“When the concept of “modesty” is mentioned in today’s culture— particularly on secular college campuses— any hope of rational dialogue is drowned out by accusations that those who promote modesty are “slut shaming” and advocating “rape culture” by failing to be “body positive.” There is anaphylactic reaction to the word, as if modesty required a woman’s rights to be rolled back to the Middle Ages. But John Paul displayed a sensitive understanding of why the term often ignites such a volatile reaction.
Throughout history, people have blamed the body— particularly of the woman— as the cause of lust. The woman is seen as the seductress, the occasion of sin. But in John Paul’s mind, lust is a problem of the heart, not the body. Blaming the body for lust is a loophole to avoid the true issue: our hearts. 104
If every woman clothed herself from head to toe, lust would remain. Put differently, a thief does not become a philanthropist when jewels are locked away. The cause of theft is not the jewels in the window of the store but the greed in the heart of the robber.
Consider why police sometimes place “bait cars” in high-crime areas. They leave the keys in the ignition of a vacant and unlocked car and put valuable items inside to draw attention to it. People who feel no need to steal walk past the vehicle without difficulty. But those who are inclined to commit larceny often seize upon the opportunity and end up in jail . . . only to blame the police for “setting them up.”
It is the same with the body. Only a mistaken idea of modesty transfers the evil of lust to its object. In human sexuality, the object of desire isn’t evil. In fact, the Pope pointed out that “victory must go hand in hand with an effort to discover the authentic value of the object.” 105 This is one reason why it is so counterproductive to shift the blame of lust to the body; by doing so, a person robs the body of its simple and pure meaning. 106
The body isn’t the problem. If anything, it’s the answer! In fact, one Orthodox scholar noted, “Beauty is the only thing that can make the eye chaste.”107 After all, virtue can only be gained by love of the good, not by merely warding off evil. What’s needed is not for the body to be permanently veiled, but for its meaning to be unveiled, so that the glory of God can be seen in the body. What’s needed is the transformation of the deepest movements within the human heart.
This is not to say that people ought to wear whatever they wish, without regard for the weakness of others. In fact, modesty plays an essential role in transforming the hearts of those who are inclined toward lust. This is because modesty is an invitation to contemplation. It is a reminder that a person’s body is not public property, nor is it the best thing a person has to offer the world. Rather, the body is an invitation to love. But this spousal meaning of the body needs to be protected from concupiscence, and that is the purpose of modesty.
This isn’t merely a woman’s job. In fact, modesty isn’t the exclusive duty of females any more than lust is the exclusive problem of males. It is the heart of the human person— male and female— that is in need of redemption.”
-Evert, Jason. Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 590-620). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” -Col 3:12, 14
104 Cf. TOB 44: 6.
105 TOB 45: 5.
106 Cf. TOB 31: 1.
107 Dr. Timothy Patitsas, “Chastity and Empathy: Eros, Agape, and the Mystery of the Twofold Anointing,” Road to Emmaus 1, no. 60 (Winter 2015), 7.
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom