Pardon some "plain talk" about beachwear. But we need to regain our senses at the beach.

090413I was recently at the beach. It was a fairly nice “family beach” which dials back the loud youth culture and caters more to quiet things like dining, and more homespun entertainment on the boardwalk.

Please pardon me for what I write here. It is a little plain spoken. But at the end of the day, I wonder if a little plain talk isn’t necessary when it comes to beach”wear” (I put “wear” in quotes, because, frankly, there isn’t a lot wearing going on, more nudity really).

Yes I must say, I always remained astonished at the tiny and revealing swimwear worn by many women. Frankly it’s so revealing and over the top that I don’t even find most of it attractive, just lust provoking, and lust isn’t pretty. There is something about modesty that I find more attractive. Maybe its the mystery that modesty protects which appeals. But when almost 98% is “on display” I just feel more sad and alarmed than anything.

I know that some of you will say, “But Father, but Father, what about the men? Are you just going to criticized the females?” Well, to some extent, yes. Frankly most men at the beach cover up a lot more than women do. Most men wear baggy swim trunks that reach often to the knees. And even though men don’t need to cover their chests, (at least in our culture), frankly most of our one piece swimsuits have a lot more fabric than the two piece bikinis of  women. And even the one piece swimsuits of most women fit very tightly so that every curve is accentuated.

But for the record, and for the sake of equality let me be clear, if a man wears a tight speedo I am going to say he is out of line and is dressed immodestly. But frankly, I almost never see that today. Most men would not be caught dead in such a silly thing.

At a personal level it is a very great puzzlement to me why anyone, male or female, would desire to walk around in public with barely a stitch of clothes on. I admit that I am a rather shy person. I almost never wear shorts and would never dream of taking my shirt off in public. Even on the beach I wear baggy shorts that extend beyond my knees and a t-shirt. If I remove the shirt at all, it is just for a brief swim, then I put it right back on.

So I admit, I am shy. But even factoring in my shyness, the question remains, What gets into a person that they are not embarrassed to walk around all but naked? Tiny low cut bikinis that almost shout “Look here at this part of my body!”

It is all odd to me and strangely sad. When I go to the beach I usually spend little time out on the sand, and only walk there at all to be polite to friends. Normally I stay back at the house and enjoy a quiet porch and a book. But out on the beach and boardwalk a kind of sadness envelopes me as I see so many young girls and women denude themselves. I walk, I do not sit on the beach, lest my celibate eyes, were to alight on a particular woman and stare too long.

It was not always this way at the beach. In fact the near nudity of current beaches was all but unthinkable until about the 1950s. As the video shows below, swim wear and modesty at the beach were carefully maintained and swimwear for both men and women covered most of the body. This began to change mid century as swimwear, especially for women, became tighter and gradually more abbreviated.

The present insanity and imprudence has been around since the late sixties, so its not new, but there were times, not so long ago, before the revolution, when sanity, modesty, prudence and respect were maintained even at the beach.

OK, I can hear some saying now, “Father, you are judging me…you are old fashioned….I am a modest woman and I wear bikinis….you’re a dirty old man.”

Well, I am judging, yes I am. Although it is your behavior I am judging. As for you personally, I am actually speaking, presuming you are a reasonable person who would give consideration to what I am saying, namely, that a lot of swimwear offends against modesty and tempts people to impurity. But if you still insist I am judging, fine, but you are judging me in what you say. You are breaking your own rule. So it looks like there’s a pair of us.

As for being old fashioned, yes I am, I admit the charge. Older fashions are better, more attractive. Modesty is reverence for mystery and is very beautiful. I tell you folks used to know how to dress up real nice. It was all so much nicer than the cut off jeans, sloganed t-shirts and sandals that predominate the scenes of shopping malls and public squares today. In the “old days” folks knew how to put on some decent clothes to go out in public. Today, most don’t seem to care and we almost never dress up. I’m gonna say, it doesn’t look pretty, collectively we look like slobs.

As for saying you are modest but wear a bikini, sorry I don’t see it, at least not when you’re wearing a bikini. No, I see a naked woman, not a modest one. Wearing a bikini is not modest. It just isn’t. And frankly a lot of the tight fitting, low cut, one-piece suits aren’t all that modest either.

As for being a dirty old man, I’ve got news for you. Young “clean” men also have “dirty” thoughts when they see naked and provocatively dressed women. They just do. And if you know this, (and deep down you do), why do you do it?

OK, some plain talk. I apologize. But at the end of the day, come on y’all, lets put on some clothes at the beach, and lets call most beachwear what it is: Immodest.

I have written elsewhere that the word modesty comes from “mode” referring to the center or middle. Hence I recognize that there is going to be some leeway when it comes to fashion and that we should not require extreme coverup for women. However, the nudity (and that’s what it too often is) at beaches is not the “mode” of modesty. It is the extreme of immodesty.

Now since I have been plain spoken here, I am going to step back and let you comment with little interference from me. Its your turn.

This video gives some history of swimwear and points a way back. Enjoy it and spread the word.

142 Replies to “Pardon some "plain talk" about beachwear. But we need to regain our senses at the beach.”

  1. I agree father but, having the misfortune of going shopping with my wife I can tell you it is getting VERY hard to find modest clothes much less bikini’s. Not making excuses for it but, just saying it’s getting harder and harder for the opposite sex to find modest clothes.

    1. We had a similar conversation when attempting to guide high school sophomores in their wardrobe choices for their Confirmation ceremony. We were trying to avoid tight, short dresses a platform heels – “clubwear”. The hard-to-find-anything-else argument was made by one mom. Someone else commented, “The Mormon girls don’t have that problem.” Just so.

    2. @David, I think the key is not to shop for modest swimwear, but to shop around to find those (few) merchants who offer modest swimwear.

      It may sound like a distinction without a difference; what I mean is that there are some merchants who make and/or sell modest swimwear, but they are hard to find because they are small and may not have a chain of stores, a mall presence, or even a website.

      I would recommend looking for sites/blogs/etc. where ladies address issues such as modesty and find out how they address these issues. For example, they may know someone who is launching a small business, or feature someone who “alters” swimwear to make it more tasteful and modest.

    3. Even Walmart and Target had modest suits this year. They had ones that included shorts or skirts to give more coverage and many weren’t too low cut on the top. It was surprisingly easy to find nice swim suits this year. There, of course, were plenty of itty bitty bikinis as well.

  2. “The power they were searching for is more attainable when they dress modestly.”


  3. Father is right. There are such pretty skirted and boy-leg suits that the argument that bikinis are all that’s available is invalid. Try the catalogues. I was glad to find a pair of swim trunks the same color as my one-piece suit – more coverage and comfort.

  4. A few things:

    * What Jessica Rey is wearing in the video would be subject to no less wrath less than a century ago, probably by a Catholic prelate. Notice that her skirt barely covers the knee, and that she has bare shoulders. And in the 1910s, her outfit might be considered as too “clingy” to the body. Personally, I think she looks right classy, but that’s just me.

    * Some people wear form-fitting swimwear, not to be revealing, but to glide through the water more easily, especially if they are athletic. People do laps, engage in competition, and so on, and loose swimwear drags them down and impedes performance. If you think that’s outrageous, consider the Olympics over the last half century.

    * Do women who wear bikinis in public evoke lustful thoughts in men? Only if the men stare long enough, and most men I know wouldn’t be caught dead being … well, caught, and most of the women would take exception (unless it was a certain man, and hey, what are the odds?). I think most women do it to impress themselves, if not other women, just knowing that, even in their thirties and forties, they can still pull it off. I don’t think most of them do it to impress men. In fact, I don’t think most of them are smart enough to realize their swimwear might have any effect on men. Yes, I think they’re that stupid.

    Personally, swimwear that people consider “immodest” seems to have little effect on me. If I see them, I don’t think about possessing them sexually, which is how I understand lust to be defined. Maybe it’s because I’ve reached the stage in life where I’m looking for more.

    But hey, that’s just me.

      1. Yes, Maria, I’ve seen that one.

        By the way, what was your point? That I really do have those thoughts but I’m just lying about it? That I said that others did not when in fact I said no such thing? That Olympic swimmers use swimwear not to improve performance but to provoke lust with an international audience? That a woman might have a motive other than enticing men through what she wears (aside from being clueless)? That I was wrong in saying that Jessica’s outfit could be considered immodest? According to the following, it is, on three counts:

        “A dress cannot be called decent which is cut deeper than two fingers breadth under the pit of the throat; which does not cover the arms at least to the elbows; and scarcely reaches a bit beyond the knees. Furthermore, dresses of transparent materials are improper.” (The Cardinal Vicar of Pius XI, 1956)

  5. I agree with you, Monsignor Pope. Modest swimwear seems to be in short supply. It’s disturbing to see women in these revealing get ups. And we all know that men are very visual. Why not just acknowledge the truth and strive towards chastity of mind and body?

