CatholicScout Responds – Approach to Catholic Fashion 3: clothes and ideology

The LMS Chairman Blog occasionally gets my comments, which I repeat here. In the latest series, a guest blogger Queen of Puddings, has been submitting a series on Approach to Catholic Fashion. They are very well written, however I have finally got round to taking Queen of Puddings to task. I wanted to do this from the first post that she did, but I have been busy – apologies.

You can read the original post here:

Please not that I didn’t add emphases in the original, any emphases have been added subsquently

Approach to Catholic Fashion 3: clothes and ideology

Many Catholics, some visible in the combox in other posts in this series, take modesty in clothing seriously to the point that they no longer think anything else worthy of consideration in choosing clothes: one commenter, in particular, said there was no reason why a Catholic should not wear the Muslim hijab in one of the pictures. I doubt, however, that any Catholic would ever do so, and I think that the reason would be an instinctive fear of appropriating not only the clothes but their ideological underpinning as well. This post will discuss the way in which clothes express the ideology of the person wearing them (or at any rate that of the designer), and in doing so, I hope, demonstrate the paramount importance of making informed choices about what we as Catholics wear…[continues]

My response:

“Thank you Queen of Puddings, for your thoughts.

The Divine Redeemer, however, said that “You cannot serve God and mammon.” In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6:24-34), the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity explicitly said “be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?”. He equates such considerations as being the service of mammon (ref: Mt 6:24).

The Incarnate Word goes on to rebuke those that are solicitous about raiment, calling them “of little faith“, and further “Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek.”

But seeing that the Messiah, the Son of the living God, is well not really “with it”, let’s just ignore what he said.

So let’s turn to Tradition. In the first four centuries, Christians adopted the local custom of clothing, as long as it was chaste. Hebrew Catholics (Jews that convert to the Catholic Faith), can still wear traditional ritual clothing like kippot, tallitot, tefillin, in accordance with the Law. Exactly the same as an Orthodox Jew. All Catholics in the beginning would have adopted the Jewish custom of clothing, which was later poached by Islam.

One should be very careful in saying that Islam has the monopoly on chaste clothing, that wearing a hijab equates with professing that Mohammed is the Great Prophet. It is highly incorrect and probably highly offensive, especially to the Iraqi Catholics, who are dying in droves at the moment.

The hijab, like many traditional items of clothing are far more ancient than any erroneous beliefs that have claimed them for their own.

The Catholic Faith has always in her Tradition held that local customs, such as dress, should continue in the lay faithful. Examples exist throughout the Catholic history, such as in Japan, China, India, Africa and on and on.

21st Century Britain is a melting pot of people and cultures. In a truly multi-cultural society such as Britian, surely a Catholic is free to not be solicitous in choice of clothing, even if it was a hijab or a kimono? It would be perfectly within their right to wear such clothing if they wished, and to be well respected.

I think there is a real risk of a “reverse dictatorship of fashion”. We all know that modern clothing is dictated by the media and it’s indentured slave – the Fashion Houses. Well, let’s not get trapped into reacting the exact opposite and reimposing Canon 68 of the 4th Lateran council – imposing a difference between “us” and “them”. There is a third path; Do not be solicitous. Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven.”

My comment provoked a response from Dr Shaw:

Catholic Scout: you place an interpretation of the notion of being over-solicitous which is incompatible with scripture, tradition, and common sense. Our Lord had a seamless garment. Tradition tells us this was woven for Him by Our Lady. Whoever made it, it must have taken many hours of loving work. Is this an example of being ‘solicitous’? Shouldn’t he have just worn a bit of sacking roughly stitched together? Why go to the trouble of making a garment whose value was recognised even by the Roman soldiers deputed to kill Him, if clothing is just something of no importance?

The point of this post is that what we wear communicates something to the people who see us; many types of clothing express clear, anti-Catholic ideologies. I see you have nothing to say about the detailed points. If you have no counter-arguments, then I suggest you do a bit more thinking on this topic before criticising others.

To which I responded (anything in square brackets is subsequent corrections):

“Dr Shaw, thank you for your response.

My comments are never intended as “ad hominem”.

In this case, I was addressing an important point, that thus far (as far as I can tell) was not present in any of the considerations of the Queen of Puddings. So far in three articles, nothing has been mentioned of what the Incarnate Divine Logos actually said.

Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, gave explicit and forceful teachings regarding this subject. Since He is the Divine Lawgiver, surely what He instructs is of paramount importance to His followers? “He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 5:[19][given at] the end of the Sermon on the mount, where He gives instructions regarding clothing.

I am at a loss to see any “interpretation” of scripture in what I said, since, I am just quoting directly from it. I cannot, for the life of me, find any thing in Sacred Scripture or Tradition that contradicts what I said. I can only find confirmation. I appreciate critical analysis of my comments, but I would be most grateful if you can spare a moment to back it up with something more than brow-beating.

Your argument concerning the garment, that Tradition rightly says was made by the Blessed Virgin Mary, does not hold as being evidence against Christ’s own teaching (that would make Him a hypocrite). It was a gift from His Blessed Mother, He didn’t make it for Himself, or go buy it. Sacred Scripture actually points to something quite the opposite.
Holy Gospel according to Luke 7:24 – “But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are in costly apparel and live delicately, are in the houses of kings”.

As to your questions
“Is [many hours of loving work] an example of being ‘solicitous’?” – no.

“Shouldn’t he have just worn a bit of sacking roughly stitched together?” – I doubt that the Son of God would spurn a gift from His Blessed Mother. Plus a seamless garment was necessary for the fulfilment of Sacred Scripture “They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lots” – Ps 21:19.

“Why go to the trouble of making a garment whose value was recognised even by the Roman soldiers deputed to kill Him, if clothing is just something of no importance?” – I think that here there is an interpretation of the Calvary that is not supported by Sacred Scripture, nor Tradition, I am not aware of anything that supports the view that the Roman soldiers disputed over the garment because they recognised it’s [implied – *great*] value. It does, however, figure that the garment was made for the fulfilment of Scripture. That’s all. It’s not a fashion statement. The Divine Redeemer didn’t go to Calvary with a “BVM-exclusive label” in the seamless work – God forbid.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on the Seamless robe of Jesus, which supports my points, rather than yours. Especially pointing out that the robe was worn underneath outer garments (hence hidden from view).

I was hoping that everything which I have said, precisely relates to the detailed points. We battle the world, the devil and self. But we can’t fight it with it’s own weapons. Christ showed us the way. It doesn’t mean we walk around in sack-cloth (ad ignominiam). It just means what it says “be not solicitous about what you shall wear”.

I feel that the main objection against my comment is one that was lodged directly to Christ in His own time – “Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” Jn 6:61. It’s not easy to follow what Christ said, but that is what we as Catholics must do and preach it [too], as love knows how [ref: Hymn, Faith of our Fathers].

Catholic Scout.”

Dr Shaw responded –

Catholic Scout. I have addressed your Scriptural argument. Since it would indeed be absurd to say Our Lord is a hypocrite, it is obviously your interpretation of His words which is problematic.

On what you have said now, it would appear that Our Lady was at fault in making the seamless garment.

The making of this garment would have taken, as I said, many hours. It was a thing of value. My point is that – obviously – making and giving and wearing this garment does not represent what Our Lord meant by being ‘solicitous’.

Indeed, since he said we should not be solicitous about what we are to eat or where we are to live, your interpretation has created a wider problem. Does this mean we can’t take out insurance? Should we not exercise prudence? No, it does not mean that.

As you know, our philosophy of clothing in these posts can be summarised as the exercise of prudence about clothing. Our Lord did not condemn that.

To which I responded:

Dear Dr Shaw,
From the Commentary of St John Chrysostom on the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 6, Mt 6:28-29

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Having spoken of our necessary food, and having signified that not even for this should we take thought, He passes on in what follows to that which is more easy. For raiment is not so necessary as food.

Why then did He not make use here also of the same example, that of the birds, neither mention to us the peacock, and the swan, and the sheep? For surely there were many such examples to take from thence. Because He would point out how very far the argument may be carried both ways: both from the vileness of the things that partake of such elegance, and from the munificence vouchsafed to the lilies, in respect of their adorning. For this cause, when He has decked them out, He does not so much as call them lilies any more, but “grass of the field”.

And He is not satisfied even with this name, but again adds another circumstance of vileness, saying, “which today is”. And He said not, “and tomorrow is not”, but what is much baser yet, “is cast into the oven”. And He said not, “clothe”, but “so clothe”.

Do you see everywhere how He abounds in amplifications and intensities? And this He does, that He may touch them home: and therefore He has also added, “shall He not much more clothe you?” For this too has much emphasis: the force of the word, “you”, being no other than to indicate covertly the great value set upon our race, and the concern shown for it; as though He had said, “you, to whom He gave a soul, for whom He fashioned a body, for whose sake He made all the things that are seen, for whose sake He sent prophets, and gave the law, and wrought those innumerable good works; for whose sake He gave up His only begotten Son.”

And not till He has made His proof clear, does He proceed also to rebuke them, saying, “O you of little faith”. For this is the quality of an adviser: He does not admonish only, but reproves also, that He may awaken men the more to the persuasive power of His words.”

The commentary goes on with wondrous clarity and charity, I do recommend it to you and all your readers.

The Catena Aurea on Matthew (chapter 6) lists quite a few Fathers, who comment on the particular words of the Divine Redeemer that I refer to, please refer me to one that disagrees with my position (which apparently you “have addressed” – I missed that, were you meaning the glib remark that my “interpretation of His words is problematic”? – please remember what I said about John 6:61).

I do not dispute for a moment that the Divine Redeemer requires prudence of us. But here the Fathers say that the Incarnate Word of God “teaches us not only to take no thought, but not even to be dazzled at the costliness of men’s apparel”.

My point is that the arguments put forth by the Queen of Puddings are not entirely in agreement with the teachings of the Founder of our religion, nor the traditional interpretations of the records of His teaching.

I take offense at being accused of finding fault with Our Lady. As St John Chrysostom points out “And as in saying, they sow not, it was not the sowing that He did away with, but the anxious thought; so in saying, they toil not, neither do they spin, He put an end not to the work, but to the care.”

The Immaculate Conception was *never* mired by “fault”. She freely and perfectly obeyed *all* of the Lords commands. It is not a base and redundant thing to fulfil Scripture. After all, fulfilment of Scripture brought about the Salvation of the human race, which I pray will one day include you and I (please God)!

St John Chrysostom continues “After this He instructs us, not to aim at all at such ornament. See at least the end thereof; after its triumph “it is cast into the oven”: and if of things mean, and worthless, and of no great use, God has displayed so great care, how shall He give up you, of all living creatures the most important?

Wherefore then did He make them so beautiful? That He might display His own wisdom and the excellency of His power; that from everything we might learn His glory. For not “the Heavens only declare the glory of God”, but the earth too; and this David declared when he said, “Praise the Lord, you fruitful trees, and all cedars”. For some by their fruits, some by their greatness, some by their beauty, send up praise to Him who made them: this too being a sign of great excellency of wisdom, when even upon things that are very vile (and what can be viler than that which today is, and tomorrow is not?) He pours out such great beauty. If then to the grass He has given that which it needs not (for what does the beauty thereof help to the feeding of the fire?) how shall He not give unto you that which you need? If that which is the vilest of all things, He has lavishly adorned, and that as doing it not for need, but for munificence, how much more will He honour you, the most honourable of all things, in matters which are of necessity.

Now when, as you see, He had demonstrated the greatness of God’s providential care, and they were in what follows to be rebuked also, even in this He was sparing, laying to their charge not want, but poverty, of faith. Thus, “if God”, says He, “so clothe the grass of the field, much more you, O you of little faith”.”

We’re not perfect, Dr Shaw, and while we cooperate with God to receive the Supernatural Grace and Theological virtue of Faith in “the greatness of God’s providential care”, then, of course, the natural and cardinal virtue of Prudence will be the least that we could do. But what we must teach and preach, is the Gospel Truth and not only to preach the lowest common denominator.


To which he responded

Please note that you lessen the chance of anyone reading your comments if you make them at absurd length.

If you don’t want to think about it, fine. I’d rather you didn’t refuse to think about it at such length on my blog.

It comes down to what Our Lord and the Fathers meant by ‘solicitous’. You are wrong to attribute an absurd and extreme meaning to that term, for the reasons I have already set out. Now go away.

The argument is closed all the same, I shan’t pursue it any further, bless him.


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