Editor, The Daily Catholic
Modesty is a virtue that must be practiced. Yet, sadly, today this is a lost art, lost on so many that beauty is not skin to be shown, but much deeper and sacred for the beauty of modesty grows more beautiful when hidden beneath proper, decent attire. This beauty is special and private, meant to be seen only by those God deigns proper - themselves and their spouses - no one else for true beauty grows more beautiful when acknowledging the sacredness of the human body made in God's image and likeness: temples of the Holy Ghost that must be guarded, nurtured and covered. Today that balance is greatly threatened by the severe threat of the devil who never rests.
"Needless to say, bikinis in the 50's were merely two-piece that still fully covered private areas. Today the thong has replaced the 'itsy-bitsy, teeney-weeney, yellow polka-dot bikini' as society and perverted fashion designers have pushed the envelope past obscenity. Today nothing is left to the imagination and for a Catholic woman to be caught in such scandalous dress is definitely a grave offense and she will be held responsible for the lustful thoughts she prompts in others. She may think she looks 'hot' in practically nothing, but she should be conscious of what 'hot' really is - as in the fires of hellfire - for as Our Lady has affirmed to the children of Fatima, 'More souls go to hell for the sins of the flesh than any other sin.' The same goes for men who would not keep their eyes and thoughts in check or wear revealing clothing such as a "Speedo" for just like women, such skimpy wear also leaves nothing to the imagination but rather prompts thoughts of lust in both sexes."
Editor's Note: Today, being the first day of summer, seems like an excellent time to discuss a subject that is all but ignored today by most clergymen and that is dealing with the occasions of sin that prompt the Sixth and Ninth Commandments. Modesty is the cornerstone of safeguarding souls in order not to fall into these nefarious traps of the flesh. For far too many today modesty is a whole new education; for them it is literally a transition back to tradition to realize how far we have fallen in recouping the modesty of yesteryear. Thus, appropriately we have placed this article in our series "Transition to Tradition." Summer in these times means swimming and bikinis, short skirts, bare midriffs and worse. Summer means that temptation is at the highest threat level for so many who, especially in this day and age, want to shed their clothes in favor of "cooling off" - where in truth they are only heating up passion-wise and lust-wise. What they need is the privacy of a cold shower!
Following in black type are authentic Roman Catholic guidelines that I will be applying from a brochure reproduced by Mary Immaculate Queen Center, which had the approval of the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago Samuel Cardinal Stritch whose time as the head shepherd in the Windy City paralleled the time of Pope Pius XII's pontificate from 1939 to 1958. The guidelines were also heartily endorsed by Father Francis J. Connel, CSSR and forty Archbishops, Bishops, and Major Theologians throughout the USA. My comments will remain in navy blue type following various points.
While times and fashions may change, God's infrangible laws do not change. What was a temptation leading to perdition in 33 A.D. is still the same temptation in 2005. The difference is that it is much more difficult to shade one's eyes from these temptations today because of technology and how the devil's playground has so permeated our own homes because of television and the web. Consider these guidelines were written up no later than the mid-fifties when any scandalously dressed person was summarily isolated and their behavior rebuked, when a man Adlai Stevenson lost the presidential nomination because he was divorced, when Gone With The Wind was declared a "B Movie" by the Legion of Decency because of the illicit affair between Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler without ever showing anything! Compare that to today and we can see, oh can we see how things have changed.
Christian Modesty demands, under pain of sin, that clothing be such as to conceal, and in no way emphasize the parts of the body which, if revealed or suggested, are an occasion of sin to normal individuals.
It would be a mistake to give the impression that modesty consists exclusively in what one wears. A person's gestures, posture and general behavior can be far more indicative of modesty, or the lack of it, than the amount of cloth in one's costume. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that there are types or styles of clothing which can be a source of difficulties.
Although civilized society often tolerates a minimum of coverage for little children, it seems hardly necessary to even suggest that form-fitting slacks and jeans, skimpy shorts, plunging necklines, snug sweaters, and the like can easily be scandalously provocative and an occasion of sin when worn by adolescents and more mature persons.
The problem of immodesty is not limited to one big city or particular section of the nation: it will be found to exist to some degree in every community, large and small. Nor can it be said that only one class or nationality or race is involved. The fact stands, beyond any need of proof, that immodesty in dress has been a problem in all countries and at all ages throughout recorded history.
Because of the confusion that does exist, even among some women and girls of outstanding virtue, it is necessary to provide some basic norms which will serve as a reliable guide for all. Unfortunately, detailed norms are required in order to clarify the matter, but unless the facts are faced, it is not possible to effectively meet this problem and solve it.
