A parish bulletin message to people who dress inappropriately for Mass

A screenshot of a pdf of an actual parish bulletin.

WDTPRS kudos to Fr. Paul Parkerson of Sacred Heart Church in Dunn, NC.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Very funny. The problem I see are the old, middle-aged moms who want to dress like their 16-20 year old daughters, making more than one generation immodest. Some women have completely lost the sense of good taste and elegance.

  2. danphunter1 says:

    What is a “spaghetti cami”?
    Sounds like something I ate at Luigis Pizzeria last week.

    Hilarious piece!

  3. tealady24 says:

    I love it! Very creative, and very to the point, in a nice way. I am in awe of the sloppy Catholic! Why oh why do you think it’s a-ok to come to church looking like you just came from cleaning garbage cans?
    There’s always that argument that “God doesn’t care what I look like, he’s just glad I’m there.” Jesus whipped the moneychangers out of the temple; why do you think He likes you dressed like a mscreant? Is that really the image you’re trying to convey?

  4. Alan Aversa says:

    My bulletin was much clearer:



    We ask you to please avoid at church:
    Shorts & flip-flops, sleeveless blouses or shirts without a jacket or sweater, spaghetti-strap tops, leggings or baggy shorts.

    We ask you to NEVER wear as a Catholic:
    Mini-skirts, short shorts, low-cut blouses and tops, tube tops and bikini swimsuits.
    If you have clothes like these at home we kindly ask you to please throw them away. God will judge you also on what you wear and if you edify or scandalize others by the way you dress.

    Thank you for your compliance! Confess your Faith by Dressing with Dignity!

  5. Monica says:

    I’m on board with much of this, but “no sleeveless blouses” (or ‘shells’) is simply ridiculous.

  6. Random Friar says:


  7. MJ says:

    Awesome! :)

    I’m on-board with the no sleeveless blouses thing, too.

  8. MyBrokenFiat says:

    Alan – I love your parish’s entry. Brilliant and I think I’m gonna go ahead and forward it to my pastor.

    Andy – agreed. So totally agreed.

    Brilliant! <3 this.

  9. TLMom says:

    Excellent! Our pastor is very direct about this issue from the pulpit, in the bulletin and with signs at the entrances. Some still ignore the message, but coupled with the overall reverence and dignity of the masses there has been positive change.

  10. Monica says:

    MJ, I’ve read tons of these “modest clothing” posts on various blogs. I’m curious as to why some people consider a sleeveless blouse immodest, but upon thinking about this parish insert, I’d have to go farther and say that putting a dress code in the bulletin reminds me of how my sons’ teachers “ask” us to sit in little-kid chairs at Back-to-School Night.
    Yes, some people dress badly for Mass. But standards of modesty differ even among the well-meaning and devout.

  11. irishgirl says:

    Ha! This is a good one! Rather tongue-in-cheek, but it makes a big point!
    I also like Alan Aversa’s parish bulletin announcement: brief, pithy and to the point.
    Reminds me of a remark by a straight-talking young priest in response to a kid’s saying, ‘Well Father, it’s hot outside…’:
    ‘And your point is? PUT A SHIRT ON!’
    My kind of Padre….!

  12. JonPatrick says:

    For those that say God doesn’t care what you look like, I say look up Matt 22:11 and see what happened to the guest who came to the wedding feast without the proper garment.

  13. Ezra says:

    I’ve been seeing some bizarre clothes in church recently. A man wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a grinning Hindu deity on the front, and a young girl wearing this (in white, not red). Leaves me wondering how you’d work false deities and Nazi (?) gender-bending into the usual “modest dress, please” notice.

  14. John V says:

    Ah, but the target audience probably doesn’t read the bulletin.

  15. TMKent says:

    These types of directives are risky.
    Several years ago our family went on a long vacation. The first part of our vacation was spent at a convention in DC where we attended daily mass – the whole family dressed to the nines. On our way home we camped along the Blue Ridge parkway and went into a town for Sunday mass. The good clothes were a mess by this time. I put together the best of what was remaining and we cleaned up and headed to town for mass. I generally wear a dress for church and always dress modestly. On this particular day I had on slacks. My husband and sons were in their cleanest golf shirts – essentially their Catholic School uniforms. We walked into a parish where EVERY female had a dress on down to the babes in arms and EVERY man a tie. That would be fine and good were it not for the cold reception we received dressed as we were. All church dress codes should be a matter of custom and expectation, not a requirement. When you make it a requirement you risk unfounded judgment.
    About 20 years ago, our parish lost several active younger members over a “no jeans” statement. I’ve never seen any of them again at any Catholic parish in the area. I often wonder if it would have been better if individual parishioners had been enlisted into “dressing as an example”. The jeans folks could have been allowed to mature in their habits without driving them from the faith from embarrassment. Brick by Brick as it were.

  16. Jerry says:

    @Monica – One issue with sleeveless blouses is that many have large arm holes that expose the woman’s bra to view.

  17. TomG says:

    Ezra: not to mention that baptized Catholic Che Guevara!

  18. Monica says:

    Too-large armholes are something to watch out for in the fitting room, to be sure. Assuming that this has been avoided, I do not see a problem. And, frankly, I agree with TMKent.
    Matthew’s reference to wedding garments signifies one’s interior disposition and is not at all about clothing.

  19. frjim4321 says:

    I am strongly in favor of this bulletin article and fervently wish that the pastors of all my neighboring parishes run it at once.

  20. debval says:

    We were at Mass one Sunday and we were sitting for the readings when my 16 year old son says, “I sure hope that girl (in front of us) has undewear on because the skirt isn’t long enough to go under her.” We now sit in the front row. There’s nothing like an extrodinary minister offering you the Body of Chirst with her ‘body’ being presented at the same time.

  21. frjim4321 says:

    . . . we will enjoy the increased attendance and offertory!

  22. Varda says:

    I am always confused about the no sleeveless blouses/dresses too. I used to wear what I considered to be modest summer dresses to Mass that had no sleeves, but did not expose any under garments, were not low cut, too short, etc. and thought that I was fine, but in the last few years I have seen the no sleeveless thing in several places, so I have stopped doing that. I still do not see why arms are a no no though.

