Monday, July 28, 2008

Can chastity be realistically lived by singles?

By Anthony Buono

A single woman told me she is having trouble meeting men who believe in living chastely. She said these supposedly practicing Catholic men seem to have no respect for the sanctity of the human body. My response is that it is important to first say you are talking about “chastity” for single people, which means no premarital sex…ever (a married person leads a different kind of chastity, though it is still “chastity”). With that, there are many single Catholics who don’t understand chastity as a “virtue”, but rather see it as nice idea and a goal to somewhat strive for. The problem is that too many people, including good Catholics, have subscribed to the erroneous notion that “we’re only human.” Once a person acknowledges that we are only “human,” then chastity is something that, though nice to talk about and strive for, is impossible. Human beings are social beings and have strong sexual impulses. As human beings, we live every day with the reality of fallen human nature due to Original Sin. Therefore, anyone can understand why someone gives in to the impulse of sexual desire when they are in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

Catholics have fallen for this, I’m afraid. They think one way and act another. They want Christ, but they also want sex. They agree with the principles of chastity and its definition, but deep down they do not believe it can be lived practically. More importantly, they do not believe they themselves can live it at a practical, daily level. They “know” they should be chaste, but they don’t want to “live it”. Many probably don’t even pray for it. It’s not that they are not good people. They just don’t see chastity as a virtue to strive for and prioritize on a daily basis.

As Catholics, we “must” believe that we are NOT only human, but rather that we are also DIVINE. By virtue of our Baptism, we are configured into Christ; we are transformed from being merely human into sharing the divine nature of God by virtue of our actually being baptized into Christ. We have a share in the divine nature of God ONLY because Christ died for us all and Baptism makes us adopted children of God because of the actual Son of God, into whose life we were baptized. Oh, how this should make every Catholic rejoice! What a profound reality that we are actually divine as well as human. What it means to our everyday, practical existence is that we CAN be virtuous, we CAN accomplish miracles, we CAN be perfect, as Jesus told us to be perfect. Because we are human, we will always fall short. But by grace, primarily through the sacraments, and by faith (lived in a real way, not a sentimental one), we can accomplish what we are asked by the Church to accomplish.

Chastity, which means “no premarital sex”, can be lived, and must be lived. There is no excuse. Our sexual impulses are strong, yes. But we share the divine nature of God, which means we are not ONLY human, and therefore do not have that as an excuse.

I know that many good Catholics are open to premarital sex, even though they do not want to be, and even if they believe they really are not. And they REALLY might believe they are not open to it, and would be ticked off at me for even suggesting they are. But I know many are capable of giving in to it because of my long experience of working with single Catholics.

To those who really live chastity as a virtue and will not compromise, by God’s grace, then I say, “God bless you and reward you.” And God will certainly reward you. But please, please do not be hard on those who are not living chastity. Take example from Jesus, and pray for them for “they know not what they do.” The duping that we are only human stretches far and wide. Prayer and fasting along with education and example from those who live chastity will turn things around. But until then, you must be charitable toward them. Do not expect most to accept anything more than the “knowledge” of what chastity means and that it is taught by the Church.

My final point to women is to continue to demand chastity from any men you come in contact with. They will respect you for it. They may pass you by because you are not open to premarital sex, but you will have been a great witness to Christ. Men and women alike have the problem I described. But unfortunately, the men are the ones who ask women on dates, who ask women to marry them. They are the ones who lead. So if they are not leading in the chastity area, then there are many really wonderful women who are leading chaste lives and don’t want to compromise, and who DO believe they are NOT only human, who may end up never finding the right person. Please God, that will not be so and a good man who reveres chastity will come along for them. And to the men who live chaste lives, I say, “Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever,” and “Please help other Catholic men realize they share the divine nature and can live chastity.” (my emphasis)