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This is from the book "The Dogma of Hell" and "How to Avoid Hell"...this particular piece is in the "How to Avoid Hell" part...

It's long but well worth the read...


Immodesty in dress: Anyone tempted to or engaging in immodesty of dress should ponder the following passage in Scripture and consider how they relate to the sin of immodesty: "But I say to you, that whoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matt. 5:28). "Do not err: neither fornicators … nor adulterers … shall possess the Kingdom of God." (1 Cor. 6:9-10). "Am I my brothers keeper?" (Gen. 4:9). Modesty, especially in dress, is a virtue cultivated among Catholics knowledgeable in their faith because of the teaching of the Church that to take pleasure in impure thoughts is a mortal sin. Despite the fact that the current "Woman's Liberation Movement" (promoted so universally by the mass media) would seem to want to blur the distinction between men and women, the Bible says, "And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them."

Now the male is by nature the "aggressor," so to speak the initiator, the forward one, in the male-female relationship. And a man is amorously attracted to a woman largely by looking at a woman. If therefore, a woman is immodestly dressed, a man's amorous inclinations can quickly develop into thoughts of lust, and therefore, women have an especially grave obligation to dress modestly. By nature, a woman likes to adorn herself so that she is attractive, and it is this very fact that does attract men. But it is sinful for a woman to dress immodestly and merely to say to herself that men do not have to look at her if they are going to be thinking evil thoughts. Of a given occasion a woman's immodesty may not bother some men (for a number of possible reasons), but in most cases, human nature being fallen as it is, the man will look at the woman's immodesty, and the woman's immodesty WILL be a danger to his purity of thought. Therefore, women who dress immodestly, or who are tempted to do so, should remember the murderer Cain's taunting question to God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen. 4:9).

If a man's willful impure thoughts toward a woman ("lusting after her") is a mortal sin because he "hath already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Matt. 5:28), then what sort of sin does the immodest woman commit who has been the occasion of these impure thoughts in a man by her immodesty, especially where it is purposeful and willful? Is she not also a murderer of sorts--one who at least helps to kill the life of grace in the soul of the man who lusts after her? The Church teaches that impure thoughts willfully taken pleasure in are mortal sins. Therefore, for a woman purposefully to dress immodestly where she will be seen by men is, materially speaking, a mortal sin. i.e., the deed itself is the matter of mortal sin. Of course whether she actually commits a mortal sin (formally), i.e., in her heart, will surely depend upon her level of realization about the serious problems to purity her immodesty causes men. But surely too, God will to some degree at least hold her culpable for the impurity of thought, desire and even action that she helps to cause, and very possibly she will be committing a mortal sin, depending on the degree of her immodesty and the level of her awareness about the effects of her immodesty upon men.

As there are some realities about the feminine nature that men will never fully understand--because they never experience those things--so with impurity of thought in men induced by immodesty in women; it is something women will be never fully appreciate because it is not within the realm of their experience. Therefore, women should take serious heed in this matter strictly on what they are told about it, because immodesty is something God will hold women accountable for.

The crucial question in any discussion of modesty, of course, is what exactly constitutes modesty for women. One can only speak in terms of general principles, and these will depend upon the occasion: whether it be normal daily activity, sports, swimming, etc. In general, the principles are these: 1. That clothing should tend to conceal rather than reveal; 2. that clothing should not be transparent; 3. that woman's legs should be covered at least to just below the knees (this would apply in particular to normal daily activity); 4. that women should avoid sleeveless dresses and blouses; 5. that sheer tight clothing should be avoided altogether; 6. that under most circumstances a woman should avoid wearing slacks and that when necessity may dictate their use that they should be loose-fitting rather than tight-fitting and 7. that the neckline should not be less than two fingers width below the pit of the throat.

