There is NO question about it….
— tons of Catholic women out there are so afraid of the topic of Modesty. Terrified actually. This is partly because of scrupulous, and in-excusable Toxic-Trad’s who deemed it their mission in life to chastise anyone who shows ankle, elbow & idea that maybe-Padre-Pio-DIDN’T-have-a-sign-outside-his -Confessional-that-DEBARRED”immodest”-women-from-confessing-their-sins-to-him. (What kind of priest would do that? *shrug* who knows? But it certainly WASN’T Padre Pio, as stalwart author on Catholic Modesty, Rita Davidson found out!)
But enough about those crazy-notioned-people (God bless ’em, and keep them…. far away from an opportunity to spread false notions about Catholic Modesty!) Let’s just try to remember these special “Toxic apostles” in our journey throughout this post shall we?
This is a question that was sent to EWTN on the subject of Catholic Modesty ; the person sent all information they had on Modesty, including quotes from Popes, and the statement that became known as the “Church’s Official Modesty Standards“.But more about that later….
Question from Val O’Regan on 07-14-2006:
There seems to be some confusion about what constitutes modest dress, and who said what about it.
Our Lady revealed to the little ten-year-old Jacinta: “Certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Divine Lord very much. Those who serve God ought not to follow these fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord is always the same.”
Pope Benedict XV spoke out strongly against immodest fashions: “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.”
Pope Pius XI on 23 August 1928 ordered a Crusade Against Immodest Fashions. Resulting from this, certain standards of dress were issued by the Cardinal-Vicar of Pope Pius XI on 24 September 1928. Standards had to be set — standards that would not be lowered each year to conform to the fashions available on the market.
In 1930 a letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Council 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 defense 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. “Marylike dresses have sleeves extending at least to the elbows, and skirts reaching below the knees. Marylike dresses require full coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders and back, except for a cut-out about the neck not exceeding two inches below the neckline in front and in back, and a corresponding two inches on the shoulders. Marylike dresses do not admit, as modest coverage, transparent fabric — laces, nets, organdie, nylon etc — unless sufficient backing is added. Marylike dresses avoid the improper use of flesh-coloured fabrics. Marylike dresses conceal rather than reveal the figure of the wearer; they do not unduly emphasise parts of the body. The Marylike standards are a guide to instil a sense of modesty. A girl who follows these standards, and looks up to Mary as her ideal and model, will have no problem of modesty in dress … and will not be an occasion of sin … to others.”
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.”
I obtained all these quotes from a booklet called “Immodest Dress: the Mind of the Church” by Louise Martin, obtainable from Catholic Treasures.
I hope this helps to clear up the confusion.
Now, the answer from Judie Brown is on that I want you, dear reader, to take note on her reply; minding especially her Charity, articulate mind & Politeness.
Answer by Judie Brown on 07-15-2006:
I want to thank you for these references, none of which are inaccurate and all which are pertinent – in fact, as pertinent today as they were the day they were written.
If only people would use common sense and remember that each of us has a body that is a gift from God and a temple of the Holy Spirit. It is certainly true that most of us, including me, have given in to the temptation to wear “fashions” that are really not modest, but the fact is, our demeanor sends a clear message and that is something each of us, men and women, must remember at all times.
Thank you and God bless you.
See Judie’s answer? It was clear, charitable, and had common-sense. Now, let us take a look at another;
Question from Laura on 7/25/2014:
Recently, I came across an article that stated St. Padre Pio, when receiving confessions, turned away women who wore dresses/skirts shorter than eight inches below the knee. I found another article that discussed the Marylike Standards for Modesty. I was shocked by what it said and was surprised that I had never heard anything about it since I am a practicing Catholic. I already know what it says about modesty in the Catholic Catechism. I really want to know if any or all of these are official teachings of the Church.
Answer by Catholic Answers on 7/29/2014:
Regarding St. Padre Pio, does it really seem likely that a priest behind a confessional grille (which was how confessions were ordinarily given in Padre Pio’s day) is going to be able to measure the length of a woman’s skirt? Do you think it would be modest of him to be looking at a woman’s legs and considering whether or not she should be “allowed” to confess her sins based on the length of her skirt? Personally, I think the answers to those questions should be “No.” As for the rest of your question, please see the link below.
