Rorate Caeli

"You your simplicity"

We do not only celebrate anniversaries of recent (since the Pontificate of Pius VII) events and documents. For instance, today we remember the 1140th anniversary of one of the most famous papal documents of the ninth century, the Response of Pope Saint Nicholas I to Prince Boris, ruler of the Bulgarians, concerning various points of doctrine, morals, and practices.

The document ("Ad Consulta", "Ad Consulta Vestra", or also "Responsa Nicolai I ad consulta Bulgarorum"), signed by the great Saint Nicholas I on November 13, 866, is thorough and direct in the answers it provides, several of which are collected in the Enchiridion Symbolorum et Definitiorum (see Denz. 334 and 335; DS 643-646).

One of those answers which is not exactly doctrinal is, nonetheless, quite interesting:

We consider what you asked about pants (femoralia) to be irrelevant; for we do not wish the exterior style of your clothing to be changed, but rather the behavior of the inner man within you, nor do we desire to know what you are wearing except Christ — for however many of you have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ [Gal. 3:27] — but rather how you are progressing in faith and good works. But since you ask concerning these matters in your simplicity, namely because you were afraid lest it be held against you as a sin, if you diverge in the slightest way from the custom of other Christians, and lest we seem to take anything away from your desire, we declare that in our books, pants (femoralia) are ordered to be made, not in order that women may use them, but that men may.

But act now so that, just as you passed from the old to the new man, [cf. Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10] you pass from your prior custom to ours in all things; but really do what you please. For whether you or your women wear or do not wear pants (femoralia) neither impedes your salvation nor leads to any increase of your virtue. Of course, because we have said that pants are ordered to be made, it should be noted that we put on pants spiritually, when we restrain the lust of the flesh through abstinence; for those places are constrained by pants in which the seats of luxury are known to be. This is why the first humans, when they felt illicit motions in their members after sin, ran into the leaves of a fig tree and wove loin cloths for themselves.[cf. Gen. 3:7] But these are spiritual pants, which you still could not bear, and, if I may speak with the Apostle, you are not yet able; for you are still carnal.[I Cor. 3:2] And thus we have said a few things on this matter, although, with God's gift, we could say many more.


  1. To quote the great Philosopher Homer (Simpson):

    Don't you hate pants?!

  2. For the benefit of those who love Latin, here's the original from P.L., CXIX, 1002:

    Quod de femoralibus sciscitamini, supervacuum esse putamus; nos enim non exteriorem cultum vestium vestrarum, sed interioris hominis mores in vobis mutari desideramus, nec quid induatis praeter Christum, quotquot enim in Christo baptizati estis, Christum induistis (Gal. III); sed quomodo in fide, ac bonis operibus proficiatis inquirimus. Verum quia simpliciter de his interrogatis, verentes videlicet ne vobis in peccatum imputetur, si praeter aliorum consuetudinem quid saltem in minimis agitis Christianorum, ne quid desiderio vestro subtrahere videamur, dicimus, quoniam in libris nostris jussa sunt femoralia fieri, non ut his mulieres uterentur, sed viri: nunc autem, ut quemadmodum a veteri ad novum transistis hominem, ita de priori consuetudine ad morem nostrum per omnia transeatis facite; sin autem, quod placet agite. Nam sive vos, sive feminae vestrae, sive deponatis, sive induatis femoralia, nec saluti officit, nec ad virtutum vestrarum proficit incrementum. Sane quoniam diximus jussa fuisse femoralia fieri, notandum est, quia nos spiritualiter induimur femoralibus, cum carnis libidinem per abstinentiam coarctamus: nam illa loca femoralibus constringuntur, in quibus luxuriae sedes esse noscuntur, quamobrem fortasse primi homines post peccatum in membris suis illicitos sentientes motus ad arboris ficulneae folia concurrentes sibi perizomata texuerunt (Gen. III); sed haec spiritualia sunt, quae hactenus portare non poteratis, sed necdum, ut cum Apostolo dicam, potestis; adhuc enim estis carnales (I Cor. III); et ideo hinc perpauca diximus, cum plura Deo donante dicere valeremus

  3. A Pope on pants... fascinating.

    But really, to think that rulers would appeal to the Pope on such trivial matter 1000 years ago, and yet today would sooner deny that God exists - amazing.

  4. In Our Blessed Lord's era it would appear that head covering for women was the only issue of concern to Christians as St Paul's clear indications demonstrate in his letters to The Corinthians on decorum in public worship.

    The point has to be made that the internal disposition of the Christian is of the utmost importance, as Our Blessed Lord rightly indicates in St Matthews Gospel in His perceptive criticism of the Pharisees & Sadducees. But, perhaps this topic is more complex these days than it used to be. It is no trivial matter when a woman in "hot pants" or very tight slacks goes into a church at any time. Just as men dressed in shorts & tee-shirts is seriously questionable, too.

    Where "trousers" are concerned, there are areas of contemporary concern in the design which is often intended to provoke carnel desire such as tightness of fit; scantiness of material or in the use of graphics and text with vulgarity of theme. Designer "used" jeans with holes and other additions could also fall into such doubtful categories. Moreover, unisex designs are also exploited to emphasise there are no differences between male and female: their designers are often homosexual. The agenda of this is self-evident and by no means hidden. Of course, skirts and dresses are exploited in similar manner.

    Outside some churches in Asia there are indications as to how people should dress appropriately. before entering. This is neither out of place nor trivial. Clarity can save embarrassment and inappropriacy. Furthermore, outer-realities may expose inner dispositions. In contemporary society, "trousers" can be modest but they can also convey intentional messages. In Pope Pius VII's times, these were possibly not issues.

  5. bedwere

    Thank you. I did enjoy your response.

  6. I have a question for Sacerdos15. A few days ago you mentioned that

    "EWTN had Archbishop Hannan,who was a bishop at VII,and Cardinal Dulles ,a peritus at VII,on and they were reflecting on the documents of the Council.I was surprised by their honesty.Both criticized the documents' wordiness and their being difficult to uinderstand.They also mentioned that some were contradictory to each other (in the same document)."

    When exactly did that intervies/discussion take place, and is a transcript available? I would very much like to read it. Gratias!

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. New Catholic,

    Is the publishing of this obscure statement a subtle advancement of the propriety of women wearing pants? Are you, like some, obsessed with liturgical rubrics and vestments, but lax when it comes to lay dress and comportment? Of course, it is this latter area which is the only area withing the competency of the laity.

    By the way, you needn't have disabled comments on the previous post, I do not argue with women--even if they do wear pants--nor find it productive to engage in conversation with men or women when they become shrilly illogical.

  9. No, I am not obsessed with anything.
    I believe Pope Saint Nicholas' words are quite clear, not obscure at all.