Women and men need to take purity seriously

By  Kathleen Wolfe, Youth Speak News
  • January 25, 2010
The monthly e-mail I share with a group of Catholic friends was sent recently following a disturbing personal situation where I was reminded of the sickness of impurity, even in our circle of faith.

Just a few days prior, at a Catholic function, I was made very uncomfortable by a married man’s questionable behaviour towards me. Though many might have trivialized the incident, I felt objectified in a setting where I expected safety and protection.

My e-mail challenged my friends to reflect deeply and soberly on our call to purity and stated that purity is not just about avoiding serious sin, but about refusing to submit to anything that compromises who we are as made in the image of God.

Many of my male friends apologized for what I experienced, while many women echoed my suffering.

Though there were many responses regarding the nature and necessity of purity, particularly from men, I was surprised to receive nothing regarding the role of Christian women. Although I had highlighted a situation where a man had been at fault, the purpose of my e-mail went far beyond pointing a finger at men.

There seems to be a consensus that the issue of sexual purity almost exclusively regards men as predators and women as victims. But I think women have been too easily and too often let off the hook in terms of their response to society’s misunderstood sexuality. Christian men are often called to heroic virtue in this sphere, and rightly so, but what do we expect of women?

Without diminishing in any way the obligation of men to seek a deeper conversion and healing in this area, I am saddened and often disturbed by what I see among Christian women, including many in influential leadership positions. Immodesty, flirtatiousness and attention-seeking flow from the same lie that spurs more serious sexual sin — that God-given sexuality can be used to serve the self and that preying on someone else’s sexuality is acceptable as long as it fits some cultural norm. Essentially, those behaviours, no matter how small, tend toward manipulation, coercion and control, which is simply unacceptable in light of the value of each human person and the sacredness of human relationships.

Many men and women have had their lives torn apart by sexual sin. As witnesses to that suffering, Christian women have a responsibility to take a different path than the one often promoted by popular culture. As pointed out by a friend, this difference must begin by a resolve among women to engage in this ongoing struggle. A woman’s lack of concern for purity in herself and others, as evident through choices in dress, speech and action, indicates a lack of love.

This is not an issue of doctrinal debate or simply the opinion of one Catholic woman — rather, at heart, it is a demand of love. It’s time women responded to that demand.

(Wolfe, 21, is a Christianity & Culture student at Redeemer Pacific College in Langley, B.C.)

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