Purity: Reverence for Mystery

By: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

The two words most often abused today are “freedom” and “sex.” Freedom is often used to mean absence of law, and sex is used to justify absence from restraint. Sometimes the two words fuse into the one, “license.” Reason, which should be used to justify God’s law, is thus invoked to justify human lawlessness and carnality with two spurious arguments. The first is that every person must be self-expressive, that purity is self-negation; therefore, it is destructive of freedom and personality.

The second argument is that nature has given to every person certain impulses and instincts, and that principal among them is sex. Therefore, one ought to follow these instincts without the taboos and restrictions which religion and custom impose. Consequently, purity is looked upon as negative and cold, or as a remnant of Puritanism, monasticism, and Victorian strait-lacedness, despite the fact that the Lord of the Universe in the first of the Beatitudes said: “Blessed are the clean of heart; they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8)

Purity is as self-expressive as impurity, though in a different way. There are two ways in which a locomotive can be self-expressive: either by keeping its pressure within the limits imposed by the designer and the engineer, or by blowing up and jumping the tracks. The first self-expression is the perfection of the locomotive; the second is its destruction. In like manner, a person may be self-expressive either by obeying the laws of his nature, or by rebelling against them, which rebellion ends in slavery and frustration. Suppose the same argument of self-expression were used in war as is used to justify carnal license. In that case, a soldier at the front who, on hearing screaming shells, dropped his gun and ran to the rear line, would be greeted by a captain full of modern self-expression and told: “I commend you for throwing off Victorian convention and moral scruples. The trouble with the rest of the army is that they are not self-expressive; they overcome their fear and fight. I shall recommend a medal of honor for asserting your personality.”

There is no quarreling with those who say, “Be yourself.” The point is, which is your true self: is it to be a beast, or to be a child of God? Those who get over the wickedness of licentiousness say: “Thank God, I am myself again.” This is real self-expression.

Taken from Three to Get Married, Chapter 8

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