Slut Shaming in the Adoration Chapel

 

Here’s a crazy story for y’all. I have an adoration hour Tuesday nights at my parish’s Perpetual Adoration chapel. This week I witnessed the saddest and bizarrest thing in my 15+ years as an adorer, and a vivid example of how *not* to Catholic.

Our chapel can comfortably accommodate 7 adorers – two rows of chairs+kneelers, with a pew along the back wall that seats three, plus kneelers. I choose either the rear left or rear right corner, if available, for my hour. This week, I nabbed the rear left seat. As is my habit, I started praying the rosary.

Several minutes later, a woman entered the chapel – we’ll name her W. She’s a semi-regular Tuesday visitor, late 50’s, staying for an hour or longer. She sat down opposite me in the back right corner.

Less that five minutes later, a mother – M – and daughter – let’s call her D – entered. I always look at who enters, this time being no exception, and I didn’t recognize them. D looked to be early teens, wearing short jean shorts (do people still call them jorts?). D sat in the front right chair, and M sat behind her. I continued saying my rosary.

Thirty seconds later, W walks up, a light jacket in her hand, and drapes it across the girl’s lap saying “Cover up – this is Jesus we’re talking about here.” She then goes back to her seat, without saying anything to M – and resumes praying.

SHE SLUT SHAMED THE GIRL IN THE ADORATION CHAPEL.

I immediately thought “O no u dint”, quickly followed by “This won’t end well.”

Mind you, I’m focusing on my rosary and trying to not pay attention. Were D’s shorts short? They weren’t Daisy Dukes short, but they were pretty short. I wasn’t looking looking, but things get noticed, y’know? Obviously I wasn’t the only one who had noticed. Still, what possessed W to think this was going to produce a positive result? I get it – modesty’s important, and is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. But kindness is too, as is gentleness. Charity as well.

Shortly thereafter, a man came into the chapel – we’ll dub him G. G sat down in front of me, unaware of the slut shaming that just went on. G isn’t super important to the story, but plays a role nonetheless.

Within five minutes, M tapped D’s shoulder, and whispered something to her, which I guessed was “Should we leave now?” D turned around, and I saw TEARS STREAMING DOWN HER FACE!!! She nodded vigorously, and upon exiting the chapel, began crying loudly. Now, I have zero daughters, so I missed out on all the joys of raising girls, but even I know the difference between Tears of Drama, and Tears of Shame. These were clearly the latter. Giant sobs, and gasps for breath. i felt terrible for the poor girl.

M returned W’s jacket, and left.

After they left, I debated whether or not to say anything. I try to rely on the Holy Spirit when it comes to confrontational situations, and this time, the answer I got was “Not now.” As if to confirm that, another woman – W2 – entered the chapel: mid-20’s or so, wearing yoga pants. Since G had no clue what had happened, discussing W’s Modesty Police brutality in front of two strangers would have been disruptive.

And no, W didn’t attempt to cover W2’s yoga pants so Jesus wouldn’t be offended. It wouldn’t have been a surprise.

With four of us in the chapel, I decided to hold my tongue. One, it was the wrong time to talk. Two, I know I would have been snarky. And three, since W and I are usually there together, a future opportunity will present itself.

But here’s the thing. W didn’t know the circumstances leading up to M and D’s visit. Maybe they had come directly after visiting a hospitalized family member. Or perhaps a family member had died, and they sought consolation. Maybe the girl had an abortion, and she sought forgiveness. Maybe they were on their way home from a barbecue or party, and popped in to say hi to Jesus. Perhaps M had forced D to come, who was already feeling hostile to the Church. Or maybe this was her first time in the chapel. My point being, let the girl pray, and when she’s done, maybe go up to her and gently explain that her style of dress could be seen as inappropriate. Or perhaps say something to M. But to shame her thirty seconds after arriving? Absolutely not.

Slut shaming in the adoration chapel – or anywhere else – is a terrible way to encourage people to stay Catholic. Even a misfit like me knows that. You’d think that’d be common sense for everyone, but you’d be surprised.

I didn’t write this to impugn W. She needs prayers as much as D (Lord, I hope she doesn’t abandon Catholicism over this). I wrote this simply to say that how we treat others matters. That our words and actions matter, and we will be held to account for each and every one. Being right can be important, but being kind is better – and if you can’t be kind, then mind your own business. Rash judgment is a sin against the 8th commandment, and for this to have occurred in an adoration chapel makes it even more terrible. Catholics can be such terrible Christians.

