Modesty seems to be a hot topic within many Christian circles, and especially in Catholic circles too.
The fact that THIS ARTICLE OF MINE was the top viewed TCF article of 2018 is perhaps evidence of how pre-occupied we are with modesty and especially decorum and dress code for Mass.
What I seem to have observed is that views on modesty are VERY polarized among Catholics.
Despite the popularity of my modesty article, a handful of people believe it is too strict and that we do not have to be modest, especially in God’s house because, according to them, God does not care what we wear.
To be fair, those comments come from the liberal, NO-loving, guitar-mass-defending Catholics, so their ignorant opinions are to be expected.
God DOES care what we wear.
If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have given us guidelines on modesty and appropriate wear for both genders.
It is definitely essential to dress in a modest manner for Mass.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a grave event.
One does not engage in levity of appearance and decorum at a grave event.
You wouldn’t wear a clown suit or a micro-mini skirt at a funeral or to a job interview, would you?
Why then would you accord less respect to our Lord and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?!
It is a mark of the diabolical to scoff at or water down that which is sacred and holy.
Conversely, I have also noticed that there are some traditional Catholics that take the topic of modesty a little bit – um, how do I say this – too far?
While they agree on the guidelines of modesty described in my MODESTY ARTICLE, when it comes to veiling, some of them seem to think that one is not modest if one is not veiling 24/7.
I get it. I honestly do.
Being a traditional Catholic can be such a beautiful and immersive experience that sometimes we literally want to live as though we were in Nazareth, circa 25AD.
But is this truly out of a spirit of modesty? Or is it a form of escapism?
Then there are some traditional Catholics that say women should not be wearing high heels because heels are immodest.
Or that women who wear makeup or jewellery are immodest.
It is a vice against temperance and modesty, and it takes modesty to extreme levels of scrupulosity.
Of course, it is perfectly fine for a woman to wear makeup and jewellery, as long it is done in moderation to ACCENTUATE, not ALTER the feminine form.
Ditto with wearing high heels. Heels are fine in moderation.
Wearing 3 or even 4 inch heels is fine. Wearing hooker-type stilettos is not.
Wearing makeup to enhance your natural features and femininity is fine.
Using it in such a manner that your appearance is drastically altered is immodest and the sin of simulation.
In short, it is fine to dress feminine, to wear heels, to use makeup and wear jewellery, as long as these are done in moderation.
Modesty is closely linked to the virtues of temperance and moderation, and one of the vices against temperance is immodesty displayed as a lack of moderation to one’s externals.
In general, your outfit is modest as long it fulfils two main criteria:
- It is a dress or skirt and not a garment that pertains to a man
- And it is not revealing ie no low cleavage, short hems, see-through fabric and so on
There are some Catholics that argue that as married women, they do not need to dress nice, wear makeup or in general, look pretty and feminine because according to them, their husbands already know what they look like. *insert copious eye rolls here*
This is just an excuse for laziness and it is a form of deception.
You took care of yourself before you got married. Why stop after marriage?
Just because your husband sees you every day is no excuse to let yourself go.
Just as it is right and proper for your husband to protect and provide for you in marriage, so too, it is right and proper for you keep herself groomed and continue to maintain your attractiveness, even for your husband
HOW ABOUT RADICAL MODESTY?
A desire to veil 24/7 outside of Mass, or to dress in a Muslim-like burka or like an Amish in today’s times is NOT humble or modest!
It is an expression of immoderation, scrupulosity, pride, and singularity i.e. a desire to be seen as different and above other people.
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SCRUPULOSITY
In Catholic moral teaching, scrupulosity defines the spiritual and psychological state of a person who erroneously believes he is guilty of mortal sin and is therefore seldom in a state of grace. A scrupulous person has difficulty making choices and decisions even though he desires above all else to please God and to follow God’s law. For a scrupulous person, it isn’t that he doesn’t “carefully attend to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church” (as the Catechism teaches), but that he becomes overwhelmed with the details and nuances that may be present in the decision.
Dressing in such a radical manner that instead of drawing people to Christ, you garner attention for being a spectacle is immodest, scrupulous and a vice of singularity, which is rooted in pride.
