Saturday, July 27, 2013

When a Pastor Lacks Charity

A friend drew my attention to a pastor’s weekly missive in the parish bulletin in a parish far, far away. She said:

This past Sunday’s article is about someone who said something about a woman wearing inappropriate clothing to Mass. This “someone” was accused of being uncharitable and unwelcoming.

Well, the uncharitable person was me, and the woman I spoke to was wearing short-short jean hip-hugger shorts with really ragged “cuffs”. They were so tight, the back seam was you-know-where. The hip huggers were more like “plumbers’ pants” (get the picture).

This is at a parish that another correspondent has writtenabout, decrying the inappropriate dress that abounds there. Apparently the pastor doesn’t address the issue…

Well, actually, he does – via his bulletin article, which says in part:

Once upon a time a woman, who was on a long journey that had taken her away from practicing her faith, returned to the church to pray. This journey was not an easy one. There were so many fears and anxieties, plus so many years of accumulated baggage. But setting down her burdens, she opened herself up to receive the sign of peace being offered among those praying with her. With her guard down, she was unprepared when she turned to wish her neighbor the sign of peace and was verbally beaten up by this other woman. Instead of being wished the peace of Christ, she was victimized as she was very publically criticized for what this other woman considered to be “immodest” apparel.

So the traveler took up her burdens again as she started to leave the church. A couple took her arm, and stopped her before she exited the pew. They had seen what had happened, and their faces showed the shame and embarrassment they were feeling. They tried to soothe her fresh wounds and to console her with an apology, but she held tight to her baggage, and left. Which of these, in your opinion, was neighbor to this woman?

Puh-lease. Sure, maybe my friend could have chosen a better time to let the woman know that her dress was inappropriate, and I do not know the exact words she chose. But I will tell you this: a sign on the church door suggesting what “modest” apparel might consist of could certainly be helpful.

And you know what? When I think of the snide laughter we all enjoy when we watch one of the Wal-Mart videos with hideously-dressed individuals, I can’t help but think it would be more charitable to actually take the person aside and explain that it looks like they are wearing no clothes, or that their bulges are, well, bulging…or whatever. It’s as if we “must not judge” when at Mass, but it’s okay to snicker at the candid videos from Wal-Mart.

And maybe if people started talking about modesty, we could start a return to modest dress in our society. After a recent airplane trip, one friend told me, “I hadn’t realized how tight women’s jeans are these days.” Yeah. That. Why wear anything?!

A recent FaceBook status I noticed pictured a young lady who was quite a bit overweight, squeezed into the teeniest pair of cut-off shorts she could manage. It was quite a sight to behold, and my friend suggested that “if you have a figure that looks like this” you should reconsider what you wear in public. But the truth is, that pair of cut-offs was immodest, and would have been immodest on a slender girl who actually fit into them. Some would have applauded her “beauty”, but really, much of what passes for acceptable dress in today’s society is actually an occasion of sin for many of the beholders.

Back to my friend’s story about the inappropriately dressed woman at Mass…and the pastor’s missive in the bulletin. He was addressing that week’s Gospel, which was of course the “good neighbor” verses. Here’s another section of his article:

Maybe we can find the answers in the parable that Jesus told in today’s Gospel. Like the priest, could our overly exalted and self-appointed position as “Liturgy Police,” or our exaggeratedly coveted status as being “holier than thou,” be blocking our responding to others with love?

Like the Levite, could we be allowing an intolerant legalism to block the mercy God put into our hearts from being shared with others? Or has our heart just become so hardened, atrophied from lack of use that like the robbers, there is no love left to share—just intolerance and abuse?

There you have it. If you are concerned about liturgical abuse, you are the “liturgy police”, and if you are concerned about the disrespect shown to Our Lord at Mass by irreverent and immodest dress, then you are being “holier than thou”, and in either case, you are acting without love.

Those who take this point of view show very little charity toward those who are offended by bad liturgy and bad dress. Those “liturgy police” types are just supposed to get over it.  But in some cases, “getting over it” is not charity, or love of neighbor. Sometimes people need to be told that what they are doing is wrong.

Funny thing, too; the people who desire liturgical abuse are seldom told to “get over it”. Instead, they are pandered to. Why is that?! It is something I have never understood, even if you throw the weekly collection into the equation.

And why does this pastor not see how “mean” he is being to the poor woman who was offended by cleavage, bare shoulders, and plumber’s pants? Why is it wrong to be offended by such things, especially at Mass? What would a “good neighbor” (or good shepherd) have done in such a situation? Might he have spoken privately to the “holier than thou” parishioner, perhaps, if he really thought she had done something so egregiously wrong that other parishioners were feeling “shame and embarrassment”?

My friend noted in her email to me:

The only thing I commented on was the shorts; I kept my mouth shut about her spaghetti strap top with plunging neckline and bra showing. I think luckily she was in front of me and not an impressionable man who might have been led to lustful thoughts---at Mass. I guess we truly are in the “Church of Nice” as Michael Voris puts it where everything and anything goes.


But the next week, the same pastor continued the harangue on my friend. This time he said:

“I just finished reading your page. I'm stunned!” This was an e-mail response to my Reflections in last week’s Church Bulletin. I actually found that message encouraging. This means the inappropriate way a parishioner treated a visitor was an exception and not the norm. Let us not forget that the greater majority of
our parishioners are good neighbors who are kind to the strangers who join us at Mass. May the thoughtful and loving way these parishioners relate to others bring blessings upon us and our parish as the kindness of Abraham to strangers brought blessings to him and his wife, Sarah.

So, that mean ol’ parishioner is just an isolated blight on the landscape, eh? How’s that for charity! Since the vast majority of his parishioners are “good neighbors” – who perhaps dress similarly to the “victimized” woman of the previous week – then all is a-okay.

Now how’s that for a pastoral approach! Perhaps this pastor should see my friend as a lost sheep and go after her. Yeah, right.

My experience is that pastors like that are just waiting for those trouble-maker parishioners to leave. THEN they will have a perfect parish where everyone gets along and luuuuuvs one another. In a parish like this, no one cares if a traditionalist leaves the parish. The office staff cheers at their weekly meeting, and expresses concern to anyone who asks about the missing parishioner. I know. I’ve been there, on both sides.

Here’s the ironic conclusion to that pastor’s second bulletin article:

If you come to church just for people to wait on you and cater to all your needs and expectations, then maybe it would be better if you just went to an exclusive country club instead. But if you come to Mass to be fully present to the Lord, including His presence in the gathered community, if you are willing to give of yourself by treating your neighbor with kindness, then you have come to the right place, and may you receive the blessings of the Mass.

Umm…seems to me it is the “liberals” who want their needs to be catered to. The traditionalists just want a decent liturgy according to the rubrics – and if we had that, the immodest dress issue would probably take care of itself. When reverence and awe in the Mass is evident, that “attitude” tends to start being expressed amongst those attending such Masses. When God is made more evident by the way Mass is said (by following the rubrics!), one is more inclined to treat Him with the respect He deserves.

I wonder if this pastor can milk my friend's actions for yet a third bulletin article...
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 

PS  I recommend this article: "A Catholic Answer to Catholic Answers" in which Christoper Ferrara says a lot of things that help to explain why a pastor would write the kind of bulletin letter quoted in this post. Here's an excerpt:
The neo-Catholic mind is not troubled by this catastrophe, much less determined to oppose the reckless innovations that caused it. The neo-Catholic attitude to what even Paul VI admitted was “a process of self-destruction” of the Church (Allocution of December 7, 1968) is essentially: “What’s the big deal?” I will let Mr. Coffin’s own words in defense of his first two-hour foray against “radical traditionalists” establish the point: 
It happens to be easy to gripe about the many pressing problems facing the Church today, easy to be agog at the banality of many Ordinary Form (OF) liturgies with their clap-happy ditties that pass for sacred music, easy to lament the indisputable decline of Sunday Mass attendance since the early 1960s, and easy to be vexed by the pitiful state of catechesis in this country.
 But let’s keep our eyes on the ball. The end is the life of glory with God in the beatific vision, not the Traditional Latin Mass, nor the Ordinary Form, no matter how reverently done. We need to love Jesus Christ and his Bride. On his terms, not ours.In two paragraphs of flippant prose, Coffin dismisses an almost apocalyptic collapse of faith and discipline in the Church. What does it matter, says he, that the liturgy has become banal, indeed a joke, that Mass attendance has declined, that catechesis is pitiful (not only in this country, by the way, but throughout the world)? What matters is that we attain the beatific vision—as if the very substance of the faith had nothing to do with reaching that goal!


