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Dress Code For Mass Reasonable To Some, Unacceptable To Others

Updated: July 23, 2007 05:00 PM GMT
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Women are refraining from wearing shorts and clothes with plunging necklines to church, but others believe people should dress as they please, despite Manila archdiocese´s new guidelines on proper Mass attire.

Lanelyn Carillo, a 30-year-old office worker, says she became "conscious" of the way she dresses for Mass after seeing a poster outside the church showing what is and what is not "appropriate attire."

She told UCA News on July 5 after Mass at Saint John the Baptist Church in Quiapo, downtown Manila, she used to go to Mass in jeans and a shirt, but she carefully picked a top with sleeves on that Sunday. "I believe the guidelines will strengthen" the respect Filipinos have for a "holy place," she added.

Posters outside the church list and illustrate "proper attire" for Mass. Other parishes in the archdiocese have displayed the posters since June 19 when its Ministry for Liturgical Affairs (MLA) gave the guidelines to priests.

Men are asked to wear collared shirts with sleeves, and jeans or slacks, but caps, sports jerseys and shorts are "improper." For women, collared blouses, dresses, skirts, "corporate or office attire or school uniforms" are advised.

The list also provides examples of "improper" attire for women at church -- blouses with spaghetti straps or tank tops, miniskirts or skimpy shorts, sleeveless dresses or those with revealing necklines.

In Carillo´s view, there is "nothing wrong" with dressing up "the way you want yourself to be seen by others," though such "freedom" has limits.

On July 6 at Our Lady of the Abandoned Church in Marikina City, east of Manila, 64-year-old Lito Limbo criticized the dress code as an "unacceptable" imposition. "What is in the person´s heart is more important," he told UCA News. Limbo also expressed concern that the dress code would lead to a further "decline" in the number of churchgoers.

The Church´s National Filipino Catholic Youth Survey of 2002 described most Filipino Catholic youths as "nominal Catholics." Some 44.9 percent of Catholic Filipinos aged 13-39 reported "seldom practicing their faith," and up to 3.8 percent said they "never practice their faith." The survey defined "nominal Catholics" as people living their faith in a "personal way," such as by praying or doing good deeds, yet "very seldom" going to church for Mass.

But Tonton Casado, an MLA program assistant, told UCA News on July 19 that parishioners asked the MLA in June to issue guidelines on proper Mass attire.

Priests shared the feedback of parishioners at archdiocesan clergy meetings before deciding to draft the guidelines. Father Godwin Tatlonghari, MLA´s assistant minister, issued a circular letter containing the guidelines on June 19 to parish priests, chaplains and shrine rectors in the archdiocese.

According to the circular, parishioners themselves had asked priests to take note of the "increasing number" of people attending Mass and other Church functions "garbed in a way that disrespects the sanctity of the House of God and the sacredness of the liturgical celebration."

Corazon Yamsuan, Manila archdiocese´s communications director, told UCA News on July 13 that the liturgical ministry did not discuss sanctions, such as refusing Communion or entry to churches. "Parishes may choose to just talk individually to those who are not in proper attire, but only to remind them," Yamsuan said. The guidelines were issued as a "reminder" to churchgoers about the "proper attitude" or "disposition" in church and at Mass, she explained.

The media have discussed questions about penalties parishioners may face.

In Cebu City, 565 kilometers southeast of Manila, Monsignor Esteban Binghay told reporters that pastors tend to be "considerate" about how people dress depending on their situation. If the church is near a park or public place, he said, people understandably come to Mass dressed for a picnic.

He also said that some laborers, especially in the construction industry, work even on Sundays and want to attend Mass. He said undershirts and shorts may seem "improper" in one context but are alright in another. He stressed that improper dress could "distract" the congregation but is not sinful.

Monsignor Cayetano Gerbolingo, Cebu cathedral´s administrator, told UCA News that he favors giving parishioners "fatherly advice" and cautions priests against "humiliating" Massgoers.

END

(Accompanying photos available at here)

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