  23. Denita says:

    Love the bulletin. I try to dress modest, even in this Texas heat. I actually saw a photo of the Holy Father greeting a woman ( don’t know where I saw it) who was wearing a very low cut white blouse.
    Very inappropriate. And I’ve seen men in shorts at Mass, so it isn’t just the women. I don’t care to see your hairy legs, sir, OK?

  24. Katharine B. says:

    Personally, I think sleeveless blouses are one of those items of clothing in which women either look really good or really bad when wearing; much like… Pants!

  25. danphunter1 says:

    One of the issues with sleeveless blouses is that many men, of varying ages, are distracted and stimulated by a womans bare shoulder.
    I know I and several male aquaintences are.

  26. Legisperitus says:

    I think the issue with sleeveless blouses is the bare shoulders more than the arms. After all, everyone has the right to bare arms.

  27. introibo says:

    Regarding the sleeveless tops…yeah, are men even aroused by bare arms?
    But I think once you give the OK for bare arms, even with an otherwise modest, covering top, you open the window to spaghetti straps, no straps, etc..

  28. Paul says:

    I have been having this multiple day discussion with 5 or so alumni from the same ‘Catholic’ HS that I graduated from as well on this very thing. I seriously can’t stand the ignorance of these people, and it has strained my charitibility. All too often, emotions and ‘let’s just get along’ Kumbayah crap, is presented as critical thinking.
    This joke above has really helped me recoup after that 5 or 6 on one discussion! Thank you soo much for posting this!

  29. Mom2301 says:

    As a judge I used to tell people they should dress for court as they would for church. Needless to say I can no longer use that example.

  30. eyeclinic says:

    I can’t help but see this as some kind of “end of summer” joke. Placed in the bulletin at the end of summer as it is, I think most people would laugh and next summer things would be the same. If it was placed in the bulletin at the beginning of summer, then it might have a different effect. Looks like a space-filler to me, and I doubt it was ever meant to be taken seriously. If it was meant to be a serious commentary, it should have been given pride of place in the bulletin. I think it only undermines the efforts to restore a semblance of humility in dress.

  31. Paul says:

    **Off topic** I didn’t know it was possible to have the same username as another poster!

    Paul (Young)

  32. kolbe1019 says:

    If a man showed up with a sleeveless shirt imagine the uproar. Ladies you don’t look any better… regardless of how “comfortable” you may feel.

  33. Margaret says:

    After all, everyone has the right to bare arms.

    More controversial, however, is the right to arm bears… =o

  34. cheyan says:

    introibo: “But I think once you give the OK for bare arms, even with an otherwise modest, covering top, you open the window to spaghetti straps, no straps, etc…”

    Wouldn’t it be possible just to say “no spaghetti straps or strapless clothing”? I mean, sure, you’d get people rules-lawyering about whether the straps are thick enough, but that’d involve them actually thinking about the request, which is a plus, right?

  35. moon1234 says:

    @Monica – One issue with sleeveless blouses is that many have large arm holes that expose the woman’s bra to view

    Or some our our cases, those wome who burned the bra and choose never to wear them. I know of at least ONE extended family member who claims she is an “a” cup so she jus goes without as she has nothing to show anyway. I can also tell you that she dresses the same way at Church too.

    Depending on where she sits and what she wear, you can SEE the teenage boys staring at her during Mass. I don’t care if your flat or gifted, men and boys NOTICE what you are NOT wearing. If it is sleeveless blouses you can virtually GUARANTEE that some young male with raging hormones is checking to see if your wearing a bra.

    Even my father makes off color jokes in front of my kids that I need to correct him on. I found my boys intently watching the “Miss America Pagent” during the “Swimsuit” (a.k.a playboy audition) part of the “show”. Dad’s comment was “I’m just waiting for one of them to trip”.

    Dress plays a VERY big role in how you are perceived AND treated in the male psyche. Expose your “jewels” and there will be a theif there trying to steal them. Keep them veiled and there will be those who will want admire your for your jewels.

    It never ceases to amaze me that people are just fine with sloppy dressing. What you wear to peoples first impressions about you before you even open your mouth.

  36. irishgirl says:

    danphunter-‘Spaghetti cami’ is short for ‘Spaghetti straps camisole’.
    A ‘camisole’ is a fancy French name for a garment which is better kept hidden, as in ‘underwear’.
    ‘Spaghetti’ refers to the very thin straps which [supposedly] cover the shoulders.
    But I think I like your ‘definition’ better!

  37. jesuitschooled says:

    Did you see the daily mass schedule for this parish?? I wonder if there is a connection between that and this bulletin entry…

  38. ejcmartin says:

    When I told someone that I was converting to the Catholic her response was “they don’t wear jeans there do they?”

  39. MJ says:


    In response to the no sleeveless blouse thing – I just think its easier to set a standard for modesty if the rule is “no sleeveless blouses” (even if the sleeve is just a cap or butterfly sleeve) rather than trying to say “you can wear a sleeveless blouse but it can’t be a spaghetti strap cami and the arm holes can’t be larger than such-and-such and the width of the strap has to be at least an inch and a half and … ”

    You see the idea. :)

  40. Jacob says:

    I wear a short-sleeved polo shirt and shorts during the summer. I am well aware of the fact that it is not the most formal attire for Mass, but I am easily dehydrated. Even in the most air conditioned church, it can get hot when surrounded by others. I have relegated myself to the balcony until autumn.

  41. Widukind says:

    There are several such bulletin anouncements, I believe penned by a Deacon. This summer I put in the bulletin the one announcing that Brittany Spears had cancelled her appearance at the parish.
    Most people though it was a great message. However, there was one mother, who was indignant about it. She is supposed to have said to another, the “he should be gald that they just show up.”
    I have been searching for a cogent, pithy, striking, and even a bit witty, explanation as to why there is a need for proper dress at Mass. Quoting Scripture does not do it, nor most explanations on the reverence owed to God. These are so quickly dismissed by those common flippant replies – “be glad that they are there”, “Jesus cares more about what is in your heart than what you have on your body”, “who said it was wrong to be casual – that is just the way things are done now”, ” you shouldn’t judge your neighbor”, etc.
    It needs a zinger quality. Any good possibilities?

