The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
classic curriculum of a healthy sexual civilization. As the last preserve of a civilized sexuality, the Church is being called to serve human civilization by teaching the virtue of chastity to those who know nothing about it. To the intolerant, often close-minded, sometimes even violent sexual barbarian, the Church must reach out, and thereby achieve, with the aid of God, a re-civilization of sex.
To be sure, chastity is a hard-earned virtue, which is to say it is not a facile technique learned in one minute, one day, one week, or even one year. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, chastity is a life-long "apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom." [CCC § 2339]. This hard-won freedom is gained when the human person controls, governs, and tempers his or her sexual passions, so as to culture and to civilize them, so that they are rightly ordered and so that he or she does not become enslaved to them.
Like all virtues, chastity is a habitus, a stable character trait, a personal excellence, one based upon truth, reason, and consonant with the moral law. This stable character trait or excellence rightly disposes a man or woman with regard to the rightful use of his or her body in the area of sex. Like all virtues, it is most commonly a blend of both acquired (natural or moral) virtue, and infused virtue (a gift of grace). This means that it requires grace along with personal effort or ascesis. [CCC §§ 2340, 2345] Jesus Christ, both God and man, is "the model for all chastity." [CCC § 2348] Mary, the most chaste mother, shows us that chastity is a fully human trait.
"Chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving kindness which it must bring," wrote John Paul II in his book Love and Responsibility. "But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness."
It is a sexual culture informed by chastity which Pope John Paul II called the culture of life, a culture inspired by the Gospel of Life. Its contrary--what is currently reigning among the sexual barbarians--is the culture of death, a culture based upon convenience, efficiency, technique, and pharmacology, but not virtue.
This task of re-introducing the virtue of chastity presents a tremendous pastoral and pedagogical challenge to the Church, but no greater a task is before her than the conversion of the barbarian hordes during the Dark Ages.
This task is an essential imperative, since without chastity we lose the sense of personhood, we will invariably misunderstand justice, and we will become unable authentically to love.
Without the virtue of chastity, we are not fully the persons we are intended to be. If we are unchaste, we "depersonalize" ourselves. The reason this happens is that, by being habitually unchaste, we become blind to the personal significance of the body, whether that body is our own or another's. We begin to think of the body--either our own or another's--as a tool or a commodity that we might use for pleasure's sake alone and so separate from our person. When we blind ourselves to the personal significance of the body, we also blind ourselves to the "spousal meaning of the body," as John Paul II put it.
Once we lose sight of the personal significance of the body and its spousal meaning, it is sort of like opening Pandora's box: all the evils associated with unchastity come flying out in a whirlwind of stinging and poisonous vices: lust, pornography, fornication, masturbation, contraception, prostitution, adultery, homosexual activity, rape, pedophilia, and finally, that most heinous offense of them all, abortion.
That's why chastity is less a virtue of saying "no" than a virtue of saying "yes." Of course, some paths must be said "no" to, but only so that right path may be said "yes" to. Chastity is a dedicated and constant disposition to say "yes" to the personal significance and spousal meaning of the body.
Without developing the virtue of chastity, we cannot love. This is because, as the Catechism puts it, "charity," or authentic love, "is the form of all the virtues." It is under charity or love's influence that "chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person."
In other words, we have to be schooled in chastity so as to be able to give the "gift of self" to another, whether in friendship or in marriage. Without chastity, we can never fully and totally give ourselves to others. Instead, we invariably lapse into our own shells of selfishness. [CCC § 2346] "Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable of true love," wrote John Paul II in his book Love and Responsibility.
"If you want peace, work for justice," Pope Paul VI famously stated in his message for the celebration of the Day of Peace in 1972. In his many great writings on human sexuality, first as Cardinal Wojtyla and then as Pope John Paul II, a great corollary was added to the Pauline principle.
As Professor Gregory R. Beabout summarized John Paul II's corollary: "If you want justice, work for chastity."
We will never have peace without justice, and we will never have justice without love, and we will never have love without chastity.
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: chastity, virtue, barbarians, culture war, purity, sexual revolution, Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
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