Saturday, March 03, 2012

Paul Gomille: Champion for Modesty

Writing for the National Post, Matt Gurney tells us that, 'Last month, on Valentine’s Day, student Paul Gomille circulated 136 copies of a speech that he had written. He passed them out in the cafeteria of his Toronto-area Catholic high school. The speech was on the topic of a woman’s inner beauty — Mr. Gomille, 17, clearly believes that many of his female peers do not treat each other, or themselves, with due respect, and he wishes that everyone would focus more on how wonderful they are on the inside and not how attractive they can make themselves on the outside.

For circulating this speech...Mr. Gomille was suspended for two days. The reason for the suspension? 'Opposition to authority.' Apparently stating the obvious about teenagers now counts as an act of rebellion.

The decision to suspend Mr. Gomille goes back to his original hope to deliver his thoughts in a public address. Mr. Gomille reportedly approached the principal with his idea and asked for permission to address the school. This was initially met favourably, especially since the school received much public attention earlier this (academic) year when administrators noted that many of the female student body (no pun intended) were hiking their kilt skirts too high, yet another statement of the blindingly obvious. Principal Donna Modeste, according to Mr. Gomille, welcomed the positive nature of Mr. Gomille’s message.

But not all of it, in the end. Principal Modeste objected to a particular section of Mr. Gomillle’s letter, which she felt was 'judgmental':

The people this message concerns are the young women of this school, and of the world. In particular, it concerns the silent ones, the intelligent ones, the ones that don’t talk about people behind their backs, the ones that guys don’t flock to in droves, the ones that don’t dress in revealing clothing, the ones who would love to be in love, and the ones that are continually disappointed in their appearance because the only thing they have to compare themselves to are the women that have been put on pedestals by our society. This message also concerns those of you who may consider yourselves the so called 'opposite' to the demographic I just described. The ones who do dress in revealing clothing, and the ones who try to fit in with the crowd.

Principal Modeste requested changes to this section of the speech. Rather than comply, Mr. Gomille chose instead to distribute his speech, in its original form, by handing out copies of the text in the cafeteria. That’s when he was suspended for opposition to authority." (See full National Post article here).

In our modern, paganistic world, we are constantly bombarded with the promotion of immodesty and impurity and far too many "good" people remain apathetic to the problem.  And along comes Mr. Gomille, a courageous young man who is willing to take a stand for modesty and purity, and he is suspended for "opposition to authority."  But are we not told in Acts 5: 29 that when the authority of men comes into conflict with the authority of God, it is "better for us to obey God than men"?  Or does Principal Modeste believe that her authority trumps God's authority?  Are we not told in 1 Peter 2: 12 to, "Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world."  And in 1 Timothy 2:9, does not the Holy Spirit tell us through the Apostle that, - "..I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes."  And are we not told in 1 Peter 3: 3-4 - that, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

What of Principal Modeste's accusation that a passage from Paul's speech is judgmental?  What if it is?   As Dr. Germain Grisez explains, "It might seem to follow that love must accept everyone, even enemies, just as they are, and to affirm them even in the error or sin which is present in them. But the law of love does not require indiscriminate affirmation of everything about other persons (see Saint Thomas Aquinas, S.t., 2-2, q.34, a.3). One's love must be like Jesus'. He loves sinners and brings them into communion with himself in order to overcome their error and sin. When the scribes and pharisees bring a woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he not only saves her from being stoned to death but warns her not to sin again (see John 8:3-11). In a true sense, Jesus is not judgmental, he sets aside the legalistic mentality, readily forgives sinners, does not condemn the world, and points out that those who refuse to acknowledge their sinfulness are self-condemned by the truth they violate (see John 3:16-21). But he realistically recognizes sinners as sinners and never accepts error as truth...Similarly, if Christians' love of neighbor is genuine, it not only permits but requires them both to 'hold fast to what is good' and to 'hate what is evil' (Romans 12:9)."

And again, according to Dr. Grisez, "Vatican II neatly formulates the prohibition against judging others" 'God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; for that reason, he forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone' (Gaudium et Spes, No. 28). This norm, however, does not preclude judgments necessary for determining that one should try to dissuade others from committing sins or to encourage them to repent if they have sinned."

At Fatima (1917), Our Lady said that, "Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much." Sadly, such fashions may be found even in Catholic parishes. This is the direct result of a lack of reverence before sacred mysteries. Dietrich von Hildebrand explains that, "..lack of reverence may have two roots...the first is to be found in pride. The man who lacks reverence because of pride and arrogance approaches everything with conceit and presumption, imagines that he knows everything, that he sees through everything....The world holds no mystery for him. He treats everything tactlessly, with easy familiarity...There is..another form of irreverence, one which is born of concupiscence. The concupiscent man is interested in the world only as a means of procuring pleasure for himself

The lack of reverence is a specific defect of our age. On the one hand, the feeling of reverence is undermined by the increasing technicalization and instrumentalization of the world wherein everything is considered only as a means for the attainment of practical aims, and being is not allowed to be taken seriously. On the other hand, the attitude of self-glorification is increased in man by progress in the knowledge of secondary causes and by the conquest of the physical world. This makes us forget that 'He has made us and we have not made ourselves.' It makes the shortsighted intoxicated with superficial knowledge so that they overlook the causa prima because of the causae secundae" (Liturgy and Personality, pp. 49, 51-52).

How important is modesty? Saint John Chrysostom warned the immodest that:

"You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment, and much more effectively than you could by your voice. When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges in court punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death-dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body, but the soul. And it is not to enemies that you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride."

Paul Gomille understands this.  And because he has sought to spread this truth, he finds himself suspended from his Catholic school.  In short, he finds himself being persecuted for the sake of truth.  But Our Lord has words of comfort for Mr. Gomille: "Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven; they persecuted the prophets before you in the very same way." (Mt 5: 12).


Anonymous said...

No, there's no war against modesty today. Of course not. Which is why Catholic girls can dress like Sharon Stone in a mini skirt but anyone who preaches on modesty will be suspended.


Connolly Heirloom Press said...

Is it not interesting that Paul Gomille's speech is being read by more people thank just his school because of this controversy? He's getting national attention in the media. There was another Paul who got punished for his message...and he wrote the Pauline Epistles from jail. God takes what some mean for evil and make it work for good. He did 2000 years ago, and he's doing it again!
God Bless Paul Gomille for having the courage to say what he did.

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