Still more letters
Immodest and Inappropriate
My wife and I were both taken back by the photograph on the cover of the recent Xavier magazine with the header, "Keeping the Faith." I looked first and didn't say a word. I handed the magazine to my wife and watched her expression. Same reaction. Dismay. Shock. Disappointment.
Why? You associate the crucifix with the chest and open blouse of a young woman. Your picture is both immodest and inappropriate. To parody your article, "Branching Out," St. Ignatius is probably "jumping up and down" this day but not with joy. He's probably yelling, "You don't get it."
A more appropriate article with this picture should have headlined: "The Spiritual Paradox of Our Age." In Hollywood style, you have associated, unabashedly, Christ with vice; the vice in this case, immodesty. In using this picture, you have also captured a "freeze-frame" image of the lax moral climate of a generation whose socialization habits reflect a generic "It's OK" conscience. It's a slack conscience formed not in the Ignatian disciplines of purity, modesty, chastity and holiness, but in the sensual and pleasurable "feelings" of self actualization and fulfillment, the same worldly feelings that ultimately leave one empty and wanting.
It's not "OK" to use the image of a woman is such a casual manner. And it is a shame to associate the Redeemer with such immodesty. This picture also contradicts Fr. [Leo] Klein's statement, "We want them to be intellectually clear but to be morally astute, to have a sense of God." To have a sense of God is to have a sense the dignity of one's person. To be morally astute is to be queenly aware of the slightest thing "of the world" or "of the flesh" that could lead us away from God.
As Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, "As women go, so goes society." When society looks so casually upon women and their bodies, it loses respect for the dignity of womanhood. Your photo, so casual and close-up, using a woman's chest as a background for the crucifix debases the reality of each person as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
In an age where the vast majority of programs and productions are nothing more than quagmires of lust and violence, our Catholic institutions and our Catholic families must hold fast to that which is pure and holy, modest and chaste. In fact, our Catholic institutions should be bastions of purity. This calls for the discipline and the courage of St. Ignatius. It demands that each one of us exercise militant vigilance for the dignity and purity of every soul.
There should be no question where the line between purity and impurity is drawn. It just takes the full operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be astute and to keep those lines intellectually clear in every experience of our daily lives. We must pray for each other, for all of us, at one time or another, cross, mingle and blur those lines when we are tempted to cross the line. We should especially pray for those who dance on those lines, mocking purity itself.
Those who do the dance rationalize their sin as their individual right and freedom. Even the First Amendment grants such freedoms of expression. Others who do the dance would say, "Hey, it's only a picture. If you think it's impure, that's your problem." Well, that's a cop out. God has given editors and producers authority and power but He did not give them the right to tempt others. Those who work in the public must be acutely aware of their responsibility before God. Even St. Paul talked about the serious nature of "teaching" and the consequence of its responsibility. Whether writers and publicists want to admit it or not, they teach, and what they teach may not necessarily be the truth, or, even if it is the truth, it's revelation may not be what is best for the salvation of souls. For the sake of sensationalism and profits, many in the publishing industry compromise moral values and goodness, teasing and appeasing the base human instinct for sex without love.
In this case, a casual glance at a women's chest can be a temptation for many people, but if the temptation is entertained and becomes sin, the one who offers the temptation shares in the sin. This is a burden of sharing that has been lost on a society that prides itself in its ability to warm itself by the fires of temptation without getting burned. As Catholics, we must be extraordinarily vigilant in our selection of what we feed our senses. We must also be very critical in what we teach, learn and share. Our choices affect lives and the lives of those around us. When it comes to images, we must be extremely careful in what we view for our eyes are the "windows to our souls."
Our Lord said, "The pure of heart shall see God." With the blatant impurity of our age, it is no wonder there is such a lack of respect for life, marriage, family and self. It is no wonder there is such dissatisfaction with family, spouse and self. Impurity blinds the eyes of faith, and when we cannot "see" the face of God, we will not "see" the sacredness and the eternal nature of our own being; nor will we ever appreciate the sacred gift of our sexuality. It is only when we begin to see more clearly source and destination of our life that we begin to appreciate the opportunity God has given us to live. We will never treasure the gift of our life or begin to comprehend the Divine value God has attached to each one of us unless we temper our desires and live our lives in the image and likeness of God, "Who is Love."
A society that cannot "see" the source of its dignity or anticipate the experience of eternal joy has no incentive and finds no reason to bring new life into the world, or, for that matter, to care for life that already exists. That society, devoid of personal value and eternal vision, does not recognize that each soul has an eternal destination of life or death, and therefore, it has no concern for the souls of those who are most in danger of losing their eternal life.
No Catholic institution or any one of its organizations can allow itself to be lax in these disciplines of purity, modesty, chastity and holiness. If anything, we and the institutions who profess to be Catholic must hold these virtues in the highest esteem and scrutinize our expressions very carefully so that each expression is virtuous, even to the limits the world thinks extreme. The litmus test? It is always better to err on the side of goodness and purity to the extreme. Why? Because God, who is infinite purity, is the extreme. Who can know that perfect extreme? No one. We can only attempt to imitate it in being cautious to the extreme we can imagine.
If we imitate the purity of God, our expressions of purity can also be piercing lights of grace that stall the proliferation of vice. More importantly, that same grace which abounds in us and from us has as its source the bounty of Christ, which attracts and purifies those who are hungry for the experience of virtue.
The bottom line: a picture of a crucifix, Christ crucified, is ever appropriate and should bring to mind the life Jesus bought for us with His own. A picture of Christ on a partially bare chest just above a woman's cleavage—that is not appropriate. We don't need to look upon the one whom we have crucified and see, at the same time, the flesh of a woman that may lead someone into temptation and sin, which sin, if committed, would be another cause for Christ's infinite suffering and death. Meditate on that one. It's deep.
Best wishes to you and your staff. Keep it pure and holy to the extreme. When in doubt, imagine the Virgin Mary and try to emulate her purity and modesty. If you can't imagine Our Lady, pray the Holy Rosary it is very, very powerful for purity.
Class of 1973