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Rita wrote:

Hi, guys —

My cousins are 12 and 10. I attended their dance recital for the first time. I noticed that some of the costumes were immodest, in the sense that the shorts which they were wearing were quite short. They dance in a group with other girls and the outfits are picked for them.

The types of dances such as ballet, jazz and lyrical require clothing that is snug on the body. The intention is not to cause lust to others but to be able to dance. Outside of the performance, these clothes are not worn and my cousins dress modestly. My question is:

  • Should they be allowed to perform in such attire or should they be finding another type of dance with more modest outfits?
  • Is it a mortal sin for these girls to perform in such outfits?


  { Should my cousins be allowed to perform in such attire or find a dance with more modest outfits? }

Mike replied:

Hi Rita,

The only place in the Catechism that mentions this topic is when they are talking about the Ninth Commandment.

Under II. The Battle for Purity
2521 Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.

2522 Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.

2523 There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.

2524 The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.

Because, as paragraph 2524 states: The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another, I would encourage their parents to talk to your local pastor or priests about how to handle your first question, in lieu of what I have provided you.

I know you love and care for your relatives but the parents, not you, are the primary educators of their children. Unless you have a good relationship with their parents, bring this issue up once, in charity, and pray the parents make the appropriate decisions.

I also found these websites that may be helpful:

Finally, it is very hard to commit a mortal sin. A mortal sin requires:

  • knowledge of what you are doing
  • the knowledge that it is grievously wrong, and
  • full consent of the will.

I hope this helps,

[Related posting]

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