One of the earlier remarks of Pope Francis’ papacy is that we are the “throw away culture,” which, if we took time to think about it, his assessment was spot on. Initially, we might find his labeling to be harsh and such remarks could go as far to hurt the pride of young millennials who are working to change their societies into something that they see as ‘better.’ Francis’ assessment extends into discussions of the environment, technology, and most importantly… the human person. In my previous post, I wrote about a less popular topic that often gets ignored by the pro-life movement at large. I wrote about the grave harm brought on by any and all forms of artificial contraception and sterilization. Contraception, sterilization, and everything that I am going to address today contribute to why we received the ‘honor’ of being called the throw-away culture.
The pro-life movement ideally strives for a culture of life, i.e. the exact opposite of a throw-away culture. A culture of life is a culture that preserves; it is a culture that sees all that we have as gifts we’ve been entrusted with and are obliged to protect. So, of course, a culture of life would extend to matters of nature and beyond. The issue that might be most puzzling, and this is going to seem a bit overused, is why would activist groups fight for the environment AND for abortion-on-demand? Part of the answer rests in the lie that abortion, contraception, sterilization, etc. are all ‘women’s health issues.’ An assertion such as this isn’t far from the truth, in fact, it is a slanted version of the reality that we’re dealing with and can serve as a spring board for a more complete understanding of the culture of life.
Before we can understand what is necessary for establishing a culture of life we must first understand chastity, which is, essentially, where this entire culture must find its roots in order to have any sort of meaning. I guess you could say that the thesis of this entire post is that the pro-life movement must, in actuality, be a pro-chastity movement. Previously, we had discussed how any and all forms of artificial birth control and sterilization procedures sever the bonds necessary for a healthy and thriving marriage. We discussed how the marital union must be total (free, total, faithful, and fruitful) and that nothing can be held back from the other in order for the marriage to authentic and valid, this includes our fertility. Chastity, by its own definition calls for an appropriate and proportionate integration of our sexuality into who we are, overall, as people. (cf. CCC 2337) Our sexuality, and all expressions of it, must be ordered and a part of who we are but it must certainly not control the way in which we live. An ordering of our sexuality requires us to understand that we have a purpose. It requires us to understand that even our sexuality is meant to glorify God and to exist in the confines of God’s will for our lives. This might be a major buzz-kill but the reality is that our sexuality was created for God, not for us.
This does not mean that sex can’t be enjoyed, for indeed it MUST be enjoyed. Otherwise… what’s the point? Chastity causes us to understand sex properly in that it is a life-giving act, not a life-taking one. Our sexuality, our chaste living is designed to be an expression of our love (our self-gift) to another. Therefore, offenses against chastity such as pornography, lust, masturbation, fornication, prostitution, and rape are essentially offenses against the culture of life. All such offenses exist as ways that we take for ourselves and abuse the life-giving act of sex. The aforementioned offenses cannot exist within a culture of life because they are innately opposed to life.
Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. – CCC 2351
By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure… For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of “the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.”
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. – CCC 2352 (abridged)
Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young. – CCC 2353
Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials. – CCC 2354
Prostitution does injury to the dignity of the person who engages in it, reducing the person to an instrument of sexual pleasure. The one who pays sins gravely against himself: he violates the chastity to which his Baptism pledged him and defiles his body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Prostitution is a social scourge. It usually involves women, but also men, children, and adolescents (The latter two cases involve the added sin of scandal.). While it is always gravely sinful to engage in prostitution, the imputability of the offense can be attenuated by destitution, blackmail, or social pressure. – CCC 2355
Rape is the forcible violation of the sexual intimacy of another person. It does injury to justice and charity. Rape deeply wounds the respect, freedom, and physical and moral integrity to which every person has a right. It causes grave damage that can mark the victim for life. It is always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children committed by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of the children entrusted to them. – CCC 2356
In order to eliminate all traces of the so-called throw away culture, we must first embrace chastity in its totality. Because chastity is the necessary foundation for what it means to be pro-life we would do well to extinguish the passions that lead us toward all offenses against chastity. We are called to master our fallen nature, our selfish inclinations, and embrace a lifestyle wherein we are totally open to the will of God for our lives. Indeed, giving ourselves to the purposes and design of the Creator causes us to see that we are meant for community, to live in service to one another. To be pro-life and to cultivate a culture of life we must stand against lust, masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution, and rape and every instinct or action that might cause us to turn away from the good of another so that we might do what is convenient or pleasurable for ourselves. Like I have said earlier…
Being anti-abortion is easy. Being pro-life is hard.
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