  6. I know what you mean–but as a woman, I’ll tell ya–most women, esp young women, are pretty clueless. Seriously, most women don’t know how what they wear effects men–they are simply following fashion, getting nice tan lines, etc. So plain talk may be the way to go.

    Anyway, for maybe the first time ever, I loved what I found to wear to the beach and the pool this summer–a long sleeve “rash guard” over a top with a not-too-mini swim skirt. I could chase and play with my kids, didn’t have to slather on too much sunscreen, and it wasn’t hot (esp once in the water). It was practical and looked nice. I’ll admit–compared to most women there I looked like I was either deathly afraid of skin cancer, but it was fantastic to not be self-conscious and get on with having fun with my kids. But goodness, I looked for something like this for years!

    My girls (not yet teens) aren’t allowed to wear bikinis. One piece swimsuits they can swim in is the rule. I think that is a good baseline and covering more than that at a pool is up to the woman, based in part on her activity and her comfort. (My outfit wouldn’t have been ideal for swimming laps, for example.)

    1. I think this is a very interesting comment. I’ve often thought that if a young woman could spend even a few moments in the mind of a man looking at her while she wears next to nothing, she’d dress more modestly in he future.

    2. It is the obligation of the older women/women who have this knowledge to teach the “clueless” younger women about how what they wear affects the men who see them. I agree, some women are clueless about this because they haven’t been taught, but many have just bought into the lies that we should be able to flaunt our sexuality without consequence–it’s our right, sex is power, etc. It’s sad, really, but I take seriously the responsibility to teach the younger women God’s way and to debunk what they hear from the world.

  7. By your own words, you admit to not wanting to be on the beach, to not wanting to even take your shirt off, to not wanting to socialize. That you only do it to be polite. I’m sorry to say, but you are the outlier here, not the vacationers enjoying themselves. You admit to being shy. Fine. Don’t go to the beach. But don’t try to rob others due to your social stuntedness.

    1. Nudity lacks class Jason. So do you. If Msgr. is an outlier, you are just a liar. More people should be shy today, but you call it evil. Msgr. is not robbing others. Just asking for sensibility which you also seem to lack. Nowhere does he tell people not to have fun, just to be sensible. You don’t have to be naked to have fun. Do you get that?

      1. Jason, I think that YOU are low class. I bet that YOU enjoy looking at girls with bikini because YOU are full of lust and filth.
        You told the Msgr. not to go to the beach, YET you openly promote your filth by coming to this Blog.
        Your mouth promotes immodesty and immorality, this is a Catholic website, go troll at some other filthy website, You low class clown! I’m sorry Msgr. I just lost it!

    2. Jason – I lived at the beach for several years. Imagine being the father of a beautiful teenage girl who looks like she is about 25. Imagine her in a bikini on a family vacation. I’ve seen this situation over and over again. Not pretty – mental predators abound. Think! Msgr. Pope isn’t saying be as conservative as he is! He’s saying: They. are. nearly. naked. And they are. It isn’t necessary to be that undressed to enjoy the beach and all the fun.

  8. I am very fortunate to have modest, petite (read flat chested) athletic teenage girls. With their physique it is certainly easier for them to be modest. Bikinis just aren’t made to fit them and the one pieces cover them up because there isn’t much to overflow. They are on swim teams and like to swim for exercise, competition and for fun (playing in the pool with their friends). They don’t understand two pieces that would be difficult to maneuver in. They thnk they would take all the fun out of swimming. And they would risk losing a piece of it going off a diving board or body surfing. They look at their swim attire as they do uniforms for any other sport – utilitarian. Can I move, is it comfortable, will I be able to swim fast in it? Now, I see their peers who aren’t on swim teams and might be more developed gravitating towards the skimpy two pieces. What is their motivation? Not really to entice boys. I think that might come later. Really it is to show off to each other. Look.. I have a woman’s body. Here it is. That means I am older than I was just a couple of years ago. And for teenagers, all they want is to be thought of as older. Not a good reason, but I think it is a reason. Of course, conformity and peer pressure are part of it as well. It is nearly impossible for a teenager to go to a store and find a swimsuit that isn’t two piece unless she goes to a store that specializes in swim team athletic suits. When they go to store after store and only see that one choice then they begin to think that is what must be worn. Who do we blame for that? are the stores supplying what is wanted or are they causing the problem? Personally I only blame the parents. We usually buy the clothes. We accept what they wear and we sit next to them on the beach and the pool. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable a father must feel being near a daughter dressed scantily. If the mother won’t direct the daughters’ choices, the father should put his foot down!

  9. I think you apologizing too much.
    I normally like all of your posts and comments and usually agree with you. But when it comes to women, I wish you were not so soft.
    I think you are right about what you say here, but I wonder at your efforts not to offend women. This gives their unjustified anger too much credit.

    This blog entry reminds me of the one you did a while back about women needing to submit to their husbands where you spend a disproportionate part of it, in my opinion, discussing mens responsibility to their wives. ( I had pointed that out, and you responded that you were trying to bring balance ).

    I have yet to hear a priest that has had the courage to tell women to be submissive without at the same time giving them an out, by bringing up the husbands responsibility, with out mentioning that the responsibility of each party is not dependent on the other fulfilling theirs.
    Just like the marriage vows, if one party breaks his/her vow it does not permit the other to do so.

    On the subject of the fear of women, I think that it is for this reason that so many husbands are allowing their teen age daughters to go to church dressed so immodestly. Any red blooded even semi good willed man knows the difference between sexy and pretty. These men are afraid to stand up to their wives for the same reasons that you are apologetic to them.
    They will be accused of all the things you mentioned old fashioned, judgemental, and even accused of lusting after their own daughters if they dare say anything to curb this immodesty.
    Most of the time when they persist these augments are of bad will and as you say so well they “..know this…..deep down”
    With the result that immodesty reigns for the sake of peace in the home.
    Having a priest speak out is of great service to everyone, wether they make use of it or not.
    Thank you for that.
    I hope you keep up your efforts to bringing forward these politically incorrect subjects.
    Even though some may dislike you for it, you will gain the admiration and respect of many others.

    1. Francois,
      You’re right on about submission. I am a wife of 16 yrs and I believe in submission to my husband & my family is a lot happier for it! It’s the answer to 90% of our families’ problems today. I think you’ll like who give out FREE pamphlets for people to pass out. They have one titled “Submission” as well as others about faith, family, & finances that are in conformity with what the Church has always taught. One of the authors is not afraid to tell it straight. He has counseled people with great success for 40 years. God bless you!

    2. i agree with you, and this is where i have a challenge with msgr when he is dealing with such issues. i see no reason why msgr should be apologetic about what he is saying. in my opinion, i think msgr is being too mild. the issue of modesty is directly related to lust and sexual immorality which is mortal sin leading souls to hell. it is not something to be joked about or mild about for those that will find themselves condemned at the end of the day may curse those who they feel had the responsibility of warning them sternly on the consequencies of thier action. if someones attire causes another person to lust, which is adultry, as the bible says in matt 5:28, then such a one that causes the other to lust should be ready for the consequencies spelt out in luke 17:1.

      these are very serious issues, matters of life and death, condemnation and eternal life, as such they should not be treated mildly or with a tone of trying to be nice. it hasnt helped anyone.

  10. Here’s a sermon on modesty with the Church’s teaching on dress Our Lady of Fatima warned of fashion that would offend Our Lord. I wonder why is this teaching on modesty so hard for women to obey anymore? You can find a great pious woman & they will turn on you if you bring up this topic. Why? custody of the eyes

    1. Our Lady of Fatima also warned us that many souls go to hell because of the sin of the flesh.
      And wearing a bikini is an ENABLER to the sin of the flesh!

  11. Oh boy, Msgr., I could go on forever on this one but I’ll keep it to a few points:

    1.) Women who expose themselves in this way and think that men who look are “dirty old men” are either not telling the truth that they enjoy being looked at like that or they are trying to deny human nature, i.e., that men are built to respond to visual sexual stimulus.

    Two years ago my husband who is in construction was doing some work at the University of Pennsylvania. He, along with everyone else on the job, was handed a handbook outlining the rules of conduct for contractors working on the U of P campus. Anyone working on site was prohibited from “setting sights on, leering or gazing at any U of P employee or student for longer than 30 seconds.” (I’m paraphrasing here but not making it up!) Now, this was springtime and pretty warm in Philadelphia so there were any number of co-eds sunbathing on the lawns wearing next to nothing. There was nothing in the handbook about co-eds leering at well-built construction workers so that pretty much occurred as the co-ed felt it was appropriate. No amount of PC training will change human nature and I wish we could be honest about that.

