Category Archives: Translations

“De Inhonesto Feminarum Vestiendi More”

A lot is said about supposed Vatican or papal documents on feminine modesty in dress. But the Internet is not exactly great on providing exact information. So here I present a literal (but unofficial) translation of an actual Vatican document.

(The bad news is that the OCR is terrible, and the book is not in public domain in the US. I will try to find an original volume or some microfilm, if I can remember to do it.)

You can find the Latin document in Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Vol. 22 (1930), on pages 26-28.

Here is that volume on vatican.va.

Here is that volume on Documenta Catholica.

Instruction to Diocesan Ordinaries:
“De inhonesto feminarum vestiendi more”

(aka “On a degrading custom of female dress”)

Issued by: The Congregation of the Council (Sacra Congregatio Concilii — now subsumed into the Congregation of the Clergy)

Unofficial translation: Maureen S. O’Brien

——————————-

Our Most Holy Lord Pope, Pius XI, with the force of his supreme apostolate, which is performed within the whole Church, never ceased to teach what St. Paul did — that is, “The women in decorative* apparel, adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety… and with good works, as is right for women professing piety.” (1 Tim. 2:9-10)

And numerous times as occasion was given, the same Supreme Pontifex expressed disapproval sharply, and condemned a degrading custom of dressing among both Catholic women and girls, introduced today here and there, which not only offends gravely against feminine splendor and ornament, but even more is also the true ruin of these women in the temporal world — and what is worse, throws others into the most miserable everlasting ruin.

Therefore, it is nothing strange if bishops, and others in the office of Ordinary, have also opposed this kind of crooked license, and every kind of forwardness, in their own dioceses and with one voice — enduring, with a strong and patient soul, no few mockeries and scorn for this reason, brought upon them by people of bad will.

And so, let this Sacred Council describe the vigilance and merited action of this kind of Sacred Prelate with approval and praise, to the clergy and people of approved discipline. Then may it encourage them vehemently, so that they may persevere what they have undertaken, with advice and a suitable beginning. And let them urge eagerly for the sake of men, until this deadly plague may be rooted out from the honest association of humans.

So that it may be put into effect more easily and safely, this Sacred Congregation has decided to establish what follows:

I. As occasion is given, let parish priests and preachers particularly “insist… reprove, entreat, rebuke” (2 Tim. 4:2) about how women wear clothes, so that they may understand modesty, that they may be the ornament and guard of virtue; and let them warn parents not to allow their daughters to wear disgraceful clothes.

II. Mindful of that most grave obligation which they hold, to care for the morals of their offspring and for their first religious education, let parents show particular diligence so that their daughters may be set up solidly in Christian teaching, from their first years; and let them eagerly kindle the love of the virtue of modesty and chastity in their souls, by word and example. Let them be busy with imitating the Holy Family’s example in their own families, in order to set up and govern their families in that way. And so let each family have a cause and an invitation for loving and serving modesty behind its domestic walls.

III. Let parents keep their daughters away from public drills and assemblies of exercise [in immodest clothes]. If their daughters should be forced to take part, let them take care that their clothing shows that they have dignity. Never allow them to wear degrading clothing.

IV. Let principals of colleges and schoolteachers strive to embue the souls of girls with a love of modesty, so that they may be efficaciously influenced to dress worthily.

V. Let these principals and schoolteachers not admit girls that wear clothes that are less than worthy, into colleges or schools; and let those who have been admitted be sent back to their mothers, unless they stop and become reasonable.

VI. Let religious women** not admit girls, nor tolerate those already admitted, who will not keep a Christian custom of dress, in their colleges, schools, oratories, or recreation facilities, according to the letters from August 23, 1928 sent by the Sacred Congregation of Religious. Indeed, let them show particular care in educating female students, so that the love of holy bashfulness and Christian modesty may drive deep roots into their souls.

VII. Let pious women institute and encourage associations of women, which by advice, example and goal of work may decide ahead of time to restrain abuses in the wearing of clothes, by the Christian modesty which disagrees with it; and to promote purity of customs and worthiness of dress.

VIII. Let no one who wears degrading clothing be admitted into pious associations of women. Indeed, if an admitted woman should go wrong in such things afterward, and she will not act reasonably after being warned, let her be expelled.

IX. Let girls and women who wear degrading clothing stay away from Holy Communion, and from the office of godmother for the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. And if the case warrants it, let them be prohibited from entrance into their churches.

