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Shame, Dignity, & Catholicism



Shame: that embarrassing feeling. By definition, shame is the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, or ridiculous. According to Catholic theologians (and John Paul II specifically), shame is a natural defense mechanism that arose due to “The Fall” (Adam and Eve disobeying God).

I attend a private, Catholic high school in Kentucky. Recently, during one of my “Theology 102” classes, we were discussing The Fall of Adam and Eve. To make this (painfully) long story short, Adam and Eve ate fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, disobeying God, thus resulting in The Fall. In the aftermath of The Fall, sin and many other “vices” were said to come onto the earth.

So after the Fall, Adam and Eve felt shame, something they didn’t feel before. Therefore, they covered their bodies. This is seen as a good thing in the Old Testament of the Bible, and shame is also looked upon as a positive feeling in modern day.

Now whether you agree with or believe in Catholic doctrine or not, this is important, because this story has had a significant impact on our society today. This belief, that shame came about as a positive necessity, is inherently perpetuating rape culture.

Let me make it clearer for you: Catholic institutions are teaching that girls and women should be ASHAMED of their bodies. That it is necessary to feel SHAME. That a woman cannot and should not be PROUD of her body.

Why only women, you ask? That’s a good question. During this lecture, my teacher only mentioned how women should feel always shame—he never mentioned men. This blatant misogyny is being taught to children, teens, and young adults everywhere.

Let me say it one more time: we are being taught that women need to be ashamed of their bodies. Along with the topic of shame, we learned about dignity. In terms of Catholicism, it’s the gift of worth from God that each person possesses.

To attempt to put a modern twist on the subject, my teacher decided to give us some “everyday examples of misuses of dignity.” He then proceeded to show us a Hardee’s TV commercial portraying Ronda Rousey indulging in a hamburger sexily while wearing fighting attire.

Following the ad, my teacher proceeded to explain how her clothing and sexual attitude is a misuse of her dignity. In other words, he is stating that a woman owning her sexuality is a bad thing.

Again: no mention of men. What about men who are sexual? Men who own their sexualities? Are they “bad” too? No mention of them at all.

All in all, these beliefs being taught in Catholic institutions are toxic. They are perpetuating rape culture, discrimination, and downright misogyny. The Catholic Church needs to re­establish its position of “shame” and “dignity.”

If the Church continues to teach these absurdities, girls will continue to grow up believing that their bodies are inherently evil. We c annot let this continue. No girl should EVER be taught to be ashamed of her body. That is ridiculous.


Voted Thanks!
Alex Brown
Written By

Alex Brown is a senior in high school from a small town in Kentucky. He has been a staff writer for Affinity since October of 2015 and senior editor since July of 2016. You can follow him on Twitter: @_alexb12 and Instagram: @alex.brown


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