    2.) More baffling is the phenomenon of parents letting young children dress immodestly even when they are taken to church. I look at some very young girls – 8, 9 10 years old young, dressed in backless, bare midriff, tiny shorts, etc. and wonder how this will prepare these children to become modest women? Being a DRE, I have been through enough Safe Envinronment training to know that there may be people who are struggling with an attraction for children who are sitting in the pews at church or living next door who find these images very troubling and stimulating. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

    3.) A friend of mine who was went to Catholic school at the same time that I did – 50s and 60s – often says “Whatever happened to the phrase ‘occasion of sin’?” We both remember being taught that girls should not dress in a provocative manner because you became an occasion of sin for someone else. And yes, I do realize that an occasion of sin for some may be a well-turned ankle, but I am not advocating covering up all ankles. We can’t cover all fetishes. As Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography, we all know an “occasion of sin” when we see it.

    Yes, it is difficult to find appropriate clothing for girls and women today but it is not impossible. It is difficult to live our faith period. Is the fear of appearing unfashionable the real block to wearing such clothing? I don’t know. But we need to do what we can to find it and wear it.

  12. If women buy a two piece bathing suit, I am at least glad they are wearing both pieces. European beaches, now there is where you definitely see too much.

  13. I recall the good ol’ days in the 80’s when “preppy” was “in”! Oxford shirts, turtlenecks and chinos for women. Not the most feminine, but extremely modest!

    These days, everyone wants to flaunt their stuff. Even for other women, it’s annoying! Not only do you see it at the beach, but then some of these proud bikini wearers post pictures of themselves on Facebook. Enough already!!

  14. The appearance of near public nudity, if not outright public nudity coincides with the appearance of another cultural phenomenon of the late 1960s, open recreational drug use.

  15. Father makes sense. And I like this woman’s designs.The only problem with me finding stylish modest clothes is my size. Even modest collections online are for women size 10 and under. Where are the modest plus sized clothes? I don’t want to wear a tent!

    1. Try Land’s End. They also have suits where there are bras built in for those of us women who are “abundantly blessed” above the waistline.

  16. Good points. A woman who dresses provocatively, in a bikini or otherwise, is no better than a man who sexually harasses a woman. In both cases, someone is trying to force unwilled sexual thoughts or desires on the other person.

    (I am female, btw.)

  17. The concern to avoid the occasion of sin has been lost to a large degree. Also, as the daily fashions off the beach become more and more immodest, the fashions (or shall we say open nudity) at the beach becomes worse and worse. The sense of sin, especially the desire not to offend God, and practicing the virtue of purity, has been downgraded.

    Here’s a thought provoking article on this topic that may be of interest: Modesty & God

    Thank you.

  18. So why would you put yourself in harm’s way by going to the beach if you KNOW what’s there??? Just to complain? Or because you actually LIKE looking at immodestly dressed women, but won’t admit to it?

    1. Well, I am largely staying out of the conversation. But since you have asked me directly I will say that I find the beach a good place to get away to. But as I said, I mostly stay back at the house, read and take walks in the the neighborhood. It is not the sand and water I seek, just a place to be away. A family is nice enough to loan a group of us their house as a place apart each summer. I usually walk the beach once a day for the reasons stated, to be with friends who do like being out near the water.

      As for knowing what’s there, I do, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have a right to raise social issues just like anyone. I shouldn’t have to “just stay away” from the beach or any other area. I largely do, but I shouldn’t have to. Modesty is a virtue to rightly insist on whether you like it or not.

      As for actually liking to look at immodest women, here too I think I have been honest. The male “animal” side of me does like it. That’s why its tempting! But the higher part of my soul is also troubled and saddened by immodesty and all that it implies. So I have mixed feelings. I think I am, and was honest about that.

      As for you being troubled that I might be “just complaining” Well, so are you billy. You’re complaining about me. Why did u read this blog, “just to complain?” I dunno, maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. So there’s a pair of us. Welcome to the ranks of complainers Billy!

    2. I believe he stated that he only went to be polite to his friends. You have no evidence otherwise and absolutely no way to look into his soul. Your accusations are baseless.

      1. Billy,
        “Or because you actually LIKE looking at immodestly dressed women, but won’t admit to it?”
        If he likes to look at immodest women, then WHY WOULD HE COMPLAIN ABOUT THIS – YOU dense, low class little CLOWN! I’m not nice today!

      2. So what if he does like it? I like it too, but that doesn’t make it right. We’re sinners and sometimes we like what is not good for us, and must avoid it in spite of ourselves. I, too, sometimes avoid the beach to avoid the occasion of sin, but I also sometimes feel like I have a right to be there just as much as you all do.

    3. This is the same relativistic nonsense that says you do what you want, I’ll do what I think is right. There is a truth here that it is wrong to appear near nude. You know that in your conscience. You may let your base instincts over ride that. Like many sins we know they are wrong, at least when you first allowed it you knew it. The fact is that the norm for society has dipped way to low. The common public areas should have norm of appropriate swimwear. I’ve seen many beaches or pools have signs stating men must wear long surfer type shorts and no thongs allowed. It can also state type of swimsuit for men and women that cover them up a little more.

  19. A couple of years ago a young woman told me about her experience in writing about the propriety of public breast feeding for a sociology class. She wrote that breast feeding mothers are normally a lot more modest than a lot of the women on the beach. The reaction from her classmates was outrage. Somehow their reaction to nursing in public was very negative while their reaction to near nudity was extremely defensive. I write this only to comment that the society’s current sense of modesty is out of whack.

    1. Thank you for bring up this point! I (and my breast feeding kindred) have offended many by showing almost zero flesh and using our breasts for the purpose for which God created them and yet the sleezy magazines at checkout counters and horribly immodest clothing and bathing suits raise scarcely an eyebrow.

  20. Interesting comments. I have to admit for me as a man it even feels “immodest” to be without a shirt at the beach or pool.

  21. It’s very hard. Now I just collect many many swimsuit parts from garage sales for my six daughters. Then my kids pick and choose and mix and match. My 15-year old was wearing two different tops and a pair of shorts to make a modest swimwear this summer. I noticed that my eldest daughter’s swimsuit and skirt looks more modest that many of the girls dresses these days. Sad.

  22. One of the great things about the internet (besides this blog, of course), is that you have access to a much broader range of shopping options than are available in your local shopping mall.

    One example is the fact that you can find several clothiers that specialize in modest swimwear for women. Here’s one site that markets fashionable but modest beachwear:

    I think that the swimsuits featured on this and similar sites are not only more modest than most beachwear today, but they’re also a lot classier. It’s nice to know that even in our vulgar culture of today, there is a market for this sort of thing. Hopefully, good Catholic girls will consider classy online alternatives to the skimpy options available in most shopping malls.

  23. THANK YOU Father.

    I think a lot of bikini wearing is just a matter of what the stores sell, and economics. I would prefer longer bathing suits, but I have trouble finding them.

    I also suspect that since bikinis cover less, they cost less.

    Women mostly DON’T have a clue. And I think they feel defensive because they feel that if they try to be more modest, they’ll end up failing (for lack of better alternatives) and they fear they’ll have to stay away from the beach.

    1. You may be right about some women not having a clue.
      But I don’t think you should not underestimate the number of willful women who want the attention that immodesty brings them and are unwilling to admit it or give it up.
      The women who don’t know are not the women who get angry at someone pointing out the obvious.

  24. When I first came to this country, I was horrified to learn I had to wear shorts for PE. I’ve come a long way since then, but now that we live close to the beach, and go often to swim and play in the ocean, I find it easy to be modest by putting on one of those sun-screen shirts over my swimsuit. My husband discovered them, and now we all wear them. They are very comfortable and not too expensive either.

    It is indeed sad that women have to dress so scantily to attract attention. The good men would turn away …

  25. I go to the beach every week, except for the coldest months of winter. I grew up on the beach. For the life of me, I can never find the whole truth in these articles, and even worse are some of the comments. I guess you could say that I’ve been surrounded by what you would consider “nudity” for my entire life. I simply, and honestly can’t understand men or women who objectify others with their gaze. It seems so disordered to me! All I see is people: men, women and children–children of God.. From time to time I will think “oh, she really shouldn’t be wearing that”, but most of all because of my sense of what is aesthetic. Every once in a long while I’ll take note of a suit that is so over the top that I’ll mutter to my husband, “the poor thing needs attention I guess.” The leap from noting bad taste, or even admiring the gift of natural beauty, to fostering lust takes *effort*–a momentary act of the will, even if it is sadly, a conditioned response. My husband is adamant about this, and he is a very red blooded male! Men or women who look lustfully upon other human beings need to sort this out with God, prayer and the help of a good spiritual director. It is *natural* for humans to revert to a kind of animal instinct, but we are not animals, we are *human*.

