The forgotten virtue

It is sometimes said of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality that, like the sixth commandment, it is primarily a list of ‘do nots’. Such a perception fails to take into account the profoundly human and beautiful vision of love that is the foundation for the Catholic Church’s moral teaching on marriage, human sexuality, and the integrity of the human person.

It is perhaps a com-mentary on our age and how far we have digressed from the path set out by the Creator that chastity is now a ‘forgotten virtue’.  Common amnesia concer-ning the value and place of chastity carries with it painful consequences. When we reflect on the offenses against the sixth commandment, we will find them rampant, condoned, and even encouraged in our age. The ‘lifestyles’ and ‘momentary commitments’ that are the storyline of most television ‘soaps’ and a great number of movies help form the attitudes and mores of our young people. In contrast, the Church holds up the image of personal integrity. Faithful to Scripture, the Church insists that love of God is incompatible with every form of fornication, sexual promiscuity, licentiousness, and other sexual behavior that deviates from the proper use of this gift from God. Christ warns that fidelity to God can be broken even by our desires (Matt 5:28).

The offenses against the sixth commandment are fed by lust.  The catechism defines this vice as ‘a disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure’. First among the offenses against the marriage bond and family community is adultery, which grievously wounds a marriage, hurts the unity of the family, disrupts the proper relationship of parent and child. The distrust and doubt introduced into a family is evidence enough of why this action is considered wrong.

Offenses against the sixth commandment are not limited to those who are married. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians points out a number of attacks on the virtue of chastity. Pornography attacks the dignity of human sexuality by rendering it a product and by reducing the person to nothing more than an object. While there may be temporary physical satisfaction, the attitude that it generates and what it says about another person is so degrading as to make it an offense against God’s law and the human community.

All sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong. The Church does not invent laws. It passes on and interprets what God has revealed through the ages. No one has the right to change what Jesus has taught. To do so would be to deprive people of saving truths that were meant for all time. Our faith teaches that a sexual relationship belongs only in marriage. Sex outside of marriage shows disrespect for the sacrament of marriage, the sacredness of sex, and human dignity. ‘Cohabitation’ or ‘living together’, when it refers to a man and woman who are sexually active and share a household though not married, cannot be reconciled with God’s plan for human sexuality and marriage.  It totally falls short of God’s plan. Sexual intimacy belongs only in marriage. Outside of marriage, sex is a lie. The action says: ‘I give you my whole self’ – but the man and woman are really holding back their commitment, their fertility, and their relationship with God. Before giving your body to another person, you need to give your whole life, and you need to receive your spouse’s whole life in return – and that can happen only in marriage.

God calls both heterosexual and homosexual persons to chastity.

While there are many ‘lifestyles’ and opinions on the meaning of life and sex, they fall short of the beauty of Christ’s plan for each of us. The Catholic vision of love holds out for us the promise that we can find in this life a communion of body and spirit, a level of happiness and joy, and the satisfaction and commitment that are signs of that ultimate completeness we will experience in heaven.

12 Responses to “The forgotten virtue”


  1. 1 churchmouse March 20, 2010 at 10:30

    Thanks, Gabriella, for this timely reminder! For anyone doubting the gravity and damning nature of these sins, here are a few more New Testament verses:

    9 Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, 10 Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)

    and

    5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. (Eph. 5:5-7)

    and

    7 The people of Sodom and Gomorrah and the towns around them also did evil things. They gave themselves over to sexual sins. They committed sins of the worst possible kind. They are an example of those who are punished with fire. The fire never goes out. (Jude 1:7)

  2. 2 Cinzia March 20, 2010 at 10:31

    I know this is really really frivolous considering the depth and importance of this post, but I believe the picture of the 101 dalmations is the best one ever!!

    If ever there was an illustration totally suited to the discussion at hand, this is it. 101% perfect!!!

    “Honey please, just calm down. Let me explain.”

    Fabulous! 😀

  3. 3 Ron March 20, 2010 at 13:05

    Excellent! Well put, Gabriella.

