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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Morality

by Catherine Frakas 22 Mar 2001

Morality QUESTION from Joe Ross on January 13, 2003 Hello,
I was wondering as to whether or not the Church has any official document or proclamation on the subject of nudity or, more specifically, on how to determine what constitutes licit as opposed to illicit nudity.
Despite my best efforts I cannot locate any such document or either medium of communication from the church on the topic.
You may tell me to read the Cathechism but I must admit that at times it is rather general and leaves much to be inferred. It is true that today's western culture is filled with all sorts of pornographic efforts to lure persons into fullfilling carnal desires in order to advance certain ideologies and to make a commercial profit. And this is to be condemned. But what about the nudity in certain mediums of art such as painting and photography.
Although these mediums sometimes feature full and graphic nudity the intent seems to be different than that found in the usuaul pornography - the intent here being that of appreciating and uplifting the beauty of the human person.
Or what about the nudity found in some movies. Some movies feature nudity but I don't think a movie that is for the most part good should be condemned because one part is bad.
So you see, there are certainly situations when christians are faced with the issue of nudity and for some it can be difficult to determine what the best course of action is in a particular situation. So I would appreciate any comment you have on this topic and/or my feelings on the subject.
God Bless you for the time and effort you put into this forum.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on January 21, 2003 Dear Mr. Ross:
Part of the answer to your question I gave on a previous Q & A back in November. Here is the URL to that answer about nudity: Click here
Concerning nudity in art: The Church has several documents discussing art, but they are about Sacred Art and Liturgical Art used in worship and the like. I have not found an article dealing with Art in general. But that does not mean there are not principles discussed by the Church that can be applied.
The human body is a wonder of God's creation which in itself is beautiful. Legitimate art either inspires the viewer of the art to beauty or to some other human emotion, even if negative, to inspire a person to understanding and action concerning the human condition.
Gratuitous depictions of nudity that appeals to the prurient interests are morally unacceptible even if labelled at art.
Although some people may consider the pictures in Playboy Magazine, for example, and other similar magazines, as art the purpose of the magazine and the pictures are to stimulate prurient interests and the Playboy Philosophy which is hedonistic and hostile to the Christian worldview.
The famous nudes painted, drawn, sculpted by legitimate artists are depictions of beauty and are meant to bring to the viewer the beauty of the human creation, not the prurient interest to the baser desires.
Prurient interest, by the way, means: 1. Inordinately interested in matters of sex; lascivious; 2. Characterized by an inordinate interest in sex; 3) Arousing or appealing to an inordinate interest in sex.
Concerning Nudity in Movies: In my years of watching movies over more than four decades I have NEVER seen a movies, that needed nudity -- none, with the possible exception of movies that may depict a tribal or aboriginal peoples who do not wear much clothing as part of their culture (and I am not sure it is needed even then).
Nudity in movies is inserted for one reason only -- and it is not for realism or artistic integrity -- that reason is prurient interests.
It is EASILY proven that nudity is not needed. Merely take a look at mainstream movies before 1968 when nudity was not found (except in James Bond movies).
Also take a look at movies today when they are replayed on Network TV -- the nudity is edited out.
For those who did not know the nudity was there in the first place, it is not missed and the plot of the movie is not adversely effected.
I remember the first family movie that included nudity. It was Romeo and Juliet produced by Zeffirelli in 1968. There is one scene when Romeo and Juliet consummate their marriage. The scene reveal Romeo's bottom and Juliet's breast.
The scene of Olivia Hussey's breast was only about 1 second -- merely a flash -- but I was very angry about it at the time. I was 13 and didn't mind seeing a girl's breast, but this flash was so obviously inserted to titilate the crowd that I left the movie theator in a rage. (Otherwise the movie was great).
By the way, Miss Hussey was 13 at the time, I think, which means that this flash of her bare breasts was child pornography. But no one complained because the movie was a major and very well down work of art.
I found it sad that such a beautiful movie was tarnished by this stupid appeal to sexuality.
I include here the theme song in memory of one of the best movies ever made (minus the gratuitous nudity) and one of the most beautiful tunes I know.
I believe one must be very careful when watching movies. St. Paul tells us to guard our senses. If we put sexual images in our brain then Satan can use those images to sift our imaginations like wheat.
In this sexually overcharged society, and with sexual addictions runing at a pandemic rate, the better part of valor is to avoid any movie with nudity. Wait until the Network version like TBS, WGN, etc, comes out and then watch it in its edited form.
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