“Who can say: My heart is clean, I am pure from sin?”
First let’s get something straight; I have nothing against this girl personally. She seems like a decent, and lovely woman who is taking the opportunity to change the world for the better, in the name of Catholicism and God. That’s great! She even has a nice article that talks about modesty… yes, she talks about modesty! The problem that have is that it is not a complete explanation… I can only imagine that she is only poorly educated on the matter of dressing modestly.
What I would like to do with this post is first show what’s great about her work; I do not want anyone to get the wrong idea about Leah.
So, what does she do?
America Magazine interviewed Leah in 2015 you can read it here.
What is her main message?
Check out this video; (it cuts short at the end)
I think we can clearly see that Leah is doing some great work out there! Now that we have established this, and now that we know a little bit about her work – Its time for me to explain what she is wrong about and why.
I do believe that she is not wrong about this through her own fault; the Catholic Church is in a Crisis, and most people have no idea that more than half of their faith isn’t even being taught to them! She probably simply has no idea about the lengthy and detailed background in this topic. Unless you actually search for the right sources, and unless you’re heart is open to sacrifice and the Holy Spirit to work in you… you may not understand or believe in it.
GET TO THE POINT! WHAT IS SHE WRONG ABOUT!?
She is wrong about modesty. Yep. Most people disagree but, as mentioned before, no one can truly accept or agree with this unless they are open to making sacrifices.
So, a few years back a young woman wrote to Catholic Answers about a Dress Code of sorts for Catholic women and Leah Darrow answered her.
Dress Code for Young Catholic Women
Question from Christie on 08-10-2011:
Is there an updated, official dress code from the Catholic Church for how women should dress? I am a 21 year old girl who has always dressed according to society, but now I am willing to completely revamp my wardrobe in order to pursue a life of purity and modesty. In trying my best not to offend God with my style of dress even more than I already have, I find myself getting both confused and frustrated because I simply can’t decide what is acceptable and what is off limits. Some things are obvious, for example, shirts that show cleavage and mini skirts. But I’ve also heard that tight pants are immodest. So does that mean jeans are unacceptable? Do I have to walk around everyday in a long skirt? I’ve heard that tight shirts are also immodest, even if they cover everything. Does that mean that I should wear an oversized T-shirt everyday? Being that it’s summer, I am especially stressed because there are so many opportunities to offend God with my wardrobe! Are there any shorts that are acceptable at all for women to wear? And bathing suits would be completely off limits, right? If the Catholic Church came out today and stated exactly what God expects of me in my dress, I would obey. But this confusion only leaves me frustrated, because I feel like I’m constantly sinning against God and I just don’t know how to stop. Where can I find a resource for how I should dress?
Answer by Catholic Answers on 08-10-2011:
Let me begin by saying that it is truly wonderful to read that you are willing to “completely revamp” your wardrobe according to a life of purity and modesty. Bravo to you!
The Catholic Church does not have an official dress code yet stresses that modesty (and common sense) be used regarding clothing. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we know that “purity requires modesty” and “guides how one looks at others and behaves towards them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity” (CCC, 2521). In conjunction, “Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing” (CCC, 2522).
Also, it is worth noting that in St. Peter’s Basillica in Rome, there is a dress code. You can check out a picture describing it here: http://saintpetersbasilica.org/Pics/SQR/DressCode- JG.jpg
When you want to get down the heart of modest clothing it is best to remember that modesty is truly not about a hemline. It is something that inspires one’s heart to amend their whole lives to a greater level of purity. It does, however, take on a certain look.
Personally speaking, as I go through the process of sorting out modest outfits from immodest ones, I generally keep to these rules, however this is not an exhaustive list:
-Jeans/Pants: If I cannot pull an inch of fabric from my thigh area, they are too tight. -Skinny Jeans/Leggings: These can be worn modestly as long as you have the right top that covers your backside and upper thigh. -Tops: A usual sign that a top is too tight is when there is a gathering or stretching of material between a woman’s chest. Tanks and shells under shirts can also help with modesty in button up shirts or shirts with a lower neckline. -Dresses: When trying on dresses, be sure to sit down in the dressing room to see how far the dress comes up on your leg. Some dresses look fine while you are standing but as you go to sit, you realize that you’re showing more leg than a CanCan dancer. -Bathing suits: A one piece or tankini are great alternatives to the bikini. Bikini’s emphasize nakedness while one pieces emphasize shape.
