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Chastity
Question from Anonymous on 5/16/2001:

Fr. Torraco, I know that any sin against chastity is a mortal sin. Assuming a happily married couple that is not using contraception, committing adultery or fornaication, is it possible for this couple to sin against chastity within their marriage (and if so, how)? I realize that this is sort of a vague question, but hopefully it is enough of a question that you can answer it.

Thank you and God bless.

Answer by Fr.Stephen F. Torraco on 5/16/2001:

First, it is important to understand what chastity is. Under the influence of charity, which is the form of all the virtues, chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person. Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self. Chastity leads him who practices it to become a witness to his neighbor of God's fidelity and loving kindness.

The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

Clearly, therefore, chastity is not simply a matter of refraining from illicit acitivities. It is a positive way of humanizing one's "loving energy." Chastity in marriage as a positive and pro-active way of life is summed up by the acronym SPICE. Each of the letters of SPICE represents one of the important dimensions of the marital relationship. S stands for spiritual; P stands for physical; I stands for intellectual; C stands for communicative; E stands for emotional. Nurturing each of these dimensions of the marital relationship is part of the life of chastity for married people. SPICE reminbds us that human sexuality in general, and marital life in particular, is so much more than genital activity. Practicing SPICE enables husbands and wives to give themselves wholly to each other as gifts.

The point that I am making in relation to your question is twofold: 1) one should not view chastity in marriage simply as a minimalistic standard of behavior that consists of refraining from illicit genital activity, but rather as the "freedom for excellence" in marital life. 2) Falling short of this continued growth in chastity is falling short of the vocation of marriage. This falling short would constitute human sinfulness. We all need God's grace to attain and maintain chastity.

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