Plea for discussion of modest dress

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Dear Friends,

MotherDaughterHow wonderful it is to see that the Mother-Daughter Program will be fostering the vocation to chastity among the fine young women of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish this February 22nd.

Would that the daughters could be the teachers of the mothers, on the issue of chastity in dress.

It is not equally wonderful, that up to one in twenty-five women attending our parish’s liturgies is inappropriately dressed.

That number is scarcer among parish employees and key volunteers. Yet truth be told, there is still a problem with the issue of modesty in dress even within that rarified population. (Fear of detraction prevents me from being more specific, but if it were juridically appropriate, I could cite specific instances of that problem having occurred among our key parish personnel within the past six months.)

To be fair, substantial and successful efforts to remediate the problem have been under way for years, even as maturation of the fruit seems a number of years off.

In fact, it seems an intractable problem, that is, one with no ready solution:

  • Except that we be empowered merely to discuss it.

What could a reactionary envision being done? Women ushers could be equipped with tasteful sweaters, they could be specially trained to intervene in a charitable manner, to kindly ask the offenders to put on the sweaters.

It would never work. Almost no one who has such habits of dress, would have any comprehension of the fact that a problem even exists.

salaryDotComCLEAVAGEYet we still wouldn’t want to be caught with our heads in the sand, while the secular world demonstrates, not merely awareness of the issue, but is taking leadership in solving it.

“We asked about office dress codes and boy did you answer. Loudly. Nearly 4,600 people responded to our survey and proved dress codes are, and always will be, a hot topic that gets fairly contentious in a hurry.”…

What are the issues, that should be on the table for discussion.

The first is that in certain cultures, men actually want their wives to display themselves, in a way that allows the men to feel that their reputation and status are enhanced by, as it were, their ownership of a “property” that is highly desirable, as if their soul-mate’s body were a car, house or piece of jewelry.

That is the most common explanation for this aberrant behavior. But in cultures not so afflicted, there is a second common explanation:

Women are in competition with each other, they’re not doing it to entice men, and may even wish that men don’t observe what they’re doing.

However, since we don’t live in a vacuum, but our primary unit of identity is as a people, the most important issue is being thrown by the wayside.

That is the moral effect the practice has upon individuals and the community.

We wouldn’t want to have to hear our Blessed Lord pronounce a judgment against the offenders, against us individually or as a community, as expressed by St. John Chrysostom:

“You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. … When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul. And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.”