    BTW, we lived in L.A. for a short period of time in a predominantly Asian community. When it was in the 90s and hundreds outside, my kids would run through the sprinklers in our backyard. The little Chinese kids that lived next door would yell at my *boys* through the bushes because they took their T-shirts off! They would yell at them for being “naked”. My middle school child said the same thing about going on a field trip to the beach. The Chinese boys would enter the water with their t-shirts on.

    If the world shall be saved by beauty, we need not fear beauty; we simply need to order our thirst for it, in God–our God who died in the prime of his life, hanging naked upon a cross..

    1. Anna Lisa,

      A rhetorical question: do you think it would be inappropriate for people to walk around naked at the beach? If controlling one’s gaze is that easy, then why don’t we just walk around naked and not objectify each other?

      I’m glad your husband is a chaste man and can walk around at the beach without lusting for other women. I am also a chaste man and can go to the beach without looking lustfully at a woman. But still, a woman in a bikini is like a magnet to the eyes. It’s like blowing smoke in my face and telling me not to cough. My eyes are drawn, and it takes effort to focus my mind on something else.

      Would that everyone had the self-control of your husband. But that is less than 1% of the men at the beach.

      I agree with your point about beauty. But some beauty should be reserved for one’s spouse.

    2. You really don’t know a man’s mind. It would be great to solely appreciate a woman’s beauty and praise God for it, like Adam and Eve before the fall. But our nature is fallen due to original sin and so there is this tendency, even in good people, to objectify. Let’s not make it easier to do that.

      1. Darin and Anonymous,
        I’m not advocating that women wear what they wear on the beach, I’m recognizing the reality of what *is*. Perhaps there will come a time when people do walk around naked. What then? Custody of the eyes. Personally I think it would get ugly and boring if everybody did that. Some of the women at my yoga studio walk around naked in the locker room, and I am very careful to keep my eyes on the ground. I go to lengths to get dressed beneath a towel because I’m modest. I do wear a bikini on the beach, but always with some kind of covering, unless I’m just with my husband. I’ve given birth ten times, (I have six sons) but I feel that I owe it to my husband to watch what I eat and keep an attractive figure. There is nothing wrong with this. It would be easier to hide under a moomoo. It is also a part of fallen human nature to think you have an exclusive on God’s fashion sense, and to judge everybody else with a wagging finger. Picture the most modest bathing suit in the world, and *someone* would find fault with it! My solution is to keep my eyes on my own paper. Most of the time though I simply admire beauty, am grateful in some small measure for it, and leave it at that.

        I believe that we can be sanctified by our struggle. My husband has been very frank with me about his own struggles growing up in a godless home, and how he has dealt with it. I *know* by the way he prays and loves me that he has conquered. He tells me that nothing in the world compares with the freedom that chastity brings. People who don’t practice chastity think they need to hide from God, they think fig leaves and a “it was the woman that you gave me” mentality mitigate the culpability of the wickedness they freely choose, when they fail to see a woman as a daughter of God.

        1. btw I have two daughters as well, a 4 y.o. and an almost 20 y.o. I mentioned the sons because Anon said that I didn’t understand how the male mind works.
          @Msgr. Pope, I hope that you realize that when it comes to modern culture and styles, women are in a no-win position. One of the comments supposedly quoted O.L. of Fatima, saying “most people go to Hell.” I hope you don’t think that God created children, but the majority simply end up roasting in Hell. I think *that* is perverted.

  26. But, when I have brought these exact points up to others, it is ususlly thrown back at me, that women shouldnt be blamed [for men being tempted/near occasion of sin]. Sad. It is all our responsibility. So many children are losing their souls via their parents’ action and inaction.

    Great start -albeit a late start in society; the ladies appear so much more attractive in these pics than the norm:

  27. This is an important issue that does need to be addressed. I have a nearly 17 (3 wks) year old daughter and 14 year old son. My only issue with his fashion is wearing his pants to low for my taste. He wears a belt & keeps them up, but I believe even showing the waist band of his boxers is too much. We compromised by him wearing longer shirts. It’s not “cool” to tuck in a shirt at school so I know that his waistband is covered.
    My daughter is a pretty girl who inherited a body that is a combination of mine (chest) & her father (backside) with my small waist. We have always had rules for appropriate clothing. I refused to ever allow her to wear shorts/pants with writing on the rear, for example. She has a very good fashion sense, she didn’t get it from me lol. The main thing that we disagree about is the bikini. She does not wear the small ones at all. She thinks that a 1 piece is unflattering on her. She wears cover ups at the beach but not the pool. I am torn because I was embarrassed about my body at her age & I am proud that she feels confident in her own skin. At the same time, she is very curvy. Her full coverage top & bottoms are covering for a less endowed woman. I want her to be modest in this area as she is in every other time in her life. Yet, I don’t want her to feel ashamed or embarrassed about her body. I want to push but not push, am I making any sense? I feel like I’m rambling :-(..
    My daughter has a perfect hourglass shape with a um, uh, larger & rounder backside than the norm for the members of our racial group & a large chest. She has been teased over it & it has taken her awhile to become accustomed to her shape. She feels comfortable in a bikini (not an itsy, bitsy, string, thong, etc). I want her to feel comfortable in her body. Am I wrong for feeling conflicted? She is a chaste, highly intelligent, nice Catholic girl in every way & doesn’t wear it to draw attention. She gets that without it. Am I wrong, truthfully, for seeing this as a pick your battles moment in our case?

    1. I am no position to tell you what to do with your children, I will just say what I did (do) with mine. I strongly believe that if one takes care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves. I learned that in the Marine Corps and it has served me well over the years. My six children have had to strictly comply in areas of faith and morals no matter how small in detail and modesty to me is one of those areas. The closest I came to compromise in that area was when I allowed my then-teenage oldest daughter to wear a long tankini. Our children know we (and God) have a very high expectation of their behavior so their slips have been minor. We have faced a lot of criticism over the years, including from relatives and close friends, but many are now stunned to see the amazing people my oldest children have become and have expressed regrets that they were not as disciplined in their child rearing practices. Although all of us are accountable to God, parents are also accountable how they rear their children. It is both a burden and a great blessing. Seek earnestly the will of the Lord and He will set your path straight.

    2. Consider the research cited in the video above. Exactly how does your daughter want to be seen by men? No matter how intelligent she is, dressing in a bikini will never made her more than a sex object to a guy. Modesty is power!!!!

  28. I found growing up in the sixties and seventies and even eightees finding clothing to suit my figure difficult. Too long in the torso part yet three more different sizes going ‘around’ it. Still today no top comes up high enough to cover my cleavage completely. This is frustrating yet I just have to deal with it. If I lean forward, and have a spare hand, I will try and cover my cleavage. I would love to see swimming ‘togs’ “bottoms” with a skirt on available in store AND at a realistic price.

  29. A few thoughts:

    My wife went from store to store looking for a modest swimsuit….bikini’s where all there was basically to be found….. finally found a one piece she liked. But it was like walking across the desert in search for a drop of water.

    The Bikini was so immodest that at the time was introduced –no model would model it…

    As to sandals and tee shirts and the desire to dress up – Father Pope — while I do not like much tee-shirts with “slogans” my normal attire is a colored tee shirt and shorts and sandals (long pants and different shirt in Mass) — I suggest that such is a cultural change (when reasonable and modest etc) which is good.

    In fact I started wearing sandals long ago -likely looking to the Bible and Monks — and was called “Jesus” in my High School….(for that and having a New Testament with me ….I was a teen convert to the Church)– I think “sandals” are very good old fashion (read ancient) way to go 🙂

    As for Tee shirts –pershaps not so much by way of being old –but I like to wear such also for the reason of wearing a religious medal –I mean beautify medals –crafted by artists in France in the days of yon –works of art–which does not go well on a button shirt. And for comfort 🙂 Informality is a good if reasonable.

  30. Beaches (and pools) tend to be hot – so it makes sense at a practical level to wear as little as possible. It’s a question of comfort. I do think that at least some people (both men and women) dress primarily to flaunt their bodies. This suggests to me an ego gone awry. Nothing wrong with beautiful, sculpted bodies but they should not define one’s sense of self.

  31. What concerns me is the modern practice of many mothers purchasing clothing for their daughters from Victoria’s Secret and joining with their daughters in trying to dress provocatively. One mother bragged to me that she and her daughter really turn heads on the beach. Ironically, the reason she was seeing me (a Christian clinical psychologist) was because she was perplexed as to why, even though she was a Christian, she had had several affairs and found it almost impossible to say no once a man began pursuing her. She rejected my observation that dressing in the manner she was dressed sent a message to all men that she was available to be hit upon. After stating that my observation was patently absurd, she challenged me about what she was wearing that day. When I commented that I had kept my eyes on her eyes or the ceiling but was still aware of how little fabric (none) was between her and the seat of the chair and could not help but see the bright color of her thong through the almost transparent outfit, she decided I could not help her. I guess, fortunately for her, she was from a once saved – always saved – safe and secure for eternity evangelical church so she knew her affairs could not keep her from her eternal reward.

