Proper Dress and Behavior for Catholic Women
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Proper Clothing for Catholic Women

{22:5} A woman shall not be clothed with manly apparel, nor shall a man make use of feminine apparel. For whoever does these things is abominable with God.

{5:17} Do not think that I have come to loosen the law or the prophets. I have not come to loosen, but to fulfill.
{5:18} Amen I say to you, certainly, until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota, not one dot shall pass away from the law, until all is done.
{5:19} Therefore, whoever will have loosened one of the least of these commandments, and have taught men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever will have done and taught these, such a one shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Saint Padre Pio use to refuse to hear the confession of women who were wearing pants or an immodest dress.

Women should not dress or act like men, for this is an abomination in God's eyes. God created the human race with two genders, intending each to have his and her proper place in Creation. Men and women are not meant to behave or dress the same manner. Part of the beauty of the human race is found in the differences between men and women.

We each live within a larger society. We are each influenced by the culture around us. Yet society and culture often teach us false things, which lead us away from God. Most women (at least in Western society and culture) dress and act very much like men. They seek the same roles in society, the family, and the Church. They are following a popular teaching of our culture today, that women and men are meant to have the same roles, and especially that women are meant to take up roles formerly held only or mainly by men. They are displaying their adherence to this teaching by dressing like men. This teaching of our culture is contrary to the teaching of Christ.

God wants men and women to act and dress according to their gender and the place God has given each one in Creation. Clothing and hairstyles are expressions of one's thoughts, behavior, and attitude. Women are not mean to behave like men, nor to have the same roles as men, therefore they should not dress or groom themselves like men. And vise versa.

Women should wear skirts and dresses; they should not generally wear pants (although there may be some exception for certain sports, certain types of work, etc). Women should have longer hair than men; a woman's hair style should be feminine (not masculine and not androgenous). Women should dress and groom themselves in a feminine manner, to show that they accept the place God has given women in Creation, in society, in the family, and in the Church.

Modesty is a separate issue. A woman wearing modest pants may still offend God, not by lack of modesty, but by dressing like a man. A woman wearing an immodest skirt or dress can sometimes offend God less than a woman wearing a modest pair of pants. The offense of a woman wearing men's clothing is called an abomination by Sacred Scripture, because this behavior signifies a woman acting like a man and taking the types of roles intended by God for men. By this behavior, she offends against the order God intends for humanity. God is offended, even more so, when women dress and act like men in churches and during holy Mass.

By comparison, when a woman wears a short skirt, or a tight dress, her offense is only a matter of degree (the same skirt, if lengthened or loosened, might be considered modest). Such an offense does not contradict or rebel against the fundamental order which God gave to Creation and humanity.

But most women, and even most men, do not accept this teaching. They accept the teachings of their culture and ignore the teachings of Sacred Scripture. When the Church teaches one thing and their culture teaches another, they follow their culture instead of Christ.

12 Point Summary:
  1. First, male and female clothing was distinct during biblical times. The passage from Deuteronomy saying that men should not dress like women and women should not dress like men must have made sense to the Israelites. They lived the Scriptures before they wrote them down.

  2. Second, though men wore robes, women's dresses were distinctly different.

  3. Third, during New Testament times, Roman soldiers did wear trousers, so pants were known and were worn only by men.

  4. Fourth, for a very long time in the Church, men wore pants and women did not. This had become established within Christian culture as one of the main differences between men's and women's clothing. Only very recently has this difference been obscured.

  5. Fifth, Padre Pio would not even hear the confession of women who wore pants.

  6. Sixth, the passage from Deuteronomy specifically forbids unisex clothing. Even if some persons or many persons in ancient times dressed the same, Scripture is still true and must still be obeyed.

  7. Seventh, when the Virgin Mary appears in apparitions, she is always wearing a dress, never pants. All of the images and statues of her throughout the history of the Church present her wearing a dress, never pants.

  8. Eighth, when visiting the Pope or the Vatican, women are not permitted to wear pants. And they must wear a headcovering. When George Bush and his wife Laura visited the Pope recently, she wore a dress and a headcovering.

  9. Ninth, some Protestant groups still retain this insight, based on Scripture, that women should dress in a feminine manner, should not wear pants, and should wear a headcovering.

  10. Tenth, clothing is an expression of behavior and role. Even in our sinful society, clothing is still associated with roles, for example: police officers, judges, nurses, priests, nuns, and others wear particular clothing appropriate to and indicative of their roles. And one's clothing is also an indicator of behavior and attitude. For example, nuns who are obedient to the Church like to wear the habit, but those who are disobedient hate to wear it.

  11. Eleventh, men and women are meant to have different roles in the Church, the family, and society. Men and women are meant to have different behaviors. Clothing is an indicator and expression of that important difference. So, the more important thing is the correct roles and behaviors for men and women. That is the main point of that passage from Scripture.

  12. Twelfth, when a woman gives up wearing pants and strives to dress in a manner pleasing to Christ and Mary, even though the culture around her tells her otherwise, she will be blessed by God and her prayers will be answered.

by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Updated 2 November 2012

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