Saturday, June 09, 2007

True love through chastity

We had two interesting but contrasting comments recently about chastity. The first one presents the sad effects of a culture which actively promotes false love through unchastity, especially to our young people. The other one shows the Christian approach to true love through chastity:

1) Mindy: “Several years ago, I believe it was the National Institute of Child Health & Development who conducted a study about the sexual behavior of 12th grades in different places in America. The purpose of the study was to determine whether or not kids were more sexually active in urban or suburban areas, and their findings were really disturbing. (This was about 2 years ago, so my numbers may not be exact, but I'm confident they are close- it made a big impression!):

45% of suburban kids and 40% of urban kids have sex, defined as actual intercourse, outside of any romantic relationship. The study didn't even consider any stats on the teenage practices of "hooking-up", and I can only imagine what those numbers would be.

If our youth, almost HALF, are acting with such disconnect between body and heart, we are miserably failing our kids. One generation may have started the sexual revolution, but look who is paying the price for it. I welcome more talks on chastity…”


Jesus taught us by His death and resurrection: True love always comes by way of the cross.

Being chaste until and within marriage, committing day in and day out to the self-giving and self-denial that life-long marriage and childrearing require of us, being open to God's gift of new life in a generous and responsible way, and in this day and age, even carrying to term an unexpected child - these are difficult tasks, and our fallen nature rebels against them. The world recognizes this natural rebellion, our desire to express human love in sexual intimacy, to seek pleasure and run from pain, to fulfill our own needs and desires while giving ill-attention to the needs and desires of others - in a word, to live our lives for ourselves. Mistaking these desires for human nature - rather than fallen human nature - the world's response is to laugh at Church teaching, to make a mockery of the Church and her seemingly archaic rules on sex and marriage, because they are so difficult, because they require so much of us.

Yet those who seek to follow the way of Our Lord understand that much is required of us. This is precisely the point. God calls us out of our fallenness, out of our self-centeredness and pleasure-seeking, to follow the way of perfection, to live in a way that is, by natural means, difficult - at times, even impossible. Many complain that Church teachings on sex and marriage are unrealistic, that the Church is out of touch. If we were meant to live by human means alone, to follow these teachings on our own strength, I would say the world's complaints were absolutely right. Indeed, by my own strength, I failed at almost every one of them.

But God demands perfection of us - perfect chastity, perfect purity, and perfect love - not only because it is the way of life that will fulfill our deepest desires, but just as importantly, because when we fail at living this perfection (and we will fail) our heavenly and merciful Father wants us to fall to our knees, to realize our own human bankruptcy, and rely on Him and His grace to live and to love.



At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It funny- because it took much of my adult life to actually appreciate the church's teaching regarding chastity. As a young(er) adult, I was rather clueless. Having a better understanding of why the church holds views that, to many, do seem archaic and unrealistic, has made several recent choices in my life clear. For now, I look back to choices I made that went against what we, as Catholics, are taught to be right and true, and the amount of pain and trauma I invited into my life in those times is not measurable. I am grateful for this forum on which people are free to openly discuss a topic that, still to some, is uncomfortable.

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos on the blog moderation- it's a good idea.

At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Kat said...

As I have struggled with the issue of chasitity for many years, I have found that prayer each night for chastity has helped both in thoughts and other areas including pressures from people who know me "when". I'm not always 100% successful but it has helped.

At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chastity. This topic probably can not be exhausted. I learn something new about it every time it is the subject on this blog.

At 11:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Father Greg,
I actually was hoping this topic would come up again. It seems to be an ongoing theme in my life. What do you say to married people who are having affairs? Right now I have 3 family members/friends who are actively involved in extramarital affairs. All of them feel very justified since their marital partners didn't meet their needs or let them down in some way.

