On February 26, 2021, Culture of Life Family Services launched our first ever livestream series titled “Gift of Self – Understanding Sexual Ethics with the Philosophy of John Paul II, Conversations.” Leading this livestream podcast is Nelly Marsh, RN and COLFS Ministry Operations Manager, Kylie Armstrong. In our first episode, Nelly and Kylie talked about how to combat the false narratives of today’s cultural sexual norms with the concept of Theology of the Body. You can find this on our YouTube channel “Friends of COLFS.” In the episode on March 29, 2020, Nelly and Kylie discussed the chastity taboo and how truth overcomes the societal lies and misrepresentation of chastity in today’s times.
What is chastity? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2337), “Chastity means the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Chastity is a calling for all vocations and walks of life. The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.” Chastity involves a gift of self, a spirit of sacrifice, and a chaste mindset in every action that you do.
Chastity and Purity
Chastity and purity go hand in hand. According to the CCC 2258, “there is a connection between purity of heart, of body, and of faith. Chastity demands prayer and purity of intention and vision.” This is a lifestyle we should all strive for and encourage for one another.
As a society, we associate chastity with sexuality. However, chastity is a way of life. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2348, “All the baptized are called to chastity. The Christian must “put on Christ,” the model for all chastity.” An action or decision not involving sexuality can be unchaste, such as immodest speech or conduct. We must help society embrace a chaste lifestyle in all actions and aspects of life including, but not limited to, their sexuality. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2338 “The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.” Through chastity, we can find happiness in truth and freedom.
Chastity is not abstinence. A couple committed to abstaining from sex is not necessarily chaste unless the choice to abstain comes from reverence for the other and the sacrament of marriage, versus following the “rules” and asking, “how far is too far”. It all stems from the intention of the act and a chaste mentality.
A single person can be chaste – the beauty of religious life and celibacy illustrates this. However, for dating and married couples, chastity is the proper integration and expression of sexuality according to one’s state in life. It is recognizing that we are each made in God’s image and respecting that every person is a body-soul union.
Chastity does not simply mean keeping relationships away. It is acknowledging that there is an ordered time for everything. Chastity is a way of life that respects each person’s body-soul union. Our urges and desires to be loved and to love must be ordered to the truth of our bodies and the reverence due to the other. Our sexual choices are of the utmost importance because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Wrong Sexual Education
Some religious groups use scare tactics to try to discourage premarital sex. The phrase “never have sex; sex is bad,” ideology comes to mind. Secular society at large tells us that we lack self-control, and that premarital sex is inevitable; therefore, everyone will have premarital sex and contraception is the responsible solution. This is the sexual crisis of our modern age.
Since there was no effort to try and explain the virtues and reasoning of why one should not engage in premarital sex, many people do not understand the theology of the body and concept of chastity. They view chastity as negative and think that it encourages people to suppress their sexuality in a shameful light. Additionally, the easy, fast “solution” of birth control and contraception, as well as abortion, have increased. Contraception use is the norm for women. Chastity, waiting until marriage, and Natural Family Planning are all foreign concepts.
Men vs Women as opposed to Men and Women
In secular society, sexual expression is seen as the right for each individual to obtain pleasure, and is self-serving. The societal norm is that the girl is supposed to remember to take her birth control in order to “protect” herself from unwanted pregnancy. However, the just act is for the couple to communicate and in the context of marriage, learn each other’s bodies, and practice natural family planning and responsible parenthood. Birth control allows the man to walk away without any repercussions in a noncommittal attitude. Birth control use can cause objectification of women, in addition to numerous harmful side effects. There was a reason God designed sex to be in the context of marriage where there is a vow to commit and sacrifice for life.
The individualistic philosophy of sexuality that separates men from women separates the body from the soul, instead of integrating the two. This mentality rejects the moral good of marriage, family, and authentic femininity, in preference for egotism, self-assertion, and relativism. The priority of self-fulfillment now comes before family sacrifice and values. The current sex education is separating the body and soul. The younger generation are being taught about contraception in schools as the only option.
Chastity unifies sex with procreation, providing family commitment. Contraception harms men and women physically and mentally. Love, marriage and sex must all come together, in that order. It provides stability, trust, and foundation and encourages responsibility and sacrifice. Sex must contribute to self-sacrificing love. According to CCC 1766, “To love is to will the good of another.” Remembering this in all that we do will help us to achieve holiness and live in happiness.
Beauty of Truth and Freedom
We need to remind the world that each one of us are made in God’s image. We must respect our own bodies and each other. We must show the beauty of chastity and purity to the world that is so lost in its way. Our society views these virtues as restrictive and unappealing when in fact they are beneficial and life-giving.
We were made as a body-soul union to hopefully one day be reunited with God. Living a lifestyle that practices the virtues of chastity and purity is beautiful and natural; it is in harmony with how we were created to be. There is freedom in knowing the truth about our bodies and how we were designed. This helps us to realize that through proper order and truth comes greater happiness.
Nelly and Kylie talk about how undeniable the beauty of truth is and how truth needs to be pursued in freedom. Our society is lacking truth in such gravity that we have settled for less. Christopher West states “Freedom itself must be challenged to submit itself to truth because when truth is expressed in its full splendor, it does not need to be imposed; it is attractive in its own means because truth is truth, and we freely choose to pursue it.” We must show the world how freeing the truth is and how attractive and good Christ and his church are and the way of life as a Christian is.
We desire virtuous, true, holy things and in freedom of the truth we pursue it. Nelly states, “once we see goodness being lived out it is attractive to us.” It all comes down to remembering who made us and whose we are. Once we are reminded of this, we understand the theology behind virtues such as chastity.
When you take the time to help people understand why they should do something, they will do it. But since so many people do not understand why they should practice chastity because they have failed to learn or be taught about the theology behind their body and how their sexual actions matter, we are left with a sexual and moral crisis. We are made in the image of Christ. Helping the world see this will fix the cycle of use and sexual crisis. As Kylie says in the series, “Christ takes on human flesh and this elevates the dignity of a human person. We must live and act according to this standard.”
Chastity is the way we can live out reverence for our bodies and others. Love must be ordered properly, and reminding others that we are an integration of body and soul is key to helping people understand why they should practice chastity.
Call to Action
We must be actively reminding ourselves and our friends of these critical points. We must advocate for sexual integrity and sexual education in light of truth.
Diving into this important topic, these two ladies urge us to think about how we are promoting virtues of chastity to combat the sexual crisis. It is so important to understand the philosophy and theology behind our beliefs so that we can confidently share them with the world. When we understand why we are called to do something it will resonate with others.
Check out our other “Gift of Self” episodes on the Friends of COLFS YouTube Channel, covering topics like male and female relationships, Theology of the Body, hormonal contraception, and more!