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Pastoral letter by François de Montmorency, monseigneur of Laval, against the extravagance and vanity of women in the church, 1682.


FRANÇOIS, by the grace of God and of the Holy See, first Bishop of Québec.

If the Fathers and Doctors of the Church attack with such force the extravagance and vanity of younger and older women, who have forgotten their baptismal vows and appear clothed and garnered as Satan would have it, to which they had most solemnly renounced, it is to have us understand the abject horror of God for such dissoluteness, which renders those who are guilty all the more criminal before his eyes, who, wishing to appeal to men, become the prey and instruments of the devil, who relies on this extravagance in order to have them, as well as those who see them in this state, commit an infinite number of sins; that is why God frequently declares in the Holy Scriptures that he


will severely punish the younger and older society women who thus put on display the marks and emblems of his enemy; which the terrible punishments that have been inflicted on many in respect to this, and which are reported by the Fathers of the Church, too frequently confirm. [...]

If these vain costumes displease God so much, and if his vengeance is so severe, what crime are they guilty of, and what punishment can they anticipate, these women who display such extravagant tendencies even in our churches, appearing in these places devoted to prayer and penance in indecent dress, exposing the scandalous nudity of their arms, shoulders and throat, being content with concealing them in diaphanous cloth, which too often simply serves to enhance the state of nudity, heads uncovered, or simply covered with a diaphanous headdress, and hair curled in a manner unworthy for a Christian and offensive to the sanctity of these places [...] appearing costumed more for a ball and as a farce, than dressed appropriately for church [...].

But what is all the more criminal in the eyes of God, is that some younger and older women dare to present themselves for the sacraments, the consecration of the bread, the offertory, and the church collection, in indecent dress, which not only is profanity, but scorn for our most holy ceremonies, and most scandalous for our faithful, some of whom cannot witness this dissoluteness without


indignation and other weaker ones without great threat to their salvation.

The zeal we must display for the honour of the house of God, and for the salvation of the flock we were entrusted with by Divine Providence, obliges us to use whatever care and authority we can to totally expel from the churches in our diocese this pernicious abuse witnessed over the course of so many years; and as we have seen that the notices we have given up until now, both publicly, and privately, have not had the desired effect, We have resolved to execute the ordinances put forward by the Popes, the Councils and the Bishops, and notably by the Great Saint Charles Borromée, our luminary Prelate of recent times and the restorer of Christian and Ecclesiastic Instruction. [...]

Source: Montmorency de Laval, François, "Pastoral letter against the extravagance and vanity of women in the church," Mandements, lettres pastorales et circulaires des évêques de Québec Têtu, H. et Gagnon, C.O. (Québec: Québec, A. Côté et cie, 1887), vol. 1, p. 106-108.

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