This time around we will continue our look at marital fidelity by reflecting on chastity. When we think of chastity nuns, religious brothers or priests usually come to our minds first. We may also think of unmarried people who are called to abstain from sexual relations until marriage. But in reality, all of us are called to live a chaste life. The difference is that each person lives this virtue out in a different way, depending on whether they are single, are a priest or have taken religious vows, or are married. Chastity in marriage means that the couple recognizes that their relationship is exclusive and that the sex act is reserved for that relationship. In this way we see that chastity is not the same as celibacy. Unmarried people, priests and women and men religious live celibate lives. This is not the case for married persons.
Though married chastity implies an active love life, there ways of sinning against this virtue. Adultery is an obvious offense against chastity, but it is not the only one. While married persons are not called to celibacy, their chastity demands mutual respect. No one is has to have sex if they don’t want to. To force a spouse against his or her will to have sex is a grave sin against married chastity, as well as against the dignity of the offended partner. The conjugal act is a sacred sign of the covenant between woman and man. Pornography is a grave sin against this reality for those who act in, produce, distribute and watch such material. Prostitution, going to “gentlemen’s clubs,” and any internal attitude that makes others objects to be used rather than persons with dignity to be respected are offences against chastity, for married and single people alike.
Living a life of chastity means that we recognize that everyone is our neighbor, deserving of respect. We know that everyone is an individual with a history, dreams, goals and a destiny. They are not objects to be used for our own satisfaction. For this reason Jesus goes as far as declaring that willfully impure thoughts are equal to adultery (Mt. 5:27-28).
We have left out one aspect of married chastity. That is that married love should be fruitful. We will dedicate the last installment of this series on marriage to the topic of the
Church’s teaching on birth control.