These standards have been approved by competent Church Authorities and have been proven to be an acceptable and practical code for all women and girls which men should also observe when applicable, always respecting the fairer sex in the spirit of the ideal role model the Blessed Virgin Mary. The standards, naturally, do not bind under pain of sin, but they do provide a thoroughly reliable guide for anyone who is seriously interested in avoiding immodesty in dress. They contain a number of explanatory notes and detailed directives which leave little abuse for any further confusion.
As the bishops during the time of Pius XII wrote, these standards are a challenge to the women and girls of America - today's and tomorrow's mothers and religious sisters. They are fashionable, enhance beauty, and provide modest concealment. They are not prudish or unrealistic, yet they meet the demands of modern living while they preserve intact the Christian concept of modesty in dress.
1. Bare Midriffs
All bared-midriff styles are considered objectionable and in bad taste as outer garments, whether this be in casual, formal, sports or beach wear. The obvious schemes to which they go, leave no room for doubting that they are a genuine threat to modest standards and the purity of the individual. Such bared-midriff styles are of no practical profit to health, comfort or beauty.
As we see today the bared-midriff has become the style for teenage girls and even older, taking their examples from the MTV divas whose lifestyles rival Salome and Jezabel and bode no good for femininity or modesty. Piercing and tattoos make it all the more hideous to God.
2. Strapless swimsuits, Bikinis and Thongs
Strapless, bared-midriff, bikini and otherwise abbreviated swimsuits are not acceptable. Period! Modestly-fitted halter style swimsuits are allowable if they have a reasonably snug underarm fit and are not too low in back. Shoulder or halter straps should not be removed while sunning at beaches or elsewhere in view of public. Swimsuits should be worn only at beaches or pools in connection with water sports or sunbathing.
Note Well: Swimsuits are not considered sufficient coverage in the off-the-beach or away-from-the-pool areas. Some modest covering, such as skirt, slacks or bermudas...together with a blouse, sweater, shawl or jacket...is required on boardwalks and streets, in stores and other establishments. This is good advice when traveling to and from the beach or pool as well, especially when using public transportation.
Needless to say, bikinis in the 50's were merely two-piece that still fully covered private areas. Today the thong has replaced the "itsy-bitsy, teeney-weeney, yellow polka-dot bikini" as society and perverted fashion designers have pushed the envelope past obscenity. Today nothing is left to the imagination and for a Catholic woman to be caught in such scandalous dress is definitely a grave offense and she will be held responsible for the lustful thoughts she prompts in others. She may think she looks 'hot' in practically nothing, but she should be conscious of what 'hot' really is - as in the fires of hellfire - for as Our Lady has affirmed to the children of Fatima, "More souls go to hell for the sins of the flesh than any other sin." The same goes for men who would not keep their eyes and thoughts in check or wear revealing clothing such as a "Speedo" for just like women, such skimpy wear also leaves nothing to the imagination but rather prompts thoughts of lust in both sexes.
3. Transparent clothing
Transparent fabrics are not considered as coverage. If they are used, care must be taken to assure that they are of several layers or properly lined or worn over other garments so as to give a non-transparent and definitely modest effect. This applies to all transparent nylon, net, chamise, lace and similar fabrics.
Today, see-through seems to be the buzzword as mylar, cellophane and fishnet, not to mention confectionaires - such as chocolate bras - go farther than society has ever gone in offending Almighty God. What is truly transparent today is the futility of exposing oneself's body as if one had no morals, no self respect.
4. Formal dresses and blouses
Formals, dresses and blouses should have either reasonably visible straps over the shoulders or cap sleeves. Jackets or transparent stoles are not acceptable substitutes for missing straps. This standard is designed to avoid the halter and strapless styles of formals, dresses and blouses which so frequently transgress or border on immodesty despite the use of modern elasticized fabrics from power-knit weaves.
In the area of formals today wedding gowns can also be included. It is truly scandalous to see risque wedding dresses, plunging necklines. What kind of respect does a groom have for his bride if she wears for all to see what is for him and him alone? Or what about some of the outrageous bridal dresses that, mixed with the celebratory and unsober atmosphere of a wedding reception with free-flowing liquor, wine or beer create an atmosphere of permissiveness that borders on immorality.
5. No Cleavage
The tops of all outer garments must not reveal or be lower in front than the line where cleavage begins. This definitely outlaws all low-cut and plunging necklines. Because of difference in build, care must be taken at fittings to assure that the neckline will be reasonably snug so as to modestly conceal this same area of the body when one is seated, or bending, or stooping with others standing about. Underarm fit, likewise, should be properly modest in sleeveless dresses and blouses.