  42. inara says:

    regarding sleeveless blouses, skirt lengths, necklines, etc., thankfully there is a Papal standard that we are expected to uphold (since, as evidenced by this discussion, without one each does “what is right in his/her own eyes”…I know I did until I discovered this):

    “In order that uniformity in understanding prevail…we recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers’ breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees.”

  43. RichardT says:

    danphunter1 (at 2:43 pm) – same here.

  44. IntroiboAdAltareDei says:

    I was so blessed as to again visit this very parish the weekend before last. All I shall say is, … may God bless Fr. Parkerson for his tireless efforts to promote the good and the beautiful. As a visitor from out of town, it is truly a joy to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass there, and his parishioners indeed appear to be a testament to the good Padre’s initiatives and endeavours. This parish is without doubt a model for many Catholic parishes to follow. (The Sunday EF Mass was indeed a joy to be a part of.)
    Fr Parkerson, ad multos annos! … and yes, thank you for a most appropriate employment of humo(u)r, too!
    A blessed Feast of the Holy Name of Mary to Fr. Z. and all his readers.

  45. anncouper-johnston says:

    I’m not worried about informal dress, including jeans, but ladies (16 or 60!) displaying their underwear is just tacky, ditto scooped necks that scoop right down and skirts that rise right up. One youngster (a young lady would have been better dressed) displayed her underwear under a sleeveless cutaway vest (fashionably assymetric and therefore draped untidily over her rear, too!) and added short shorts to the outfit. It wasn’t even a hot day (15C) and I was wearing a t-shirt and fleece. I never dress formally, but I do try to be clean, tidy and decent (at a certain age exposed skin is not pretty, anyway … so I don’t expose it!).

    We had the wettest August for 18 years so anyone who found it so hot they had to dress for the beach must have had a peculiar metabolism!

  46. cheyan says:

    inara: “regarding sleeveless blouses, skirt lengths, necklines, etc., thankfully there is a Papal standard that we are expected to uphold (since, as evidenced by this discussion, without one each does “what is right in his/her own eyes”…I know I did until I discovered this):

    “In order that uniformity in understanding prevail…we recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers’ breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees.””

    …so, in other words, I do not own a single shirt that is lightweight enough for me to wear in the summer that would suffice, as far as sleeves go, and many of my shirts that aren’t t-shirts wouldn’t fit the throat restriction, either.

    That “standard” is from 1928, by the way – not something that was recently set. (It’s been recently quoted, but Google doesn’t turn up any Papal representative using it in the first ten pages of results.)

  47. MJ says:

    Just a note about weather – related dressing…I have friends in Texas, and they’ve had *such* a hot and dry summer…yet from what I hear, it didn’t affect how people dressed at the Mass they go to.

    Point is, it really doesn’t matter what the weather is – it’s always possible to dress modestly and becomingly for Mass. That goes for guys and gals.

    I heard a story once of a priest who was approached by a lady who said people were making rude comments to her about her wearing pants to Mass. She told the priest she had been in a fire and her legs were badly burned and disfigured to the point that she was embarrassed about wearing a skirt or dress. The priest told her as long as she was modest and wore her “Sunday best”, she shouldn’t worry. The next Sunday he made an announcement from the pulpit to the effect of “let the priest handle the issue of modestly at Mass – and don’t judge your neighbor, they may be dealing with an issue you are unaware of.”

    Long story short…maybe you cannot afford designer clothing…perhaps you have a health issue…but everyone can all always dress modestly – and well! – for Mass, and yet still we shouldn’t judge others on what they’re wearing.

  48. AnAmericanMother says:


    “Would you dress like that to meet the President? So don’t dress like that to meet your Saviour!”


    The sleeveless thing has a long history. I think the origin is that a lady’s shoulders (and upper arms) are traditionally exposed only in evening dress, which is of course very secular and usually somewhat seductive. Some of that reputation continues even with spaghetti straps and tank tops. But that sort of dress is also way too casual for Mass, as a general rule.

    I have occasionally found myself at a dog trial with no time or place to jump into a dress, and I’ve attended Mass in camouflage brush pants, a button-down oxford shirt in camo (with the club logo over the pocket) and hiking boots. But when I find myself in that predicament, I always apologize to the pastor and explain. I also wear a chapel cap, which looks odd and confuses people, but there ya go.

  49. Ezra says:


    Another spin on AnAmericanMother’s line:

    “If you wouldn’t wear it to meet the Queen of England, you shouldn’t wear it to receive the King of Kings.”

  50. RichardT says:

    As a perfect example of dressing formally despite hot weather, here’s a clip of the new British Ambassador to the Holy See presenting his credentials in the Vatican (pinched from Fr Blake’s blog):

    This week’s temeratures in Rome: 32C (90F). The little boy shouldn’t have been allowed out without a tie, but do you see any of the adults dressing down? His Excellency must have been sweltering.

  51. Love this post. I take great pride in the fact that my kids are dressed appropriately for Mass and we have a strict no flip flop rule for Mass – of course it helps that our Msgr. has said that out loud so when I get an eye roll or an argument I just say, “because Msgr. says so!”

  52. It’s been awfully hot this summer, so I really feel for the sleeveless top question. But a light stringy shrug, or a light breathable jacket, or a filmy scarf — or a real linen scarf, which will cool you off — any of those will help a lot. You don’t have to wear it on the way to church; just put it on as you’re getting ready to go in.

    Especially since, when it’s really hot, you and your neighbors and the pew really want something standing between the world and my armpits. ‘Cause personally, I don’t “glow” anymore; I sweat. (This is also a great advantage of having a hat at church, because by the time I get to Mass on a hot summer morning, my hair is pretty much streaming sweat.)

  53. erinalicia says:

    St. John Vianney pulled no punches regarding modesty:

    No, my dear brethren, this gracious virtue of purity is not known to those young men whose eyes and hands are defiled by glances and…Oh God, how many souls does this sin drag down to Hell…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 labors and tears and torments to Jesus Christ. Look at them, these misfortunates, and you will see that a thousand devils surround their heads and their breasts. An even more astounding thing to understand is how their mothers endure them in a state unworthy of a Christian. I would tell these mothers they are worth no more than their daughters.

