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In the general permissivist atmosphere of our neo-pagan society, almost
everyone – including Catholics – have lost the notion why modesty and
chastity must orient civilized peoples. Consequently, it became
lamentably common to see women of different ages dressed in immoral and
provocative ways attending ceremonies, not excluding the Holy Mass.
Without a blush on their cheeks they even approach to receive Communion,
nonetheless demands a person be in state of grace. We verify, thus,
that these people have lost the notion of sin.
Trying to help restore this precious sense of sin, which is the compass for the practice of virtue and the salvation of souls,
today we begin to reproduce some general principles about fashion taken from the doctrine of the Church.
This first set of principles regards modesty, which Pius XII also calls
pudency. To a superficial mentality these notions may seem too general,
but actually they establish
the needed doctrinal presuppositions to build a strong moral edifice.
This is why we recommend them to the close attention of our readers.
Pope Pius XII
The origin and final end of apparel is the natural demand of pudency,
understood in its broad sense, which includes consideration for the
sensibility of others toward things repugnant to the eyes, and, above
all, a protection
for moral honesty and a shield against disordered sensuality. ...
Pudency, seen in its strictly moral significance – no matter what its
origin – is based on the innate and more or less conscious tendency of
each person to defend, against the indiscriminate greed of others, his
own physical good [virginity] in order to preserve it – by the prudent
choice of circumstances – for the wise ends of the Creator [marriage and
children], who placed it under the shield of chastity and pudency.
This virtue, pudency, whose synonym "modesty" (from modus,
i.e., measure, limit) perhaps better expresses the function of
governing and dominating the passions, especially the sensual, is the
natural bulwark of chastity, its strong wall of defense, because it
moderates the acts closely connected to the object
proper to chastity.
As an advance sentinel, pudency alerts a man from the time he acquires
the use of reason, even before he learns the notion of chastity and its
object, and remains with him all his life demanding that certain acts
[the sexual relations of spouses in marriage],
per se honest because they were divinely established [for
procreation], be protected by a discreet veil and quiet reservation, to
confer to them the respect due to the dignity of their elevated end.
It is fair, therefore, that pudency, as the depositary of such precious
gifts, ask for itself a preponderant authority over any other tendency
or caprice and
that it preside over the determination of the ways of dressing.
Pius XII, Allocution to the International Congress of High Fashion,
November 8, 1957, Petrópolis: Vozes, 1958, pp. 5-6