What the T-Shirts Are Saying

A spiritual battle has broken out in the girls’ junior department of our local clothing stores. I suppose it was not enough that camisoles (traditionally placed in the “under” garment departments of stores) have magically been switched overnight into a category of “outer” garments.

Words of Warning

It probably did not suffice to reduce almost every article of clothing to a scant piece of fabric the size of a handkerchief, so that the clothing looks less like something designed for a child, and more like something designed for a brothel. Surely there was a most dire need to top such stupendous feats. But how? By filling what little fabric was left with words to convey selfish, hostile, greedy, sexually suggestive, and unkind messages; by filling this space with slogans which oppose everything our most loving Lord taught, slogans which are at their core anti-Christian.

Perhaps a good way to ponder these slogans is with a fashion show based on some t-shirts slogans I saw the other day during a one-hour shopping endeavor. The fashion show will be divided into four categories:

1. Pride

2. Wrath

3. Greed

4. Lust

T-shirt Fashion Category 1: Pride

We begin our fashion show with messages which specialize in the selfish prideful design. Today’s teens are products of parents who lived through the “me” generation. Isn’t it only right that they have so much “me” to show for it? Our first Pride t-shirt pronounces:

“As a matter of fact, the world does revolve around me.”

The second t-shirt in the pride category is:

“You are free to do what I say.”

And finally, the last t-shirt coming down the runway presents a nice blend of not only pride but greed combined:

“Saw it, wanted it, had a fit, got it.”

What is wrong with this? The prideful path is the path to destruction. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prv 16:18). Pride destroys humility. By destroying humility we destroy a child’s ability to pray because “Humility is the foundation of prayer” (CCC 2559). By severing children from their ability to pray, we simultaneously sever them from their relationship with God.

An Assault on Virtue

T-shirt Fashion Category 2: Wrath

Next in our t-shirt fashion show we have the wrath category. These are shirts that are given to girls to spew forth intimidation and venom at the boys. Given the volume of vile Internet pornography proliferating of late, perhaps the venom is understandable. The first t-shirt coming down the runway in the “wrath” category is designed to cover up any indication of being hurt, by hurting first (this is the strike before you are struck mentality):

“I never loved you anyway.”

The second and third t-shirts in the “wrath” category are wrath-pride combinations:

“Give me your number, like I would call you,”


“I had a nightmare I was your girlfriend.”

In a world where children of divorce no longer know a stable home, we have created a culture of children who cannot easily trust. In an instant culture, with instant change, and instant gratification, some children have learned that mom or dad can just as instantly disappear. Such children sometimes find themselves wishing others away before the people in their lives have the chance to up and leave on their own. This leads us to the final t-shirt in the “wrath” category which states:

“Poof! You’re Gone!”

Wrath slogans destroy charity, as wrath is the opposite of charity. It is charity which calls us to love our neighbor. “Charity is the virtue by which we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God” (CCC 1844). Why would the culture of death seek to destroy charity? To destroy cultural harmony. For it is charity that “binds everything together in perfect harmony” (CCC 1844).

T-shirt Fashion Category 3: Greed

Next is the “Greed” apparel. A culture which kills pre-born babies for profit can infuse greed into its young in a heartbeat. Our first t-shirt coming down the runway lets boys know up front that the money boys make is more important than the boys themselves, as it emphatically states:

“You better make more than I can spend.”

The second is a nervy pronouncement that conveys a message that receiving decent treatment in life is a function of one’s ability to purchase goods for the t-shirt wearer:

“Buy me stuff and I’ll be nice.”

Finally, our last t-shirt presents a nice blend of greed mixed with pride, not to mention profanity:

“$10,000 in debt (but [insert expletive] I look good).”

Since greed (or avarice) is one of the seven capital sins, the culture of death enjoys its massive proliferation. And what’s wrong with greed? “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Tm 6:10) Greed is so consuming that it destroys the moderation needed for temperance. Temperance is the virtue that “moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods” (CCC 1809). If the culture of death can destroy the virtue of temperance, it can also destroy one’s ability to control one’s instincts. For temperance “ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable” (CCC 1809). Once children lose mastery over their instincts, they sit squarely in the clutches of the culture of death.

Advertising Sin

T-shirt Fashion Category 4: Lust

I am sorry to announce that the lust t-shirt category has been canceled. This is due to the fact that the words were not fit for print. In general though, the words functioned to knock down the natural barrier necessary for dignity and mutual respect between girls and boys. This concludes our fashion show.

Something is wildly askew in our relationships, and this anomaly is being manifested in the t-shirts of our young. The media (which now includes t-shirts) have become a virtual cesspool of moral pollution in which our young have been swimming. How did we reach the point where we not only sin without guilt, but happily advertise sins on our t-shirts? Instead of embracing pride, wrath, greed and lust we need to embrace our crosses. Families need to slow down so that we can begin to live out the truths in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially the truths on virtue, and make sure our children are living them too. When we see anti-Christian t-shirts we ought to not only be steering our children sharply away from such rubbish, we ought to be teaching our children the truths which Holy Mother Church teaches, and showing them what human virtue and real love means. The cultural winds need a change in direction. The future of our Church and our children depend upon this.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable,

whatever is just, whatever is lovely,

whatever is gracious,

if there is anything worthy of praise,

think about these things” (Phil 4:8).

© Copyright 2006 Catholic Exchange

Mary Anne Moresco writes from Howell, New Jersey.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage