EDITED: Modesty, Dress Code, Etiquette for Church

Folks, this is intended as a resource thread. What kind of teachings and instructions have we received from our Popes, Bishops, and Priests, regarding modesty and appropriate dress for church? Etiquette questions can be included as well - photographing and walking around without disturbing those who pray, the need to stay silent/no loud chatting, etc.

There’s a lot of information available on the internet, and I would like to post here what I found - teachings, sermons, specific how-to instructions and pictorial guides of dress code - information that has been issued, or approved by, our Catholic clergy.

This is very important - I’m not looking for the laity’s own ideas, unless they ran those ideas by the clergy, and got our Bishops’ and Priests’ approval. I’m also not looking for endless private opinions by laypeople, without grounding in official Church teaching or reference to Church teaching documents, of the sort of “I think that tourists should be allowed to break the dress code, when they come from the beach/from Disneyland, or from jogging in the park, and wish to visit the church, while wearing clearly immodest daisy dukes, jogging shorts. miniskirts, tank tops, and sports bras/bikini tops”. Please let’s keep this thread as a resource thread: this is what our Popes, Bishops, Priests, canonized Saints and Doctors of the Church told us to wear in God’s House.

I would appreciate any contributions that fall within the scope of the thread - once again, I’m looking for specific teachings and instructions regarding modesty, dress codes, and etiquette for visiting Catholic churches, teachings and instructions issued and approved by our Catholic shepherds.

There’s clearly a need to disseminate this information, in order to educate ourselves and help others, converts to the Catholic Church and cradle Catholics as well, who wish to know the specific expectations of modesty and dress code in the Catholic Church, again in accord with the teachings of our legitimate teachers the Popes, Bishops, Priests, canonized Saints and Doctors of the Catholic Church.

After this introduction, here are the instructions for dress code when visiting Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica, quoted from saintpetersbasilica.org/touristinfo.htm :

**Dress Code

The Dress Code is strictly enforced at St. Peter’s Basilica. No shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts. This applies to both men and women. Even if you get through security, you will be turned away by the attendants at the door. On a hot summer day, I’ve seen dozens of men in shorts turned away.**

Here’s a sermon by a Catholic priest (Fr. Dominic Mary) on EWTN, regarding the Catholic Church’s teachings on the virtues of purity and modesty, with quotes and explanations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as the requirements and specific norms to dress modestly when setting foot inside a Catholic church - please click the link below to watch the youtube video of the homily:


To summarize those norms of modesty: “In church, please cover your shoulders and knees.”

Inappropriate for church:

-shorts (for both men and women)
-tank tops (for both men and women)
-dresses or skirts above the knees
-bare shoulders
-bare arms
-low-cut dresses
-sleeveless shirts and dresses that bare the arms
-very tight fitting clothing
-bare midriffs
-exposed bellies
-exposed backs
-transparent dresses
-clothes that expose the bellies, backs, cleavage etc while bending down
-blouses and tops that are too tight, revealing and provocative
-tight-fitting clothing that shows the outline of the underwear/underclothes
-tight-fitting spandex clothes
-vulgar tee shirts, vulgar/offensive inscriptions

Necessary for church:

-pants, skirts, dresses should come down to the knees or below
-shirts and dresses should cover the shoulders and have some sort of a sleeve

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Article from the National Catholic Register with specific how-to-dress instructions issued by our Catholic Bishops and Priests, and by the Vatican - quote from ncregister.com/daily-news/modesty-at-mass-is-a-must1/ :

**Modesty at Mass Is a Must **
The importance of dressing for God, not the culture

by JIM GRAVES09/29/2011

Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago, the archbishop of Leon, Mexico, has called on Catholics to dress respectfully when attending Mass. …posters were placed at the entrances of Leon parishes requesting that women not enter wearing miniskirts, sleeveless shirts or low-cut blouses. The archbishop said, “If you have any respect for [a church], dress appropriately. This is not a misogynist attitude of any sort. I am simply asking for the dignity and decorum that this place calls for, that is all.”

He added that men, too, need to be respectful in their choice of dress before entering a house of worship.

