How Do You Explain Modesty to Young People?

Dear Catholic Exchange:

Hi! We have a large water park recreational area close to our home. The past few years we have not visited the area, but we have heard that water park patrons have become increasingly immodest, so we made the decision to avoid them because we have a large number of young boys in the family. Also, it makes my husband and me uncomfortable.

We have a church outing scheduled for altar servers that involves one of these water park destinations. Many of the families are going and do not see it as wrong. They do not feel that a boy is bothered by these things at a certain age or that people can go and just “not look.” What are your thoughts on this and how do you explain this to young people?

In Christ,

Tracy Arbanas

Dear Tracy,

Peace in Christ!

We respect your decision to protect your children from the immodesty you have been warned about. Because the modesty (or lack thereof) of particular clothing or styles is somewhat subjective, we would not advise you to present what appears to be an objective ruling regarding the degree of modesty or immodesty displayed at these water parks. A more effective approach may be to suggest activities that would be beneficial to the youth and their faith journey using general principles like dignity and purity. As far as catechizing the youth and others regarding the importance of modesty, you may want to familiarize yourself with the Church’s teaching found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Catechism).

The Catechism discusses modesty in paragraphs 2521-2524. These four short paragraphs explain the meaning of modesty and provide principles for its application. In these sections modesty is discussed in the context of purity. This is based on the dignity of the individual person and how persons are called to interact with one another (solidarity). Because the human person is “embodied,” the body is an expression of the person. Modesty regarding the body both manifests and fosters respect for the dignity of the person. Thus Modesty is more than simply a means of preventing an occasion of sin for another person; it is a way of honoring God with our bodies.

For further reading, you may want to consider the Church’s larger treatment on the Ninth Commandment in paragraphs 2514-33 in the Catechism and also its treatment on chastity and the Sixth Commandment in paragraphs 2331-59. We would also recommend Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Purity: The Mystery of Christian Sexuality, published by Franciscan Herald Press. I have also included a link to Bishop John W. Yanta’s June 2006 Pastoral Letter, Modesty starts with purification of the heart.

United in the Faith,

Peter Balbirnie

Information Specialist

Catholics United for the Faith

827 North Fourth Street

Steubenville, OH 43952

800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

Editor's Note: To submit a faith question to Catholic Exchange, email Please note that all email submitted to Catholic Exchange becomes the property of Catholic Exchange and may be published in this space. Published letters may be edited for length and clarity. Names and cities of letter writers may also be published. Email addresses of viewers will not normally be published.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage