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Matt C. Abbott's latest column.

From Jim Baltrinic (slightly edited):

      'This post consists of excerpts from a letter I wrote to the pastor of a Catholic parish about a certain incident that occurred at his church. I have omitted all references as to the church's location. The church is semi-circular in design, and we were sitting in the last pew near the center isle, which afforded us a clear view of almost the entire congregation. I started my letter with a compliment as to how nice the newly-remodeled church looked. I then ask the pastor to please consider the following hypothetical situation.

      'A priest enters the confessional for the usual Saturday morning or afternoon confession time. During this time a young man enters the confessional. 'Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.' From the sound of the voice on the other side of the screen, the priest surmises that the person is a teenager or young adult. The confession continues: 'It was a week since my last confession. I'm guilty of many lustful thoughts, and I looked at some very immodestly dressed women more times than I should have.'

      'The priest asks, 'Were these impure thoughts related to these women you looked at'?

      ''Yes,' replies the young man.

      'The priest: 'Why did you continue to look at them? Why didn't you go someplace else, away from them?'

      ''I couldn't,' said the young man. 'They were in front of me and I was kind of hemmed in by the crowd.'

      'The priest: 'Why were you in such a place to begin with? Do you remember that we are to avoid places that may be an occasion of sin?'

      'The young man answers, "Yes, Father, I know that, but I had to be there.'

      'The priest, somewhat puzzled, then asks: 'Why did you have to be there, and where were you: at the beach; at a sporting event?'

      ''No, Father,' said the young man, 'I was at your noon Mass last Sunday, and two scantily-dressed girls were sitting in the pew right in front of me, along with their parents. I couldn't move because my parents were on either side of me.'

      'While I said that the above story was hypothetical, in reality it is not. The Mass in question took place this past July at a prominent Catholic parish in a town my wife and I were visiting. It was the main Mass of the day and the church was quite full.

      'The young man in the confessional could have been any one of the many young men in the church. The two 'scantily clad' girls were real and were sitting about six pews in front of us with their parents.

      'From the area where we were sitting, we observed, in addition to the two girls mentioned above, approximately a dozen very immodestly dressed women, with the majority of these being young girls in their teens and early twenties. Bare backs and shoulders, low-cut tops, strapless sun suits, short shorts, mini-skirts and tight-fitting tops were plainly visible.

      'Two years ago, at a parish in northern Virginia, we experienced an almost identical incident at Sunday Mass. We were sitting in our pew when a home-schooling family came in and took a place several pews ahead of us. They had two sons around age 10 and three younger daughters. A few minutes later, two young girls, of about the same age and manner of dress as the two described above, came in and sat in the pew directly in front of this family. However, in this case, the parents quickly recognized the spiritual danger these two improperly dressed girls posed for their children, and they immediately got up and moved to another part of the church.

      'It is a sad state of affairs when going to Sunday Mass becomes an occasion of sin. I could go on with more such examples, but I think what I have said is sufficient. What we find more lamentable is the fact that, in many cases, such young girls are in the company of their parents. What does this tell us? Simply this: When it comes to modesty in dress, most parents don't have a clue as to what is right.

      'Coincidentally, several days later, as I was about half-way through the composition of my letter to the pastor, my wife saw a notice in the bulletin about appropriate dress in church. The notice was good, especially the part about adults giving good example for young children. It did, however, have two shortcomings which are common to such notices. Many times a bulletin notice can be overlooked, and secondly, the notice called for wearing 'appropriate attire.'

      'The problem, as I pointed out above, is that most Catholics have a very poor understanding of what 'appropriate attire' means. When it comes to knowing what is or isn't modest, they have no idea. This is because the Church has been silent on this subject for over 40 years.

      'At the beginning of summer there should be a strong sermon on this issue with a clear explanation as to what constitutes 'appropriate attire.' This should be followed up with at least a verbal reminder given once a month from the pulpit. Putting an occasional notice in the bulletin just doesn't do it. It should also be emphasized that the standards for modesty apply to everyday dress, not just in church on Sunday. Mention should also be made about the way many parents dress their little girls in skimpy outfits, thus accustoming them to immodesty at a very early age.

      'In regard to this particular topic, I feel I'd be remiss if I failed to mention the disgraceful display of immodesty exhibited by brides and their bridal parties at most Catholic weddings today. At a wedding we recently attended, the comment was made that the bride and bridal party looked more like the Playboy Review than an occasion of Holy Matrimony.

