Thursday, October 20, 2005

Chastity or Abstinence?

Recent news highlights the fact that liberals are vying for over-the-counter access to the dangerous "Plan B" abortifacient drug. While the liberals may have good intentions in wanting to reduce abortion or pregnancy, the answer is not to introduce dangerous drugs to the general public.

The situation begs the question of whether they aim to reduce abortion rates or reduce pregnancy rates. The reduction of both can be done with effective education, prayer and challenge to live a virtuous life. Often, the term “pregnancy prevention” is used to promote a vigorous plan of using “how-to” sex education, contraceptives and abortion to the youth, the poor, and minorities. This plan inadvertently contributes to the epidemic spread of STD’s and heartache, instance of teen pregnancy and a general disrespect for the human person. The great demise of our society can be said to have its roots in “how-to” sex education.

Obviously, this is not true pregnancy prevention; this is birth prevention. A plan that would truly prevent pregnancy would introduce sex as something sacred and good that must be reserved for marriage. It would present self-control as a virtue that is attainable. It would recognize the sacredness of human intimacy as a gift from God, and place the good of children and families above the intensity of sexual gratification. Pregnancy prevention would condemn pornography, promiscuity and masturbation. It would encourage chastity, a message that goes far beyond the “scare-me” tactics used in most abstinence education.

A recent article in Focus on the Family’s “Citizen Link” highlights the polar difference between abstinence and chastity. Though these words are often used interchangeably, the attitude behind each is quite unique.

Robert Rector, senior research fellow for domestic policy studies at The Heritage Foundation, said teens who abstain are less likely to attempt suicide, more likely to have stable marriages and more apt to succeed in life.

"Abstinence from sex allows teens to focus on more important tasks it also means that they have stronger character traits inside them that are enabling them to go on and succeed," he noted. "That's a very positive message."

Mr. Rector may have realized some very important things about abstinence, but the message of abstinence itself does not contribute to a full and proper understanding of human sexuality.

Though abstinence is one of the key ingredients of chastity outside of marriage, it is not the only ingredient. Chastity is an attitude that is carried on even into marriage, therefore it must consist of a proper understanding of sexuality in all circumstances. For example, some actions are always gravely immoral, such as masturbation or the use of pornography. Some actions are proper and good in some circumstances and improper in others, such as intercourse. A message of abstinence presumes that sex is bad and must be avoided for mostly practical purposes. A message of chastity, on the other hand, teaches that sex must be used in its proper context: within marriage and for the procreation of children. This message of chastity is based on a proper understanding of human sexuality.

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