Davao, Philippines, Archbishop Fernando Capalla has made a point of reminding his parishioners of the code, stating, “Everyone should be able to dress up simply and decently [but not necessarily] elegantly for Mass. … Beach wear and working-out outfits are not for solemn and sacred celebrations like the Mass.”

…[at] the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Sacramento, Calif… …dress-code signs, similar to those at the Vatican, at the church entrances… The sign indicates that shorts, bare shoulders and tight clothing are not appropriate for church.

For Msgr. Christopher Nalty, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in New Orleans, dressing appropriately for church is one in a list of 14 rules of “Good Church Etiquette” he distributes annually to parishioners. The list also asks that parishioners arrive on time and stay for the entire Mass (as he likes to say, “Only one person left the Last Supper early”), genuflect towards the Blessed Sacrament, join in the singing, listen to the reading, prepare properly for holy Communion, and avoid “chit-chat which distracts others who are connecting with God through prayer before Mass.”

Here’s what the Vatican expects from us, and here’s why - quote:

More than just making a request, the Vatican has insisted that tourists visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome adhere to a strict dress code. Pictorial signs explaining the dress code are on display at entrances; men and women in shorts or with bare shoulders (e.g. wearing tank tops) are routinely turned away by the Swiss Guards.

The primary motivation for such policies, say those in leadership roles in the Church, is to promote the virtue of modesty. The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers several paragraphs on the topic of modesty (2521-2524), saying in part: “Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. … Modesty inspires a way of life that makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.”

Many of the popes have spoken out about the importance of modesty, including Pope John Paul II in his book Love and Responsibility: “Man, alas, is not such a perfect being that the sight of the body of another person … can arouse in him merely a disinterested liking which develops into an innocent affection.”

Read more: ncregister.com/daily-news/modesty-at-mass-is-a-must1/#ixzz1fnjd223Y

And here’s a reader’s comment to the article, regarding how this parishioner’s priest enforces modesty at wedding ceremonies:

I love that our pastor makes it quite clear that ANY of the bridal party with bare shoulders or exposed cleavage or otherwise dressed inappropriately for the occasion, will be cause for him to leave the church and there will be no wedding. He has walked out before on a stunned bridal party that tested him. It’s not that difficult to cover up for an hour.

Read more: ncregister.com/daily-news/modesty-at-mass-is-a-must1/#ixzz1fnlf1aUc

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Ha. You don’t have to wear shoes to visit the Vatican! Also, V necks seem to be the superior choice.

I am not making fun of modesty. I think the graphic does a good job of quickly communicating the dress requirements, I just think it is funny that they don’t have shoes.

You don’t need shoes when you have no feet. :slight_smile:

I think someone needs to address the Lululemon yoga pants at Mass. For many men they becone an occasion of lust. As a woman, they become a situation of envy. I really want tla pair of Lululemon yoga pants…yes that’s it.


Sure, there should be respect, decency and modesty, but with somany other issues facing the world and the church, my heart is made glad by just seeing people at Mass regardless of their dress.

From Croatian Times - quote from croatiantimes.com/news/General_News/2010-08-17/13126/Vodnjan_priest_has_expelled_6,000_scantily-clad_tourists-replay-598 :

        • 21:00

Vodnjan priest has expelled 6,000 scantily-clad tourists

*Croatian Times *

The priest in charge of St. Blaise Church in Vodnjan in Istria has expelled over 6,000 visitors in the past couple of years for inappropriate behaviour and indecent exposure.

The church - located several kilometres from Pula – is well-known for the mummified bodies of three saints and more than 350 relics, and Marijan Jelinic is committed to making sure it gets the respect it deserves.

“We remove around 2,000 tourists from the premises annually. This year, we have already expelled 1,000.” The visitors are usually “distanced” from the premises for not respecting the dress code that forbids clothing that is too short or revealing.

Standards of Modesty in Dress
Imprimatur dated Sept. 24, 1956
“A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.”
The Cardinal Vicar of Pius XII
p.s. About that quote - in the book it is noted that "short sleeves were also permitted as a temporary concession, with ecclesiastical approval, because of “impossible market conditions.”