      'Let me close with the following thought. Someone once asked the mother of St. Maria Goretti how she was able to raise such a [holy] child. She replied, 'By teaching her the virtue of modesty.' How many Maria Goretti's are parishes and Catholic schools producing today?'

Relentless American casualness, and the race to the bottom.  All part of the general coarsening of the world.  Most of 'em think that as long as their genitals are mostly covered, they are appropriately dressed for anywhere.  True, it's part of our culture to be iconoclastic and irreverent towards authority (take that, George III!), and I think dressing down reflects that to some extent.  The counterargument can be made that most Americans still dressed somewhat decently into the '50s, and that the descent into sloppiness is a result of the 60s counterculture.  Either has some validity, I guess. 

What's the example for young people, though?  The sluts they see on TV?  45-year-old men who still take any opportunity to dress in unlaced hi-tops, shorts, and baseball caps?  Obese and morbidly obese adults who live in Disney sweatclothes and wear flip flops because they can't even reach their feet?

As to Mass attire specifically - this is all of a piece with the relentless desacralization of the Mass.  If Mass can be celebrated on a card table and you can hold the Body of Our Lord in your unconsecrated hand, then I guess it's not really a serious occasion, is it? - and why dress up for it? This, by the way, is the same attitude that led to the disappearance of Confession....."God loves you no matter what you do" then it's OK to wear slovenly attire to Mass.
(08-20-2011, 09:47 AM)DesperatelySeeking Wrote: [ -> ]45-year-old men who still take any opportunity to dress in unlaced hi-tops, shorts, and baseball caps? 

Hey! I'm 64 and I wear a baseball cap! Of course, I take it off when I go inside (anywhere) as my mum taught me to do. And I haven't worn hi-tops or shorts in years.  Smile
Why exactly is it impolite for a man to wear a hat indoors? I understand not wearing a hat in church or while eating, but otherwise it seems arbitrary.
(08-20-2011, 04:00 PM)The_Harlequin_King Wrote: [ -> ]Why exactly is it impolite for a man to wear a hat indoors? I understand not wearing a hat in church or while eating, but otherwise it seems arbitrary.

It is arbitrary. In 16th and 17th century Spain men wore their hats in Church. When William Penn had an audience with King Charles II, Penn, a Quaker, refused to remove his hat. The King doffed his and at Penn's question, 'Friend Charles, why dost thou remove thy hat?', the King replied, ' Master William, it is the custom that in my presence, only one should remain uncovered'! However, by the 19th century cultural mores had changed (they seem to be changing again!) and it was no longer acceptable to be covered indoors. I take my hat off even in the pub and I would no more think of eating in a restaurant with my hat on than I would think of eating with my fingers! LOL
I remind my sons to take off their hats when we go inside, even into a mall or our own house. When they ask me why, I just say, Well...well...because you're supposed to, that's why! Now do as I say! LOL
(08-20-2011, 04:30 PM)ResiduumRevertetur Wrote: [ -> ]I remind my sons to take off their hats when we go inside, even into a mall or our own house. When they ask me why, I just say, Well...well...because you're supposed to, that's why! Now do as I say! LOL

In the Royal Canadian Legion, if you walk into the canteen covered, you have to buy the house a round! LOL
The hat's an outdoor article of clothing.  The same could be said about boots, but they are not so easily removed.

Note that that rule customarily only applies to private or residential buildings.  A corridor or lobby at City Hall, for example, is a public space, and so is considered "out on the street", and the hat need not be doffed.

HK, as a military man, surely it's habitual for you to reach for your hat when going indoors?

ETA: let's talk about US military rules for hats, in anticipation of someone asking.

Hats on: outdoors; indoors when armed; indoors if you will be heading out shortly and you are carrying something you can't stop to put down, like a casket; when carrying the Colors.

Hats off: indoors; indoors when armed only if a religious service; outdoors in designated "no cover" areas like flightlines or the central courtyard of the Pentagon; at mess dress events.
Lol, despite all the indoctrination, very few military habits stuck on me. I'm not sure if that's stubbornness, rebellion or stupidity. But even in service, I considered the hat rules arbitrary and observed them solely to "get with the program".

I don't wear hats often, but when I do, I consider them to be strictly fashion accessories, same as most men wear neckties to be decorative rather than to cinch up their collars.

I am just thankful that some Catholics are still discussing this matter.
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