Of summer baptisms and spray can clothing

Everywhere in the northern hemisphere diligent and charitable priests have, I hope, reminded their flocks how they ought to dress when they come to church.  Rather, they will have at least reminded them how not to dress.  Right now there is a heat wave here in Italy and you can take off only so much.  Or can you?

I picked up this story from the wire.  What do you think?

‘I had to protect her from community’s judgment’ says priest (ANSA) – Treviso, June 27 – A young Italian mother was turned away from her son’s christening because her dress was too short .

As the ceremony was starting, in front of another couple, the priest told Chiara Limido to go and put a more suitable dress on if she wanted to see her son baptised .

Mrs Limido left the ceremony in tears and returned some time afterwards with a longer dress on, having missed most of the baptism .

Her husband Randolfo said he was thinking of suing the priest, 42-year-old Father Loris Fregona .

"I tried to keep cool, out of respect for the other family present", Mr Limido told a paper in this northeastern city .

"The priest is entitled to apply a dress code in his church. But he subjected my wife to public humiliation – blackmail even" .

A friend of Mrs Limido said: "Chiara’s dress was completely normal, a nice black outfit that covered her shoulders. It was a few inches above the knee but there is a heat wave, after all" .

On Tuesday, Father Fregona said he was forced to take action to protect Mrs Limido "from the judgement of the community" .

He said he felt no need to apologise to the family .

The local bishop’s spokesman said: "A parish priest has a duty to point out if there is something wrong with somebody’s clothing" .

This, folks, is a problem.  Of course no one want to be "mean".  Priests in general are not meanies… well… some are, but you know what I mean.  At the same time, here in Italy, this summer even more than last summer, women are dressing in a way that is… well… even more slatternly than ever. The story says "few inches" above the knee.  I don’t know how many a "few" is, but if the skirt was anything like you see around Rome these days…

It is alarming in the extreme to see how the dominant (read: domineering) MTV culture has convinced girls and young women that they must dress like prostitutes.  When the ANSA story describes the skirt as "short", I believe it.  In no way can I be considered a prude, but frankly what kids are wearing in Rome is truly indecent.  And this is not limited only to the young Italians.  In a way the tourists from northern Europe and North America are worse. 

Just how do they get that "clothing" out of those spray cans, anyway?

For some reason I cannot quite fathom, the dress for young men these days is far less problematic.  On the other hand, I hear from various sources that young men are getting more and more unconfortable with the way young women are comporting themselves.  But that is the stuff of other entries.

And where are the parents of the teenagers who go out out dressed like sluts?  Alas, sometimes they are walking along side them, apparently oblivious to the damage their permissiveness is doing to their children and to others.

And the things written on their apparel!  God save us!

I was not there at that parish and have no idea what the exchange between this parish priest and that family was like.  I don’t know if he was kind or nasty about sending this young woman out.   It was a small community, apparently.  In these parts that still makes a difference.

I can also sympathize with the priest, of course.  I have had weddings and funerals in the USA to which some young women come dressed like hookers.  It’s is so crass and tasteless as to leave me speechless… and that doesn’t happen very often.

There is a story, one of many, about the great and supremely witty Pope Benedict XIV (Lambertini).  This is back in the days of powerded wigs and dramatic décolltage.  According to the tale, during a well-attended to do of the papal court the Pope took an apple from a fruit bowl and gave it to a woman who was displaying herself in a manner somewhat more "dramatic" than was usual.  When she querried the Pope as to why he had given her the apple, His Holiness responded "When Eve ate the apple, she realized she was naked."

It is sad that this baptism drama happened at all.  I am puzzled whey the priest didn’t wait to start the baptism until after she returned, but maybe there were reasons for that too. 

"But Father!  But Father!", you’ll object.  "At least they are coming to church.  Jesus doesn’t care how they are dressed!"  Oh yah??  Don’t hand me that line of BS, ’cause I am not convinced. 

Perhaps we need to entertain for a moment that the priest did her and other people there a kindness by drawing a line. Forever after she will know that at least one person indicated to her that some ways of dressing are simply wrong.  It might have been the first time in her life that concept became real for her.

