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September 06, 2006



Interesting answer to the query. At my parish, the pastor has made it crystal clear how he feels about inappropriate dress. Of course, there are still people who show up dressed inappropriately. My pastor is pretty hardcore, but I don't think I've ever seen him refuse anyone communion.

Couldn't he have just pulled her and her parents aside after Mass and explained about, you know, GOD being present in the Eucharist? I think he missed a teaching moment.

Just my 2 cents.

Some Day

Two things I know for sure. You can't make a sin public by denying Communion unless is public itself. Second, wearing immoral clothing is a sin objectively. Mortal sin. But subjectively it might not be.

Diane K

It sounds like a real good time for this priest to have a frank homily on modesty, especially in Church. At Assumption Grotto, the pastor has signs up at every entrance which reminds people that they will be before the Blessed Sacrament and should be properly attired. He goes on to state, for those who are so secularized as to not know what this means, that they should not be wearing things like tank tops, mini-skirts, and other immodest wardrobe. Unless we get outsiders for something like a wedding or funeral, everyone is dressed accordingly.

When was the last time you actually heard a priest speak on modesty and how immodest dress can lead others to sin? At Catholic.com, which is currently down, we were discussing this issue last year. A man entered the conversation and explained that he has a really hard time with lustful thoughts. The TV, magazine racks, billboards and other things are making it that much harder, not to mention immodest dress in the world. When he comes into Church he said that he expects to be free from this kind of exposure. With that, a family walked in and the teen aged daughter was dressed immodestly. Can't recall if it was the mini-skirt, low-cut top or both. As he walked out, he pulled the father of the family aside and asked him politely if he could get his daughter to dress more modestly when coming to Church. The father was outraged at the audacity of the man. Then, the man told the father, "Look, I have an ongoing battle with lust and I should be free from such immodest exposures here at Church." The girls father paused, then thanked him for explaining it the way he did. The thought of this man or any other, lusting after his daughter was more than enough and when the family came the following week to Mass, the girl was dressed modestly.

We've become immune to what is immodest. How sad, and how God-displeasing. How many men are led into lustful thoughts with provocative dress.

Some Day

It is the sin that drags most people to Hell.

Mia Storm

"Second, wearing immoral clothing is a sin objectively."

I don't like spaghetti straps on young girls, particularly in church, but I would hesitate to imply that they constitute "immoral" clothing. As Jimmy pointed out, women do sometimes legitimately bare their shoulders in this society (e.g., wedding dresses, ball gowns, swimsuits). And in some cultures women go topless all the time. So, I would think that spaghetti straps are not intrinsically immoral.

Personally, I think it was particularly poor of the priest to simply ignore the girl and wave her on. Then he compounded the problem by ignoring her mother as well. If the older lady hadn't given the girl her shawl, it may not have been known why the priest refused the girl Communion.

If the priest felt strongly enough about the inappropriateness of spaghetti straps to do something about it, it would have been better to make an announcement at Mass or insert a letter in the bulletin or send a letter to the parish families outlining the parish's preferred dress code.


I find it interesting that nobody has pointed out that the priest actually did not deny anyone communion...he only delayed communion until a time when the young lady was more prepared.

Some Day

(e.g., wedding dresses, ball gowns, swimsuits). And in some cultures women go topless all the time. So, I would think that spaghetti straps are not intrinsically immoral.

Sorry but you are wrong there. It is not right, but its true that its common. Swimsuits are definetely immoral. Sorry, society is relative on these things and few priests would dare speak against it but it is still immoral.


"obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin,"

I thought Jimmy was going to mention denying communion to rainbow sashers on Pentecost, but he didn't go there. It naturally follows tho, from this canon.


Its called respect for our Lord, did that go out the window somewhere?

I know that almost anything goes on nowdays, with another prayer fest with pagan faiths soon upon us at Assisi, but there actually used to be a time, believe it or not, when men wore suits, woman dressed appropriatly, and we kneeled to receive our Lord on the tongue from a Priest, yes consecrated hands! A man who actually received holy orders, another sacrament that us laypersons do not have, to touch our Lord and distribute

Amazing how far we have come in the name of "progress" and "participation"
So sad


Further, if she were obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin then the priest shouldn't have given her Communion simply because someone put a shawl over her shoulders. He should have told her to go to confession.

This is the zinger. Clearly his denial was not based on a conviction of obstinate manifest grave sin, or anything like that. It just offends his sensibilities to give communion to a girl he deems to be immodestly dressed.

I know a priest who preaches against immodesty with some frequency and vehemence -- and you can see him going apoplectic inside if a woman comes up for communion with bare shoulders -- but he would never deny someone communion on such grounds. He takes very seriously his responsibility to administer communion to anyone not prohibited by law from receiving.


At my parish, we have a woman who checks wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses well in advance of the wedding. If it's strapless, no dice.

At least, that's what I have been given to understand. I haven't had personal experience with that.

I guess my larger point is, if Jesus magically appeared in front of you, would you be comfortable about what you are wearing? If not, that should make you think. Because that's what happens at Mass every day.

Brother Cadfael


How ironic that you bemoan a lack of respect for Christ in the very same post in which you display -- for the umpteenth time -- a lack of respect for His Vicar here on earth. Granted, your shot in this post was somewhat more subtle than you oftentimes are, but you got it in there anyway.


I find it interesting that nobody has pointed out that the priest actually did not deny anyone communion...he only delayed communion until a time when the young lady was more prepared.

False disjunction. She presented herself for communion and he turned her away; that's denying. Whether he denied it for five minutes or a week is beside the point. Besides, it seems that only the intervention of the woman with the shawl secured the young woman her canonical right to communion during the Mass in question.

Bill Cork

This girl would not even be admitted to St. Peter's--nor would many other people who come to church in the US dressed in shorts, etc. She would be required to put on a shawl, and men in shorts are required to put on long pants. Or they don't get in the door. Period.


What's the N word? But, I guess no one can tell me can they?


I'm assuming the figure of Christ on the crucifix at the altar of the Church in question is fully clothed.



Well, if it's the word I think Jimmy meant, it's a not-very-nice term for persons of sub-saharan African descent, and definitely something a person of the Caucasian persuasion would want to say out loud in, say, Detroit (where I live) or Baltimore.



I think Mary meant "...and definitely NOT something a person of the Caucasian persuasion would want to say out loud..."

Could be wrong, but I don't think so. :-)

Matt McDonald

In all Charity to the priest, we don't know what sort of instruction had been made to the congregation or the individuals in question, however it seems as he may have no treated the situation well from a pastoral perspective, considering he at least appeared to have violated Canon law.

It is certainly within the pastor's purview to establish a dresscode which is modest and respectful. It is sad that few have the courage to do so. While such an outfit may be considered by the general public to be acceptable, that does not mean that it is not objectively sinful to wear it.


This girl would not even be admitted to St. Peter's--nor would many other people who come to church in the US dressed in shorts, etc. She would be required to put on a shawl, and men in shorts are required to put on long pants. Or they don't get in the door. Period.

Hm, it seems to me that the dress code at St. Peter's, the grandest church in Christendom, cannot be extrapolated to every parish church, any more than the dress code at some exclusive Paris restaurant can be extrapolated to every steak house and family diner. Does every church in Rome insist on the same standard? Or when the Pope presides at Mass at World Youth Day, do you think they turn away boys in shorts or girls in spaghetti straps?

Brother Cadfael


I'm assuming the figure of Christ on the crucifix at the altar of the Church in question is fully clothed.

Yes -- clothed in our sins.


AJ, I don't think whether the corpus on the crucifix is clothes is relevant. Our Lord was crucified in very little clothing. "When they had crucified him, they divided his clothing among them, casting lots, and they sat and watched him there." MT 27:35-36

What I think is relevant is that His flock come before His Body and Blood in a reverent and respectful manner, and hopefully without inciting others to sin. I'm sure this girl didn't think she was being disrespectful, but we're not talking about walking into a movie theater, going to a formal dance, or going swimming. We're talking about walking into God's house to worship and adore Him. Some guidance from the pastor would not go amiss.

Brian Day


Bad analogy. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St Peter's is the same Heavenly Liturgy as at every parish church. There is no difference.


All of the churches throughout Italy that we visted have the same standard, although it is more strictly enforced at the major basilicas. Women with shorts or bare shoulders are not admitted into the church, much less admitted to communion. Men may not have shorts. The women in our group carried wrap-around skirts they could slip on before entering the church. I saw many other women wearing shawls over their sleeveless tops. I elected to wear zip-off trousers so I could reattach my pants legs before going in.


"I'm assuming the figure of Christ on the crucifix at the altar of the Church in question is fully clothed."

"Yes -- clothed in our sins."

Nicely put, Brother Cadfael. :-)

It's not just St. Peter's, SDG. I know women who explicitly bring a wraparound skirt when they travel in Europe if they think they might like to enter a church, because they want to do their walking in shorts and they know that's not considered appropriate dress for a European church. So your comparison doesn't work, at least not how it's structured.

Furthermore, it isn't just the church building. It's walking into the presence of God, who is there via the Real Presence in the Eucharist. How is that different from St. Peter's to St. Jimbob's?

Thomas A. Gill

Check out:

Modesty starts with purification of the heart
A Pastoral Letter by Most Rev. John W. Yanta, Bishop of Amarillo, TX
June 18, 2006
Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Can be found at: http://www.cuf.org/news/newsdetail.asp?newID=126


Bad analogy. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St Peter's is the same Heavenly Liturgy as at every parish church. There is no difference.

But we do recognize differences nevertheless, unless you dress exactly the same for Easter Vigil at your local cathedral as a weekday Mass at your local parish.

Tim M.

If it is stated above, then please pardon my redundancy, but my experience tells me the offense is not so much the thin straps or bare shoulders (which can be immodest) but the unstated cleavage. At fourteen, this could very well be the case.

I see so much cleavage in Masses that it is very frustrating to me. This is a stumbling block to every male. I do all I can to prepare myself for Mass and then there is the temptation right in front of me.


It's not just St. Peter's, SDG. I know women who explicitly bring a wraparound skirt when they travel in Europe if they think they might like to enter a church, because they want to do their walking in shorts and they know that's not considered appropriate dress for a European church. So your comparison doesn't work, at least not how it's structured.

Don't misunderstand, I'm far from defending spaghetti straps in church. I'm just pointing out that there's a difference between shorts "not being considered appropriate" and "not being allowed in the door, period." An enforced dress code at St. Peter's just doesn't -- and shouldn't -- translate to an identical enforced dress code at every parish church, in Europe or anywhere else. So you see, the comparison does hold after all.

I'm all for whatever we can do to communicate to young women that spaghetti straps in church are inappropriate. It just seems to me that denying a young woman communion is not one of those things.

