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Nakedness, prudery and Catholic sensibilities

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Diego Velázquez | Public Domain

Daniel Esparza - published on 01/12/22

The reaction to a photo of the recently beatified Carlo Acutis wearing a swimsuit highlights a tendency towards prudery, and disregards the Church's historical understanding of Christ incarnate.

Hard-core Catholic traditionalists have lately decried a picture of a young Carlo Acutis (the recently beatified Italian computer programmer) in swimwear during a family vacation, asking whether that is “the outfit of a saint.” The question would be laughable were it not the symptom of something graver. Being scandalized at a kid enjoying his vacation is ostensibly absurd, but the commentary reveals a distorted conception of what sanctity is supposed to be.

St. Teresa and humility

In the sixth book of The Interior Castle, Teresa of Ávila famously defined humility as andar en verdad, “walking on truth.” It suggests that being humble makes one fit (all puns intended) to enter through the narrow gate with relative ease. In that sense, andar (to walk) refers to a general disposition of one’s being. An alternative (and perhaps more comprehensive) translation of Teresa’s definition might read “humility is being in truth,” or maybe even “being truthful,” as if naturally and straightforwardly recognizing one’s own flaws and virtues, dodging the excesses of pride and shame, vanity and self-loathing, carelessness and scruples. 

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