By Jacek Pulikowski,
Love One Another! 6/2005 → Christian family
When most people talk about marital purity they have in mind the area of sexuality; they focus on the sexual act. I see this in the letters I receive from my readers. Most of the queries addressed to me about chastity deal exclusively with sexual intercourse and related matters.
In its broadest sense, marital purity means strict adherence to all the rules upon which a marriage is entered into in the Catholic Church. It entails a free and uncoerced decision to enter into marriage, a resolve to make the union endure — in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad — and a decision to accept into the world and rear in the Catholic faith whatever children God blesses that union with.
Naturally, true purity also entails strict observance of the wedding vows — vows of love, fidelity, honesty, and remaining together “until death do us part.” Thus, by looking at the regulations governing Catholic marriage, we can define marital purity with a fair degree of precision. Just as in the field of sports the purity of a game depends on a maximally strict adherence to the rules that govern competition in a given discipline, so too — by analogy — marital purity depends on the clear observance of the principles upon which a marriage is entered into. And yet when most people talk about marital purity they have in mind the area of sexuality; they focus on the sexual act. I see this in the letters I receive from my readers: most of the queries addressed to me about chastity deal exclusively with sexual intercourse and related matters.
Why is this so? Well, for one thing, the area of human sexual activity, despite its beauty and holiness, has always caused problems on the natural level. For another, our contemporary culture, which stands to make a lot of money out of the sexual morass that we find ourselves in, has sown a good deal of disorder even into the best of marriages.
As to the first reason, we can say that these problems are the result of original sin or — to put it in more technical language — an internal disintegration, a primordial breakdown of human nature. (The effort of self-education can bring about the reintegration of this broken nature and the removal of these complications.) Moreover, problems arise from the fact that man and women experience sexuality in distinctly different ways. The only way of overcoming these difficulties is through good communication between the spouses, which effects a communion of two completely distinct individuals. Instead of building such a communion of two distinct beings, all too many spouses try to “force a fit” without taking the other’s “otherness” into account. In the name of some kind of “pseudoequality” they struggle against every distinct quality, every sign of individuality. The result is that women are stripped of the genius of womanhood and men of authentic manhood. This occurs at the instigation of mass culture and its erroneous concept of equality, which requires men and women to carry out identical roles and tasks. This false and utterly insane notion of equality is wreaking havoc across the world and especially on the institution of marriage.
Most divorces come about as the result of the spouses’ unfulfilled expectations. The tragedy is that in many cases these expectations are totally false and unrealizable. The fallacy of this “equality=sameness” idea needs no demonstration as it is all too evident in the areas of sexuality and the transmission of life. No idea or ideology is going to change the fact that in the transmission of life and the rearing of children the Creator assigned different roles to women and men. These roles are not interchangeable: neither the mother nor the father can be replaced in their function. We see this in our very physical makeup. A man is not equipped with the biological apparatus to bear a child. It is the woman that is so blessed. She labors to bring the child into the world, feeds it at her own breast — and in this she is irreplaceable. The man in turn is a born guardian and protector. He may not depart from this role or the family will suffer immeasurably and he will lose a sense of his place and importance in the family community, a sense of the meaning of his life and vocation — indeed his very identity.
Having touched on the presence of such dangers, we come to the second cause of problems in the area of sexuality: namely, the cynical, premeditated sowing of disorder in this field. Face it, a godly approach to marriage leaves little room for making dirty money. If — as God commanded — a man joined with a woman for a lifetime and if — “what is worse” — they happened to love children, an entire perfectly prosperous industry would go belly up in a single day.
There would be no need for pornography or the many erotic magazines that prepare the ground for pornography, or even those mass-produced “rags” for women and girls that are currently flooding the country. (It is a documented fact that organized crime in the USA reaps more profits from pornography than from any other source apart from narcotics.) Nor would there be any need for contraceptive devices, that gruesome panoply of products designed to “protect” users against the consequences of casual sex. (Profits from the sale of these products — I refuse to call them “health products” because their purpose is to attack fertility, and fertility is not a disease — far surpass profits derived from the sale of real medicines.) Nor again would there be any use for those unfortunate young women who vend their bodies in the city squares, on streets, busy thoroughfares and at so-called “escort agencies” (every day entire columns of aggressive ads in the press draw our attention to their services). There was a time when such places were somewhat crudely if quite aptly called “whore-” or “bawdyhouses” These days the use of such terms could land one in court or at the very least incur expressions of pharisaical outrage along with rebukes about “insensitivity” and “lack of tolerance.” By the way, isn’t it interesting how the word “tolerance” — once a term with a deep and beautiful meaning — is used so often now to defend whatever manner of grossness and abomination is currently being promoted in the world? Strange, however, that there is a definite lack of tolerance of intolerance, such as the Church’s intolerance of evil.
Neither would there be any need for that vast network of abortion mills which, in the USA especially, rakes in record-breaking profits. No more fabulous fortunes amassed by doctors who make their living out of killing unborn babies.
I could go on at length listing the industries that capitalize on the harm done to society whenever disorder is sown in the area of sexuality. But that is not the point. The point is to make decent people understand that they are the potential victims of these various mafias that prey on human misery. Advertising is the lever of business — the saying goes. (Some say that advertising counts for up to 30% of the cost of production.) So let’s not be naive or lose sight of the fact that these vast sums of money made on our sexual morass depend on professional advertising — and very effective advertising at that. More and more, perfectly decent people are losing their way in the area of sexuality. What we need then is a new perception of the value and attractiveness of purity and a speedy return to a sense of the natural and normal in this delicate area.
People must understand that their so-called “independent” views on sexuality are influenced by a clever and misleading propaganda machine, which touts the “allure of sex” torn from its proper context. The only sensible basis and framework for sex is permanent marriage lived in fidelity, the acceptance of fertility as a gift to be used “prudently and generously” (Humanae vitae), and the keeping of God’s norms written into the nature of human sexuality. These norms are readily discernible in our biology, for it is there that Creator’s plan is inscribed.
Our biology makes it manifestly clear that we are creatures of one of two sexes and that the wife’s reproductive duct is the only locus in which the man may deliberately deposit his semen. Interestingly enough, our biology says nothing about how we may prepare ourselves for this act. The frequently beautiful mating behavior of animals is driven by impulse alone. Every species must “do it” in a strictly determined way. An animal has no scope for creativity in this area. It simply “has to do it.” Only human beings — alone of all creatures — do “not have to do it.” (Incidentally, there is absolutely no disease entity associated with human beings not acting on their sexual desire.) From this we can conclude that the Creator has left up it to the married couple and their inventiveness to chose the manner and repertoire of the lovemaking ritual that precedes the final union of their reproductive organs — provided, of course, that this is done in love, i.e. with due care for the good of the spouse. Thus, there can be no question of compulsion, of the man or wife “having to do” what they consider unacceptable. As a rule it is the woman who has the more developed sense in this regard. Men are more prone to experiment with the various eccentricities suggested by our hypersexualized mass culture with its insatiable appetite for perversion. From this we can draw the simple conclusion that it is precisely the woman who should be the final arbiter in the matter of what is acceptable or unacceptable in a given sexual union. After all, it is the woman who will be burdened with the biological consequences of intercourse (pregnancy, giving birth, feeding the child, etc.). She has the greater sense of what is or should be normal in this area. (Of course, the woman must herself be untainted by the false view of sex promoted throughout the world.)
This is not to give wives a pretext for manipulating the sexual domain. Alas, all too often I come across situations where a wife deals in intercourse as though she were in business — with the aim of reaping certain profits from her husband. So let us be clear about it: sexual intercourse is the normal way of expressing conjugal love. Neither party should refuse it without good cause. Nevertheless, a spouse’s well-founded desire for a period of sexual abstinence should be respected (even when the other does not fully understand the desire). This is a very important aspect of marital purity. It isn’t a matter of someone wanting or getting their way, since both spouses enjoy this right and each is obliged as much to grant this sign of marital love as to receive it.