By contemporary standards, such norms will be ludicrous to most women because our secular society makes immodesty in women a commonplace by the manufacture and promotion of immodest fashions. We must remember, however, that we are speaking here about true morality -- about God's law and not man's customs or preferences. Yet if those parts of the female anatomy are to be covered and generally concealed which are most suggestive to men, then these principles need to be followed. (These guidelines follow those laid down by the Cardinal Vicar of Pope Pius XI in 1928.)

What about beach, or sports or extremely hot weather. The general principles of modesty -- especially with regard to concealing rather than revealing--still apply. A woman will have to use common sense in these cases and take some extra precautions, realizing she has a heavy responsibility in this regard. In hot weather a woman can wear a dress that is loose, light and cool and yet is still modest. At sport she can be innovative in order to be modest, depending on the activity. For the beach she can wear some type of pullover or cover-up garment save for the time she is actually swimming. Choice of a swimming suit for women today is extremely important. Most women's bathing suits are grossly immodest--due to being too skimpy, too tight or too sheer. A woman may have to make or provide her own combination that will be modest, but if that is what it takes to be modest she should do so.

When women are at sport or at the beach, men need to prepare themselves in advance by not going there to gawk, but they should realize they will be seeing women dressed for those occasions. If they cannot avoid consenting to impure thoughts, they are duty-bound not to go to these places.

Lest this entire discussion of immodesty would appear to take no cognizance of immodesty in men and the problems it can cause to women, a word needs to be said about the man's obligations in this regard. Men should avoid even partial nudity where women will be present. They too should avoid tight clothing, especially tight pants. Men's shirts should be buttoned at least to within one button of the neck, and men should avoid wearing "muscle shirts" (undershirt style) and shirts that are tight and/or without sleeves.

People who wish to be moral in regard to modesty should realize that worldly fashions tend to take no cognizance of modesty or morality in dress. Therefore, any reference to "fashion" when it comes to the morality of modesty is simply futile. The norms for modesty must be Christian (Christlike) and based upon the reality of human frailty, not upon what is a la mode with the fashion world. (Modern fashions are often so immodest that one could well believe there is a conspiracy afoot to foster immodesty and therefore immorality.) The person who wants to obey God's law relative to modesty needs to realize that we all have a moral obligation not to dress in any manner which would tend to lead him into sin.

Prolonged kissing, etc.: Any actions which give venereal pleasure and/or arouse the sexual passions are mortal sins for those who are not married and also for those who are who might be engaging in such activities with someone other than their spouses. There are some actions by which by their very nature tend to cause sexual arousal in the normal person. These are always to be avoided. Some people are unusually sensitive; such people need to avoid what for them is the near occasion of sins of impurity, though the same thing might be no problem for most others.

Prolonged kisses and/or prolonged kissing is a mortal sin because it can easily arouse venereal pleasure and the sexual passions, which in turn can lead a person to commit fornication or adultery. This is particularly true of open mouth kissing (sometimes called French kissing) wherein the participants touch tongues. This type of kissing is definitely a forerunner to sexual relations and is a mortal sin for those not married to each other, even if it does not of a given instance lead to intercourse. The same is true of fondling or petting, that is, caressing the sensitive parts of the other person's body. This too, is a preliminary to intercourse and is strictly forbidden to those not married to each other. The same is true of prolonged embraces and embracing, even though this might appear to cause only a very mild sexual-type pleasure and to be not very stimulating. Nonetheless, when done for more that a few seconds (as occurs in a hug from one's mother or father or relative) it can lead to venereal pleasure and arousing of the passions and/or to other sexual foreplay and is therefore a mortal sin.

Also, dancing while holding the other person in contact with one's body is a mortal sin because it is nothing other than prolonged, intimate embracing, but it also has the added stimulus of rhythm, music and motion. Some may contend that it just gives them a "romantic feeling," but such a "romantic feeling" can easily develop into venereal pleasure; plus what might be "romantic" to one of the dance partners may be a serious sin to the other. Dancing per se is not sinful, but this type of dancing is. Here again, we should recall the warning of Scripture, "He that loveth danger shall perish in it." (Ecclesiasticus 3:27).

