Chastity is a virtue that is often misunderstood. One reason is that the way society at large understands chastity is different than the way it is understood in a Catholic context. The common understanding of chastity is that it is the abstaining from sexual activity. This is even the definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a more complete understanding of this virtue. It tells us in paragraph 2237, “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.”
Since chastity involves integrating one’s sexuality with the whole person, and the union of one’s body and soul, this means that chastity is not merely the absence of sexual activity, but a virtue we are all called to. Married or single, gay or straight, young or old, all people are called to chastity.
But sometimes this universal call doesn’t seem so universal. This was the case for a listener named Jean from Chicago. She called in to A Closer Look™ recently and explained that she as had transgender feelings since she was very young, and is attracted to people of the same gender. She explained, “My experience, really, has been with Christianity that you basically are just told that you either have to refrain from certain behaviors or you’re at risk of perdition.” Feeling ostracized because of her feelings, Jean wondered if it is possible for doctrine to develop in such a way that the Church would change its teaching on this sometime in the future.
Dr. Peter Kreeft, a Catholic writer and Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, was the guest on A Closer Look and he explained to Jean, “Well, first of all, there is a development of doctrine, but it’s not a change. It’s like the growth of a tree, so there’s got to be consistency. From the beginning, from Judaism’s history and early Christianity’s history, we have always been clear that God invented sexuality, and it was meant for marriage, and that was meant for procreation. So sex without marriage is not God’s intention.”
This biblical understanding of marriage can seem to many that it discriminates against those who identify as gay. But Dr. Kreeft explained why this is not the case, and that Christians who do discriminate against homosexual persons are living contrary to the Gospel.
Speaking of God’s intention for sexuality and the universal call to chastity, Dr. Kreeft said, “Now, that’s hard for everybody. That’s hard for heterosexuals too. We’ve got a problem of lust and evil desires. We’re all disordered, so it’s not just homosexuals. Their disorder is a different kind, but they’re not another species. And the Church has always taught that everyone – homosexual and heterosexual alike – are called to be saints. We all have to love God above all things, even our own pleasures, whatever they are.”
“So I don’t think that categorizing this one group as especially going to perdition is accurate. And if some people, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, do that they’re not really doing what Jesus did.”
Sheila and Dr. Kreeft also pointed out to Jean that her transgender feelings or attractions to those of the same gender are not sinful in themselves. Anyone can be tempted, but it is only those actions that we freely choose that offend God.
“Desires are not something you have direct control over,” Dr. Kreeft said. “So to feel guilty about sexual desires, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is a kind of psychological confusion. God blames us only for our free choices.”
Listen to the full conversation below: