January 21, 2013 by lucieromarin
So, having declared that contemporary methods of chastity apologetics cause more problems than they solve, I’ve left myself in the position of having to propose some alternatives. Well, bearing in mind that none of this comes from any kind of authority, here are some suggestions:
1) a) Change the whole context of the apologetic. Chastity, as a topic, exists in a kind of isolation: go to almost any Catholic website, and the tabs will be labelled, say, ‘Pope’, ‘Scripture,’ ‘Saints’, ‘Chastity’. There won’t be a tab labelled ‘Forgiveness,’ or ‘Alms-giving’. Granted, society is so bombarded with messages contrary to chastity that it probably seems natural for us to spend more time on it than on the other virtues, but this does, in fact, play right into the hands of the opposite agenda. It doesn’t matter which way sex dominates your life – either by the having of it or by the not having of it – any kind of dominance is bad. We expect non-Catholics to learn that sex is a part of a package which includes marriage and babies; we ourselves need to treat chastity as part of a bigger package which includes charity, humility, and all the other virtues; for as long as we isolate chastity from the other virtues, we reinforce the message that sex interests us more than anything else does. Nothing says ‘sex-maniac’ like a guy who won’t stop talking about how to not think about it.
b) Return to Scripture. Just look at the letters of St Paul and the other apostles: impurity is almost never condemned in isolation, and it is almost always condemned alongside love of money, or anger, or drunkenness. That is, the great sin is Excess. The pleasures we associate with impurity are barely described; the writers’ concerns are with the heart’s worship of things other than God. The sin is Needing Something Too Much, In Fact, So Much That You’ll Wreck Other Stuff To Get It (eg the person you use for sex, or the sweatshop worker you exploited to get the cheap goods, or your own self with the alcohol.) The contemporary mind needs to hear about purity in the light of our issues with consumerism, child obesity, and so on. I know that sound a bit like a trendy trying to make an uncool topic cool; but there it is.
2) Less panic. No – I’m not saying we should not care about chastity; I’m saying we should not panic about it. (Yes, I know what Our Lady said at Fatima, and I also know that she didn’t actually say it at Fatima and that we don’t even know if they’re her exact words. So there.) An example: it’s a mortal sin to skip Sunday Mass, right? Yet how many of us spend the week worrying that on Sunday we might suddenly commit a sin and not go to Mass? I’ll tell you how many – none. Now, plenty of us wake up on Sundays, and groan, and want to stay in bed. Then we say, “Oh, bloody hell,” and we get up and go to Mass. We experience a kind of pang, we get over it, we do the right thing. And we don’t spend the whole week worrying about whether or not we’ll skip Mass. Why? Because it’s just what we do; it doesn’t matter what people outside think and do; it’s our thing, and we stay true to it.
Well, suppose we treated chastity issues the same way?
3) Offer different rewards for chastity. The true reward for chastity is the same as the true reward for any other virtue – more God. However, I’ll admit that, not being in the unitive way, some other more immediate rewards would be nice, so:
a) The benefits of chastity for marriage should be relegated to a lower place: to “If you marry,” rather than “When you marry.” Training people to hold off for a pleasure that you can’t promise them they’ll experience is bad, bad, bad.
b) What can you offer, then? Wizard power! Yes, I said ‘wizard’ and I’m sticking with it. If you go read the Lorica of St Patrick you’ll tap into an attitude that is quite unlike the quasi-Jansenist back-whipping and fake guilt of much traddie culture. Prayer is not about fearing things; it’s about wrapping Divine Power around yourself until you shine with it. Chastity is more than the fear of unchastity; it’s about achieving an integration that is so perfect that you end up with superpowers. Take St Gemma Galgani: her control over her mind and her senses was so complete that she could make them do what she wanted, when she wanted, for as long as she wanted – to the extent of banishing physical illness and hearing her spiritual director’s thoughts when she was asleep. Honestly – superpowers! I might be a little more sci-fi than the next Catholic, I guess, and I’ll admit that most of us aren’t likely to end up like St Gemma, but I still maintain that understanding chastity to be about personal integrity, and integrity to be a power source, is far more encouraging and inspiring that making it all about the Okay Way to Think or Not Think About Sex.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to return to Youtube and try to work out if I can ever forgive Jeremy Renner for doing ‘Hansel and Gretel.’