  1. If Catholic women even had the slightest clue what they were doing in the House of God and the Holy of Holies, they wouldn't corrupt His House by dressing immodest or worse, like prostitutes (oh believe me, I've seen it!). We must pray for such people. It's really pitiful. Even Protestants can dress better than us for pete's sake!

    God bless!


  2. Ah, the Religion of Tolerance showing its militantly Intolerant & sometimes hysterically juvenile colors once again. People used to understand what "clothed & in his right mind" meant. :oP

    We have completely lost the sense of Christian charity that requires we refrain from doing things we might find preferable (such as wearing a sleeveless top in the summer) if it causes us to become an occasion of sin for another.

  3. The fact is that these "Catholic" women dress in a manner that would make hookers from a few decades ago blush with shame. The question remains: why do they wish to dress like or worse than prostitutes and them take umbrage when challenged on their gross indecency?????

  4. Barona - exactly! Why DO they want to look like hookers?! I think it is just a watering down of morals over the decades. And the Novus Ordo didn't help. And the same women who wear the tightest, lowest cut apparel will often be the first to criticize another woman who, in their opinion, doesn't "have the body for it".

  5. They need to go back to posting the Church's standards for modest dress in the narthex like they used to. Or reinstitute the Minor Orders & have a Porter stationed at the door!

  6. “Those who consider themselves righteous, they can cook in their own stew!” Pope Francis said during morning Mass on July 5. “He came for us sinners and this is beautiful.”

  7. Rephrase that, Dr. Boyd. Why DO they want to look like hookers in the House of Almighty God? It would be UNTHINKABLE for me to do something like that. Not because I'm self righteous, I'm a sinner, too. But, because I have enough sense to know to put on clothes in front of God. It's really that simple. Use your logic.

    We should NOT bring the world INTO the Church. That says it all. If each and everyone of us will be judged for every idle word, then what about the way we worshiped Him? What about the fact that we led people into sin right in His House because we felt like running around half-dressed and looking like prostitutes and hookers? Ponder it, people. We will stand before Him one day.

    I'm personally trying to set an example for other teens like me...

    We are IN the world and not OF it. If you're a true Catholic, then you believe that...

    St. Pius X, ora pro nobis.

    God bless!


  8. Hannah,

    You seem to forget we were all born without clothes on! When I go to church it is not to check out how many females have bra straps showing.I go to be with my community and I accept the members of my community no matter how they are dressed.

  9. Anonymous, even though we were all born without clothes on, we don't go to Mass that way. When we go to Mass, we are SUPPOSED to be going to worship God, not to be with our "community". We can accept the members of that community, however, without accepting the manner in which they dress. We express respect for God by the way we present ourselves to Him.

    It seems that, while you accept the members of your community no matter how they are dressed, you do not accept the members who ask that respect and reverence be shown for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Why the double standard? Does the person who wants reverence to be shown at Mass - as indeed is the mind of the Church - become something less of a person? something less of a "member of the community"? I know from experience that the traditionalist members of most Novus Ordo parishes are very much made to feel inferior and "less than" other more liberal-minded members. Where's the charity in that?!

