It was Ash Wednesday, and Father Devereaux was distributing the ashes to his congregation at St. Cletus's Church when he noticed that a number of the female ash-seekers were still wearing Mardi Gras beads despite the onset of Lent. Clearly, the spirit of Carnival was hard to relinquish by these fun-seeking New Orleanians. There was Suzette the Stripper (no surprise), Missy Chauvin, Clotilde Badeaux, Chantal Fontenot, and even Madeline the Prophetess among many others. Clearly, wearing of the beads became part of the local Ash Wednesday ritual in his parish as well as others.
Now Catholic clergy in other places would react with horror at this sign of the wearers not being very repentant, but Father Devereaux mainly dreaded the long lines at Confession on Saturday evening. And they would mostly shamefacedly go to the Confessional boxes, rather than utilize the Sacrament of Reconciliation room! Sad. And he would hear them referred to as breasts, boobs, hooters, nénés, nichons, girls, and other terms that seem to spring up all the time.
Then he remembered his little sermon on scrupulosity, and decided that girls flashing their breasts for beads on Mardi Gras was not a really a sin. Or if it was, it wasn't a biggie. Anyway, it's okay to go topless on a French beach. And the local police don't seem to regard it as wrong, so why fight Mardi Gras?
Not even if the flasher required a bra with D cups!
But how to reduce traffic? Contrary to his usual mode, he actually asked the Prophetess! Now this showed his desperation, as he was usually dubious about this seemingly harmless young crank with her spontaneous tendencies to preach and to predict the future. Anyway, she was wearing beads so she could be the first non-sinner he put at ease.
Madeline's advice was succinct: Put up a sign saying that it's not a sin!
So he did. "For those whom it may concern: Flashing your breasts on Mardi Gras is not a sin! No need to confess it. If you still feel a little uneasy, then say three Hail Marys and make a small donation in the poor box."
Who says moral casuistry is limited to the Jesuits? Sometimes the judgments of morality can come from bottom up as well as top down.
But most priests have already learned that with regard to birth control! Anyway, its easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission when it comes to working with the Archdiocese!