“Ask a Priest: What If a Clothes Dispute Pushed My Daughter From the Faith?”

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Q: My 17-year-old daughter has always been a devoted Catholic. She served as an altar server, and at age 16 became a reader at Mass. She trained for it and started reading and loved it. A new priest was assigned to the parish, and my daughter felt that this new priest didn’t like a 16-year-old being a reader. Soon, some members of the parish made comments about how she dressed. At first, I told my daughter to let it go and continue reading. Then I received a phone call from the rectory saying that my daughter needed to dress better. I asked what they meant by “better” (her knees showed with her skirts). My daughter broke down in tears and told me she never wants to step foot in that church again. My husband and I at this point were upset at the treatment of my daughter. I called back and said that she was removing herself from being a reader. They said they were sorry, and our family never heard from this church again. We had since moved to another parish. Since then, my daughter has gotten away from the faith, saying she feels the Church is judgmental and corrupt. She still goes to church and prays, but is now into New Age belief, too. I told her to forgive the priest and the parishioners, and she has promised me she has. But I can feel the resentment is still there. She loved volunteering and now could care less about it. Please help! – K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I am sorry to hear about the situation.

It would be good to intensify your prayers for your daughter. The clothing issue is one thing — perhaps the matter could have been handled better — but it’s another for a Catholic to start embracing New Age beliefs.

It might be good to help your daughter see the Church, not primarily as an institution with imperfect human members, but as the mystical body of Christ. Jesus who suffered and died on a cross for your daughter is the Head of the Church.

It is he who gives himself in the Eucharist, who pardons sins through the sacrament of reconciliation, who blesses marriages, who teaches through the magisterium.

Jesus is at the center of the Church. He is the reason why we are here. He founded the Church. He sustains it. It is his instrument for helping people reach heaven.

Still, it is understandable that your family felt slighted in this whole incident.

It would have been better for someone at the parish to speak with your family and explain the issue and work out a mutual agreement. The cold call from the rectory without prior dialogue seemed like a bad approach.

It would give the devil a chuckle to see your daughter drift from the faith because of the length of a skirt. So, try to remember the real culprit who is lurking in the background.

I hope some of this helps. Count on my prayers.

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  1. . Most teenagers start to question their faith and it is part of coming to deeper committed faith. . You can be proud of your daughter and just be there as she continues her faith journey. What is annoying about these situations is that the pastor will not have a clue re the damage that he has caused and will carry on insulting everybody he disagrees with. My mother used to do street evangelising. The majority of people who had left the church had not left because of faith crisis but because of insensitive priests and nuns..

  2. I feel that a person should be presentable going to God’s house. They are not going to a park. Not to wear a gown or suit, but need to show reverence and respect for the Lord. This should have been handled in a better way. They should have sat down and explained why the way you dress matters and is for reverence and respect for our Lord. If you are to proclaim the Word of the Lord, then, yes, you should be dressed respectful and nice. Each priest has a different way of running their church. Some are more casual then others. This should not be. There should be a uniformity with dressing properly when proclaiming the Word or being an extra ordinary Eucharistic minister. I mean by that to dress respectfully and reverently.
    Unfortunately the priests or Pastors allow it and then that is why it gets worse and worse. If the Pastor does not make it known how to be respectful in the church, then people just get more and more relaxed. People then say, God loves us the way we are and its not about the clothes.
    When things are allowed to get relaxed that is why you get this attitude. You can’t really blame the parishioners if they are not influenced to dress appropriately. But, then again, people should have some common sense about how they dress at certain places. I bet these people take extra time to get dressed up or nicer to go to a dinner or other occasions. Don’t you think the Lord deserves at least that, if not way more???
    In this instance, I can only go by what was said. I do not know what was said or how it was said by the church. We don’t have two sides of the story here.
    Just going by this statement, The girl was allowed to dress a certain way with one priest and a new priest wanted it to be more respectful, which is great. But, if it was just said the way it is written here, then I can understand the girl being upset. It probably made her feel like the priest did not like her. The church had every right and I feel was correct in asking her to dress more respectful for her role in the mass. If the church would have just sat down with the girl and her parents and explained why, then all would have been correct and better.
    I pray that this girl finds a priest or someone to explain things to her in a good way and that she does not loose faith in the Catholic church because of the way this church handled it. God loves her and wants her home.

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