If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Please, Ladies . . . be kind

A priest I know from my Facebook acquaintances recently wrote an article about men and pornography. You can find it here: http://thosecatholicmen.com/be-not-unmanned/. What Father Gaurav wrote deserves widespread attention, but the article – and those I’ve read in the past similar to it – does not address an equally important problem in the Church – the way many women dress for Mass. Let me give only one example:

During Mass last Sunday (March 9, 2014) I served as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. As men and women approached to receive the Body of Christ, I did an involuntary double-take when a young woman stepped up to receive. She was wearing skin-tight flesh-colored leotards and a see-through blouse that looked remarkably like a negligee. I almost forgot I was supposed to say, “The Body of Christ” as she held out her hands to receive. 

Unfortunately, she is not the only woman seductively dressed in our church. It seems the norm rather than the exception to see women wearing form-fitting slacks, or jeans, or blouses which leave very little to the imagination. And while I do not mean to imply whatsoever than men who engage in pornography are not personally responsible for their sin, I must at the same time suggest our Christian sisters do not help us. That is why I posted this article (below) two years ago. Sadly, it is just as applicable today. I also include the comments readers made to the post to illustrate this problem is rather large.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10).

It’s not something Christian guys usually talk about. We aren’t supposed to have these thoughts. But when I approached a friend from church, his answer encouraged me to poll another friend. Then another. Then another. Age doesn’t seem to matter. It’s the same for all of us – teens, college age and older. Even much older. Everyone I spoke with grapples with the same temptation common among many Christian men.

I don’t know much about women’s struggles with their sexual nature, but I sure know about men's conflicts. Society bombards us with sexual images. Billboards, photos in weekly news magazines . . . even some lingerie advertisements in local newspapers can rival centerfolds in earlier era Playboy magazines. Short hemlines can fuel a man’s imagination to full throttle. Tight clothes that accentuate every nuance and curve can drive us to distraction. Plunging necklines and unfastened blouse buttons – ladies, let me be completely honest. We need your help.

At work, at play, even at church – most Christian guys wage nearly constant battle with their thought-life. Sometimes we win the skirmishes. Sometimes the battles rage so fiercely we not only lose, but we feel wounded even after bringing our sin to the Cross.

Yes, we understand the desire to look attractive. Who among us does not care about personal appearance? The multi-billion dollar weight-loss, clothing and grooming industries give evidence of that basic need in each of us. However, when our Christian sisters adopt the world’s definition of attractiveness they often become, instead, seductive.

We don’t deny responsibility for our own sins. We don’t rationalize God’s commandment to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). But we do ask you, please be considerate of our conflicts and, in Christian love, don’t add to our sensory overload.

St. Paul said he would never again eat meat or drink wine, if doing so would cause a weaker brother to stumble (Romans 14:1-23). “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food” (verse 20). I don’t think it misses the Holy Spirit’s intent to add, “or for the sake of fashion.”

Ladies, when it comes to sexual thoughts and lust, we are indeed your weaker brothers. So we plead – be beautiful. Be graceful. But also seek God’s view of beauty and grace. And seek, too, Biblical standards as to how to dress in public.

We will be very grateful for your loving response.


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written and stated! Women do not believe or realize we still have "Eve" in us.

Richard Maffeo said...

Anonymous, I believe many women (especially younger women) typically do not understand that men are simply wired differently than they. My post was written to help them understand when it comes to such issues, men are truly their weaker brethren -- their VERY weaker brethren.

Sharon said...

Amen to these thoughts! I'm anywhere from ill-at-ease to flatfooted MORTIFIED to see inappropriate dress in church--not because I lust after my fellow women, but because I can't rid myself of the feeling of being embarrassed FOR them. Case in point: last Sunday's middle-aged woman who sat directly in front of me, decently covered and wearing nothing that was too right, was nonetheless oblivious to the fact that her jeans rode a little too low and her sweater a little too high. All was well as long as she stood or sat upright--but the changing postures of assistance at Mass "treated" me to several views of butt crack. NOOOOOOO!

Richard Maffeo said...

It is so good to know I am not alone . . . even women understand the problem. Thank you.

Sharon said...

TYPO ALERT: Should have said "too TIGHT" vice "RIGHT...."

Richard Maffeo said...

Thanks, Sharon. I am sure everyone who read you comment understood the typo. Those things happen to all of us all the time (to me, anyway). Thanks for the clarification.

Richard Maffeo said...

I received a comment to this essay on my FaceBook page. I paste it here:

Rich...my husband talks about this all the time! We were at one of our daughter's dance competitions this past weekend- one of the teen numbers (from another school) was to a burleque song. On stage there were 15 beautiful dancers ranging in age from 14-18 years old. They were dressed in burleque style lingerie and performed moves that were very inappropriat & sexually suggestive. My husband had to avert his eyes & turn his head away...he said he felt ashamed for them. Sadly, the dance number took one of the top honors at a Christian based competition!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's kinda frustrating to go to confession Saturday afternoon, and yet lose the "wandering eye" battle at Mass of all places. It's especially bad when Eucharistic ministers are the cause. What to do?!

Thankfully, I have finally found relief from this issue by attending a Traditional Mass, where there are very few 'dress code' issues.

Richard Maffeo said...

Anonymous who attends a traditional Mass . . . that begs the question: why the difference?

Anonymous said...

Three reasons (that I can think of) for the difference of dress in the Traditional Mass:

1. There seems to be so much more focus on reverence (ie: no talking, lots more kneeling, priest almost constantly facing the tabernacle - focusing on God, every action of priest is carefully regulated, incense, altar rail to separate people from santuary, receiving only on tongue while kneeling at altar rail, Latin language, chapel veils, etc). There was a strong feeling that the Mass is not about us, but for the highest glory of God. Proper attire is only fitting with all the other respect that is shown to Him.

2. Peer pressure. If a woman wore something immodest, she'd be the only one, and would probably feel pretty uncomfortable. Peer pressure can be used for good.

3. If women get a little casual in their dress, the priest WILL notice it, and say something about it.

The first Traditional Mass I attended took my breath away - it was so "holy" that I actually felt emotionally numb afterwards (hard to explain - a profound "WOW" feeling). I commented to my wife that I had finally been to a Church that truly worshipped God to the very best of their ability. We were hooked and have attended ever since.

Richard Maffeo said...

Number three is, I think, very important. From your description I am intrigued, and will look for a local to Tacoma, WA traditional Mass. Thanks for sharing this with me.

Anonymous said...

May I add one more comment and perspective? I sympathize with the dilemma men face, and please also try to understand many young womens' perspective. I was talking to a young Christian woman just last week who struggles with wanting to feel "sexy" to validate her worth. Those were her words. So my suggestion to guys, if you are willing- the next time you see a young woman showing a little too much, be brave enough to tell her you value her as a beautiful woman on the inside and would appreciate her being more modest. Yes, you may get shocked expressions and perhaps anger, but hopefully it will make her think. The important point is not to encourage immodesty, and to validate our worth apart from how we dress.

Richard Maffeo said...

Anonymous, you make a VERY valuable observation. Perhaps if people communicate more kindly and honestly with each other, we'd heal a lot faster.

Men, what do you think? And other ladies? What do you think?

Anonymous said...

This subject really caught my attention, I used to attend worldwide church of God in Tacoma and we had very strict rules, women were not aloud to wear skirts above the knee, no make-up and definitely no low cut, slowly the church changed including the rules and in today's society it seems a woman is only attractive when she puts it on display. It is sad and affects our younger generation so much so, that you can't tell if a girl is 15 or 22. I pray all the time that this will change. Women can be beautiful without a short hemline and plunging necklines.

Richard Maffeo said...

Thank you, Anonymous. It seems from the several comments to this post it is an endemic problem. God help our church leaders to deal effectivel with it.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this every time you post it, Rich. I cannot help but ask, did you address your concerns with the young woman? If not, what stopped you? If she doesn't hear it from you, a eucharistic minister, who else will tell her in love? I speak as a mother of a young woman who needs to hear it not just from me, but from trustworthy, honorable MEN. Women are bombarded with a cultural measure of worth by how attractive they are to men. If that woman's mother was with her in Mass that morning and they are anything like my daughter and myself, they likely had a conversation about her dress. The mom was probably praying someone would say something to her daughter. I can guess the young lady was either completely unaware and ignorant of her dress, wanting attention, or...she was subconsciously hoping someone would care enough to confront her and tell her her worth is far more than how she dressed. Think of it as a woman often dresses how she sees herself- professional, graceful, frumpy, athletic, etc. Perhaps, the young lady dressed that way because her self-esteem is so low, she doesn't want you to see past her body. She maybe thought no one would talk to her or they would perhaps whisper about her, which gives her a good excuse not to come to church. All this to say we must be able to speak the truth in love in church, because God knows we hear very little truth anywhere else.

Rich Maffeo said...

Hello, Anonymous. I am so glad you asked your questions and made the comments you did.

I do not know if you are Catholic, so let me explain a little about how we do Communion. As an Extraordinary Minister (EM), my role is to only give either the bread or.f wine. During our training we were told we had no authority to stop anyone from receiving for any reason.

Further, people line up sometimes 50 or more deep to receive communion, and the line must move quickly (for obvious reasons).

What happened to me last week happened quickly; before my brain interpreted what I'd just seen the young woman was already walking away from me -- and her husband (I perceived it was her husband) was now waiting to receive.

(I know I called her a young woman, but anyone younger than 40 is, to me, a young woman. The person in question looked about mid-20s).

Back to my authority as an EM -- so it is not within my purview -- nor is there time even if I wanted to talk with someone -- to talk to anyone about their attire. That is the role and responsibility of the priest or deacon.

Of course, this is not only a problem in the Catholic Church. When Nancy and I were in evangelical Protestant churches (30+ years) the same issues were endemic there, too.

I do not have any answers, other than to pray -- not only for women like the one I mentioned, but for the church LEADERS across the entire body of Christ to protect men and women from what the culture calls good.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I certainly did not want to sound accusatory,that is was your sole responsibility to speak with her or even that you would have the opportunity to do so. I was simply trying to offer another perspective. It shocks and saddens me even more that a husband would see his wife dressed like that in public. Are there any solutions? Anyone that could or would have spoken to her in love?

Rich Maffeo said...

Good morning, Anonymous. I did not at all interpret your comment as accusatory. I recognized the cry of your heart for that young woman, and so many like her.

Are there any solutions? Yes, of course. But most of it must must must come from the pulpit. As long as church leadership turns a blind eye to sin, people will continue to live as they do.

Such has been the problem on and off for millennia. I am reminded of Jeremiah's lament in Lamentations 2:14--

Your prophets have seen for you
False and foolish visions; And they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity. . . .

Why don't church leaders speak to their congregations in love? I can only speculate.

I do not absolve myself from speaking to others in love, and I do when I think appropriate. But the problem is too massive and fills the warp and woof of Christendom. That is why God calls some to be shepherds. But shepherds must shepherd. If they don't then woe is us.