But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her,
hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.
(Matthew 5:28 )
Father Connell Answers Moral Questions
by Very Rev. Francis J. Connell, C.SS.R., S.T.D., LL.D., L.H.D.
(Catholic University of America Press, 1959)
Bathing Beauty Contests/Cheerleading
Certainly, if the chief object were to secure an efficient drum-major, the normal thing would be to have a boy or man perform this function for a male band. Very little knowledge of human nature is required to realize that girls who participate in bathing beauty contest or act as majorettes (in the way described) provide an occasion of sin to some (at least) of the spectators. Indeed, it can be unhesitatingly asserted that when an exhibition of this kind is witnessed by a large number of persons, some mortal sins are sure to be committed, at least in the form of morose delectations and impure desires. It should be emphasized that we are concerned with cases in which not only the manner of dress of the girls is a factor, but also the fact that they are intended to be gazed at closely. The question therefore, comes down to this: Has a girl sufficient reason to exhibit herself in either of the ways described with the certainty that mortal sins will be committed of which she will be the occasion?
In support of this grave denunciation the words of St. Alphonsus (referring to a girl who knows that her presence will be the occasion of sins of desire on the part of a man) are appropriate: “I could not excuse her from mortal sin if, led by vanity, she would deliberately (data opera) offer herself to the gaze of a man, even though she does not intend to scandalize him.” (Theologia moralis [Gaude, Rome, 1905], Lib. II, n. 53)
I have heard of a bishop who expelled a girl from a Catholic college because she took part in a bathing beauty contest. I have also heard of a Holy Name parade from which all majorettes were excluded by order of the diocesan chancery. But unfortunately, such decisive action, commendable though it is, seems to be the exception. Catholic girls appear before the eyes of a large group of men in a manner calculated to inspire lustful thoughts and desire, and yet their pastors have little or nothing to say about it. Is it not time that priests in the United States do more than they are doing to prevent the numerous sins of scandal that are being committed in our land under the flimsy pretext of promoting the appreciation of beauty and of art—sins which are gross violations of the norms of purity proclaimed by the tradition of the Catholic Church and the instructions of many Popes?