Years ago (in 1985), when I was still attending the seminary, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR wrote a book entitled: The Courage to be Chaste. As with all of Fr. Groeschel’s books, I highly recommend this one.
Chastity simply means being sexually pure according to one’s state in life. For a single, unmarried person, it means refraining from all sexual activity (if and until one chooses to marry). For married persons, it means to be faithful and exclusive in all sexual activity with one’s spouse. For Catholic priests or religious, it means that we ordinarily remain celibate (promising not to marry) and thus are called to live purely, in a type of consecrated, single life dedicated to God.
I sincerely think that most people who have walked this earth have struggled at one time or another with being chaste. After all, a normal, healthy person has a sex drive which urges us to “be fertile and multiply” (Gn. 1:28) as the bible states. As we understand this drive to have its origin in God, it is good and needs to be seen as such. It is when sex is taken out of the parameters of the Christian, biblical understanding of a marriage, that it becomes problematic and, in fact, sinful.
We have recently seen grave sexual scandals, once again, come to the forefront within the Church and in the secular world, right in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania. Is that the only area where we are going to find such problems? Absolutely not. I think that this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
As long as we live in a sexually charged society, where pornography is as easily accessible as turning on a computer, TV or even using a phone, where traditional sexual morals are seen as passé, where abuse and lack of regard for human life has had our popes warning us about a “culture of death,” where the breakdown of the traditional family is so evident, where contraceptives are as easily available as buying candy at the convenience store, we are going to continue to have problems—severe problems. Sadly, I think it’s inevitable.
Sexual abuse in any form should never be tolerated. No one is above God’s moral laws. Although there is usually shame and fear by those who are abused, they should seek the proper help and counsel and realize that they are victims in the situation.
In the meantime, we all have to work at being sexually pure and chaste. The process is aided by a good prayer life and personal relationship with God, by seeking spiritual direction, forgiveness and counsel—especially in the Sacrament of Penance, by the frequent reception of Holy Communion, by channeling our energies into good, healthy activities (like exercise or sports), by avoiding the occasions of sin (for example, don’t surf the web or the TV channels for porn, don’t frequent bars looking to find “love”), etc., etc. With the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pure and chaste, it is possible to live a chaste life in today’s world. It won’t be easy, but it will be possible.
We all need the courage (with God’s grace) to be chaste.
Fr. Ed Namiotka