What is the extent of my responsibility with these people? They confide in my husband and myself. Frankly, I am pretty disgusted after trying to reason with them, pray for them, counsel them, point them back to God. They continue right along in the affair yet they want to keep on talking..trying to justify it. I just don't feel obligated to be their free for all sounding board.
My husband seems to have more patience and never wants to give up on the hope of their marital reconciliation.
Also, this is about the third round of this that we have encountered between friends and family members. Tired of it.

Is this a poor attitude on my part? Or is there a time when you can politely excuse your self from their sagas?

At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

since their marital partners didn't meet their needs or let them down in some way.

It isn't an easy path living with a marital partner who doesn't fulfill marital obligations. It's a downright isolating, depressing and lonely life.

At 7:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the anon with others' affairs-

I had a situation with my sister-in-law after she and her husband were separated that was a bit different, but involved "listening". About a month after she and her husband had separated, my sister-in-law began dating, an action for which she received quite a bit of commentary from her family. I decided to put judgement aside and be her "sounding board". I listened as she dated this guy (and two more) over the next year. In retrospect, I didn't do her a favor. Some of her behavior was wild and reckless, and she received criticism from many. She'd call me about what happened, I'd offer her an ear (as well as advice), but she was really only interested in the "talking" part- NOT any listening. It came to a point, after my neice witnessed something no 9 yr should (and then relayed the info to MY daughter), when I said no more. It was almost like, even though at times when we spoke I did offer her my viewpoint on how damaging (and wrong) her behavior was, it seemed that each time we spoke(and she vented her guilt, shame- whatever) she felt "free" of it, and would then go repeat the same kinds of behavior. My "listening" had become part of the cycle of her behavior, a part that I finally stopped. I referred her to a counselor, for I know she needed to talk, but I also thought perhaps someone more skilled than I was better able to handle the root causes for the behavior. It wasn't taken well and did damage our relationship, but I know my involvement then wasn't helping to create anything positive.

I can't imagine, regardless of any amount of justification, that anyone thinks it's OK to have an affair. Imagine what must be going on for someone internally when they violate their marriage (and themselves) in such a way. Just because it's prevalent doesn't mean that everyone really thinks it's okay- I refuse to believe that. Have you suggested guidance from a source that can be a bit more than a "sounding board"? As family/friend, it's really hard (much risk involved) to say what really needs to be said:

"If you keep indulging in destructive behavior- I will NOT support you."

At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It isn't an easy path living with a marital partner who doesn't fulfill marital obligations."

Nothing happens on it's own. You said one key word- "partner". Rarely is anything "done" to us. I remind my spouse of this often- there is action and reaction in relationships, for he can caught up in thinking he is the "victim" of me and therefore not any part of the discord.

I also have an issue with the word "obligation". I don't want to give in my marriage out of a sense of filling some "duty". Actually, that very issue has been a source of much tension for me. My spouse thinks that marriage guarantees him specific priveledges, while I think that this very topic- chastity- (within a marriage) is the only thing that should lead to those priviledges. So, obligation (in whatever sense you might mean) gets to me!

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous mindy said...

Fr. Greg (or anyone else)-
Just curious- what is JustFaith? I don't always understand words that the church often uses- Social Justice and Social Ministry. I mean, I know what the "words" mean, but as they are applied to action within the church, I don't. You do a good job of breaking things down, so can you briefly explain what the course is, as well as what the church's "social jusice" and "social ministry" involve?

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also have an issue with the word "obligation".

Certainly sex within marriage is a gift that BOTH partners give to each other. The way I read Corinthians, one should not merely "decide" to not give the gift, rather if you want to take a break from this activity, it should be a mutual decision. It is not right for one spouse to make such an important decision to deny both this gift given from God.

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Sounding Board said...

I am the anon who started the post about "listening," to those who are having extramarital affairs.

Before I respond to all the anon's very insightful comments, I would like to make a suggestion. Could anon's call themselves something other than anon. It would make it easier than saying for instance 8:50 am anon! LOL. Certainly it takes little effort to use someting other than anon and remain anonymous.

uh oh I just put my foot in my mouth. My post was anon. LOL.

