Christian Modesty in Dress

In order to please God, we need to seriously study the virtue of Christian modesty in dress, instead of following the trend in wearing the current immodest fashions dictate (eg. shorts, sleeve-less garments, low necklines, mini-skirts, tight-fitting clothes, lady slacks, …etc.).

First, we will examine a few quotations taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church which gives excellent principles and a thorough definition of Christian modesty:

2521 Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

2522 Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.

2523 There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

2524 The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.

Almost a century ago, the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima warned us of the upcoming problem of immodesty with these solemn words: “Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much. ... More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason." Blessed Jacinta, one of the three visionaries of Fatima said: “Fashion will much offend Our Lord. People who serve God should not follow fashions. The Church has no fashions; Our Lord is always the same.”

Under the mandate of Pope Pius XI, who began his pontificate five years after the famous Fatima apparitions, the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of the Council issued emphatic guidelines to all bishops throughout the world on modesty in dress: Donato Cardinal Sbaretti, Prefect of the Congregation of the Council: "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."

What about swimwear at the beach? In 1959, Cardinal Pia y Daniel (Archbishop of Toledo, Spain) issued the following directive: “A special danger to morals is represented by public bathing at beaches, in pool and river banks… Mixed bathing between men and women, which nearly always is a proximate occasion of sin and a scandal, must be avoided.” Now as a point of interest, this directive was issued before the infamous bikini arrived on the scene (which of course, would make matters even more serious).

What about lady slacks? As some of us may already know this was one of the after-effects of the sexual revolution in the 1950’s and 60’s, a revolution where sins against purity sky-rocketed, such as using the Pill and other birth control/ contraceptive methods, fornication, adultery, flirting, lustful courting behaviors, the beginnings of pornography in the media, and of course immodest fashions, including for the first time in history- women wearing slacks as something acceptable in society. Women wearing pants has generated a problem which has affected the entire structure of modern society.

It has been reported that on June 12, 1960, Cardinal Siri of Genoa issued a notification warning all the clergy, the teaching sisters, those involved in Catholic Action, and educators in his diocese of the grave dangers in the wearing of pants by women. He said: “ The wearing of men's dress by women affects firstly the woman herself, by changing the feminine psychology proper to women; secondly it affects the woman as wife of her husband, by tending to vitiate relationships between the sexes; thirdly it affects the woman as mother of her children by harming her dignity in her children's eyes.”

The world renowned Padre Pio, the recently canonized priest saint of our own time who bore the stigmata, and was gifted with such extraordinary charisms, such as prophecy, healing, bi-location, and the reading of hearts—this priest saint refused to grant absolution to any woman who did not wear her dress or skirt well below the knees (at least 8 inches). He also insisted on women not to wear slacks. Why was he so unyielding on these two points? This answer is found in Sacred Scripture. It says in the Holy Bible in the Book of Deuteronomy 22:5 "A woman shall not be clothed with man's apparel; neither shall a man use woman's apparel. For he that doeth these things is abominable before God."

In the 1950s, Pope Pius XII spoke often and spoke strongly on the topic of modest dress. He said: "Now many girls do not see anything wrong with following certain shameless styles (fashions) like so many sheep.  They would surely blush if they could only guess the impressions they make and the feelings they evoke (arouse) in those who see them."  (July 17, 1954.)

On another occasion, this same Pope pleaded, perhaps prophetically, with the following words: "0 Christian mothers, if only you knew the future of distress and peril, of shame ill-restrained, that you prepare for your sons and daughters in imprudently accustoming them to live hardly clothed and in making them lose the sense of modesty, you should be ashamed of yourselves and of the harm done the little ones whom heaven entrusted to your care, to be reared in Christian dignity and culture."

He also said: “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. “ And finally, one last quotation from the same Pope Pius XII which appropriately sums up this topic: “The virtue of modesty, in general, may be described as that virtue which prompts us to be decorous (in good taste), proper, and reserved, in the way we dress, stand, walk, sit---in general, in the way we behave exteriorly… The virtue of modesty is particularly regarded as the guardian of purity in thought, word, and action…Everyone knows that during the summer months particularly, things are seen here and there which are certain to prove offensive to anyone who has retained some respect and regard for Christian virtue and human modesty…Almost everywhere, on the streets of cities and towns, in private and public places, and indeed, often even in buildings dedicated to God, an unworthy and indecent mode of dress has prevailed… They have lost the very concept of danger; they have lost the instinct of modesty… We must emphasize in the strongest possible language that it is Catholic teaching, based in the most clear words of Christ Himself, that impure thoughts and desires freely indulged are serious sins. To invite such impure thoughts and desires through dress, action, or the printed and pictured story (literature, movies, television) cannot help but participate of the grave sin of scandal and cooperation.”

Therefore, let us sincerely console the agonizing Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary by committing ourselves, from this day onward, to always be a true example fo the virtue of Christian modesty in dress. At times we may be ridiculed, but that is part of being a true follower of Our Old and Our Lady. Persevere! Our good example will certainly help lead others to the truth that we need to return to a sense of decency despite living in a culture flooded with filth. Indeed, persevere for our reward is great in Heaven!

Join the Mailing List
Enter your name and email address below:
Subscribe Unsubscribe
Email list to receive updates specific to the Latin Mass in the Worcester diocese. When you subscribe, you will receive a link to confirm. Click on the link (if it doesn't open, copy and paste it into your browser and open it from there). You are then on the Latin Mass email list. (There is no need to sign up for a password unless you want to sign up for other services).