The Blessed Virgin’s Guide to Catholic Modesty by Michelle Arnold
Now here is where the meat & potatoes of it comes in. Michelle Arnold instead links an article which openly mocks the idea of a “Marylike Modesty“.
The article linked goes on to deride the idea of “Modesty Based on Mary“, their reasoning? A sarcastic one. After explaining the “Modesty War” between the only two kinds of thinkers on Modesty in the Catholic world; Toxic-Trads (you know…the crazy ones who think elbows are sinful? The scrupulous ones? Yeah those) and those who think modesty is basically what you make of it. In other words; the wise, mature people (in her view I guess?)
“And who is the authority who is pressed into service to dictate modesty for Catholic women? The Blessed Virgin Mary.”
Erm. Actually – 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. Sounds pretty harsh eh?
“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)
Just a little example of what the Church faced concerning modesty in the 20’s;
“With silken legs and scarlet lips
We’re young and hungry, wild and free,
Our waists are round about the hips
Our skirts are well above the knee
We’ve boyish busts and Eton crops,
We quiver to the saxophone
Come, dance before the music stops
for who can bear to be alone?”
James Laver – The Women of 1926
Because of this; and the need for Catholic women to understand what was deemed “appropriate” for women to wear, Pope Pius called for a Modesty Standard.
..after many years of research, these standards are now full authenticated as having been issued by the Cardinal-Vicar 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.
Here is the original codified Standards of the Marylike Crusade;
Marylike dresses have sleeves extending at least to the elbows; and skirts reaching below the knees. (NOTE: Because of market conditions, quarter-length sleeves are temporarily tolerated with Ecclesiastical Approval, until Christian womanhood again turns to Mary as the model of modesty in dress.)
Colleen Hammond explains it a bit more, and how simple it actually is;
We continue onto Michelle’s article;
“Google “Marian modesty” and you will get nearly ten million results, in which people purport to speak for the Blessed Virgin on what Catholic women these days should wear.”
“The most well-known page on the subject modestly styles itself “The Marylike Standards for Modesty in Dress (as set down by the Vatican).” In this Guide to Modesty, our Blessed Mother, previously unknown to be a fashionista, speaks through an anonymous “cardinal vicar” during the reign of Pope Pius XI to declare among other things:
“Marylike dresses have sleeves extending to the wrists; and skirts reaching the ankles.”
“Marylike dresses require full and loose coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders, and back; the cut-out about the neck must not exceed ‘two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat’ and a similar breadth around the back of the neck.”
“Marylike dresses also do not admit as modest coverage transparent fabrics—laces, nets, organdy, nylons, etc.—unless sufficient backing is added. Fabrics such as laces, nets, organdy may be moderately used as trimmings only.”
This, first of all, is a seriously disturbed re-writing of the original Marylike Standards was found on this website; which is the FIRST result on Google you get if you type in “Marylike Standards“. They are a deeply scrupled re-written form of the “Marylike Standards.” But I guess the writer didn’t have to go far to find evidence she needed to conclude her idea that “ALL WOMEN WHO BELIEVE IN THE MARYLIKE STANDARDS BELIEVE IN THIS TWISTED VIEW AND ARE SCRUPULOUS NIT-WITS.”? After all, that is their favorite subject when talking about modesty; the alleged Scrupulous Marylike Chasers who chastise all women who show elbows and ankles and believe that the Blessed Virgin was the one who wrote these Standards because …. well, is IS called the “Mary-like” Standards right?
Now, the Marylike Standards weren’t made up by these (excuse the expression) nut-cases .. nah….I’ll use another expression… “Nut-case-idea… people…” If certain people were to have dug a bit deeper there is actually an entire back story to this “Marylike Modesty thing” that has nothing to do with scrupulous…. “people“. (I am trying so hard to be nice. Can you tell?)
“We are not called to be mimics of the Blessed Mother, dressing as would be appropriate for a first-century Palestinian peasant woman (e.g., long veils, skirts to the floor, sandals). “
No kidding. This actually isn’t what Catholic Modesty Promoters propose at all…
See Colleen Hammond, again;
Check out Rita Davidson, author of Immodesty, Satan’s Virtue, her Pinterest board on Modest outfits..
Colleen Hammond’s Pinterest board on Modest Fashion Ideas,
A board by a woman who promotes the Marylike Fashion,
My own personal Fashion board (though I do love Amish styles so, don’t mind me ha!)
