Praying for a Broken and Humble Heart: A Meditation on Love of the Sinful Woman (Luke 7)

The Lord links our love for him in terms of our awareness of our sin and our experiencing of having been forgiven: But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little (Luke 7:47)

I. The Pharisaical Problem – He said this in the house of a Pharisee named Simon. Now the Pharisees had reduced holiness to the observance of a rather precise and technical code of 613 precepts. Many of these were minor observances such at the purifying of jugs and cups, following a “Kosher” diet, and observing a myriad of Sabbath rules. Others were more weighty, involving fasts and prayer observances, paying tithes etc. But I hope you can see the absurdity of reducing holiness to a code of a mere 613 precepts. Jesus often excoriated the Pharisees for their intricate observances of the minute details while they neglected weightier matters of justice and failed to love others, see them as brethren or lift a finger to help them find God. Instead they were famous for simply writing off others with scorn and regarding them with contempt. Their arrogance troubled Jesus greatly.

At the heart of their self deception was the notion that they could be righteous on their own, that sin was something that did not touch them. They were “self-righteous.” That is, they considered themselves to be righteous on their own and that by simple human effort they had eradicated sin and were free of it. Again, it is hoped that you can see the absurdity of this. But notice that the delusion first involved a severely dumbed-down notion of holiness, reducing the matter to 613 rules. Then, if you try and put a little effort, presto – you’re “holy,”  righteous, and without sin.

The Sadducees, the scribes and other Temple leaders also had similar minimalist notions. A rather memorable interaction took place between Jesus and one of the Scribes in Luke 10. They were discussing the Commandment to Love God and your neighbor as yourself. In effect the Scribe, like a true lawyer, wants to minimize the whole thing and keep the commandment manageable so as Luke reports: But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”(Lk 10:29). Notice, he wanted  to justify himself. This is want is meant by the notion of self-righteousness, to be righteous by my own power. But in order to pull off the self justification he first needs to make the loving of one’s neighbor more minimal and manageable. So he enters into a negotiation of sorts with Jesus to dumb down  the whole thing. Jesus does not take the bait but goes on to tell his famous Parable of the Good Samaritan which teaches that my neighbor whom  I must love is an expansive category that leaps beyond, family, local community, even nation. But here was the Pharisaical, tendency also shared by the Sadducees, Scribes and Temple Leaders: I can be holy on my own, I can be without sin if I just follow a set of rules. If that is the case, who needs a savior? Who needs Jesus? Who needs God to save him? It is the law which saves and all I have to do is follow it in the narrowest and most restricted sense and I am sinless. Or so they thought.

II. Our Personal Participation in the Problem  – Now, before you rush to scoff at the Pharisees be careful on two counts.

1. The Pharisees were a large religious group in Israel and like any large religious group there were varying interpretations and experiences of the Pharisee philosophy. Not every one was as cartoonishly absurd in their thinking as I have described. Some were however (e.g. in Luke above, and Simon the Pharisee in today’s Gospel) and all the members of the Pharisee movement had the tendencies described due to their minimalistic notions of holiness.

2. But more importantly don’t rush to scoff because we have ourselves  have become very Pharisaical in modern times. There is a widespread tendency today to exonerate ourselves from sin or at least to diminish any notion that we are a sinner. We have done this in several ways.

First, we have been through a long period in the Church where clergy and catechists have soft-pedaled sin. Talking about sin sin was “negative” and we should be more “positive.” After all if we talk about sin too much “people might get angry or hurt and we want our parish to be a warm and welcoming community.” Or so the thinking goes.

Second, there is the tendency to evade responsibility. “I’m not responsible, my mother dropped me on my head when I was two…..I need therapy, I went to public school etc. .”  This may be true but it does not mean we have no sin.

Third, and perhaps the most Pharisaical thing we have done is to reduce holiness to “being nice.” All that matters in the end is that we’re “nice.” Go ahead and shack up, fornicate, skip Mass, dissent from any number of Biblical and Church teachings, have numerous divorces, and be unforgiving of your family members (after all that’s a “private” matter). But as long as you’re “generally a nice person” everything is OK.  At least the Pharisees had 613 rules. We have only one: “be nice.”  Now here too I do not say this of everyone. But in a very widespread way we are like the Pharisees, completely out of touch with our sinfulness and desperate need for God’s mercy. “What me a sinner? – How dare you! I am basically a good (i.e. nice) person” as though that were all that mattered.  Or so the thinking goes. And let a priest or deacon get in a pulpit and talk tough about sin to some congregations and watch the letters go off to the Bishop or the priest be called negative.

