Once regarded as a virtue, chastity is now largely considered a fool’s quest. Those perpetrating chastity’s demise depict its death as a victory for life and love. Yet the opposite is true; an unchaste world is one of self-absorption and death. In subordinating the procreational nature of sex to recreational purposes, an unchaste society will always produce children it does not want. In such a society abortion is not an option but a necessary solution. The newly discovered right to live one‘s “sexuality” cannot be freely exercised without displacing a child’s right to life. That these rights are incompatible should indicate something has gone wrong. To live our sexuality is, indeed, the most basic of rights. To follow where it truly leads is to pursue life itself. But those rights and the life to which it leads are not in erotic desires but in the true nature of our sexuality. Chastity’s redemption lies in the redemption of sexuality itself. Only with sexuality not defined by desire, will we then see that chastity fulfills its true meaning and restores every child’s right to life and love.
To understand this we must first reclaim today’s undefined sexuality from the ever-shifting clouds of desire and restore its earthbound meaning. Regardless of species, our sexual nature, by definition, pertains to the biological creation of life. The truly sexual begins with this definition. Seemingly sexual acts that controvert its inherently creative nature are not true sexual acts. These would include both contracepted coitus or inherently infertile acts, such as sodomy or masturbation. Without connection to the propagation of life they are aberrations of sexuality. To consider them otherwise separates sexuality from either definition or meaning. Removed from these aberrations, sexuality restores its role in the creation of life. In loving the life biology creates, our sexuality becomes both procreative and unitive. This inseparable combination distinguishes our sexuality from the animal kingdom and makes it truly human.
Sexuality becomes unitive when it accepts its procreative nature. In accepting responsibility for the power to create life, “me” gives way to “we.” In seeing the child he can father, a man will see every woman as a mother of that child. He will see her need to be loved as a woman, a person who can be a mother. A man loves all women when he leads a life that helps every woman experience motherhood at the right time in the right place. By loving every woman he loves every child, seeing the need all children have for parents who love one another for life. So also a woman must see a father in every man and a child beyond every man. Without this recognition of each other as potential mothers or fathers, there is no inherently unitive nature to our sexuality. The procreative begets the unitive.
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Designating the sexual act as a conjugal act recognizes this inseparable unity. A chaste life honors that designation and directs itself to the proper formation of marital unions. It requires that we live as interconnected men and women, as potential mothers or fathers. In the full realization of our sexuality we embrace every child yet conceived as worthy of our love. Chastity is not the vocation of single men and women but of all men and women. The goal for all is a child conceived in love. To live chastely is to participate in the joy of every child so conceived.
This is not abstinence but a call to ecstasy. In Deus Caritas Est, Benedict XVI tells us that ecstasy is not “…a moment of intoxication, but rather … a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.” Chastity is an act of communion that brings all men and women into unity with God and the joy of creation itself. Its unitive nature brings all together in a communion of love and not simply a man and woman. Chastity invites us to live the ultimate communion of heaven here and now. To call this abstinence is absurd.
Yet the absurd reigns in today’s world. While castigating chastity as an archaic burden, the Sexual Revolution marches willing men into slavery and death. Abortion, abandoned children, and broken families are not accidents but the natural outcome of sexuality separated from its creative nature. Its lifestyle is not a lifestyle at all, but a death-style, a rejection of life. It offers a faux heaven of self-fulfillment while destroying the communion of “we” to the battle cry of “me.” Behind that faux heaven lies the hell of self-absorption. The Sexual Revolution is simply an invitation to start living that hell here and now.
Chastity is the answer to the false sexuality of the Sexual Revolution. It is the only true lifestyle, a life styled to life. Yet, most of us see chastity as a life of denial. Perhaps the problem is not with chastity but how we see it. The unrepentant thief taunted Jesus on the cross, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Without shame, the thief saw only pain without purpose. But looking at the same man hanging on the same cross, the good thief saw beyond the pain into heaven itself, “Lord, remember me…” One thief saw Jesus without grace. The other saw Jesus through grace. Likewise, we can see the chaste life without grace as pain without purpose or we can see it with grace as an invitation to participate in the joy of creation. The former diminishes and embitters, while the latter draws us toward heaven, a heaven that extends into eternity.
The choice between heaven and hell is before us now. Today we face a choice between a lifestyle that rejects life or one that embraces life. Chastity rejects the self-absorbing hell of false sexuality and fulfills the heaven bound nature of true sexuality. Through grace, the chaste participate in the communion of man and God, living their sexuality radically and ecstatically. This is not less but more. It is not a way to earn heaven, but to live heaven here and now. Only a world upside would consider this a fool’s quest.