Virginity is Sexual

This post will probably make a lot more sense if you read Is Female Purity Bullshit? and Is Purity Culture Sexist? first.

Virginity is sexual.

This is difficult to grasp in a post-Christian culture which lacks the social presence of nuns and religious sisters in daily life. We are educated to laud and await the day we’ll misplace our all-too-clingy virginity, making it impossible to imagine a beautiful woman freely and joyfully giving up everything she owns, shaving her head, taking up the simple cloth, making a vow of perpetual virginity, and speaking of it as the fulfillment of her being.

This is terrifying. Our culture of pornography, sexual-advertising, sexual “liberation,” and the definition of human beings as being their sexual desires (you, sir, are a Homosexual, and you, ma’am, a Sapiosexual, and you, a Bisexual-verging-Asexual, you, a Queer, a Questioning, perhaps a shade of Transgender, and you, God bless you for bravely claiming the title of Pansexual/Omnisexual, for it’s awful to deny who you are, your identity, which for me remains Heterosexual. Praise God, what marvelous, shimmering freedom we live in now that everyone has a label. (I can reduce and negate anyone! (Wait, where was I? Oh yes..))) this culture absolutely cannot allow a thing like consecrated virginity to be healthy, for virginity is a life of self-denial, not self-acceptance, and the idea that it may be true to the nature of a human person to deny their physical urges — well! Thus, in an effort to avoid the shocking fact that consecrated virgins walk happily among us, we dig canals alongside these mighty, roaring, rivers, diverting and diluting their essence into stereotypes we are comfortable with.

So for the stoic, intellectual 17-year-old on r/atheism, or the general denizen enjoying the fantastical freedoms of the sexual revolution, the chief thing is to render the nun pornographic. What’s needed to divert her obvious, indicting claim on virginity is photoshopped pictures of nuns-in-lingerie, the rather sexist sneer of a pornographic culture that must either associate the convent with the brothel — and thereby reduce the threat of that freely chosen innocence which stands in testimony against our particularly boring, addicted rottenness — or be lost.

For the more mature, academic dilettante of the sexual revolution — the mighty patron of Gender Theory’s most with-it textbooks — what’s needed is not so much Photoshop as Freud. This is the diversion of the virgin into predictable, clunking novels in which the protagonist nun, tired of her abbess and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, frightfully abused by her vow of virginity (we are to forget that this vow was made in freedom, or better yet, to assume that such a vow could never be made in freedom), finds her self, claims her sexuality, comes-of-age, defeats the patriarchy, and breaks the hetero-normative cage , all in one mid-novel lesbian experience, culminating — if we’re lucky — in her subsequent persecution or — if we’re very lucky — her burning at the stake. These novels tend to have close ups of female eyes staring through a veil in such a way that speaks of the power of the human spirit to overcome the evils of institutional religion. Their titles use fonts one can only assume served as the headers for the stationary of the Spanish Inquisition, and usually contain the word “heretic,” meant to be read in a breathy tone of voice, as in, “oh, you naughty heretic,” and not “oh, you ignorant ass making a business out of intellectual dishonesty.” This is a sexually free culture. Virginity-as-happiness must be side-stepped.

For the more modest, unassuming Catholic who “knows his Church allows him to have his own opinions,” writes small letters to the editor of the Huffington Post regarding “the practicality of condom promotion” and “the sad reversal of the Catholic Church to a Ratzingerian mode of thinking,” and frowns upon the “positively medieval” emphasis on virginity in the Church — he gets extra points if he can say “positively medieval” more than once –his diversion of the blatant, yes-dammit-I-want-to-be-a-virgin claim of the religious sister is an “advocacy” for an end to celibacy amongst religious. Married priests, married nuns, that’s the way to move the Church forward into Somewhere Nice. Better yet, he dilutes the conception virginity by only supporting and gushing enthusiastically about nuns who do not wear the physical signs of chastity, the women of dying orders, which receive no new members. For if the nun is really a virgin — wink, wink, nudge, nudge — it is only the due to repressive, masculine imposition of dogma that weighs over their heads. Thus all attention and glory be to the LCWR, those nuns being so callously treated by the Vatican (that awful imposer of dogma) under investigation for failing to properly represent the Catholic Church they claim to represent, by who’s permission and authority they exist.

In each case — and there are many more — the only thing denied is the truth, that habited orders are exploding with beautiful, young women who long for a life of consecrated virginity as a positive good, not a repressive lack.

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Our inability to take the nun at her word, to believe she means precisely what she says when she vows virginity before Eternity, and that she does so for precisely the reasons she says — because it is her vocation (her true self) — comes from our inability to think of virginity as anything but an absence of sexuality. It’s not. If the consecrated virgin represented an absence of sexuality, then there would be no need for “chastity” amidst the religious, which is defined as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person” (CCC 2337). Yet we find in The Catechism of the Catholic Church a quote of St. Ambrose’s as a guide:

There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others…This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church.” (CCC 2349)

“The chastity of virgins” only seems like an unnecessary tautology if we have in mind the virgin of our current “purity culture,” that is, the virgin defined by his or her lack of sex. The reason consecrated virgins must practice chastity is because true virginity is sexual, in that it directs the entire sexuality towards God. The language the Church uses to describe consecrated virgins is not the language of repression, but the language of marriage. In Consecrato Virginium – the Church’s rite for the consecration of virgins — the antiphon sings “I am espoused to him whom the angels serve; sun and moon stand in wonder at his glory.” Men and women who consecrate their virginity to God become a sign of fertile marriage, a signum transcendens amoris Ecclesiae erga Christum (a surpassing sign of the Church’s love for Christ) and an imago eschatologica Sponsae caelestis vitaeque futurae (an eschatological image of the heavenly bride and of the world to come). The nun and the sister are brides of Christ. They do not forsake the erotic when their don their wedding veils, they direct it towards God.

For our age – unsure whether to say “ew sex” or to have sex with all the things, all the time — this can only be awkward. The ecstasies, the contemplations of prayer that lead to the faces of pleasure-pain, the dizzying visions, the stigmata, the babble of tongues — if virginity is a lack, these miracles can only be explained as a recurring phenomena of a repressed sexuality. But if virginity is a sexuality-for-God, and an undivided dive into the heart of erotic love — God Himself — who loves with what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains “may certainly be called eros [erotic love], yet it is also totally agape [unconditional love],” then we’re looking at something entirely different. The fact that the convent is a crucible of ecstatic miracles makes total sense if virginity is, in its fullness, nuptials with God. And this is true of both man and woman. What force but the erotic could have lifted St. Thomas Aquinas into the air?

How could the newly-lived virginity of St. Augustine have him crying, with all the force of the erotic, that, “Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for thee. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burned for thy peace,” unless it was an embrace of sexuality?  What power could have wrung St. Francis into ecstasy, if not that of erotic love?

Oh, but I assume too much. Of course these events are only fairy-tales. (But I wonder whether it is really so foolish to believe in them. After all, lovers who experience the joy of erotic love quite naturally promise to love “forever,” a bizarre promise, given there is no proof of “forever” being even remotely possible. Perhaps they are simply mistaken. Perhaps they are lying for poetic effect. Or perhaps lovers, in their expression of erotic love, have tasted the Eternal, which demands they use infinite terms like “forever and always.” This suggests that the ecstasy of the Saint — so erotic in its expression — is simply a more direct path to the Eternity lovers experience in each other, namely, a path to Eternity itself. Consecrated virgins do not give up on sexuality, they actually live a form of sexuality aimed at the Eternal present in all erotic love, which — apparently — enables them to fly. (This is not, of course, to say that those who are not consecrated virgins cannot be pulled into levitation or falcon-punched into ecstasy.)

By way of the habited among us, we understand that virginity is not a lack, but is essentially sexual in nature, a virginity-for and full of the pull of erotic love. If “purity culture” is to be redeemed, it must destroy the idea that purity is an absence, and take up the emblem of purity-as-consecration, an orientation of the sexuality towards Eternity, not a repression of the sexuality until Mr. Right comes along. Consecrated virgins provide an example of virginity as a solid something. Their purity is thick as bread, and their chastity is far more substantial than the bravest of our pornographic escapades. Invite them over for dinner sometime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.larsen1998 Stephanie Larsen

    The Dominicans of St. Cecilia run my school. :)

  • rooke

    I now just want to be a monk!!!!

  • rooke

    I now just want to be a monk!!!!

    • lroy77

      Even at my age, joining some sort of convent is MY Plan B.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    You had me clear up until here:
    “. After all, lovers who experience the joy of erotic love quite naturally promise to love “forever,” a bizarre promise, given there is no proof of “forever” being even remotely possible. ”

    If I wanted erotic love, that’s as close as my nearest strip club.

    It is only in the Agape of marriage that it is worth (and possible to) love forever. And by that I certainly do include the Holy Orders.

