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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Heading to the Beaches & Modesty

We are coming up on the warm months of the year and soon our people will be heading out to the beaches.  It is opportune to discuss again how we dress and what we communicate by our outward appearance.  As one critic rightly remarked, despite what people wear, it is good to get to know the inner person. Yes, but of course, there are many people we will never really know personally. Models in magazines and catalogues would be an example. The image may be all that we will ever encounter. Are they not saying something about their own self-respect (or lack thereof) by how they appear and how they allow themselves to be used? Strangers on a beach would be another such example.  Further, visual markers have a certain staying power.  We can say that dress (or undress) does not matter; but the truth is that it matters a great deal. 

Girl watching on the beach is a particularly volatile issue. People get mad or roll their eyes when I offer criticism.  It would be one thing if the men looked upon the women as one might a Michelangelo masterpiece, giving praise to God for the wonders of his creation and such beauty. However, men are not angels, and not infrequently, the sight of scantily clothed women is an occasion for sin— fantasies that lead to adultery in the heart, self-pollution, casual sex outside of marriage and sometimes crime. The question also arises as to what is or is not pornographic. Women would probably be better covered by ordinary underwear than by many styles of swimwear. Are men generally comfortable with showing off their wives, girlfriends and daughters in skimpy attire?

Of course, the clothing of the body is only one element to modesty. It includes dress, posture, speech, etc. Young women were once taught etiquette in such things. I can still recall a teacher talking to girls in my grammar school class about how to sit, with legs crossed. The religious sisters tell me that they were always at the girls about rolling up their skirts to their school uniforms. Even certain hair styles were regarded as somewhat provocative, although I never really understood this element. It finds some reference in Scripture and is the rationale behind the Catholic mantilla, the nun’s veil and the Islamic head covering. As I understand it, in Church circles, a woman’s hair-covering at Mass was to obscure her beauty sufficiently so that men might not be distracted from Eucharistic worship. It was also done as an ancient custom to honor God. However, I have never been one to find hair overtly sexual and as a serious threat to propriety. Maybe this is different for others?

The criticism might be offered that I have targeted the responsibility of women to be modest and have omitted men. I think there is a different psychology here. Both men and women are sexual beings, but we are not wired the same. While it is often wildly exaggerated, most men do not need much of a catalyst to think about sexual things. One girl told me that she liked to flirt but not to worry because she always stopped before she got the boys’ motors running. I quickly explained, “Sorry, but you need to know the boys’ motors are ALWAYS running!” It is no secret that pornography and the sex industry focus more heavily upon the female form than the male. In any case, presuppositions and possible stereotypes aside, men are also called to be chaste and modest. Tight fitting clothes or baggy pants that seem to be falling off are problematical. Speedo swim-shorts for men strike me also as unsightly and vulgar. Preoccupations with men’s butts can be for women a violation of the custody of the eyes. The groin-grasping dance of the late Michael Jackson would be evidence of an immodest gesture from men. Men and women must work together to preserve modesty and the many wonderful values which flow from it.

I will save the issue of how people dress when going to church for another day, after I take another blood pressure pill. 

5 Responses

  1. How dare you! How dare you! How dare you! You make a comedy of Moslem modesty. And you call yourself a man of God! You talk a lot but know nothing!

    God himself demands modesty and think it is funny.

    As a Catholic you should see the Virgin Mary in every properly attired Moslem woman. Just the mere thought of the Virgin Mary in a short skirt or bikini is offensive. She dressed as the Moslem women dress, with long loose clothing and a veil. Do you not regard her as the ultimate model of womanhood?

    By comparison, do you think that the manners and dress of Moslem or Christian women closest to those of the Virgin Mary? The Moslem women win hands down!

    There is a saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of admiration.” Given this, it is clear that Moslems love the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus Christ more than any Christian today.

    Moslems are not poisoned by the infidel or the fads of fashion. We dress as we have always dressed. We eat the prescribed foods as we have always eaten. We fast as the generations before us have fasted. More important of all, we pray as we have always prayed.

    Moslems worship the one true God who created them, just as Jesus worshipped the One who created him.

    Your mockery of Moslem women makes you a liar and hypocrite. You have no right to do this and should be stopped. If we lived in a society that respected our women and modesty, you would be stopped— you and those like you. Your so-called “tongue-in-cheek” attitude is an affront to Moslems everywhere.

    Unfortunately, you fuel the long-lasting sibling rivalry between Moslems and Christians by sinking to the level of mockery and dishonesty.

    If Moslems are misguided and Catholics are in the right, then bring the evidence from your Lord, not jokes and popular opinion.

    Can you show that what you believe is from God and what Moslems believe is fabricated?

