The Dress Code for the Vatican - Should it be Universal?

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**The Dress Code for the Vatican - Should it be Universal? **
Posted by Dr. Taylor Marshall

Below is the modesty Dress Code enforced for entry into Saint Peter’s Basilica.

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

In my lowly layman’s opinion, this same dress code should be printed out and posted on the door of every Catholic Church on earth…the immodest clothing displayed on Sunday mornings is over the limit.

The sad thing is that people (especially mothers) used to have a cultured sense of decency. Nowadays this has been lost so that grown men and women see nothing wrong with entering a church half clad. The solution is not to judge and shame others but to bring about a re-education on what is modest and appropriate.

I appreciate your balanced and carefully weighed thoughts on this matter.

PS: Our Lady’s words at Fatima in 1917: “Certain styles and fashions are being introduced which gravely offend My Divine Son.”

Folks, please see also discussion and opinions at .


A great idea. In a hermit Monastic community near where I live, they have a big size sign in the entrance, speaking about modesty, and encouraging people to dress well and to not induce others into sin.



I recently asked my priest this, following weeks of readings with girls in short shorts… and I mean short!!

I understand not judging others in mass, and focusing on the readings but when the readers are the ones dressed immodestly I get annoyed.

I actually have an issue with how immodest society is in whole, but guess that’s my own issue.

Yes. I would love this to be a rule… afterall we are visiting Christ Himself!! My mom always said, “How long would you prepare getting ready to celebrate a wedding? Well, you should spend longer getting ready to celebrate the miracle you’re about to see today!!”

I chose no not because I don’t believe in modesty but I hate the idea of a bouncer at the door of a church judging everyone who walks in the doors…what if a homeless guy who comes to Mass with no sleeves gets thrown out cause he looks like he’s not homeless…people just have to be reasonable…unfortunately many are not with their dress

Every Catholic church on “Earth”? No way.

Modesty standards differ from country to country, depending on what kind of dress is considered sexualized in the local culture. It also depends on the variety of clothes that are easily available and affordable to the local population.

For example, your proposed standard would prevent most of the population from Haiti from getting to Mass…

I voted no. But really there wasn’t a choice that match what I thought.

I feel the Vatican rules are great…for the Vatican. Everyone has to remember, people going into St Peter’s aren’t all Catholic, by any means. AND aren’t going for Mass. They are tourists, going into a tourist location. The dress code you show here is the same one used for the Vatican museum. So you know that the dress code isn’t because they are walking into a church.

My local parish isn’t a tourist destination. Those walking in are from all walks of life, including those that can’t in their wildest dreams afford a trip to Rome. They come on their lunch break, or while they are running errands with their children. They come in the middle of the night for Adoration. They come directly from the hospital, after spending the entire day with sick family members.

Do you really want to say to someone, “sorry, you are dressed well enough to attend Mass. I know you think you need to spend time with Jesus, but He doesn’t want to spend time with you, while you are looking like THAT.”

Living in Florida I don’t believe that the following items are particularly improper:

shorts/skirts above the knees
sleeveless shirts (for women)

If there were to be a dress code established I think we should go whole hog and require suits, with ties, for men and dresses/suits for women, much like all of the Protestant denominations do in my town.

I used to know an adult friend of my parents who would say “He cares that you’re there, not what you wear”. I think that dressing nicely for church is something that should develop naturally the closer one grows to Jesus and the sacrament.

I think modesty guidelines would be a nice thing for the parish to send to their own parishoners, but that they need not be posted anywhere in or near the church. That way, those who are planning ahead of time to go to mass can dress accordingly but drop-ins or people who decide to go last minute don’t feel like they are breaking some sort of modesty rule and turn away.

I don’t really agree with the explanations offered in the poll as reasons for the “Yes” or “No” as they don’t match my thoughts.

I’m all for modesty, but I think that attempting to implement a universal Catholic dress code world-wide would go over like a lead balloon.

It makes sense to have such a dress code at St. Peter’s because that is the “definitive” (for lack of a better word) Catholic Church. To turn a parish’s ushers into bouncers at every Catholic Church in the world would be disastrous.

I like the idea of posting the sign… with a caveat of, “do not leave if you are not appropriately dressed, but please consider your attire for future visits”…

Rules of modesty differ from country to country, state to state, culture to culture. You can’t have one universal rule for modesty, things just don’t work that way. Many countries are way poorer than we are here in the first world countries and hardly have any clothes and can’t be expected to have clothes that fit your your standards or “modesty”. Plus modesty has nothing to do with clothing, but that is another story. Also I agree that you could be turning people away, maybe even the people who need to be going to church the most.

One size doesn’t fit all. Even in the United States, clothing can vary from region to region. In many rural areas, some Parishes only have one Mass and that’s Saturday night were you can get those coming in from their respective jobs, including farmers and ranchers. Other parts of the country, in particular tourist regions, you can get alot of folks taking time out of their vacations to attend Mass. You wouldn’t expect these folks to pack appropriately for Mass, espically if they decide to attend at the last minute?

Stop obessing over how adults dress and be thankful they are attending in the first place.

Oh no… the old discussion about modesty and justifying the lack of it is going to appear again!


Hahaha… :eek:

P.S. Remember this, from the Catechism:

Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.



Excellent idea!!!

In my opinion: shorts that are not too short, especially dress/khaki shorts, are totally acceptable church attire. Also sleeveless golf shirts and “shell” tops for women are totally acceptable as well. They are sleeveless but still modest.

I think God knows what we look like - with or sans clothing. I am reminded of the line, Naked came I into the world, and naked shall I leave it. So lets be clear, we are dressing so as not to scandalize our neighbors and to show respect for the reason we are there. That being said, I think I agree with the folks here who say it depends a lot on local custom. On the other hand, I have been in contact with people who would not go to church because they felt that others would judge them. Seriously. They felt they would not meet the “style” standard at the church. I don’t think we want to go there.

I agree with this.

It’s hot here where I live in the middle of the desert, and if folks want to wear long shorts I have no problem with that. Don’t care what kind of shoes you wear.
I have a problem with tight clothing that shows every nook and cranny and roll of the person wearing it. And also with sleeveless blouses.
But I have no problems with jeans, sweats, t-shirts etc.

I said no. It’s not necessary for all churches. The Vatican is the Vatican.

They had no problem with me wearing shorts and a coared shirt when I visited the Vatican in June 99’.

They did at San Marco in Venice though.

I found the wokers at the Vatican very kind and approachable. I left with the most positive impression.

For instance, I have a visual impairment and during the Wed. audience my wife and I went up to one of the “guys in a suit” and told him. Well he took us up to the area to the right of the Pope just behind the handicapped folks who are always in the front row. It was great of him!

Regarding trivialities we need more :slight_smile: and less :mad:

I attend an EF mass periodically as well and sometimes wear jeans and have even worn shorts!! Never been approached.

I also did not like the reasons given for the yes or no…

Modest, as well as formal, dress changes from culture to culture, it doesn’t make sense to set up a universal dress code for Mass. (This might just be part of the reason why Rome has somehow “overlooked” this issue. ;))

I think it is important for parishes to stress the importance of modesty at Mass and making an effort to dress nicely (recognizing that what counts as “nice” differs from person to person), but they should not be turning people away from the Church because of what they are wearing.

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