Brother Cadfael

I'm with SDG on this one. I have no problem with -- and would welcome -- a dress code, but the time to enforce it is at the door, not at the altar.


Suzanne: nigger.


SDG, how do you dress for Easter Vigil at a cathedral, and how do you dress for a weekday Mass at your parish?

I have a near-uniform that I wear to church: a skirt, preferably A-line, that comes past my knees with hose and dress shoes, and a seasonally-appropriate top that does not

(a) bare my shoulders;
(b) reveal my cleavage - I try not to keep the neckline of my top above the clavicle, but it's hard to find blouses like that these days, so sometimes it's V-necked but still modest;
(c) cling to my form (otherwise it defeats the purpose).

So I guess I *do* dress exactly the same at Easter Vigil at the cathedral and a weekday Mass at my local parish. I dress like that at any parish, and at almost any church. I did wear slacks last week when I visited a Baptist church, but that's unusual (both my visiting it and my wearing slacks).

Is that unusual?


SDG, I think most everyone was in agreement that the priest handled it badly and that he shouldn't have refused her Communion. Did I miss something?

Brother Cadfael


First, I think it would be unusual to see SDG in a dress of any type. I don't know him, but I'm guessing that's not his usual Church attire -- for Easter Vigil Mass or daily Mass. :)

But what I think you missed was SDG being taken to task for suggesting that people dress nicer on the more important feast days, just like they do when they go out to a nicer restaurant. Which, it seems to me, is appropriate. That's not to say that the dress for daily Mass should be immodest, but the dress for more important days should be nicer.

Ed Peters

sdg's analogy works, becuase the bar is to admission to the church, regardless of the ceremony that might or might not be taking place. it has nothing to do with Mass.


SDG: re: dress codes in churches in Rome: yes, so far as I know, they do; some enforce it more consistently than others.


Brother, I didn't (and don't) know what gender SDG is. :-) But my boyfriend wears more or less the same thing to church irrespective of the day: nice pants and a button-down shirt, often with a tie. I suppose for a major feast day like Christmas or Easter he might add a jacket.

My point was not just that dress at Mass should be modest, but that I *do* wear nearly the same thing to Mass no matter what the occasion, which SDG seemed to argue doesn't happen. I expect to wear something a little nicer to *this* year's Easter Vigil, since I expect to be received into the Church. Maybe I should dress more nicely on Christmas and Easter, but my point is that the benchmark for what we wear to "everyday" Mass should be higher.

Make any sense?


I won't defend spaghetti straps, either - whenever I've headed from Mass straight to the beach, I've made sure to have a blouse over anything like that. But I'd re-point out to Kasia one of Jimmy's points - that modest or appropriate dress is within context. I don't dress the same at every Mass. What is modest in a chapel at a beach town in the heat of summer is different from modest at a suburban parish. Anything that I could wear to church (heck, _everything_ in my closet) would be shockingly immodest to late 19th-century sensibilities. But a tank top can be modest in some 21st-century contexts (albeit not likely in a church).

BTW, I saw a few people get away with shorts (nearly knee-length) in Venetian churches, even though they were handing out paper shawls to those more skimpily dressed.

Brother Cadfael


I wholeheartedly agree that the benchmark for every day should be higher. I don't think SDG was necessarily arguing that nobody dresses the same at all Masses in all venues, but that it is not the usual case. Most people dress nicer for Sunday Mass than they do for daily Mass (I find that the attire for daily Mass is usually, not always, driven by work guidelines more than anything else), and most people dress nicer for Christmas and Easter than they do for a Sunday in Ordinary Time. By the same token, it is natural for most people to dress nicer if they are going to a Cathedral as opposed to the chapel downtown.


Brother Cadfael,

In defense of the other John, I think your consistently patronizing and crabby comments directed at the "John's" who comment on this blog, might be confusing my posts from days past with the posts of the John you attacked today. Probably half a dozen times I've been tempted to level a few shots back at you, but I think I'll ask first...what is your problem? Is this blog not intended to allow for the free exchange of ideas between adult Catholic followers of Christ? As per your attack today on the other John, and attacks you've brought against me on days past, does John not have the right to espouse an opinion, such as to the appropriateness of a Priest making a priestly decision as to the management of the Mass he offers, even if John's conclusion may be wrong to your way of thinking? Others here are perfectly kind and loving in how they respond to alternative persepctives. Do you think you are going to win John over to your perspective by insulting him, or are you just trying to win?

I don't see disrespect in John's post...I see his reasonable concern for our Church in certain circles, bowing to modernism, and his call for civility, decorum, reverence, and respect for the divine presence as the Holy Eucharist is presented and distributed. John can believe whatever he wants, and he doesn't have to subscribe to your paternalistic, condescending evaluation of his opinion. No one appointed you the headmaster of Jimmy's blog, and as I have been reminded, there are Da Rulz...I would argue that being nice also means not using passive aggressive, or vague esoteric language to attack, belittle, and silence reasonable points of view...and yes...this is what you are trying to do...I've seen you do this, as you say, for the "umpteenth time" to folks that you disagree with...

Oh...and to help you in the future with who you want to attack, where it says "Posted by: ______ "...my name "John" appears unlinked, and the other "John", the one you attacked today, is linked...(meaning he has a line under his name). A little more civility would go a long way here...

Are you really a brother in an Order?

Peace and discernment,

John (unlinked)


Most of the discussion was about SHOULD the priest in question have done that. The real question was,"Can he do that"?

