By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
Recently Pope Francis urged chastity for prevention of HIV as Pope Benedict was also known to do, and, as a result of which, opprobrium and vituperation were rained down upon him. The two Vicars of Christ agree in this matter because the teaching comes not from men nor from them but from God. The chastity of abstention outside of marriage and the chastity of fidelity within marriage are two sides of the same coin: the integrity of the human person in relationship with God and with others.
Speaking to bishops of Tanzania in Rome for their pilgrimage ad limina apostolorum, Pope Francis praised Church health-care workers in Africa who care for those with HIV/AIDS and “all who strive diligently to educate people in the area of sexual responsibility and chastity” as reported by HuffingtonPost.com on April 7.
In a recent interview with a parent and a Confirmation candidate I discussed chastity, asking if it was discussed in the home. The mother responded affirmatively, but followed with: “We don’t call it that.” When I asked what she did call it, she was unable to tell me. Everybody knows that in order to teach something you need to have a name for it. The name that the Church uses for sexual integrity and purity is chastity. Ambiguity about right and wrong does not result in right. If we do not call what is right by name, somebody else will tell our children what to call wrong by name.
What one cannot name cannot be taught, affirmed, or desired. God has revealed that He has a name and it is Jesus Christ. God is truth, so the truth has the name of Jesus Christ. All the truths that Jesus Christ teaches have a name as well. The Church, the Body of Christ endowed with His Holy Spirit, has been sent with the charism in the apostles to teach all nations. The teaching authority of the Church given for the sake of handing on the faith and morals for our salvation includes the capacity for naming the matters of faith and morals so as to teach them. This includes matters of infallibility such as the Trinity and Mary’s title as “Mother of God.”
Teaching authority in the Church extends in the Catechism of the Catholic Church to giving us the language to teach the faith and morals to the family in the home and to our faithful in catechetical formation. The Catechism addresses chastity.
“ ‘People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single’ [Persona Humana, n. 11].
“Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence:
“ ‘There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others. . . . This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church’ [St. Ambrose]” (CCC, n. 2349).
The Catechism addresses the false stereotype that chastity is somehow a repression of the human person or an unhealthy denial of human needs.
“Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.
“The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift” (CCC, n. 2337).
Priests are called to address chastity in their homilies and teaching. When the family is hearing about chastity in the homily, there is greater hope that it will be discussed at home. If the priest remains silent about the virtue of chastity, he may unwittingly be blessing a dangerous silence about this crucial matter of Christian life between parents and children.
Parents are the first teachers of their children in faith and morals. This is so because God places our young people first in their loving care as in no one else’s on earth. If parents do not teach their children right and wrong, someone else may teach them wrong is right.
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