    — St. John Vianney

  54. AnAmericanMother says:

    90 degrees? Ha! Try coastal GA in August – 98-100 degrees, 100% humidity, and clouds of mosquitos and deer flies just to add to the misery.
    For Mass I wear a lightweight tank dress, mid calf length, and a linen jacket over. Put the jacket on in the narthex.
    The South did not amount to a thing until they invented air conditioning.

  55. Monica says:

    Thanks to all who commented about the “sleeveless blouse” issue I raised. I’ve been thinking about this all day, and here goes.
    I welcome homilies explaining why we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, should not be stumbling blocks to each other.
    And I would speak with my pastor if a dress code were promulgated in my parish church. The Church is the place where the day laborer should be able to come to noon Mass in his shorts and T-shirt; it is the place where the girl who gets a ‘wild hair’ to drop in (wearing miniskirt and lowcut sleeveless(!) shirt) is not discouraged by a cold stares. My sons wear black jeans and polo shirts if their (Catholic school) Flynn-n-O’hara pants are in the laundry, and knee-length shorts are okay with Daddy and me in July and August.
    I live in the fabled Diocese of Arlington and belong to my geographical-boundary parish, one of the most conservative in this diocese. I love our priests and confess weekly to my parish pastor.
    He’s not fool enough to ‘enforce’ a dress code…and, believe me, we hear about contraception, abortion, et. al, et. al, every Sunday.
    Do stop worrying about what others wear to Mass.

  56. FrAWeidner says:

    Re: Fr. Jim’s comments – to take that approach to the situation presumes the ontological non-existence of the 9th Commandment and that Mt. 5:28 was a copyist’s error.

    Perhaps Fr. Jim is referencing the evident snark and sarcasm of the entry, but it would hopefully be received as the levity that it is if gentle directness hasn’t worked. I know that the comments are accurate in that there are plenty of baptized Catholics who would react that way to any sort of correction on matters that are so directly relevant to their salvation and that of other. That reaction is the result of bad catechesis – not just about what’s right and wrong, but about the Biblically and traditionally fundamental role and nature of a priest as a shepherd. Funny thing is, most non-Catholic denominations (and even “non-denominations”), even those who don’t believe in ordination, call their community leaders “pastors.” In other words, anyone who would get in such a ludicrously indignant huff about the parish leader giving them input on what is and isn’t appropriate that they would change parishes isn’t just in the wrong denomination, but almost certainly in the wrong religion.

  57. Andy Lucy says:

    As someone who frequently wears a kilt to Mass, I am shocked by the women who wear their skirts MUCH higher than I wear my kilt… which, for the uninitiated, is worn with the bottom edge of the kilt just touching the kneecap.

    As to the ban on sleeveless blouses, I agree with Monica… up to a point. When the mode of dress is driving others to distraction due to immodesty, it becomes a problem. But rather than a ban, how about some decent catechesis during the homily. Don’t dance around the issue… be direct. And the issue will start to right itself, and those who persist can be given individual treatment.

  58. JimP says:

    The people to whom the bulletin note was directed just won’t get it. In the parish where I worshiped before we moved, there were posters in the narthex with pictures showing various types of dress under the headings “OK for Mass” and “Not OK for Mass”. I think that it helped. I recognize that there are different cultural norms, and I grew up in a culture where most people dressed better for church than they did the rest of the week. The norms have changed, and I no longer have to wear a jacket and tie to work, as I did 30 years ago, but I still think that some of the attire I see at Mass indicates a lack of respect for the Lord and his sacrament. I don’t think that it’s a matter of not being able to afford better, because I’m pretty sure that a lot of the people who look like they are going to a ball game or to the beach have spent more on their outfits my wife and I have. I see men in gym shorts and shirts, busty girls in low-cut tops, women in pants cut way too low on the top and shorts and skirts cut way too short on the bottom. The list could go on almost endlessly. As American Mother noted, most people wouldn’t dress that way to meet the President,. Doesn’t your Creator and Savior deserve as much respect?

  59. Peter G says:

    Perhaps they have heard too many renditions of “Come As You Are”and have decided to take it literally.

  60. Maria says:

    For Mass I like to wear (non blue) smart denim jeans, a top which is not low and short or long sleeves which covers my little fat bits.
    I like to arrive dressed in gratitude, humility and love, good manners and an offering for collection, within my financial ability.
    As for others, I like them to be dressed modestly, but if not then it is up to them and Our God, not me.
    I like the article about the pool btw.
    I like

  61. Supertradmum says:

    My dear sisters in Christ,

    If you knew how men see women in jeans or trousers, you would not wear them. I have had honest people tell me that women in trousers or jeans are definitively sexually more alluring than women in skirts. We do not want to attract men like this. And, as we write a lot about Catholic identity on this blog, I highly suggest that it is part of female Catholic identity, as opposed to the identity of the world, to wear nice, modest dresses and appropriate skirts. In addition, why should we give in to the world’s purposefully confusion as to genders? The UN and the EU want “gender-neutral” laws and philosophies, which deny the differences of men and women, boys and girls. It is part of a larger ideology denying heterosexual marriage, etc. Blur the genders, and one has pro-homosexual and pro-lesbian legislation.

  62. Supertradmum says:

    PS, and sorry ladies, but sleeveless is not good either–I pray that my dear sisters in Christ begin to see why sleeveless in Church, as in formal occasions, is immodest.

  63. This is a great parish; we stop there for the 12 pm Mass on the way back from the coast every time we vacation. I love that despite being a standard parish, there are more EF Masses than OF Masses each week.

    Modesty in dress, yes that’s not controversial! Some otherwise orthodox Catholics truly do not get that dress is very important. But as with every issue, our responses have to be governed by the virtue of prudence. Surely it’s possible to enforce a dress code at least by way of custom and encouragement, without uncharitable stares or worse, especially for people who are rediscovering or learning about these things for the first time. My experience is that example and exposure to modest dress at Mass naturally tends to produce it among those who had not thought about it before, or who had thought it unimportant. The seriousness of our worship tends eventually to effectuate a seriousness of dress and demeanor over time.

  64. Supertradmum says:

    May I add that I have been living in a place where I see homosexual and lesbian couples weekly? The gender-confusion is rife in Great Britain. I am increasingly grieved at women looking and acting like men and men looking and acting like women. Dress is part of this political and moral agenda.

