To The Ordinaries
of Italy: regarding the crusade against immodest fashions, especially in schools directed by women Religious.
Circular. Most Illustrious and Reverend Sir, well known to you are the grave words
of condemnation which the Holy Father spoke, on several occasions, with apostolic authority, against the immodest fashion of women’s dress which prevails today to the detriment of good breeding.
Suffice it to recall the very grave words, charged with grief and admonition, with which in the discourse of August 15th current, in the consistorial chamber, promulgating the decree on the heroic virtues of Venerable Paola Frassinetti, His Holiness
denounced once again the danger which, by its seductive fascination, threatens so many unwary souls, who profess to belong to the flock of Jesus Christ and to His Holy Church.
It is painful
to point out in this regard that the deplorable custom tends to insinuate itself among young girls who frequent, as extern pupils, some of the schools directed by Sisters and Sunday-school classes which are held in female religious institutions.
In order to confront a danger which, by spreading, becomes ever more grave, this Sacred Congregation, by order of the Holy Father, calls upon the Ordinaries of Italy so that they may communicate to the
superiors of the houses of female religious in their respective dioceses the following injunctions of this Sacred Congregation, confirmed by His Holiness in audience this day:
a) In all schools,
academies, recreation centers, Sunday schools, and laboratories directed by female religious, not to be admitted from now on are those girls who do not observe in their attire the rules of modesty and Christian decency.
b) To this end, the superiors themselves will be obliged to exercise a close supervision and exclude peremptorily from the schools and projects of their institutions those pupils who do not conform to these prescriptions.
c) They must not be influenced in this by any human respect, either for material considerations or by reason of the social prestige and of the families of their pupils, even though the student body should
diminish in number.
d) Furthermore, the Sisters, in fulfillment of their educational pursuits, must endeavor to inculcate sweetly and strongly in their pupils the love and relish for holy
modesty, the sign and guardian of purity and delicate adornment of womankind.
Your Reverence will be vigilant that these injunctions be exactly observed and that there be perfect conformity
of conduct among all the institutes of female religious in the diocese.
You will severely call to task whoever should fail in this, and should any abuse be prolonged, you will notify this
With deepest esteem, I remain,
G. Cardinal Laurenti, Prefect
Sacred Congregation for Religious
Vincent La Puma, Secretary
Rome, August 23, 1928
Note: In addition on January 12, 1930 Pope Pius XI directed the
Sacred Congregation of the Council to issue a strongly-worded Letter on Christian Modesty to the whole world, which required of “Nuns compliance with the Letter dated August 23, 1928, by the Sacred Congregation of Religious.”
[see no. 6 below] This 1930 letter was even more emphatic; gave more detailed directives; and imposed the obligation of combating
the immodest fashions and promoting modesty on all persons in authority—Bishops and other ordinaries, parish priests, parents, Superioresses and teachers in schools. This letter reads as follows:
1930 Letter of the Congregation of the Council
By virtue of the supreme apostolate 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, the words of St. Paul (1 Tim. xi,9-10), namely, "Women ... adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety ... and professing
godliness with good works.”
Very often, when occasion arose, the same Supreme Pontiff condemned emphatically the immodest fashion of dress adopted by Catholic women and girls—which
fashion not only offends the dignity of women and against her adornment, but conduces to the temporal ruin of the women and girls, and, what is still worse, to their eternal ruin, miserably dragging down others in their fall. 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.
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), insist, argue exhort and command that feminine
garb be based on modesty and womanly ornament be a defense of virtue. Let them likewise admonish parents to cause their daughters to cease wearing indecorous dress.
2. Parents, conscious of
their grave obligations toward the education, especially religious and moral, to their offspring, should see to it that their daughters are solidly instructed, from earliest childhood, in Christian doctrine; and they themselves should assiduously inculcate
in their souls, by word and example, love for the virtues of modesty and chastity; and since their family should follow the example of the Holy Family, they must rule in such a manner that all its members, reared within the walls of the home, should find reason
and incentive to love and preserve modesty.
3. Let parents keep their daughters away from public gymnastic games and 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. Superioresses and teachers in schools for girls must do their utmost to
instill love of modesty in the hearts of maidens confided to their care and urge them to dress modestly.
5. Said Superioresses and teachers must not receive in their colleges and schools immodestly
dressed girls, and should not even make an exception in the case of mothers of pupils. If, after being admitted, girls persist in dressing immodestly, such pupils should be dismissed.
in compliance with the Letter dated August 23, 1928, by the Sacred Congregation of Religious, must not receive in their colleges, schools, oratories or recreation grounds, or, if once admitted, tolerate girls who are not dressed with Christian modesty; said
Nuns, in addition, should do their utmost so that love for holy chastity and Christian modesty may become deeply rooted in the hearts of their pupils.
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.
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 debarred from Holy Communion and 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
Donato Cardinal Sbaretti, Prefect
Congregation of the Council
Rome, January 12, 1930