Church, Women & Pants
BEAUTY & THE BEST
With clothing fashions becoming more risqué each year, there has been much debate within the Catholic and Protestant communities on the appropriateness of certain styles created for women. Most discussions are centered on the virtue of modesty — what types of clothing can be considered modest and therefore appropriate for women to wear. I would like to focus on the subject of women wearing pants to church, the difficult details therein and their consequences.
The issue of modesty pertains to the cardinal virtue of temperance and, as the Catechism (#2521) indicates, “It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered by chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness.” Modesty, like all other sub-virtues, is intimately interconnected with the other cardinal virtues — prudence, justice, and fortitude. As St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, the cardinal virtue of prudence is the charioteer of the virtues. As such, a modest woman is by definition a prudent one; her prudence will save her embarrassing moments or even dangerous moments when a disordered or troubled male may consider an immodest woman’s attire as an invitation to lewd behavior. A modest woman is also a just woman because she renders to others what they deserve. In this case, other men do not deserve her nakedness or her sensuality, which are reserved for her husband. At the same time, a modest woman shows fortitude in resisting her innate feeling of enjoying the gaze and attention of men. So, one cannot discuss modesty without impinging upon all the cardinal virtues.
It may be surprising to some pious women to find out how intense the problem of a woman wearing pants is for men, who are conditioned by our fallen nature and our sexualized culture to look at certain parts of a woman’s body. We need to acknowledge that most women do not fully realize how men feel about this, since it is part of the mystery in the difference of the genders. Through intimate conversations with her husband, a married woman can, provided her husband is honest with her, find out how men really think and feel when viewing a woman wearing tight or revealing pants.
We would do well to go to the Scriptures to see what the root cause of this problem is. With Original Sin, disorder was introduced into the psyche of men (and women). This is seen in the remarkable statement after our first parents committed their act of disobedience (Gen. 3:7): “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.” Sin made them ashamed of the nakedness. Contrast this with their condition before they committed their sin (Gen. 2:25): “The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.”
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Ryszard Legutko is a professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland.…