X. When festivals occur throughout the year, let parish priests and sacerdotes, as well as heads of pious Unions and Catholic guilds, take the particular opportunity to teach Christian modesty to women, especially on feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Do not let the opportunity pass to call them back and excite them for dressing according to Christian custom. And on feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary conceived without sin, let them complete the particular prayers in every cathedral and parish of the Church, whatever the year; where one can do so, let it be considered an opportunity for encouragement, during solemn sermons for the people.

XI. Let the diocesan council act with vigilance upon what was given in the declaration of the Holy Office on March 30, 1928, advising women efficaciously on better means and reasons for modesty, at least once a year, by declaration.

XII. Indeed, so that this healthy action may advance more efficaciously and safely, it is preferred that bishops and others in the office of Ordinary, also in the third year, alone and with relation to religious institutions, should observe the norms of that instruction given in the Letter “Orbem Catholicum” from June 29, 1923, also upon the condition and status of things concerning the custom and works of women’s dress.

Given at Rome, from the chair of the Sacred Congregation of the Council, on January 12, on the Feast of the Holy Family, in the year 1930.

Donato Cardinal Sbaretti Tazza, Bishop of Sabina-Poggio Mirteto, Prefect.

Giulio Serafini, Bishop of Lampsacus, Secretary.

* Greek: kosmein – “decorated”, with connotations of “orderly, decorous.”
Latin: ornato – “decorated, ornate.”

** religious women = nuns and sisters.

Stuff to notice:

1. Nothing is said about the particular fashions being condemned.

2. No particular hemlines, necklines, or other measurements are mentioned.

3. Totally okay with Italian churches making you wear more clothes, if you want to see the indoors.

4. That said, it’s also totally okay for laywomen to start clubs and apostolates about their concerns.

Other stuff to notice:

This site has a totally different wording for this decree. Their Latin decree appears to be on a similar topic but written in 1954, from the same Congregation but with different folks in charge. Obviously I need to check the 1954 volume of Acta.

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: Aelfric of Eynsham

In Aelfric of Eynsham’s homily, “On the Greater Litany” (“In Letania Maiore”), he also draws from St. Augustine’s egg material when quoting Lk. 11:12.

“God is our Father through his mildheartedness [ie, mercy]. And the fish betokens faith, and the egg, holy hope; and the loaf, true love.

“God gives these three things to His chosen, for no man can have God’s kingdom unless he has these three things. He must believe rightly, and have hope in God, and have true love for God and men, if he would come to God’s kingdom.

“…The egg betokens hope. For the birds do not propagate like other animals, but first give birth to an egg; and then, with hope, the mother raises that egg to be a bird. In like manner, our hope does not yet come to what it hopes for, but is like an egg. When it gets what it has been promised, it will be a bird.”

This translation is adapted from The Homilies of the Anglo-Saxon Church, Vol. 1: The Sermones Catholici, or Homilies of Aelfric, by Benjamin Thorpe.

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: Even More St. Augustine

In Sermon 105, c. 4-10, St. Augustine elaborates further on the symbolic meaning of the “three opposing” choices of gift in this passage, and he gives the egg a little more credit. Here’s the egg parts from chapters 5-10:

“What’s left is hope — which, it seems to me, is compared to an egg. For hope is for a thing that has not yet arrived; and an egg is something, but it’s not a hen yet.

“And so quadrupeds give birth to children, but birds to a hope of children.

“Therefore, it is for this that hope cheers us on: that we may despise present things and hope for what is to come, forgetting what is behind us, when we are reaching forward along with the Apostle [Paul]. For he says it this way: ‘But one thing I do: I forget what is behind in stretching forward to what is ahead, leaning toward the finish line, to win the palm leaves of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus.’

“Nothing is such an enemy of hope as considering what is behind us — that is, to put hope in those things which cross our path and slip past us….

“Be afraid of the example of Lot’s wife. For she looked behind her, and she stayed where she looked. She was turned into salt; she was pickled in brine as an example for the prudent.

“The Apostle Paul has spoken about this hope, like this: ‘For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For why does a man hope for what he sees? But if we hope for that which we do not see, we wait for it with patience.’

“‘For why does a man hope for what he sees?’

“There is an egg. It is an egg, and it is not a hen yet.

“And there is a turtleshell. The turtle is not seen, because it is covered by the shell. With patience, it can be awaited. Let it warm up, and it will come back to life.

“Work toward this finish line: to lean forward, to forget the past. For the things which are seen are temporal things.”

“‘Not looking back,” he says, ‘at what is seen, but considering what is not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal things, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ (2 Cor. 4:18)

“Therefore, reach out your hope to those things which are not seen. Wait for them! Hold on! Don’t look back!

“Fear the scorpion coming for your egg! See how it strikes with its tail, which it holds behind it.

“Therefore, don’t let the scorpion kill your egg! Don’t let this world kill your hope, I tell you, with the poison that’s behind it, which goes against you!

“How much the world says to you! How much ruckus it makes behind your back! It’s all so you will look back — that is, put your hope in things of the present. But not really of the present — they can’t be said to be things of the present, because they don’t stay that long.

“And it’s so that you will move your hope away from what Christ promised and has not yet given you, but which He will give because He is faithful. It’s so that you will turn your soul away, and wish to quit, still in this dying world.

“…If I have hope, if I hold onto hope, my egg will not be struck by the scorpion.”

“…All those who blaspheme against our Christ because of these adversities — they are the tail of the scorpion.

“Let us put our egg under the wings of this Gospel hen who clucks, ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem,’ to those false and wandering ones. ‘How often would I have gathered together your children, as the hen gathers her chicks? But you would not.’

“It is not said to us: ‘How often would I’ and ‘You would not.’

“For this Hen is the Divine Wisdom. But He assumes flesh so that He may fit with His chicks.

“Look at the other hen – the one of molting plumage shaking her wings, with a voice broken and quavering and weary, and sluggish to gather her little ones.

“Therefore, let us put our egg — that is, our hope — under the wings of this Hen over here.

“Perhaps you notice how a hen can peck up a scorpion. So therefore, would that this Hen would also peck up and devour these blasphemers, creeping out of their caves and crawling across the earth, and stinging us with evil! Let the Hen drag them into her Body and turn them into eggs!

“…Let them stop blaspheming. Let them learn to adore. Let the stinging scorpions be eaten by the Hen, and be converted by being drawn into the Body! Let them be trained on earth, and crowned in Heaven.”

This is actually topical, as one of the old games with Easter eggs was to knock your egg against that of a neighbor at table, and see which egg was the strongest.

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: More St. Augustine

In Sermon 61, St. Augustine references Luke 11:12 and other passages to show that, even when we are wicked, the Father still loves us and is good to us.

Sermon 61, 1-2:

“A wonderful thing, brothers! We may be evil, but we have a good Father.

“…Therefore, brothers, since we evil ones have a good father, let us not remain evil forever.

“Nobody evil does good. If nobody evil does good, how can an evil person do good to himself?

“The One Who is always good makes good out of evil… We know He gives His children good things ‘according to the time’ (Rom. 9:9): good temporal things, good bodily things, good carnal things, even when we may be evil.

“And what are these good things, if you doubt them?

“Fish. Eggs. Bread. Fruit. Grain. This light, this air. These things which we observe — they are good.

“Men are celebrated for such riches, and they do not recognize other men as their equals in such things — in things, I say, for which men are celebrated — loving flashy clothing, rather than considering the same skin that’s underneath.

“These riches are good things, all the same. But all these good things which I have mentioned, they can be owned by either good people or evil.”

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: Tertullian

Tertullian also references Luke 11:12 in his book Against Marcion, lib. IV, c. 26. (Adapted by me from Peter Holmes’ 1870 translation.)

“Even if he has offended, man is more friends with the Creator than with Marcion’s [demiurge] god. Therefore he knocks at the door of Him to whom he has the right to come — the One Whose gate he could find, Whom he knew owned bread, Who will be home in bed with the children Whom He had willed to be born. Even if the knock comes late, Time belongs to the Creator.

“…So recognize Him Whom you call the Creator as Father, too. It is He Who knows what His children need. For when they asked for bread, He gave them manna from heaven… not a snake instead of a fish, or a scorpion instead of an egg.

“…Marcion’s god, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a scorpion to give away, so he couldn’t deny what he didn’t own. Only God could do it — He who holds, but does not give out, the scorpion.”

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A Patristic Easter Egg Hunt: The Venerable Bede

I think I will look around and find some egg quotes in the Fathers. Here is one.

From St. Bede’s commentary on Luke (Lk. 11:12):

“‘Aut si petierit ovum, numquid porriget illi scorpionem?’

“In ovo, indicatur spes. Ovum enim nondum est foetus perfectus, sed fovendo speratur.”

“‘And if [a man’s son] should ask for an egg, will [his father] hand him a scorpion?'”

“Hope is shown in an egg. For an egg is not yet a complete offspring, but it is hoped for and kept warm.”

Bede seems to have gotten this from St. Augustine’s Letter 130 to St. Proba, “a religious handmaiden of God.” She was a nun who wrote letters full of questions, to folks like St. Jerome and St. Augustine. This letter was one of the many answer- slash- treatises she got from these guys.

