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FATHER ALBERTO FERRARESE
|On Hearing Women's
Rome, June 29, 1555
summary | text
of letter | footnotes
Alberto Ferrarese had been in Venice but several months when he began to grow
uneasy about the Venetian women coming to confession in dress that he
considered immodest. Of the Jesuit priests in his community, he was the only
one permitted to hear the confessions of women, since the Inquisition there
had stipulated that only priests who had reached their thirty-sixth birthday
could serve as confessors for women. Ferrarese was, at this time, forty-five
years old, and the only one in the community over thirty-six. Hence all
women's confessions fell to him. In his letter Ignatius tells him how to deal
with women who dress according to the Venetian fashion. Ignatius' letter was
written in Italian [Ep. 9:266-2167].
The peace of Christ.
From father rector's
letter we learn that your reverence is uneasy about the dress and personal
adornment of the women of Venice, and you are quite right, for in this matter
they frequently offend both God our Lord and are the cause of others offending
Him. Where the practice is common, however, and there neither is, nor appears
to be, any excess other than the said practice, and no intention of sinning or
of causing others to sin, it is not considered mortally sinful. Moreover, if
any women should do this to please her husband, there would not even be venial
On other occasions
we have written on this matter as follows. Where there is no notable curiosity—nothing
beyond what is common—and no bad intention, though there might be some
vanity in a woman so presenting herself as to display her charms, and so
forth, they could be absolved the first time with an admonition and a bit of
advice. But if they return and again confess this, especially if they are
frequent communicants, you must make them give up this vanity and put an end
to this bad practice, as much as possible. Should they be unwilling to comply,
you could tell them that you will absolve them this time but not in the
future, and if they do not wish to give up their vanity they should go to
confession elsewhere. Even though you do not condemn them as guilty of mortal
sin, there is great imperfection, and if one does not wish to give up such
imperfection the Society will have nothing to do with them.
Your reverence may
be allowing your zeal to mislead you, and so, in such cases, you should be
guided by the judgment of the rector, since it is possible for him to know,
outside of confession, what everyone knows and sees. Do not be timid or
scrupulous when he thinks you should not be.
I will say no more,
except that charity and the desire to help souls is accustomed to make the
members of the Society brave, and in this way God helps them. I beg of Him to
bestow upon your reverence the abundance of His grace.
From Rome, June 29,
||Ferrarese’s family name was Azzolini, but because he
had been born in Ferrara (about 1510), his Jesuit brethren referred to
him as Ferrarese. He entered the Society in Rome in 1552, had been
rector of the college at Gubbio, and when that institution closed in
1554, he went to Venice. He died in Ferrara in April 1558.