Manners, Customs, Clothing

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Good Ideas Fit with Good Customs

Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.

There is a tendency to think one can separate the revolution in the Church, that is, the spiritual sphere, from the cultural revolution that has invaded society in the temporal sphere – as if they were two separate things. Many traditionalists complain of the abandonment of good dress, taste and customs, and the abolishment of the hierarchical and aristocratic tonus in liturgy, decor and ceremonies in matters of religion. It is important to note, however, that the same egalitarian revolution is taking place in the cultural sphere. To be conquered, the cultural revolution has to be fought on both fronts.

By cultural revolution I mean the movement that is trying to upset and overthrow the values that are cultivated by a Catholic, sacral and hierarchical society and to replace them with the opposite. At the same time Vatican II was “opening” the Church to the modern world, the hippie mentality of the ‘60s was working its own revolution on the Morals and good customs in civil society. These three photos may help better than words to explain the kind of headway this cultural revolution has made in the last 30 years. May they also serve as a warning to traditionalists, who sometimes swallow parts of the revolution in the cultural sphere even while they defend good principles in the religious sphere.

A demonstration in April 1972...

An italian Rally for divorce from the 70's

Informations Catholiques Internationales, April 15, 1972
In the first photo, we can see a lady and a man carrying placards at a demonstration calling for divorce in Italy. Even though the lady is championing a revolutionary principle in religion, she is still following the traditional good customs that had endured into her days. She wears a conservative suit, with the appropriate blouse, stockings, purse and heels. Her well-coifed hair is pulled back in what one imagines would be an elegant twist or French roll. Her outfit is set off by tasteful jewelry that reflects a desire to appear distinguished and noble.

The man at her side with a placard is also still well-dressed, with a suit, a buttoned-down shirt and a hat. The only point that clashes in the ensemble is the pair of sandals. Even in this concession to the future casual style, his sense of proportion and propriety still require him to wear socks.

Therefore, we have persons with quite progressivist ideas who are at the same time still very conservative in their clothing. They still possess with all naturality a certain distinguished bearing reflective of the aristocratic Catholic culture.

In short: bad ideas, but still good manners.

Thirty years later, a protest in April, 2002

A Boston protest against Cardinal Law

National Catholic Reporter, April 26, 2002
The second picture shows several ladies 30 years later in Boston defending a good cause. They are demanding that the Church take measures against pedophile priests. The placards they carry express their indignation over the cover-up by the ecclesiastical authority.

But a momentous change in dress and demeanor is manifest.

The three ladies are wearing pants, which are inappropriate for women for reasons of both immodesty and egalitarianism. As for modesty, according to the sound Catholic teaching of the past, trousers are immodest apparel for a woman because by their nature they emphasize a woman’s form and invite immodest regard. As for egalitarianism, Cardinal Guiseppe Siri made a superb warning in 1960. He noted that the wearing of men’s dress by women is “the visible aid to bring about a mental attitude of being ‘like a man’” since the clothing a person wears “modifies that person’s gestures, attitudes and behavior.” (1)
1, For a complete text of Cardinal Siri’s letter “Notification concerning Men’s Dress Worn by Women” of June 12, 1960, click here
Let it be noted in passing that I have no personal animus against these ladies demonstrating for a good cause. The vulgarity of their clothing as well as postures and stance simply serve well to illustrate how far the revolution in clothing and manners has progressed in 30 years.

This is evidenced particularly by the lady in the center, with her untucked blouse rolled up at the sleeves, tennis shoes, and not-so-feminine way of standing. The younger lady to her side is less expressive of the vulgar, perhaps because she is prettier, more slender and nobler in bearing, even though her apparel could receive the same critique as the former. The bag at her feet betrays a certain masculine and modern spirit: one imagines her slinging this heavy attaché case across her shoulders and striding off with manly steps when the demonstration is over, as if she were on a camping trip. This modern way of being and walking for women clashes with the Catholic way of being and walking of the lady pictured 30 years ago.

The next generation... yet another step

Poorly dressed pro-life students

From 1972 to 2002 - a momentous change in customs
Picture three shows a further step in the process. Unfortunately it is not rare today to see youth who embrace conservative causes such as the pro-life campaign or even attend religious functions and at the same time have absolutely casual and egalitarian clothing and manners.

The apparel these two young pro-lifers wear in public would not even be the worthy pajamas of the demonstrators of 30 years ago. The young man wears a T-shirt with the sleeves rolled under, either for coolness’ or vanity’s sake (to get an even tan on his arms while he marches for life). Mini dreadlocks rim his face, framed by thick sideburns. His hemp choker holds a wooden cross and he wears a bracelet on his wrist.

The young woman wears the matching unisex T-shirt, less jewelry and shorts – with no apparent concern about covering her not-so-elegant legs. She drinks straight from a gallon jug container without any intermediary cup or glass, as the good manners and customs of Christian civilization teach us to do. The empty gallons in the back of the van piled on other miscellaneous traveling gear are heaped together without order or discipline.

What we see are the clothing, attitudes and ambiences of the modern age to which we have become accustomed. Everything is spontaneous, casual and relaxed. Gone is any apparent concern for ceremony, good manners and civilized dress. The human spirit, which in the proper hierarchical order, is trained to conquer the lower nature, is conquered in this case by the heat. The stress is on being comfortable. The good customs, good dress, good order and discipline that should make up part of a person who defends good principles are not apparent in these young people.

In short: good ideas, bad customs.

Does all this matter? Am I placing too much emphasis on clothes and appearances? Does it really matter if a person has bad customs if he has good ideas? I can already hear the protests.

No, there is no exaggeration. If we want to fight and abolish the egalitarian and vulgar customs and trends in the religious sphere, we must also fight the same battle in the temporal sphere. In fact, the revolution in culture is extremely important, because the essence of this revolution is to produce a state of things without any rules or authority, that is to say, a radical moral liberalism and complete ideological egalitarianism. With this, it aims at a prodigious modification in the mentality of man.

If this is achieved, the revolution has at its service a kind of human person who will be very open to the concessive and egalitarian progressivist Church. He will be comfortable in the stripped, plain churches and with the informal way of participating in a liturgy for and of the people. He will be at home in church or street wearing his shorts and T-shirt, relieved of the bother of ceremonious dress and rules of propriety. In many ways, the revolution in the Church depends upon a revolution in the culture and mentality of man in order to reach its final end, which is the complete destruction of her sacral character and hierarchical structure.

I hope these photos will serve as a warning to traditionalist that the war we are fighting demands a consistent action on both the spiritual and temporal fronts. In short, let us be consistent traditionalists and real counter-revolutionaries. Let us have good ideas and good customs.

Posted December 16, 2002

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