A reader asked me why I thought the Pure Fashion threads seem to provoke such strong reactions. I think it’s because the issue touches many of us concretely. Whereas few readers were personally abused by Maciel, and none to my knowledge have fathered his children, many readers are mothers who have volunteered with the Pure Fashion program, or parents to daughters who have participated in it. So Pure Fashion is an example of how the Maciel scandal touches us – and more importantly to us as parents, our children – personally.
Which is why I appreciate CindyB, who describes herself as ex Regnum Christi and a six-year veteran of Pure Fashion, sharing her thoughts in this thread. Whether this was intentional on her part or not, Cindy expresses the internal conflict felt by many who have been part of this program. On the one hand, she left RC because of the way it elevated Maciel (who she can no longer dignify with the prefix “Father”) despite serious allegations against him. On the other hand, her own experience with Pure Fashion was good, and she sees a desperate need in today’s world for programs that promote modesty, purity, and “programs that can influence teenagers and young adults to make better choices through positive self-esteem.” Her concerns are legitimate.
Hence her statement that Priscella likely “meant that [Maciel]’s behavior needed the message of Pure Fashion.”
Here’s the difficulty. Knowing how many volunteer hours Catholic moms like Cindy and Priscella put into the program with only the best of intentions for their daughters, it breaks my heart to say this. However, it is a point long recognized by saints and media critics:
People look to the medium when discerning the message.
St. James knew this. As he states in the New Testament epistle bearing his name: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” He understood that one’s actions offered the best proof that one had received the Gospel message. St. Francis of Assisi clarifies this point further, stating: “Go into the world and preach the Gospel, but only use words when necessary.” And of course there’s Marshall McLuhan’s aphorism: “The medium is the message.”
In the case of Pure Fashion, the message of purity and modesty is contradicted by the medium of Fr. Maciel. The founder’s actions where anything but modest and pure. Teenagers know this. They may not piece it together right away, or they may not repeat it within earshot of parents while living under their roof. But they know. And eventually there’s the temptation to act upon it. If the founder can molest seminarians and father children through various mistresses – while still receiving public gratitude from holy priests, along with Mom and Dad – what’s a little premarital foreplay or displaying a bit of bellybutton n comparison? After all, Maciel engaged in much worse while building God’s kingdom.
Or the reaction may be one of anger, of feeling lied to or mislead for all these years. I’ve seen this happen. The relationship between parent and child is never the same afterward. The child will always second-guess Mom and Dad. Jezebel can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe from her comments that she was taken aback by the support she received from orthodox Catholic parents over her critique of Pure Fashion. We may disagree with her position on human sexuality, however, many of her criticisms of Pure Fashion have the ring of truth about them.
And if I can recognized this as a Nascar dad with no fashion sense, you can bet your teenage children will recognize it as well. It’s just a matter of time before the child google searches “Pure Fashion” or “Regnum Christi,” comes across a critique written by someone who disagrees with us on Humanae Vitae, and is struck by how strongly the critique resonates. Or the child may hear of Fr. Maciel’s duplicity from other children from orthodox Catholic homes while trying to recruit them to the kingdom. Who will the child blame for feeling misled, deceived or embarrassed in front of one’s peers?
Not Fr. Maciel. Not LC priests. But you, the parent.
Make no mistake about it. So long as Pure Fashion remains connected to Regnum Christi, which in turn continues to express its gratitude to the founder, Maciel remains the medium. And as the medium, he is also the message.
As for the other question, how can orthodox Catholic moms instill modesty and purity in their daughters, while having a little mother-daughter fun… Who needs a program? Here’s what a good friend of mine, who happens to be the mother of several sons formerly with the Legion, did with her daughters. Instead of dropping $450 on a program she purchased each teenage daughter a Catechism of the Catholic Church for $10. After putting the younger kids to bed, she took aside each adolescent daughter individually, and used the catechism to initiate one-on-one mom-and-daughter discussions on purity, modesty, fashion, sexuality, family, and marriage.
She was surprised by how each daughter opened up in this one-on-one atmosphere. What most of her daughters wanted, after years of apostolate and activity outside the family, was not another program. They wanted honest and open communication with Mom.
Every few months or so my friend and other homeschooling moms nearby would each pick a daughter (starting with the oldest), hop in the van, and head off to the big city Saturday morning for a Mom & Daughter shopping trip. They would find a hotel, each mom and daughter sharing a room, then all the moms and daughters would gather in the lobby and head off together for a mom and daughter supper. This was followed by Mass on Sunday morning before heading home.
How could the moms afford this? With the $440 they saved.
The girls could not have been more thrilled. Every time I visit it’s “Do you like this outfit? Mom helped me pick it out during our last shopping trip,” or “Next year I will be old enough to go on a shopping trip with Mom.”
And this, I believe, instills more strongly the message of modesty, purity and self-esteem in our daughters than any pre-packaged program. Why? Because it’s the medium of the heart. Mom, you are telling your daughter that she is so important to you that you willingly sacrifice time from your busy schedule to spend it with her. That her purity, her modesty and her self-esteem are worth these evenings and weekends together.
Mom, the medium is your message.