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“Ask a Priest: Is Teen Chastity Worth Promoting?”
Q: On situational ethics, I have been told by Catholics that expecting chastity from teens is not realistic, and that it is reckless to not encourage them to use condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections. I try to make the point in the kindest way possible that we are not called to conform to the standards of the culture but to Christ. Because I have failed often as a human and as a parent, I certainly have every reason to be humble and to just shut up. Should I? – M.S.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Short answer: no! Keep speaking up!
It’s sad that you are hearing the anti-chastity advice from Catholics. This shows how much work the Church needs to do in order to catechize the faithful.
As you say, we are not called to conform ourselves to the world. That is a dead end.
Paradoxically, those Catholics you mention are right: Chastity is beyond our capability. But with the grace of God “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Thus, to say that teenagers aren’t capable of chastity is, in effect, to hold them in low esteem. Which is a great pity, for teens like challenges. And they want to be supported in their efforts to become responsible adults.
That is why it’s vital that you not keep quiet. Indeed, you might think about speaking up more. Think about ways of promoting chastity among the teens you know.
Certainly, a lot of young women out there would appreciate hearing more pro-chastity messages. They don’t like feeling pressured into sex.
You might think of ways to promote teen chastity in your parish or diocese. Don’t feel as though you need to have been a lifelong saint in order to talk about these issues.
Lots of resources are available to give you ideas.
A few links worth looking at and/or sharing with teens are Chastity Project, FOCUS, and Theology of the Body for Teens.
Helpful for your personal reading might be “Reflections on the Revolution” at First Things. It might also help your misguided Catholic friends.
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Teen chastity is a subject near and dear to my heart, as I have four adult daughters in their 20s and a son who is 14. As we raised our daughters (and now our son), we were intentional in helping them to authentically practice the Catholic Faith and all it’s teachings. At the age of 13, my husband presented each girl or boy with a chastity ring. It was a special occasion, including attending Adoration and receiving their ring, as well as signing a pledge to remain chaste until their wedding day (or throughout their life, should they choose a religious vocation.) My daughters even spoke about their disappointment in Catholic classmates that “caved to the culture” and gave in to their passions, even though some of them were planning to get married in the not-so-distant future. Although I believe it takes great self-control, discipline and a solid faith-life, so far, two of my four daughters have made it to their wedding day as virgins. I attribute this to the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s infinite grace!
Promoting chastity is the best way to prevent unplanned pregnancies, abortions, out-of-wedlock births, sexually transmitted diseases, and stress and guilt from sexual immorality.