Monday, August 22, 2011

Blaming the women

First, some housekeeping: the blog postings may be a bit lighter this week, and a bit less frequent. We're getting ready to start school next week; ordinarily we'd be starting this week, but I made the "executive decision" to hold off until next week to get my plans in order and to get through one more week of triple-digit temps before attempting to resume our school schedule. (Not like we won't be doing our school work in triple-digit temps anyway; at this rate, I'd be pleasantly surprised if we hit the lower nineties by Thanksgiving.) Your patience is, as always, appreciated.

I've got two seemingly unrelated items to share. The first is out of Phoenix:

Girls no longer will be allowed as altar servers during Mass at the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, SS. Simon and Jude.

The Rev. John Lankeit, rector of the cathedral, said he made the decision in hopes of promoting the priesthood for males and other religious vocations, such as becoming a nun, for females.

Made up primarily of fifth- through eighth-graders the altar-server corps in American churches has included girls since 1983 in many places. Girls and boys regularly serve together at churches throughout the Phoenix Catholic Diocese. [...]

At SS. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, the girls will be offered the role of sacristan, the person who prepares the church and the altar area before Mass.

And the second is a piece about modesty from the RenewAmerica site:
'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: 'Why did you continue to look at them? Why didn't you go someplace else, away from them?' [...]

''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.
Now, what could these two pieces possibly have in common?

Before I answer that question, let me say the following, for the record: First, I am not opposed to any priest or bishop deciding to return to the age-old practice of permitting only male altar servers; while I know many fine young ladies who volunteer their service in this way, I agree that there are laudable goals in regard to encouraging priestly vocations that can be addressed by returning to the traditional practice of male-only altar servers. Second, I agree that both modesty in dress and the issue of dressing appropriately for Mass are real problems; I've written about both before, and continue to agree that there are actual concerns for pastors and others related to both matters.

A third thing also needs to be said: the reason for including the story out of Phoenix with the second piece is not because of the story itself, but because of the jubilant reaction to the story which I've seen in some corners of the internet. I don't want to cite any specific comments because I'm not out to start a blog/FB/etc. war, but there have been more than a few of which the tone has been something like "It's about time they kicked those blankety-blank girls off of the altar--they've ruined everything."

And that brings me to my point.

When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, the first thing he did was run off and leave Eve alone to deal with the serpent (which, according to Dr. Scott Hahn, was a fearsome dragon-like beast, not merely a little garter snake). The second thing he did was let Eve convince him to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. And the third thing he did, when God asked him about it, was to point the finger of blame at the woman who was of his own flesh and say, "Hey, it was her fault! She made me do it."

Given how longstanding a tradition it is, then, for men to tend to blame women for things that go wrong, it shouldn't be surprising to encounter that attitude in regard to such things as female altar servers, immodestly dressed churchgoers, and (if we may be honest) tons of other church-related issues, from issues dealing with women who have the audacity to show up with the noisy, wiggly products of their fertility in tow (and who, gasp, sometimes even nurse them while still on church property!) to women who sing at you to women who get up and do some of the readings to women who respond when Father asks people to help out as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. All of this, if you have a certain male mindset, is the fault of the women. It is not the fault of men who gave permission (however it was granted) for female altar servers; it is not the fault of men who let their daughters out their front doors dressed for Mass as if they hoped to solicit in the parking lot afterward (if, indeed, things are really that bad; I've never encountered anything quite so horrible as the writer of the second piece describes, but then, I'm female, and tend to see in unfortunately-revealing clothing nothing but a fashion mistake that the woman will hopefully correct when she becomes aware of the problem); it is the fault of women for having children and expecting those children to attend Mass--or for not arranging for babysitting etc. so the children don't have to bother anyone until they're old enough to be altar servers; it is the fault of women that women tend to outnumber male singers in the average parish choir by a ratio of at least three or four to one; it is the fault of women that women also outnumber the men who are willing to lector at Mass; and it is clearly the fault of women that male priests ask for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and that, once again, far more women than men show up in response.


I have admitted before to being a bit of a feminist, but only in a completely Christian, women of Proverbs 31 kind of way. I'm fine with the all-male priesthood and with the idea that some of us find our fulfillment in totally traditional roles; but I'm also opposed to the notion that women are a sort of inferior reflection of God who can't possibly be intelligent or capable, or that men would never be bothered or tempted or otherwise harmed if women weren't around. That's pretty much the extent of my "feminism," which actual feminists would dismiss out of hand; but it's enough to get me condemned by some of the male Catholic contingent bent on promoting the idea that what's wrong with the post-Vatican II Church is that there are just too many damned (maybe literally) women running around trying to run things. Even if that were true--and I'm not saying it is--who would be at fault for it?

The kind of man who likes to blame the women is the kind of man who thinks that the world would be perfect if men would go back to being in charge in the way he imagines they were in 1940 or 1950. He never seems to stop to reflect on the reality that if women have, indeed, taken over since then, it has to be the fault of the men who gave up their pristine and perfect authority over them--either that, or that authority was never what the gentlemen imagine it was in the first place.


Kimberly Margosein said...

Okay, you want all boy altar servers to help recruit guys to the priesthood. Well, I guess every job has to have some perks.

Karen said...

I can't speak for all feminists, but I see nothing at all objectionable in your statement. I differ with you on some specific issues, but I'm not going to kick you out of the sisterhood for those opinions, so long as you start, as you do, with the idea that women are not inferior men.

Charlotte said...

Amen to all that, Erin. Totally with you.

Kimberly, why do you bother? It's getting so boring.

Anonymous said...

A guy here. Basically, the way half the young women (teens through late 20s, basically) dress at the Masses I attend is scandalous. It's really that simple. No woman (or man, for that matter, but I haven't seen men doing it) should wear shorts that reveal the bottom of the buttocks, or the contours of Honestly.

Red, it's like every time an honest man struggling for purity and piety has an honest complaint about something women are doing, you make an issue of it. Have some sympathy, for Peter's sake.

Erin Manning said...

Anonymous guy, I do have sympathy for real issues and real struggles. And if you are attending Masses where women's rear ends are poking out of their too-short, too-tight shorts, then by all means speak to Father, the parish council, and anybody else who will listen about it until something is done to address the matter. In the meantime, sit up front in the very first row, concentrate on the altar and the crucifix, and keep your eyes closed and your hands folded when you return from Communion until Father can put up the signs and publish the parish dress code in the bulletins.

I attend Mass in Texas, where we've had triple-digit temps the last several months. I see lots of teenagers in shorts at Mass (mid-thigh, mostly, though some are longer). Guess what? They're all *guys*. Teen guys in mid-thigh shorts and tight tee-shirts--oh, horrors!

Except nobody gets bent out of shape about that. Nobody talks about how immodest they are to be inflaming the passions of those around them by wearing shirts that reveal the contours of their upper torsos and shorts that end six whole inches above the knee. They might be scolded by some for dressing too casually, but nobody calls them skanks or sluts or whores for showing up with so much skin on display. If anything, women are lectured as to how since women are less "visual" boys showing up dressed like this shouldn't be a problem (except that these days, of course, it may be a problem for some of the men present, but nobody wants to talk about that either).

What I am sick to death of is the double standard, and, yes, the blaming of women for the problem. I bet if you approached the fathers of the rear-danglers and told them, "Excuse me, sir, but the way your daughter dresses for Mass tempts me and other young men to objectify her and lust after her body," the problem would be solved quickly--but you might be risking an invitation to discuss the matter in the church parking lot, too, even if the young lady never wore the cheek-peeking shorts to church again. Are you willing to take that risk for the sake of your virtue and hers? If so, I salute you; if not, I'm afraid I can't help you.

Geoff G. said...

I approach the matter of female dress more as a matter of aesthetics than desire, but, as someone who spent a few years on a college campus in Arizona, I saw more than my fair share of young women who really had way too much on display. Frankly, most of them needed to take a page out of their grandmother's book and figure out that leaving a lot to the imagination often works better than putting everything on display.

And Red's quite right to say that men are equally guilty as well. Although, given my friends, I'm far more likely to be seeing a guy around my own age with a seriously out-of-shape body letting it all hang out, which is rather distressing for quite different reasons.

If the weather's hot, may I suggest looser-fitting clothes made with natural fibers that allow air to circulate a bit better and which provides a little extra protection from the sun to boot?

Personally, I'm kind of surprised that people might attend Mass looking like that. Maybe I'm turning into a bit of a curmudgeon in my old age, but as I recall, kids in my church were generally dressed fairly well when I was a boy. But that's one thing I've noticed many Americans don't seem to like—showing respect by dressing appropriately, whether it's on the job or in a meeting or in church.

It might also be a good reason to revisit the older construction techniques. High ceilings and stone construction do have practical purposes as well as aesthetic ones. When I visited Italy many years ago, I remember that the local churches were often the coolest places in town.

freddy said...

Erin, I'm sorry but your response to the young anonymous male at 11:37 pm lacks charity and displays anger.

Imagine for a minute that you let your girls wear the clothing described to Mass. Imagine that you have no problem with it. Imagine that a young man approaches your husband after Mass and as politely as possible informs him that his daughters are dressed immodestly. SURE your reaction would be, "Oh, gosh, so sorry, we didn't know won't let it happen again!" NOT!

Oh, sure, the young man can complain to anyone in authority, and some may even, in a wishy-washy way, agree that our "culture" is too focused on the sexualization of both young men and young women, but most will simply identify him as "that kid with the problem," and ignore him or worse.

BTW, shorts and t-shirts are inappropriate at Mass for anyone over the age of reason. The men at your church who dress that way show a lack of respect both for the ladies present and Our Lord. I'm sure you have informed your priest, parish council and anyone who will listen. How's that working out?

Bathilda said...

thanks for this post, Erin. It's a reminder that "feminism" isn't just for the radical.

Women and girls dress very immodestly in my parish. There's a wealthy woman who brings her grandchildren to Mass. The kids are dressed appropriately, but she's decked out in some expensive get-up that always shows her shoulders and back and frequently shows massive cleavage. Her tatoo also shows. I wish that was the most extreme example. Short lengths are really short right now in general, so the young ladies are seen in short shorts AT MASS. I have a sixth grade daughter who has been raised to not even wear sleeveless tops in church. The other moms say that you have to "choose your battles", and they are just glad the kids are at Mass. I'm no Trad, but that statement alone should put an icy fear of the Church-to-be into the hearts of all those who are. These are the mothers of the future, and what will they let their children do?

LLMom said...

As with all things, there needs to be a balance which I think is what you are saying. We all must dress modestly (according to the CCC), but men (and women too) must guard their eyes. I have seen this attitude towards women a lot in the traditional movement in regards to the things you mentioned and in other areas. It is frightening to me to see some traditionalists (and maybe others) who think women shouldn't go to college, shouldn't vote, or do anything "male" in home care. There also is a trend for fathers to have a big say in who their daughters marry.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I tend to be less than sympathetic to the "the teenage girls are dressing like harlots and that's why the boys are staring!" people because I once had a crazy lady complain to me after Mass (not about my kids, about someone else's) about a girl who "all the young men were staring at."

The girl in question had the NERVE to be wearing a long-sleeved cotton button down shirt, a knee length khaki skirt, stockings and heels. Oh, and her hair was brushed and she was wearing makeup appropriate to her age (about 18 0r 19 at the time). In short, she looked like she was going to a job interview or something. But she was clearly underdressed because the boys around her age kept STARING.

The problem wasn't her dress. It was that she was an 18 year old girl. Almost all 18 year old girls are attractive to boys between 16-22, (and some older, too) as long as they shower, brush their hair, and wear clean clothes.

And this is the problem--- the "evil women tempted my son!" folks tend to assume that all girls are temptresses and that their son was perfectly pure in thought and word until SHE showed up.

Um, no. It's natural for your boy to be attracted to girls, and if he's taken with that nice girl at Mass instead of a pole dancer, then maybe you actually raised him OK and he likes the sort of girl he could bring home to mom. And maybe you can just remind him that Mass is for God, and he can try to get her attention AFTER Mass at donut day or something instead of staring DURING Mass.....

Kate said...

Here's a very easy solutions to both problems. Women should just leave the church activities and attending to the men exclusively. Then for sure all altar service will be done by all males and men won't be tempted by any females regardless of what they are wearing because they won't be there. Not to mention the elimination of the whole "feminization of the Catholic church" canard I've seen far too often.

It has become clearer to me that women are in a Catch-22 situation here. Of course, we could have segregated seating for men and women a la Orthodox Judaism and Islam, where women are often seated behind the men and even screened off in some cases.

You might think I'm playing the sarcasm card or "burka" reduction argument, but I'm not. After months and months of reading all manner and kinds of Catholic blogs, writings, websites, and various forums online, I'm beginning to think that my suggestions may be a real solution here. Maybe there's even a way to ensure that male church attendees don't even have to be tempted by the sound of female voices praying or singing (which any number of places I've frequented have also mentioned as another female problem.

What I do know is that I'm so turned off by anything on these topics either from traditionally-minded folks or the National Catholic Reporter type progressives. The lack of charity, of taking responsibility for our own thoughts, words, and deeds on these matters really bothers me. The mocking, charged and slanted language used to vilify opponents, or women, or religious, or clergy, or hierarchy with whom we disagree is offensive. Reading any religious, particularly Catholic writing these days has become depressing and near and actual occasions of sin. The difficulty I have experienced in attending Mass or any other Catholic function has become more and more burdensome when all the things I've read this last year in particular tag along for the ride. The still, small whisper of God's voice has been drowned out as a result. Not to mention the constant undermining and erosion of the little faith I have with what amounts to a constant undercurrent of misogyny that seems to be part and parcel of Catholic liturgical life and practice. It's ugly, it's hurtful, and with friends like these, Christ and the church do not need enemies. People have no idea who the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks that may see what you've written. A little consideration for people like me who hang by a thread would be appreciated.

Charlotte said...

I'll tell you what I am tired of: People telling others how they should try harder to find clothes that are looser, with natural fibers, and that are airy/flowy if they are hot.

What do these people do all day? Spend day after day shopping online? And how much money do they have? Some of these things they describe as "the answer" are either very difficult to find, and when you do, expensive because they are difficult to find with little demand for them.

Sewing is uber expensive, by the way. And who has time for that?

I'm sorry, but my money is valuable and so is my time. If I have to shop beyond my local mall and free-standing big bix stores - OR - if I have to spend more than an hour or so online shopping a few stores or Ebay for it - I'm not buying it, which means I'm not wearing it.

I'm also not going to spend my life looking through racks and racks of clothes at thrift store after thrift store looking for "modest" clothes that are supposedly found there. (Really? Actually, I DO live in thrift stores looking for stuff to resell on Ebay and I think these people are buts when they suggest that all the modest clothes you need can be found secondhand. Especially in MY size? Not.)

People have to make the best choices they can with the options they have. As our global marketplace continues to consolidate, it gets harder. Kohls and Target and JC Penney and Walmart are all going to have a variation on the same style, guaranteed. What's a person to do?

By all means, dress modestly for church. But I think some of the people in these discussions really do wish for something beyond modern, relevant modesty. They have a bigger agenda, period, and it's old-fashioned and even occassionally misogynistic.

Charlotte said...

Nuts, not buts. Sorry.

And while I'm at it, I too am sick of the men whining about "custody of their eyes."

There's plenty of women who have to do to try and stay pure on a spiritual level. Different issues, different topics, but ALL people have to work on their virtues. So stop the whining men! No one gets a free pass on struggling with sin and occassions of sin.

Know what I think? I think many, many of these men who are complaining struggle with porn. If they're truly struggling, good. Better struggling than mindlessly giving in. However, I think some of them go to confession, try to avoid it, and then think that when they walk into mass each Sunday, there should be no trace women or flesh or anything that personally might return them to their pornographic mindset, even if by a teeny weenie bit.

The Church is full of flawed people. If you expect it to be perfect at mass - women dressed according to some unknown, random measure of modesty that won't make you personally stumble - then you have a big problem. The problem is YOU, not the women who, for the most part, are wearing normal clothes worn in a normal society. Yes, there are dumbshit chicks at mass who dress like whores. So what. Move to another pew. Most of the women aren't dressed like that and we all know it.

Kimberly Margosein said...