Jimmy's analysis of cannon law went far beyond my tiny brain can go but I'd like to point out that analogy between the Father and the father. Not everything I do is well thought out and perfectily clear (like this post) to my children but, having done what I did, I maintain I am the father so stop complaining.

Maybe the priest's action will create waves in the parish larger than any sermon could have.


So Ed, let me get this straight. If the priest denied her admittance to the church building in the first place, none of this would have happened? Maybe churches should hire guards to deny people entrance.

Brother Cadfael

John (or John),

My post was directed to the underlying inference by John (or John) that Pope John Paul II was somehow engaged in heretical behavior by organizing the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi.

Sorry if I mixed up John with John, but the tenor of his post -- "I know that almost anything goes on nowdays, with another prayer fest with pagan faiths soon upon us at Assisi..." -- was consistent with that of John (or John) from previous threads who have used that as one of many examples to demonize the Holy Father.

If you take offense at my taking offense to that...sorry.

Brian Day

I fully expect Ed Peters to take me to task for this, but I'll go forward anyway. :)

The discussion of "can he do that" strikes me as being too legalistic. (I'm tempted to say Pharisedic) If not spaghetti straps, then where do you draw the line? If I understand Jimmy's reasoning, then it would be difficult to justify any refusal of Holy Communion because of improper dress.

My first impression is that the priest showed an unusual amount of common sense and let's cut him some slack even if it did violate canon law.

David B.

I would just like to remind some people of the fact that in the early Church it was quite common to recieve the Holy Eucharist in the hands. So Vatican II didn't invent it, it's been around for a LONG time.


Impressively handled, Jimmy.

Ex opere operato. Thank You Lord, Thank You Lord, Thank You Lord.

This priest needs a swift episcopal kick in the pants and a course in both pastoral and sacramental theology.


Brother Cadfael,

Nope...you can take offense to that all you want, Heck, I probably agree with you there, as I do on many of your comments. It's things like the passive-aggressive, insincere apology in the last line of your last post that are my point about you. I'm a brand new Catholic trying to learn about the faith, and part of that process is trying out ideas among more experienced faithful like I find here, that teach me best about our apologetics, etc. With you as pretty much the sole exception, nearly everyone I've interacted with here have been great mentors. I'm just saying...compassion and patience with us new folks, and loving gentleness with those wrong in your view, may move them in your direction if you are actually right about your point.

Again, the other John may be ABSOLUTELY wrong about JPII's prayer fest thing, but the deep-sigh, disapproving slow shake of the head, tsk tsk thing gets you no where.

And I am curious about your Brother status...if you don't want to answer, I won't ask again :)



Brother Cadfael

John (or John),

Here is a sampling of the posts from John (all linked) the past few days about the Vicar of Christ, so that you get some flavor of what I was talking about by "disrespect":

John, August 28:

"All of this is definite confirmation that Vatican II taught that heretical and schismatic sects make up the Church of Christ."

John, August 29:

"This paragraph clearly means that there are saints and martyrs for Christ in non-Catholic Churches, a heresy of Vatican II that pope John Paul II has repeated and expanded upon countless times."

John, August 25:

"If the Pope feels to "uncomfortable" wearing his cassock-then we have the wrong man as Pope."

John, August 26:

"If you desire reverence, custom, love for the sacred heart, priests and a Pope for that matter that actually dress like a pope, and all that made the church what she is for centuries and oppose pygmy masses as JPII loved to attend so much with bare chested woman -you are a RACIST."


"Compare that to JPII and his need to add those Luminous mysteries? It was just another grandstanding attempt by a Pope who loved attention, canonized thousands and snubbed his nose at tradition, even the great St Dominic every way he could"


Brother Cadfael,

Again...the other John is a pre-Vatican II guy who loves the church, and doesn't like change. Whether you admit it or not, I suspect if pressed the right way, you'd acknowledge a few conflicts there as well. I don't agree with John's positions as you lay them out, and you don't either, but since you're into popping into and referencing historical comments, take a look at how many times YOU swoop in, stick folks with your talons, and exfil like a grey ghost.

Let the guy have his position without getting all crabby about it...the Holy Spirit has forgotten more about managing people with "off" ideas than you and I will ever know. Be nice to John, and the HS just might manage things with John to comfort his soul through you, instead of despite you.


Jordan Potter

Just one observation: If the girl wasn't involved in an offense that was "manifest," how come the woman knew what the problem was and was able to quickly remedy the problem with the shawl?

Maybe I misread him, Jimmy seems to think "manifest" in the canon means "publicly known," but it seems to mean "obvious," that is, something that clearly is a sin.

Brother Cadfael


I really am sorry if I offended you. I don't know which post in particular you're talking about, but I'm guessing that I failed to distinguish between you and the linked-John. I have a fairly low tolerance for so-called faithful Catholics disrespecting the Vicar of Christ, and linked-John is over the top in my opinion.

I will take to heart your words about my tone (validly shared by J.R. on another occasion), and I will try to be more careful about distinguishing you from linked-John in the future.

As for my status, I am, as I have said before, a simple layman.


My two cents (which I may get blasted for, but...):
Men like me have to fight lustful thoughts with these girls in Mass, which I shouldn't have to...and women like my wife, who used to be suicidal and anorexic over such things, shouldn't have to deal with looking at these girls either. Spaghetti Straps are ok in high school and college campuses. They're not where I work, which doesn't even have that strict of a dress code, nor in a lot of other settings which are only even the smallest bit of a professional nature.