As all are aware, the lower the neckline the more it is flaunted today. Whether shopping or watching a talk show, these movie starlets all push the envelope well past its breaking point where one wonders why they're even wearing something on top since they've practically exposed themselves completely anyway. One wonders if they've ever really looked in the mirror at how ridiculous they look and how much scandal and temptation they have caused. All the good they might do, all the causes they might advocate are canceled in a split second by leading others into temptation.
6. No low backlines
The top in back of all outer garments (whether a scoop, "V", square, etc.) should not be lower than a horizontal line drawn between each armpit. As previously mentioned, a somewhat lower backline in swimsuits is acceptable if there is nothing suggestive or extreme about it.
It is doubtful Cardinal Stritch or any of the other Catholic bishops ever envisioned the likes of Jennifer Lopez and her plunging backline which revealed the lower regions of her backside. Sadly, this has become the benchmark for perversity as each fashion designer seeks to plunge deeper and scope lesser and lesser material where one wonders where is the difference between total nudity and partial nudity - whether tassels are on a stripper or a one inch strip thong - it's still nudity and a grave sin for the wearer or one who encourages such scandal.
7. Larger size clothing
Sweaters, knit dresses, wool jerseys and blouses should be of a proper size so as not to cling too tightly or unduly and immodestly emphasize the bustline. Obvious "pull lines" indicate that either (a) the garment is not large enough in size or (b) it is improperly styled for the individual figure or (c) it is being worn over improper foundation wear. The correct size of a sweater is generally sizes larger than one's bra or blouse size.
Unfortunately, the larger size clothing can backfire as well such as with the "baggy look" which has contributed to looser clothing today in the sense that all femininity has been surrendered for the unisex look which I will treat later on in this article.
8. No revealing undergarments
Foundation wear should be selected with a definite concern for modesty. Proper bra styling is very important in this regard. Padded, pointed and uplift styles of bras are especially dangerous because they are so often the basis for much of the undue attention and bold over-emphasis on the bustline. The fit should be comfortable and proper, but it should never SEDUCTIVELY EMPHASIZE the normal and natural contours. Purity is protected by reasonably modest concealment. A cotton slip or equivalent garment will soften the lines of knit wear that tends to cling. A quick reassuring look in a mirror helps immediately in avoiding such problems.
Again, Catholic bishops would have been outraged if they knew their successors would allow what followed in the sixties, seventies and beyond. Consider the bra-less look that began with the burning-of-bras militant feminist movement. Today revealing and see-through-blouses or t-shirts are the norm rather than the exception as women flaunt their pulchritude, making them no better than the prostitute whereas true women who value their femininity and respect for the bodies God has given them, hide these private areas as best they can, realizing they are beautiful in God's eyes when given to their spouse in holy matrimony. What husband wants his wife to be ogled by others? What wife wants her husband tempted by other women?
Today the fashion norm seems to be wearing blouses that are, in actuality, undergarments, nightgowns, etc. as outerwear, or skintight leotards or spandex which reveals every curve such as the female above who has violated every principle of modesty in meeting John Paul II and since she's smiling it is highly unlikely he remanded her. Actually in the larger photo you can see his eyes roaming still towards her backside as the gentleman on the right tries to greet him. Karol Wojtyla was notorious for allowing immodest women to parade around whether in the Pauline Hall or on his many jaunts abroad where women gyrated in front of him and even purposely stripped to the waist in Polynesia even though the woman baring her breasts was not known to do so at any other time. Ah, ain't the conciliar church great!!! Not! Another example that would outrage Cardinal Stritch is the picture to the right which shows offenses such as mini-skirts, bared midriffs, see-through clothing which looks more like undergarments that reveal cleavage. Definitely seductress-like. And who is the gent in the midst of these sirens? Why none other than one of those 'successors' who have so embraced the false church of Vatican II, the apostate red hat Karl Lehmann of Germany who John Paul II personally made a cardinal in 2001.This is the epitome of today's newchurch leaders - whether 'cardinal' or 'pope' they love the limelight and say nothing about the immodesty surrounding them. For more pictorial evidence of how immodesty has broken down in today's modern Vatican, see Tradition in Action.
And we wonder why the youth are so taken by the obscene fashions of today? With the revealing undergarments, they leave nothing to the imagination yet foster all kinds of things to the imagination, especially young men with runaway hormones who are told by society that they should "sow their wild oats." Nothing good can ever come from that for sin has its consequences both short and long term.