    You would do best to read the Qur’an in considering what I tell you. Chapter 19 is good place to start.


    The initial post was addressed to Christian women who would otherwise readily dismiss such advice about modesty. An extreme position was taken to engage them. I was surprised that some did not see through my exaggeration. I have no complaint with Islamic women who desire their traditional modest styles; however, I would take exception to men using such dress as a manner to subjugate and to deride them and their gifts.

    While there are common elements to modesty based upon our fallen nature, Christians often resort to humor so as not to fall prey to cynicism. It is even said sometimes, in the face of human conduct and mystery, that God, himself, must have a sense of humor. I am sorry if this is lost with certain Islamic adherents. Perhaps is the result of your rigid moral code?

    Mary also lived two thousand years ago and styles change over time. I would not readily recommend anachronisms. If such were the case, then we should all be wearing togas, or loin cloths or worse yet, fig leaves. Of course, I would prefer that our religious sisters wear full habits and veils— precisely because they are living signs of a kingdom not of this world. In any case, I do not look down upon Muslim attire; indeed, I used it as a metaphor to get Christian women thinking about how they dress and the messages this sent— both to men and as to how they see themselves.

    Modesty is not only a matter of dress, but is an element of posture and faith. Any good Christian woman, filled with faith and living chastely is a wonderful icon for Mary. She does not have to cover her entire body or look through a tiny opening in her hood to be holy. Mary also knew the identity of her Son as God come down from heaven. Muslim women would not know this or how high their gender had been raised up because of Mary’s unique motherhood.

    Muslims can love Jesus and Mary, but only in a defective way. Jesus is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He must be honored, not merely as a prophet, but as divine. Muslims refuse to this. Indeed, the Koran condemns and misinterprets the Trinity. You cannot fully love that which you do not know. This ignorance also corrupts their relationship with the sinless Virgin Mary. Some critics contend that Islam suffers from a preoccupation with the external and the law. Christianity focuses on the internal and hidden infusion of grace.

    Muslims are not as uniform as you pretend. Of course, the ones who seek to modernize are often criticized and persecuted by those who resist any change. Catholicism has a consistent tradition but also knows an organic development. It is not only a superior religion, it is a true religion. Islam has numbers, but if it refuses to grow intellectually and spiritually, then it will become a dead wasteland.

    Jesus was God. God entered human history and took our flesh. He is as the eternal Word. Faithful to the Father, only Jesus as God could make infinite satisfaction for our sins. The Jews were the first people called by God. Theirs was a true religion. Catholic Christianity is the New People of God and we know that Jesus is Messiah and Lord. Christianity is a true religion. Islam is a later corruption of Christianity and Judaism, as well as an amalgamation of the various local tribal deities. It is said by many that we worship the same God. However, we know his name.

    You do not know what you are talking about. Criticism really bothers you as it does your many militant brothers. If you had your way, would you chop off my head? Would you coerce and for all women to wear Islamic garb, or else? You not only take this matter too seriously… you hint at a possible problem in our society in the years to come.

    But you would reduce the conversation to your terms. Gone would be any freedom of expression, except for those who parade the Islamic party line. You are too insecure. The real mockery here is against immodesty. I have a great respect for any person who is strong in their faith and values, even to the extent of being a sign of contradiction. But I am libertarian enough to also cherish freedom. Christians live in peace with their Muslim brothers. However, once a population becomes majority Muslim, the so-called toleration and harmony begins to disappear. Look to the name-calling and mockery in the Koran before you address it elsewhere.

    What popular opinion are you talking about? What jokes? The problem is yours.

    A posting about dress and modesty is hardly a place for a full-blown debate about whether Christianity or Islam is the true religion. I think the lessons of history show continuity between Judaism and Christianity. Islam represents a break. Unwanted by Jews and thrown out by Christian monks, your founder started a new religion. Any supernatural elements or truths of that religion are borrowed from the Jews and Christians. But there is also a preponderance of error.

    I have read your book, but how do you rationalize or explain away the following quotations which target Christians and women?

    “Slay them wherever you find them…Idolatry is worse than carnage…Fight against them [Christians]until idolatry is no more and God’s religion reigns supreme.” (Surah 2:190)

    “Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Allah is high and supreme.” (Surah 4:34)

    “Believers, take neither Jews nor Christians for your friends.” (Surah 5:51)

    “Make war on them until idolatry [Christian use of images] shall cease and God’s religion shall reign supreme.” (Surah 8:36)

    “Blessed are the believers…who restrain their carnal desires (except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them)…These are the heirs of Paradise…” (Surah 23:1-5)

  2. Dear Fr Joe,

    Mohammad is obviously a dangerous nutter, but he is correct in one thing, and that is: Islam is on the rise.

    Whilst many in USA might think his views of women are extreme, and indeed they are, back in most Muslim countries he would be considered a moderate. I have worked in the Middle East and there women really are seen as possessions and treated as slaves. There is only one inspiration for this guy and his understanding of the Quran and that is certainly not from God.

    This man, Mohammad, must certainly not be dismissed as just a waste of space, he must be recognised as a real and growing danger to all of humanity, and just as we have been warned that satan will be on the rise in ‘The End Times’ so too must we guard ourselves from the terrible and false teaching of this cancer that is spreading throughout the world.

    If we remember, Jesus, whilst eating at the table of the tax collectors and sinners, had His feet washed by a prostitute and she dried them with her hair. She was not covered from head to toe in a sack, for a start everyone knew just who she was so she must have had several body parts visible, but also, contrary to the orthodox Jewish teaching of the time, she obviously didn’t have her head covered and must have had more hair than the pictorial representations of Jesus Himself.

    For Heaven’s sake, we men DO find the woman’s body attractive, at least ‘normal’ men do and that’s how it is supposed to be, but if we can not control our thoughts and give thanks and praise to The Creator for all of His creation, and exercise restraint, just as Jesus Himself did, then we are worse than animals.

    I’m a single, celibate, heterosexual man in my mid sixties, and I find some women very attractive, and at times I am distracted by them even at The Elevation; I have no control of the thoughts that pop into my head, but I do not have to entertain them if they would go in the wrong direction.

    Did not Jesus say to Peter: “Get thee behind Me satan!”, and so do I with any thoughts that might go in the wrong direction. And by the way, I am not a limp wristed wimp, but a real, red blooded man who has to accept the celibate state in recognition to the teaching of the Church, and that is difficult at times. Modest dress for women and men is not such a bad ideal to aim for, but to behead a woman simply because she failed to entertain you is just a little extreme in my view.

    Love, Paul.

  3. “I will save the issue of how people dress when going to church for another day, after I take another blood pressure pill.”

    I’ll keep it light – thanks for the chuckle I got reading your last sentence. And what’s even sadder is the way some grown (I mean middle age) women are dressing worse than some of the young teenagers.

  4. Indonesia wants to ban ‘pornographic’ miniskirts

    Women’s hemlines may be dropping in Indonesia, and not for fashion’s sake. The country’s religious affairs minister, Suryadharma Ali, said this week he wants to ban miniskirts under the country’s new anti-porn laws because they constitute “pornography.” Ali said he wanted to establish clear criteria for what constituted porn and is therefore illegal, adding, “for example, skirts worn by women must flow past the knees.” Earlier this month, Indonesia’s parliament proposed prohibiting female politicians and staff members from wearing miniskirts, which the House speaker said led to “rapes and other immoral acts” and prompted men “to do things.”

    The she-devils of your country could learn from this news story that not everyone invites the spiritual infection of feminism and hedonism. Women must know their place and stop their shameless exhibition, arousing the lusts of men. They use the allure of their gender as a weapon for manipulation. You worry about bathing suits, but the real issue is day-to-day dress. Women’s legs, arms and necks should be covered. Clothing should not accentuate the female form, but rather disguise it.

    FATHER JOE: While I am no fan of immodest clothing, it would also be wrong for women to dress in such a way that it would curse the Creator for how God made them. Women can be clothed in a fashion that celebrates their beauty and identity without it being lewd or “pornographic.” It seems my posts invite extremes while my view would be more middle-of-the-road and sober. Women have a right to be full partners in society and family life.

  5. Your religion tolerates the scandalous dress and actions of your women. But Islam is on the rise and Christianity will be ecclipsed. All will be set right and peace will reign. Our law, the law of Allah, will be the only law!

    The face of a woman is a source of corruption!

    QURAN 24:31: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimār over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.”

    Women should not appear in the streets without a blood relative and without wearing a Burqa.

    Women should not wear high-heeled shoes as no man should hear a woman’s footsteps lest it excite him.

    Women must not speak loudly in public as no stranger should hear a woman’s voice.

    All ground and first floor residential windows should be painted over or screened to prevent women being visible from the street.

    The photographing or filming of women must be banned as is the displaying of pictures depicting females in newspapers, books, and magazines.

    Women should be forbidden to appear on the balconies of their apartments or houses.

    The presence of women must be banned on radio, television and at public gatherings of any kind.

    Women should receive no formal education in anything other than the Quran and that should end at age eight.

    Flogging and/or execution is their punishment for breaking these laws!

    One day, when we become the majority, all women will be put into their rightful place, Allah be praised!

    FATHER JOE: Are you putting me on? Most Moslems I know would regard you as nuts. Women have rights and dignity. Such was given them by God and you have no authority to strip it away from them.

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