to send Adam and Eve out of Eden, God gave them sturdy, warm clothes of leather and fur to replace all that pathetic hiding in bushes and sewing leaves together. Adam and Eve made the first clothing, but God was the first fashion designer.

    Furthermore, we are reliably informed that God gave us white robes, that we are to keep them clean and overcome, and that we will be wearing them in Heaven also. So God is also the last fashion designer. :)

    On the bright side, if you really don’t care what people wear to church, obviously that means your heart has changed from the time you posted here about how much you wish certain people would stop kneeling and wearing chapel veils. Your current attitude of pure toleration must obviously embrace traditional uses.

  47. frjim4321 says:

    ” Modesty as a virtue probably does not appeal to you, you may consider it antiquated and Puritan” = K10

    Yes, I think that is probably correct.

    Maybe not Puritan but Victorian.

    Matters of taste are very relative and should not be absolutized.

  48. The Masked Chicken says:

    Although no one is going to read my long comment on another thread about social entropy, frjim4321’s comment, above, is the exact definition of increasing social entropy within the Church.

    Elizabeth D., wrote,

    “I do not believe modesty is completely relative and culturally conditioned. I really do not. I make no bones about stating today’s fashions, such as wearing leggings not as an undergarment but actually instead of pants, tight jeans, mid thigh length skirts, short shorts, low cut tops are immodest, and while there may be some contexts where you could make a case for some of these garments (ballet class, the beach), they never belong at Mass.”

    I agree. Clearly, modesty could not be completely relative because, else, as SuburbanBanshee points out, a Genesis 3:7:

    “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”

    Would not make any sense. We wear clothes because of Original Sin. That is a universe among cultures. Thus, the wearing of clothing must be universal and it must be reasonable. Not all cultural views of clothing are reasonable. Wearing leggings, by themselves, in my opinion (and I see it all the time on campus) is a violation of reason and demonstrates the effects of Original Sin.

    The Chicken

  49. Moral_Hazard says:

    Clothing for Mass is always one of those topics. Having sat behind the 16 year old girl (as a man) wearing the tight daisy duke shorts with the word “Juicy” embroidered on the derriere, I understand the dismay at lack of modesty. One thing I do is close my eyes and pray. If your eyes are closed you won’t be distracted.

    As an aside I’ve gone to church in motorcycle leathers when on a bike trip. That will garner some stares.

  50. Indulgentiam says:

    +JMJ+
    The Holy Catholic Church does have a dress code. Our Lord spoke on modesty. Various Popes and Saints have written on it. The Catholic tradition has given us a valuable definition of modesty, which is the virtue that regulates ones actions and exterior customs concerning sexual matters. It controls ones behavior so as to avoid unlawful sexual arousal in oneself or others. Modesty is one of the Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory.

    The following is from Sacra Virginitas
    ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XII
    ON CONSECRATED VIRGINITY
    March 25th, 1954

    58. The educators of the young clergy 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, since it brings the soul to show due reverence to the body, as being a member of Christ[101] and the temple of the Holy Spirit. [102]He who possesses the treasure of Christian modesty abominates every sin of impurity and instantly flees whenever he is tempted by its seductions.

    59. Modesty will moreover suggest and provide suitable words for parents and educators by which the youthful conscience will be formed in matters of chastity. “Wherefore,” as 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.”[103] In modern Times New Roman 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 just temperance and moderation must be used, as Christian modesty demands.”

    On November 8, 1957, Pope Pius presented the still-valid principles of modesty in dress. The Pontiff then isolated the difficulty with fashion. The problem of fashion consists in the harmonious reconciliation of a persons 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.
    The human body is Gods masterpiece in the visible world; Jesus elevated the human body to the rank of a temple and an instrument of the Holy Spirit, and as such must be respected.

    Certain fashions and styles create confusion in well-ordered minds and can even be an incentive to evil. It is possible to declare when the limits of normal decency have been violated. This sense of decency sounds an alarm when immodesty, seduction, lust, outrageous luxury or idolatry of matter …”

    To see a person committing a sin and not warn them of the perils to their soul is hatred of the vilest kind. Any Priest, frjim4321, who turns a blind eye to immodesty, especially in the House of GOD, under the erroneous attitude of “who am I to judge” will, at his judgement, likely hear…”I made you a Shepherd and you saw them running off a cliff and did nothing!” Sit with that a while.