Reflection on Chastity: Gift and Responsibility

We are called, as Christians, to exercise the tremendous virtue of chastity, in imitation of Our Lady, the Immaculate one, who was wholly without taint or stain of impurity.  The Immaculate Virgin is the exemplar of how we should properly use the gift of our sexuality, given to us by our Creator.  Church teaching clearly states that human sexuality is teleological, or goal-oriented.  This is to say that human sexuality is purposeful – it ought to be authentically unitive and procreative.  To say that sexuality ought to be unitive is to say that the conjugal act out to be reserved only for a man and a woman who have already given the gift of themselves and their sexuality exclusively to each other, as expressed in their marital vows.  In the sacrament of marriage, the couple administer the sacrament to each other, with the priest acting as the official representative of the Church, and family and friends acting as witnesses to this public proclamation of their unconditional, irrevocable, exclusive and mutual gift of self.  We must understand that human sexuality speaks the language of human love.  In the conjugal act, each of the partners is saying with their bodies what they have already said and promised on the day of the wedding, which is, “I give myself exclusively and totally to you, and you alone, forever.  Thus, sex outside of the context of marriage is, therefore, a lie.  In other words, the couple would be saying something, promising something, most profound with the body language of sexual intercourse that, ultimately, is not true.  Extra-marital sex is likewise a lie, because in such an instance, one would be attempting to give a gift that has already been given to another individual, and we all know that once you have given a gift to someone, you have no right to take it back and give it to someone else.

Moreover, human sexuality ought to be authentically procreative.  By this, we are to understand that the sex act must be, at the very least, open to the possibility of the emergence of a new life.  We are not to use artificial means of contraception to stymie or prevent the emergence of new human life.  Couples must remain open to the possibility of God intervening and bringing about the gift of human life, which is the personification of the love that exists between the spouses.  For, love is fruitful and fecund.  To intentionally block or prevent the possibility of the conception of a new human life renders the sex-act illicit and immoral.  What is more, artificial means of contraception prevent a complete self-donation, which is inherently fecund and fruitful.

Finally, we ought to exercise chastity according to our state in life, whether this may be married, single or celibate.  Clearly, one who has taken vows of celibacy has freely chosen to surrender the gift of their sexuality to their Creator, who was the one who gave the gift in the first place.  Thus, such an individual has made a sacrifice of his or her sexuality for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and has returned the gift to the one who gave it.  The vowed celibate has no right to exercise his or her sexuality in the form of intercourse.  Likewise, single persons have no right to exercise the gift of their sexuality in the form of active intercourse.  Finally, even married couples need to exercise chastity within marriage by not introducing artificial means of contraception, or by espousing an “anything goes” mentality.  In short, human sexuality is both a gift and a responsibility.  The only licit and moral sex-acts are those that are authentically unitive and procreative.  Anything else is a perversion of the gift.

One comment

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