Ending the silence and restoring a culture of purity

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Here are some facts for Catholics, both laity and clergy, to take note of:

— There are approximately 30 million chattel slaves in the world. Eighty-five percent of whom are women or children. Most are used in the sex industry.

— Every two minutes a woman or girl is raped in the United States.

— Pornography is a $10 billion business.

— Forty percent of self-identified Christian men admit to regular viewing of pornography.

— The Center for Disease Control reports that 26 percent of teenage girls under 17 have an sexually transmitted disease.

— In many jurisdictions child rapist get less jail time than shoplifters.

What do all of the above have in common? Sex of course.

Those are the facts and the list could be much longer but here is the question: When was the last time you heard someone use the word purity?

The culture mocks the importance of this virtue and parents and often even clergy are silent, as if embarrassed to mention it.

By “purity” I do not mean virginity or prudery. I am referring to a true respect for the body as Pope John Paul wrote in his encyclical on the body.

Purity is as important a virtue as tolerance because it is a protection against a whole slew of ills including violence, disease, despair and unsupported pregnancy. An entire generation or two of women and girls have been thrown under the bus by adults who have fallen silent.

It is not from lack of caring or malice this has happened but fear. The thing the Lord cautioned us about all the time.

The priesthood in the United States has been ceaselessly and excessively hounded by the dominant media on all matters sexual for the past two decades. And the Catholic universities and colleges sponsor events such as “V” day in place of Valentine’s Day or “The Vagina Monologues,” a play that explicitly discusses women’s sexuality and I think is one of the most anti-woman screeds ever penned.

It is pretty evident that the facts listed in the beginning are nothing but the fruit of 20 years of virtual silence from those charged to be the moral guides of young women and men.

This then is a request from a lifelong women’s rights advocate. Adults have to start talking more to the guys in the pews about the evils of pornography, how it is not a victimless crime on either end and neither is prostitution. And tell the gals that respecting your body and not treating sex like the fast food drive-in window is always cool and current. Purity is not an old chauvinistic relic but empowering, natural and smart. And don’t forget the boys because how they treat women and girls is a reflection on their own self-respect.

Helen McCaffrey teaches at Atlantic County Community College and is director of Women’s Watch, Inc.