III. Our Prescribed Perspective – In today’s Gospel Jesus tells a Parable about two people who had a debt which neither could repay. Note carefully, neither could repay. That is to say, both were sinners and neither one can save them self of be righteous on their own. The debt is beyond their ability. One had a large debt, the other a smaller one. It is a true fact that some on this planet are greater sinners than others. Moral equivalency is wrong. Mother Teresa was surely more holy than Joseph Stalin. (Nevertheless, even Mother Teresa had a debt she couldn’t pay and would be the first to affirm that she was a sinner in need of God’s great mercy). Now since neither of the people in the parable  could repay they both sought mercy. Who is more grateful? Obviously the one who was forgiven the larger amount.

The paradoxical font of love – But pay attention to the way Jesus words it: “Which of them loves him [the creditor] more?” (Lk 7:42). The one who love more is the one who is forgiven more. This is why today’s dismissal of sin is so serious. In effect we deny or minimize our debt and the result is that we love God less. Notice that, while many sectors of the Church have soft-pedaled any preaching about sin and emphasized a self-esteem message, our Churches have emptied. Only 27% of Catholics go to Mass in this country. It is worse in Europe. Obviously love for God has grown cold. As we have lost touch with our debt, we have less love for  the one who alone can forgive it. We no longer seek him and we love him only tepidly and in a distant manner. Jesus says it plainly (and it would seem with sadness):  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little (Luke 7:47)

Pray for a broken and humble heart, a heart to know the astonishing debt of our own sin. It is a paradox but it is true: we have to grasp the bad news of sin before we can rejoice in the good news of forgiveness and redemption. Before we can really love the One who alone can save us, we have to know how difficult we are to love. You and I must pray for the grace to finally have it dawn on us that “The Son of God died for me….not because I was good or nice, but because I was bad and in desperate shape.” Only when we really experience this mercy is our heart broken and humble enough to really love the Lord.  But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little (Luke 7:47)

I am mindful of an old Gospel song that says, “I really Love the Lord! You don’t know what he’s done for me! Gave me the victory. I really love the Lord!”

47 Replies to “Praying for a Broken and Humble Heart: A Meditation on Love of the Sinful Woman (Luke 7)”

  1. I am so confused because I rarely hear about sin except in a general way…never specific. I think many regular Sunday church goers have never heard an explanation of what sins are, types of sin etc. Basically murder, adultery and stealing or huge lies are probably almost always wrong…not nice. However if you ask why do people never go to confession it’s simple…they can’t think of any sins. Today the offertory gifts were brought up by a well endowed teenage girl with tiny short shorts and a skimpy top showing ample cleavage. Am I wrong for being judgemental or are her parents wrong as well as the young lady for immodesty ? The confusion is destroying the power of Christ’s message in our Church. Please would someone give us directions?

    1. Until we get in touch with the bad news of sin the Good news o salvation is just an abstraction.

      As for the young lady, I wonder if you thought to say something to her. When young men come into Church with a hat on, or with saggy pants I tell them to take the hat off and pull up their pants. If they have on t-shirts with dopey or inapprop. sayings I question them on it and ask why they would want to wear a shirt that says that.

      Perhaps this young lady could use an older person to take her aside and speak to her gently but clearly. Apparently her mother is not doing it. This is really something women need to do for girls. It is not usually appropriate for a man (including the priest) to talk to them about these things.

  2. Grace is the key that clears all confusion. neither can the power of the risen Christ be diminished because of man’s inability to grasp the full meaning.Anne Pray pray and you will see that man remains wrong in his approach to the throne of grace,when you understand his mercy then you shall come to know why this things happen. From Nigeria [email protected]

  3. Textbooks developed for teaching Christianity after Vatican II tend to soft pedal sin. Perhaps some of the teaching in the 1940s and 1950s was sterner or harsher than necessary; but in recent decades, it seems to have been deemphasized. One does not see “Examination of Conscience” with a list of sins to be considered as preparation for Reconciliation.
    The materials used for training our CCD & Religion teachers need strengthening in this respect. Is this problem limited to English speaking parts of the world? Or did it follow V. II in all parts of the globe?