  65. RichR says:

    It starts with parents. If they can teach children how to dress properly for Mass, then these types of announcements will be much fewer and far between. If you have to, have your kids clothes screened the night before by having everything laid out for inspection. This helps in two ways:

    1) Getting ready for Mass is much quicker since the choosing is done.

    2) You don’t have to tell them to change clothes once they’re already dressed in an inappropriate outfit. It’s easier to tell them before they’re dressed.

  66. inara says:

    @cheyan ~ I realize the modesty standards are from 1928, but they are also from a Papal Decree, meaning they are binding upon the faithful unless a revised standard is put forth by a later pope, which hasn’t happened. In fact, Pope Pius XII enforced these guidelines in 1957, stating that a “garment must not be evaluated according to the estimation of a decadent or already corrupt society, but according to the aspirations of a society which prizes the dignity and seriousness of its public attire, ” and “we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts…If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up.”

    The Purity Crusade of Mary Immaculate (which I have just received permission from my Bishop to revive) , whose mission was to make known the 1928 standards of modesty, was active until the death of its founder in 1969 & had received Papal blessing on two occasions. So…well into the era of bare arms & knees being “normal & acceptable” in society.

    There is backup from Our Lady as well ~ she cautioned at Fatima that “certain fashions are to be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much.” What entirely new “trends” for women appeared within a few years of this announcement? Short hairdos, sleeveless dresses, above the ankle skirts, and pants. She went on to say “Those who serve God should not follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.”

  67. Maria says:

    Hello again all,
    I would like to make clear that my ‘jeans’ are actually made to look like trousers but in denim.
    They are not at all sensual or sexy and are a cut designed more for the middle aged to mature woman.
    Here in Birmingham UK, women tend to wear trousers/slacks more than dresses these days, mainly because they are practical and warm in the winter, and actually cooler in the summer believe it or not.
    There is a difference in many jeans and I cannot see anything wrong with not baring my legs to Mass or anywhere else, so long as they are smart, clean and tidy.

    In the summer I wear a simple top, whether short sleeved or long, but definately not sleeveless to Mass.
    Actually, if an item of clothing isn’t decent for Mass, then should us Christian women be wearing them at all?

    I think dresses and skirts are lovely, but they look ridiculous with lace up shoes (which I have worn for most of my life due to problems with my feet), and I wish I could wear lovely feminie clothes everyday.
    I dont see any men wearing clothes like women either, at Mass or outside of Mass. Perhaps the writer was referring to long haird men.
    When I was young I loved long hair on men, but nowadays I find it looks scruffy and silly, but I am 58, so it would not appeal to me any more.
    I think everything is permissable but not everything is beneficial, as is written, and everything in moderation.
    I have not learnt that we are not allowed to wear decent jeans or trousers any more than we are obliged to wear head coverings/mantillas.
    I wish I was young and beautiful. I would wear a mantilla with a lovely dress or skirt to Mass.
    Then again, it is not a fashion show.

  68. Cassie says:

    First, I have to say this: in the age of air conditioning I don’t think “it’s hot outside” is a valid argument for wearing less to Mass.
    Second, the unfortunate lack of common sense and decency that exists in our society today causes Pastors to have to make announcements like this. Our Pastor has very diplomatically but firmly addressed modesty twice in the past few months, and God bless him for it!
    The cited bulletin announcement is tongue-in-cheek, but it gets the point across;…as I say to my children when I’m issuing a proclamation, “You know who I’m talking to. If this doesn’t apply to you, just move on. There is nothing more to see here.”
    Regarding sleeveless blouses – that cuts both ways. Short some very targeted liposuction or endless hours of tricep curls, we’re all better off if I stick to tops and dresses with sleeves :-)

  69. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Maria, I wear the jeans which are better called dungarees, not formfitting at all and very dark navy blue. They are actually men’s pants because of the way I am shaped, women’s pants if the waist fits, the hips look like shoplifting pants.

    When the color fades I get new ones. Non-slogan t-shirts, somewhat loose. I am not showing anything that I shouldn’t. It isn’t a fashion show but we are neat and clean and always smiling and showing newcomers where the restroom is and letting them be first at the doughnuts.

    We are down the street from a homeless shelter and I want there to be somebody there who is not all dressed up. I also dress like this at work, the customers don’t see me, I am a behind the scenes person.

    I recently discovered a nice source of long pretty skirts so I got one for the really hottest days when dungarees are just sweltering (though that is penance too). I wore it on a recent heat wave in Indiana and I felt a draft! Hey, I feel a draft! The skirt is cotton and mid-calf length, it comes with a little bag of replacement sequins (there are a few sequins on it). The source is called southwestindian.com. I was told by people who are serious about modesty that I looked fine.

  70. AnAmericanMother says:

    You and me both! I have worn men’s khakis and jeans since forever, too, because I am built straight up and down – no waist and no hips. Good news is, it’s cheaper.
    It doesn’t much matter what I usually wear to Mass because there’s a choir robe over the top.
    Since people do see me if we hit the coffee hour, I don’t wear cutoffs and heavy metal T-shirts, but I’ve found that a lightweight tank dress, or one of those floaty skirts made from old saris and a nice sleeveless top, is best. Much cooler than slacks or jeans, and I can add a blouse over once I take the robe off.
    When I’m at somebody else’s parish I try to dress up a little . . . . at the last dog trial I had time to change out of my camouflage outfit and into a nice dress between the water series and Mass. So I didn’t have to apologize to the pastor.

  71. fisherjmj says:


    You would never have been able to see St. Padre Pio dressed the way you seem to defend how too many dress in the presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He would have said to you in a very loud voice “Basta”. Basta is not a very timid condemnation.

    Neither would you be able to convince Our Lady of Fatima of your convictions. “Unless My message is heeded, certain fashions will be introduced that will offend My Son very much” Our Blessed Mother to Blessed Jacinta.

    God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
    Kenneth M. Fisher, Founder & Chairman
    Concerned Roman Catholics of America, Inc.

  72. fisherjmj says:

    I offer a “Proper Dress in Church” poster just for the downloading for those who send me an E-Mail at: crcoa@dslextreme.com requesting it.

