Healing an angry culture
By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 30, 2019
News item: Less than 24 hours after yet another mass shooting in America…authorities said they were still seeking a motive. It seems the 19-year-old shooter gave us one. “Why are you doing this?” a witness heard someone shout. The response: “Because I’m really angry.” From those mass shooters who have attacked the innocent before, we know it’s a specific strain of anger—deep, repressed, biblically vengeful—felt most commonly by young men, almost always white, who report feeling alienated, dispossessed, misunderstood, victimized and all too often rejected by women.
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Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person: body, mind, and emotions. It is the foundation of the capacity of men and women to bear children within the context of marriage. Human sexuality is also a significant factor in forming bonds of healthy relationships with others. In the crucially important arena of human sexuality, our first obligation is to identify the normal. Christian chastity defines normal and removes the frustrations that come with living abnormal lifestyles.
Sexual identity is not a matter of choice or preference. We receive our physical and psychological sexual character from God. Indeed, usually, the first thing we notice when we meet another person is whether the person is male or female. (Anomalies involving DNA and physical features are just that: unusual, atypical, and irregular.) Our physical and psychological differences—and the complementarity of male and female—are ordered toward marriage and the flourishing of family life.
The full significance of human sexuality is found in marital love. God commands, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Gen. 9:1) In this, He reveals his desire, with our cooperation, for a densely populated heaven. The duty of transmitting new life can be understood only by taking into account man’s eternal destiny.
The virtue of chastity regulates our capacity for love according to our state of life. Married people live in conjugal chastity; others practice it by abstinence. Some profess virginity or celibacy. Chastity’s self-mastery is the foundation of human freedom. Either one governs his passions and finds peace, or he allows his unruly emotions to undermine his happiness.
Chastity, guided by true love, enables the gift of self. The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. Authentic friendship depends upon the virtue of chastity, with its attributes of fidelity, reverence, and loving-kindness. Chaste friendship, between persons of the same or opposite sex, is a great good for all.
Because of the effects of Original Sin, self-mastery is protracted hard work. Everyone must continue to struggle against disordered desires. We cannot presume that the virtue of chastity is attained once and for all. It requires renewed effort, with God’s grace, at all stages of life, from childhood, during the volatile years of adolescence, and into adulthood and, finally, through our twilight years.
The virtue and gift of chastity, allowing us to love others with an upright and undivided heart is attained with a purity of intention. Others are not objects to be consumed but recognized as persons who carry the Divine imprint. We practice “custody of the eyes.” We discipline feelings and control our imagination. We refuse to be complicit in impure thoughts. We never neglect our religious practices—above all prayer, Mass and Confession.
Purity requires modesty. Modesty refuses to unveil what should remain hidden and encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them, respecting their dignity. Modesty is decency; it inspires one’s choice of clothing; and, it keeps silence or reserve where there is a risk of unhealthy curiosity.
The offenses against chastity also offend marriage. Among the sins are impurity, pornography, contraception, and homosexual behavior.
The marital act, according to the “language” of human sexuality, is the complete surrender of self to one’s spouse. The contraceptive act contradicts the significance of marital relations. This leads not only to a refusal to be open to life but a denial of the truth of selfless conjugal love.
The number of men and women who have pronounced homosexual tendencies is significant. Generally, they do not choose their homosexual inclination, and for most of them it is a trial. In many ways, homosexual behavior is a variant of contraception and the impurity associated with pornography. Homosexual behavior is never open to life. At root, as with the use of pornography and contraceptive acts, impure self-gratification is the primary purpose of homosexual activity. Those afflicted with homosexual inclinations are also called to chastity. Chastity provides the self-control and, eventually, self-mastery that gives inner freedom. Selfless and virtuous friendships are vital for a speedy recovery.
Cultivating virtuous friendships is becoming increasingly difficult with a hyper-sexualized culture. A Gallup poll taken in 2017 revealed that 91% of Americans do not object to contraception on moral grounds. Nearly 70% regard fornication as morally acceptable; 63% have no moral objections to homosexual behavior; 36% hold pornography to be immoral. So the widespread acceptance of contraception (which began early in the 20th century) has led to the widespread acceptance of homosexual behavior. Perhaps the only real mystery is, why did the recognition of “gay marriage” take so long?
Under the banner of “celebrating diversity,” cultural elites (and many members of the clergy) have obscured the Church’s teaching on chastity, guidance based on Scriptures and the tenets of Natural Law.
The roots of our increasingly angry culture can be traced in large part to the widespread decline in purity. When we do not struggle to live a chaste life, others become objects to be used for selfish purposes. We not only degrade ourselves, but we also damage the people we love. But disordered sexual excitement cannot satisfy; it only ratchets up the demand. So unfulfilled, we live in constant sorrow, with a chronic sadness that leads to smoldering anger. We become slaves to our passions.
It is never too late to reclaim a life of virtue and freedom after the cultural firestorm of sexual debauchery. In Jesus, we rediscover the normal and extinguish the unholy anger rooted in impurity. Our encounter with Him in the Sacraments restores our dignity. After all, an angry culture is pacified by God’s grace one soul at a time.
Throughout the ages, introducing us to the love and mercy of Jesus is what the Catholic Church is all about. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
As some alert readers may have noticed, some phrases in the essay above were taken verbatim from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
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Posted by: Pointmaster1386 -
Aug. 04, 2019 6:35 PM ET USA
I find this analytical thought on modern society very exact, wish it was in the form of a book and even in more simple language for the masses and even to translated into Spanish!
Posted by: FredC -
Jul. 31, 2019 1:45 PM ET USA
The evils are evident before our eyes. The burning question is: How can our culture, all of us people, be brought out of our evil ideas and ways? We need a concrete plan, we should not be pacifists, and in the end we must pray and rely on God. Even Gideon had 300 men.
Posted by: Randal Mandock -
Jul. 30, 2019 2:30 PM ET USA
When a Catholic eats, lives, breathes, and dreams a virtuous life, an almost unconscious articulation of the words of the Catechism is only natural. Still, it is good practice to cite the sources of a faith that finds expression in one's daily activities, such as public speaking and writing. Thank you for the footnote.