Reclaiming the virtue of chastity


Last Sunday’s editorial in the Providence Journal entitled “Unwed and unmoored” addressed the problem of poverty and unwed mothers.

Citing various social science studies the editorial noted that out-of-wedlock births most often lead to a life of economic hardship for the mother and child. The editors suggested three solutions to rise above poverty: a high school education, a full-time job and marrying before giving birth to children. They called for the whole of society to send the message that marriage before having children is always the best path for the youth of our nation.

Predictably missing from this secular approach to the problem was the Christian virtue of chastity. After all, the church has always taught and understood that chastity is not only the best advice to offer our young people in overcoming the problem, but perhaps the most authentic solution. (Not to mention a rather effective means by which to prevent sexually transmitted diseases) In a recent message to a group of U.S. bishops gathered in Rome for an ad limina visit, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged them to remain steadfast in teaching the virtue of chastity even in the midst of our overly secularized nation. He correctly suggested that our secular society “increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule” the teaching of chastity. The Holy Father called upon the church to bear witness to chastity because: “Young people need to encounter the church’s teaching in its integrity, challenging and countercultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth. They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives.”

Chastity may be fodder for the movie and music industries that take great joy in mocking religious faith and dismissing Christian virtues as they recklessly peddle conspicuous consumption, unbridled hedonism and rampant promiscuity to our youth. The secular version of chastity can easily be found in the sound and vigorous teaching of sexual abstinence to our youth in our public schools. Beyond the social science studies, it is clear that the best solution to the increasing problem of out-of-wedlock births in our nation is embracing the countercultural virtue of chastity. However, it is equally clear that until the enlightened media and academic elites of our nation embrace such a vision of human sexuality, too many young women are destined to become unwed and unmoored mothers.