Michelle goes on to talk about how “Mary didn’t really say much in Scripture” and how the Church says “THIS” about modesty, and quotes from one of the Catechisms – avoiding of course all of Pope Pius XII’s mention of Modesty in Dress (to name one Pope), because surely she’d have more trouble trying to defend her views against his words…
Surely even if Our Lady came down from heaven and said outright, “Obey the Marylike Standards given to you by my son the Pope”, they’d still find an argument. Well, Our Lady of Fatima called for Penance for poor sinners, which is a HUGEEEE part of the Modesty Crusade in the first place. But, meh, moving on….
Michelle proudly mentions a time when the Blessed Mother appeared “wearing pants” (ooo how shocking!), Our Lady of La Vang; in which Our Lady supposedly appeared in this adorable outfit – customary to the attire of the time.
I have no idea what few women she is quoting on for her entire article, but, it is quite obvious she is reaching for straws. How much different was Our Blessed Lady dressed compared to the tight, revealing, Pants (leggings… tights… whatever) that women are donning nowadays? Which really is the point… I guess there is just no reasoning with a person who just won’t accept the fact that she might be wrong about Modesty… I’ve seen it many times before.
God bless her…. poor confused person.
Wow, I really love Our Lady of La Vang’s outfit so much I need to post a couple more photos… NOTE; the statue isn’t wearing pants BUT that’s none of my business…. LOL.
Of course, vicious mockers of what they call the “Sola Skirtura” crowd all seem to come from the same vein – they are all vulgar, Ad Hominum and just seem to have poor arguments. Sorry guys.
Writers such as the two bloggers who used to write for the NCR; Simcha Fisher & Mark Shea have done more than their fair share of Skirt-Mocking. Both are known for their vulgarity, leftist leanings & bad attitudes.
The best argument that these writers can come up with aside from taunting, degrading, jeering, name-calling & ridicule is something along the lines of, “God forbid we be more Catholic than the Pope!”
One of my favorite statements. To which I like to reply, “If I am more Catholic than the Pope, thank God – I want to be a Saint! What do you want to be? Popular?”
As St. Dominic Savio cried, “Death! But not sin!”, as St. Maria Goretti died – for her modesty, as St. Agnes suffered the torment of being stripped of her clothing; only to have by a miracle her hair grow to cover her and save her modesty, as St. Augustine fought such a long and tireless fight against impurity, as St. Perpetua thought to cover her thigh after being thrown around by a wild beast in the Roman Colosseum, as St John Bosco, St John Vianney, St Francis De Sales, and Ven. Jacinta Marto suffered & spoke of modesty so often….
So we too, must endure torment of some kind. Be it jeering or laughter; who really cares? If an entire article or speech is made by a “popular” Catholic speaker mocking my beliefs in modesty – who cares? I believe what I am doing is the right thing and that it IS a sin, FOR ME to dress immodestly. More so than some, because of how much I know, and how great a sacrifice and Penance I would be letting go of if I quit. In the face of countless souls falling into hell because of the sins of the flesh, in the face of the Church in Crisis, in the face of such suffering in the world; not wearing pants is no big deal. I thank God for being able to offer this up to Him.
Let’s end with a quote from Michelle’s article once again;
“The administrator at the Catholic Answers Forums tells me that she sometimes fantasizes about banning the subject of women’s clothing as a topic of conversation on the forums because there are few topics more likely to start flame wars.”
This always makes me laugh. Instigators of the so – called “flame wars” , (see also Simcha Fisher, cited in Michelle’s article, known for vulgarity & hatred of skirts and women who wear them LOL.) love to pull the ‘ole, “Ah modesty, *sigh*, it gets so crazy I have to close the comment section! ” after writing such a vicious and nasty article against every form of Catholic Modesty that surely they are kidding themselves in thinking the “flame wars” aren’t started by the “Marylike – Crowd” but writers & speakers who take pleasure in ripping apart the Marylike Modesty idea in every shape & form and then sitting back to see what comments they get that they can make fun of in a later article.
Keep fooling yourselves ladies. Over here we’re just smiling, shaking our heads, pulling on our skirts each day & being happy to be doing so!
Until next time! God bless & keep it Trad!