Which is worse, a person who has no respect for the Eucharist being denied it once so they'll learn something, or people who are trying to be close to God being denied that experience every week.

My priest says something about immodest dress quite frequently and he's not listened to. Actions speak louder than words. I'm for the priest in this case.


A "typical teenage dress with spaghetti straps" is far from immodest. It's interesting that only a person from no fewer than two generations previous (the "older woman") had any notion of what the priest was on about.

The priest should have discreetly approached the girl afterward with his fashion advice, rather than publicly embarrassing her. A 14-year-old girl would be highly susceptible to not returning after a scene like that. Mission not accomplished.


Sarah, I'll agree that social norms of modesty vary over cultures and time. With that said, didn't Our Lady of Fatima tell the three children something about fashions being introduced that would offend Our Lord?

My point, however, was not the relative modesty or immodesty of my dress; it was that I wear more or less the same thing to daily or Sunday Mass that I wear to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I just specified my criteria for what I will wear, which seems to have distracted from my real point.

I think that, based on what we know about the situation, the priest could have handled the situation better. But as DJ pointed out, some pastors try to address it and aren't listened to. We don't know if there was additional context. I don't think we even know if this was the church's regular pastor.

And I don't think it is surprising that it was "an older woman" who realized what the priest's issue was. I say bless her heart for stepping into what had to have been an awkward situation all around.

Ed Peters

Arlo, I made no comment on what SHOULD have happened, only that SDG's analogy was sound as far as he intended it.

Brian Day, you point is reasonably made, so I've no beef with it. Jimmy's analysis of the law is sound (as if we didn't know that). Unlike some legalists, I think there are some areas of life that law does not cover (npi) and this might be one.

Some Day

Don't jump at me but Our Lady complained in Fatima about immoral dress when women wore skirts to their ankles and men would never be seen in a shirt, but rather a suit.
Did God's law change from 1917 to 2006?
It has not since Eternity. Now it is wrong, yet as I said before, lots of GRAVE sins are sometimes not commited ONLY because of COMPLETE IGNORANCE, therefore cannot meet the requirements of mortal sin. But consented ignorance is a sin.
If you don't want to learn about God then don't cry when you are judged for it.
You can't be like the ostrich and stick your head in a hole and expect to be safe.

Brother Cadfael

Some Day,

Did God's law change from 1917 to 2006?

No, not in the sense that immoral dress would always and everywhere be outlawed. But what is or is not immoral may, in fact, change over time, without God's law changing.

Some Day

Sorry Brother,
It may perfect, and it may be ignored but it does not allow for decadence. The Law provides for requistites, the requisites are either applied or not. Simple. Now that is not to defend either the "traditionalistic"view that the dress has to be a tacky jean dress with jean pants under it.
Look at pictures of Spanish festivals where they demonstrate the regional dresses. That is true beauty, where there is reflection of God and not vain and lustful intentions. But whatever, I am not here to change your minds, and I am worried I've said to much without a grace to back up the Law, and as St.Paul says , "the Law condemns".

Brother Cadfael

Some Day,

I expect we are pretty much in agreement as to application, and I wholeheartedly agree that decadence would not be allowed.

Some Day

Tres bien

Catholic Mom

I think it is pretty clear that the priest's actions did not follow the letter of canon law. I also think it is pretty clear that his actions were motivated by a desire to teach appropriate respect for the Eucharist. Might there have been a better way? Certainly. This discussion reminds me of an experience my youngest son had when he was a new altar server. He was the serving the 6:30 AM weekday Mass. When it came time for him to receive Communion he extended his hands but the priest insisted on giving him Communion on his tongue. It seems that his hands were covered with ink from friends writing messages on his hands with markers. This was apparently a fad in the elementary school at the time. After Mass the priest explained that he could not place the Body of Christ in hands that were so defaced. While nothing inappropriate was written on his hands,the priest could not verify this at a glance so opted to give him Communion on the tongue rather than risk placing the Blessed Sacrament on something vile. This was a profound lesson for my child. It certainly increased his reverence for the Sacrament and he has never shown up for Mass with unclean hands again!


Some Day:
"Swimsuits are definetly immoral"?
What should a modest girl wear to swim?
Or, is swimming immoral too?



By the way this is the John you seem to hate so much and gets under your skin

As you state that I for some reason do not listen to the Vicar of Christ-can I ask you if you obey all 260+ Vicars and have read their encyclicals and teachings or only John Paul II and up as it suits your liberal ways?

Possibly you should take the time along with many others to read Pope Pius XII "Comments on a Christian Moral Code of Life" written in 1957 where he quotes other popes and states "An unworthy and immodest style of dress has come into vogue and not only at the seaside and in vacation camps, but nearly everywhere, even in the streets of the city and village, in private and public places and not infrequently in the very House of God"

You stated that dress for more important days (I guess like Easter and Christmas?) should be dressed better than other days, so then you support Cafeteria Catholicism and you think that there are days in which we should dress better and are more important than others, like Our Lord should not be shown respect all of the time?

So I can only assume since B16 or JPII did not write the above, you yourself dont follow it and dont even know church teaching on this subject but rather pick and chose more important days to dress modestly!!!!

