Why Chastity?

1 Thessalonians 4:3
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity.

Our culture thinks that the Church speaks against unchastity because it thinks sex is dirty.  But Pope John Paul II shows that this is wildly off the mark.  The real reason the Church commends chastity is not that unchastity is dirty but that unchastity is dishonest.  For the sexual act is the highest incarnation of self-giving in human experience.  By it, we say with our bodies, “I give you all of myself.”  To say that, apart from the sacrament of marriage is, bluntly, to lie.  Unchastity is the lie of self-giving incarnated in the act of taking: taking the dignity and love of the other while exploiting them for the sake of a physical sensation.  As C.S. Lewis said, to say that an unchaste man “wants a woman” is false.  He does not want a woman.  He wants an experience for which the woman happens to be the necessary apparatus.  And it matters not a whit if both parties are “consenting” to that mutual exploitation.  Mutual lies do not make a truth.  They merely complicate the betrayal.  In contrast to this culture of mutual betrayal and exploitation is the Church’s sacrament of marriage, in which husband and wife participate in the awesome self-donation of Christ and his Bride to one another in mutual love.  Today, pray that the culture of life will overcome the culture of betrayal and exploitation that so characterizes the modern world’s understanding of sex.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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