9.Hemming the Hem Line
Skirts should not be too short or too tight. As with other garments, tightness is indicated by "pull lines" along the thighs and hips. Proper care should be taken to assure that the skirt drapes modestly over the knees when seated. When standing, skirts should not be less than knee length. This rule applies for all, including cheer leaders and drum majorettes.
Do you think Cardinal Stritch or any other Catholic during the time of Pius XII could ever have foreseen the mini-skirt and its acceptance by a warped society? What in the 20's to see an ankle was scandalous, in the sixties and seventies they just pushed the hemline higher and higher until they got downright cheeky. Neither was this attractive or complimentary to the person wearing such skimpy wear, but it created countless thoughts of lust in many a young man. To remain chaste and pure in today's world is truly difficult, but necessary, and can only be accomplished by custody of the eyes and self-denial of 'epicurean delights' which weaken the resolve for self-mortification and make one more susceptible to giving into temptations.
10.Shorting out short shorts
Short shorts are always to be avoided as outer garments. Medium shorts are acceptable for participating in certain relatively few activities such as gym glasses, beach sports, track and field events (running and jumping), etc. Medium shorts are, in length, no less than half-way between the crotch and knee. The leg band of shorts should be fairly snug and give a sufficiently modest coverage to the thigh. Nothing shorter than bermuda shorts (almost knee length) should be worn on the streets and in public places. When ease of movement is required, well-fitted and modestly designed sports costumes are to be worn instead of abbreviated skirts or short shorts.
(Note Well: Sports and entertainment do not excuse immodesty. Scanty or immodest attire will not make-up for a lack of true skill or artistry. Freedom of movement does not require immodesty brief or revealing attire. Great actors, singers, dancers, clowns, ball players, skaters, comedians, acrobats, soldiers, craftsmen, laborers, etc. regularly perform the most difficult feats while modestly dressed.)
Warm days and heavy exercise will naturally overheat the body and cause perspiration, but this does not mean that more and more clothing must be shed. Modesty demands sufficient coverage regardless of the temperature. Light-weight, non-transparent fabrics help considerably.
Unfortunately society today contradicts what the bishops wrote for the more immodest one is in dress or demeanor, the more they are adulated by the public, just another sign of the depravity of this age and what is happening in America is the very same fateful sins that toppled previous empires from Babylon to Greece to Rome - perversion. Today the sodomite agenda has pushed the borders of decency well beyond its boundaries in dress and demeanor. In the church how one prays is how one believes, so also in society, how one dresses is how much one respects themselves. If one dresses to tantalize and tempt, to shock or seduce, to rebel or repel then that is evident they have no respect for their own worth.
11.Keeping the Essence of Femininity
The color, cut and fabric of all jeans, slacks, pedal pushers, etc. should preserve, as far as possible, a distinctly feminine quality, be modest in appearance (proper foundation wear is important), and suit the occasion. Such garb may be helpful or necessary to protect the body from dirt, scratches, insect bites, or extremes of heat or cold. They may be worn for such purposes as winter sports, softball, bicycling, school hikes, field trips, picnics, beach parties, certain types of garden and housework, etc. Skin-tight Levis, jeans and similarly too-tight and immodestly revealing apparel must be avoided.
Today the uniform of the unisex one world order that further denigrates the specific roles and differences between men and women, are the jeans and t-shirts. Men look more like women and women strive to dress like men. Why? That's a good question that can only be answered by the fact that they have lost sense of responsibility and their purpose in God's eyes. This also brings to light that all these problems can be laid at the feet of Stritch's successors and others in the conciliar church who let down their guard and went along sight-unseen with the apostasy vented by aggiornamento. The world, the flesh and the devil have been given free reign because those who should have been at the vanguard of protecting the flocks have capitulated to man's will. The results are all too evident and the young, because they have not been taught to pray, are left to the prey. In the younger generation it is 'hip' today to wear the jeans so low that you'd swear they're going to fall off. We can only hope that the irony is not lost on them that when the scales fall from their eyes they'll not only pull the pants up, but really be embarrassed by their behavior and scandal their dress caused, and seek to amend their ways. This may not happen until true bishops are restored and the wisdom, which Stritch exhibited here, is carried out.
12.Proper Attire is Mandatory for attendance in Catholic Churches
Attendance at Mass, Confession and other religious functions and formal occasions call for special attire that indicates the sacredness, importance and dignity of the occasion, of the place, and of the Persons being honored - Father, Son and Holy Ghost and the Blessed Mother, Angels and Saints.
