Chastity in Today’s Culture War
By Judie Brown
(Part 10 in our Cancel Culture series)
Today’s unbridled focus on sexual matters without respect for decency is tantamount to erotic propaganda on steroids. While some professional groups tell us more sexual indoctrination is what our kids are looking for, others disagree. But reasonable voices are drowned out by Planned Parenthood, media outlets, and corporate interests pressing for ever more offensive messaging. Perhaps this why we wonder aloud whether teaching the virtue of chastity will resonate with our children and young adults.
This is where we either meet the challenge or deny young people the opportunity to learn the truth. Chastity is, after all, a lifelong pursuit that applies to the single as well as the married individual. The word itself is derived from chaste, which means “‘clean,’ and Christians have used this word to describe the particular virtue that moderates our sexual desire.”
In writing about chastity, purity, and the teachings of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, who would become St. John Paul II, professor of theology Dr. Edward Sri explains:
We must see chastity as a positive virtue that enables us to love, and protects love from being tainted by the selfish tendency to use the other person for our own pleasure. Wojtyla says chastity is emphatically not “one long ‘no.’” Rather, it is first and foremost a yes—a yes in our hearts to the other person, not just to his or her sexual values. It is a “yes” that requires certain “no’s” in order to protect love from falling into utilitarianism. “The essence of chastity consists in quickness to affirm the value of the person in every situation, and in raising to the personal level all reactions to the value of ‘the body and sex’” (p. 171). This positive, wider context of love for the person is key for understanding the “no’s” of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality.
Sri is explaining the truth of what the virtue of chastity truly represents, which is friendship between persons that leads directly to healthy relationships that flourish in respect and genuine caring.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church confirms this life-affirming truth: “The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.”
The most important part of this teaching follows and states: “Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.”
And that is where the genuine meaning of chastity becomes lost on the culture in our day. In the atmosphere created by many years of alleged sex education, which is in fact sex indoctrination, there is at present a great divide between the logic of Catholic teaching and the absurdity of today’s twisted perspectives on all matters sexual. The very word chastity has become a source of derision and outright scoffing because propagandists see it as a threat to their religion of decadence.
But such ignorance welcomes the common-sense thinking of those of us who know that, through education grounded in the value of chastity and purity, we can bring light and joy to the young, and for that matter, to everyone. This is so because, as St. John Paul II once said: “Chastity ‘is the custodian’ of authentic love.”
As pro-life Americans, we celebrate virtue because we realize that constructing a culture of life and love begins with clarity when it comes to human beings and their gifts of sexual identity. Bishop Robert W. Finn taught this some years ago, writing: “Chastity is important for all Christians and all people of good will. Chastity calls us to love as God loves. It is ordering our sexuality according to the plan of God. Chastity is how we love others in sincerity and truth.”
In these few words we not only find the inspiration to live with purity of heart but the inspiration to teach our children that growing in the love of God means responding to the call of chastity—today and every day. Healing the culture begins in our hearts, one person at a time.