  32. The beach near my mom’s house in Chicago must be one that is used by gay men and their bathing suits are the most outrageous public attire I have ever seen. They are little more than a small pouch in the front, and a string in the back, with their buns completely exposed. These things come as close to absolute nudity as I believe the law would allow. I am assuming this is a homosexual thing, as the men who wear these things only seem to gather and speak with other men on the beach.

    It is so sad and kind of nauseating to see these men on display. I don’t think many women would find these displays attractive at all. But if men are mainly visually oriented, I suppose it makes sense that men who are trying to attract other men feel the need to go on display like this. It’s yucky. I’ve noticed that no one wants to go in the part of the beach where these guys hang out. Moms sure don’t bring their kids over by them.

  33. What I don’t get is that a woman would never walk out anywhere in public wearing just her “under clothing.” Yet, when it comes to a bathing suit, no problem wearing a bottom and top more revealing than her under clothing.

  34. As for my own choice of bathing suits – I went the way the surf boarders go. A t-shirt that is designed to act as a sun screen (with a sports bra underneath), and longish surfer shorts. This attire looks like sporty beach wear and is modest and comfortable. The material dries fast. I think some teenagers might be lured into wearing it, since it’s what surfer dudes wear.

  35. Ladies, there are many one-piece, vintage-style swimwear options even on popular apparel websites like . I agree with Msgr. If a woman is really being honest, it isn’t that modest styles are that hard to find, but more that she doesn’t want to try looking for them. Personally, I have also never had any difficulty in finding fashionable dresses with sleeves, décolleté-coverage, and knee-length hemlines. I can concede the point that some women make, that if they go to the average American shopping center, much of the selection will look either vulgar and flashy, or else slovenly and unfeminine. This is one of the great advantages of the Internet, though! In less time than it takes to drive to a mall, one can usually find something suitable online.

  36. Msgr. Pope,

    I love your transparency and willingness to brave the wrath of both immodest women who have completely conformed to this world and licentious men who brag how little they are affected by near nudity. Just how spiritually corrupt does one have to be to be completely inured to such sin? Romans 1:28-32 says “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.” I have walked in that darkness until a Godly older lady showed me the light and I have turned away and not gone back. I also rear my daughters to dress and behave modestly.

  37. To everyone looking for modest bathing suits:

    Last year (2012) was a good year for bathing suit shopping because the “retro” look was back in, and “retro” suits tend to cover up a lot more. (Believe me: I bought two, and spent more time in the water that year than I had previously in years because until then I was really self-conscious.) This past summer (2013) was somewhat worse, but it was definitely not what had been around in the late 2000s. I think the retro look is getting phased out again so if you can, go find some now. Sometimes it’s worth buying a more expensive suit that makes you feel comfortable and covered up because you’ll actually get your money’s worth out of its use.

    For the future: keep an eye on the trends. If it looks like the 50s are coming back all around, keep a very close eye on the swimsuits because they might show up there, too. Even the early 60s are pretty safe. Right now it looks like we’re into 90s revival so I think it’ll be a couple more years of “ugh” before it might loop back around.

  38. I agree with you, Father, 100%. I work out in a warm water therapy pool where most of us are well over 50 and female. No bikinis here. But I noticed that the few men who came would watch every woman as she got in and out of the pool. It made me really mad because I could sense the lechery. I decided that even though my suit is very modest I would buy a pair of gym shorts to put on over it. Take that, you jerks! It may not look so great, but who cares? I feel a lot more comfortable.

    1. Good for you, now I wonder about the men that “watch every woman as she got in and out of the pool.” Were they young guys or old guys? If they were younger then they are really twisted, if they were older then they are pathetic, because they still have this lust even when they are gross out OLD! Lord, have mercy, they should be thinking about the 4 last things (death, judgment, hell and heaven). Ah what are freak show of humanity!
      This country is going down fast!

  39. It’s odd, isn’t it, that the SPF in the sunscreen keeps going waaaaay up, while the size of the swimsuits goes waaaaay down. Yes, there *are* modest clothing choices out there. But very few and far between, and by far, more expensive than the stores my budget runs to. (Sears, Target, Wal-Mart.) I *do* shop online, but it is not always cheaper … or available! And finding NICE, well-made, quality plus-sized clothes in my price range … forget about it.

    Now, I *am* lucky in that I learned dressmaking as a child from my seamstress Grandmother. But, I save no money by home sewing. It just fits better. And it’s not an option for many women.

    When my teenagers grew out of kids’ sizes, and we went shopping, all that was available was bikinis. I said no. When the girls asked WHY, I asked if they would walk around school, or go to the store, or go to the pool in their bra and panties. They were horrified at the very idea. I pointed out that this was what was covered by the bikini. They picked out the shirt and shorts to wear OVER the bikini themselves. The beach is one thing, but many pools and waterpark facilities will *not* allow anything but swim clothing — no shirts or shorts besides.

    I am blessed that my own sense of modesty has rubbed off on my girls. But as a society, we are locking the door now that the horse is gone from the barn. An “occasion of sin” is unheard of. Modesty, and it’s first-born Good Taste are nowhere to be found. We are a casual society, and we pay the price. “Dress for Work” no means khakis, clean jeans, and if you’re lucky, a polo shirt. Combed hair, clean nails, clean clothes and shoes optional. Remember “it’s snowing in the south” to warn you your slip was peeking out from beneath your skirt? Now we have “whale tails”, “camel toes” and bra straps that are, apparently, *supposed* to show. Burkas are one extreme, but I think we’re reaching the extreme on the other end of the pendulum, too.

  40. Msgr. God bless you and thank you for your willingness to courageously call Catholics to a higher standard than the popular culture.
    Just a side note: God has known about all the deleterious effects of immodesty including skin cancer, lust, rape, porn/sex addictions, etc long before humans understood the connections.

    For those who are interested in heeding Msgr. Pope’s call to better standards of dress and behavior you can do an internet search for “modest swim wear” and you will find all kinds of options. We like the SPF 50+ swim clothing found on some Australian websites.

  41. Great blog, Msgr.
    As a professional woman (I am a surgeon), I find it amazing how women so often at the same time try to insist on being treated as equals and as professionals, and yet so often (in many places, not only at the beach) dress in a way that it’s hard to imagine is not designed to attract the gaze of men and women alike to some point below the neck. I want people to look at my face, not my body. Do men wear sleeveless shirts for business? No. Why do women? I don’t necessarily think that sleeveless blouses or dresses are always immodest- sometimes they are immodest, but they are always not serious, business-like clothes. We need to teach young girls to want men (and other women) to focus on their face, to treat them with respect- not as objects. If they want that, they need to dress accordingly, even on the beach.

    And to you men out there who keep your shirts on except while swimming: a big thanks. I am not blind. If you look good, you can be an occasion of sin. And hey if you look bad, we don’t want to see it. This is true whether you are a man or a woman.

  42. All of the men in my home have swim shirts and long, loose swim trunks. I’m glad I don’t have to navigate the dark world of girl’s clothing. I did make a mistake and buy myself a maxi dress this summer, thinking it would look stylish, modest and be cool. the cut of the neckline destroyed the modesty factor. I’ve worn it twice, and may not ever where it again. I’m embarrassed to be be seen in it. My son is now 13. He loves to swim, but I will think twice before we go to a pool, or the beach.

  43. My 12 year old daughter agrees with you. We have taught her about modesty and it is definitely lacking at our neighborhood pool. She has mentioned to me on more than one occasion that she is not comfortable with what the other women are wearing at the pool. I told her that we can’t tell other people what to wear, but we can choose to avert our eyes from them. Now, I am pondering how to bring this up with my 6 year old son.

  44. Just a very blessed gift to read a father talking about we need most: modesty.

    Thank you father!!!

  45. Thank you for writing this! Yes! I don’t even like to take my children to the beach when it is crowded, because of the insanity. I’m just embarrassed for these women, because they don’t realize (most I believe) how skanky they look. Even my eight year old son knows when women need to put more clothes on! 🙂 I’m happy to see many swim skirts and swim shorts out with swimsuits. There are options if you look for modest swimwear. However, be prepared to pay more. Oh…and for the record…I’m 34 and lived in Florida for seven years. It is possible to enjoy the beach with more clothes on. 🙂

  46. Just a few things, for what it’s worth:

    1. There’s no such thing as ‘dirty’ thoughts. There are sinful and inappropriate thoughts, sure, but such thoughts are not dirty, they are sinful and misplaced. Sex and the sexual attraction are fundamentally good things (as John Paul II stressed in his series of talks which have been compiled in the Theology of the Body), being part of the good creation of the Holy Trinity; it is we men who misappropriate these beautiful things and abuse them.