Charlotte, I just noted the irony of the juxtaposition. Dress has become less formal over the years. For women, it becomes sexy, for men scruffy. I worked for Social Security for about 35 years and retired a couple years ago. When dress codes were relaxed, it seemed to be the women who dressed less appropriately for business. But then, the wardrobe range for men is fairly limited. I suppose the male equivalent of a strappy top is a wife-beater t-shirt, but no guy looks attractive in that. I suppose the priest could make some sort of request about proper attire or put a note in the church bulletin. However, this may make some decide to prove a point.

Tony said...

Erin, might be because God created us men to be more visual in our arousal patterns, that this sort of visual provocation is more a problem for men than women.

I'm not complaining about the young boys dressed improperly because I'm not homosexual and they don't cause a distraction for me. The provocatively dressed women, OTOH, do.

If the boys don't cause you a problem, good for you. It's a blessed thing that you don't suffer from that sort of concupiscence. Maybe you're past the change, and your hormones are dormant. Maybe that thing just doesn't turn you on. That's great - for you.

Some of us feel that we ought to be able to attend Mass and look at the beautiful stained glass around the church, to see the statue of our Blessed Mother (who has been an amazing help for this particular problem) and to look at our Lord on the altar without having to drag my eyes away from the contours of a scantily clad tush in the seat ahead, or see a parade of them during communtion.

In many cases I blame the parents. The girls are just dressing like the world teaches them. I would think there would be one place where the parents would counsel them (like I do my girls) on the proper dress in church.

As for the altar girl thing, I have never liked them (even when my girls were doing it). This isn't the fault of the girls, it is the fault of spirit of Vatican II priests and bishops who pursued this "equality" thing with no regard for the long term consequences. It's refreshing to see that this is being turned around in some areas of the American church.

We are all members of the body of Christ. But the body only needs one head. It still needs a heart, hands, feet, a liver and yes, an anus.

It seems everyone wants to be the head and they feel they have the right to be the head.

Also, I'd say I'm sorry if I pi$$ed off some feminists, but I'm not. I find pi$$ing off feminists a somewhat enjoyable pastime for me. :P

Erin Manning said...

Freddy, my response to the anonymous gentleman was not written in anger and did not intend to lack charity. May I respectfully and gently say that as I am the mother of all girls and you are the mother of all boys our perspective on this issue is bound to be different?

You know that I don't allow my daughters to dress immodestly for Mass. But I know that there are some people who would look at them in their perfectly modest dresses and think either "Hmmm! That dress is immodest, because I can tell that that young lady has breasts!" or "Hmmm! That mother must be a weirdo for making her daughters wear those drapey dresses all the time!" and those thoughts can be directed at my daughters on the same day.

Most of the shorts worn to Mass by members of either gender are scruffy and inappropriate--NOT highly sexual. I've written many times before that I think shorts are inappropriate for Mass; frankly, I think anyone over 25 who wears them in public looks pretty stupid, but that's a fashion issue, not always a modesty one. And, no, I don't pester Father to issue a statement about shorts. He will if he wants to, and it's his business how people dress in the Lord's house. It isn't mine.

But the point of my post was this: men need to man up, not only on the modesty issue but on all these other issues they grumble and complain about. If a man really spent his whole Mass being tempted to impure thoughts and lust (as the hypothetical article suggested) then he really does have a serious need to go to the priest in question and have an honest, heartfelt discussion about it all, and to beg the priest to "man up" himself and ban such evil clothing from the pews. After all, if the women in the church are all or mostly dressing like prostitutes and harlots, tempting men into grave sin by their very presence, but are totally ignorant of the fact, then in charity they must be informed, no?

Patrick said...

@ Deirdre Mundy:

"The problem wasn't her dress. It was that she was an 18 year old girl. Almost all 18 year old girls are attractive to boys between 16-22, (and some older, too) as long as they shower, brush their hair, and wear clean clothes."


@ Charlotte:

"Know what I think? I think many, many of these men who are complaining struggle with porn."

Yeah; that and the culture of easy bed-hopping and sexualizing *everything*. Some youngish men (non-Christians) have never been taught to think of women as *other than* sexual objects, having lived their whole lives after the sexual revolution and after church attendance was socially expected. I have heard women *casually* referred to, by strangers, as "ho" (that is slang for "whore"), and the woman hasn't even noticed the term, let alone be insulted by it. College campuses are rife with "Pimps-and-Hos"- themed parties, and of course there is quite a bit of derogatory, sexual statements about women in front of any young man who counts mostly non-Christians as friends.

The other thing is that some of these well-meaning Christians try simply to disown any sexual feeling when it happens instead of accepting their natures. Well, if you reject it, that feeling will come back with a more overwhelming force next time, and be increasingly distorted into something ugly.

I think Red Cardigan is right here; too much blaming of women (it takes *a lot* of be immodest), not enough trust in the loving God who heals.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

An assistant pastor at my church (a woman) once asked the rhetorical question "Why do a few people get to do everything in the church?" She answered the question succinctly: "A few people get to do everything, because the rest of y'all ain't doing anything." (The syntax may suggest that most people in this church had some southern roots. They did, and do.) Those who are worried about the ratio of women to men in the choir could start with this point.

Bring your lovely male voice to the choice, if you have one people will want to listen to. I don't sing in the choir because unless there are a thousand tongues to drown me out, it would detract from the sanctity of the service.

I dress for comfort more than for style. If the temperature is in triple digits, I see nothing wrong with wearing shorts, and short-sleeved shirts. I don't really think bare shoulders, per se, are going to be a terrible distraction. But some significant areas should be covered, and not much additional comfort can be obtained from baring them anyway -- if comfort is the point.

I recall reading one or more church fathers circa 400 AD who wrote and expounded in public to remind women that they, yes they, personally and as a demographic group, were responsible for sin entering the world, it was ALL YOUR FAULT. I believe these were the same ones who said a married man should abstain from sex except the minimum necessary to beget a child now and then, and expected women to repair to a convent just as soon as her kids were grown. However, that is all inventive reinterpretation -- its not in the Bible. This nonsense will arise in every generation, mostly from men who don't want to face their own selves.

I suspect that the shortage of men answering calls to the priesthood has something to do with the passing of primogeniture. It used to be, the first-born inherits the land, the second-born goes into the army, the next one or two go into the priesthood, and if there are five or more boys, they go overseas somewhere.

Subvet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Subvet said...

Bravo, excellent post.

I spent 22 years in the USN and was a horn dog from Jump Street until returning to the Church. So I know how to drool over scantily clad hotties. Oh, but do I ever know about that!

But the whole "custody of the eyes things" comes into play these days. If some young chickadee dressed like a "working girl" sits in front of me, I move. If one walks by, I look away. It's that simple.

I can't answer for the morals or lack of same on the part of others, I try to be the best Catholic I can on a daily basis. Sometimes that ain't saying much.

But until such time as I know I'm perfect in thought/word/deed, I'll mind my own beeswax and remember that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints.

And how come nobody ever mentions the "fatties" warming church pews? A girl dressed like a hooker gets dressed that way in a relatively short time, implying any thoughts of deliberate immodesty could be of short duration. But someone lugging a few dozen extra pounds had to take several months at least before they started shopping at "Omar the Tentmaker's Large & In-Charge Dress Shop".

The last I knew, gluttony was still a sin. Why not speak up about that? The question lies heavily on my mind, this could be long term immorality and that subject carries a lot of weight (sorry).

Regarding girls on the altar, how does making the role of server a "stag" position encourage vocations? I never get that one.

Is the lack of females for that one or two hours on a Sunday supposed to have an effect that negates the closeness of girls the rest of the week? Maybe someone can explain this to me. I served on the altar prior to Vat II, going stag never instilled any holiness in me or my friends. As a matter of fact I used to use the time spent helping the priest serve Communion to get a glimpse down the blouses of various girls I knew. Nope, no sanctity there.

And for those who believe women are somehow inferior to men, consider that it was a woman born without the stain of sin who brought Christ into this world. Seems to me that implies an exalted position for the fairer sex.

Once again, great post.

Anonymous said...

It is typically good to lay blame where it belongs although in some of these cases, girls immodesty, the parents are using allowing this. Or worse, older women should know better.

I appreciated attention brought to that. I have heard from both sides and experienced it myself, distraction to our young boys. Priest's will tell you that they don't listen to them nor the announcements and chances are, you don't know the family/person well enough to approach them.

Because men are usually more visual, stimulated, than women, I think they tend to be more sensitive. I am not bothered by young men in shorts/t-shirts and wish the young girls were wearing at least that much material.

I did notice that the Cathedral is training young girls as sacristans. That was interesting and shows sensitivity as some are under the notion that if I am not "doing" something, I am not participating.

Rebecca in ID said...

Red, I agree with your article. Spot on. I'd like to say something though after reading your and others' comments: there are two issues here, casualness vs. immodesty. I'd say what I notice is that the standard concerning formality has lowered equality for both sexes, and men and women are equally inappropriately casual for Mass. That is something worth addressing. On the issue of modesty, though, and this is just what I have witnessed here in the West--girls and young women are *definitely* much, much less modestly dressed than the young men. What used to be very "edgy", almost a uniform of the girls who wanted to be considered "loose" (who were very few when I was in high school), is now, I've noticed, mainstream and even more extreme, for girls and women. The shorts are really quite unnecessarily short; skin is bared wherever possible, and this is now what is just "in style". For boys, although sometimes you see the weird pant-waist-at-the-knees thing, in general stuff made for them is normal, as it has always been. I mean, if I had a boy, I could just walk into Target and easily find a decent shirt and pair of pants. Not true for my girls; past age 5 the cut is edgy, the idea seems to be to bare the skin and sexualize the form. In short I think it is simply true of the fashion industry that women are continually encouraged to dress as objects and it is becoming more and more extreme, or the more extreme is becoming more mainstream. So that is what we see reflected in Church. For the most part I think these girls are unaware of what is going on and I tend to think of them more as victims than anything else. I regret what society is doing to its children, how it is teaching them to view themselves and others--and "society" means men and women.

That being said, I agree with your general point and find it frustrating that people waste their brain cells with such views which are fundamentally misogynist. Objectifying women is wrong, and blaming women for that objectification is playing the same game.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Muslims are right about this. Women wear headcoverings and must be modest--and also must pray in another part of the mosque--because women are too tempting and distracting to men. The Ultra-Orthodox Jews believe the same thing.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

When I used to volunteer at a Boys and Girls Club, I heard one young man ask another "Do you go to a Christian school?" The answer was "Yeah, Jesus is pimping for ME." Easier to respond to was the young man who squealed proudly "I'm a pimp!" I told him he wasn't. "Yes I am" he insisted. I gave a more pointed answer. "You've never sold your sister for money." Young though he was, he knew exactly what that meant. His face bore a sincerely shocked expression. "No I've never sold my sister for money. Why would you even say a thing like that!" Because, I answered, that's what a pimp is, if you haven't done it, don't call yourself one. "Uh-Uhhhh!" Yes it is -- look it up in the dictionary. Don't get me started on "dawg."

Footnote: I totally agree with all the people who have suggested that young men who feel lustful urges in church need to get themselves in hand, not blame the girls.

Anonymous said...

Ok, let's be charitable here. Obviously there is an issue of immodesty with some of the women/girls in parishes, or there wouldn't be complaints. My suggestion is to just blindfold all the men, then the women may dress as they like, and those men who can't control their impulses will be free from temptation.

The problem with that solution, aside from the obvious, is that neither man, nor woman, is considering the other with the love and respect they deserve.

Men must be responsible to keep custody of their eyes. Women must be reasonable in their dress. If we are honest, we all know in our hearts what is acceptable. If you are being reasonable in your dress, then you have no need to be offended when someone complains, because it is not about you. Men, give it a rest. If it is a very warm summer day you can expect to see short sleeves, and maybe even sleeveless. I trust that it won't send you into paroxysms of desire.
What concerns me most in the whole modesty debate is the sheer amount of pride on both sides of the argument. There are planks and splinters in plenty of eyes.
Ok, if there is to be a set standard, then follow the Vatican's guidelines for visiting St. Peter's. If you may not wear the outfit into St. Peter's Basillica, then you may not wear it to your local parish. Jesus is no more present on the altar at St. Peter's than He is at your own home parish.

Jen in OK

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure telling the men to be quiet and get a grip is nice nor the right thing to do.
I also do not see it as objectifying women by saying something about it.
Why do we allow ourselves, women, to be able to voice a complaint and expect men to shut up and take it?
In the very least, it is being insensitive.
If they are truly not bothered, then good. But at lest with our sons, in their voicing it, our action (moving if need be) it hopefully will one day lead them to say something if they have daughters or in a position to lead. And hopefully it will be "I think you look very pretty when you wear..." "Men are more visual than women and because of that, you may send THIS message if you wear it. Do you really want people to remember you X rather than who you are?"
I don't want the men to shut up. If they aren't saying something then I worry really. I worry that they LIKE it a lot, or something worse.
About Muslim women, the one's I have known and are friends with would put us to shame when they take their ab-ya off. Although it is required out in public, in the private they remove them. They dress to a tee btw. Should we force that on people? No. But I a not sure we are a victim of the fashion industry either because if we had a little morals, we would put them out of business and bombard them with letters really.

c matt said...


We are down south of you in H-town, so we get the triple digit heat coupled with nearly triple digit humidity. I can understand dressing for the weather, but in our parish as well it seems to be a little on the too casula side, both men and women.

Both genders seem to suffer from it - but as you point out, it's not so much an immodesty thing you see for the women from a woman's perspective, I don't see it that way for the guys dressing down from a man's perspective either. IOW, from a guy's perspective, the guys that dress immodestly just look like slobs to me. Either way, neither gender should be dressing as if they are going to a summer rock concert at the park, although that is what most of it looks like. Unfortunately, with LifeTeen Mass, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference.

Jessica said...

To Tony's comment above of: "this sort of visual provocation is more a problem for men than women."

Sorry, not anymore, not with the internet and the way mainstream TV is going. Girls are beginning to be just as visually affected as men have been in the past. Girls also now have a bigger problem with porn & masturbation than in years past.

Unknown said...

As a guy, sure I'll understand that women who dress immodestly can't be entirely to blame for men who think lustfully around them. But please be charitable and consider this:

You wouldn't leave a bottle of scotch in front of the plate of a guest who was known to be a recovering alcoholic. It's not just rude, it's actually dangerous to him. Especially if this sort of thing happened every day, and he'd been only trying to kick his habit for a very short while.

I think there are probably a far greater percentage of young men who struggle with sexual addictions than those who don't. But everyone who wants to be a faithful Catholic HAS to go to mass at least once a week.

You can see where I'm going with this. I applaud the men who are actually able to sit in the front, and be as concentrated on the sacrifice as possible and claw their eyes and minds away from the very thing they have been forced to flee from in every past circumstance they attempted to remain pure. I would know about how this works, I fight this battle every week.

Yes, of course, modesty is for everyone. And yes, many guys are oblivious, just as many women are. But for those of you who sympathise with young men who care about purity, or even young men who are struggling to keep caring or to start caring: please don't just sympathise. Do something. Please.

Society ostracises us young men who seek purity. Please at least try to help us. No one else will.

Erin Manning said...

arfinkatsjv, I'm not unaware that men struggle in this area, that for some it's a harder, longer-lasting struggle than for others, and that women should be patient and sympathetic. They should also attempt to dress modestly--defined somewhat ambiguously always of necessity (because cultures, dress codes, etc. vary widely and so on). But it's one thing if I raise my daughters to dress modestly (believe me, I do!) and do so myself. It's another thing to be told that, for instance, because I wear a slightly larger bra size than many petite women I'm *automatically* immodest unless I go out of my way to find a garment so shapeless that it doesn't reveal that part of my body that, forgive me, after raising babies I primarily think of as nursing equipment. But I have been told things of that nature.

And some women wear revealing clothes without realizing they are revealing (shirts, for instance, that look fine and dandy in the store dressing room and the bathroom mirror, but become hazardous once a woman actually has to stand or sit or kneel or bend over to pick up choir music. Ahem.). I trust my husband and daughters to tell me if something I own is inadvertently revealing, but there are women whose husbands and children are quite as clueless as they are, and--let's face it--a lot of the women who wear unintentionally revealing clothing items are quite young.

In other words, patience and understanding in both directions is important. If we would all work on seeing each other as human beings instead of viewing men as walking lust machines on the one hand or women as walking temptresses on the other, it would be a very good start, I think.

I hope this is read in the kind spirit in which I'm writing it; tone is so hard on the Internet.