    If anyone lands on this blog and wishes to know more about Catholicism, here’s a good site:
    http://www.fisheaters.com/beingcatholic.html

  4. 4 Judy March 20, 2010 at 19:13

    Well-said Gabriella…as usual!

  5. 5 Brian March 20, 2010 at 20:33

    Gabriella –

    This is all so true. Here in America, co-habitation is becoming the norm. And if Mr. Obama changes “education” as we know it, all sins against chastity will become commonplace.

    Tomorrow is the big vote for healthcare. Let us pray that this does not pass. Mr. Obama’s healthcare funds abortion. What kind of healthcare is that….

    God bless!

  6. 6 anne bender March 20, 2010 at 21:18

    Well said “give your WHOLE life.” As always, the pictures with your posts are wonderful!

  7. 7 Mary Nicewarner March 21, 2010 at 00:13

    Funny picture, Gabriella! As usual, you are right on target. The toll that sexual immorality has taken on the world is huge. The Ten Commandments were made to protect us and others from harm. Breaking them always hurts someone. When my daughter gets old enough [she thinks a family just has to pray and God sticks the baby in the mom’s belly;)], I hope I can teach her the importance of chastity. To be honest, I pray that God heals the world before then. Her little friend at school told her that 2 women could get married. I told her that, “No, families need a mommy and a daddy, that’s how God planned it.” I asked her why her friend thought 2 women could get married and she said her friend saw it on tv. Needless to say, we watch very little tv here, especially when Michaela is awake. I let her watch cartoons and Disney movies but no shows, yet. The children of our day are raised surrounded by sexual immorality, it scares me. It’s even worse than when I was growing up [and it was pretty bad, then].

  8. 8 Cara March 21, 2010 at 09:44

    How right the church is! I used to live with my boyfriend before I got married (to someone else) and how I regret it. I just cannot forgive myself. For years I blamed my parents for having allowed me to do so, they never tried to stop me.
    And I’m so aware now of how incredibly stupid is the ‘only’ excuse ‘well, what’s wrong, everyone does it’!
    I spend my days now asking God and my husband (a good traditional Catholic man) to forgive me, I am so sorry I did not bring my whole self as a gift to him on our wedding day.
    Girls, boys, everywhere! Wait. You have no idea how living together before marriage ruins the rest of your whole life! And what’s your reason for doing so?
    Everyone does it: Real stupid!
    We love each other: Wrong. It’s not real love without life commitment.
    Trying each other out: How dumb! That’s not love.
    No money to get married: This is unheard of! two people and a priest don’t cost a penny.
    There is NO EXCUSE, NO REASON why two people in love should not get married. AND THIS IS WHAT MAKES SUCH A DECISION A REALLY SERIOUS SIN IN GOD’S EYES.

  9. 9 Cinzia March 22, 2010 at 00:30

    All this affects me deeply on a very personal level. One of my sons “lives with his partner” just like husband and wife, but with no mention of getting married. My youngest son, only 16, has a girlfriend (his first) with whom he has a full-blown sexual relationship whenever and wherever he can. Condoms and all. This has been going on for five months now and any attempt on my part to try and stop it and make him understand how wrong it is, has failed and fallen on deaf ears. My husband tells me I am wasting my time because nothing will stop him! All the adults I have spoken to about this ask the same question: “They are taking precautions, aren’t they? You wouldn’t want her to get pregnant! – have you told them about condoms?”

    Even the girl’s mother, her only concern seems to be that her life would be dreadfully disrupted if her daughter became pregnant, so she hopes they are “being careful.”

    That is the current attitude. Not a mention or a thought about morality, dignity, sinfulness, what is right and what is wrong. My son frequents a Catholic school that dispenses condoms to teenagers. All other high schools have a “health care” department that advises them where they can go and discreetly have an abortion if “something goes wrong” – and the privacy act tells them they don’t even have to tell their parents what is going on.

