I was once Chastity Team president. I advocated chivalry and gender roles and how God rewards those who follow Him. Then, I took Pre-Cana, and almost left the Church over it. Then, I had a miscarriage. I lost a baby girl right after I got married. I was one of the only people I knew who stayed a virgin until marriage, and that includes some of the most vocal chastity advocates in my life. I never really fit in with the Chastity Team crowd, even when I led it, but now I felt ashamed of my title and any association I had with it. I told my husband that I wished I had never advocated Chastity because I thought it was just until marriage, I didn’t realize sex would be a nightmare for my whole life. Some time has passed, and I have come to terms with the issues I had, but I have had to come to terms with some big truths that I never thought I would learn.
- Just because someone is a respected Catholic teacher does not mean that what they teach is official Church teaching.
I will never forget the moment my husband and I read our assigned pages from Christopher West from our marriage counseling. As I read the list of sexual acts that were forbidden in any circumstances, my head swam. I was nauseous. I had always been a very sexual person, and I had been so excited for marriage. I believed I was saving all of my beautiful, spicy, sexy self for one person. Turns out, I was just not supposed to be that person at all. Everything I had imagined had some rule attached to it, and most of them, I had never heard before. My now-husband and I had a huge fight, because he didn’t want to follow the guidelines, and neither did I, but I thought we had no choice. I was so angry. It combined with all of these different beliefs I had never been taught about the Church(and I was not raised liberal Catholic at all) to make me hate the Church and her millions of impossible rules, and ruining sex and anything else good for everyone. Finally, I sat down with actual Church teaching. I had the Catechism, scripture, and all the official doctrine documents I could find. Half of what we were taught in pre-cana was nowhere in those documents. The things I was going to leave the Church over were the exact opposite of what the Church teaches. Now, I rarely trust a Catholic teacher because they are usually wrong.
2. Priests need some sort of counseling in this area in seminary because they don’t know what they are doing.
This is really just a sub-set of #1, because we spent hours talking to our priest about all of this and he did not have a clue how to help us.
3. We have to stop teaching Chastity the way we are right now.
Sex is both not as big of a deal as people are making it, and way bigger. Christians are making such a huge thing about saying no to sex, and how virginity is so important, that we are ignoring that sexuality is a natural and important and wonderful part of life. We are creating this monster of evil, and then turning around and demanding people understand how sacred it is. On top of that, we are not educating people about sexuality because we are so busy teaching them not to have it, which backfires into people hating sex, wishing they weren’t having it, wishing they were having it with someone else, or worse. We act like talking about sex is evil, and that backfires in a whole host of ways.
Living with these three truths is incredibly uncomfortable for someone who also wants to be a good Catholic/Christian. Jason Evert primed a whole generation with how wrong it is to even ask “How far can we go?” We all know the analogy of getting as close to the cliff as possible. You know what though, sometimes it is AWESOME to get as close to the edge of a cliff as possible, and it doesn’t mean you want to die. Christians are being primed to live with a terror of the edge, that makes it impossible to live your life. Every single action must be analyzed thoroughly to make sure that it is not putting yourself or anyone else in danger of sin. Guess what? That’s not God. But I thought it was.
I lived that way for years, and I lost so much of myself. Now, I work hard to know what is ACTUAL Church teaching, not trending doctrine, I very sparingly trust priestly advice on anything they don’t know about, and I recoil against the way Christian’s currently teach sexuality(so I made a sex group to teach it better ;-)) It is terrifying because people often include me, condescendingly, in the catch-all term of “cafeteria catholic,” or “liberal Catholic,” and I thought they were right for a while there, but they aren’t, or maybe they are, but differently than they think. We all have to be “cafeteria Catholics” if it means discerning which teachers are right and which are wrong.