    • Emily

      …I think you’re thinking of the broken Eros, the Eros that concentrates on the self over the Other. The knee-jerk reaction to anything being described as ‘erotic’ is a a movement away from the thing, because of the connotations to pornography and selfish sexuality. I think that the point (or one of them) of Mark’s posts here is to show the misappropriation of Eros that has happened in our culture, and how turning our backs completely on Eros is not the answer. Re-appropriation is needs to happen, because Eros is wonderful!

      Erotic love is not something to be afraid of (although it kind of is, in the it’s so good it’s terrifying (kind of like angels)), it is not something that is inherently bad. It just has a tendency to be oriented towards the bad with the way that we, as humans, interact with and use erotic love.

      The nearest strip club does not have erotic love in it. It has erotica, and temporal pleasure, but nothing resembling love. The clubs themselves don’t even pretend to have anything to do with the word ‘love’.

      When I want to experience to full joys of erotic love, I’ll get married. (Of course, the Eros will/should come paired with the Agape, as you need the both of them.)
      :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/mr.alexanderson Alexander S Anderson

        I applaud your use of nested parentheses. (I think our host is getting into our collective grammatical minds (not that that’s a bad thing))

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I to thank you and our host for closing our parenthesis.

        I personally am afraid of the erotic because *I* know how much I struggled with this sin when I was younger, and the autism and inability to understand rules about appropriateness didn’t help. I think I may be incapable of that kind of love being good.

        I can, however, use it in the service of Agape- in procreative ways. But I can’t celebrate it for its own sake, and in American culture, it is so misused and abused I have grave doubts about anybody in our culture using it appropriately.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Which means, I guess, I’m one of the doubters about a chaste virgin. Or at least an American one. Historical European ones, maybe. African and Latin American ones, certainly. But North American? And specifically the post sexual revolution United States? No.

  • Andrew

    Firstly, once again, bravo! This is leagues above the rest of the internet.

    Secondly, TRIPLE SHOTS FOR TRIPLE PARENTHESES

  • Brooke

    Marc, I would love to hear you expound on this:

    “If “purity culture” is to be redeemed, it must destroy the idea that purity is an absence, and take up the emblem of purity-as-consecration, an orientation of the sexuality towards Eternity, not a repression of the sexuality until Mr. Right comes along.”

    I definitely like the idea of the last phrase (purity is “not a repression”), but the middle part seems vaguely abstract. I’d really like to understand it better.

    • Luke Burgess

      I’m no Marc, but…

      As I see it “purity-as-consecration” is a devotion to God’s plan for ones life, so if one is to receive the sacrament of marriage the physical connection to the spiritual eternity is complete. Eternity is not simply a forever into the future but also into the past.

  • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

    Marc, I’ve really enjoyed your series in response to the Jezebel story, but there are a couple of moments this time around that I have to take issue with. First, while some of this piece is about virginity, most of it is really about celibacy and I’m not sure why you feel the need to use the word “virginity” in those cases. For instance, you write about the “newly-lived virginity of St. Augustine,” by which I assume you mean something like the idea of a “born again virgin” that floats around Evangelical circles because, as we well know, Augustine was quite the ladies man before his conversion. Similarly, last I checked, virginity was not a requirement for becoming a nun; rather, a commitment to celibacy as the proper form of chastity for a vowed religious person is required.

    I don’t think this is purely a matter of semantics. To return to the story that caused Jezebel to publish its piece in the first place: Elizabeth Smart recalled being exposed to a “purity culture” that referred to women who lost their virginity as “chewed up pieces of gum.” This, I think, is the problem with focusing on virginity rather than on chastity (or celibacy): virginity is a state of being, a state that can be lost. If a person’s sexual worth is tied to it, then that worth can be “lost”—which doesn’t seem to jive with what I understand, and what you’ve articulated in previous posts, about the Church’s understanding of sexuality. Chastity, on the other hand, is—as you rightly point out—an embodied (and, yes, sexual) lifestyle. We can slip up sometimes in our struggle to be chaste, but we can’t “lose” our chastity in the way that we can “lose” our virginity. Chastity is about the choices we make day in and day out, not about some set “state of being” in the way that virginity is often conceived. (None of this, of course, is meant to in anyway diminish the wonderful choice that consecrated virgins have made! I’m just saying that I think we need to make this a conversation about chastity (esp. chastity expressed through celibacy) and not just about virginity).

    Second, I don’t really see what purpose your comments on non-habited sisters serves in this piece. Surely we can acknowledge that non-habited sisters also take vows of chastity and can provide a witness to the world. I understand that an especially strong statement is made through the wearing of the habit, but I don’t see why the sincere sacrifice and dedication of non-habited sisters needs to be called into question for you to make that point nor do I see why the current tensions between the Vatican and the LCWR need be taken as evidence of the attitude of every non-habited sister.

    • Teresa

      I think this is why virginity is rare in religious circles – it’s not respected or revered at all. Any suggestion that virginity is a good thing is shot down as being part of an oppressive ‘purity culture’ that should be done away with (even if it is gender-neutral). I see it as the encroachment of secular culture.

      By de-emphasizing virginity we actually lead people into negative situations and potentially great harm because they’ve been told they can always get a second chance (which is true), but without being told that needing the second chance is not supposed to be the desired outcome. We’re not supposed to arrive at marriage having multiple partners – if that was in fact intended, I don’t think it would be a sin.

      It seems that how the conversation is conducted is being tailored to the majority, and perhaps even against the minority (the ones who do wait until marriage). The once lofty goal of both man and woman waiting until marriage has been set aside as something of an impossibility (which strikes me almost as permission to licentiousness). As more and more people fail at maintaining chastity and virginity, the more I think we’ll see ‘adjustments’ made to make them feel better about it, rather than inspiring them (and others who have been lucky not to fall) to aspire to something better.

      Slightly off topic: I realize that men are often torn to pieces for only wanting to marry a virgin and women (such as myself) are normally let off without much of a fuss for wanting the same thing, but what about people who insist on marrying a non-virgin? Few people have ever addressed that.

      • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

        Hi Teresa,

        I apologize if it came across like I don’t respect virginity—I do and I don’t think that it’s some sort of “impossible” goal, it is absolutely a holy goal and the folks who remain virgins (either their whole lives or until marriage) get mad props from me.

        My concern is that the way we treat the people who stumble in the pursuit of chastity—particularly if that stumble involves the loss of their virginity—is not likely to “inspire them to aspire to something better,” I think it’s more likely to make them simply give up because they feel like “damaged goods.” If everything’s already broken, what’s the point? That type of thinking can easily lead someone down an increasingly destructive sexual path.

        In contrast, if someone realizes that chastity is still something that they can aspire to—that it’s still a good that they can achieve—then they’ll be likely to continue towards it. The point is not to let people off the hook—or to deny the respect due to those who have maintained their virginity—the point is to treat sexual sin the way that we treat all sins: as something that can be forgiven.

        You may well be right that a lot of people involved in the critique of some of the rhetoric in purity culture are themselves people who “didn’t succeed,” but I don’t know if that’s simply a sign that those folks (among whom I am one) are simply trying to allay their guilt. I think we’ve learned from experience that sometimes the chastening via purity culture, as well as some of its assumptions about the nature of sexuality itself, don’t have the effect of bringing folks back into the fold—it just chases them farther away.

        • Teresa

          Okay, no worries. The lack of respect I often see is something I call the “First Rule of Chastity” in Catholic circles: that in an effort to be forgiving (which is good), people go overboard and basically give license (and ‘moral’ support) to sinful behaviour. It basically becomes a form of (secular) tolerance. The intentions are good (just like those of the ‘purity culture,’ I think), but they can be quite damaging (just in diametrically-opposed ways). I’m happy to hear that you aren’t a person that has any disdain for virginity.

          —-

          If the results of either maintaining virginity (along with chastity) or failing is negligible, which do you think the majority will arrive at? The latter, of course. We’ve gone in the complete opposite direction: from judgmental to almost encouraging. People seem to forget that sin can be forgiven, but temporal consequences don’t go away. As a woman, I only wish to marry a man who has waited – this is due in part to the fact that men cannot be tested for some STDs (of which could affect me – e.g. infertility). Those men may have re-committed themselves to chastity (and be holy people), but the consequences are still there. We need people to understand this – sexual sin is not just confined to the spiritual realm (I mean, why else would my atheist friend be waiting until marriage?).

          Of course I don’t think anyone should be considered “goods” of any kind, but ask a person who lived a promiscuous lifestyle and they may very well admit they are ‘damaged’ in a very deep, intangible way – we could avoid that by setting the bar higher, rather than lowering to make people feel better (perhaps only in a limited sense, though). We shouldn’t treat people who’ve failed at the task as lesser people – we’re all equal, obviously – but they should realize that consequences are not wiped away with confession (which is the major reason people seek to marry virgins in the first place [like myself]). The “increasingly destructive sexual path” you speak of is also a concern, and we shouldn’t make people feel that that is the only option left to them (and again, the consequences could keep piling up).

          ‘Purity culture’ is a difficult thing to define, since it is different in different circles/religions/countries/etc. In terms of its critique, I’ve noticed that chastity talks have a very “doom-and-gloom,” almost fear-mongering way of warning people to avoid sexual sins (especially sex before marriage); once people commit those sins, consequences are no longer mentioned – the order of the day is forgiveness (or rather “forgiveness,” since the word is clearly being misused). It’s the same way with people: prior to failing, people aspire to very grand, but achievable, goals – after failing, the goals change and the vocabulary is replaced with commiserative language; a somewhat disdainful opinion of virginity (eg “virginity doesn’t really matter”, “most virgins are that way because of lack of opportunity”, etc) seems to crop up, as well (with hints of jealousy, though rarely spoken to a large audience).

          It’s simply a question of balance – how do you support two different segments of a group (Catholics striving for chastity)? We can’t disrespect virginity (even though that is often the case) because no one would strive for it (i.e. if secular and religious culture treat it the same way, it’ll become rare). We can’t put down people who haven’t succeeded, either (even though this also happens).

          There are of course people who have honest opposition to purity culture (in whatever iteration or version they experienced) who did succeed and those who didn’t (that is, not as a way to ease their conscience) – but there is definitely a sense of “sour grapes” (which actually does a disservice to chastity in general). People who don’t maintain virginity generally find it more difficult to maintain chastity afterwards, for example. There’s also a hint of regret (“I was so close to that”, “why didn’t I avoid that situation”, and far more saddening statements), and that regret is compounded with jealousy which de-emphasizes virginity under the guise of supporting chastity (which is not a negative thing, in itself), but may not be done with purest of intentions (e.g. “saving face” – “no loss in losing something of no value,” for example).

          But I do stand by my original assertion that guilt is being allayed by a large percentage of people (though I say that from my own experience and those of people I know), either by making justifications of actions, belittling of virginity, or ignoring temporal consequences. This does a disservice to others struggling to maintain virginity and chastity (instability in the inculcating culture is a major factor in a lack of success in chastity, I think). We are our brother’s keeper, and our own pride (and the maintenance of it) should not lead others away or cause them harm.

          You are of course aware that people in the early Church died to preserve their virginity, and while I think many people, even some devout Catholics abhor that idea (and I’ve been told as much), we still must recognize its specialness, not as a way a of putting people down, but more along the lines of glory to God. It goes beyond avoiding the very real consequences. Just because losing one’s virginity doesn’t mean someone is doomed to Hell, it still doesn’t mean that it can be dispensed with as inessential. Basically, we shouldn’t jettison it to make the majority feel better (and we shouldn’t lord it over people), but we should stand firm and say “this is the ideal; this is how we are to live – either until marriage or death.” If people see the religious community backing away from what it previously held high, what assumptions could be made of future actions of the Church? (“Will they say sex before marriage is okay?”)

          In the end, what someone does to make them a non-virgin has distinct and potentially life-altering consequences, as does continued sexual sin, but if we divorce the spiritual realm from the physical realm, what do we accomplish? For example, someone’s infertility as a result of an STD could lead to a spiritual crisis (which I have witnessed). There is a desire for everything to have a happy ending, to live a “Pollyanna” existence, but this is simply not possible. We can’t redefine or reimagine sexual ethics to suit our situation – it’s clearly false. We have to admit our failures and take responsibility, something that is definitely not popular in this culture, regardless of one’s feelings on chastity or virginity.

    • Complex Conjugate

      You have an important insight here: what we might call virginity
      culture is on much more shaky grounds, morally, than purity culture. If
      we value purity as in celibacy etc., then we are encouraging a
      particular approach to sexuality; on the other hand, if we value
      virginity in isolation, it’s pretty clear we are stuck treating people
      as “damaged goods,” devaluing them, and so on.

      I think, however,
      that there is an intractable problem with purity culture. And that as
      that there does not exist a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of
      how to manage one’s sexuality. The problem for me, and for many
      feminists, is not that some people advocate the benefits of chastity,
      avoiding promiscuity, or remaining celibate until marriage. Certainly,
      that may be good for some people. Who am I to tell them how to live
      their lives? But by the same token, the problem is when those people
      come and tell others they are doing sexuality wrong, or are morally
      deficient, because they have different beliefs or characteristics.

      In
      the above piece, Marc says “Thus, in an effort to avoid the shocking
      fact that consecrated virgins walk happily among us, we dig canals
      alongside these mighty, roaring, rivers, diverting and diluting their
      essence into stereotypes we are comfortable with.” This is a good point,
      and I am right there with him. But by the same token, neither should we
      ignore those who are (for example) sexually promiscuous and happy with
      it.

      I guess the question is, what is meant by “purity culture?” A
      purity culture that does not attempt to devalue those who do not buy in
      is one I have no problem with. However, the sort of purity culture
      which uses all sorts of shaming tactics to induce compliance and insists
      that purity is the only legitimate way to be is damaging to those
      people for whom the shoe does not fit.

      • Luke Burgess

        I do not see how a culture of “No sex outside the sacrament of marriage.” damages anyone.
        Any more than a law that says “no drinking while driving.” it’s just good advice for anyone’s life.

        • Teresa

          A lack of sex never hurt anyone.

          • Luke Burgess

            Then how in this universe is such a statement anywhere close to true: “what we might call virginity culture is on much more shaky grounds, morally, than purity culture”

            or this one:

            “However, the sort of purity culture which uses all sorts of shaming tactics to induce compliance and insists that purity is the only legitimate way to be is damaging to those people for whom the shoe does not fit.”

            Is someone going to actually claim they are physically or spirituality an equally or better person after they had sex outside the sacrament of marriage?

          • Teresa

            “Is someone going to actually claim they are physically or spirituality an equally or better person after they had sex outside the sacrament of marriage?”

            Well, I know (practicing Catholic) women who will only marry a non-virgin man. So, maybe?

            To clarify my comment, though, I never meant anything beyond just the physical act – it was not really related to any discussion of ‘Purity Culture.’

          • Luke Burgess

            “Well, I know (practicing Catholic) women who will only marry a non-virgin man. So, maybe?”

            Did you find out why? Because from the way that sounds, they do not want to interlude themselves on a life of purity My guess is, these (practicing Catholic) women you speak of are not virgin and have not received the purity of true forgiveness given to them by the church and faith.

          • Teresa

            “My guess is, these (practicing Catholic) women you speak of are not virgin”

            Many are. Some think there must be something wrong (sexually) with a man who waits until marriage, others think such a man must be weak in some way, other want the ‘experience.’

          • Luke Burgess

            OK, now I know you are just making this up.

            “Many are”!?

            Only ~1/4 women are virgins upon graduation from high school.

            http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/national-data/pdf/TeenSexActivityOnePager.pdf

            If this is the way they feel, why complain about the purity culture, just leave the catholic church, problem solved?

          • Teresa

            You weren’t reading what I was responding to. If you read my comment carefully, you’ll see that I was referring to the women I know, not all women (“women you speak of”). In a circle of practicing Catholic women, it’s not the greatest percentage, I realize.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            If this is the way they feel, why complain about the purity culture, just leave the catholic church, problem solved?

            Surely “just leave” is not the most charitable response we can offer to Catholics who are working through their faith.

            I agree that absolutely restricting one’s future marriage partner to a non-virgin is problematic and, frankly, seems to not be focused on the most important qualities of a future mate: one’s emotional compatibility with them, shared vision of family life, etc. However, to implicitly suggest that women who say they’d only marry a non-virgin just need to “leave” seems to miss the spirit of the New Evangelization: why not have open, frank discussions about the person’s struggles and concerns instead? And why not be careful to point out, as Marc himself has in the previous few posts, what separates authentic Catholic teaching from much of the rhetoric in the “purity culture”?

          • Luke Burgess

            How can someone who thinks a Catholic teaching is wrong continue to be a Catholic if they disagree with the Catholic Church they are not required to continue to be Catholic.

            In this case they feel sex outside the realm of matrimony is a good thing.

            If a man were to feel that regular attendance at the local penthouse was a good thing, I would not tell him he cannot do it. I would only ask that he never say he is a Catholic to others while expressing this belief, so that people are not confused about what the Catholic Church believes is right/wrong.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            How can someone who thinks a Catholic teaching is wrong continue to be a Catholic if they disagree with the Catholic Church they are not required to continue to be Catholic.

            Perhaps because they feel like there’s something of value there, even if they can’t quite put their finger on it. This is why I think the answer is to get them to go more fully into their commitment to Catholicism rather than to tell them that they ought to just abandon the whole venture.

            If a man were to feel that regular attendance at the local penthouse was a good thing, I would not tell him he cannot do it. I would only ask that he never say he is a Catholic to others while expressing this belief, so that people are not confused about what the Catholic Church believes is right/wrong.

            Obviously the man can do whatever he likes, but I’d be inclined to try and convince him that he ought not to visit the penthouse—instead of simply telling him to be on about his merry way so long as he didn’t taint us with his sin.

            Furthermore, I don’t think that the penthouse-visiting gent is a good metaphor for this situation. In the case of a virgin woman wanting to marry a non-virgin man, it’s solely a matter of her belief on a subject (and I think that belief may be much more complex than simply “feeling that sex outside the realm of matrimony is a good thing” and I hardly think it wanders over into full-blown heresy) not a matter of behavior. In the case of the penthouse-visitor, it’s a matter of both behavior and one’s opinion about the behavior.

          • Luke Burgess

            As far as I can tell you want to justify the unjustifiable actions of others.
            How is expressing the idea that a man with sexual experiences prior to matrimony, better than one without, is “much more complex”. While the idea of a man getting such experiences prior to matrimony is “a matter of both behavior and one’s opinion about the behavior.”
            They seem to be on equal footing to me.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            As far as I can tell you want to justify the unjustifiable actions of others.

            Thanks for the vote of confidence. I think I’ve already clearly stated what my motives are, but you’re certainly welcome to suspect them.

            How is expressing the idea that a man with sexual experiences prior to matrimony, better than one without, is “much more complex”. While the idea of a man getting such experiences prior to matrimony is “a matter of both behavior and one’s opinion about the behavior.”They seem to be on equal footing to me.

            Here are two potential reasons why a virgin woman might want to only marry a non-virgin man: (1) she is concerned that she won’t “know what to do” on her wedding night and the thought of a more sexually knowledgeable partner allays some of this fear, (2) based on an (I believe mistaken) belief that it is harder for men to remain virgins than for women to, she may fear that a non-virgin husband will be “too saintly” and she fears that he will judge her for her own perceived inadequacies. In both cases, the primary driver here is fear and anxiety, not a belief in the morality of sexual behavior before marriage. Thus, I think it is fair to say that the situation may be “more complex” than a simple disregard for Church teaching.

            The point of the statement about “behavior and one’s opinion about the behavior” was simply to draw attention to the fact that, in your example of the penthouse-visiting man, two separate things are happening: (1) an action and (2) a belief. In the case of the virgin woman who says that she will only marry a non-virgin man, she believes something (she is of the opinion that is better for her to marry a non-virgin), but she isn’t doing anything at present. In other words, it is only a matter of a belief. So, these aren’t really the same type of case and therefore it’s not the best metaphor.

          • Luke Burgess

            “separate things are happening: (1) an action and (2) a belief. ”
            So you do not want to justify an action but you do want to justify a belief.
            I’m not getting how that is better, could you explain.

            I still do not see how it is possible that a woman desiring a lack of chastity in a man is any more excusable than a man desiring to rid himself of such chastity.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            Actually, I said that my response in both cases would be the same. In short, I would tell neither the penthouse-visiting man nor the woman that they should leave the Church. In that regard, I would treat both situations the same.

            Frankly, my point about the metaphor was a bit of an aside. I didn’t say that the two cases didn’t go well together because of their gravity, I said that they didn’t go well together because they are, structurally speaking, non-parallel scenarios.

            The point is not to excuse anything; our conversation arose from a discussion of whether or not we should advise Catholics who are struggling to just leave the Church. I, personally, don’t think that’s the best answer.

            Finally, in terms of my giving an account of our hypothetical woman’s motives, I don’t think that it is “justifying” to take into account what someone’s motivations might be. Indeed, in determining whether a grave sin was also mortal, the Catechism suggests that we should take into account surrounding circumstances, including “the prompting of feelings and passions” and “external pressures,” all of which can “diminish the voluntary and free character of the act.” (CCC 1854)

          • Luke Burgess

            I do not think a person who believes “there must be something wrong (sexually) with a man who waits until marriage”, is struggling to make the right decision. They are struggling to justify the wrong one.

            To this end they should not state such beliefs as though such beliefs are in alliance with the Catholic Church.

            compare :
            “there must be something wrong (sexually) with a man who waits until marriage”
            with :
            CCC 2350

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            To this end they should not state such beliefs as though such beliefs are in alliance with the Catholic Church.

            Of course they shouldn’t; I never said they should. However, I see no reason why our response to that should be to ask them to leave Catholicism. We should be working to draw people into the Church, not convincing them to leave. Why not (re)introduce them—as Marc has tried to do in his last few posts—to the Catholic church’s vision of sex and sexuality to help demonstrate to them what’s flawed in the idea that there’s something wrong with a man who waits until marriage. It could be an opportunity for good catechesis, but only if we are willing to engage with people instead of simply condemning them as bad Catholics and showing them the door.

          • Luke Burgess

            In this case we are talking about women Teresa knows, they have expressed to her, as Catholics, they will only marry men who want to directly disobey the Catholic Church.

            I do not want to condemn anyone, I just don’t want the teachings of the Catholic Church replaced with those of the sexual focused(not love focused) culture.

            I’m just someone who loves protestants. I think they are the best. For whatever belief someone has regarding Jesus they should feel free to find a protestant division for that belief that disagrees with the Catholic Church. Save themselves a constant battle with the Catholic Church.

            I do not think people like Luther and Calvin are condemned, rather saved, in that they are honest about what they believe. I believe the Catholic Church so I also believe CCC 1271.

          • Luke Burgess

            “something wrong (sexually) with a man who waits until marriage” If he cannot wait, what makes you think he can wait until he gets home from that business trip?

            “others think such a man must be weak in some way” What? A guy is week because he never decided to say yes to his local slut?

            A desire for ‘experience’ is not only a demonstration of lack of trust in God, but also the man such a person would marry(That he would not put her above his own life). If that trust is not present from the start how would it ever exist without incredible difficulties?

          • Teresa

            “If he cannot wait, what makes one think he can wait until he gets home from that business trip?”

            Well, I know someone whose husband has been “100% faithful, except for three times” – they have three kids. You can figure it out. I’ve never really admired some of friends for their complete lack of sense in selecting a husband. (“He’s only slept with seven women, and he’ll go to Mass with me most Sundays – he’s so great.”)

            “What? A guy is week because he never decided to say yes to his local slut?”

            Well, that’s their thinking, not mine. The harder a virgin’s struggle, the more evident their willpower/self-control is to me, making them a much better choice in marriage. Self-control is the key to success in life. You cannot find a person who is successful by their own devices (no celebrities/puppets) who lacks self-control.

          • Luke Burgess

            “The harder a virgin’s struggle, the more evident their willpower/self-control is to me, making them a much better choice in marriage.”
            Anyone who thinks a person trying to be chaste ever has less of a struggle than one who is not(trying), is accepting a false concept as fact.

          • Teresa

            Are you replying to my comment? I’m not sure how this: “Anyone who thinks a person trying to be chaste ever has less of a struggle than one who is not(trying), is accepting a false concept as fact” is a response to this: “The harder a virgin’s struggle, the more evident their willpower/self-control is to me, making them a much better choice in marriage.”

          • Luke Burgess

            To be clear, It appears to me you are trying to say some male virgins do not need the same level of willpower/self-control because situations, as they are, do not require it. (I cannot speak for female as I am not one, but I would guess it is just as easy) The capability for any male to find a female in need of words of praise, affection, and a few demonstrations of care is the same.

          • Teresa

            I have this strange feeling your responses are computer-generated.

          • Complex Conjugate

            My claim that virginity culture is less defensible than purity culture is not based on the assumption that anyone is better off having sex outside of marriage. It’s based on what Broken Whole brought up:

            “Elizabeth Smart recalled being exposed to a “purity culture” that referred to women who lost their virginity as “chewed up pieces of gum.” This, I think, is the problem with focusing on virginity rather than on chastity (or celibacy): virginity is a state of being, a state that can be lost.”

            Take the extreme case, that of women who lose their virginity by being raped; are they to be devalued because of that? To do would be repugnant. Mainly, there is the fact that, as near as I can tell, the ideal being endorsed here is primarily one of celibacy and chastity. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see any claimed benefits of virginity that do not also flow from these weaker conditions. If that is the case, virginity is merely an arbitrary restriction. If we are going to tell people that non-virgins are less fit marriage partners, and more to the point, tell people that they are less worthy because they are not a virgin, we had better have some good reasons.