Instead of extending D the benefit of the doubt, W embarrassed and shamed her. D had done nothing wrong. She had come to Jesus for whatever reason, and left in tears due to the rash judgment of a fellow Catholic. And that’s the most shameful thing of all.

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Photo credit: Art4TheGlryOfGod by Sharon on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-ND

About Larry Denninger

After writing at "Acts of the Apostasy" for more than 10 years under a pseudonym, Larry decided it was time to go public, and launch a brand new blog. It will probably backfire horribly. Which means you will want to follow and witness the impending trainwreck. He resides in Michigan.
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27 Responses to Slut Shaming in the Adoration Chapel

  1. CJ says:

    Shame on you for repeatedly calling the girl a slut!! You make excuses as to why she was dressed the way she was, and call her a slut in your article. I think that is worse than what “W” did.

    • If you believe I repeatedly called the girl a slut, then I’m not sure you read what I wrote. I have nothing but compassion and sympathy for the girl. “Slut shamed” is how the girl was made to feel by W’s actions.

      • Deacon Tom says:

        You’re of course technically correct Larry (although you can’t say for certain what another person “feels” unless they tell you and she apparently didn’t), and “slut shaming” is a phrase that is popular these days, but your article would have been more palatable and accepted/shared if you refrained from such language. I’m not sharing it for that reason and your valid point will never been read by folks in my circle. There are other ways to describe what occurred.

        • Yeoman says:

          There may be other ways to describe it, but some times blunt language is called for. Milder language would have failed to make the point about how somebody was shamed merely for her clothes by suggesting that person was indecently dressed.

  2. G says:

    Would you reconsider saying something to either the young girl or the shamer? I think it’s so important for both of them to be made aware that the verbal abuse the young girl experienced is not representative of what being Christian asks of us. Not in the chapel, obviously, but I hope there’s an opportunity after adoration to course correct if you see them again. If I had been that young girl, I would probably never step foot in that adoration chapel again. And I hope that’s not the case for her.

  3. Donna says:

    It’s sad to me that you think you felt the Holy Spirit calling you to not speak up on behalf of the girl. Your comfort is not more important than protecting women from misogyny and mistreatment. This is why behaviors like this continue. Silence is complicity.

    Also, no, busybody shouldn’t have refrained in the moment talked to her afterwards, or her mother, either. She should have shut up and said nothing. Not your child? Mind your damn business. If that poor girl leaves the Church over this, it’s on this woman’s conscience.

    • Christie says:

      K but it should make a man rightfully nervous to comment on modesty anyhow. Maybe the best course would have been to lean over to M and say something like “please ignore her. She doesn’t speak for the Church and she shouldn’t have spoken for herself. I apologize on her behalf.” Her daughter would hear, or M could repeat it to her as needed. Even if the slut shame heard, that would be okay. A quick response would have left the other people out of it, but even if it hadn’t, an interruption for charity’s sake would be appropriate.

      I probably would have frozen in the moment also, but it is good to dissect best practices after the fact for next time. I wouldn’t have comforted the girl directly unless I was another teenage girl. I would most certainly have given the offender a piece of my mind. You could still bring the incident to the priest to deal with, and maybe should.

  4. FrJohn says:

    “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, . . . sensitivities become irrelevant.” Elie Wiesel

    • Ann says:

      Ugh. No. No man speaking up (except her father) would have helped, even though well-intentioned. I’ve been a young girl. More attention from anyone would have just made it worse, especially a man. Nope. Also, her mom was with her. Trust her mom. She handled it perfectly well.
      If mom and daughter attend adoration or mass together, mentioning how nice it was to see them both there *might* help, especially if you emphasize their presence and nothing else. Better she think no one else saw or heard anything. So much of shame is how public it feels.
      As for the adoration police, a priest correcting her privately would be in order, yes.

      • Shari says:

        I disagree men need to start standing up for us in front of us. A simple comment of “I believe that her choice of dress may be no reflection of her love for Jesus and you should not have done that to her” Is ABSOLUTELY needed. This whole “not my place” is an escape route.

  5. Evelina says:

    I’m confused. How is she slut shaming? She never called the teen a slut. She simply told the girl to cover up. Wearing shorts doesn’t make anyone a slut. Asking a young woman to cover up in church is FAR from “slut shaming”. You do realize that MANY Catholic Churches have a no shorts policy. Are they “slut shaming” people? No. They simply want the so called faithful to dress in a way that reflects the fact that they are entering into a holy place where Jesus Himself is present. What the woman did was absolutely wrong. I live in a place where summers are really hot. We have a dress code that our pastor routinely reminds people about. No one thinks they are being slut shamed.