    2. I completely agree with the main thrust of Father’s post. As a man, I often feel the same way as I’m walking around the beach; in fact, it’s actually gotten so bad that you can walk through a mall or outside on the sidewalk and see nearly as much. Women, even teenagers, regularly go out in short-shorts, mini-skirts, tight t-shirts, and the like. I find this terribly sad, and try to remind myself of my own (future, Deo volente) daughters and what I would say to them if they tried to wear something so revealing.

    3. If we’re going to deal with this issue rationally in our culture, and engage our civilization, such as it is, on this barbarism, we need to think clearly about it. Father already mentioned the fact that in our cultural setting, men do not have to cover their chests or really anything above the waist, nor do they have to cover their legs below a certain point either. This isn’t an entirely new concept, either, the idea that men can without offense reveal more and in a greater variety of circumstances has had some currency for a very long time, though I would say that even on the male side of things there has been some slackening of standards since the Sexual Revolution. If we apply this relativity of standards to the female side as well, though, we should make a case for *why* the old customs ought to be rediscovered and retained. What exactly *is* modesty, and how does it relate to the actualization of that virtue in what we wear? We should get these things straight; unfortunately, we’re no longer dealing with a Christian culture that takes these inherited traditions of how modesty is to manifested for granted; we live in a fundamentally different culture now. We need to think more expansively and argue more completely in order to gain any traction and change the culture.

  47. And besides all that, God’s word in I Timothy 2:19 says: I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly… And remember, Adam and Eve clothed themselves with fig leaves; I guess God considered that immodest and he clothed them in tunics made of animal skins.

    1. This country is sad and pathetic because the parents don’t even care if their own daughters dress like prostitutes in Hollywood! Nothing is surprising coming from Generation Porno!

  48. It is interesting to remember what happened at Lisieux, France, on D-Day, June 6,1944. The Carmelite nuns had to leave the convent and go to the city armory because of all the shelling by the Allies. Celine, St. Therese’s sister was shocked by the female fashions; I wonder what she would say now about the swimwear at the beach!

    1. Love this Father!!!! However Colleen’s book is extreme and saying women can only wear skirts is an overeaction to the nasty immodest clothing that is worn these days. Afterall my Scottish ancestors wore kilts and no one thought they were ladies.

      1. Annie, did you meditated on what Cardinal Siri wrote and Colleen just explain in a very deep way?

        Here is the link:

        I really think it´s easy to understand that skirt (diferent from kilts as she explain) is a very and amazing way to make clear this forgot truth: we love to be the way God created us, women, and this truth is very important in a “gender society” who tries to destroy God´s plan for Man and Women.

        I pray Our Lady will help you to see clearly!

        God bless,


        1. Ah the Old “I will pray for you” when my supposed crime is wearing Pants. Cardinal Siri is not anymore infallible than Cardinal Law. If the Pope said from the Chair of Peter that it is a sin for women to wear pants I will throw my modest pants out. She can say all she wants about kilts are different from skirts but the point is the same. Some cultures wore different clothing for the sexes. The women from India wear pants and men in Somoa wear skirts. Modesty is what the Church teaches not that I shouldn’t wear nice women’s slacks. I would also add that Traditional Catholics in Europe do not have these dogmatic discussions about women wearing pants. I saw lots of women wearing pants at the Latin Masses in Europe. We have been too influenced by protestantism of which I left behind.

  49. Colleen’s book is not extreme; her recommendation is not an overreaction. Our Lady at Fatima said that there would be a time when Jesus would be greatly offended by the fashions of women (i.e., women wearing men’s clothing (a.k.a. pants). The fact that the Scottish ancestors wore kilts is a point that must be considered in the context of the culture and tradition of the Scottish people. If you compare the traditions of women in our culture, pants and short shorts are a relatively new phenomenon — particularly for Catholic women. In addition, women change many things about their being, postures, etc., when they wear pants. Just ask one to wear a dress/skirt for a while and then change into pants. I’ll bet she’ll tell you that after wearing pants just a short while, she began to think and do things more like a man (e.g., sit with legs apart, put hands between her thighs, etc., — these are things not typically done when wearing a dress). Women change when they wear pants, and in this period of such “tribal” semi-nudity, it would be good for women to be counter-revolutionary, and wear pretty dresses and skirts. The world does not need any more immodest clothing on women!

    1. Call me naive, Eileen, but I’ve never understood what makes skirts or dresses, which display various lengths of leg, are more modest than, say, loose-fitting pants.

      1. Hi Bill, Again, the question of modesty (for me, anyway) isn’t just about length of dress, skirts, etc., it has more to do with the slit that creates lines that go up the leg. My husband once told me that men love to look at lines on women’s bodies. I don’t know if that is true, but it is for him, anyway. Remember gaucho pants and the “elephant pants”? I believe that they were a stepping stone to getting women to wear pants. It has nothing to do with length, but has everything to do with the making of that split leg effect and again, when there is a split between the legs, it creates a different effect, both for women and men. If it has a split, well, then they are pants, and pants belong on men, is what I understand our Blessed Mother to be saying. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of women who wear pants to do men’s work. The problem for me is blurring the lines between men and women. As I look out across the population, the ability to discern who is a man and who is a woman gets more blurry all the time (but that is a different topic than this), so I will just have to say that for me, anyway, modesty is more than just the length of the leg covering. Maybe it’s different for others, but I like the fact that I’m different than a man and I don’t want to wear men’s clothing for much more than doing messy men’s work when I have to (e.g., taking out the messy trash, cleaning out the barn/garage, that type of thing) … (:-).

  50. The bikini-discussion! I’ve learned to avoid it. We’ve discussed this at length among my friends, and with confirmation students. And I’ve come to a few conclusions:
    Young girls can’t tell the difference between sexy and pretty. They really, really can’t! The bikini they’re wearing, to their minds, isn’t sexy – it’s pretty, or in fashion or cool. Certain details they may seem like nothing to you makes all the difference to them (String bikinis are a bit too sexy but Bandeau ones are considered modest for example).
    More than anything, most young girls dress for other girls. While a skirted one-piece would make them more comfortable they can’t imagine wearing them – the judgment from other girls would be too harsh. I’ve heard countless young women say things like “the kind of bathing suits I wore as a child are lovely! But you can’t wear them once your older”.
    Perhaps we can expect adult women to have better judgment – once you’re above the age of 25 you can’t be unaware of the differences in men and women when it comes to the way we look at each other. But the teenage girls don’t get it. They really don’t. They can’t imagine that their carefully chosen bikini – where little ruffles or hot pant-cut might be supposed to communicate innocence and non-sexyness – might be seen as basically sexy underwear by the men around them.
    They are so convinced that they are ugly and unattractive that they can’t begin to imagine themselves as sex symbols.
    Cut them some slack – they have no clue!

    1. …realistic, accurate, astute, and perceptive comment. My 17 year old modesty-trained, beautiful daughter has no clue, despite our efforts to educate her about the reality of adult sexuality. She hears it, but it goes only so deep.
      My wife continues to do all she can to help guide her through this time in her life.

      1. Tim, I think it is better to guide our teens gently as well. I have a dear friend with eight children. Her husband makes a modest income, but they scraped by and he has commuted 45 mins every day for twenty years so the kids could attend a really orthodox Catholic school. At her oldest daughter’s graduation party, her daughter wore a “tankini”. The other girls gossiped about her mercilessly. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back! Those girls were jealous of her, but hid behind a false piety to mask their pettiness. My friend’s daughter literally lost her faith after years of this kind of treatment. She is no longer Catholic.

  51. Understanding the need for modesty in dressing as women, it really is in the mind and what is going on there. I have seen women in modest skirts and dresses purposely reveal way more (that pants just couldn’t reveal) than those who wear pants! That said, if the mind is right with God, a women will dress accordingly even when wearing pants (she will not WANT to wear revealing clothing/bathing suit, etc.). Of course young girls should be taught and understand just what modesty is and why it is important to follow.

    1. I wanted to add that, in days like these, it is important for young men and all men alike to be modest too… and maybe men DO NEED TO cover their chests and avoid skimpy bathing suits, etc. etc. as to be modest also. I have seen lots of “tight speedos” on men at the beach but also on children’s/young men’s swim teams (school and private) they are required to wear them. It is not only women who are lusted after, we all know this.

