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Letter of the Congregation of the Council

Vigilance: To Treat of Modesty in Women's Dress
(Instruction, S. C. Conc.) AAS 22-26.


By virtue of the Supreme Apostleship which he wields over the Universal Church by Divine Will, our Most Holy Father Pope Pius XI has never ceased to inculcate, both verbally and by his writings, that precept of St. Paul (1 Tim. xi, 9-10), namely, "Women. . . adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety. . . and professing godliness with good works."

And on many occasions the same Supreme Pontiff has reproved and sharply condemned the immodesty in dress which today is everywhere in vogue, even among women and girls who are Catholics; a practice which does grave injury to the crowning virtue and glory of women, and moreover unfortunately leads not merely to their temporal disadvantage, but, what is worse, to their eternal ruin and that of other souls.

It is not surprising, therefore, that all Bishops and other ordinaries, as is the duty of ministers of Christ, should in their own dioceses have unanimously opposed their depraved licentiousness and promiscuity of manners, often bearing with fortitude the derision and mockery leveled against them for this cause.

Therefore this Sacred Council, which watches over the discipline of clergy and people, while cordially commending the action of the Venerable Bishops, most emphatically exhorts them to persevere in their attitude and increase their activities insofar as their strength permits, in order that this unwholesome disease be definitely uprooted from human society.

In order to facilitate the desired effect, this Sacred Congregation, by the mandate of the Most Holy Father, has decreed as follows:

Exhortation to Those in Authority

1. The parish priest, and especially the preacher, when occasion arises, should, according to the words of the Apostle Paul (2 Tim. iv, 2), "be instant, reprove, entreat, rebuke," to the end that women may wear clothes of becoming modesty, which may be an ornament and safeguard of virtue; and they must also warn parents not to permit their daughters to wear immodest clothes.

2. Parents, mindful of their very grave obligation to provide especially for the moral and religious education of their children, must see to it with special care that their girls receive solid instruction in Christian doctrine from their earliest years; and they themselves must by word and example earnestly train them to a love of modesty and chastity. After the example of the Holy Family they must strive so to order and regulate the family that every member of it shall find at home a reason and inducement to love and to cherish modesty.

3. Let parents keep their daughters away from public gymnastic games and athletic contests; but if their daughters are compelled to attend such exhibitions, let them see that they are fully and modestly dressed. Let them never permit their daughters to don immodest garb.

4. Heads of girls' schools and colleges must strive so to imbue the hearts of their girls with the love of modesty that they may be induced to dress modestly.

5. They shall not admit to the schools or colleges girls who are given to immodest dress; and if any such have been admitted, they shall be dismissed unless they change their ways.

6. Nuns, in accordance with the Letter of 23 Aug., 1928, of the Sacred Congregation of Religious, shall not admit to their colleges, schools, oratories, or amusement centers, nor allow to remain there any girls who do not observe Christian modesty in dress; and in the education of their charges they shall take special care to sow deeply in their hearts a love of chastity and Christian modesty.

7. It is desirable that pious organizations of women be founded, which by their counsel, example and propaganda should combat the wearing of apparel unsuited to Christian modesty, and should promote purity of customs and modesty of dress.

8. In the pious associations of women those who dress immodestly should not be admitted to membership; but if, perchance, they are received, and after having been admitted, fall again into their error, they should be dismissed forthwith.

9. Maidens and women dressed immodestly are to be refused Holy Communion and excluded from acting as sponsors at the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; further, if the offense be extreme, they may even be forbidden to enter the church.

10. On such feasts throughout the year as offer special opportunities for inculcating Christian modesty, especially on the feasts of the Blessed Virgin, pastors and priests who have charge of pious unions and Catholic associations should not fail to preach a timely sermon on the subject, in order to encourage women to cultivate Christian modesty in dress. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, special prayers shall be recited every year in all cathedral and parish churches, and when it is possible there shall also be a timely exhortation by way of a solemn sermon to the people.

11. The diocesan Council of Vigilance, mentioned in the declaration of the Holy Office, 22 March, 1918, shall at least once every year treat especially of the ways and means of providing effectively for modesty in women's dress.

12. In order that this salutary action may proceed with greater efficacy and security, Bishops and other Ordinaries of places shall every third year, together with their report on religious instruction mentioned in the Motu proprio, Orbem Catholicum, of 29 June, 1923, also inform this Sacred Congregation upon the situation as regards women's dress, and upon the measures that will have been taken in pursuance of this Instruction.


Donato Cardinal Sbaretti, Prefect
Congregation of the Council
Rome, January 12, 1930




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