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Modesty and Purity Resources

Popes, Saints and Devout Souls:
on Modesty and Purity

'Avoid failing, not only against purity, but even against the least rules of an exact modesty.'

St. Paul of the Cross

'Beyond fashion and its demands, there are higher and more pressing laws, principles superior to fashion, and unchangeable, which under no circumstances can be sacrificed to the whim of pleasure or fancy, and before which must bow the fleeting omnipotence of fashion.

These principles have been proclaimed by God, by the Church, by the Saints, by reason, by Christian morality.'

Pope Pius XII

'When she was thrown into the air by a savage bull in the amphitheatre at Carthage, her first thought and action when she fell to the ground was to rearrange her dress to cover her thigh, because she was more concerned for modesty than pain.'

Pope Pius XII, Allocution to the Girls of Catholic Action, speaking of St. Perpetua

'A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.'

The Cardinal Vicar of Pope Pius XI

'We recall that a dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat, which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows, and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knee. Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper. Let parents keep their daughters away from public gymnastic games and contests; but, if their daughters are compelled to attend such exhibitions, let them see to it that they are fully and modestly dressed. Let them never permit their daughters to don immodest garb.'

The Sacred Congregation of the Council (by the mandate of Pope Pius XI), January 12, 1930 A.D.

'Below the knee, halfway down the arm, and two finger widths below the collarbone.'

Pope Pius XII

'How many girls there are who do not see any wrongdoing in following certain shameless styles like so many sheep. They certainly would blush if they could guess the impression they make and the feelings they evoke in those who see them.'

Pope Pius XII

'The parish priest and especially the preacher, when occasion arises, should according to the words of the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. iv, 2) insist, argue, exhort and command that feminine garb be based on modesty and womanly ornament be a defense of virtue. Let them likewise admonish parents to cause their daughters to cease wearing indecorous dress.'

Decree of the Congregation of the Council (by the mandate of Pope Pius XI), 1930 A.D.

'These principles with due regard to time and place, must, in accordance with Christian prudence, be applied to all schools, particularly in the most delicate and decisive period of formation, that, namely, of adolescence; and in gymnastic exercises and deportment special care must be had of Christian modesty in young women and girls which is so gravely impaired by any kind of exhibition in public.'

Pope Pius XI, 'Divini Illus Magistri', 1929 A.D.

'The most insidious of sophisms are usually repeated to justify immodesty and seem to be the same everywhere.'

Pope Pius XII

'One cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and condition; made foolish by desire to please, they do not see to what a degree the indecency of their clothing shocks every honest man, and offends God.

Most of them would formerly have blushed for those outfits as for a grave fault against Christian modesty; now it does not suffice for them to exhibit them on the public thoroughfares; they do not fear to cross the threshold of the churches, to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and even to bear the seducing food of shameful passions to the Eucharistic Table where one receives the Heavenly Author of purity.

And we speak not of these exotic and barbarous dances recently imported into fashionable circles, one more shocking than the other; one cannot imagine anything more suitable for banishing all the remains of modesty.'

Pope Benedict XV

'But how can you know anything of the impression made on others? Who can assure you that others do not draw therefrom incentives to evil? You do not know the depths of human frailty. . . Oh, how truly was it said that if some Christian women could only suspect the temptations and falls they cause in others with modes of dress and familiarity in behavior, which they unthinkingly consider as of no importance, they would be shocked by the responsibility which is theirs.'

Pope Pius XII

'The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts. . . If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up.'

Pope Pius XII

'Women must be decently dressed, especially when they go to church. The parish priest may, with due prudence, refuse them entrance to the church and access to the reception of the Sacraments [each] and every time that they come to church immodestly dressed.'

General Pastoral Directive, 1915 A.D.

'It might be said that society speaks through the clothing it wears. Through its clothing it reveals its secret aspirations and uses it, at least in part, to build or destroy its future."

Pope Pius XII

'We lament, too, the destruction of purity among women and young girls as is evidenced by the increasing immodesty of their dress and conversation and by their participation in shameful dances.'

Pope Pius XI

'A special danger to morals is represented by public bathing at beaches, in pool and river banks. . . Mixed bathing between men and women, which nearly always is a proximate occasion of sin and a scandal, must be avoided.'

Cardinal Pia y Daniel

'Girls and women dressed immodestly are to be debarred from Holy Communion and from acting as sponsors at the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; further, if the offense be extreme, they may even be forbidden to enter the church.'

Decree of the Congregation of the Council (by the mandate of Pope Pius XI), 1930 A.D.

'Let your modesty be known to all men. The Lord is nigh.'

Philippians 4:5

'And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? But he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.'

Matthew 22:11-14

'I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.'

Romans 12:1-2

"The Church is the house of God. It is forbidden for men to enter with bare arms or in shorts. It is forbidden for women to enter in trousers, without a veil on their head, in short clothing, low necklines, sleeveless or immodest dresses."

- words from a sign on the door of San Giovanni Rotondo

'What is it all for? If they only knew what eternity is.'

Bl. Jacinta Marto of Fatima, age 9, on seeing immodest and fashionably dressed women

'The sins that lead more souls to hell are the sins of the flesh.'

'The sins of the world are very great.'

'Fashions that will greatly offend Our Lord will appear. People who follow God should not follow fashions. The Church has no fashions. Our Lord was always the same.'

'Wars are nothing but punishments for the sins of the world.'

'My godmother, pray much for sinners! Pray much for priests! Pray much for religious! Priests should only occupy themselves with the affairs of the Church. Priests should be pure, very pure.'

'Those who do not keep the promises they make to Our Lady will never succeed in their affairs.'

'Our Lady does not want people to talk in church.'

'The Mother of God wants more virgin souls who bind themselves to her by the vow of chastity.

'To be pure in body is to keep chastity. To be pure in soul is not to commit sins, not to look at what one should not see, not to steal, never to lie, always to tell the truth however hard that may be.'

Bl. Jacinta Marto of Fatima, age 9, from her last words

'We must practice modesty, not only in our looks, but also in our whole deportment, and particularly in our dress, our walk, our conversation, and all similar actions.'

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

'Be neat, Philothea; let nothing be negligent about you. It is a kind of contempt of those with whom we converse, to frequent their company in uncomely apparel; but, at the same time, avoid all affectation, vanity, curiosity, or levity in your dress. Keep yourself always, as much as possible, on the side of plainness and modesty, which, without doubt, is the greatest ornament of beauty, and the best excuse for the want of it.'

St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church

'How beautiful then is modesty and what a gem among virtues it is.'

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church

'Frequent not the company of immodest persons, especially if they be also impudent, as is generally the case; . . . these corrupted souls and infected hearts scarcely speak to any, either of the same or a different sex, without causing them to fall in some degree from purity; they have poison in their eyes and in their breath, like basilisks. On the contrary, keep company with the chaste and virtuous; often meditate upon and read holy things; for the word of God is chaste, and makes those also chaste that delight in it.'

St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church

'You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. . . When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion?

You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul.

And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.'

St. John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

'In all your movements, let nothing be evident that would offend the eyes of another.'

St. Augustine, Father and Doctor of the Church

'Miserable is the man that gives scandal! Our Lord says: He that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Is there the least glimmer of hope for a man who is cast into the sea with a millstone about his neck? The Gospel appears to say that there is no greater hope for the salvation of the authors of scandal.

St. John Chrysostom writes that the Lord is more inclined to show mercy to those who commit other more grievous sins, than to those who are guilty of the sin of scandal. What! says the Lord to the authors of scandal, are you not satisfied with offending me by your own sins? Do you wish to induce others also to insult me? In the Mirror of Examples, it is related that Jesus Christ said one day to a scandalous sinner, "Accursed wretch, you have despised what I have purchased by my blood."

A mortal sin of scandal is committed by women who go about with their bosom immodestly exposed, or who expose their limbs improperly. Also by actors in immodest comedies, and still more by the persons who compose such comedies; also by painters who paint obscene pictures, and by the heads of families who keep such pictures in their houses. The father who speaks obscenely, or blasphemes the saints, in presence of his children, and the mother who brings into her house to live among her daughters young men who are in love with them, or betrothed to them, or other suspected persons, are guilty of a still more grievous sin of scandal. Some mothers say: do not suspect any evil. I answer, that it is their duty to suspect; otherwise they will have to render to God an account of all the sins which may follow.

Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh. Listen to a horrible thing that happened in the city of Savona in the year 1560. I have read it in the chronicles of the Capuchins, and it is also related by Father Ardia. There was a woman who, even after marriage, did not cease giving scandal. This woman one day fell into a fit, and while she was in a state of unconsciousness, she saw the Lord condemning her to eternal fire. When she recovered the use of her senses, she did nothing but cry out, "Alas! I am damned, I am damned!" A confessor came to comfort her, but she answered, "What have I to do with confession? I am damned." Then her daughter approached the bed, in order to encourage her, but she cried out: "Ah, accursed child! on your account, too, I am damned: for through you I have given scandal to others." After these words the devils, in presence of all who were in the apartment, raised her up to the ceiling, and then dashed her so violently against the floor that she instantly expired.'

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

'There are mothers who have so little religion or, if you like, are so ignorant that if they want to show off their baby to some neighbouring mothers, they will show it to them naked. Others, when they are putting on diapers, will leave the babies, for a long period of time, uncovered before everyone. Now even if there is no one present at all, you should not do this. Should you not respect the presence of their Guardian Angels? It is the same thing when you are feeding them. Should any Christian mother allow her breasts to remain exposed? And even if they are covered, should she not turn aside to some place where there is no one else? Then there are others who, under the pretext of being foster-nurses, are continually only half-covered. This is very disgusting. It is enough to make even the pagans blush. People are compelled to avoid their company in order not to expose themselves to evil thoughts.

But, you will say to me, even if everyone is around, we must feed our children and change their diapers when they cry! And I shall tell you that when they cry, you ought to do everything you possibly can to quieten them but that it is a far better thing to let them cry a little than to offend God. Alas! How many mothers are the cause of evil glances, of bad thoughts, of immodest touches! Tell me, are these the Christian mothers who should be so reserved? Oh, dear God! What judgment should they expect? Others are so cruel that they let their children run around for the whole morning, during the summer, only half-dressed. Tell me, unhappy people, would it not be better for you to take your places among the savage beasts? Where is your religion, then, and your anxiety to do your duty? Alas! As far as religion is concerned, you have none. As for your duties, have you ever known what they were? That you have not, you give proof every day. Ah, poor children, how unfortunate you are to belong to such parents!'

St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney

'Louis of Granada speaks of a young woman whose damnation had no other source than vanity and the desire to please. She led a regular life, but her passion to attract attention by the charm of her beauty was the moving cause of her whole conduct. Having fallen sick, she died, having received all the Sacraments. While her confessor was praying for her soul, she appeared to him, saying that she was damned, and that the cause of her damnation was vanity. "I sought," she added, "only to please the eyes of men. This passion caused me to commit a multitude of sins; it prevented me from receiving the Sacraments well, and it has led me to everlasting torments."'

Rev. F.X. Schouppe, S.J.

'We read also in Father Nieremberg that a noble lady, who was exceedingly pious, asked God to make known to her what displeased His Divine Majesty most in persons of her sex.

The Lord vouchsafed in a miraculous manner to hear her. He opened under her eyes the Eternal Abyss.

There she saw a woman a prey to cruel torments and in her recognized one of her friends, a short time before deceased. This sight caused her as much astonishment as grief: the person whom she saw damned did not seem to her to have lived badly.

Then that unhappy soul said to her: "It is true that I practiced religion, but I was a slave of vanity. Ruled by the passion to please, I was not afraid to adopt indecent fashions to attract attention, and I kindled the fire of impurity in more than one heart. Ah! If Christian women knew how much immodesty in dress displeases God!" At the same moment, this unhappy soul was pierced by two fiery lances, and plunged into a caldron of liquid lead.'

Rev. F.X. Schouppe, S.J.