    Here is the poster’s wording:
    JMJ ENT. MADONNA TOURS BOX 8095 ANAHEIM, CA 92802 (714) 776-8855
    This poster in in full color, is available in English and Spanish and it features a beautiful picture of the Sacred Heart. It also has the full approval of the late Pope John Paul II.

    God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
    Kenneth M. Fisher, Founder & Chairman
    Concerned Roman Catholics of America, Inc.

  73. kolbe1019 says:

    I went to world youth day and in the blazing heat I saw priests in full cassock hearing confession and religous in full habit.

    It’s better to suffer the heat now and be modest than suffer the heat for being immodestly dressed.

  74. Banjo pickin girl says:

    You should get the skirt at southwestindian.com that has the horses all around it! I bet they have a dog one! (but not a poodle skirt). I got the “durango” outfit. The top isn’t as revealing as the neckline might seem.

  75. bookworm says:

    I agree with having basic standards of modesty at Mass — my personal rule is to always wear clothing that would be appropriate for my workplace and to wear an extra shirt or sweater over any sleeveless top. Not only due to modesty but more because bare arms on an overweight middle-aged woman like me would probably be distracting in a different (and also not good) way :-)

    Our workplace standard of dress is conditioned by the fact that we are located near our state capitol and are occasionally visited by state officials. We could be visited at any time by members of our legislature, or other state officials, or (at least in theory) our governor. We aren’t obligated to wear suits and ties or high heels, stockings and dresses, but we do have to look respectable.

    That being said, I do NOT agree completely with the “always dress for Mass as you would for the Queen or the White House” or whatever being imposed on everyone. The reason being that for most people other than heads of state, captains of industry or celebrities, a trip to the White House or a formal audience with the Pope or the Queen is a once-in-a-lifetime event, not something one does every week or even every day. Anyone who is in a position to be seeing the Pope or the Queen or the POTUS on a weekly or daily basis probably has the means to dress accordingly on a weekly or daily basis. However, many working class people do not.

  76. Shoshana says:

    It seems some people have a double standard here. Men in pants are more distracting to women of my acquaintance than men in kilts or cassocks. Should all men then wear medieval robes to Mass? How about a Russian-style shirt over the pants, belted at the waist, reaching nearly to the knees? I’d like to see the Papal standards for male dress.

  77. Maria says:


    Thank you for your description of what you wear..
    I think it was helpful as in different parts of the world, we may be thinking of different things sometimes because we name things differently.
    For example, dungarees here are trousers with a bib attached. Is this the same for you all in The States?
    Anyway, what you describe sounds a bit like the clothes I wear all the time.
    I do modify to wear black for a Requiem Mass and other colours for other special Masses.
    I like to wear blue for Our Ladys’ Assumption for example.
    Do others do this. I know we are not obliged to but I like to and have done so since I was Confirmed.
    I do agree that imodest dress in the way of short skirts and low tops is very insulting to Our Lord when we know better and as a writer here implies, we ought also to show respect to His Mother who is the perfect example to ladies to dress with modesty and respect.

    As an aside, I find it very distracting when a Priest wears scruffy shoes at The Altar and I often wish they had suitable shoes to go with what they are wearing as part of the whole dress.
    Again though, this is just me.

  78. Supertradmum says:

    Maria and others,

    I do not want to start World War III, but I can make a general comment about the dress of Catholic women in Great Britain. After fifteen years, I have returned to England and have visited Cornwall, Wales and many parts of England. I must honestly say that the average dress code of women here has deteriorated in time time I have been away. When I lived here before, in London, Bristol and Dorset, women wore skirts and dresses, little cardigans, and were modest. There was never an issue of inappropriate dress at Mass, except for priests reminding women that sleeveless was out and arms needed to be covered.

    Now, all I see, and I see at least 300 new people every week, including Anglicans, are trousers and horrid immodest tops. Even women of a “certain age” look terrible, not just the young. The worst is the lack of style and the masculine look of the women. One must really see this gender confusion as part of Satan’s plan to undermine normal male and female relationships, cause disrespect and blur the distinctions of same-sex unions. What we wear states something about who we are, and I see Catholic women week after week looking like men. I can honestly state that from behind, I sometimes do not know if the person is male or female.

    The women makes excuses for this, but as to comfort, skirts and dresses can be just as comfortable, if one knows how to sit, stand, etc. I am sorry if I offend anyone, but the culture which accepts these awful styles and mannish behavior and dress of women is in decline.

  79. Shoshana says:

    Pope OK’s pants for women:

    “For whether you or your women wear or do not wear pants, neither impedes your salvation nor leads to any increase of your virtue.” — Pope St. Nicholas I

    The above quote is an excerpt from “The Responses of Pope St. Nicholas I to the Questions of the Bulgars” (Letter 99), Chapter LVIII, A.D. 866

    I just found this quote, and it answers my own question, above.

  80. Shoshana says:

    Maria, I’m with you. I have to wear orthopedic shoes, and you know how that looks with dresses. I tried it for a while and people stared at me.

  81. Supertradmum says:

    “A woman shall not be clothed with mans apparel, neither shall a man use woman’s apparel: for he is abominable before God that doeth these things.” Deuteronomy 22:5

    A woman who sold pants in her retail store in Vancouver went to confession in Italy to Padre Pio and was refused absolution…

    “He commanded her to return home to Canada and dispose of all this stock, and not to give any of the items to people who might wear them, and if she wanted his absolution, she could come back to Italy and receive it, only after she ruthlessly carried out his orders.” Anne McGinn Cillis, Arrivederci, Padre Pio, “A Spiritual Daughter Remembers. from Real Clear Religion

  82. Shoshana says:

    I’ll go with the Pope rather than the Padre

  83. Maria says:

    Dear Supertradmum,
    Truly, I am not trying to offend anyone on this blog.
    I believe we are all joined together here in Christ and I am sharing what I do, within the boundaries of what I have been taught and experienced as a Catholic.
    I do not wear mens trousers. I buy my clothing from the womens department in Marks and Spencer and I was confirmed in womens slacks from there. I had my feet washed wearing them and I recieve Holy Communion in them. I also go to Confession in them and face my Priest face to face during some of my confessions depending on which Church I am in as I sometimes cannot make it to my home Church.
    I have been Absolved of my sins in womens trousers/slacks/jeans as well.
    I cannot understand why it is such a big issue for some people.
    I do not dress like a loose woman and I do not wear rags or over-expensive flashy clothes either.
    I am clean, and I buy my clothes through good honest hard earned cash.
    Please do not think I am trying to rile you; I am not.
    I apologise if you find my dress offensive, but my priest and even the Archbishop at my Confirmation did not seem offended at all by the clothes I was wearing.