I am not here to throw shots at you as you do to me, but you are very uncharitable and to be a "clergy" it is very very scary that you actually have contact with our youth who are catechised and it is for that reason that I would never let my children be catechised by those like yourself

Try living up to the "Brother" in front of your name

God bless

Some Day

Shorts and t-shirts. Just like men. And if you want wear a full, one piece swimsuit. I personally would like to own a drysuit. But its not worth is for a pool. And I hate the pool anyways. I go into the ocean and swim. The beach is too immoral and even the "secret places"are invaded by immorality. See no discrimination. Men and women can wear the the same thing for swiming.


So, not all swimsuits are "definetly immoral"?

Jordan Potter

"It's interesting that only a person from no fewer than two generations previous (the 'older woman') had any notion of what the priest was on about."

Well, that statement certainly goes further than we know or can know.

I like to think I'm not all that old yet (38), but I can attest that young women dressing immodestly in church is a huge problem and a scandal, an occasion of sin, and a near occasion of sin for many people at Mass. Personally I wonder sometimes if these young women dress in such an immoral fashion at Mass because they think Jesus is going to be sexually aroused -- and after all, He is the only reason we go to Mass, so we all should dress to please Him, not ourselves and certainly not to attract sexual attention from the opposite sex.

But that being said, perhaps the priest could have or even should have dealt with the problem without denying Holy Communion.

Some Day

Wait John.
I believe there are occasions to mae a Mass more elegant than usual. Not that the Holy Mass is less or more on certain days, but that the Liturgical Calandar call to greater remind us of a certain glorious thing. You can't have a Te Deum at every Mass. So you do it on special occasions. Now you are right the Eucharist deserves a perfect Adoration in every sense. But in this valley of tears we to as much as we can. We give it our all. What does it serve to dress in the best outfit in the world when your soul is the dirtiest one in the world? Not to diminish the need to present oneself in a decent, Catholic way.


Two points: One, What about the law requiring women to have their heads covered in Church, particularly when approaching to receive communion? And don't say the 1983 Code abrogated this law, an immemorial custom dating to apostolic times. See www.lumengentleman.com for further discussion. The fact that this law is never enforced in any novus ordo parish is not an argument against it-- rather, it is a sad statement about the state of the Church.

Two, immodest attire is a failure to be properly disposed. If the attire listed above does not strike you as immodest "per se", that, too, is a sad statement about the state of the Church.

After 37 years in the wilderness, I am glad to belong to a parish where the traditional Mass and sacraments are celebrated, the pews are full, the faithful are energized and devout, and the seminaries are full. But, I am sure that this combination of factors is purely coincindental.

Jared Weber

I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but...

Padre Pio wouldn't even hear the confession of a woman whose dress was too revealing. Upon being admonished for this policy, he answered something to the effect of, "You think I don't WANT to hear their confessions??? HE (God) won't LET me!"

Some Day

Swimsuits the way used in the sense used today yes, as there is not much difference in being naked. In the sense of attire to swim no. Like I said before. And swimming is not normally a sin.
Hanging out at the beach maybe.


Huh? I am the only one to think that a dress with spagetti straps that bares the shoulders is not necessarily immodest? Someone mentioned about accentuating the cleavage, but that is not true of all dresses of that type (it also depends on the girl's body type, different girls had greatly varying differences in the amount to hide, so to speak.) If that was the problem, it should be stated outright, not used to create a blanket legalism.

See, this is what frustrates me on a lot of these, well, secondary issues I guess you'd call them. So many people tend to one extreme or the other. You'll either get people like a lot of those commenting here, who think, "gasp! Nude shoulders! Nude ankles!" who seem to expect women to wear almost a burqa. Or you get those people who think that anything is acceptable, like say a barely covering boobtube and barely covering miniskirt.

From what some people describe of what they think "incites lust" I think that tells us more about them than the girl's fashion sense.

I can recognise that sometimes a girl really is immodestly dressed, and other times, the problem is not her dress, but rather only myself if there is any inciting of lust going on. The trouble is of course, where other people draw that line may be very different from me. Because of this, I am weary of self-proclaimed experts on what is and isn't acceptable to wear to mass. It's just not as simple and clear cut as they think.

And sometimes of course, some girls are rather naive, not realising that their clothing is a lot more immodest than what they think, and need to be actually told.(That is, they are not willingly dressing immodestly, they just have no idea about the effect it has on men. As opposed to other girls who are aware, and deliberately dress that way.)

In any case, no matter how much you might want to applaud the priest taking a stand on immodest dress, the fact is that he was doing something HE IS NOT CANONICALLY ALLOWED TO DO, the same as any of the other liturgical abuses so many commenters like to whinge about. What he should have done would be to have a word to her after mass (being as polite as possible, as the girl likely has no idea what the fuss is about.)

Perhaps we need some kind of website, where there are pictures of women in different clothing and people can rate how modest or immodest they are. it could be called: AM I MODEST OR NOT?


So many people tend to one extreme or the other. You'll either get people like a lot of those commenting here, who think, "gasp! Nude shoulders! Nude ankles!" who seem to expect women to wear almost a burqa. Or you get those people who think that anything is acceptable, like say a barely covering boobtube and barely covering miniskirt.

Since neither the Bible, the Magisterium or the early Fathers establishes once and for all what fashions God approves of and how much skin is allowed to show, the obvious solution would be to wear whatever Some Day says is okay. If he says bathing suits are definitely immoral, what further need have we of witnesses?

Some Day

I don't know if sarcasm is what you aimed there.
But swimsuits as in bikini and similar things are immoral. That is why don't hang around the beach, but rather go swimming out deep.