    I am in a state of shock and feeling totally helpless and useless. I have spoken to my son several times about the religious and moral side of things …. but it does not seem to be working. He won’t go to a priest and talk about it either, he thinks I am the most old-fashioned and dumb mother on earth. As far as he is concerned, he is doing nothing wrong. I can’t blame him. This is what society teaches him, wherever he turns. I can’t blame the young girl either. In fact, I feel very sorry for her. She understands nothing except what she sees and learns around her, and her family is not of any religious denomination either … so what can one expect from a teenager who knows no better and believes that her behaviour is fine, just like everyone else’s?

    Any advice anyone?

  10. 10 Louisa March 22, 2010 at 13:00

    Cinzia, what you describe is unfortunately very common in the west. It’s so sad. And very difficult to give advice. The best thing is to speak openly to one’s personal spiritual director.
    Don’t blame yourself because even children of the best Catholic parents choose the easy road to hell.
    I can tell you my experience.

    When I was 16 I moved in with my boyfriend and my parents, good Catholics, were not at all supportive of this decision and for a long time mourned my poor choice in morality and were worried about where that would have led me in the future. I received no financial help from them at all but I knew that their door was always open for me should I need to move back home, and years later I did go back, repented. Once I asked my mom if she would come and see where I lived. She answered she wasn’t sure but if she did come and visit me one day it would have been as a mom who is worried about her child and wanted to see where she is but in no way did this mean that she was supporting my decision.
    My mother would not come and see me. I complained and always told her bluntly, “you’ll have to learn to accept me.” She always said, “I do accept you. I don’t accept what you’re doing.” Her refusal to visit made a very strong message. it took a long time for me to return to my Faith, but her integrity was a powerful message. she wouldn’t let my younger sisters and brother visit either.
    I knew mom’s door was always open and that she always loved me, she phoned me often, though I tried to paint her as a judgmental monster. I knew that my mom’s moral expectations were just too clear and grounded.

    She never stopped praying, and I converted. I’m now happily married (not to that boyfriend) for 20 years and have 6 kids. These days my mom acts like everything I do is the best thing in the world. I say, “you prayed for my conversion” she shakes her rosary at me, “this is all I had to save you”. My life is full of sunshine now. Praise the Lord.

    So Cinzia, my suggestion is you keep the faith, offer everything for the conversion of your boys, continue to love them always reminding them that they are living in sin. For a parent this is literally like your heart is being pierced by a sword, and you feel like all your time and energy in trying to pass on the faith, and good morals, has just been tossed away and you’ve been kicked in the face.
    Trust in God. He wants your boys to return to goodness and Faith infinitely more than you do!

    And always remember St. Monica (my mother’s favorite saint), St. Augustine’s mother. She spent a lifetime praying for her son and she won!

  11. 11 Cinzia March 24, 2010 at 01:46

    Thank you Louisa for your encouraging words. I will put all my trust in God – and I am always saying the rosary for my boys.

    God bless you – and indeed you have been much blessed .. and so has your admirable mum. 🙂

    Ciao!

  12. 12 Gabriel Delmonaco April 7, 2010 at 19:20

    Dear Gabriella,

    I’m Italian too, with the same namesake (Gabriele)!

    Tonight, I will be blessed to see firsthand the good works of the Catholic Church in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

    I will be visiting families living in refugee camps, dozens of beautiful churches and even an olive press business founded in a poor farming community with the help of Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), the organization I work for.

    Would you like to come with me?

    Then please subscribe to my blog (gabedelmonaco.wordpress.com), friend me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter (@GabeDelmonaco). I would love for you to share my stories with your friends and online followers, too. I can’t wait to share this story of the Church’s good works!

    I really enjoy writing about the striking differences between the places where CNEWA works and the U.S. —and just as importantly, learn what we have in common.

    I blogged about my recent trip to India, too. Take a look!

    Yours in Christ,

    Gabe

    Gabriel Delmonaco
    US National Secretary
    CNEWA United States
    1011 First Avenue FL15
    New York, NY 10022

    Better to light one candle than curse the darkness.—Chinese Proverb


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