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Moral Questions

How to Prevent Daughters from
Dressing Immorally

Fr. Paul Sretenovic
Dear Fr. Sretenovic,

I am a regular reader of TIA website and I would greatly appreciate your orientation on some moral issues. I have two young daughters and I am experiencing problems in convincing them to maintaining the traditional standards of Catholic Morals regarding dress. They suffer from the strong pressure of their school friends, incidentally with the blessing of some liberal priests, to wear the trendy mini-skirts, tight pants and T-shirts, and immodest low-cut tops that also reveal their stomachs.

I know it is wrong to wear immoral clothes, and I know the basics of Catholic Morals on this topic, but I would be thankful if you could give me a more complete argument to convince my daughters to stay on the path of salvation.

Thank you for your charity.

     Asking your prayers,

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Dear M.C.,

Thank you for your question.

Example of the parents

I am convinced that the best way to teach children about the principles of Catholic Morals is the example of the parents. There is the saying: Verba docent, exempla trahunt. Words teach, but it is example that changes, that transforms. So, my first counsel to you and your wife is to be models of Catholic Morals, and soon you will see the good fruits in your daughters. This is the main point for you to observe.

Dangers of the progressivist Catholic schools

Your question implies that you are sending your daughters to a Catholic school. Indeed, for Catholic parents concerned about the souls of their children, public school seems to me out of consideration. There remains, however, a basic problem if indeed you are sending your daughters to a progressivist Catholic school.

Today, by and large, Catholic schools do not properly educate children. When it comes to matters of religion and morality, the formation is almost completely subjective rather than objective. By this, I mean that they generally do not teach children to follow the objective rules of Catholic Morals – no immodest dressing, no public beaches or co-ed swimming pools, no embraces or kissing between young men and women, etc.

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Typical Catholic youth apparel during a papal vigil at a Youth Day
Instead, they make all these norms subjective and relative, and teach a blurred morality that basically mirrors what is commonly accepted by the average public opinion. Doing this, in practice they tacitly erase the above-mentioned rules, and accept the revolutionary customs that we see around us everywhere today. Sad evidence of this progressivist teaching is found in the dress and conduct of youth at the World Youth Days. Such behavior has received “the blessing,” as you say, of priests, Bishops, and even the two last Popes.

Therefore, if you send your children to a school that is not vigilant in Catholic Morals, they will naturally tend to follow the bad example of the other children. Even if they receive good example at home, the ambience of school will undo your teaching. If they receive bad example at home, their school companions and teachers will only confirm it.

Most of the time children, especially girls, lack the strength of will to resist the bad influence of corrupt customs. They cannot bear to face the prospect of being viewed by their peers as “weird” or “different.” They have not yet been formed in the Way of the Cross at home, so they will reject the Cross, at least in practice

Children need to be sheltered from danger, not exposed to it. They need time to be formed in a protective atmosphere before they can deal with the external pressures that arise from the threefold enemy: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Even Our Lord, Who could not sin, was protected by His parents during His early years.

Catholic girls in uniforms

Try to find a school with modest uniforms and good customs
Therefore, as long as you continue to send your daughters to a school that does not enforce a dress code and good customs, you can expect to fight a very difficult, perhaps already lost battle, no matter how much you teach them the Catholic principles on modesty.

Therefore, I strongly advise you not to send your daughters to a progressivist Catholic school. You should do whatever is possible to remove your children from the near occasion of sin.

One solution to this problem is to home-school your children. If for some reason home-schooling is not possible for you, look into finding a traditional Catholic school that will support the sound principles and morals you are instilling in your daughters at home.

Arguments and principles implementing modesty

So far, these are the counsels I can offer regarding examples and tendencies that influence the formation of your children.

But you may well reply, “Sorry, Father, but I cannot home-school my girls or move to another place just to find a traditional Catholic school.”

In this case, let me provide some arguments you can use to convince your daughters to follow Catholic morals. I am borrowing some of the research I found on the TIA website, principally in the article ‘Women in Sports: Natural and Unnatural Challenges to Purity’ by Dr. Horvat.

Pius XII made this beautiful praise of the modesty of St. Perpetua: “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” (Allocution to the Girls of Catholic Action, October 6, 1940).

Modern Youth in American Eagle jeans and shirts

A clothing ad for teens that invites youth to immodesty
He severely condemned the tendency to sacrifice modesty in order to follow fashions: “Many women have forgotten Christian modesty because of vanity and ambition: they rush wretchedly into dangers that can spell death to their purity. They give in to the tyranny of fashion, be it even immodest, in such a way as to appear not even to suspect that it is unbecoming … They have lost the very concept of danger; they have lost the instinct of modesty” (ibid.).

He also criticizes the mainstream liberalism regarding morals: Its “indulgent attitude, or better said, the negative attitude of an ever greater part of public opinion, which renders it blind to the gravest moral disorders” (Allocution to the Girls of Catholic Action of May 22, 1941).

In this last document Pius XII was quite specific on the things young women should avoid at any cost:
  • "Dresses which hardly suffice to cover the person;
  • "Others that seem designed to emphasize what they should rather conceal;
  • "Sports that are performed with such clothing;
  • "The kind of exhibitionism that is irreconcilable with even the least demanding standard of modesty” (ibid.).
The Pope warns women about the responsibility they bear for the loss of other souls by wearing immodest clothing: “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” (ibid.).

He finally warns mothers who are indifferent to the immodest dress of their children:
“O Christian mothers, if you only knew what a future of worries, dangers and shame … you lay up for your sons and your daughters by imprudently accustoming them to live barely attired, making them lose the natural sense of modesty. You would blush and take fright were you to know the shame you inflict upon yourselves and the harm which you occasion to your children, entrusted to you by Heaven to be brought up in a Christian manner” (ibid.)
It is opportune to remind your daughters the suffering they cause Our Lady and Our Lord by dressing immodestly and following bad customs, and how such customs can lead them to Hell. We saw this clearly manifested in the message of Fatima, when Our Lady told Jacinta that "certain fashions will be introduced which will offend Our Lord very much" and that “the sins that lead most souls to Hell are the sins of the flesh."

At Quito, also, Our Lady of Good Success lamented the lost of innocence of children as a sign of a great crisis in the Church and the proximity of God’s chastisement.

Regarding specifics about the use of pants, mini-skirts and other modern immodest fashions, I recommend that you visit the Customs section on the Cultural Page of the TIA website, which is very well oriented regarding Catholic Morals.

I hope that these considerations may help you in your difficulties. Be sure that I will be praying for you and your family.

     In Jesus and Mary,

     Fr. Paul Sretenovic


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Posted June 23, 2008

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