It is so sad that so many women have so much trouble understanding modest dress and behavior today. If you really don't know what a good example is, ask yourself this: Would Mary wear this???

Ed Peters

To paraphrase Mr. Justice Stewart, "I might not be able to define im/modest, but I know it when I see it."


Georgette, that is a silly way to go about dressing. Would Mary have worn capri's? Would she have worn jeans? Who's to say what she would wear if she lived in the 20th century? I dress modestly by my standards, but I know people who think a woman wearing any type of pants is cross dressing.

David B.

I'm sure it's tempting to throw in the towel and dress like a 90 year-old-woman, but it seems to me that the younger generation (at least in my parish) is even more modest than their mothers were. They take the time to dress modestly and in an attactive way. I just wanted to put something positive on this thread, so there!


I am frankly SICK of hearing men whine about young women's dress causing them lustful thoughts at Mass. My personal opinion is--keep your eyes on Jesus or on the floor. I am not going to defend what the young women wear, but I must wonder about men who feel that noone can ask them to control themselves--PLEASE! Deep breaths guys, you see this all the time in our culture. I'm not saying that you should see this at Holy Mass, but for the Lord's sake get a grip!

J.R. Stoodley

Why should we have to avert our eyes from people in mass? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for custody of the eyes, but to make people have to worry about such things in mass is inexcusible. Some of the things women wear to Mass these days can serve no purpose but to distract men. It is our own fault if we sin, but the more we have to worry about averting that kind of sin the less we can focus on the mysteries at hand.

Plus, for me the greater temptation, and the one I am often quite unsuccessful at defeating, is to think poorly of such women and girls, to judge their personal moral status even. This temptation also they should not be subjecting both men and women to.

Surely denying communion to such women is excessive though in light of the fact that there is no law against it. I would not oppose such dress guidlines though, if they were introduced.

Let's put six packs in front of all the alcoholics at mass and then tell them to pay attention to Jesus or the floor but not the beer in front of them.

Let's put cocaine in front of all the drug addicts at mass and then tell them to pay attention to Jesus or the floor but not the drugs in front of them.

Let's put donuts in front of all the gluttons at mass and then tell them to pay attention to Jesus or the floor but not the food in front of them.

Let's put pornography in front of all the sexual addicts at mass and then tell them to pay attention to Jesus or the floor but not the pornography in front of them.

Let's put schedules and deadlines in front of all the people obsessed with business at mass and then tell them to pay attention to Jesus or the floor but not the work in front of them.

Shall I go on? Yes, I sure am SICK of hearing people whine about the mass being such a place of temptation to sin. It's such a TERRIBLE thing that people are struggling to be holy and BEGGING their brothers and sisters to help them on their journey. In particular, I HATE that men are trying to cooperate with God in healing their broken reactions to the opposite sex; I HATE that men actually WANT to respect women. What a ridiculous notion that someone should ask for help doing that.

Jared Weber

marymargaret: Without regard to whether the priest was right or not, your attitude has to be one of the most uncharitable attitudes I've ever encountered on this board. You should be congratulated.


"Arlo, I made no comment on what SHOULD have happened, only that SDG's analogy was sound as far as he intended it."

Ed, I never said you did. I was suggesting something I think should happen. The Swiss guards keeping watch works well at the Vatican. Therefore, I think it should be done everywhere. It will prevent unfortunate and canonically illegal situations like the one in the post from happening.


Or maybe just a big sign with a brief explanation why it is necessary to dress modestly.

Jared Weber

We could have Swiss Guards everywhere!

Dude, I always wanted to be a Swiss Guard.


I like the Swiss Guards idea, Arlo. Those pikes they carry should get people's attention. As Al Capone said: "You get farther with a kind word and a gun than you do with just a kind word."


"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 materials are improper."

The Cardinal Vicar of Pius XII

Crash course in modesty:


I only have time for one post, and so cannot say anything too inflammatory in this lively discussion, but I recently began reading up on this and find the literature convincing. There are standards for modesty that have been handed down, they have just been ignored. I also think there's lots of support for wearing the veil during Mass (and maybe other times, too).

Ya'll oughtta check out the info and give it an open mind. Too many of us have been conditioned by secular society to think that going around half-naked is OK.

My take on the subject is top post in the linked blog...

Paul Z

Dear Marymargaret:
I don't think you wanted to be hurtful toward men (and perhaps some women) who struggle in this area, but your remarks show you don't comprehend how difficult these temptations can be for men, and for some men more than others. Even my wife doesn't fully appreciate how difficult dealing with lustful thoughts can be for men, but it's enough to send me to confession once a week.
I try not to be angry at the women I see around me, especially in the summertime, but it's very frustrating and difficult trying to control the eyes and the mind when you're subjected to the way many are dressed. Within days I start to weaken, and before long, I'm into serious sin, or it's imminent.
The analogy about putting drugs or alcohol in front of an addict was appropriate and exactly what I was thinking. It's a terrible temptation, and to be subjected to it at Mass is heart-breaking.


If you really don't know what a good example is, ask yourself this: Would Mary wear this???

Yes, but the problem with that approach is that the men will start asking themselves Would Jesus Wear This, only to realize that Jesus didn't wear pants.

Brother Cadfael


I don't hate you. I don't have much respect for those Catholics who seem to do nothing other than take shots at the Vicar of Christ which the Holy Spirit saw fit to provide them. Who think that for some reason, they know more about what the earlier Vicars of Christ taught than the current Vicar of Christ. And who seem to think that "charity" consists of being silent when others unfairly attack the Holy Father.

