"Big Four" Highlights


A Culture of Chastity

Everyone has a part to play in creating a healthy society

By Jason Godin

Recently Pope Francis spoke about what he terms the “prophetic” voice of Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), the 1968 encyclical by Paul VI on procreation, family life and the morally licit and illicit methods of spacing births within marriage. Key to the document’s vision is the need for all people of good will to contribute to an atmosphere that is open to life and the needs of the family. We are all obliged to work for the common good and exercise charity, that is, to will the good of others. A look at the world today shows the relevance of this message to our culture of death, greed and selfishness.

To counter these tendencies in human nature, Paul VI wrote about the “need to create an atmosphere favorable to the growth of chastity” so that “true liberty may prevail over license” and the “norms of the moral law may be fully safeguarded” (22). It is a teaching worth looking at more closely with contemporary eyes, particularly when considering how to end a particularly sinister assault against a culture of life, genuine liberty and true happiness – pornography.

Here we will quote and comment on a single, profound sentence from section 22 of the document.

“Everything therefore in the modern means of social communication which arouses men’s baser passions and encourages low moral standards …”

Pornography is an industry that has seen millions of dollars spent on advertising and delivering products across the whole gamut of modern media platforms. It must be identified for what it truly is – a power play toward the primal desires of consumers worldwide, particularly the passions of men. It lowers humanity as it achieves its bottom line, reducing our moral sights to a tunnel vision shaped by sad, secluded moments of license.

“… as well as every obscenity in the written word and every form of indecency on the stage and screen …”

Pornography also contains words, and the ones seen and heard are rarely good. Sexually explicit novels, for example, place profanity in the mouths of its main characters. They find men and women who commonly cuss commands to one another. It is noteworthy that the foul language almost always first found inside the bedroom – or wherever initial sexual activity takes place – seeps into the outside world in short order. When foul language gains widespread social acceptance, when you hear it from the mouths of celebrities, in mainstream cable stations, and even primetime TV, it paves the way for acceptance of the foul acts described. Cultural barriers are broken and people begin to crave more “racy” sayings. Think Fifty Shades of Grey.

“… should be condemned publicly and unanimously by all those who have at heart the advance of civilization and the safeguarding of the outstanding values of the human spirit.”

Thankfully men and women can overcome the sensual and semantic assaults of pornography with a clear, consistent rebuttal. The Catholic Church proposes chastity as the antidote, in all its dimensions and as a standard for all: an “apprenticeship in self-mastery” that takes time and focus; a personal as well as public task subject to “laws of growth which progress through stages marked by imperfection and too often by sin”; a gift of spiritual grace that “blossoms in friendship” that people with opposite or same-sex attractions can practice (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2337-2350; italics in original). As it has since the papacy of Paul VI, the chastity teachings of the Church protect, and will continue to protect, what history has proved as the value hardest to achieve, but nevertheless the one held highest by any advanced civilization – true love that is life-giving and self-sacrificing.

Creating a culture of chastity is one of the many endeavors worthy of our time, talents and treasure. It won’t be easy. But as the 2015 World Meeting of Families draws nearer, and as the tide of pornography continues to crash hard against our domestic churches, the move toward such a culture begins by seeing chastity as a calling for all.

Jason Godin is associate editor of Fathers for Good.

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