    1. Not sure about the global. I think you are right in that we may be dealing with an over-reaction of sorts but, as point out it’s time to correct again.

  4. if i was there when the offertory gifts were given, i’d surely be struggling with impure thoughts already. immodesty affects a lot of people more than a lot of people care to accept. a lot of people, me included, sin with impure thoughts but society and our present generation has indeed watered-down sin.. our Lord deepened the meaning of adultery to include lustful thoughts but no one seems to believe that anymore.. you are right, we seldom hear homilies about sin, hell and the devil.. and it is exactly what the devil wants.. for us not to be mindful of him in this spiritual warfare that we all fight.. the first casualties will of course be the ones who don’t know that a war is on-going.. our sense of sin has been dulled by the “small” sins we continue to commit and today’s generation is unaware of that not because of their own fault but because WE, the ones who know it, fail to share the truth entrusted to us.. “little” sins slowly darken our intellects and weaken our wills.. for as long as we do not accept them as sins and ask forgiveness for them, this war will go the wrong way.. in our noon mass today, i was also faced with a pretty and well endowed girl in skimpy clothing as i gave her the Body of Christ.. she seemed to be completely unaware of how immodest she looked and my first thoughts were “Lord have mercy on us all”.. the Church is presently besieged with threats but the greatest threat She faces is from her own children.. it’s very easy to get worried but in the final analysis, we still have to be filled with hope knowing that our Lord promised our first Pope “…on this rock I will build MY church”.. HE is the one buliding up HIS church. I’m sure HE knows what HE is doing and I trust HIM. may our Lord’s peace be with us all always.

    1. Yes, thanks for this testimony. It does affect us men to see immodesty. I repeat what I said above to Anne, I really hope that women in the Church will discover some freedom to go to these younger women and speak to them. It doesn;t matter if they are not your own kin, we’re all brethren in the Lord. Older women need to mentor younger women, older me ought to mentor younger men.

      1. Perhaps, Monsignor….But it depends on the Pastor. Some will not allow others to do this kind of mentoring.

    2. Bro. Allan, your comments have been very interesting, but I do believe that Peter was an “apostle” of Christ as saith in 1 Peter 1:1 and 2 Peter 1:1, and not the first “Pope” for he was never part of Rome but was persecuted, scourged and condemned to die through crucifixion by the emperor Nero in Rome as he closed his ministry. Although, as a last favor he entreated his executioners that he might be nailed to the cross with his head downward, as an expression of bitterness of his sorrow and repentance of his sin against Christ.
      The Lord has come to earth to place His law, in the right settings, through obedience to His own law. You are right to say that adultery comes from impure thoughts, for sin starts in the minds or hearts (Gen 8:21 says “imagination of man’s heart”), so with murder and other sins (1 John 3;4 Sin is the transgression of the law).. but temptation is only temptation, when still you are not entirely imbued with the Holy Spirit…
      Peace be with you..

  5. Anne in my parish the priest speaks of scriptures and of the particular sin that the scripture applies, such as this one about Luke and the sinful woman today… the church did get away from telling its parishoners that they were sinning and that the reality is they will not gain salvation, for salvation is not guaranteed just because anyone calls themselves “Christians” and going to church does not make one a Catholic. We have to take responsibility first for our own sins and our own way of life…the one question to ask is if i do this will i committ a sin and is it worth losing salvation. If we fall into the precept that we can absolve our sins by asking for forgiveness and going to confession then we are no better than the pharisees. My priest says at every mass to remember that we are in church to glorify God and to thank our Lord Jesus Christ for His sacrifice, we are not going to the beach and thus should dress appropriately. Of course not everyone likes this and not everyone likes his long sermons but he does what he feels is the right thing to guide us his sheep in the right path.