“‘Aut si ovum petit, numquid porrigit ei scorpium?’ …

“Spes in ovo, quia vita pulli nondum est, sed futura est, nec iam videtur, sed adhuc speratur. Spes enim quae videtur, non est spes.”

“‘But if he asks for an egg, will he hand him a scorpion?’…

“Hope [is signified] in the egg, because the life of a hen is not yet there, but it is coming; nor can it now be seen, but it is still hoped for. For ‘hope which can be seen is not hope.’ (Rom. 8:24)

Augustine and Bede both compare the fish, egg, and bread to faith, hope, and charity; whereas the snake, scorpion, and stone represent the devil making unbelievers in God, worldliness making unbelievers in eternal life, and the hardheartedness making people who have no charity.

You’ll also notice that St. Augustine is using a cool (but more inaccurate) Old Latin translation of the Bible, because the Vulgate hadn’t been finished yet. And both versions of the Bible use “numquid,” a question word indicating that the answer is “No.”

St. Augustine is going by the state of the art, when it comes to Greco-Roman natural philosophy. But St. Bede seems to indicate more clearly that an egg is alive — just not ready to go.

I suspect that monastic life in England included more contact with chicken coops than the life of a minor North African Roman aristocrat, or a bishop in Hippo.

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The Last Bit of Sisibut’s “On Eclipses”

Didn’t post it yesterday because my Internet connection was not working.

But because you figure out wonderful things —

Why, when the greatest power of the Sun
is reputed to be twice-nine times greater
than that of the terrestrial orb,
does he not overwhelm the terrestrial cones
with light?

Take up the reckoning work of reason.

On the other hand, gaze upon Phoebus
who travels through the sublime vaults of the world
and may illuminate every lowly land
from his high passages.

This is remarkable however one may touch on it:
in that whether he should have strewn his fires
or have beamed them on a slanting axis,
they are crushed at the Earth’s radius.

The rest of the lights of the Sun,
by which radiant darts he becomes more visible,
spread through the vast voids
unhindered by the [Earth’s] globe
as long as the pyramid’s peak may complete
its residing shadow.

By which neighbors’ shadows,
when damp Phoebe drives her icy yoked team
deepest through them, sometimes
she is discolored.
She misses her absent brother,
and lacks her bloodless face.

But why is only the Moon plundered of light?

Indeed, it is not wonderful.

Of course another light warms
those needing her light;
for when the nearest part of the cone begrudges it,
she badly hopes for the sky rays of her brother.

But the remaining choir of stars
is not touched by shadows,
and their brightness is their own,
nor are they reddened by the Sun.

Yet rush up to the lofty astral rays
far beyond the Sun; clear and bright,
it is dragged off,
attached to the vertex of the sky.

Besides, why would it not always be paled
by the orb every six months?
The curved passages come around
by a slanting track.

On the other hand, when by wandering,
the curved thing amasses twisted deviations
from what is fixed, the sun leaves the cone
beyond reach, and twists the robe of night,
and shines upon his sister.

These things are the reason for it:
where the red-gold brightness of the august Sun
is crushed by sudden shadows, lacking light,
Luna passes between Earth and Sun
with the nourishing wheel of her body,
protecting her brother from straight obstructions.

I’m not as sure about the translation of this part of the poem. I also haven’t read “De Natura Rerum,” so I’m not sure if St. Isidore touched on any of these topics. There are also various terms used for “curved” which have different connotations. So I’m not sure I get this entirely, although obviously Sisibut is inquiring about orbital mechanics, and why we can see anything at all during lunar eclipses at night.

The king and the bishop had sort of a frenemy relationship. Part was because Sisibut believed in just ordering his still-Arian Visigoths, and the local population of Spanish Jews, to convert or be forced. (Standard for your barbarian king, but not appreciated in a guy who presumably should know better. Sisibut didn’t get any sainthood attributions.) Part was because Sisibut was learned enough to fund Isidore’s book projects, and then to write reviews of them with his own sharp questions.

(When you are Isidore of Seville and probably the most learned man in Europe (except for your dead brother and the dead pope, Gregory the Great), you may have just a tad bit of alpha male pride to lose.)

Anyway, it’s a bit fun to see Sisibut alternating between scientific principles of astronomy and poetic conventions drawn from mythology. The Sun is Phoebus (Apollo), the Moon is his sister Phoebe (another name for Artemis as Selene). The chariot of Phoebe’s Moon is drawn by a team of pure white animals (Sisibut doesn’t make a choice between deer, crescent-horned oxen, or horses, just calling them “gelidos”). The Earth is Tellus.

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