Furthermore, when looking at yourself in the mirror, if your eyes are directed to a certain part of your body, decipher if that part is being emphasized too much. In giving these personal recommendations, it should be noted that every woman has a different shape and will need to adjust her own modesty guidelines to make sure they fit her.
Lastly, I’d like to suggest checking out Pure Fashion’s website, where you can find a more detailed account of their modesty guidelines: http://affiliate.purefashion.com/modesty
In Christ through Mary, Leah Darrow Catholic Answers”
I am sure that no one would have a problem nowadays with her answer but, I will show you, step by step what is wrong.
I would just like to note that it’s not because I am “smarter” or a “better person” that I presume to “know more ” than Leah, actually it’s because I know quite a few women who dedicated their lives to learning about Catholic modesty and researching it, and I have done much research myself. So, it basically speaks for itself in the end.
Leah: “The Catholic Church does not have an official dress code yet stresses that modesty (and common sense) be used regarding clothing.”
Actually, the Catholic Church does have a dress code!
Although immodesty in dress was not unheard of from the lips of the Popes, it was around the time of Pope Pius XII that the Dress Code came about.
Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922) had actually said, “One cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and station. Made foolish by a desire to please, they do not see to what degree the indecency of their clothing shocks every honest man and offends God. Most of them would formerly have blushed for such apparel as for a grave fault against Christian modesty. Now it does not suffice to exhibit themselves on public thoroughfares; they do not fear to cross the threshold of churches, to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seducing food of shameful passions to the Holy Altar, where one receives the Heavenly Author of Purity.” (Sacra Propediem 19)
Pope Pius XI, around the same time of the Flapper Era that caused so much ruckus in the 20’s, had decried the Immodesty of women and called for those who dressed immodestly TO BE DE-BARRED FROM COMMUNION.
“Maidens and women dressed immodestly are to be debarred from Holy Communion and from acting as sponsors at the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; further, if the offense be extreme, they may even be forbidden to enter the church.” (FROM – Original letter (Latin) published in Acta Apostolicae Sedis of 1930 (vol. 22, pp. 26-28)
Pope Pius XII was most known to be the one to denounce immodesty in dress.. one talk in particular is dedicated entirely to the denouncing of immodest fashion!
Because of the Crazy Fashions in the Flapper Era and the sometimes terrifying words from the Popes on Immodesty in Dress, and because of the need for Catholic women to understand what was deemed “appropriate” for women to wear was, Pope Pius XI called for a Modesty Standard.
..after many years of research, these standards are now full authenticated as having been issued by the Cardinal-Vicar Donato Raffaele Sbarretti Tazza, of Pius XI in Rome, in these words:
“in order that uniformity of understanding prevail in all institutions of religious women … 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. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper …”
Rufino J. Cardinal Santos, Archbishop of Manila, quotes these standards as “The Church’s stand concerning modesty in dress” in his Pastoral of December 6, 1959
. He attributes them to Pope Pius XI Himself, and gives the exact date of issuance, September 24, 1928. The Marylike Crusade codified these standards, making only a small (ecclesiastically approved) temporary concession because of impossible market conditions in the United States.
Pope Pius XII was not one to mince words when it came to speaking about modesty… and keep in mind that his papacy took place from 1939 to 1958! What styles were common back then that were so immodest that he said THIS to a group of women in Italy:
“The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; 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. O Christian mothers, if you knew what a future of anxieties and perils, of ill-guarded shame you prepare for your sons and daughters, imprudently getting them accustomed to live scantily dressed and making them lose the sense of modesty, you would be ashamed of yourselves and you would dread the harm you are making of yourselves, the harm which you are causing these children, whom Heaven has entrusted to you to be brought up as Christians.”
‘How many girls there are who do not see any wrongdoing in following certain shameless styles like so many sheep. They certainly would blush if they could guess the impression they make and the feelings they evoke in those who see them.’
Pope Pius XII
Now, about that dress code.
Certain standards of dress were issued by the Cardinal-Vicar of Pope Pius XI on 24 September 1928.
In 1930 a letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Council (Acta Apostolicae Sedis 1930 vol. 22, pp. 26-28) was issued. This was addressed to the whole world. It condemned emphatically “the immodest fashion of dress adopted by Catholic women and girls, which fashion not only offends the dignity of women, but conduces to the temporal ruin of the women and girls, and, what is still worse, to their eternal ruin, miserably dragging down others in their fall.”
These instructions were given (among others):
1. “The parish priest should command that feminine garb be based on modesty, and womanly ornament be a defence of virtue. Let them likewise admonish parents to cause their daughters to cease wearing indecorous dress.”