            But yes, I am perfectly willing to assert that some people find themselves “physically or spirituality an equally or better person after they had sex outside the sacrament of marriage?” (Did you mean psychically?) People throughout the world, including a fair few of my acquaintances, would make this claim from personal experience. A google search will produce some of their testimony. To defend the purity culture which I condemn, one which believes it ought to be universal, one must come up with a reason to discount all those people. And if you are not convinced that there are plenty of them, consider how small a proportion of the population takes a vow of celibacy.

            That is the parallel I was making. Like Marc says, outsiders should not condemn the Catholic ideal of chastity, because doing so ignores “the consecrated virgins who walk happily among us.” By the same token, one should not condemn those who reject chastity, because doing so would ignore those who are not chaste and happy with that.

          • Teresa

            “Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see any claimed benefits of virginity that do not also flow from these weaker conditions.”

            STDs?

          • Complex Conjugate

            STD’s are not such an example. STD’s are a reason not to have sex wether you are a virgin or not; losing your virginity would be no different in that regard than having sex a second time. So, the benefit of avoiding STD’s is a chastity/celibacy thing, not a virginity thing.

          • Teresa

            Uhhh, what? Last time I checked, the only way to completely avoid STDs was to not have sex. Last time I checked, there are chaste and celibate people who have STDs, and won’t marry because of such diseases.

            I was also speaking more along the lines of why you wouldn’t marry a non-virgin.

          • Complex Conjugate

            You’re right, but that isn’t what is needed to justify a virginity culture.
            If someone has sex for the first time, they lose their virginity and risk getting STDs.
            But if someone has sex subsequently, they have the same risk of getting STDs.
            STDs are a good reason not to have sex when you are a virgin, but they are just as good a reason not to have sex when you are not a virgin, so they justify a purity culture which values chastity and celibacy. To justify a virginity culture, we need something that makes the first time someone has sex morally or practically special. But there are plenty of people who are non-virgins who would benefit as much from avoiding STDs as virgins would.

            I don’t see why STDs justify not marrying non-virgins. STDs can be tested for, so one does not need to go to such extremes. It seems to me that STDs only justify not marrying those with STDs.

          • Teresa

            “STDs can be tested for”

            I’d research that if I were you. There are STDs that cannot be tested for, and some that are latent. I recommend going beyond what was taught to you in high school.

            “To justify a virginity culture, we need something that makes the first time someone has sex morally or practically special.”

            Well, it can serve as one of the best guarantees that someone has no STDs, and (to another virgin) that they shared the same struggle, share the same viewpoints, and have a similar level of will-power.

            There’s also the issue of bonding.

          • Teresa

            I did some of the research for you, since I think you really ought to know some of these things:

            I recommend reading this:

            “Is HPV common?

            In the US, HPV is considered to be the most common STI. There are 6.2 million new HPV infections in the United States each year. It is estimated that at any given time 26% of women ages 14-49 have HPV. Because HPV is so common, a person can have very few sexual partners and still come into contact with this virus. The lifetime risk of acquiring HPV is 75% for sexually active adults.”

            And also take into consideration this: “Most men with HPV don’t have any symptoms and so diagnosing HPV in men is difficult. Since there is no treatment for asymptomatic HPV, most men are not treated.” (both from: http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Health_Services/Health_Education/sexual_health/sexually_transmitted_infections/hpv.php)

            There is no way for a man to know if he is a carrier of HPV, unless he has the subtype that causes genital warts. He cannot go to his doctor to be “checked” for this infection.

            http://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/2010/hpv.htm
            http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/what-stis-are-testable-mdash-and-who-infected-anyway

            This is just one reason why I will not marry a non-virgin man.

          • Teresa

            I will assume your silence is you researching my comment. If you need more things like it to research, feel free to ask. (There’s about ten others.)

          • Complex Conjugate

            Okay, that’s a good reason, as far as it goes. For the sake of argument, I’ll grant this point unconditionally. Then all we have established is that extramarital sex is risky, rather than immoral. It’s reasonable to advocate behaviour preventing STDs from being contracted, and it would clearly be irresponsible and wrong not to, for example, warn a potential partner about your sexual history. I would never have argued against anyone who sees value in virginity for themselves or wants it in a partner, because that’s a personal decision. However, riskiness alone does not establish a behaviour’s immorality, and so it does not justify virginity cultures. Virginity cultures, like the one depicted in the gum quote, go much farther than protecting people from health risks.

            I am attacking the sort of culture that tries to universalize its value of virginity or purity, saying that anyone who doesn’t agree that they’re doing sexuality wrong. I will admit everything said here, and quite a lot more, is a valid way of life. But the Church sometimes presents it as the only valid way of life, which means it needs to demonstrate that other ways of life are wrong.

            Perhaps you should talk about “bonding.” I can’t say I’m not skeptical based on what what that would turn out to reference in some protestant contexts, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Catholicism, it’s to expect the unexpected. :P Anyway, it sounds like it could be a more powerful reason.

          • Teresa

            What do you mean “as far as it goes”? It can kill me. Herpes is another virus that is quite undetectable in men. HIV was just recently shown to be as well.

            “However, riskiness alone does not establish a behaviour’s immorality, and so it does not justify virginity cultures.”

            That’s the interesting thing. The CDC often mentions some variation of the following at the end of their fact-sheet articles:

            “People can also lower their chances of getting HPV by being in a faithful relationship with one partner; limiting their number of sex partners; and choosing a partner who has had no or few prior sex partners. But even people with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV, and it may not be possible to determine if a person who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected. Because HPV is so common, and almost every sexually-active person will get HPV at some time in their lives, it is important to protect against the possible health effects of HPV.”

            Case-in-point, basically. The reason why the medical establishment was pushing Gardasil so much was to build up to “herd immunity” for the four strains Gardasil protects against (at least, that’s the hope). What they don’t seem to understand is that in a so-called “virginity culture” spending billions on a vaccine that isn’t 100% successful against even a minority of the strains wouldn’t be necessary – a virus can’t pass around a population if everyone is monogamous (same is true for all STDs). It’s one thing for a person to wait until marriage, another to find someone else who did – thus the consequences are more widespread than people seem to believe. I’ve heard a few stories of women miscarrying due to herpes they didn’t know their husband had from his “few mistakes” in his past.

            (Personally, I think Gardasil is another example of the Purity Culture – where men don’t suffer the consequences and women must again bear the burden.)

            “I am attacking the sort of culture that tries to universalize its value of virginity or purity, saying that anyone who doesn’t agree that they’re doing sexuality wrong.”

            People are free to make their own choices, but those choices do have consequences. I’ve never heard of anyone suffering solely due to reasons directly tied to the Catholic notion of chastity.

            “Perhaps you should talk about ‘bonding.’”

            That’s a hard one to convey. STDs are simple case of sickness – something that is generally verifiable in the end. Bonding is empirically verifiable in the sense of hormones like oxytocin. People bond to others during sex, and it’s not something that they don’t forget (generally). Women tend to bond more than men (thus making one of the primary concerns of men who seek to marry a virgin). Repeated bonding processes with different people are directly linked with higher divorce rates, lower levels of happiness, and other assorted things. There’s more to say, but that’s the gist of it.

            Some studies on that matter:

            “Premarital Sex and the Risk of Divorce”
            Joan R. Kahn and Kathryn A. London
            Journal of Marriage and Family
            Vol. 53, No. 4 (Nov., 1991) (pp. 845-855)

            “Premarital Sex, Premarital Cohabitation, and the Risk of Subsequent Marital Dissolution among Women”
            Jay Teachman
            Journal of Marriage and Family
            Vol. 65, No. 2 (May, 2003) (pp. 444-455)

            “Saying Yes before Saying I Do: Premarital Sex and Cohabitation as a Piece of the Divorce Puzzle”
            Alvare, Helen M.
            18 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol’y 7 (2004)

            “Premarital Predictors of Marital Quality and Stability”
            Jeffry H. Larson and Thomas B. Holman
            Family Relations
            Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr., 1994) (pp. 228-237)

            “Premarital Precursors of Marital Infidelity”
            ALLEN, E. S., RHOADES, G. K., STANLEY, S. M., MARKMAN, H. J., WILLIAMS, T., MELTON, J. and CLEMENTS, M. L.
            Family Process, 47 (2008): 243–259.

            “Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Dissolution: An Examination of Recent Marriages”
            MANNING, W. D. and COHEN, J. A.
            Journal of Marriage and Family, 74 (2012): 377–387.

            “Adolescent Premarital Sexual Activity Cohabitation, And Attitudes Toward Marriage”
            Martin, Paige D., Maggie Martin, and Don Martin.
            Adolescence 36.143 (2001): 601

            Rayburn, Allison Claire. “The Relationship Between Premarital Sexual Behaviors and the State of the Marriage”
            MSc Diss., Louisiana State University, 2005

            “Marriage as a pure relationship: Exploring the Link Between Premarital Cohabitation and Divorce in Canada”
            Hall, D.R.
            Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol. 27, no. 1 (1996), pp. 1-1.

            “Does Premarital Cohabitation Predict Subsequent Marital Stability and Marital Quality? A Meta-Analysis”
            Jose, A., Daniel O’Leary, K. and Moyer, A.
            Journal of Marriage and Family, 72 (2010): 105–116

          • Teresa

            “Virginity cultures, like the one depicted in the gum quote, go much farther than protecting people from health risks.”

            I don’t support the negative version, but rather the positive version of the “virginity culture” – that is, the benefits of two virgins marrying (I think we’ve had different definitions all along…). I don’t think people should be attacked or belittled for their choices, insofar they don’t bring about negative consequences to others (and that the person is informed as to the potential consequences of their actions to themselves). In the case of STDs, there are consequences (e.g. I mentioned miscarriages above). They should be able to stand up to criticism of the choices though (again, consequences).

            “I am attacking the sort of culture that tries to universalize its value of virginity or purity, saying that anyone who doesn’t agree that they’re doing sexuality wrong.”

            I believe sexuality should be lived out in certain ways, and I certainly maintain the right to affirm it – in the same way secular culture affirms their approach/views. I’ve seen a lot of damage done by the secular version (as it is ‘on paper’) and very little done by the Catholic version (as it is ‘on paper’). “On paper” being the official version – not necessarily the way it is practiced. I think the consequences of sexual anarchy are probably the best arguments against it (again, the reason why I have atheist friends waiting until marriage).

            And health risks aren’t the extent of it, anyway. Sometimes non-virginity is symptomatic of deep-seated issues, a lack of self-control, or just entirely different notions about life.

            “I would never have argued against anyone who sees value in virginity for themselves or wants it in a partner, because that’s a personal decision.”

            It’s strange that you say that, since a lot of Christians and Catholics have come to believe that it’s not a personal decision that’s allowed. It’s not coincidental that that attitude came about in the last fifty years. A lot of Catholics/Christians like to set themselves up as arbiters (I’m guilty, myself) – that attitude is often taken far into territory it doesn’t belong (i.e. personal decisions).

          • Teresa

            I rest my case, then.

          • Luke Burgess

            “By the same token, one should not condemn those who reject chastity, because doing so would ignore those who are not chaste and happy with that.”

            Though I would not condemn them, I would condemn the belief that chastity is something anyone should reject. And I would recommend than anyone wishing to spread such a belief not do so in the name of the Catholic Church.

            See CCC 2345

          • Complex Conjugate

            I apologize for the impreciseness of my language, then. Not to put too fine a point on it, but what I intended to express is that just as we should not condemn “consecrated virgins’” sexuality, we should not condemn the sexuality of those who reject chastity. While you can potentially “condemn the belief that chastity is something anyone should reject” without condemning them as people, you cannot cannot do so without condemning their sexuality, because their sexuality logically entails the belief that chastity is something someone, namely they, should reject.

            I would not presume to defend this pluralistic view in the name of the Catholic Church, being decidedly not a Catholic. I’m merely trying to decide if I agree with Marc’s implicit claim that the Catholic purity culture is ethical. Given what everyone has said and the relevant portions of the catechism, it seems to be unethical.

          • Luke Burgess

            Most of what I have read from Marc, does not appear to be directly “unethical”, as one might say. I think he just likes to push right up to the boundaries the Catholic Church has made, then say look how progressive we are. Knowing full well that if any of his applauders actually read the CCC, they would be freaked out by what the Church is asking and would return to the more comfortable concepts of secular culture.

        • lroy77

          If you believe in the mystical body of the church and the communion of saints, then it damages society as a whole.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chipperooh Chip Atkinson

      Touché. Well said.

    • Luke Burgess

      Elizabeth Smart’s situation is not evidence of celibacy or virginity being explained wrong, but rather forgiveness being explained wrong.

      • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

        I’m confused. What role should “forgiveness” play in Elizabeth Smart’s situation? Obviously she didn’t do anything that she needed to be forgiven for when she was raped.

        • Teresa

          In general, no one needs to seek forgiveness for sexual sins from anyone except God.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            I agree. It’s just that in Elizabeth Smart’s case the only person committing a sin, and a very grave one, is the rapist. Thus, Luke’s comment remains confusing to me.

          • Luke Burgess

            Another example of how people are not taught about forgiveness through faith.

            Why would her providing forgiveness to the one who did her wrong make her feel more valuable?
            Answer CCC 2012 wow!

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            Another example of how people are not taught about forgiveness through faith.

            Or a sign that your original comment wasn’t clear and that your logic remains baffling.

            So your point is that Elizabeth Smart should offer forgiveness to her rapist. I still don’t see how that has anything to do with virginity or celibacy. Or why you think forgiveness was “explained wrong” to Elizabeth Smart. She didn’t feel like a “chewed up piece of gum” because she didn’t forgive her rapist. She felt like a “chewed up piece of gum” because she was told that she was unworthy because of something that happened to her that she had no control over.

          • Luke Burgess

            Reminds me of 1st Corinthians 1:23

            If you read CCC 2012 you would see that forgiving others makes oneself a better being than before they did you wrong.

            You can always read 1st John Ch1 if you think the CCC 2012 is a lie from the Catholic Church.

            If we all understood the extent God’s forgiveness, we would know that nothing can make us unclean.

    • Proteios

      Good point. Chastity in ones state of life is a holy calling. I give the greatest respect to th celibates taking on a deeper calling. I respect this like myself living a chaste life consistent with my married state. The word usage is important to both give respect to deserving disciples as we, but also to distinguish each. There is overlap in chastity, celibacy and virginity, but clearly I can be chaste and not a virgin. Celibate may or may not be a virgin, etc.
      the article, however, was a powerful insight into the true threat those not “going along” with our hypersexualized culture are. And celibacy is the ultimate “heresy” of the secular sexualization cult. For prime time publication, I recommend tightening up the word usage.

  • Rich

    Hey man, I’ve been following this awesome blog for over a year and a half now, and have mostly really enjoyed and been edified by it. I am just wondering with all the recent posts regarding sexuality – is it possible to go too far when talking about sex? “Death as Orgasm”, the female purity, the breasts one, and now this? I mean, is this just teenage hormones at work, or is sex really the answer to and the meaning of everything? I just fear another Christopher West mistake of reducing Theology of the Body to sex and missing the existential ramifications. What do you think, broseph?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000651744387 Jim Russell

      Hi, Rich–just a clarification–one thing West definitely does not do is reduce TOB to “sex”–most definitely not, contrary claims notwithstanding. West’s explication is superbly and completely “mystical” and utterly faithful to the original. Perhaps it could be said that the people West is hoping to reach have in fact reduced “love” to “sex” and thus that is where the conversation often begins, in hopes of drawing everyone into the deeper and more mystical dimensions of TOB. God bless you, Deacon JR

  • ichen

    First off, thanks for the triple parentheses.

    Second, I’ve always thought that reading Augustine’s Confessions was like reading someone’s love letter. Thanks for the posts, it’s given me a lot to chew over.

    • http://www.facebook.com/scottcronin99 Scott Cronin

      I’m glad someone else keeps track of the parentheses.

  • Austin

    Marc-

    This is off topic but I couldn’t find another way to contact you. I’m a young man raised protestant but searching for real answers about who God is and how to know truth. Needless to say, I find your blog a gold mine. I saw an interview of you by Brandon Vogt where you listed a few top books of yours but mentioned there were 17 others. You need to make a blog post listing your top 20 or so books, with a short description of what each is about and why it made your top 20 list. Reading your thoughts makes me makes me want more and to know where you came from and what influences have been significant to you.
    Cheers,
    Austin

    • Andrew

      Austin, I don’t know if Marc will see your post here, but in the event that he doesn’t: if you search the backlog of his articles you’ll find many positive references to influential books, and of course, you’ll find a lot of Chesterton.

      That’s because G.K. Chesterton wrote *a lot*. He’s clearly had a massive influence on Marc, but also on myself and many other modern-day Catholics. You could say we’re in a Chesteronian Renaissance, along with Chesterton’s brother-in-arms-in-writing, Hillaire Belloq.

      So if you don’t get any recommendations from Marc, I would suggest starting with Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”, and moving along from there at your own pace and inclination.

    • Greg

      I would also suggest Scott Hahn. He was a Presbyterian minister before converting to Catholicism. He does a great job of explaining the faith. A good start might be his ‘Rome Sweet Home’ which describes his and his wife’s conversion story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chipperooh Chip Atkinson

    Great work here. I became Catholic only 4 years ago, but even as a sincere, though fairly non thinking evangelical I raised my children teaching them sexual purity was more about them loving God than abstaining for my sake. They did indeed practice chastity out of love for God rather than “because the bible told them so.” (Of course the irony is that the bible does tell us so.)

