Bronia Karniewicz: Taking custody of our sexuality

24 Sep 2008

By The Record

Living the call of Humane Vitae with chastity


Pope Paul VI, who wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae.


Chastity is the virtue that acknowledges our sexuality and assists us to integrate our desires so that we do not use another person for our own selfish pleasures. It helps us to live the call of Humane Vitae and has profound importance to every vocation, married, single or religious.
In today’s society pleasure is seen as an important factor in loving another, the means by which we measure the depth of love. By this definition pleasure becomes the key to love and happiness, making it difficult to see why anybody would choose to save sex for marriage, let alone choose to be celibate for life or not use contraception within marriage. This view makes it difficult to see how chastity is at all necessary to love. It allows chastity to be seen as entirely negative and viewed as opposing love, limiting freedom and pleasure and thereby repressing happiness. There is a tendency to view chastity as a hindrance to love. Chastity is viewed as repressive, not allowing the freedom for passion or pleasure and thereby not allowing love to develop. This view is based on an incomplete understanding of love and the idea that passion and pleasure are limited to instant spontaneous gratification. Chastity in this negative view is seen as something that does not encompass our sexuality, but falsely believes it is ignored.
This could not be further from the truth. Chastity, when fully understood, is in fact all about our sexuality. Chastity is a virtue not a habit, chastity is creative, a habit is static using the same action each time it is confronted with different situations, chastity uses intelligence, reason and free will each time it is confronted with a desire.  It searches for the best possible way to communicate love.
 But what is love?  Love – real love – wants what is best for another.  To love is to be a gift of our self to another in a way that affirms and draws out true goodness in that person.  Deep down in our hearts, we all desire to give and receive this kind of real love.  It is what our hearts yearn for and it brings us true happiness.  We all simply want to love and be loved. 
Without real love, we tend to fall back into satisfying our own desires.  Sex can become an act of using another to satisfy our own desires.  It’s no longer an act of self-giving love, as it’s meant to be.  It becomes just an act of self-gratification, at the expense of another. 
That’s not the real meaning of sex.
To love is not easy. But it is a challenge filled with great potential, the potential for ultimate happiness.
Our selfish capacity hinders our ability to achieve real love and be a true gift of self.  We have been created in the image and likeness of God and our sexual experiences should honour this revelation.   Chastity gives us this opportunity,
Chastity is not a repression of our physical or emotional desires but the shaping of these sexual experiences; it allows a person to transform the energy into a creative drive. Chastity becomes a skill that integrates love.
Attraction, affection and desire are shaped by reason, the knowledge of the truth of love.
When love is embraced for the fullness of its revelations chastity is no longer viewed as a repression of the sexual experience, rather it is seen as the skill with which to encounter the most beautiful love. A love in which the good of the other is upheld to the highest point, the sincere giving of self for the betterment of the other, a reflection of God’s love for humanity.
Chastity is necessary for it takes custody of their sexuality, all desires little by little are integrated, the other is seen as unrepeatable, not an object for our personal satisfaction but a person, a unique creation of God capable of revealing His love. Chastity helps us live the wisdom of Humanae Vitae and is the custodian of genuine, faithful love.