  10. I cannot imagine - especially for one who is a man like myself - how one cannot *help* but look (glance? leer? gape?) at those of the fair sex who should be worshiping God in Holy attire... but are not. (Ps 96:9, 29:2 - not only to pick on the gals - some guys dress dreadfully, too)

    It is so scandalous, in many situations, just to assist at (what is supposed to be) Holy Mass. (see CCC 2284-5 for good definitions of scandal, also see Mt. 18:1-6 on what our Blessed Lord says about those who scandalize others)

    As Fr. Benedict Groeschel used to say, "I cannot tell if some of these people are going to the beach or have already been there."

    I thank God for my devout Methodist great-grandparents, on my mother's side, for their good direction/example on how to dress appropriately for Sunday worship.

    Does dressing in Sunday best make those who do so holier than those who do not? Not necessarily. However, I am convinced it does lend one towards a better disposition to prepare and enter into the Sacred Mysteries.

    Keeping Fr. Groeschel's train of thought he would talk about how the black evangelical folks the CFRs minister to there in the Bronx. He said even though they are so very poor they would not even consider *not* dressing up in their "Sunday best" to worship Almighty God.

    Indeed, they do not have our Lord present in the Holy Eucharist, but they *still* dress in their best.

    Some Catholics however...


  11. Good comment, CK. Yes, I think you are right; when we dress in our "Sunday best", we remind ourselves that the One we are about to worship deserves the very best we can give him. Sure, some people dress up to impress the other parishioners, or to gratify their own desires to "look good". So be it. At least if we encourage "dressing up", we are encouraging people to take a more reverent attitude toward Mass!

    1. I just witnessed 3 million young folks--certainly not dressed in "Sunday best" worshiping on the beach at World Youth Day. Their worship was enthusiastic to say the least and I cannot see how God would be offended by that!

  12. Anonymous says above (in the black "reply" box, which is so difficult to read):
    "I just witnessed 3 million young folks--certainly not dressed in "Sunday best" worshiping on the beach at World Youth Day. Their worship was enthusiastic to say the least and I cannot see how God would be offended by that!"

    Numbers do not justify any kind of irreverence. I do not doubt the sincerity of many (maybe even most?) of the pilgrims, but that does not mean they are not misguided. They can be sincerely wrong in their actions while sincerely thinking they are doing the right thing. I might also add that given the numbers, and given fallen human nature, it is practically inevitable that questionable activities are going on even at Mass.

  13. "I go to be with my community and I accept the members of my community no matter how they are dressed."

    I never said I go to Church to check out what "females have bra straps showing." It is pretty noticeable when you see women flaunting themselves around like prostitues, though. It's an offense against God. All I'm concerned about is reverence and honor for God. That's it. Going around dressing like a hooker in the House of God is not honoring him.

    You mean to tell me that you go to Mass cause it's about luvvv and being with family and the "community"? Oooohhh how special. LOL! Well, I happen to go to be at the foot of Calvary which is actually what we're all doing at Mass. I don't think the women at the foot of the cross were dressed like hookers and worried about luvvv and community.

    Dressing immodestly is a grave scandal. No point in beating around the bush on that one. We're in the presence of God. Is that not a big deal to you? Or maybe tempting men and looking guuuddd and feeling guddd and me me me is what we go to the Holy Mass for? Hmm...

    God bless!


  14. Well Jay, if you look at 34:00 and forward on this video, you will see the many bishops, priests and faithful celebrating the Lord rather than being involved in "questionable activities," as you call them. Hannah, the folks in the video may be at the foot of Calvary, but they certainly are celebrating their "reverence and honor for God" as a community.

  15. Sorry, forgot to put the link to the video:

  16. 'Hannah, the folks in the video may be at the foot of Calvary, but they certainly are celebrating their "reverence and honor for God" as a community."

    Which is why more than a few think that the WYD Masses are sometimes more than scandalous at times.


  17. Anonymous, why not give us a name?

    Also, are you trying to sound like a dolt, or what? I didn't say that all 3 million individuals would be involved in questionable activities during Mass. I said it was inevitable that there would be some such activity.

  18. I don't think the pictures you have been using to illustrate your modesty posts are appropriate.


Please be courteous and concise.