2. “Teachers must not receive in their colleges and schools immodestly dressed girls.”
3. “Maidens and women dressed immodestly are to be debarred from Holy Communion … further, if the offence be extreme, they may even be forbidden to enter the Church.”
The Standards previously issued by the Cardinal-Vicar of Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Pompili, on 24 September 1928 are: “A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers’ breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.”
In 1944, the late Father Bernard A Kunkel, a priest in Illinois, began an episcopally-approved modesty crusade using these dress standards as a guide, with a temporary concession in the matter of sleeve length. He encouraged girls and women to be Marylike. (There is even an article in TIME magazine about it!)
This is also known as the “Marylike Standards of Dress” which are NOT “The Vatican’s Official dress code standards“, but a dress code for those who wanted to do more for modesty and devote themselves to a Mission of Purity. Unfortuantly too many have taken the whole “Marylike Mdoesty” idea wayyyy too far! Even as to “add” some extra rules! See “The Marylike Standards for Modesty in Dress (as set down by the Vatican)” *shudder*. They promote covering up to their ankles and wrists to goodness sake! Promoting this as from the Vatican! Ugh. This sort of “modesty” scrupulousity reminds me of these photos..
THIS IS NOT WHAT CATHOLIC MODESTY IS ABOUT! Can I stress this enough? lol
It’s not “two more inches and you are sinning!” but rather “here is a Standard that will make it easier for you to be able to build a wardrobe around, without having to worry about Modesty at all!” And even if some willfully dress immodestly, it is never our place to hate those people, or treat them badly! NEVER. EVER. EVER. WE are called to be examples, and to tell the truth when it is charitably necessary (if people don’t know what is modesty they cannot dress modestly), but we are NOT called to judge if a person is purposefully dressing sunfully to make men lust after them! Most people have no idea anymore! And then need our prayers, our charitable information when possible, and MOST OF ALL … our EXAMPLE. Ugh. Honestly….
Ahem. Moving on.
There is still a sign outside the Vatican which tells the visitors how to dress. And if you are dressed more immodestly you will be thrown out or given paper clothing to wear! And as you can see, they still adhere to the original Modesty Standards, “shoulder and knees covered, nothing too low-cut… etc.”
Pope Pius XII condemned the idea that a sin such as wearing an immodest fashion is acceptable (i.e. not sinful) if it is customary at a given time and/or place. The principle of majority is no rule of conduct. (There are many evil practices that are widely accepted.) “There always exists an absolute norm to be preserved, no matter how broad and changeable the relative morals of styles may be … Style may never give a proximate occasion of sin, and clothing must be a shield against disordered sensuality.”
In the 1980’s the Marylike Standards for Modesty were again given Ecclesiastical Approval and the following changes were made. (Sleeves may be 1/4 length until society again turns to Mary as their guide for purity.) Thank God haha. See? The Church isn’t dumb, we are not expected to wear old fashioned clothing, covering EVERYTHING! Pope Pius XII actually calls us to follow the fashion, within the guidelines! He called it an act of charity! Check out these two short video clips where Colleen Hammond explains this!
IT'S NOT ABOUT DRESSING FROM HEAD TO TOES. IT'S NOT ABOUT "INCHES" ! 😊 "The trend of fashion is not in itself evil…. God does not ask us to live outside your time so careless of fashion as to render yourself ridiculous… In following fashion virtual lies in the middle course …" From Colleen Hammonds video, "Modest DOESN'T MEAN FRUMPY" #RealCatholicModesty #PopePius #Guidelines #EducateYourself #Modesty #Modest #Catholic #Catholicism #DressingwithDignity #God #Fashion #Informative #Video
We are called to look to these guidelines for the sole reason that we know without a doubt that our dress (and, remember we must be modest in our looks, thoughts, words and actions also!) will never be a source of scandal or sin to others.
“Because of this, the young particularly, whose minds are easily bent towards vice, are exposed to the extreme danger of losing their innocence, which is, by far, the most beautiful adornment of mind and body. Feminine adornment, if it can be called adornment, feminine clothing, if that can be called clothing which contains nothing to protect either the body or modesty, are at times of such a nature, that they seem to serve lewdness rather than modesty . . . Well did the ancient poet say of this matter, ‘Vice necessarily follows upon public nudity.’ ” – Pope Pius XII
Leah: “When you want to get down the heart of modest clothing it is best to remember that modesty is truly not about a hemline. It is something that inspires one’s heart to amend their whole lives to a greater level of purity. “
We are all human beings, born with Original Sin; we are of a sinful nature, we have concupiscence which we must battle until the day we die. That’s life. Nowadays the message seems to be, “Hey! We can all be just as pure and non-lustful as Adam and Eve before the fall! All you need is love! (insert Beatles song).”