    Ann you can make oberservations to your pastor about why that teen-age was allowed to enter the church and on top of that to bring the bread and wine to the altar, that should not have happened. Yes the church will lose parishoners, but the ones that are truly Catholic, truly Christian will stay and tell others . We all search for salvation and we all want to have the Holy Spirit to help us, that will not happen if we do not act according to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ…

    May the church and the Church respond to God’s calling for the right path…

  6. Anne…Who is responsible for choosing those presenting the gifts in your parish? In our Church it seems to be the
    head usher for the day…sometimes he will choose a family. other times someone connected to the person for whom
    the mass that day is being offered. other times rather random. It would seem whomever it is in your parish needs to be reminded ( perhaps by the pastor ) to consider the dress code when making the selection. The situation you describe is not unfortunately that
    unusual…especially in warmer weather. I witnessed a similar incident involving a closing of Holy Adoration. There was
    no priest involved..just an Extraordinary Minister and an altar server ( female) similarly dressed reposing the Blessed
    Sacrament. To this day I blame myself for not bringing this to the attention of our pastor who was out of town. I knew
    both the EM and the altar server….and could not think of a way to confront this without apppearing condemnatory…so
    did nothing. Not a good thing in the eyes of the Lord! Surely we are to act responsibly when witnessing such gross
    irreverence. I pray you will show more fortitude than I did in a similar situation.and report to your pastor. Out of
    consideration for all the parishioners as well as the young girl …she too has a soul to be saved.

    1. Ok, but as I said above, the pastor may have something to say about who brings up gifts etc. but in the end it really isn’t approprate for me as a priest to be talking to women and especially girls about their immodesty, body, etc. I really hope that older women will take up their rightful role as role models and mentors. THey can talk to girls rather specifically about body parts and temptation in a way that a man cannot.

  7. I always have a problem with the word LOVE.
    Saint Faustina in her diary say : Love does not consist in words or feelings, but in deeds.It is an act of the will,it is a gift,that is to say, a giving. …….i will rise from the dead in Jesus, but first i must live in him.(diary 392)

    Many other words need to be rendered their true meaning,like salvation or repentance.

    Faith,Hope,and Charity. And after this life only Charity remains.

    1. Well, I am also mindful of St. Augustine who, when asked to define the Trinity said, “If you ask me, I don’t know….If you don’t ask me I know.” I think it is this was with love to some extent. We can’t exactly define it with words but we know what it essentially is .

  8. I am so glad that you preach this way and thank you and all those who commented. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks like that. Sin is never mentioned anymore. Interestingly the other day one of my
    evangelical acquaintances complained about the same thing. She said the minister is soft on sin. Now that is from a church which scared my son years ago about the devil in summer sunday school, he would not go back.
    I hope the pendulum starts to swing back.
    Thank you again.

    1. Yes, I know that many of the mega-churches among the Protestant are catering to a kind of prosperity gospel and a “seeker-centered” approach wherein they never go on to discuss the matters of deeper conviction such as understanding the deep drives of sin and addressing them forthrightly. All this leads to a rather surfacey approach which only celebrates. But as I tried to point out, the Good news really only makes sense when we’ve grasped the bad news.

  9. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    For the very first time, I am in disagreement with you.
    That the priest does not have a duty as the shepherd of souls to inform a young lady whose soul has been entrusted to him by God, about immodest dress but rather it is the duty of a parishoner who doesn’t even know the person involved seems very wrong to me. Recently, I finished an amazing biography The Cure D’Ars by Abbe Francois Trochu. St. John Vianney was known for continually talking to his parishoners about immodest dress, excessive patronage of taverns on Sunday, and and other problematic customs that were leading his flock away from God. At first, as you know, people were put off and angry, but over time his parish was the most fervent in all of France.

  10. As a priest u have the right and is ur responsibility to correct ur parishoner, u dont just close ur alms and let ur parisher die in sin and also u. cause u are there for us u can call the parent of the girl and let them talk to their girl, pls dont just fold ur alms and let things go out of hand

    1. What is your responsibility Clare? There are many things to consider before a man, let a lone a priest, talks to a young lady about her body and sexual matters. I do this in group settings with youth and young adults but I do not think it wise or appropraite to directly engage a woman in a private discussion about this matter. So again, I say, PLEASE women! Do what you should do. Don’t leave everything to the priest especially in a matter of this delicacy. Women need to speak to women on such matters. Be a mother, aunt, sister, mentor and friend. Young women need this. Apparently so do many of their mothers. I have ocassaionally talked to mothers about thier children. But again I say there are discretionary limits imposed on me as a priest in this matter. You Clare have to do your part. Women can talk to women explicitly in these matters. Don’t fold your arms either

  11. Our priest usually has a notice in the bulletin about dress. Everyone hereabouts dresses sloppily these days – once I went to the local mall dressed up, just having been to Latin mass, and I felt like an Amish person in New york City. I also wish priests would speak up about this more. Growing up, our pastor once said we should brush our tongues before communion out of respect. Still brushing off the coffee moss many years later… I really love the Lord. Great video. Thanks.