Anyway, 6:40 AM anon, I wish all of these people had sought help before they ended up in affairs. Most of them say their marital problems went on for years and resulted in chronic loneliness, depression, and isolation.

7:02 am anon, you nailed it for me. After the initial listening/advice/counselor referall, it is all about them wanting to talk. They really are done with what we have to say. It becomes draining on our part and it does not seem to bear any good fruits.

8:46 am - Every person who is currently having affairs (who comes to us - including the last three rounds) see themselves as victims. Not one ever mentions that they had anything to do with how the marriage ended up in a sorry state. It is always about the other partner's faults. BLAMING.

10:40 AM - Partners deny this gift for a myriad of reasons. Some not realizing the profound effects on overall intimacy. Some are turned cold because of scorekeeping and holding grudges. The list goes on.

I myself have been guilty of this on occasion (boy it is great to be anon). I never let it go on for long, but a priest (in a confession pointed it out). In my case it was a symptom of putting too much time into all of life's demands and letting my spouses's place fall out of order.

Thanks all anons above for comments-hugely helpful.

Father Greg, since this is a hugely prevalent issue, maybe you could comment (anonymously of course). LOL.

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

The people having affairs and justifying it to others (and to themselves) reminds me of the woman who fell into quicksand. At first, she struggled to extricate herself, but only sank deeper until she was in up to her knees. By the time friends and family caught up to her and gathered around the edge of the quicksand, the victim had sunk in up to mid-thigh. Those who cared for her tried to help and called out to her "here, grab this rope"; "take the end of this stick"; "I'll go get a boat!" but the victim was so stuck she could only say, "How can you be so judgmental of my choice as to insist that I leave? Also, I can't see the bottoms of my legs anymore (since she's in up to the tops of her legs by now!) but some people are born with shorter legs than others - that's just the way God made me. Why is that a problem?"

What should the by-standers on the edge of the quicksand do? Continue to listen to her talk or continue to call out, "Get out now while there's time! Grab this rope! Grab this stick!"

(Grabbing the "rope" and the "stick" in the case of an affair would be for the parties involved (1) to end the affair definitively and (2) to make a good confession.)

At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is not right for one spouse to make such an important decision to deny both this gift given from God. "

I guess that would depend on why one spouse would feel the need to make that decision in the first place. Many factors go into an intimate relationship being healthy- and if one spouse needs a "break" and the other isn't okay with that, then what? I don't believe God meant for the sacrament of marriage to mean sacrificing ourselves to something that isn't pure and good- and often intimate relations (even within marriage) can become far less than pure and good.

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous sounding board said...

Good advice Marion. The problem is the ignoring that advice and staying in the quick sand.

My husband both separately and together have approached all parties involved. We have advised them to end the affair, seek reconcilation with God and their partners, and get counseling. The only thing that any one of them takes us up on is counseling(individual - always avoid couple or drop out of couple). I guess so they can have an additional sounding board to justify their affairs. Ultimately, free will comes to mind.

Hub and I are blessed with 9 siblings between us and numerous friendships. We have seen this happen - oh - more times than we can easily recall between friends and family.

Now we each have a sibling going through it. One on the affair side and my sibling has the spouse with new affair. I guess that's why we are burned out. As one of the bloggers' said, they do not really want to listen but talk and justify their actions. I guess they are really stuck in quick sand and they won't grab the ropes we have thrown dozens of times. Pitiful.

At 11:08 PM, Blogger fran said...

To Sounding Board-
Have the couples you reference considered the Retrouvaille program? Rather than explain all that it is, and is not, just "google" the word and you can read a thorough description.

At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is being gay a sin?

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Being" gay isn't a sin, but engaging in homsexual activity (or any sexual activity outside the sacrament of marriage) is.


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