purity of vision,
external and internal; by discipline of feelings
and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts
that incline us to turn aside from the path of God’s commandments:
“Appearance arouses yearning in fools”;
I thought that continence arose from one’s own powers,
which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough
not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant
it. For youwould surely have granted it if my inner groaning
had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares
an integral part of temperance.
Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refus
ing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity
to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at
others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of
persons and their solidarity.
Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It
encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it re
quires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commit
ment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is
decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or
reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is
There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It
protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human
body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media
that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way
of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the
pressures of prevailing ideologies.
The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another.
Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual
dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of
being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means
awakening in them respect for the human person.
315 St. Augustine,
6, 11, 20: PL 32, 729-730.