ARCHBISHOP BURKE AND IMMODESTY IN THE CHURCH
Archbishop Richard Burke of the Benin Archdiocese resigned his post on 31st May, 2010, after admitting to sexual indiscretion with a Nigerian woman, Dolores Atwood (now 40) when the woman was 21 and the Archbishop, 61, then a priest, was 40.
They both were living in Warri at the time. Between June 1 and 4, 2010, Daily Sun covered the story. The initial reaction of Catholic clergy and laity was that of incredulity, although the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria later corrected an earlier report of the Sun and made it clear that they stood on the side Pope Benedict XVI who had already accepted Burke's resignation with a promise by the Vatican to investigate if indeed there occurred an abuse of Miss Atwood when she was 14 as she is claiming.
The incredulousness/shock expressed by Bishops and others when they heard of Burke's fall from his high throne is no different from how we all react when we first hear that a loved one has been caught committing a grave offence. Usually we retort: 'I can't believe it! It's just not true!' With Catholic spiritual fathers and many devout Catholics, the approach to a fallen soul or repentant sinner, as we have been taught, is not to hit the fellow when he/she is already down. Like Jesus told the woman caught in the very act of committing adultery, 'I too do not condemn you. Go and sin no more'. At confession, priests usually admonish a repentant sinner firmly but gently before absolution. The lesson to learn from this is never to go to town with another person's sin. Do not gossip or rejoice in another's fall. Pray for the person concerned, whether a priest or whoever.
In Archbishop Burke's own words: 'I take full responsibility for my actions. I wish to express deepest sorrow for my inappropriate, irresponsible and repeatedly sinful conduct'. What can be a greater and more humble expression of sorrow and regret than these words for an error that occurred 20 years ago? I have met Archbishop Burke when he was Bishop of Warri in the early 2000s. He is a personable, soft-spoken, taciturn and perfect gentleman. God will not shut the gate of Heaven against him and other repentant priests and religious who have unsuccessfully passed through this crucible of severe test of passion in our highly tempting times.
We live at a time when the caverns of Hell have been emptied of demons who now prowl the earth seeking to ensnare souls. Our journey to the Promised Land will be no different from that of Israelites of old, as St. Paul warned (1 Cor. 10: 1-13). We shall all be tested, without exemption and, in the end; not many will enter Heaven, just as only two, Joshua and Caleb, entered the Promised Land. Like the Israelites, many are falling to idolatry and so many to sexual immoralities.
One reason, many priests and others in the Church are losing their souls is the shameless immodesty of our women. One cannot speculate on the immediate cause of Archbishop Burke's fall 20 years ago, but there is certainly a correlation between immodest fashion in the Church and men's fall to temptation. To worsen matters, we live at a time when many have lost the sense of sin. In other words, they do not know what sin means.
Today, many Christian women do not realize that they are naked, because of the fashion they patronize. The Church from time to time defines fashion. In the pontificate of Pope Pius XI, a feminine dress was defined as one that covers the body all the way to below the knees, even when she is seated, covering the arms at least to the elbows, and cut not deeper than 2 inches at the upper back below the neck. Today fashion designers, aided by the devil, define a feminine blouse or dress as one that reveals a woman's arms all the way to the arm-pits and cut to reveal the knees, slit by the side or behind to reveal the upper portion of the legs, designed to show portions of the breasts, and virtually most of her upper back.
Our Blessed Mother Mary, when she appeared to the shepherd children in 1917 at Fatima, Portugal, made the greatest impact on them by showing them a vision of Hell. Streams of light gushed forth from one of the rings in her right fingers which opened the bowels of the earth. 'This is Hell where poor sinners go after death', she said, as the children saw terrible flames and the souls in human shapes being thrown up and down, as they shrieked in utter pain.
The Mother of the Lord told the children that most of those in Hell are there due to the sins of the flesh and one of the greatest occasions of these sins is immoral fashion. She revealed that fashions would be introduced later in the century which would greatly offend Jesus. Today, not only has this prophecy come true, it has proved worse than expected. The Church of Christ has not been spared; rather, it has become one of the citadels of immodesty.
Immodest dressing is one of the manifestations of the Great Apostasy which has now engulfed the Church. It is a combination of loss of holy fear (a gift of the Holy Spirit), loss of the sense of sin and rebellion against faith and God.
The loss of holy fear and sense of sin is clearly seen in women in trousers. The Vicar-General to Pope Pius XI wrote that trousers reveal the shape and contours of a woman that should be kept hidden and that is why God (Deut. 22:5) and the Church can never permit them. Simply put, trousers incite men's passion. Modernist priests and modern women reject all this. The reason women who patronize trousers do so is because trousers are 'smart' (i.e. sexy). Other times they cite protection and personal convenience, which they have enthroned above the word of God. The warning of Scripture is clear on scandal (Lk 17: 1-4) that it would have been better if people that cause scandals were not created at all.
When you see the kind of revealing dresses and the trousers many girls and women wear even into the abodes and offices of priests in our big cities, one shudders at the absolute lack of prudence and the occasions of sin posed by these temptresses. How many men go to confession on Friday or Saturday and soon after get exposed, on Sunday, to outrageous fashions that neutralize their sanctifying grace? St. Pio of Pietrelcina declined to hear the confession of immodestly dressed women and always waved them away before they could venture closer to the confessional.
In the Lagos and Onitsha Archdioceses, Cardinal Anthony Okogie and Archbishop Valerian Okeke, respectively, have written periodic notices to restrain the admission of poorly dressed women into churches. In Lagos, a few years ago, a priest, in obedience to the Archbishop's circular, declined to wed a couple because the bride wore a revealing dress. The bridegroom later cancelled the wedding altogether, in agreement with the priest that such fashion was a bad sign. Archbishop Okogie has written countless circulars warning churches to desist from immodest dressing but it is up to priests to use ushers to bar such fashions.
Proper covering of the body also enhances protection, especially of children, against sexual abuse. Cases of rape, pedophilia and incest will considerably reduce in homes, schools, playgrounds and other public places of interaction if children are well dressed. Children who are dressed poorly are vulnerable. One of the Popes taught that a parent or guardian whose child or ward is immodestly dressed inherits the sin of that child and is fully responsible for whatever abuses inflicted on the child. What kind of Christian puts on sleeveless or short dresses on a child and turns back to ask, when the child is raped, 'Why my own child?'
When we read about prelates, priests, religious and our loved ones and others falling, it is an opportunity for us to reflect on our own lives and on our families because, in the end, only few will possess the Kingdom of God.
Odum, writes from Lagos