I speak more about this in Saint Agnes & The Garden of Eden.
This is unfortunately untrue…
Pope Pius XII said, “It is always difficult to indicate with universal norms the border-line between seemliness and shamelessness because the moral evaluation of attire depends on many factors. However, the so-called relativity of fashions with respect to times, places, persons, and education is not a valid reason to renounce a priori a moral judgment on this or that fashion which, for the time being, violates the limits of normal decency….
The most insidious of sophisms are usually repeated to justify immodesty and seem to be the same everywhere. One of these resurrects the ancient saying ‘ab assuetis non fit passio’ (“The passions are not aroused by things we are accustomed to”) in order to brand as old-fashioned the rebellion of honest people against fashions which are too bold. Must it perhaps be shown how out of place the ancient saying is in such questions?
When We spoke of the absolute limits to be defended in the relativism of style, We mentioned the unfounded character of another fallacious opinion according to which modesty is no longer appropriate in the contemporary era which has now become free of all useless and ruinous scruples.
It can certainly be conceded that there are different degrees of public morality according to the times, the nature, and the conditions of the civilization of individual peoples. But this does not invalidate the obligation to strive for the ideal of perfection and is not a sufficient reason to renounce the high degree of morality that has been achieved, and which manifests itself precisely in the great sensitivity with which consciences regard evil and its snares.” (“Moral Problems in Fashion Design” November 8, 1957.)
The SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH: PERSONA HUMANA : DECLARATION ON CERTAIN QUESTIONS
CONCERNING SEXUAL ETHICS says,
“In moral matters man cannot make value judgments according to his personal whim: “In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose on himself, but which holds him to obedience. . . . For man has in his heart a law written by God. To obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged.”” (
” The virtue of chastity, however, is in no way confined solely to avoiding the faults already listed. It is aimed at attaining higher and more positive goals. It is a virtue which concerns the whole personality, as regards both interior and outward behavior.”
Leah then gave ideas for finding “modest fashion”:
” Some dresses look fine while you are standing but as you go to sit, you realize that you’re showing more leg than a CanCan dancer. -Bathing suits: A one piece or tankini are great alternatives to the bikini.”
A great article titled “Modesty Paradoxes” led me to re-look at this way of thinking that is promoted by some Catholic Chastity speakers, and “Jessica Rey” a “modest” swimsuit designer…
I asked Leah what she meant on Twitter:
If you read the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, the BIBLE, Popes, Saints, regarding modest in dress, concerning especially temptation… you may also see what is wrong with her reply. (Again I refer you to another article I wrote on this)
It is a known fact that the way people dress largely affects how people treat you. Concerning Lust, Dignity, Respect, you name it. As Catholics we are called to love, respect and give dignity to every person regardless! But this ALSO means that we are to dress modestly as we are called by the Church.
Just the fact that some parts of women’s bodies affect men differently. Some men are more attracted to legs than shoulders… some have more trouble with temptation regarding mini skirts than halter tops. This is exactly why we must be prudent and careful when examining our clothing. This is why I thank God everyday that the Church has given us Modesty Guidelines! Or else we would, as a Catholic “Society” end up doing one of two things.
#1. Dress however we want, regardless if it causes men to battle with temptations and lustful thoughts. Because HEY! It doesn’t bother SOME other guys!
(Where is the Christian love in that….?)
#2. Cover every single inch that can be attractive to a man on a woman! (Even though, just the mere sight of a woman could be a temptation to some men…. even just the thought of one!)
Uhm. No… both of these are terrible suffice to say…
To wrap up. We need to actually read what the Church says about Modesty in Dress (and actions, and thoughts). We need to speak to those who have dedicated many, many years of research to Catholic Modesty, and who FOLLOW what they preach! (This is a big one!)
It would be really great to think that we can dress how we think is modest, but as mentioned before; something are more difficult than others when it comes to temptation. It is up to BOTH genders to dress modestly, be pure in HEART AND MIND, “flee thou youthful desires, and pursue justice, faith, charity, and peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” [2 Timothy 2:22]
Learn to respect and love one another. But do it completely.
Are we a “generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not washed from their filthiness.” [Proverbs 30:12] ?
Until next time! God bless & Keep it Trad!