    • Shari says:

      You may say that because a rule is common it’s not what it is, but a rose, is a rose, by any other name.

  6. Yeoman says:

    This gets back to the current modern struggle on dress in Church, something that seemingly matters a great deal more to some people than others, and which varies enormously from region to region.

    FWIW, I live in a region of the county where Catholics have always been a minority and have always dressed informally in church during my lifetime. I’ve heard a visiting Priest, however, once really go after shorts in church during Mass, only to see one brave Extraordinary Minister go up to serve, wearing shorts, anyhow. In this region, it’s very common and the more formal dress we see elsewhere simply doesn’t occur. The point is, I guess, that clothing rebukes in general should be wholly omitted in my person, and they assume a context on the part of the rebuking person that may well be wholly lost on the recipient.

    • Christie says:

      Oh wow this brought back a memory I had forgotten about!
      A speaker gave a lecture at a high school conference about modesty, which convicted my good friend and basically called out elements of her own outfit, but we had no break before Mass and she felt like the whole world watched and shamed her up for communion and back. Then she broke into tears in the room when she had to search so hard for something to change into since you only bring a couple outfits on a trip. She kept saying, “I just didn’t know.” I remember wanting to punch the speaker in the face.

  7. Judy says:

    It’s sad that short shorts make us think of the word slut. I also wouldn’t assume she was there because she had had an abortion, or was there because her mother made her go. I would more assume, as stated, that perhaps they were on their way home and just decided to stop. I recently read that Saint Pope John Paul II would stop to visit Jesus any time he passed an Adoration chapel, even if it meant disrupting his schedule and the schedules of others. He didn’t pass up on the opportunity to pray before Jesus. We should be happy that this mother and daughter stopped by and didn’t pass up the chance to visit Christ. Would “W” have been offended at the clothing, or lack therof, of a homeless man who stopped to pray?

    “W” should get off her high horse and pay attention to Jesus and not those around her. Unless someone is doing something vulgar or harmful in there, then get over it. We have more important matters to pray for. People are being shot and killed just for going to a Walmart. Jesus has seen legs – he created them! A leg is a leg, and an arm is an arm, etc. No girl should be made to feel ashamed of a body. My husband and I dress up for Mass because we treat Sunday as the most important day of the week. But, those people who are so obsessed over a woman’s body and appearance are the people who need the help and prayers!!

  8. TLM says:

    What a HORRIBLE pharisaical thing to do to a young teen, by a stranger in an Adoration Chapel! Modesty should be spoken of at appropriate times by appropriate parents and Church leaders. Sheesh! Did Jesus say to Mary Magdalene “Go away from me because you are not dressed like a respectable woman”? NO. He converted her in His own time and in His own way. If this “W” woman had an ounce of really relying on Jesus to do HIS work, she would have known that Jesus would deal with her ‘immodesty’ in His way, in His time. I think I might have said to ‘W’: “Why don’t you just let Jesus Himself speak to her?! He’s right here in front of us and in front of HER you know! ” ” If anyone knows how to handle her HE DOES!” “W” actually needs more prayers than this young girl does!!

  9. SH says:

    I am sorry. I do not agree at all with the conclusions thus article draws. First of all, what is a greater offense? Offending a teenager (who should have understood the motivations of “W”) or offending Jesus? Second of all, when did shame become a BAD word…perhaps when feelings became sacred? Thirdly, if it were me at 15 I would gave been grateful, not shamed! Fourthly, when the mother left SHE should have apologized to the daughter for not teaching her what is appropriate dress before the Lord, and suggesting to the daughter that she should not feel ashamed for something she was unaware of. Teaching moment! The author claims “W” was slut-shaming (I hate this term…sluts SHOULD feel shame and this girl was not treated as a slut but simply as one unappropriately dressed for a visit with the President, pope or a KING) but yet the author is himself virtue signalling and “piety-shaming”. Someone has to start standing up for reverence. And we all have to stop coddling teens as if they were fragile toddlers!

    • Shari says:

      Why are you so sure her dress offended Jesus? To be clear making children of God feel less than for something as small as wearing shorts, DOES offended Jesus.

    • Lauren says:

      Thank you SH. I believe you are correct.

  10. Lori Parr says:

    This is an example of the problem I have personally with Catholics sometimes. I have been in the midst of the most miserable faces who attend daily Mass. One would feel that those who understand the gift of spending time with Jesus in Adoration also understand the fundamental principals of Christianity, namely to love one another. Assuming this girl was not indecent in some way, I can’t help but feel that Jesus was so pleased that she came to spend time with Him. I would not have been silent. There is no way I would’ve allowed a child to be bullied by an adult who thought was the gatekeeper. I will pray for this woman and her hardened heart that she confesses her own sin which may lead this young girl to turn away from Christ and His Church.

    • Lauren says:

      How was she bullied?

      • Ann says:

        She was pressured into keeping someone’s coat over her legs by being shamed. Shaming someone is bullying. Shaming is an awful thing to do. Don’t miss the public nature of what the woman did. The author could see and hear the exchange. It’s why confronting the bully would be a mistake and would have made the situation worse. No one should be shamed.

        I think her mom handled it perfectly: give her time and space to try to overcome her hurt feelings, leave before she can’t contain the tears, talk about it privately afterwards without engaging the bully.

        I trust the mom to help the girl learn a valuable lessons: Our feelings are part of us, but not the most important part. To fight back tears is hard and requires practice, and she did well to try. There are people in church who can’t keep from throwing stones, just ignore them. Older people have different standards, try not to take it personally. Put up with each other for Christ’s sake, and your Father in heaven will see your struggle and help.

        Jesus entrusted her to the right person, her mother, who could help her through what will be one of many difficult life lessons. I think the mother handled it perfectly. I’m glad the author said nothing. The girl was not alone, without an advocate.

        Good discussion.

      • Lori Parr says:

        Lauren, if the intention of this woman was solely to do what she felt was right by having the girl cover up, the DECENT and CHRISTIAN thing to do would have been to whisper in her ear and ask to speak with her outside. It’s called being courteous and respectful of another person’s feelings. By feeling like she had the rule of authority over this person and the manner which she handled it, was absolutely a bully mentality. She is a child. Teens are still children in my book. If she was desecrating The Blessed Sacrament or being outwardly disrespectful in some way, I’m fine with quick reactions and damned how someone feels. The root of the problem is that there are no set guidelines here in the US for how we must attend Mass. If there were like there are in other places, this wouldn’t be a grey issue. It doesn’t take much to hang a sign on the door reminding people to be mindful of their modesty as they are entering into the presence of Jesus. I have had to have conversations with people on several occasions while in Adoration about being quiet and why they should be quiet. Most of them apologized and didn’t know or understand the etiquette and therefore I took the opportunity to teach someone. At the point this child was crying, was that not enough to let every other person in that room know the effect it had on her? I am defender of the underdog and I will tell you that the woman should’ve been taken outside and spoken to about clearly MISSING THE POINT of loving Jesus! What bible are people reading? What are they experiencing while in His Presence? My heart is overcome by His love for me and I want to you are that love and share it to be a light in this dark world. I wish more people felt the same.

  11. Linda Landgrebe says:

    1.I don’t think young people feel that their clothing is as symbolic of respect for the occasion as people once did. They wear shorts and halters crop tops and generally more revealing items even to school unless there are uniforms. They don’t think of their outfit as a defiant act of disrespect it’s just their clothes. They probably would wear the same attire to meet a president or king.
    2. At our Parrish Mass attendees dress fairly conservatively but everybody including old ladies and men wear shorts to adoration all the time and I’ve never heard anyone say a word about it.
    3. Even dressy outfits nowadays can be incredibly revealing including wedding gowns.. I’ve seen some doozies of those and I doubt the bride was attempting to rebel at her own wedding.
    While supposedly inappropriate clothing may be the cause of some head shaking from older parishioners let’s face it, church attire is not what anyone should be focused on in light of today’s concerns in the church

  12. Cheryl says:

    I would have spoke immediately before W even sat back down. Watch that plank in your eye there, W… We are all sinners in need of The Healer! She had no right to do what she did. It was Jesus himself who drew the line in the sand, REMEMBER.

  13. C Smith says:

    There definitely are standards of dress that are appropriate for different situations, but those standards should be always less important than treating people with mercy and kindness. It was not kind or appropriate for a stranger to approach this girl, drop a covering over her legs and basically say, “Do better.”

    I wish we had more trust in the Holy Spirit to show us all how we should comport ourselves. It could have saved this girl from being hurt, and could have saved W from injuring one of Jesus’ little ones.

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