Challenging the Chastity Message
I grew up attending Catholic high schools – which meant that I frequently heard chastity presentations as a member of the student body. I’d like to say that I was receptive to the message, but actually I was just the opposite. I recall walking out of a session when I was 16 and I was angry. I didn’t want to be told how to live my life – I was perfectly “happy” in my own private “impurities.”
Resentment of chastity has become a common thread in our society. Some argue that chastity is harmful to the psychological well-being of men and women. Sexual desire is natural, it is said. Therefore, it is unnatural to restrict it in any way. If two people love each other, shouldn’t they be able to express that love with their sexuality – isn’t chastity the enemy to love?
Let’s examine the message of chastity a little closer. Is chastity the enemy to love? I think about it, the message of chastity has five key principles:
Chastity believes that sex communicates love. Sex is about the relationship between a man and a woman. Sex, when properly expressed, is extremely emotional, unifying, and life-giving within a relationship.
Chastity believes that sex is a great responsibility and only within marriage can it be properly expressed. Your body makes a promise, even if you don’t. Sex is unitive and procreative—meaning that it unites a couple together and it has the ability to create life. Both are great responsibilities and a couple should never be separated once they have entered into this responsibility together. In marriage, a couple can share their bodies with one another because they have made a lifelong commitment to share their entire lives with one another.
Chastity believes in the good of the other over personal gratification. To take sex out of the context of a lifelong commitment is to try to separate the meaning and union of sex from the gratification that it brings. When a person seeks gratification apart from responsibility or lifelong commitment, they are ultimately seeking only what is pleasurable/good for them – which is selfish and not loving.
Chastity believes in trusting God’s plan. God is the author of sex and therefore he has a plan for it. It is neither healthy nor recommendable to operate outside of God’s plan. Chastity requires patience—it requires waiting for God to reveal his plan for your vocation and to unite you with your spouse. Waiting can be difficult—but it is also what is most fulfilling.
Chastity believes that virtue leads to freedom and joy. A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. In chastity, you create the good of having pure and loving intentions toward your spouse/future spouse. When you are married, this purity of intention carries into your relationship and blesses and fulfills it. When you have mastered your desires, you have the ability to freely give of yourself to another person. Chastity is about freedom and joy.
If you look at the five principles, you will see a few common themes in the message: love, patience, virtue, selflessness, sacrifice, freedom and joy. Chastity promises all good things that any person should want and desire.
So, if the message of chastity is good, why was I angry when I heard the message in high school? I was angry because I knew that I wasn’t living chastity and that I was being called to change my behaviors. The message was difficult to hear and I didn’t want to admit that I was wrong in the way that I was living my life. It wasn’t until I started to see how my impure desires were hurting the people that I loved that I decided I needed to journey to purity.
If you have ever been personally challenged by the message of chastity, I challenge you to surrender to the message and question your behaviors. Learning to live a chaste life was life changing for me and the virtue of chastity promises many, many blessings in your life.
Everett Fritz works in Catholic Youth Ministry and enjoys speaking on the topics of chastity, discipleship, and youth evangelization. He is the Content Development Coordinator for YDisciple at the Augustine Institute and holds an MA in Pastoral Theology with concentrations in Catechesis and Evangelization from the Augustine Institute. He also holds a BA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Everett resides in Denver with his wife Katrina and their three children.