Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not An Example of Transparency...

American Papist today had this interesting USA Today article talking about whether modesty is back in fashion:

Finding a bit more coverage in their clothing may be a goal of many adult women, but finding fashion that wouldn't be considered "sexy" can be an obsession for mothers of tween and teenage girls. When consumer insights firm BIGresearch polled 5,000 consumers last fall, 64% of those 18 and older agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "Fashions for young people have gotten too provocative."

Brenda Sharman, who became national founder of the teen girl group Pure Fashion in 2006, already knew public sentiment was starting to lean in favor of her modesty mission. However, she didn't think there would be much concern about low necklines and high hemlines in a time of staggering economic pressure and spiraling unemployment. But now, she believes the economy has become a boon.

"Fashion's in our court right now," says Sharman, a former model.

Pure Fashion has about 700 members who work as models at spring teen fashion shows, which attract about 11,000 people. The group has affiliates in 10 countries, and is signing new groups on its website,

Pure Fashion was an offshoot of a Catholic missionary organization, but Sharman believes its message resonates from Muslims to Orthodox Jews to parents who simply believe it shouldn't be hard to find shorts that completely cover the rear end.

As Thomas Peters points out, Pure Fashion is said to be an offshoot of a "Catholic missionary organization;" in fact, at least as of when I wrote this blog post, they were an affiliate of Regnum Christi. Peters goes on to add this update:

update 2: I received a report from an RC member saying that Brenda Sharman claims Pure Fashion is "no longer directly affiliated with RC." I'm not sure what to make of that statement because their website still says PF is sponsored by RC and affiliated with their "Mission Network."

Can anyone add a clarification?

I, too, would like to know. The Pure Fashion website still claims affiliation with Regnum Christi, as Thomas Peters says. And this article published in January of this year doesn't seem to be hiding the connection, either.

If troubled economic times lead to greater options for modest clothing for women of all ages, that's a good thing, of course. But this story once again highlights how frustrating it can sometimes be to discover LC/RC's connections to apostolates which are connected to them.

If Pure Fashion is no longer an RC apostolate, why the January article and the information at the bottom of the website's homepage?

If Pure Fashion still is an RC (and thus an LC) apostolate, why the past tense and vagueness in the USA Today article: "...was an offshoot of a Catholic missionary organization..." etc.

This illustrates, albeit in a microcosmic fashion, why it may ultimately be impossible for the LC/RC to reform from the inside. There is absolutely no reason to adopt a posture of defensive secrecy on the subject of Pure Fashion--even some critics of the Legion have found this effort to be worth supporting. But old habits die hard, and the RC's old habit of distancing itself from its works seems to be resurfacing. While it is possible that this is just a misunderstanding of some kind, I find it hard to believe that USA Today would not have noted the Legion connection if it was made clear--or that Pure Fashion wouldn't have announced its total independence from Regnum Christi if that had actually happened. Ordinary Catholics are left scratching their heads and wondering: is Pure Fashion RC-affiliated, or isn't it? And if there can't be transparency in such a simple thing, how can we trust that there will be transparency in significantly more important matters?

UPDATE 3/17 Thomas Peters reported March 13 that Brenda Sharman clarified: Pure Fashion is still Regnum Christi; the reporter knew that. Given my suspicious nature, I emailed USA Today to double check that; I just received a nice email from the reporter, who corroborated that she did know of the Regnum Christi affiliation, but as the story was retail, not religion, did not include the reference for reasons of space and brevity.

So this is an instance where no attempt at hiding anything was made, and no official implication that Pure Fashion was no longer RC was made, either. Apparently the person who originally sent the information to American Papist implying that Pure Fashion was no longer RC was simply misinformed, and combined with the article's apparent gloss over the Regnum Christi connection the misinformation led to the resulting confusion.

So, I apologize for my earlier suspicions. I can't completely apologize for having had them, though; I remember during some of the early days of Legion/Regnum Christi apostolates how maddeningly difficult it could be to find out whether that exciting new program or religious ed. opportunity at one's parish was actually Legion affiliated, and how well-hidden some connections sometimes were. Even today, why have the structure of "Mission Network" as an offshoot of Regnum Christi which is itself a lay branch of the Legion and from which most of the apostolates now come...and so on? Why not simply label clearly everything that comes from the LC/RC so people can know up front what they're getting involved with?

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