Russian Orthodox leader chides faithful over sloppy dress

January 18, 2011

(RNS) A top official of the Russian Orthodox Church has called for
an official dress code to encourage propriety after previously
suggesting that provocatively dressed women provoke immorality and

"Vulgar external appearance and vulgar behavior is a straight path
to misery," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said in an open letter published
on the site of the Interfax news agency.

"To empty `one-night stands.' To short marriages followed by
rat-like divorces. To children with broken fates. To loneliness and
madness. To catastrophes in life."

A woman who is "barely wearing any clothes or is painted like a
clown" in the hopes of meeting a man, he writes, risks meeting a "drunk
idiot" or at best a "sober idiot."

Chaplin, a top aide to Patriarch Kirill, proposed a "Russia-wide
dress code," saying it should apply to men as well.

Chaplin, who is in charge of the Moscow Patriarchate's department on
church and society and is known for his provocative statements, was
responding to a petition protesting comments he made last month when he
suggested immodestly dressed women invite rape.

"If she wears a mini-skirt, she might provoke not only a man from
the Caucasus, but a Russian as well," Chaplin said at the roundtable in
Moscow. "If she is also drunk, she is all the more likely to provoke
them. If she is also actively seeking contact and is then surprised that
this contact ends in rape, then she is all the more wrong."

In their petition, critics accused Chaplin of "replacing public
discourse on the problem of violence against women with discussion of
their external appearance."

Kirill, too, has spoken out against the gloomy appearance of many
women, and said Orthodoxy should present a friendlier face. While some
priests and parishes encourage women to wear long, dark skirts and do
not allow women with uncovered heads to enter churches, rules have
become increasingly more liberal and headscarves and skirts are not
mandatory in most Moscow churches.

Metropolitan Hilarion, who chairs the church's external relations
department, said last summer that too many female parishioners wear
pants, and that skirts are considered the clothing of Muslim women.