    God Bless you,

  84. Shoshana says:

    For the most balanced article I’ve found on the topic of women’s dress, check out “Modesty” at Fish Eaters.


    And Maria, scroll up for my comment to you. It was in moderation for some reason.

  85. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Maria, dungarees are what jeans used to be called when I was little, before they became a fashion item so I still use the word to mean non-fashion jeans, dark blue, denim fabric, they are stiff when you first buy them. What you call dungarees we call in the U.S. “bib overalls.” I have those too for chores around the house and garage.

  86. AnAmericanMother says:

    I don’t own any bib overalls — do have some ‘coveralls’ – that is to say a one-piece garment with long sleeves and full length trousers that zips up the front – for beekeeping and for really heavy, dirty work. They don’t EVER go to Mass!
    Since I can’t wear ladies’ slacks unless they are heavily altered, other than my very dressy wool slacks with Harris Tweed jacket that I wear on really cold days to work, the only pants I can wear are men’s khakis and jeans. They are certainly not revealing, but they really aren’t appropriate for Sunday Mass. If I am on my way to somewhere else when I go to daily Mass, you will sometimes see me in khakis or dark jeans and a nice polo shirt a/k/a ‘business casual’. At least around here, that is about average for daily Mass since most people ARE on their way to somewhere else. If I go to daily Mass downtown, I’m in my business clothes.
    bookworm, I work across the street from the state Capitol as well. Don’t tell me you’re in Georgia — you’re probably in my building!!!! :-D
    We do tend to dress fairly respectably because of the likelihood of a legislative descent on the office. When Tom Murphy was Speaker, he used to make a habit of dropping in unexpectedly to various government agencies to make sure people were on the job. Usually on Friday afternoon. But ‘casual Friday’ has taken hold here. They even issued official department polo shirts with the state seal on them.

  87. Maria says:

    Thank you Shoshana and BPG for your helpful comments.
    I loved the article posted :
    and although it is getting late I did read some of it and will read it properly tomorrow evening.
    Shoshana, it was very kind and thoughtful of you to refer us to this because I do agree that Supertradmum has a point and so do ladies who think that ladies trousers are ok.
    Perhaps the secret is not being too extreme in either sense and not causing offense to our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
    This article is a great leveller of the genuine sincerity involved in the issue discussed and I felt warmed reading it and couldn’t help thinking “Blessed are the peacemakers………..”
    I am going to bring this point of dress up with our Priests (we have 3 at my home church) and I would be very interested to see what they say on this issue as it IS important and worth looking at more deeply.
    Supertradmum has a very valid point to make as there are women I have seen at Mass when I have gone in the city centre who wear overbearing perfumes and sexy clothing which I, at the time, did not feel was appropriate.
    I still do not like to judge though as I could be in error.
    I am comfortable in what I wear however, and I thank you again girls for your sincere inputs on this, all of you.
    God Bless.

  88. Shoshana says:

    Maria…glad you like the article so far…and yes, let’s not be extreme one way or another. Cleavage, those tight wrinkly knit shirts, miniskirts, and “billboard” clothing really bother me, as do men in shorts, tight pants, etc. But in some ways, the self-appointed clothing police are worse. Immodest dressers may just be ignorant. But from what I’ve experienced in person (I’m NOT talking about anyone on this blog, as I don’t know them), some of the “clothing police” lack humility…which is the sin of Eve that got us into this mess in the first place. One woman in my parish kept emailing me inane anonymous articles on modest clothing for days, after I had asked her numerous times to STOP.

    I’m all for being balanced. And I’m thankful that the thousands of people who have been taking part in the numerous naked bike rides in my city this summer have not seen fit to bring that fashion to Mass!

  89. bookworm says:

    AmericanMother, nope, not from Georgia. I’m from Illinois. Our office also has a casual Friday rule (jeans are allowed) but only when the legislature is not in session, in case of a “legislative descent” on our office :-)

  90. Banjo pickin girl says:

    If those bike people came to Mass I would stand at the door and hand out fig leaves and string, a helpful yet vacuous expression on my face. Eeuuw…

  91. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Maria, I missed your question about colors. Yes, here in the US some people dress in different colors, such as blue for Our Lady. I have a red t-shirt which I call my martyr shirt though i don’t wear it to Mass much because it is too bright (I sit in the front row and prefer brown or black). We are the Irish parish so green is always in good taste. The little girls in their pink sparkle shoes are very cute. Little princesses they are.

    I too am an orthopedic shoe victim, er, wearer, ha ha.

  92. Shoshana says:

    Hey! I wore my orthopedic shoes with a jeans skirt to the Dominican rite high Mass for the Exaltation of the Cross tonight. It sort of worked.

    Maria…I have a blue dress I wear sometimes for Marian feasts, and a dark purple dress for All Souls’ Day, etc. I need to get me a martyr shirt!

  93. Supertradmum says:


    Orthopedic shoes, clogs, SASs look great with skirts. For the younger ones, we discovered Swedish clogs in the ’70s” and wore them with skirts. I still do. It took me a long time to get to my sartorial viewpoint, with the help of Catholic commentary and male comments on jeans being sexy. We should not want to be sexy at all. But, it is not merely, although important, a question of modesty, but of gender-bending. As Catholic women, we should meet the world as feminine, womanly, not masculine or androgynous. If the world and our families and workplaces, including Church, ever needed strong yet lady-like women, it is now. That some priests and bishops do not see the need for “la difference”, it is that they have become immune to the problem.

  94. Norah says:

    One very hot Sunday my son wore knee length shorts, sandals and a good T shirt to Mass. I tried to talk him into more formal clothes but he said it was too hot. That night he went clubbing, it was still very hot, and he appeared with long jeans and a shirt and shoes. I asked him why not shorts and sandals and he said that the venue wouldn’t let him in in shorts and sandals! I learn a less on that night.

