Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chastity and Resentment

In chapter 3 of Love and Responsibility Wojtyla says that chastity is a virtue in need of rehabilitation and explains why by referring to Max Scheler's concept of "resentment""

"Scheler saw a need for the rehabilitation of virtue because he discerned in modern man a characteristic spiritual attitude which is inimical to sincere respect for it. He has called this attitude 'resentment.'"

"Resentment arises from an erroneous and distorted sense of values. It is a lack of objectivity is judgment and evaluation, and it has its origin in weakness of will. The fact is that attaining or realizing a higher value demands a greater effort of will. So in order to spare ourselves the effort, to excuse our failure to obtain this value, we minimize its significance, deny it the respect which it deserves, even see it as in some way evil, although objectivity requires us to recognize that it is a good. Resentment possesses, as you can see, the distinctive characteriatics of the cardinal sin called sloth. St. Thomas defines sloth (aceida) as 'a sadness arising from the fact that the good is difficult. . . Resentment, however, does not stop at this: it not only distorts the features of the good but devalues that which rightly deserves respect, so that man need not struggle to raise himself to the level of the true good, but can 'light-heartedly' recognize as good only what suits him. . .

Chastity, more than any other, seems to be the virtue which resentment has tended to outlaw from the soul, the will and the heart of man. A systematic case has been built up against it, which seeks to show that it is not beneficial but harmful to human beings. . . But chastity and continence are seen above all as dangerous enemies of love . . . Christianity regards this tendency as one of the results of original sin." (143-4)

It was interesting to read in yesterday's The Toronto Star a perfect example of resentment, as described in 1960 by this "out of touch old cleric." An article "How 'Virginity' is a Dangerous Idea: The Author of a New Book Argues Against Purity Cults." The article begins: [My comments in black within square brackets]

"There is a moral panic in America over young women's sexuality – and it's entirely misplaced. [Panic? What panic? This is an imaginary crisis. Let's see what her purpose is in inventing such a panic.] Girls "going wild" aren't damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is. [So the porn industry is the friend of women; does anyone outside that multi-billion dollar industry believe that? And sexual purity is dangerous? No one ever died of virginity but plenty die every year of promiscuity.] The lie of virginity – the idea that such a thing even exists – [interesting, she is claiming that no such thing as verginity exists! What planet is she just in from? And why would she expect us to believe that existing things are unreal just because she says so?] is ensuring that young women's perception of themselves is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality. [The 2nd century church father Irenaeus would say: "Ah, Gnosticism, are you still having trouble with that old heresy?] It's time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they're sexually active." [So being sexually active is the new euphemism for fornication and adultery! And sexual immorality isn't immoral because I say so. Got it.]

One's first reaction, upon reading this article, (purportedly written by a woman), is to wonder if it is a scam. Is it a commissioned piece for the pornography industry disguised as a news story? Is it what passes for "feminism" today in the Toronto Star? If so, it sounds more like advertising copy for Penthouse magazine model recruitment campaigns or for the "Girls Gone Wild" conglomerate that makes (a lot of) money by convincing intoxicated young women to expose themselves on camera. Very empowering, that. At the end of the article it is time for "True Confessions."

"My reasons for wanting to write this book weren't entirely altruistic, however. I was once that teenage girl struggling with the meaning behind my sexuality and how my own virginity, or lack thereof, reflected whether or not I was a good person. I was the cruelly labelled slut, the burgeoning feminist [So feminism = being sexually loose?] who knew that something was wrong with a world that could peg me as a bad person for sleeping with a high school boyfriend while ignoring my good heart, sense of humour and intelligence. [So she committed fornication and feels that society (or perhaps the Church?) is cruel to view her as morally guilty. I suppose that God and the moral law should just change to please her? Does it get any more pathetic than this?] Didn't the intricacies of my character count for anything? The answer, unfortunately, was no, they didn't. [The intricacies of my character - ah yes; isn't everyone allowed one pet sin? Who is God to condemn me!] It was a hard lesson to learn, and one that too many young women are dealing with nationwide."

What a perfect example of modern resentment against the virtue of chastity. It reminds me of Chesterton's comment that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, but found difficult and not tried. Interestingly, just as Wojtyla predicted, the sinner who finds virtue too strenuous tends to blame the Church, the Law, the moral standard, (anything!), except him or herself. Through a curious moral inversion, the Church and the Bible become the problem. There is nothing wrong with me. If God just wasn't so strict, it would be easy to be good. Resentment against traditional sexual morality has been building over the past forty years and is now reaching the point of active persecution of those who refuse to abandon biblical morality.

Update: For another take on the spiritual blindness of Jessica Valenti, the author of this article, see Dawn Eden's thoughtful post here.

1 comment:

jonathanturtle said...

Hi Dr. Carter. Based on your thoughts on sexuality in our culture I thought this discussion might interest (and by interest I mean sicken) you. Have you heard much about this?

Grace and peace.

http://jonathanturtle.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/marriage-contracts-what-the-hell/