Family Fundamentals

The family is the original cell of social life. (¶2207 CCC[Catechism of the Catholic Church]) Or as commonly stated, the family is the basic unit of society. Here we begin as Catholics with basic family teaching that is counter to a society that believes “it takes a village” to raise a child or that society is composed of “rugged individuals.” As Catholics, we tend to be counter-cultural as St. Paul says “And be not conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2), not to abandon the needs of the world but because we approach life differently from those who lack faith.

It is crucial that we fortify and strengthen the family so it can survive and thrive even among a society that is structured and driven in such a way that leads to its downfall and destruction.

The family is strengthened under the headship of the father.  He is to be revered and respected by ALL in the home, his wife and children. The mother has been called the heart of the family: “For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love” says Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Casti Connubii. When the father takes care of his job as head of the home, the mother is free to love without worry or concern. When the husband and wife are each following their God-given roles, the children observe good masculine and feminine role models, each equal in dignity yet different in rank and responsibility. Children that grow up in a home with such parents are joyful and good-natured, yet respectful and disciplined.

Modesty in Attire

The issue of modesty in dress is often raised as fashions, particularly female fashions, have deteriorated to a level of scandal in some cases.  In other cases they are far below the dignity of females.  The difficult issue we face is in being specific with acceptable articles of clothing for Catholics.  Unfortunately, most people are unaware that the Church had in recent history specified such items.  Even though more recent Popes have not made such specifications, we have found that those that have been issued by their predecessors are quite workable even today within the context of contemporary fashion.  Girls can dress modestly, and still look quite lovely without a frumpy protestant appearance.  If you have never seen this before, it may take some time of adjustment for getting used to and accumulating the requisite wardrobe.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, and often thrifty mothers have found items on sale and at discount outlets.

Marylike Standards of Dress*

“Marylike is modest without compromise, ‘like Mary,’ Christ’s Mother.

“Marylike dresses have sleeves extending at least to the elbows, and skirts reaching below the knees.  (Note: because of impossible market conditions, quarter-length sleeves are temporarily tolerated with Ecclesiastical Approval, until Christian womanhood again turns to Mary as the model of modesty in dress.)

“Marylike dresses require full coverage for the bodice, chest, shoulders, and back, except for cut-out about the neck not exceeding two inches below the neckline in front and in back, and a corresponding two inches on the shoulders.

“Marylike dresses do not admit as modest coverage, transparent fabrics—laces, nets, organdy, nylons, etc.—unless sufficient backing is added.

“Marylike dresses avoid the improper use of flesh-colored fabrics.”

“Marylike dresses conceal rather that reveal the figure of the wearer, they do not emphasize, unduly, parts of the body.”

(Editor’s note:  This automatically eliminates the wearing of such fashions as sweater blouses, mini-skirts, slacks, jeans, shorts, etc.  “The trouser type garment is certainly improper for women in Church, school, and social life.  It may be acceptable for picnics, hikes, sports, and certain kinds of work, if it is otherwise modest”  (Quoted from The Official Handbook of the Purity Crusade.)

“The Marylike standards are a guide to instill a ‘sense of modesty.”  A girl who follows these Standards, and looks up to Mary as her ideal and model, will have no problem of modesty in dress…and will not be an occasion of sin….to others.”

*The Standards previously issued by the Cardinal-Vicar of Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Pompili, on 9/24/28 are:

In order that uniformity of understanding prevail…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 (see exception below), and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees.  Furthermore, dresses of transparent material are improper.

IS THE ORIGIN OF THE 9/24/28 DIRECTIVES BY POPE PIUS XI WELL-ESTABLISHED? Yes, it is Bishop Douville of Quebec, Canada, in his pastoral dated July 22, 1944, quotes the exact directives given, and adds that they were issued by the Vicar-Cardinal of Rome on September 24, 1928.

The Philippine Hierarchy officially recognized the 1930 Special Instructions of the Sacred Council as prescribing the Roman Standards of Modesty in dress for women and girls all over the world.  Acting upon this letter from the Sacred Council, the Philippine Bishops issued a joint pastoral on May 19, 1931, prescribing these Roman Standards of their Dioceses.  And on December 6, 1959, His Eminence Rufino Cardinal Santos, Archbishop of Manila, issues a lengthy and masterful Pastoral Letter to “confirm once more and declare in full vigor in our Archdiocese what the Holy Father and the Catholic Hierarchy have stated on different occasions.”  The Cardinal then repeats the “Church’s stand concerning modesty in dress” by quoting the standards set by Pope Pius XI.

Further, a “League of Modesty “ was formed in Chicago, Illinois, as directed in the Instructions of January 12, 1930, to promote these standards given by the Cardinal-Vicar of Rome.  In 1935 this League issued a folder with the Imprimatur on His Eminence, George Cardinal Mundelein, in which these standards were incorporated.  The folder reads, in part:   “Since unity of action through the adoption of a unified standard is necessary, if such a movement is not to shatter on the rocks of discordant opinions, the following standard of modesty in dress has been evolved based on the norm laid down by the Cardinal Vicar of the Holy Father…”

Then, in December of 1944, the late Father Bernard A. Kunkel (previously quoted in this article) began a modesty crusade, with Episcopal approval, useing these dress standards as a guide, codifying them and making a small, Ecclesiastically approved, temporary concession in the matter of sleeve length.

from Immodest Dress, The Mind of the Church by Louise Martin