As for the rhetoric, I (wrongly, I guess) figured that you wouldn't mind it since you seem to have no problem throwing it at the Holy Father. I will tone it down so as to be less offensive to you in the future.

Brother Cadfael


I have to agree with Jared. I thought I was supposed to be the uncharitable one on this board, and even I thought your comments were uncharitable. Not to mention naive, as if "getting a grip" is all thousands of men who struggle with lustful thoughts need to do.


"We could have Swiss Guards everywhere!
Dude, I always wanted to be a Swiss Guard."

We'd have to name it something else, though. Maybe something like The Militia of Mary. And if we want to be taken seriously, those striped uniforms would have to go. We need camo fatigues and berets.

Jared Weber

Arlo: The Militia Immaculata already exists. St. Maximilian Kolbe founded it.

Hmm. I'm not big on the camo, though. It'd have to be black. Or something else.


I'm still trying to figure out what, exactly, Some Day thinks we women ought to wear in the pool... Modesty and vanity (ha ha! stretch marks!) both prevent me from wearing a bikini, or anything too low/high cut.

But if any post-1920's bathing suit, by some people's definition, is immodest for women, then who's going to splash around in the pool with my little ones who are too young to swim???



If you'd spend a little time getting to know Mary you wouldn't have to ask me that question.


Margaret, I can't speak for what Some Day thinks. I think s/he mentioned that a full-coverage one-piece swimsuit was a reasonably modest garment.

Having said that, and before anyone blasts me for this, I AM NOT ADVOCATING IT! This is just for perspective. I visited my mother's gym a few years ago. It's in Dearborn, MI, which has one of the highest Muslim populations in the country. This gym has separate male and female exercise nights, so there were *no* men around, only women. There were women there swimming fully-clothed, not in burkas per se (those are a specific garment), but in the ankle-length robes that Muslim women often wear. Same-sex swimming, and they were that concerned with modesty.

Now, I have a lot of gripes with Islam, and I'm not promoting this as a standard we should adopt. What I am saying is that there is a WORLD of difference between even our most modest one-piece swimsuits and what a lot of the world would choose to wear when swimming. I also have friends who wear shorts or capris and a tee or tank while swimming, for modesty reasons. Personally I wear a one-piece swimsuit. A good book on the subject of modesty, btw, though not a Catholic book, is A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit.

I agree that Mary Margaret's post was uncharitable. I think I know where she was coming from though. I think the reason we as Western women tend to resist accepting the "tempting men" argument as a reason to dress modestly is that we automatically think of the 'morality police' in Iran, or the Taliban in Afghanistan. You know - anything from walking around au naturel (definitely immodest) down to being too pretty or not averting your eyes fast or far enough can get you thrown into jail or stoned. Why? Because "modesty" or "immodesty", as Ed observed, is hard to define, and individual interpretations are given wide latitude. I think we also tend to think of the 'blame the victim' rape defense ("Hey, she was asking for it! Did you see what she was wearing?").

With that said, though, I think it is important (and in this culture courageous) to choose to dress modestly. And making a reasonable effort to conceal, or even simply to not accentuate, one's sex appeal so that one's brothers in Christ are better able to worship the Lord purely at Mass - how is that a bad thing?

I have had frank talks with several men about sexual temptation that arises from immodest dress. I have to say I was shocked. This isn't a question of "getting a grip" - being tempted isn't something that most men are willfully doing. The drug/alcohol analogies were apt.


I love this discussion, nothing like what we wear to church to get Catholics riled up. Anyway, it is pretty clear that the priest was in the wrong, however, what is the remedy? It appears the only thing the parishoner can do is suffer the wrong patiently. It would not seem fitting for the girl to argue her rights under canon law in the communion line.


I think so too, James. The immediate remedy is to suffer the wrong patiently; the broader remedy is for the appropriate person to discuss with the priest that he was wrong.


In "Love and Responsibility" (the to be Pope John Paul II) basically wrote some great reasonable things about modesty. I suggest to all to look em up. From the top of my head some things were: There is an objective standard -of --if the "accentuation sexual values of the body" "displace" the value of the person and make them more prone to be an object of use.

But he said that some accentuation of the sexual values of the body are not necessarily incompatable with modesty. That they are part of the material for love.

He noted strongly I think that modesty is something that has a real relativeness to it (by nature)--that what is immodest in one time or place is not in another. For instance he noted that a swimsuit at a swimming place was not immodest (of course he I think would not say of all styles!) but worn in the street it would be.

So while there is a clear objective principle the application is as he pointed out is difficult.


"Yes, but the problem with that approach is that the men will start asking themselves Would Jesus Wear This, only to realize that Jesus didn't wear pants."

True, but I think it's a pretty safe bet that He wouldn't wear a Speedo either.

I don't get this: I was chastised (once publicly, once privately) in PUBLIC SCHOOLS in the U.S. in the last 20 years for wearing what my parents considered reasonably modest sundresses. Why is the Lord's House, where Christ is present, held to a lower standard than a suburban high school? Can anyone explain that to me?


regarding a tee while swimming - Am I the only one who remembers the wet tee shirt contests from the 70's? To me a wet tee shirt is anything but modest. Board shorts, however, are great over a swimsuit since they are intended to get wet, are made from quick dry fabric, and don't cling so much when wet. Nor do they draw attention to the wearer by being something not typically worn while swimming.

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