Again, I am sad that there were hard feelings, but not every lesson is life is without its scraped knees and red faces.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. rudi says:

    The story of the apple is often attributed to Pope John xxii, when he was nuncio in Paris, which is correct?

  2. Rudi… hmmm… well… when I wrote Benedict XIV it wasn’t a typo.


  3. Tim Ferguson says:

    rudi, I think the story you’re thinking of when John XXIII (not XXII) was nuncio in Paris, he was approached by a rather ample woman with a low cut dress wearing a crucifix around her neck. He commented to her (so the legend goes), “Quelle golgothe!”

  4. Is it not the case that people’s attitudes toward the Mass are betrayed by their dress at Mass? For instance, one does not see excessively informal dress at any traditional Latin Mass (so far as I have observed). This past Corpus Christi I attended (Novus Ordo) Mass at the parish church that George Weigel apparently recommends most highly (in North America). As the account posted for friends at http://www.knoxlatinmass.net/StMarys06.pdf (case-sensitive) may suggest, the priests and people there demonstrated great reverence for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. As one who habitually wears coat and tie to Sunday Mass, I observed no one dressed in a manner that an ordinary person would regard as excessively informal. There were some men without coats and ties, but no certainly women with the kind of short dresses you describe so graphically (if not entirely appreciatively).

  5. Cathy_of_Alex says:

    I would add that there are also people in church that are pretty fully covered;
    but, covered in full slob regalia. T-shirts, jeans, pajama bottoms, khakis
    with holes in them and the list goes on and on.

    People dress better at job interviews then they do to worship the Lord.

  6. Catholic Lady says:

    I was commenting to a friend the other day about how I thought ABC has created this “prostitute dress” mentality because women mistakenly thought that the pill and abortion would make them free. Instead they have reduced them self to even further being viewed as nothing but sex objects and not the keeper of the womb, the basket of life. The dress is not enough, they must undergo radical plastic surgery and body modifications. As you say MTV and other secular sexsational mentality has made these women more and more competitive in their dress and actions, not to become wives and mothers but merely to attract men who will use them and dump them anyway and they will wonder why.

  7. I find myself stealing from errrr linking to this blog a lot :)

  8. Gerald… gosh… I never noticed!


  9. These charming stories really are two separate ones.

    In the first case, the papal Nuncio is attending a diplomatic luncheon and the lady concerned, the wife of an Ambassador, is sitting next to him at table (cf. “Petites histoires du Vatican. Anecdotes et facéties des papes du XXeme siècle”, Éditions Saint-Augustin, 2000). In the second, Cardinal Roncalli merely encounters the object of his mild derision.

    In “John XXIII”, by Thomas Cahill, one finds the latter story. However, the future Pope is very unlikely to have said “Quelle golgothe !” (as rendered by Cahill), since this bears little meaning in French. “Quel Golgotha !” would be more accurate, though historically uncertain, of course.

    I might add that the story involving a decolletage was once told to me by a friend priest. Here, the Cardinal says : “Quel doux calvaire !” (“How sweet a Calvary !”) along with a few details to it which I now seem unable to remember.

  10. Paul Sim says:

    ” “But Father! But Father!”, you’ll object. “At least they are coming to church. Jesus doesn’t care how they are dressed!” Oh yah?? Don’t hand me that line of BS, ’cause I am not convinced. ”

    I agree with you on this. However, I have a rather hard time trying to debate with others about this. I have difficulty countering this point mainly because the whole thing is about attendance. “If more people come, why not?”, is the point many people make to me. Just don’t know how to answer them.

    How do you respond to people when they tell you such things?

  11. Maria- MN says:

    The clothing for boys also represents a problem. I have a 13 yr old boy. Most of the t-shirts and swimsuits either have “flames” or occultic symbols on them. There was a store which most of their tennis shoes had skull and bones in them. Some of them have these symbols in not so obvious places, but still, they are there. People are getting used to seing all these symbols around and pretty soon they will accept them, if they have not accepted them yet. I complained to an employee at Old Navy, letting him know that more than half of the t-shirt designs had flames or the like in them.
    It used to be that we had to make sure the girls were modest in their dress; now we also have to make sure our boys are not advertising hell with their clothes.

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