  • http://twitter.com/waywardson23 James

    I think there is a bit of confusion about “virginity”, “consecrated virginity”, “consecrated religious”, “chastity”, and “vows of chastity” and “vows of celibacy”

    Marc is saying people who are not having sex and even those who have never had sex can be quite sexual. I agree completely.

    But by being sloppy with his terms, including using the silly evangelical idea of “born again virginity”, he confuses his readers and detracts from his message.

  • Ray Ingles

    If sexuality isn’t an identity, how could anyone “be” a “consecrated virgin”?

  • Teresa

    “Every man feels the need of some element of purity in sex; perhaps they can only typify purity as the absence of sex.”

    G K Chesterton, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton

  • Bride of the Lamb, Consecrated

    I am sorry, but I can’t agree with your loose use of the words “consecrated virgins”, virginity, and the like. You are describing chastity, not virginity in this article. Nuns, sisters, brothers, friars, all make vows of chastity NOT virginity. Diocesan priests make promises of chastity.

    The Consecratio virginum can ONLY be conferred by a bishop upon a female virgin (not born again virgin). It is not- as you state- given to both men and women. It is only prayed over the female virgin and through the ministry of the bishop, the Holy Spirit overshadows the virgin and makes her Virgin, Bride, and Mother. Are you familiar with the Rite? Have you read it in its entirety and then compared it to the Rite of Profession for Religious (male or female)? They are totally different things. One is the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit consecrating a virgin as a spouse of Christ and constituting her a sacred person, a “consecrated virgin” who belongs to the ancient “Order of Virgins” properly speaking. The other is anyone who vows in a religious institute to observe the virtue of chastity from that time forward. Consecrated virgins are perpetual virgins- from the day they are born until (the idea is) the day they die. Not so religious. Not so clerics.

    It is difficult for Catholics to understand consecrated virginity when writers wax eloquently on religious sisters and nuns and fail to recognize the most rapidly growing vocation in the world for women- consecrated virginity lived in the world. It is the world’s oldest vocation for women after marriage – started with the Annunciation. In fact, at this point in time, Consecrated Virgins probably outnumber any religious communities of women. There are over 600 in Paris alone, hundreds in Italy, hundreds all over large cities around the world. Consecrated virgins do not make vows. they do not make promises. Their being is changed through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. I am surprised you didn’t link to some photos of the consecrated virgins properly speaking (religious are loosely labeled “consecrated virgins”). They don’t wear religious veils unless they happen to belong to a handful of ancient Orders that confers the consecration of virginity after Solemn Profession of Vows. So please do not unite accidentals of veils, habits, and the like to brides of Christ.

    Please respect the traditional language of the Church when she refers to consecrated virgins. St. Augustine is not considered a virgin. St. Thomas Aquinas argues that only a female virgin (properly speaking with virginity intact) may receive the consecration of virgins. And yes, his own order had rejected the Consecration and only had vows so he made a distinction between religious profession (it’s covered in the Summa) and the Consecration to a life of virginity (elsewhere in his writings).

    Thank you.

    P.S. I suspect you derived your theology from that book Foundations of Religious Life. It has likewise been critiqued for its loosey goosey “argument” for calling all sisters brides of Christ. They used similar examples, including St. Francis. They fraudulently used the excerpt from the Consecration to a Life of Virginity to “prove” their point, which goes to show how “scholarly” they are since their own Rite of Religious Profession does not in fact make them Brides of Christ per se as the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity does.

  • Bride of the Lamb, Consecrated

    May I suggest a challenge? What about writing about consecrated virgins? Why not read some websites on these members of the Order of Virgins instituted by the Holy Spirit at the Incarnation?

    Here are some challenges consecrated virgins have in explaining their vocation.

    1) Explaining how it is that virginity (esp. primary virginity) matters. It matters so much that it is the only valid matter for the consecration. Why does the Church make a fuss about the Bl. Virgin? What does St. Cyprian mean by the “choicest portion of the flock”? Why does primary virginity matter? Seriously, so many people have grown up equating “virginity” with “chastity” that perhaps a new word should be coined for virginity in English. Religious shrug because they equivocate on the words. It doesn’t matter for them. All they need to be is chaste. Not a virgin. Only the Consecrated Virgin consecrated according to the Roman Pontifical by her bishop under the provisions of Canon 604 has to be a virgin. What is it about virginity that means anything in this world in God’s eyes? Seriously. Even you were full of the praises of chaste people. What about virgins?

    2) On the other hand, how do you respond to people who sniff disgustedly and say that consecrated virgins are overly emphasizing a private sexual status? In my first question, most people don’t know the difference between the vow of chastity and the passive consecration of virginity. They don’t know that virginity is a higher virtue than chastity. In this case, though, people think there is too much emphasis on the word “virgin” and the actual state of the virgin’s sexual being.

    3) How would you respond to those who think that religious vows are equivalent to the Consecration to a Life of Virginity even though they are not?

    4) How do you explain the life and worth of a consecrated virgin “living in the world” who does not belong to a community (by definition), who is not obligated to poverty (no vow), and whose identity is solely that of Virgin-Bride-Mother? A bit hard to explain to pragmatic Catholics who put value on religious brothers and sisters for what they DO.

    5) Virginity and sexuality are linked. Interestingly, in the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, the virgin is said to be in the state that marriage foreshadows… How is this to be explained?

    Some good sites:

    OCVNewevangelization
    consecratedvirgins.org
    doihaveavocation.com
    http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/topic/122838-bride-of-christ/
    sponsa-christi.blogspot
    sponsa Agnu http://messimpressionen.blogspot.com/
    stillsong hermitage

    • Bride of the Lamb, Consecrated

      And just what exactly are the “physical signs of chastity”? Mine, as a Consecrated Virgin, of the Order of Virgins, is a wedding band given to me by my bishop. I don’t wear a habit because I “live in the world” (in other words, I received the consecration to be a Bride of Christ as a woman who is not a cloistered religious nun). Habits denote poverty – see Vatican documents on religious life – and communal living. I’m a bride. I’m a spouse. I’m a spiritual mom. I’m not a religious nor do I have vows of any kind because I received my consecration from my bishop just like a priest receives ordination from his bishop. A man no more ordains himself than a virgin consecrates herself. I’m not a religious. My identity is virgin-bride-mother. I find it insulting that you find it is necessary for virgin brides of Christ to wear habits when the most perfect representation of the Church falls to the consecrated virgins (only some of whom are religious) not to religious per se who merely make a profession of vows.

      • Dan

        I see, bless you and your virginity. So your vocation is a bit like following the Blessed Mother? or am I reducing it when it need not be?

        • Bride of the Lamb, Consecrated

          Yes. The Blessed Virgin is the model of Consecrated Virgins, being the first one. A Consecrated Virgin living in the world is espoused to Jesus Christ. Like Mary, she lives in normal worldly conditions (has a job, doesn’t live in a convent, doesn’t wear a habit, etc.). Since she is a spouse of Christ, she prays, does penance, works of mercy, and so on. But she does that as an individual “spouse” whose Husband is invisible or (like Army wives, sort of ‘absent’) instead of as a religious member of a community.

          A lot of people connect religious women with being brides of Christ, but the truth is that only consecrated virgins are fully brides of Christ. These are the women who have received the Consecration to a Life of Virginity by their bishop (if they are cloistered nuns, either after they profess solemn vows in the same Mass or sometimes years after they are professed, and if they are living in the world, they enter the consecrated state by the prayer of consecration prayed over them by their bishop). The reason why people think religious are brides of Christ (and they do reflect the Bride the Church more fully than laity and diocesan clerics) is because all religious women were consecrated virgins in the first era of monastic life. Consecrated virginity began with Mary and has continued to this day. Religious life only began a few centuries later. Consecrated virgins banded together and became nuns. Not all of them, though, since many continued to “live in the world”. In the twelfth century is about when orders stopped doing the Consecration of Virgins for their female members and only did Profession of vows. This effectively meant that those that dropped the Consecration ceased having full brides of Christ.

          • Bride of the Lamb, Consecrated

            Like I’ve said, it is an insult to those who have the fullness of being brides of Christ to hear that the trappings of religious life need to be maintained in order to be “real brides of Christ” in Marc’s mind. We don’t need to wear habits, thank you very much. Habits are a sign of poverty and of separation from the world. The consecrated virgin’s vocation per se is spousal and is NOT separated from the world (unless she is also a nun). We don’t wear “physical signs” of our virginity. What exactly does that mean for those of us who are happily espoused to Jesus Christ and bear a wedding band as the only outward sign of our consecration?

            We live in apartments and alone (or sometimes together) in houses, thank you very much,Marc, because our vocation is INDIVIDUAL, not Communal (religious life). Your article is so sloppy because you didn’t bother to get your terms right. Virginity is not the same thing as chastity.

            And for those who are concerned about women who are raped… well, they can remain virgins in the eyes of God. Again, research into what the Catholic Church actually teaches could be helpful when writing about something so important.

  • Bob

    What I got from this article is that God is a bisexual polygamist.

    • craig

      A snarky retort, but I sympathize with it anyway. The article is baffling.

      I don’t know what it even means to “direct the entire sexuality to God”. Maybe it’s that I don’t what sexuality *is*, if not ordered toward copulation and procreation. Maybe it’s that in the context of men, the phrase sounds somehow homosexual and unnatural. All I know is that all kinds of love are properly directed toward the “other”, and if eros is to be qualitatively different from agape or philia, it needs to have a definition of the way that a person relates to the “other” that can distinguish it from these. Eros isn’t just the same kind of love but with more swooning, is it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/nauright Jess Nauright

    i think that this is quite a great blog post. it’s like….if father z and jill smith (of i blame the patriarchy) had a child. somehow. through some unfortunate turn of events. (and god forgive me, i mean that to be a joke.)

    the posts that preceded it are pretty great too.

    you are maybe the first catholic person/writer that i have come across, besides GEM anscombe, who knows what `radical feminism’ actually means. okay and besides st. clare, i guess. :)

    anyway……you go, catholic pro!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashetalia-Staatz/100001792695528 Ashetalia Staatz

    Your post is impressionistic, so mine will be as well. It used to be the way you describe it. The three monotheistic religions have never been ashamed of the erotic. See the Song of Songs, Mevlana’s love poetry where his lover-tutor (a man, btw) and God are entwined, and the love poetry of the Middle Ages where the passionate, sexual “My Lady” IS the Virgin. St. Teresa up there is orgasming. Good for her. Protestants lack this tradition; my feeling is that this is why Catholics (Latins) are stereotypically great lovers, and why Catholics, today, are very likely to endorse lovers, even gay lovers.

    Those days are gone. They disappeared when the church decided to stand against the modern world, instead of dealing with that world. The church’s stand against contraception has been disastrous, in that it puts dire limits on sexuality. The church has had to spell out that procreation is pretty much all (and yes, it does give lip service to love). That insistence on procreation gets pretty bizarre: sexual positions that do not lead to procreation are unacceptable. Sex for infertile couples is based on the possibility of miraculous procreation. The church limits its believers to “natural birth control,” which means no sex during ovulation, when women are at their sexiest, and sex during a period, when women are not feeling terribly sexy. In case there’s any confusion, no sex during ovulation and (likely) no sex while the woman’s having her period means limiting sexuality to half the month. This is not something Catholics who lived in the pre-modern age needed to worry about. This is why they were sexy.

    The modern church cut the cord between god and sexuality thanks to its attachment to theory. If Catholic ideals on sex are now defined by behavior that would be considered unsexy by any culture, the same goes for virginity, which USED to be sexy. When any church creates an ideal which separates to this extent with whatever’s sexy in a culture, then that church ceases to be sexy.

  • Eve Fisher

    As a married woman, who was not a virgin on her wedding night, and who enjoys sex very much, I totally agree with this post. Sexuality is not bounded by having sex; sexuality is only one (perhaps miniscule) part of eros, sensuality, desire, everything. If someone’s only experience of sensuality and eros is in the bedroom, they are missing an entire universe of seduction, delight, desire, and fulfillment that comes through nature, through prayer, through meditation, through simply being alive, through God. And, if someone – usually women in our society – is taught that virginity = purity = NO SEX AT ALL = no sensual/erotic pleasure/joy (because it might lead to sex!), well, (1) they’re going to be pretty warped by the time they do have sex (if they do) and (2) they’re missing a real fact of life and the universe around us as God created it. The real erogenous zone is in our hearts, minds, souls. To be blunt, humans can be aroused and fulfilled in many ways: The St. Augustine quote’s a great one, but perhaps even better is St. John of the Cross’ poetry and St. Theresa of Avila’s ecstasy. These weren’t fantasies. They were real.

    • Luke Burgess

      -lack of sex will mean “they’re going to be pretty warped by the time they do have sex”

      This is what one calls a modern secularist distortion of Catholicism.
      Such a phrase, made as though it is Catholic, spits on the cover of the CCC 2339

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ashetalia-Staatz/100001792695528 Ashetalia Staatz

        repeat post, ouch.

      • Eve Fisher

        You missed the “virginity = purity = NO SEX AT ALL = no sensual/erotic pleasure/joy (because it might lead to sex!)” part. What I was saying is, that if they’re taught that purity means not just no sex but no sensual/erotic pleasure/joy they’re going to be warped, because the life God gave us is absolutely drenched through with sensual/erotic pleasure/joy, and missing it, ignoring it, denying it, will wither a lot of their hearts and souls.

        • Luke Burgess

          CCC 2727 “others exalt sensuality and comfort as the criteria of the true, the good, and the beautiful; whereas prayer, the “love of beauty” (philokalia), is caught up in the glory of the living and true God. Finally, some see prayer as a flight from the world in reaction against activism; but in fact, Christian prayer is neither an escape from reality nor a divorce from life.”

          “This last, sensual from his youth, lacks the mature blessings of judgment and wisdom in old age (⇒ Sirach 25:3-6)”

  • Charles Culbreth

    Marc, this last post in the series….could it have been reduced to the scene in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” wherein the ridiculously virginal Sir Robin wanders into the abbey of Mother Zoot and her sisters, and labors long and hard (oops) to escape their entreaties until Mother laments losing the possibility of the upcoming hour of…well, you know?

  • lroy77

    But the real question is why you are a virgin (as I am). Is it because you have yet to find someone who is willing to be your spouse for the rest of his life? Is it because you have a “calling” to religious life? Or is it because God thinks, for one reason or another, that it would be best for you to remain chaste. For the record, I don’t even date…and can count the number of dates I’ve had in 50 years on the fingers of one hand.

  • Guest

    If nuns are brides of Christ, what does that make monks…?

  • ♕✰KingOfUncool✰♕

    Where am I?

  • Shaun

    I’m so lost, the language you use makes me feel stupid.

  • Piotr O. Julian Mańkowski

    Do not judge, and you will not be judged (Luke 6:37)

  • Mayo

    من شروط الاشتغال بالدعوة للنساء من وحي السيدة مريم
    Conditions for religious work:
    ١- صلوات القيام. Night prayer
    يَا مَرْيَمُ اقْنُتِي لِرَبِّكِ وَاسْجُدِي وَارْكَعِي مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ   آل عمران (43)  -  
    Mary, be obedient to thy Lord and prostrate thyself and worship God alone with those who worship.’

    ٢- الطهارة. Purification  
    وَإِذْ قَالَتِ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَاكِ وَطَهَّرَكِ وَاصْطَفَاكِ عَلَى نِسَاءِ الْعَالَمِينَ   آل عمران (42)  -  
    And remember when the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above the women of all peoples.

    ٣- اصل النسب Originality in genealogy 
    يَا أُخْتَ هَارُونَ مَا كَانَ أَبُوكِ امْرَأَ سَوْءٍ وَمَا كَانَتْ أُمُّكِ بَغِيًّا   مريم (28)  -  
    Maryam Chapter 19 : Verse 29
    ‘O sister of Aaron, thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother an unchaste woman!’

    ٤- عدم التلامس Not touching or dating
    قَالَتْ رَبِّ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لِي وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِي بَشَرٌ قَالَ كَذَلِكِ اللَّهُ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ إِذَا قَضَى أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ   آل عمران (47)  - 
    She said, ‘My Lord, how shall I have a son, when no man has touched me?’ He said, “Such is the way of Allah, He creates what He pleases. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is.

    ٥- الحجاب Veiling and sanctuary
    فَاتَّخَذَتْ مِنْ دُونِهِمْ حِجَابًا فَأَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهَا رُوحَنَا فَتَمَثَّلَ لَهَا بَشَرًا سَوِيًّا   مريم (17)  -  
    And when thou recitest the Qur’an, We put between thee and those who believe not in the Hereafter a hidden veil;

    ٦- إحصان الفرج. Utmost virginity
    وَالَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهَا مِنْ رُوحِنَا وَجَعَلْنَاهَا وَابْنَهَا آَيَةً لِلْعَالَمِينَ   الأنبياء (91)  -  
    And remember her who preserved her chastity; so We breathed into her of Our word and We made her and her son a Sign for peoples.

    ولان لكل مهنة ترخيص فتمنح شهادات الدعوة لمن تريد الاشتغال بها
    ا- من معهد الدعاة لمن لا تحمل مؤهلا عاليا.
    ٢- او بالدراسة بالأزهر لطلبة البكالوريوس او طلبة الدراسات العليا. 
    For every job there is a license, and this can be obtained at
    The Religious worker institute for undergraduates. 
    Al Azher University for graduates and post graduates  


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