  52. It is useful to have a Natural Law approach to this issue. We are designed by the Creator to have a sexual response when we see the form of someone of the opposite sex. This is in our nature, and we should not pretend otherwise. Therefore, we all have an obligation to cover up our forms, as the occurrence of this sexual response, which is often non-volitional, should always be minimized outside of marriage. Women have the most to cover up, so the most focus needs to be on woman’s modesty.

    Some attempts to promote modesty seem lame, because they do not reference the most important reasons for it.

  53. The first thought is that when men show their class, the only thing you see is their head and hands. When women show class…or any social scenario,, the only thing you don’t notice are their head and hands as it is all revealed. Clearly, someone took women’s empowerment and fooled them into thinking it meant revealing yourself. I respect a well dressed classy women that reveals little or nothing vastly more than a scantily clad anything. We all know this.

    It’s silly to backup the immodesty deception with words like empowerment. It’s demeaning to women more than the bathing suit itself….which is also pretty demeaning.

    1. I don’t understand the “empowerment” argument. I just don’t see the “power” of someone being thought of as an object instead of a person, even though it may be as an “object of beauty”. I know someone can be attracted to beauty and then later “see” the “person”, but that should happen with modesty and if so, it will happen in a more “powerful” way!

  54. This is kind of a no-brainer; women, please remember that in general, men are the more sexually aggressive of the genders; The bikini fashions of the day @ the beach seem to be designed to deliberately stimulate that aggression to the max.And It can be a real incitation to impurity for men the way so many women dress in this fashion while there. It’s just the way God created us, male and female. So women need to remind themselves of that fact and just DRESS MODESTLY in the summer @ the beach. Get the picture? God Bless all, Markrite

  55. Never read such a pile of tripe in my life. It’s just a human body – we were all born naked. Everyone needs to stop being so uptight. This shaming of the naked body is exactly why nakedness excites people so much. If nakedness wasn’t controversial, would we really be bothered? Reeks of sexism, misogyny, and body-shaming.

    1. You seem pretty uptight about this Claire. So, aren’t you breaking your own rule? As to what I am doing, it’s just speech, we were all born to talk. Why are you uptight that I am using my God-given talent of speech? Your comments reek of censorship, shaming and intolerance for the sensibilities of others.

      1. Monsignoir:

        After awhile will not becomes cannot. I will not resist sin become cannot becomes sin. I will not see becomes cannot see. I am Lutheran. Raised Catholic. Still have alot of respect for the nuns, priest and brothers who educated me. I wish you would write about how will not become cannot.

        The obedience of women to their husbands is to be modeled on that of the church. The obedience of the Church is to receive the gifts of God, forgiveness of sins won by Christ. Obedience is reception. A man’s leadership is to be modeled on that of Christ, you call me Lord and Master and yet here I am, among you as one who serves.

        Doesn’t matter how often the Church says it, the world does not hear because they will not hear. Modesty to the unbeliever makes no sense. My goodness, the damage we have done to ourselves over the last couple of decades. Read a line once, if you are sitting at the poker table and can’t recognize who the chump is at the table, then you are it. The secular types think they are smart but they don’t recognize that they are the chumps. Will not becomes cannot.

        Anywho, enjoy your blog.

  56. Well I am on both sides of this one. Like the poster from LA, I grew up at the beach and there is a certain prelapsarian aspect to it. I do recall awkward adolescence however though not everyone seemed to feel it. Shyness is partly habituation as is being able to shake of concupiesence or embarrassment at the beach. I have sons, but if I had daughters I would not allow bikinis. Why my sister who is otherwise so on guard about objectification allows my nieces to wear the itsy bitsy things, I dunno. Also, we are a family of competitive swimmes. I remember as kid that having to wear a speedo for the first time was very embarrassing. One gets over it in the context (now most boys wear the jammers which are skiin tight to the the thigh- and the very high tech suits are body length though form fitting). The cult of the body is a problem in this culture and cultivating modesty needs to be done but the devil is in the details.

  57. Saint Pelagia was a beautiful prostitute once upon a time. When a synod of bishops was held in her city, some wealthy customers paid her to walk through the synod in a most immodest way. All the bishops hid their eyes from this display except for one. When his brothers admonished him for watching he responded that God made such beauty to be admired. Pelagia was so overcome with this response that she was filled with remorse. She gave away all her wealth to the poor and reformed her life. Would we all be so strong as to reform and amend our lives.

  58. Father, I agree with all you wrote. It makes me ashamed (as a female) to see the way women are practically naked at the beach. You do not need to apologize.
    Our Lady of Fatima warned of this 100 years ago!!! She also said that most souls go to Hell because of the sins of impurity. With today’s lack of modesty and shame–it is obvious of how correct she was.

  59. What is it about this issue that evokes so many responses and so much passion? I am uncomfortable with the imbalance – other posts by the good priest that arguably contain more important topics do not get nearly as many comments. I have seen this repeated at other blogs as well.

    Of course, I value modesty, but I am very skeptical of suggestions that condemn specific fashions as immodest. I do not see how such suggestions could be anything other than mere human opinion, and, therefore, not binding on the consciences of anyone. I think a more reasoned approach is to focus on chastity as an attitude and outlook formed by a set principles. Once minds are transformed, I think the rest will follow in time. People will make better prudential judgments about what to wear and how to act. We can kindly talk about those prudential judgments (like many of you are doing), but I think our *emphasis* should be in transforming hearts and letting people make their judgments. I think it is more objective, reasoned, and loving.

  60. Stop your whining! If you don’t want to breath smoke, don’t go where people are smoking. If you don’t want to be subjected to people drinking, don’t go to a bar. If you don’t want to hear loud music, don’t go to a rock concert. If you don’t want to see people in scanty attire, don’t go to the beach.

    1. Aren’t you breaking your own rules? You are 1. Complaining. and 2. Coming near where people like me are. Perhaps I would propose a different “rule” namely that “It is OK for people to critique the wider culture in which we all live. That way you can complain, as you are doing here, and so can I. How about that Ron?

      1. I know, what a clown why are you over here trolling at a religious site?

  61. Which beach are you referring to, Msgr.? At WYD in Rio – held on the beach – youth were wearing bikinis to mass, encouraged to flash mob the pope by shaking their booties & shouting “ho! ho! ho!”, receive communion from disposable plastic cups & then hop in the ocean for a swim afterward. The only thing the pope commented on was not to use drugs…Of course, 4 days after pope’s visit pope legalized abortion (pope did not comment on that either) – wonder how many abortions will be the fruit of world youth day. Seems like on most issues the church plays both ends against the middle – and laughs all the way to the bank.

    P.S. Priests aren’t pundits. Priests who care about their flock frankly state the truth: by dressing immodestly women cause men to fall into mortal sin (lust and perhaps to commit fornication/adultery). There are serious consequences for leading anyone into sin – read Proverbs Chapters 5 & 7 concerning women who lead men into sexual sin (her path leads to hell); contrast w/Proverbs 31. Dressing immodestly because one respects men more than God (wants to fit in w/certain crowd of friends) or because one wants men to lust after oneself (vanity/idolatry) or to get a boyfriend (what else will you do to get/keep boyfriend?) – are either sins or will probably lead to sin. Also wonder how many women dressed like this are using contraception because they are engaged in habitual and serial fornication. It’s amazing how women walk around (even news casters) in a constant state of undress/dress designed to “attract men” and yet we have less than replacement birth level as well as 4,000 babies killed a day in U.S. Too bad your article is so unserious when you consider these sins that will damn our nation to hell as surely as the entire city of Sodom was destroyed–or Nineveh had it not repented.

    Throughout the Bible the imagery for infidelity to God is a harlot.

    1. Well… I think a case can be made that bikinis at Brazilian beaches like Rio are acceptable given the culture. I also think a case can be made for the contrary claim. I am open to the most reasonable argument, but I definitely resist unsupported assertions that bikinis are always and everywhere immodest. I do not think that is right.

      However, at WYD with the pope? I just can’t help but shake my head. *sigh*

    2. So let me get this straight, but you sound like an Islamic extremist. It is not a woman’s fault if a man falls into sin. It’s the man’s fault. We wear bikinis and other swimsuits to the beach and shorts/tanktops because it’s so darn hot in the summer. We’re just trying to be comfortable and get some tan. We’re not trying to lure men. It’s the fashion of the times. Those modesty swimsuits are downright hideous and I refuse to dress frumpy just because it’s modest. Those modest, frumpy clothes make a woman look old and unattractive.

      1. Avoid all or nothing thinking Mary. Words like Islamic extremist hideous frumpy etc. Also please avoid implying as you do that age (old) = unattractive. Besides being unjustly unkind It suggests that you have dismorphic tendencies

  62. Thank you, Msgr Pope! I could not agree more. I have long said that I don’t know a single woman who would walk around in public, among strangers, wearing her bra and underwear, yet they’ll wear a bikini. There’s NO difference except the type of fabric!! It is so immodest, and degrading. And we wonder why so many men treat women like nothing but a body to be used for pleasure.