  12. Dear Msgr. Charles Pope, on the matter in question of inappropriate dress in church, as priest it is your duty to make a sermon on correct dress for mass because it is a matter of showing respect for God, and the church and themselves as Catholics. If you continue to see people not changing their inappropriate dress, repeat the sermon and repeat it until it gets through, you may even have to talk with the person in a family setting because it is part of your job.

    If this is too difficult for you, I suggest you contact Father John Corapi, or watch him on EWTN or go to his website. To paraphrase him…as a priest, if you can’t do your job, then quit.

  13. Your articles have always been inspirtational to me and I thank your for them. However, in regard to the question of modest attire, I agree with Anne. We as lay parishioners urgently need the leadership of the priesthood which has been given extraordinary authority and graces to confront the evil in our culture. The message we hear from the media is truth is relative and your truth isn’t my truth. I think you are unrealistic to think an older worman who does not even know the teen will have any effect upon her choices. It possibly could have the oposiite reaction. Teens like to defy authority and counter the styles and opinions of the older generation. I personally heard a young woman tell an older woman who corrected her for her inappropriate dress that she was jealous of her youthful figure and just becaue she could no longer wear “stylish” clothes, she shouldn’t put that restriction on her. Young people generally discredit what the older generation has to say. Msgr. Pope, you are a spiritual father to these young women and you have the authority, not us. I understand how uncomfortable this situation would be for you, yet confronting sin not only for her, but also for the young men of your flock is your responsibility. What if no elder women in your parish is willing to do this? Will you let it go? Reflect on the worst scene. A young man is tempted by this situation at Mass and gives in to a lustful thought and receives Holy Communion. I am sure is is happening. I hate to say this but the “buck” stops with you.

    1. I DO have elder women in my parish willing to do this. I have asked them and they have spoken to the young women. The buck does not stop with me. We are in this together. Women need to speak to women. When I instruct the Teens in sexual morality I NEVER do this without a woman present. It is wholly inappropriate for a priest to speak to youth about matters pertaining to sexuality unless other adults are present, one of whom is a woman. When we discuss modesty I usually give the basic principles and then we break into groups and the women talk to the girls and the men talk with the boys.

      The suggestion that a priest speak priavtely to a girl or young woman about such matters is very imprudent. Please consider the scandal we have just been through. There are currently very strict norms about this. Here again, I want to ask you what you have done. Have you spoken to younger women about this. This cannot be left only to a priest.

  14. I am confused. St. Padre Pio, St. John Bosco and St. John Vianney all spoke face to face to women admonishing them individually about the grave offense to God and the scandal to others in their immodest dress. Why are priests exempt now?

    1. Anne, what have you said to young women?
      The recent sex abuse crisis has made things a bit more problematic. This is an era when serious discretion is required on the part of priests. Priests are not exempt but neither are you. Have you read the articles I have published on this matter. I speak of these matters quite frequently but again Anne, stop putting all on the priest. It is the primary job of women to speak to women about personal matters of this kind. What have you done?

      Consider reading my other articles on this topic in case you have not done so.

  15. “If a priest is determined not to lose his soul, so soon as any disorder arises in the parish he must trample underfoot all human considerations as well as the fear of the contempt and hatred of his people. He must not allow anything to bar his way in the discharge of duty, even were he certain of being murdered on coming down from the pulpit. ” words of St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests

    1. Anne, what have you said or done in this matter? I am still waiting for you to answer this.
      You seem to unjustly presume I am doing nothing. I think your presumption in this unkind as well as unjust.

      When I instruct the Teens in sexual morality I NEVER do this without a woman present. It is wholly inappropriate for a priest to speak to youth about matters pertaining to sexuality unless other adults are present, one of whom is a woman. When we discuss modesty I usually give the basic principles and then we break into groups and the women talk to the girls and the men talk with the boys.

      The suggestion that a priest speak privately to a girl or young woman about such matters is very imprudent. Please consider the scandal we have just been through. There are currently very strict norms about this. Here again, I want to ask you what you have done. Have you spoken to younger women about this. This cannot be left only to a priest. Woman such as you must do their part.

  16. I’m amazed! and at how quickly parishioners are willing to assign to the pastor what his job responsibilities are , with out the slightest blushing at the importance – then again, not surprised at all, at how there appears to be a gross lack of listening to the teacher teach- who better to instruct young woman of modesty, the guardian of chastity, than a modest women?

    Keep trying Pastor …… the Christ never said it would be easy.

  17. Msgr. Pope,
    I understand that you must use discernment in addressing questions of modesty with young women. I want to thank you for taking such a serious participation in this discussion and I appreciate your sensitivity. It is so sad that priests now have to be overly cautious to address certain issues because of the sex scandal. A priest can no longer hug a child for fear that his parents will be alarmed and suspicious. Satan I fear is having a celebration of the ramifications of this sex scandal and using this travesty as an opportunity to create more havoc.
    As an older woman (68) I do not know how I would address a young teenager or young adult woman regarding this situation. No priest has ever asked me to address anyone regarding this situation and I have to admit I would not know how. However I know that in many parishes this is a serious problem that is not being addressed by anyone. Many parishioners are very uncomfortable . How is it that when a family attends Mass their sons have to be subjected to temptation. I do not believe generalized directives work for most teens. They need to be hit with a two by four as well as some of their parents.

    Could you give me suggestions on how I, as an elderly woman, without authority in the relationship with a teen could address the teen about immodest dress? Recriminations without a relationship often lead to rebellion. I commend you that you are adressing this issue somewhat. However are you missing those who don’t attend group sessions and whose only spiritual encounter is Mass. Those are also the most likley teens to be dressing inappropriately.

    I cannot imagine myself going up to a teen I do not know after Mass and telling them that their clothes are immodest. As a former teacher in a Catholic school I did address the issue and sent girls home to change their clothes on several occasions. However, I had the authority to do this.
    Please advise.

    1. I recommend that you begin with your expereince as a woman and how important it is that a young woman give a good impression. Indicate to the young girl where appropraite that she is an attractive young lady and that men will perceive her differently based on how she dresses. It is not good or decent men she will attract by her display. Avoid words like immodesty and talk instead of elegance. But in the end I will tell you that the most important virtue to cultivate in this is zeal wherein you are not concerned with how people react but merely in pleasing God. No young girl should have power of you so that if she reacts badly you are some how devastated. Further, realize you are sowing seeds. She may react badly in the moment but will think about what you have said later, often to good results. Be firm and clear with her but kind and encouraging as to a more positive path. It’s OK to be clear and say something like, “Young lady I want to say that your skirt is entrely too short. You are an attractive young lady and send entirely the worng message by the way you dress. God is surely not pleased by offenses against modesty and tempting display. I want to warn you, as a older woman that this sort of enticement does not encourage the right sort of attention from boys (men). I’m 68 years old and have learned a few things in those years about how these sort of things work. Please listen carefully to me. I don’t want you to be hurt and I don’t want young men tempted to follow their baser nature. Dress like a lady and you will attract the right sort of attention. But dress in a tempting way and you will attract the wrong sort of man who will use you and then tire of you. Trust me, I’m an older lady and I’ve learned a few things in life. Be very careful with your charms. And remember, God is watching and you will reap only what you sow.

      Now she may get mad or not. But if she is mad that doesn’t mean you did or said anything wrong. Fear God not man (or in this case girl). ou never know what a heart-felt adomonition might do. Perhaps she will consider your words later even if she scoffs in the moment. But the key point is for you to speak and fear no man (girl). Courage is one of th emost essential virtues today.

