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Series on Purity – Part III

Prejudices against Chastity and Virginity

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

As we have seen, the sexual act is legitimate, licit and honest inside an indissoluble marriage. When practiced outside marriage, however, it is illicit and dishonest, because it goes against the natural order established by God.

A painting of the Marriage of Henry V

Marriage, a legitimate state blessed by the Church
For this reason, a sin is committed when a single man practices this act, or a married man practices it with someone who is not his spouse. This latter case constitutes adultery because it is contrary to the natural order of things.

Some of you might raise this objection: “It seems to us that the act in itself is not against the natural order. Why, then, do you say that it is in the cases mentioned above?”

All of Catholic Morals is according to the natural order of things. Thus, it teaches that it is legitimate to kill an ox, but it is not legitimate to kill a man. Why? Because according to the natural order, the ox is an animal without a spiritual soul, made to serve man, but man has a spiritual soul and was made to serve God. Therefore, one man cannot kill another.

Why is it a sin to lie? According to the natural order, the word was given to man to speak the truth. If he distorts the truth, he does not use the word in accordance with that order.

Why does a man who gets drunk go against the natural order? Because drinks were given to man to satisfy his thirst and provide him a moderate pleasure. When a man drinks beyond those limits and loses control of his reason, he goes against that order.

An English cartoon depicting a glutton

The glutton
Once I was in a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro and a large, fat, red-faced man entered and was seated at a table. I normally have a good appetite myself and am also fat, so this is not the point of my critique. Shortly, several waiters came to serve him, which made me think that he was a regular customer who gave good tips.

Then, the man ordered an appetizer of paté. When the paté arrived, he looked at it with a kind of ferocious cupidity and began to eat it like a rabbit eating lettuce, without stopping and without appreciation. He ordered the same plate of paté several time. Then he ordered many other items on the menu.

As he ate, his red face increased in color, giving the impression that he could have a stroke at any moment. That is, he was putting a pressure on his system – he could well have been having stomach pains – only to enjoy the pleasure of eating. It was a disgusting spectacle to see because he was eating without any proportion, against the natural order of things.

For an analogous reason, the sexual act practiced outside marriage deserves censure and should cause revulsion because it is against the natural order, which is to procreate in a stable marriage. For this reason the Catholic Church is perfectly correct when she requires that a young man be chaste until marriage.

A scandalous error: for men all immoralities are permitted

In our society we find a scandalous error, which affirms that all immoralities are permitted for a man, while censure is still made against immoral women (1). A woman who mounts the steps of the altar to marry without being a virgin is covered with shame. She still wears a white veil because she does not dare to say that she lost her virginity. On the contrary, current customs admit that a man may marry without shame after brazenly practicing countless sexual acts before marriage.

a renaissance depiction of a young soldier proposing to a chaste young women

Both the young man and young woman should be upright and chaste before marriage
This is an injustice, because what is a sin for one sex is also a sin for the other. It is not only the woman who sins in a sexual act. It is not just the women who must follow the natural order while men are dispensed from it. This is an error and a scandalous prejudice that only a few priests combat. The Church turns a blind eye to the man’s lack of chastity, while she censures the woman. The Church should not have this complacence, because both acts – that of the man or of the woman – are mortal sins. The woman who marries having lost her virginity is as greatly dishonored as is the man who lost his. Similarly, the adultery of a married man is as shameful as that of the married woman.

In our society one speaks of an “adulterous woman,” as a horrible thing, and it is. But when it comes to the man, there is no censure. He just “had some adventures” and “had a good time.” How can this be considered consistent? According to this logic, a man could continue to have affairs after he marries. Then, marriage would be indissoluble only for the woman and not for the man. This is a violation of all the principles of justice and all the moral rules of the Catholic Church. It is a position that must be energetically rejected. We should censure a young man who practices an act against chastity in the same way that we censure a young woman who acts this way. There is no difference.

Chastity and virginity: states of life recommended by the Church

Even when the Church approves and blesses those who marry, why does she reserve her highest eulogies for those who do not marry?

Let me remind you that Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted marriage as a sacrament, giving it a great dignity. There are numerous saints who were married. The married state is one that is according to Catholic Morals and that permits one to reach the apex of sanctity.

If this is so, why is it nobler not to marry? St. Paul used this expression that is applicable to both sexes: “I say to the unmarried and to the widows: it is good for them if they so continue, even as I. But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry; for it better to marry than to burn.”(1 Cor 7:8-9)

A painted caricature of the 'Old Maid'

The caricature of the 'old maid' makes a mockery of the single state
In order to answer why it is better to not marry, let me first rectify another injustice. As our century is becoming increasingly tolerant toward the woman who sins against chastity, it is becoming increasingly intolerant toward the single woman. To be a single woman is seen as an almost shameful state of life. The single woman is viewed as a person to be scorned because no one wanted to marry her. Her fate is a useless life off in a corner. She is often pictured as a gossiper, a busybody, an intruder in other people's lives, with all kinds of complexes and defects.

While people have pity for a woman who falls into sin and wants to help her, they are rude to and scorn the single woman who maintains virginity for noble reasons. As if vice should produce compassion and virtue should be despised. This is a true aberration!

The Church considers that to be single is a better state than to be married for both the man and the woman. This judgment was always held by the Church as a tradition coming from Our Lord who established the evangelical counsels – chastity, obedience and poverty – as a way to live a perfect life. These are also called the counsels of perfection.

This tradition of chastity was formally approved by Pope Pius XII in his Encyclical Sacra virginitas where he declared that virginity and perfect chastity are completely adequate for lay persons of both sexes. Even if they are not priests or nuns, should they want to live in a more elevated state in the world, the right thing to do is to practice chastity.

Chastity is, therefore, a state of life not only approved, but recommended by the Church for both sexes.
1. Prof. Plinio gave this talk in 1967 for young men in Brazil. Today, unfortunately, one does not see this shame falling upon women, either in Brazil or anywhere else, because they became as immoral as men were at that time. Besides being an expression of the perennial Catholic Morals on this topic, the comment remains as an interesting point of comparison to see how far and fast the Revolution in the civil sphere and Progressivism in the religious sphere have gone to corrupt the customs of women. How much further will the corruption go in another 40 years?

Blason de Charlemagne
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This lecture for young men delivered in 1967 was translated from the
transcript of a tape and adapted for this series of articles by A. S. Guimarães
Posted September 28, 2009

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