“God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion” as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (CCC 2331). God created the universe for the sole purpose of displaying and communicating this truth of His love and goodness. Jesus Christ, God’s beloved Son, “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” and “by him all things were created” (Col 1:15-16). In all creation, God gave man the highest dignity, endowing him with his own Spirit of Life, and establishing him in his friendship. “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Because “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18), God also made woman so that human society might imitate the relationship of love shared by the Divine Persons. “Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinized’ by God in glory” (CCC 398). However, the freedom of mankind to love God and one another had to include the freedom not to love, the potential to be disobedient and unfaithful (CCC 396). Sin is a mystery of Love whose ultimate meaning is bound up with the mystery of Christ Himself (CCC 388).
In the scandal of original sin, the unity of love was broken between mankind and God, as well as between man and woman. The fallen human nature of man’s first parents was, consequently, transmitted to all their children, to all humankind – with the exception of Jesus and Mary of Nazareth who were conceived without sin (CCC 467, 491). Man having turned away from his created purpose, the rest of human history became a preparation for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would at-one human nature with God’s Nature, in himself, redeeming man by his fully divine yet fully human life, death, and resurrection in perfect obedience to God’s Will. “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (CCC 460, St. Irenaeus Adv. Haeres.). Now, by the Grace of Christ, when man hears God calling to him anew, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9), he can respond with the faith and obedience of a child. Reunited to God through communion with Jesus Christ, man is restored, in freedom, to a life of holiness with his brothers and sisters in the Spirit of Love (CCC 1694).
An essential element of the life of holiness and personal union is chastity. Chastity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1832), under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which provides for the successful integration of sexuality within the person leading to the inner unity of the bodily and spiritual being (CCC 2337). In chastity, human persons acknowledge themselves and each other as “temples of God” (1 Cor 3:16), in whom the Spirit dwells. This virtue prevents sensual desires and emotional attachments from overpowering one’s will to affirm every person as a child of God: the highest of all goods in creation, never to be used as mere means to an end, and worthy of complete and unconditional self-donation. Christ himself embodied this moral virtue by offering to mankind the pure and total gift of his human sexuality in his selfless, overflowing love for all people and in his bloody, torturous death on the cross (Eph 2:13-16).
All baptized Christians are called to chastity in their affective lives (CCC 2348). “The vocation of humanity is to show forth the image of God and to be transformed into the image of the Father’s only Son” (CCC 1877). Because man is communal by nature, this vocation requires social life in order to develop to its full potential (CCC 1879). Institutions and authorities are goods, established by God, which promote and defend this common good of man (CCC 1920). The ultimate end of all communities is the human person, towards whom every legitimate authority must be ordered, especially the family and the state. “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin,” as well as the same calling from Christ to participate in divine beatitude (CCC 1934). This reality can only be lived in the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39). Human solidarity rests upon the foundation of each person’s equal dignity. The different material and spiritual goods and gifts that individuals possess are meant, in God’s plan, to complement each other and encourage charity (CCC 1946). However, man must fight to eliminate all sinful inequality, which clearly violates the dignity of persons. Sexuality is a good which “affects all aspects of the human in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others” (CCC 2332). The harmony of society in a large way depends upon the proper integration of one’s sexuality in relationship to others, particularly in the lifelong commitment and mutual gift of man and woman in marriage.
Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are the sacraments of initiation into Christianity, into the common priesthood, the universal vocations to holiness and the mission of evangelization (CCC 1533). Holy Orders and Matrimony are vocations, or consecrations within the universal Christian vocation, which serve to build up the people of God in different, but complementary, ways (1534). Every specific vocation involves chastity in some way. The most recognized form of chastity is consecrated celibacy, found mostly in the ordained priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church. In the Old Testament, God chose the tribe of Levi, from the twelve tribes of Israel, to be set apart for liturgical service. The old covenant Levitical priests offered gifts and sacrifices to God for the forgiveness of sins (CCC 1539). Jesus fulfills the old covenant priesthood by making the perfect sacrifice of himself on the cross for the definitive salvation of mankind. “He has no need, as did the high priests [of the old covenant], to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself” (Heb 7:27). Until the end of time, the ministerial priesthood of the Catholic Church allows all Christians, who are members of the common priesthood, to enter into the sacrifice of Calvary through the sacrifice of the Eucharist. “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice” (CCC 1367). The common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood then participate, each in its proper way and ordered towards each other, in the one true priesthood of Christ (CCC 1547). The ministerial priest serves as representative between the laity and the larger Body of Christ, as a husband serves as representative of his family to the larger community (1 Cor 11:1-3). Because a priest’s fulltime duty is to serve the laity in the person of Christ, he normally vows to live a celibate life, thus offering to his ministry an undivided heart, and joyfully proclaiming the “Reign of God” (CCC1579). Paralleling procreation in matrimony, the priest makes the free gift of his body to Mother Church, and by administration of the sacraments, propagates in her new children of God.