Here we can see clearly the difference between truly Catholic communities and the conciliar church's Novus Ordo lodges where people attend in every form of dress and undress, even including 'eucharistic ministers' in mini-skirts, low necklines or slacks or jeans. You'll note that in every Traditional Catholic church or chapel the faithful are dressed in modest attire and dressed for the occasion with men in suits or sport coats and tie, women in modest dresses and wearing a veil, hat or mantilla on their heads out of total respect for Christ the King present body and blood, soul and divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. These are mandatory guidelines in every Traditional community. This is another stark difference for by their slovenly dress those attending Novus Ordo services they show quite clearly they don't consider the new mass sacred, important or dignified to dress for the occasion. It's more of a social event where it's come as you are. Do you really think if the king or important dignitary was going to be present, they would dress the way they do for the Novus Ordo messes? Not on your life. Just more evidence that the newchurch is not Catholic and not committed to upholding Catholic morals and principles. Look how Traditional priests, nuns and brothers dress. Now look how the new order 'religious' dress in striving to be as worldly as possible. We can take great courage from the Traditional religious that one can always be modest and still comfortable. And even if one is not always comfortable, it is a small price to pay to offer it up. Remember Christ was not comfortable on the cross and neither were the martyrs. But then, salvation is not about comfort but about sacrifice - a word lost on the conciliar church!
Who is to Blame for Immodesty?
The mirror is the best answer. You are to blame for immodesty if you appear in suggestive, provocative, or sinfully revealing styles...shamelessly low necklines...sweaters and other garments that cling too closely, especially when worn over improper bra styles...apparel that is too scanty...colors, designs or transparencies which create the illusion or equivalent of indecent exposure.
The fact that some immodest styles were or are fashionable does not change the fact that they are immodest. You know that such styles give scandal and result in the spiritual harm of your fellowmen.
We can blame the designers, the manufacturers, the store buyers, the retailers, their advertisers, the fashion writers and trend setters in the movie and television industry; we can blame the publishers of newspapers and magazines and books for whatever amount of cooperation they give toward this evil of immodesty - but still, God holds you personally responsible, if you make yourself a temptation to sin by the way you dress.
Every mature person recognizes the close relationship between a girl's or woman's morals and the clothes she wears. If you are striving to imitate the virtues of Mary, you cannot dress in the likeness of sinful women who have perverted the true meaning of beauty and of sex, and who deliberately seek to lead men into temptation and sin.
Your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost and should not be profaned by immodesty. Strive for true beauty of soul and body. Clothe yourself with a splendid array of color, wonderful fabrics and modest styles that really enhance beauty. It is for you, a child of God, to restore sanity to style, by your own example of uncompromising modesty, by refusal to buy or wear immodest styles and unfailing zeal in promoting this cause. Pray and sacrifice for those who are morally ignorant, unwilling to cooperate or confused by bad example.
It is good to remember the wise advice of Saint Augustine who said, "Wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it, and right is right even if no one is doing it." It is also wise to heed the counsel of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6: 12-20,
"put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the snares of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood: but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness: against the spirit of wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one: and take unto you the helmet of salvation; and the sword of the spirit, (which is the word of God). By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints: And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel: for which I am an ambassador in a chain, so that therein I may be bold to speak according as I ought."
That is how to combat immodesty. It takes our full commitment. It is not just the responsibility of others, or for the male to think it's all the female's fault. It is all of our responsibility. We must guard all five senses - sight of course, touch definitely, but also smell for certain perfumes and scents can stir emotions in even the most fervent if they are not on their guard. So also taste, especially if alcohol is involved for it will inevitably weaken inhibitions and cause one to be less inclined to virtue. Hearing also comes into play for suggestive language permeates the airwaves today and even in the work places where foul words and the loss of respect for decency prompts many to mimic filthy-mouthed comedians, actors and musicians. The latter are greatly responsible for the influx of obscenities that few blush at anymore - either in rap, or in the agitated demonic beat of base rock music or the amoral lyrics that carry the imagination past the five senses to the sixth sense: the state of losing one's immortal soul. That should scare us out of our wits and prompt us all the more, no matter the styles or mores today, to heed Holy Mother Church's wise guidelines and counsel.
Finally, there is one sure-fire barometer to use always in regard to modesty and guarding the senses whether at the beach, watching television or a movie, or listening to music or talk radio, or even in discussion with others: Would Jesus, Mary and Joseph join you in these activities, or would they flee from the scene? There is no greater ideal than the Holy Family to measure if you are practicing modesty, and if you are striving to stay in the state of sanctifying grace. Just as sanctifying grace makes the soul pure, keeping ours and other bodies as pure as possible in guarding all the senses through prayer, perseverance and penance helps greatly in maintaining the state of sanctifying grace. May your summer be most modest and marvelous.
For past articles of Transition to Tradition, see 2005ttr.htm Archives