  95. Banjo pickin girl says:

    As to “gender bending,” not all women are prissily feminine as not all men are comfortable clomping around in lumberjack boots. I have never been very feminine and I am perceived as just being another individual in the Church. Trying to force people into boxes based on appearance has never worked and never will. Judging a book by its cover is one of the things children are expected to get over as they grow up. This is related to the deplorable practice of calling certain girls or, worse, even certain women “tomboys” as if there are uniform interests and activities divided neatly along the lines of physical sex. I would have made a poor homemaker but I have made a reasonably good professional single person exhibiting how a religious person can live in the world without compromising with its values. My career has helped bring helpful pharmaceuticals to market to help people and in that way I have been nurturing. We need to stop calling things problems that are not problems at all.

  96. Charlotte Allen says:

    I tend to follow the 1961 rule: If it was acceptable for church 50 years ago, it’s acceptable now. And back then, American Catholic ladies did wear sleeveless dresses to church during the summer–with their hats, high heels, and white gloves, of course. I don’t think that a sleeveless dress or shell top is necessarily immodest, as long as it’s not tight or revealing in front or back–and of course spaghetti straps are out.

    About women’s pants, here’s a news flash: they really are women’s clothing, tailored and draped to fit women’s bodies. As an off-and-on teacher, I do have one piece of advice about pants, however: If you are doing anything that puts you on display in front of a crowd and also requires you to turn your back to said crowd, even for a few seconds (such as serving as a lector or cantor at Mass and being required to bow in front of the altar), don’t wear pants. Just don’t–unless you are also wearing a very long jacket or tunic. Men are riveted by women’s backsides. They just are. If your derriere is nicely shaped, every male eye in the congregation will be fixed on it, even if your slacks are loose-fitting and modest. If it’s not your best feature, it will also be the center of attention, of a less flattering kind. You don’t want to be that woman.

    As for you men who whine that you can’t bare as much flesh as women, here’s why: You’re hairy and you look stupid in shorts (exception: very casual occasions that do not include Mass). Scots can get away with kilts, but just barely. Men and women are different. They really are.

  97. Charlotte Allen says:

    @Shoshana: She does look awfully cute in her suit of plate armor. I wonder if she ever wore it–or, indeed, what sort of armor she would have worn. I must do some research on 15th-century armor. All armor back then was unbelievably heavy, being made of iron, so you had to practice walking around in it for miles–carrying your shield and your weapons as well–until you got used to it. Joan was a country girl, so I wonder how she fared with that. The Romans used to train their troops by force-marching them 20 miles a day and then adding the heavy weapons and armor and putting them through the same forced marches. Only then were they considered seasoned enough to fight.

  98. AnAmericanMother says:

    The country girls are used to heavy work that would kill a city girl – even if she works out at LA Fitness every weeknight.
    An ordinary size bale of hay weighs 50-75 pounds, depending on the type of grass/alfalfa and the pressure adjustment on the baling machine. Even at my advanced age, I can still carry one bale in each hand (with hay hooks) and toss them on the truck. And wearing something is always easier than carrying it, consider how much more you can carry in a good packframe than in your arms.
    I don’t think a 50 poundish suit of armor would give a country girl a minute’s trouble (battle armor was much lighter than jousting armor, which was meant to resist a heavy hit when mobility wasn’t a primary consideration).
    The good news for St. Joan is, she didn’t have to carry the radio. :-D My husband was the biggest man in his platoon and always wound up with that unpleasant job.

  99. Shoshana says:

    @Charlotte Allen: St. Joan of Arc is depicted wearing armor in so much religious art, which is hanging in so many Catholic churches throughout the world, that I have no question whether or not she wore it.

    I’m in no way an expert on armor, but I remember reading somewhere, (I think in Hilaire Belloc), that the armor was not so horribly heavy as the older historians made it out to be. In a historiography class I took, they said that one needs to read modern historians to balance the inaccuracies of the older ones, because more and more documents are coming to light.

    I saw some nice light-looking armor at the Tower of London I wouldn’t mind wearing! It’s engraved all over with leaves and flowers.

    Anyway, whether or not the armor was worn, or heavy, or light, I was just trying to lighten up the discussion. I believe Padre Pio now knows better, and realizes Pope Nicholas I was right. St. Pio is not the Magisterium, and I am mortally sick of his highly questionable practices about women’s dress being held up as proof that pants are of the devil. He is one eccentric saint. The Pope is…well…the Pope.

  100. Shoshana says:

    Lest anyone accuse me of being unappreciative of Padre Pio’s finer qualities, I am a member of a weekly Padre Pio prayer group, and we usually go out to Italian dinner to celebrate his feast day, which is coming up. (I wonder when Pope Saint Nicholas I’s day is? I’ll have to find out).

  101. Charlotte Allen says:

    @Shoshana and American Mother: Your comments inspired me to look up plate armor in my favorite dubious source, Wikipedia. A late-medieval suit of armor weighed about 50 pounds. Jousting armor (not used in war) weighed about 100 pounds. That’s a lot of weight, even if you’re used to hoisting bales of hay–and then you’ve got to wield your sword on top of it. I realize that Joan’s armor is an iconographic convention, but the picture did make me curious about what she might have actually worn in battle. I know very little about Joan of Arc except for the wonderful movie “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” which is thrilling, I am always horrified that a 19-year-old girl could have burned at the stake. As for Padre Pio, he did seem to be excessively censorious at the idea of women wearing pants–but he did live during a time when they were only infrequently worn by females and never on occasions that called for the slightest degree of formality. “No capris, please” was the rule at many restaurants until the 1970s.

  102. Shoshana says:

    Lots of overweight women wear an extra 100 pounds every day!

  103. Shoshana says:

    p.s. About CA’s comment on Padre Pio…yes…and that’s the whole point. Pants are not moral or immoral. It depends on the times and cultural expectations of what is or is not appropriate; what is or is not men’s clothing. If any man disagrees and says all pants are men’s clothing, I’d like to see him wear pants he’s purchased in a women’s clothing store.

    About the alleged gender bending: Should I wear pants to Mass then, never a dress, to distinguish myself from the priest and boys who are wearing dresses on the altar?

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