One is free to believe whatever one likes, but one is not free to believe whatever one likes and call it Catholicism
While you are free to dress however you like, but you are not free to dress however you like and call it Catholic or Christian modesty.
So you are free to dress like a Muslim if you like.
Or like an Orthodox Jewish woman, a Fundamental Mormon, or like an Amish woman.
But dressing in these manners and claiming to be Catholic is a sin of hypocrisy and simulation.
As Fr. Ripperger says: We are not Catholic Amish.
AND TROUSERS? CAN WOMEN WEAR PANTS?
While it is not sinful for a woman to wear pants, due to modern-day customs and culture, it is more perfect for a woman to dress in a manner that enhances her femininity.
It is more virtuous for a woman to wear a dress or a skirt, as it more perfectly fits her as a woman because it is more feminine and therefore, it is more modest – SOURCE
And there is your answer.
Our Lady, model of femininity and seat of wisdom, pray for us!
MODESTY, CLOTHING & THEIR EFFECTS
FR RIPPERGER ON MODESTY, JEWELLERY, TATTOOS AND MAKEUP
ad Jesum per Mariam
4 thoughts on “Modesty And The Danger Of Scrupulosity”
It wasn’t long ago that Western women wore head coverings on a daily basis (my grandma wore those silky handkerchiefs); why would doing so be considered immodest or scrupulous today? Or are you referring to the wearing of lace mantillas only? If so, I agree as they’re a bit too fancy for everyday wear. A lot of non-religious women do cover their heads, and judging by your writing, it appears that as Catholics we need to adjust to the rapidly changing fashions of the world to know how we must dress in order to avoid making a spectacle of ourselves. Which does in fact include wearing skirts and dresses on a daily basis in places where this is seen as odd.
It is scrupulous for the same reason that it is no longer a cultural requirement and will draw unnecessary attention which is the sin of immodesty.
You can, however, wear your head covering at home.
I’m addition, consider the motives.
As Catholics, we veil in the presence of the Eucharist and also in the presence of the Pope who is in persona Christi.
The non religious women who cover do so for very different reasons, same with Muslims.
Avoiding being a spectacle is correct. As it can lead to the sin of scandal.
Modesty is linked to the virtue of Temperance and we are to exercise both.
See my article below MODESTY AND THE DANGER OF SCRUPULOSITY
Thank you for this! Scrupulousness with modesty almost turned me away from modesty all together, I think it is important to call it out.
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I understand what you are saying and I agree we shouldn’t want to be singular.. however you might be interested in looking up what St Thomas Aquinas says in the Summa regarding makeup. (There really is such an article). Its in an article about adornment for women. He says that married women or those interested in marriage are allowed to want to look pleasing for their husband and wear reasonable jewellery. (Those not seeking marriage especially vowed to God should not of course want this). But he disagrees with makeup even for married women. Our Lord also told St Brigid of Sweden I believe that it offends Him when people paint their faces “like the idols” to be more beautiful than how He made them. Idols used to be painted in bright colours.
I take modesty seriously while still trying to dress in a way that doesnt stand out too much (as far as possible because in our culture modesty already stands out). But these quotes about makeup have lead me to not using it anymore. It wasnt easy though I have to say. I hope my comment isnt too negative as I really like your blog and dont mean it in a critical way. I’m a traditional Catholic too.
God bless you!
Ps. Quote from the Summa:
Reply to Objection 2. Cyprian is speaking of women painting themselves: this is a kind of falsification, which cannot be devoid of sin. Wherefore Augustine says (Ep. ccxlv ad Possid.): “To dye oneself with paints in order to have a rosier or a paler complexion is a lying counterfeit. I doubt whether even their husbands are willing to be deceived by it, by whom alone” (i.e. the husbands) “are they to be permitted, but not ordered, to adorn themselves.” However, such painting does not always involve a mortal sin, but only when it is done for the sake of sensuous pleasure or in contempt of God, and it is to like cases that Cyprian refers.
When St Thomas says it’s not always a mortal sin, I dont think this is a supporting statement for makeup as it can still be a venial sin. In addition St Thomas says women painting themselves “cannot be devoid of sin”.