In Christianity, the story of Jesus plays a decisive role, whose fate has shaped another image of nakedness. The story of Saint Francis of Assisi contains a meaning of nudity, that is also found in other cultures.
- Nakedness as humiliation. The nakedness of Jesus as as a tormented and castigated one shows nakedness as punishment and a sign of profound humiliation, which continued from the medieval pillory to – contrary to all the rules of public international law – today's interrogation methods under torture conditions or winning poses of ruffian soldiers against captured or killed opponents.
The nakedness of Jesus as crucified symbolises the continuation and increase of humiliation till death.
- Nudity as asceticism. Nudity of the holy Francis as symbol for the renunciation of all earthly goods and the complete turning to God. In the course of a trial on the market place of Assisi, he broke away from his father, a wealthy merchant, took off his clothes and gave them back to him. From then on, he only wanted to serve the divine Father in heaven.
This view of nudity is a manifestation of ascetic nudity developed centuries earlier in Jainism and Buddhism and practised in classical antiquity in the nude lifestyle of philosophers such as Diogenes, which in turn was modelled by numerous hermits and monks into the Middle Ages.
Catholic social ethics
- Nudity as doxology of divine creation
Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005), later known as Pope John Paul II, taught ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) from 1953 until his appointment as Pope in 1978. In his studies he encounters i.a. the reinterpretation of the Catholic social ethics of Jacques Maritain, whose modern interpretation also mentions the ethical justification of democracy: Democracy would be that modern form of government, that respects human dignity the most. Since 1954, Wojtyla also taught moral theology and social ethics at the University of Kraków.
The book "Love and Responsibility" by Karol Wojtyla, which today is regarded as a fundamental work on Catholic social ethics, also dates back to this period. In this book, you may read concerning human nudity: "Because God has created it, the human body can remain nude and uncovered and preserves unaffected its splendour and beauty." Thus, Pope John Paul II classifies the nude human body as a form of praising divine creation. He continues: "Nudity as such must not be equated with physical shamelessness." Thus, the Catholic social ethics does value simple nudity as not shame-ridden. Only accompanying, shameful activities may turn nudity into a concomitant phenomenon of shameless action.
Another citation from the book distinguishes nudity from indecency: "Indecency is given only, when nakedness plays a negative role in the value of a person." Again, nudity is considered as not indecent, thus as decent. Lack of decency is only bemoaned of, when nakedness is used as means with pejorative or demeaning outcome, e.g. with torture.
Catholic social ethics thus shows a very open attitude towards nudity, very close to naturism.