IN THE SEP 3 bulletin of Church of St. Bernadette, there was a question in the 'Dear Padre' column regarding dress code for Mass. Redemptorist Father Joseph Nolen replied that the Catholic parish does not demand standards of dress in church, leaving it to the good judgement of those involved. In passing, he mentioned there was a dress code enforced at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome.
What we have here is semantics and its consequences. To quote Father Nolen's reply "... a pastor wants people to show their respect for God by what they wear, especially, if they have a large wardrobe from which to choose". On the one hand we have the teachings of Christ who stressed a good heart to a good dress. Of course, this is not to be taken that we are to appear at the celebration of the Mass in a dress that ridicules, or makes a parody of, the solemn occasion.
Having said this, what then is "good judgement"?
Differences of opinion on the dress code will naturally arise. This disagreement does not spring from a tendentiousness to discourtesy but to confusion arising from the process of selective perception. The dress code, therefore, or "good judgement of those involved" as Father Nolen puts it, will remain a controversial issue because such "good judgement" is implied and not explicit. The problem lies not so much in the fact that judgements are made but in the fact that we believe in the essential rightness of our own judgement and therefore believe that it should be followed.