Prolonged holding of hands could even be mortally sinful, depending on whether or not it arouses those who do it. For a reasonable short period of time it is generally no sin at all, for most people, on most occasions. For some, however, depending on their sensitivity and other factors, it may have to be avoided altogether. Here each person will have to have the honesty to judge the matter for himself. Let us repeat, for the sake of absolute clarity, for most people, on most occasions, there is no problem with holding hands for a short period of time, and the practice is merely a common and morally acceptable sign of love or affection. But for some it can be an occasion of sin and must be avoided.; for others, it can sometimes be an occasion of sin and should therefore at the time be discontinued or avoided.

The principles involved in all the actions mentioned above is that one must strictly avoid seeking or accepting what is called "venereal pleasure," i.e. sexual pleasure (usually connected with the connection of bodies), which is strictly reserved to those who are married to each other. For sexual foreplay carries these pleasures with it, and as mentioned earlier, is essentially ordered to and in fact often leads to intercourse, which in it's turn is essentially ordered to and soon (under normal circumstances) results in the conception of a child. And only the married are actually in a position to take on the responsibilities attendant to being parents. Sex, the Church maintains, and as can be seen from common-sense reasoning, is really all one activity; the preliminary actions are not isolated from the final act. Sexually activity is like a steep, slippery decline that leads swiftly to a sheer cliff, where the decline represents sexual foreplay and the cliff sexual intercourse. If one intends to avoid the latter, he must avoid the former. They are inexorably united.

Even if a person does not intend to engage in sexual intercourse, and even if he does not in fact engage in sexual intercourse, he still commits a mortal sin when he willfully takes any step toward sexual intercourse by engaging in any of the above-mentioned actions. Because sex is all one connected activity, to engage in any part of it with someone other than one's spouse is a mortal sin.

The immature, uninformed and naïve may think that the Catholic position regarding sexual foreplay is Puritanical or prudish, but it is not. It is simply based upon an accurate understanding of God's law and of fallen human nature; the Catholic position comprehends what will almost certainly occur (if not right away, then in time) to people who flirt with danger by engaging in any of the sexual foreplay mentioned above.

No one will deny that such things are pleasant. God so constituted us to enjoy them in order to insure the propagation of the race, but He placed sex in the framework of love and marriage so that the immortal souls born to a man and woman will have the mother and father they need to rear and educate them. The sinful participants in such preliminary activities may think that they are not committing mortal sins and/or that they are not going to end up having intercourse, but invariably it will happen.

Avoiding the near occasion of this type of sin is essential to avoiding the sins themselves. (Again, the "near occasion of sin" is any person place, thing or idea that is likely to lead one into sin.) Young couples in love have to be particularly careful not to fall into such sins. Double dating, not being alone together for very long (especially in the house or apartment) and avoiding in general all situations that can lead to these sins will help people avoid them. Prayer, the Sacraments and mutual cooperation to avoid these sins are essentially to those who are dating with the serious intentions of getting married, in order to help them be pure. To avoid sins of impurity, it is good not to have too long an engagement time before marriage. And it is definitely best to terminate a relationship with a member of the opposite sex when one is sure it will not lead to marriage.

The world does not see matters in this clear light but judges, rather, that all people have an inherent right to sexual pleasure and to do what-ever is necessary to avoid the conception and/or birth of children. Such attitudes are exhibited openly in the movies and the mass media, but they are opposed to God's law, and they lead those who engage in promiscuous sexual activity to all manner of problems and profound unhappiness in this life and to the eternal misery of Hell, if they should die with these sins unrepented on their souls. Sinners live under the grand delusion that they can somehow fool God and avoid being penalized even in this life by the very sins they commit. But here what Scripture has to say on this score: "Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap." (Gal. 6:7-8). "But the wicked shall be punished according to their own devices: who have neglected the just, and have revolted from the Lord." (Wisdom 3:10).