Friday, July 13, 2012

There is no Catholic dress code...

Reposting this from August 2011.... because the debate always rages... and I never got an answer...

Attention Marylike Modesty Supporters: Your help is needed


About ten years ago, I was given a few pamphlets and photocopies that addressed modesty; specifically, information from a movement called Marylike Modesty. This movement was started sometime in the 1940's by a Catholic priest and still attracts a small but faithful following. (The intention of this post is not to explore the entire Marylike mission but to find out one piece of information which I will get to shortly.)

Included in the papers given to me was a quote that read exactly as follows:

"But where do you find the Marylike standards in either of these letters? The Liberals ask with an air of triumph, thus implying, if not claiming outright, that these standards are not authentic. But 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. This modified form has been officially adopted by the entire Philippine Hierarchy."

I had never heard anything like it before and, of course, wanted to know if this was indeed something we are bound to. I assumed not since even the most faithful and pious females I knew did not adhere strictly to these guidelines. Is it possible that this was in fact Church teaching?

At that point, I began to do research. I dug into everything I could find and even poured over the Acta Apostolicae Sedis from the appropriate year and month and beyond. I eventually found the document somewhere (not in English) and discovered that this was not addressed to laywomen at all. If I had those papers I could tell you whether it was directed at religious sisters or the female students under their care in the context of institutional education. I just don't recall. The first line of the above statement confirms it was at least one of these. I created a file, put all my information in it, and moved on.

The discussion has recently come up again in some circles I travel in and I attempted to find that old file. It's been almost a decade and we've moved to a new home. Somewhere in the middle of all that, the papers went missing. Empty file. I probably took them out to share with someone and lost them forever.

Since then, I have been approached multiple times very recently by women hoping that I have some of those details. One young mother is being harangued by older Catholic women in her community because she will not conform. She doesn't know how to respond to their steady pressure and negative personal attacks that she is sinning in her manner of dress. She is hurt and alone. I am digging up the issue here for people like her; good Catholic women who aught not be lied to.

A lie? Yes. Show me one binding Church document that supports the specific manner of dress that this quote deals with down to inches and sleeve length. There isn't one for all laywomen. And yet it is repeated over and over in popular books and magazines and all over the internet. Out of context. Never a source document cited. I am not anti-modesty. I am anti-deception.

So, I want to be clear about this for myself, for you, for every Catholic woman out there who is being harassed into believing that she has fallen into the clutches of satan himself for wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
Please find me the original source document for the guidelines I've quoted above.
If you cannot do this, then stop bothering people with it. I fully support your decision to dress as you
wish within a reasonable range and the Church allows you this freedom. I am not bothered by long 
shirts and skirts. I am bothered with the idea that individuals (even well-meaning ones) find it acceptable to use deceitful tactics to promote their preferences... a Catholic modesty crusade believing that the end
justifies the means.
I am willing to be wrong on this. God's will be done. Just find me the source document.
--------------------
NB: I predict that I will get hit a little hard over this topic. Perhaps I will be accused of being against modesty. It won't be true. Throw the tomatoes if you will. But don't throw them until you find that document.
I'll update this post as soon as it is found.

8 comments:

  1. You are my favorite blogger in the whole, entire world.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I too have seen this quote but haven't seen an original source document either.

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  3. Yikes I would be in some trouble if that quote were true. I can't imagine that would be code for every Catholic woman. We'd all (or most of us) be in trouble if that was the case! No attacks from me and I'm all for modesty!

    Jamie
    For Love of Cupcakes

    ReplyDelete
  4. Supposedly this quote was issued on Jan 12, 1930 by the Sacred Congregation of the Council by mandate of Pope Pius XI. I pulled this from:

    http://www.catholicapologetics.info/morality/modesty/dress.htm

    I pulled the Latin issue from that date from the link you set out but I can't read it.....maybe there's a translation somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've been thinking a lot on this issue as well. Especially since it's summer (and swimsuit season!) here in hot-hot-hot-HOT Houston.

    I wish so much that modesty were more black and white! Thanks for your courage and call to balance.

    We are all called to continuously allow the Lord to form and mature our conscience on issues like this. We are also all called to love every person we meet right where they are. We all have so much we need to work on that God simply may be waiting to show us. We should all be focusing more on what we can clean up in our own souls than on what other people are wearing.

    None of the absolutely incredible women God has most used to bless and inspire me to holiness dresses completely to the "code" from that pamphlet. All dress beautifully and with femininity though, but most importantly every manner of their action and speech points others to God--or at least never away from Him. I think that's the point of modesty and of our call as women. John Paul II reminded us that women are the "crown of creation." His Theology of the Body talks about how our physical beauty is created to be something that calls everyone around us toward Himself--especially men.

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  6. Another agreement from this corner. For a time, I adopted these guidelines for dress. I do prefer 3/4 sleeves, but mostly to cover up my pimply upper arms. But to badger other women into adopting the same standards? How is that sort of lack of charity Mary-like? It's always better to lead by loving example.

    The premise that these recommendations were for religious women makes so much more sense. Thank you for being brave enough to address this issue!

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  7. Thanks for the comments, ladies. :) I know this is an important topic that is near and dear to everyone of us (since we are all Catholic women who wear clothes!). I appreciate your thoughts and encouragements.

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I love hearing from you! If you take the time to comment, I'll do my best to take the time to reply!

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