Thanks for the info. This is the sort of information I’m trying to disseminate in this thread - official guidelines and instructions from our shepherds (Pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, etc).

Quote from catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0903275.htm :


Vatican dress code: Do’s and don’ts for presidential, pilgrim attire

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

Pilgrims to the Vatican may have their own stories of disappointment or near misses to tell. On sweltering summer days in Rome, **scores of visitors are turned away from St. Peter's Basilica or the Vatican Museums because they're not dressed decently.**

Transparent clothing, halter and tank tops, spaghetti-straps, and shorts or skirts that don’t reach the knees are strictly forbidden.

Slap-dash adjustments are accepted; for example, a shawl or sweater can be draped in such a way that it covers bare knees or shoulders. One tourist was begrudgingly allowed in the basilica after using her spaghetti straps to secure two paper tissues over her bare shoulders.

A museum employee told CNS that dressing decently is a common courtesy; one is after all a guest in “a place deserving respect” when visiting the museums or a pilgrim in a place of worship when visiting the basilica.

Clothes do indeed make the woman and the man, and they can also make or break a visit to the Vatican.

Quote from upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2010/07/28/Shorts-bare-shoulders-banned-in-Vatican/UPI-36851280289657/ :

Shorts, bare shoulders banned in Vatican

Published: July 28, 2010 at 12:00 AM

VATICAN CITY, July 27 (UPI) – The Vatican is enforcing a longstanding dress code, with Swiss Guard officers pulling aside tourists and others to tell them when they’re showing too much skin.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported Tuesday the rules on modest dress, previously applied only to those visiting St Peter’s Basilica, are now being invoked at the official customs point between Rome and the walled Catholic enclave.

Men in shorts and women with exposed knees or uncovered shoulders were all stopped by the guards and asked if they knew “how things worked here,” ANSA said. Even locals were caught off-guard, assuming some new edict had been issued.

"This is the Vatican City and for reasons of respect, you are not allowed in with uncovered shoulders or wearing shorts," was the standard explanation, the news agency said.

The change in enforcement sent women looking for shawls and scarves, and men looking for trousers.

Read more: upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2010/07/28/Shorts-bare-shoulders-banned-in-Vatican/UPI-36851280289657/#ixzz1zpzYMvL9

Dress code and etiquette for visiting St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City - quote from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Vatican_City :

A dress code is enforced for entry into St. Peter’s Basilica. The code is based upon what is considered “modest” and “appropriate” dress for visiting a Catholic church, and tourists and visitors are reminded that, although St. Peter’s is an architectural and artistic monument, it is first a place of worship and prayer. The dress code forbids:

hats for lay men inside the basilica
shorts/skirts above the knees
sleeveless shirts
shirts exposing the navel
shirts for women that expose cleavage
shirts which contain profanity
excessive jewellery

The use of mobile phones is also prohibited, as is smoking.

How about metal clothes? o:

Any clarification of excessive jewelry? Does that also include religious jewelry (long chains with gigantic crucifixes go example)?

Unfortunately I don’t have more information on that, but I suppose this is a problem easily remedied on the spot - one can always remove the excessive jewelry and enter the church without wearing that jewelry, if the Vatican’s guards request it.

Could you elaborate please? Clothes made of metal? Clothes worn by fans of heavy metal rock music?

St Clement of Alexandria

“But by no manner of means are women to be allotted to uncover and exhibit any part of their person, lest both fall,–the men by being excited to look, they by drawing on themselves the eyes of the men.”

Padre Pio

“By Padre Pio’s explicit wish, women must enter the confessional wearing skirts AT LEAST 8 INCHES BELOW THE KNEE. IT IS FORBIDDEN TO BORROW LONGER DRESSES IN CHURCH AND TO WEAR THEM TO CONFESSION.”

“The Church is the house of God. It is forbidden for men to enter with bare arms or in shorts. It is forbidden for women to enter in trousers, without a veil on their head, in short clothing, low necklines, sleeveless or immodest dresses.” Saint Padre Pio

Decree of the Congregation of the Council, 1930.

“Women must be decently dressed, especially when they go to church. The parish priest may, with due prudence, refuse them entrance to the church and access to the reception of the Sacraments [each] and every time that they come to church immodestly dressed.” General Pastoral Directive, 1915 A.D.

Girls 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 church." Decree of the Congregation of the Council (by the mandate of Pope Pius XI), 1930 A.D.

Read more: gadel.info/2011/05/modesty-and-purity-quotes.html#ixzz1zwy1kytI

Audio Sancto sermon

Modesty: the Virtue That Guards Purity

One more thing about the “Vatican” dress code: it applies not only for the Vatican, but also for all the churches of Rome and Italy, the Marian shrines at Knock (Ireland), Lourdes (France), Medjugorje (Croatia), and practically at all European churches. People are expected to cover their shoulders and wear pants or skirts/dresses that go below the knees, when visiting Catholic churches on the European continent.

Quote from cbsnews.com/2100-202_162-563585.html :

February 11, 2009 8:35 PM
Vatican Dress Code Steams Tourists

With temperatures soaring, tempers are flaring as the Vatican’s dress police turn back tourists in shorts and bare shoulders trying to get into St. Peter’s Basilica.

Enforcement of the dress turns into a battle each summer, but the verbal skirmishes have been heightened this July because Rome has been in the grips of a relentless heat wave.

For weeks, temperatures have reached into the 90 degrees Fahrenheit each day and the thousands of tourists trudging through the streets seem dressed more for a day at the beach – shorts, miniskirts, tank tops for both men and women.

At the Vatican, authorities have erected signs showing that no one can enter the basilica with bare legs and bare shoulders. Guards --neatly dressed in shirts and ties – patrol the entrances.

Showing true entrepreneurial spirit, vendors have popped up at various points around the vast square, keeping one step ahead of the police.

A student identifying himself as Marko from Yugoslavia, visiting the Vatican with his grandmother, plunked down a euro for paper pants,

Not only the Vatican but the diocese of Rome and its hundreds of churches require what authorities consider appropriate dress.

Quote from atheism.about.com/b/2010/08/09/vatican-dress-codes-gets-stricter.htm :

Vatican Dress Codes Gets Stricter

By Austin Cline, About.com GuideAugust 9, 2010

Visitors to the Vatican have always had to dress somewhat modestly to enter St. Peter’s Basilica – no shorts, short skirts, or sleeveless tops allowed. Recently, though, the Swiss Guards have been imposing similar restrictions before tourists can enter the entire Vatican grounds, not just St. Peter’s.

The tough dress code also applied to Romans using the Vatican’s pharmacy, supermarket and post office.

Quote from iamdomo.com/2009/10/02/rihanna-gets-kicked-out-of-church/ :

Rihanna Gets Kicked Out of CHURCH?

By Domo October 2, 2009 Catholic church Celebrities go to church Rihanna Rihanna too sexy for church

www crunktastical net is reporting that Rihanna attempted to go to church [St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy] for a little mid-day worship but the Catholics were NOT having it. They sent her away to cover up those shoulders and legs. Its reported that she went back and found a make-shift get-up that was reminiscent of some red Martha Stewart sheets.

Quote from anythinghollywood.com/2009/09/rihanna-barred-from-church/ :

Rihanna Barred From Church


Rihanna is barred from church. Not any church, but Rihanna was kept from entering St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice! Rihanna had on a scandalous outfit with a leopard print bra sticking out…hello! You’re in a holy historical shrine.

Yikes. That’s not something Rihanna should be proud of. From the Sun:

She has since been ticked off by no lesser authority than the Catholic Church for her racy outfits.

After a taking a trip on a gondola , the skimpily clad star tried to enter Saint Mark’s Basilica in the city’s famous Piazza San Marco.

But strict rules mean shoulders and legs must be covered.

To beat the ban, she rustled up a makeshift ensemble which looked suspiciously like she had just grabbed two red tablecloths from a nearby restaurant.

Read more: anythinghollywood.com/2009/09/rihanna-barred-from-church/#ixzz1zx2xmJC5

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