    1. There’s a HUGE difference between undergarments and swimwear. As for knowing women who wander about in public in undergarments, I’ve seen it, plenty. Done it even. For fun and for function – (have you never been camping or spent time being active in the great outdoors?) We tend not to feel offended by things we find to be appealing, attractive, pretty. We only seem to become outraged (or is it jealous?) if our sensibilities have been assaulted by gratuitous sexuality – and/or copious amounts of flesh exposed by incredibly unhealthy egoists!

      The naked or partially clothed body is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Wearing a swimsuit is not akin to murder. To me, of course!

      1. Yes it is. Nudity or near nudity in public is uncalled for. It has nothing to do with beauty. Some beauty is for the bedroom though. Also, I have having trouble distinguishing a bikini from underwear. Can you please delineate the differences, other than to say it is different? One difference I CAN think of is that some underwear covers more than a bikini. That of course is not a pleasing difference but it does underscore the fact that bikini’s are about exciting arousal and exposing.

        And since you’re into name-calling (egoists, jealous, unhealthy etc) perhaps I can call you an exhibitionist, a voyeur, and shameless?

  63. I’m not advocating complete nudity on the beach, but a few years ago I witnessed an interesting demonstration. It was at a Theology Of the Body conference in Maine. There was a Byzantine priest from Chicago there who was also an artist. He showed a drawing of a nude woman; and then the same drawing with the woman wearing a bikini. All agreed that the second picture was more likely to bring on lust.

    1. “There was a Byzantine priest from Chicago there who was also an artist. He showed a drawing of a nude woman …”

      This account is consistent with my own experience.

      As an art student in the mid-70s, I was in figure drawing classes which featured nude models. There is less to the imagination when everything is there to see. Any type of outfit, particularly revealing swimwear, can accentuate some parts more than others. Where i might beg to differ with some, however, is where the lines between observation, admiration, and lust can be drawn. Authoritative opinions on these distinctions have varied over the generations, which makes this issue all the more of a challenge to confront. Indeed, according to the statement from the Cardinal Vicar of Pius XI, Jessica Rey is dressed immodestly on at least three counts (bare shoulders, skirt just above the knee, possibly the neckline). I do not believe it is, but if Our Lady gave warnings at Fatima, as to what manner of dress would displease Our Lord — need I mention that this was a *private* revelation? — can we be certain as to whether or not she was referring to one attired as is Ms Rey?

      I certainly hope not.

  64. Ok Father, here’s my solution.. Just like how we keep telling our children that it’s ok to have a gay life style and how we should learn to be tolerant, I’d suggest the same approach with bathing suits.. If the owners and or operators of beaches choose not to want women in “immodest” bikini type bathing suits on the beaches that they manage, all they have to do is place signs at access points stating that fact, and enforce it.. However they should not be surprised if women who feel wronged push back with lawsuits or whatever by retaliatory means they can.. Much like gays have pushed back, even going so far as to coin a word to describe anyone who disagrees with them and their lifestyle as “homophobic”.. Next, it used to be only religious extremists who had a problem with women who were proud of their bodies and so wore somewhat revealing apparel.. Seems the extremist ideology has spread west, despite the sacrifices of so many who fought and died in the current wars to help give women of the religious extremes a voice, never mind those in more religiously neutral countries.. Seriously though, it’s about choice.. And just like the women who choose to wear revealing clothing whether at the beach or anywhere else, you have a choice to look or not to look.. Your shyness as you state, is not reason to deny anyone, man or woman, the right to wear whatever it is they feel comfortable in, so long as there’s no law against it.. As for those bikinis that reveal every part of the wearer’s anatomy, if that person feels comfortable enough to wear it, why let it be a bother to you? It’s their body being revealed, not yours.. Keeps yours in the knee length shorts that you prefer.. Live and let live..

  65. I think that if we go back and take a look at the teachings on modesty that the church used to teach prior to Vatican II, much could be learned — both by priests, and the laity. Modesty, I believe, is defined by the unwillingness to show the body form. Our Blessed Mother certainly did not dress with clingy dresses and belts. Also, since Vatican II and its aggiornamento – the opening of the Church to the world – we see clergy abandoning the old good customs of custody of the eyes and body. Monks certainly did not embrace women, as they do today.

    We can see the extreme vigilance to keep chastity that the medieval Orders maintained from this brief story in the early annals of the Dominican Order.

    During a chapter presided over by Blessed Jordan of Saxony, who was the second General of the Dominican Order, one of the brothers accused himself for having shaken hands with a woman. This brother excused himself, however, by saying that she was a person of good reputation and that no harm had been done.

    Thereupon Blessed Jordan made this curt reply: “Rain is good and earth is good, yet mingled they form mud. In similar fashion, though the hands of men and women are both good, yet evil may arise in thought and affection if they are brought together.”

    From the Lives of the Brethren of the Orders of Preachers 1206-1259,
    London: Blackfriars Publications 1955, Part IV, Chap. 31

    Perhaps this is good food for thought …

  66. The Doauy-Rheims Bible says something very interesting about immodesty in Galatians 5:19-21
    “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, […] and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.”
    Don’t tempt men to lust (that’s a sin) by showing the upper half of your breasts to everybody. I’m a girl too and I won’t.

  67. Well, let’s be honest, men are different than women. Conciscence attacts us in one way, women another. I’ve never understood where it attacks women, unless it is vanity. But lets face it a male exhibitionist does not bother me at all, but female immodesty does. Here is an excellent video by some brave priest that says it all.


  68. Thank you Msgr. This whole topic makes me really sad. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time believing that most teenage girls don’t know the difference between pretty and sexy. I sure did! I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and miniskirts, bikinis ,etc.. were worn by me and my friends to attract boys. Period. We knew what we were doing and knew that our dads didn’t like it. We snuck out of the house and changed at the beach. We may not have understood all the ramifications or theology of the body, but we knew it was to attract the opposite sex and we wanted to look as sexy as we could get away with. It was not until I had daughters of my own that I started to realize how immodest my dress was. Funny, I am hypersensitive to immodesty now and it makes me really sad that I spent so many years in this mode and probably caused more than one brother in Christ to sin. Mea culpa!

  69. Thank you Monsignor Pope for this very brave article. The lack of modesty is not only inappropriate, it is sinful. It is leading men and women into the occasion of sin. I will share a personal, sad but true situation. I am a mother of five and I had a nice figure even after having my children . However at 50 + it has been a struggle to keep the pounds off. I work very hard to remain healthy and attractive for my husband, especially during the yearly trip to a warmer climate. I dieted and exercised myself into a modest but flattering one piece bathing suit. Honestly, I was hoping to see that twinkle in my husband’s eye. Well , not only did I NOT see the twinkle , what I did see was crushing. Due to crowding, we were stuck (rather I was stuck!!) in between two gorgeous blondes in tiny bikinis. Let’s just say my husband isn’t blind. Please understand , I was not jealous, but I did feel invisible during the” big reveal” of months of diet and exercise. My husband is a very handsome man and these women loved the challenge of trying to get him to look at them. I was exhausted after their performance , and also feeling rather hurt. I couldn’t help but to ponder , why these two mothers would want to entice another woman’s husband right in front of his wife and children??After putting my cover-up back on and roasting in the hot sun I secretly wanted to kick their rear-ends right into the pool. But then behind my sunglasses I began to cry. I am embarrased to admit that at first it was for me, but then it was for them. I thought how sad it was for them that they get their self-worth from strutting their stuff in front of a man. I thought of how they set us (women) back into being looked at as sex objects. Lastly, I cried for their daughters that will one day imitate their behavior. Then I prayed to Jesus Christ to heal the wound in them that would turn these beautiful women into poolside Jezebels. It killed me to do this , but I complimented one of them on her pretty eyes, and the other on her nice smile. It made them very uneasy. Seductiveness turned to shame, and seemed to have put a damper on their game. Shortly after they packed- up for the day . Let’s just say on day two, they were no where in sight. I write this especially for women to see how every action has a reaction, and we are all responsible for our actions. So ladies ,is it really worth creating so much sin just for your ego boost? As women we should be ladies, healers , nurturers and supporters . Not family-friendly porn stars. Remember ladies, we all reflect our upbringing, I remember my mom’s bathing suit looked like fun in the sun, not dental floss.

  70. Oh no! Will the Catholic Church begin advocating the burqua? :-))

    Men must control themselves. NOT continue persecuting women for their own lack of self control.

    Thank you for the forum!

  71. I agree totally with the comment “the better choice is avoid those places of nudity!” I thought we are to avoid occasions of sin as we say at the end of confession. I just wish modesty in dress inside churches were enforced more.

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