By Fr. Roy Cimagala

ONE OF the most surprising if disturbing phenomena in our times is that with all the undeniable problems related to chastity, there’s hardly anything done about it. No concerted effort, no campaign nor drive is being done.

Problems, of course, include premarital and extramarital sex, pornography and self-abuse that seem to be an epidemic left to fester especially among the young, infidelity, homosexual activities, forms of immodesty, etc.

We even have celebrities now publicly confessing they are helplessly addicted to sex, treating their perversions just like a case of alcoholism or drug dependence. Some of them, quite wrecked by it all, now avail of rehab which, of course, is not a bad idea.

And let’s not forget that a few of those who for religious reasons are consecrated to celibacy have committed highly scandalous crimes from which the Church continues to reel. To me, these anomalies comprise the most heinous of all sins against chastity.

But many if not all of these problems have mutated, in an environment of tolerance, rationalizations and dignification, into something considered  socially acceptable, normal, and even moral. But their bad effects appear sooner or later, no matter how cleverly they are avoided or covered.

It could be that we are still gripped by the childish, long out-dated attitude that any talk about this delicate virtue should be strictly limited to a very personal, very private affair. It would be incorrect, politically or socially, to be talking about it in public.

I truly believe the attitude needs to be dismantled as quickly as possible, since it’s based on a wrong understanding of human sexuality.

While it’s true that there is something very personal and intimate in things sexual, but given our social nature, there’s also a need to ventilate things in public and to undertake a cultural effort so everyone can be helped to live his sexuality properly.

Obviously, what we need is to know more about chastity, what it really is, what it involves, how it is lived, etc. We should not waste time simply lamenting and complaining. Let’s talk more about the positive things of chastity.

But what do we see around? Instead of chastity, we are bombarded with nasty images and messages against chastity, often presented as art or forms of fun and leisure, or fashion and entertainment.

In this, Hollywood is the evil empire that generates its worldwide network to spread its sweet poison. We tend to gobble what Hollywood produces and trendsets, with hardly any concern for decency, let alone, the finer requirements of chastity. We end up being treated as objects or beasts, not as persons.

Now that our world is saturated with sex, there’s talk about sex education. It’s a clever compromise that’s dangerous for at least two reasons: it’s taught in schools to young children, and it’s more on safe sex techniques rather than the virtue of chastity.

If the government is serious about sex education, it has to cater more to the parents who need to be encouraged and trained in effectively teaching chastity, the virtue and not just techniques, to their children.

Even some Church officials get entangled in the mess by promoting a brand of responsible parenthood based on a natural family planning that’s more of a contraceptive tool than an expression of conjugal love and chastity.

We need to spread the good news of chastity—that it’s possible and practicable with God’s grace and our efforts; that it’s beautiful and helpful to make us grow in maturity, etc.

Since chastity involves integrating sexuality within the person, it permeates our passions and senses with right reason. It fosters unity of the person, and is opposed to any form of double life or duplicity.

Chastity leads us to attain self-mastery and self-possession, a prerequisite for us to be able to give our whole selves to God and to others, which is what love is all about. In short, chastity facilitates love.

In my personal efforts of teaching students about chastity, I have observed that once they understand the true nature of the virtue and start living it, they improve as persons, and tend to be more simple, transparent and generous. They become happier and more able to grapple with life’s challenges.