“An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband” (1 Cor 7:32-34). The perpetual chastity of a faithfully celibate person can nurture a bond with Christ as strong, or stronger, than a husband and wife share with each other. Consecrated celibacy, or consecrated virginity, is not limited to priestly or religious vocations, though these vocations are often the best places to fruitfully serve God’s Kingdom in this way, one must discern what occupation is best suited to his/her state in life. The consecrated celibate shares with the world his/her eagerness for the return of Christ, and reminds it that marriage is a good of this present age which is passing away (CCC 1619). Nevertheless, the beauty of the Christian understanding of the sacrament of Marriage is reinforced by the contrast with celibate life, and both are graces in conformity with God’s Will. The hypothesis that celibacy is “unnatural” is true in the sense that it is only achieved by super-natural grace, but not in the sense of being a psychological disorder or a form of masochism. The natural physical and emotional forces which compel one towards sex, though they can never be safely eliminated, can be creatively channeled into a rich fecundity on many other levels, in relationships and in deeds. This is clearly evidenced by the hundreds of faithfully celibate saints who were abnormally, even inexplicably, prolific in their lives. Nor is there any basis for claiming that celibate priesthood is haven for homosexuals, considering that celibacy offers absolutely no relief to a disordered desire for sexual pleasure of any kind. Christianity explicitly states that homosexual acts are a “grave depravity” and “contrary to the natural law,” because they thwart the gift of new life inherent in the sexual act (CCC 2357). “Homosexual persons are called to chastity” (CCC 2359).
“God blessed them, saying: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Gen 1:28). The goodness of the marriage union has been recognized, in varying degrees, among every existing human culture in history. This partnership of man and woman in the commitment of their whole lives to each other, for the purpose of their own sanctification along with the procreation and education of children, has been elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament (CCC 1601). In Christianity, “the matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble” (CCC 1614). “Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?’ He said in reply, ‘Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate… whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery” (Mt 19:3-6, 9). Unity and exclusivity must be accorded between spouses so that the dignity of each is professed by their total, mutual self-gift to each other. This gift would be incomplete and divided in the case of a polygamous marriage. Fidelity in conjugal love is absolutely necessary for the good of the children, ultimately witnessing to them, and the wider community, Christ’s own irrevocable self-gift and unbreakable union with his bride, the Church (CCC 1646-1647). The devote Christian family is the domestic Church; it is where the Faith is first learned, where unconditional love is first encountered, where religious vocations are born, and where social outreach begins. In order to create a household which nourishes the virtues of Christ, it is vital for married couples to practice conjugal chastity. Marital infidelity breaks the covenant of marriage, transgresses the rights of one’s spouse, and risks the scandalizing of children. Christ condemns even unchaste desire: “…everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28). The best preparation for upholding the dignity of marriage in this way is for engaged couples to practice chastity in continence, which is an “apprenticeship in fidelity” (CCC 2350). It is well documented that a very large majority of couples who preserve their chastity during courtship, remain faithful to their marriage vows, while almost half of all other marriages in American culture end in divorce.
Begetting children is the “crowning glory” of matrimony (1652). “The fundamental task of marriage and family is to be at the service of life” (CCC 1653), and thus openness to fertility is an essential obligation of marriage. Without openness to life, sex becomes perverted because the integrity of its goodness is mutilated. And if there is to be openness to life, than it logically follows from the dignity of the human person, that a child deserves the life commitment of his parents to his growth and well-being. The modern confusions about marriage, fornication, lust, masturbation, pornography, and homosexuality all stem from this same lie: that the natural good of sexuality must always necessarily lead to sex, otherwise becoming repressive to one’s “identity”. However, human identity is first and foremost grounded in the freedom to determine one’s own ends. “Lust is the disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure” (CCC 2351). What makes a lust disordered and a pleasure inordinate is when it violates the dignity of another person (even one’s own self) by treating him/her as a means rather than as an end. The virtue of chastity is the primary safeguard against the perversion of man’s sexual dignity, which must respect individual freedom and allow for an abundance of life for all. This can only be achieved by the grace of Christ, who is the perfect model of chastity (CCC 2394).
Prayer is a gift, a covenant, and a communion (CCC 2559-2569). In humility, man begs for the grace, of which he is unworthy except by the merits of Christ, to grow in living relationship with the Holy Trinity in the union of God the Father with his “sons in the Son” (CCC 2565). Throughout all of salvation history, God had been slowly revealing how it is that man should pray, until the coming of Jesus whose filial prayer is now the perfect model of prayer in the New Testament (CCC 2620). Prayer is the medium in which man tests his experiences, offering them to God to purify and give right meaning to; “prayer and Christian life are inseparable” (CCC 2757). Man is called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17), thus protecting his intimacy with God so that he can always see clearly what is in accordance with the Spirit of Love. Cultivating the virtue of chastity requires prayer no less than any other virtue, especially in the context of American popular-culture, which today lacks sexual prudence almost completely, consequently exercising an oppressive influence on the minds of America’s youth.
“In the creation of the world and of man, God gave the first and universal witness to his almighty love and wisdom, the first proclamation of the ‘plan of his loving goodness,’ which finds its goal in the new creation of Christ” (CCC 315). In the eschatological end, all people will be chaste: “Jesus said to them, ‘The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage’” (Lk 20:34-35). Chastity is a crucial element of the Christian life, not only for the good of families, which are the foundation of the Church, and to affirm the dignity of the human person, upon which all social justice relies, but most importantly as an evangelical witness to all the world of Christ’s love for the people of God. Christ love for man transcends all the goods of this life, including sexuality as we know it, which Christ freely and completely sacrificed for mankind on the cross. At the end of time, a new sexuality will arise with the resurrection of the body, when Christ will be in perfect union with his bride the Church at the “wedding feast of the Lamb” (CCC 923, 1602; Rev 19:7, 9).
The Profession of Faith
CCC 315, 388, 396, 398, 460, 467, 491, 923
Life in Christ
CCC 1694, 1832, 1877, 1879, 1920, 1934, 1946, 2331, 2332, 2348, 2350, 2351, 2357, 2359, 2394
Celebration of the Christian Mystery
CCC 1367, 1533, 1534, 1539, 1547, 1601, 1602, 1619, 1646, 1647, 1652
CCC 2559-2565, 2569, 2620, 2757