Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Pastoral Letter on Chastity

Bishop Martino from the diocese of Scranton has written a beautiful pastoral letter on chastity. It is worth reading in it's entirety, but I will put a few of my favorite quotes here.

"In fact, chastity is a virtue for our times, and it does take priority. That should be clear, for instance, in the wake of the scandalous events in our own Church as well as those in secular society. One sad thing I’ve read was the final paragraph of The New York Times obituary of the popular French novelist Fran├žoise Sagan. In a 1993 interview before her second drug trial, Ms. Sagan recalled:

I had incredible luck because just when I grew up, the pill came along. When I was 18, I used to die with fear of being pregnant, but then it arrived, and love was free and without consequence for nearly 30 years. Then AIDS came. Those 30 years coincided with my adulthood, the age for having fun.

In this “age for having fun,” Ms. Sagan was twice married, twice divorced, twice convicted of narcotics offenses. God rest her soul. God rest the souls of all who thought as she did. And may God come to the rescue of all who now think as she did. It is the spirit of this “age for having fun” that makes the Church’s teaching on chastity so necessary today."

"Fully to appreciate chastity, we need to reflect on attitudes and ways of acting opposed to it. This will not be pleasant. As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “…perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful.”

But the cure begins with recognizing a perversion for what it is.
The list is long and depressing. It includes pornography, masturbation, premarital sex, cohabitation, homosexual relations and unions, sexual promiscuity, adultery, divorce and remarriage without an annulment, contraception, sterilization, abortion, cloning, and the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research. Currently, a campaign of legal pressure and media propaganda seeks to force a change in the definition of marriage so that homosexual unions will be accepted as marriages.

Secular culture as it is reflected in the media not only accepts sex outside marriage but also encourages it. One result is that many people hardly even understand what the Church says about sexual morality. Many, for instance, not only do not practice modesty in dress but also have little or no idea what “modesty in dress” might mean. And how often, unfortunately, the young are left uninstructed about the evil of masturbation with the result being a vicious habit they must truly struggle to overcome."

"What does someone who practices contraception communicate to his or her spouse? “I love you deeply — but not completely of course. I give myself to you entirely — but only up to a point. I trust God unconditionally — but we’ve got to look out for ourselves.” A badly mixed message, to say the least.

Things are very different with a husband and wife open to bringing a new life into the world. They are prepared to live even more fully in service to one another and to sacrifice for the common good of their family.

But what about couples who have a good reason to put off having a child? Then the morally right answer is Natural Family Planning (NFP).
NFP today is not the calendar-rhythm method of the 1940s and '50s. Natural Family Planning refers to scientifically proven, morally acceptable methods by which a couple determines the woman’s fertile and infertile periods, with a view either to conceiving a child or postponing conception.

Both artificial contraception and NFP can fail when not used properly, but the success rate of NFP is fully comparable to that of contraception. And the rate of divorce among NFP couples is much lower than among contracepting couples, thanks to the high degree of communication, mutual consideration, and respect that NFP involves."

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