      With young men it is a little different. If they walk into church with a hat on I go and take it off and hand it to them and josh them, saying something like “I know you didn’t mean to disrespect God by wearing your hat so here it is. And while you’re at it, pull up you pants, tuch in your shirt and stand up straight like a man. But of course I have more freedom to act in situtations like that since no one would accuse me of being inappropriate by removing a guy’s hat or joshing him. But the main point is that I AM NOT AFRAID of this young man or boy. I confidently go to him and lay down the rules and summon him to be a man, not a boy. You as a women can do something similar. Exactly how is up to you and your personality but the key point is do not fear a child or youth. Do not fear them. Command respect from them.

  18. Could anyone comment on the following?

    With this in mind, let us conclude with a review of the instructions given by the Council of Vigilance found in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (Acts of the Apostolic See) to the Bishops and Ordinaries under Pope Pius XI:

    “In virtue of the Supreme Apostleship which he exercises in the universal Church, His Holiness, Pius XI, has never ceased to inculcate in word and writing that precept of St. Paul (1 Tim. 2:9-10): ‘Women also in decent apparel; adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety… as it becometh women 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 no wonder, then, that Bishops and other Ordinaries of places, as becomes ministers of Christ, have in their respective dioceses unanimously resisted in every way this licentious and shameless fashion, and in doing so have cheerfully and courageously borne the derision and ridicule sometimes directed at them by the ill-disposed.
    “Accordingly, this Sacred Congregation for the maintenance of discipline among clergy and people, in the first place accords merited approval and praise to this vigilance and action on the part of the Bishops, and moreover earnestly exhorts them to continue in the purpose and undertaking they have so well begun, and to pursue them with even greater vigor, until this contagious disease be entirely banished from decent society.
    “That this may be accomplished with greater ease and security, this Sacred Congregation, in pursuance of the orders of His Holiness, has determined upon the following regulations on the subject:

    “I. Especially pastors and preachers, when they have the opportunity, must, according to those words of St. Paul (2 Tim. 4:2): ‘be instant, reprove, entreat, rebuke,’ to the end that women may wear clothes of beocming 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.

    1. Yes, it is certainly possible for a pastor to speak in a general way to his flock. And I do. However, the notion that I should privately approach women and rebuke them or discuss these matters is imprudent and not possible in the modern age riddled with sexual abuse scandals. Quoting Pius XI who died 70+ years ago is not helpful in the modern age when we clergy are subject to far greater restrictions by sexual abuse policies and the like. We are not to discuss these matters privately with people, particularly minors. Other adults must always be present in such interactions and individuals are not to be privately approached by a priest or deacon.

  19. Anne, it is all very well for you to quote the sayings of the sainted Curé of Ars, but I can assure you he never had to deal, in the wake of a clergy sexual abuse crisis, with a young girl in hot pants and a tank top.

    I invite you to recognise two further matters:-

    [1] the priest has a duty to his own soul as well as the souls of others. Canon Law is explicit that a priest must exercise prudence in just such a case as you mention – that is to say he must be very careful when deciding how best that pastoral situation is to be addressed:-

    Can. 277 §2. “Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful.”

    [2] Catholic laity certainly have a duty in this regard, as Mgr. Pope has pointed out to you several times already. Canon Law says:-

    Can. 229 §1. “Lay persons are bound by the obligation and possess the right to acquire knowledge of Christian doctrine appropriate to the capacity and condition of each in order for them to be able to live according to this doctrine, announce it themselves, defend it if necessary, and take their part in exercising the apostolate.”

    The question, then, is how best are you to fulfil your duty of announcing and defending to the girl you mentioned the Church’s teaching on modesty. It may be that the solution is to bring the matter before the parish Pastoral Council, inviting them to put up a notice in the church porch indicating (with pictures, perhaps – as I have seen in many parishes in the Philippines) what type of wear is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

    So far as concerns Mgr. Pope’s response, he has perhaps overlooked the fact that the situation Anne describes relates to the liturgy. The parish priest is responsible for regulating the liturgy in his parish, and – quite apart from the question of who is to counsel the young girl on her duty to dress modestly – he would need to ensure that the person(s) who organise the offertory procession are correctly instructed on what is appropriate dress for those who take part in it.

  20. the previous posts putting the blame on fr. charles amaze me.. i’m a sinful lay person not a priest but i understand that there are a lot of reasons why a priest can’t devote all his homilies to immodesty and why it would be imprudent to talk to girls privately.. we all know what the recent scandals have done to the the reputation of priests.. this generation demands all of us the in the forefront of the battle that our church is fighting.. if we are to expect that every error we see in church should be fixed by the priest, we’ve already forgotten what the church really is and what christians are called to do.. it is very convenient (and satisfying) for most of us to toss the blame to the priest when something goes wrong.. this thread is no different.. something wrong happened and the priest must hang..

    prudence on fr. charles part is required in this case and he has it. i strongly suggest to everyone who wants to condemn his “lack of action” to ask themselves what i heard from fr john corapi.. “how many hours of your life have you spent praying for your priest?”

    may our heavenly Father grant us the Truth to enlighten our minds and the Spirit to enflame our hearts with love (especially for priests). amen.

  21. Concerning the young woman in short shorts with the revealing top, I am not Catholic, but I have encountered this sort of thing in the churches I have attended over the last twelve years. After talking to these young girls about their clothing, and seeing nothing come of it, I began to talk to them, and tell them what Jesus did for me. I also tried to just love them with the love of Christ. There were two responses: These girls became more modest in their clothing; or they did not return to church. The girls that stayed became faithful Christians, and they were glad that I had pointed out the fact that their clothing was, well, not modest. They were grateful. I believe that there is nothing stronger than Jesus’ love when we show it to another. His love can break all kinds of barriers and expose to people their own shortcomings and sins. I believe we need to teach on sin in the church also, but in the church I attend, sin and it’s consequences is one of the main teachings. I attend a charismatic or full gospel church. Sin is a reality of life, and must be dealt with. People must be taught how to deal with different temptations, and learn what giving in to temptation will do to their relationship to God. It is vital to our walk with Jesus Christ. We need God more than we need the air we breathe, or the water we drink. Jesus Christ is our Life! We must teach Him, and part of that teaching concerns being able to defend ourselves from our own sins by knowing how to recognize our sins and how to repent to God for them.

  22. One way to help young people who dress immodestly for services is to show to them the love of Jesus. I am convinced that there is nothing stronger than Jesus’ love to break down barriers and to show to people their own shortcomings. Sure, sin is a reality of life, and needs to be taught in any church, and the Catholic church needs to plan a teaching on sin and go-to! I belong to full gospel, which already has a teaching on sin, and what it does to the person who indulges in it, or who gives in to it occasionally knowingly. Repentance is the cure that cancels out our temporary deal with the devil, and God’s mercy clothes us with forgiveness after we repent. But people have to know the truth about the perils about sin. There is no way to sin and “be nice” while doing it. Sin is the ultimate selfishness of man, provoked by Satan. There is no ‘nice’ in sin.

  23. This is one of my favorite Bible passages. I attended Mass at the Marion Brothers. The priest related God’s divine mercy to this passage. The woman was fogiven because she had greater love. Then he asked, how many of us are the pharisees of today?

  24. The priest is our shepherd, he leads us. He therefore needs to lay the law down and then enforce it! Msgr is right, talking with young ones about sexual matters must NOT be done alone (although what about confession?), There should always be an adult present when discussing such matters. But there are ways of speaking to the young woman Msgr., like if you notice her upon entering or when leaving the church. Don’t you greet your parishioners? A teenager is almost always with her family – pull them aside or have them meet you after Mass. To not address this sinful behavior is imo a mortal sin, as it very well may cause someone else to sin! The buck really does stop with the priest. As lay people we can bring it up, but it probably will just lead to a fight or someone saying it’s not of your business. i understand your reluctance Msgr. to deal with this, but this IS your job, ministry. Do not be afraid, He is with you always.

  25. Msgr. Pope is correct. Remember, the Priest is not the only member of the Church. The Church is made up of the entire body of Christ. Why then would any woman feel it was not her responsibility as much as the Priest’s to correct another woman’s actions in Church? In America’s societal and cultural modes, a man, including a Priest (they are men), would never talk to a teen-age girl about her inappropriate dress. He would consult a woman.

    This article on sin, an often overlooked area in many Churches, is awesome. Please reread the article and refocus on its contents, somehow this discussion has gotten way off base. A great book to read about sin is The Sinner’s Guide by Venerable Louis of Granada. I cannot reread it enough. Peace In Christ.

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