Confusing purity


Hey Everybody
I just have a quick question that troubles me. I just read the Article " The Authority of women" Whatever else I think about the article I will have to save for next time. But in the article I found this and similar quotes:

“Jerome does not hesitate to compare Mary in her fruitful virginity to God himself because she conceived and gave life without a loss of her purity.”

´To conceive and give life without loss of ones purity! Does that not imply that “normal” married women who have sex with their husbands weather or not it results in a child, are somehow impure???
Personally I sometimes think that all this talk about virginity is a bit problematic. The way it goes it almost seems like married people are somehow second ranking in the Kingdom of God.
In Christ,


Dear Anni.
Dont be depressed mate.
Its a historical fact that many Christians have been scared of their sexuality and its forces… and as we know these forces are strong indeed and have creating life potential.

Think of it this way. The unitive act of sex is one of the highest forms of love-language. Jesus himself is a married Man-God… married to the Church… united in a most holy and pure fashion to His bride… also physically. He was not married here on earth in the sense we know it… not because it would have made Him impure to engage in a physical relationship but because it was not His calling.

The sexual act never made anyone impure… as Jesus says… what makes impure is the thoughts of the heart. These may be lust or exploitation or egoism in an unhealthy sexual relationship. Or they may be hatred or pride or selfishness… so it is not the deed in itself but the heart that is really in focus for God.
We must always serve God/Love with our bodies.
Lovemaking is created as a pleasing act of giving of one self and enjoying each other… dont be troubled by people who indicate something else. God certainly blesses marital love :slight_smile:


Human sexuality has been corrupted.
In marriage you have chosen something second best, but not the worst, and not something that is forbidden.


Do not agree at all.


no it says that in the course of many translations and re-writes of what Jerome actually said, his bald statement that Mary’s physical and spiritual viginity remained intact has been rendered as “purity” and does not in any way imply that by contrast normal married relations and childbirth are impure. Bear in mind that those words do not always connote clean vs dirty, either. Purity esp. in regards to Mary also refers to Jewish family laws. In fact the reason she travelled to the Temple for sacrifice when time of her imputed impurity was up shows obedience to those laws, NOT that she was in some way “impure”.

Purity in that context means that the vessel (in the case of liturgical vessels) or person (in the case of women during menses, childbirth or anyone after sex) has been reserved for God’s use, and before returning to common “use” must be purified. This is in exactly the same sense as “purifying” the chalice and vessels after communion. They did not become “dirty or impure” during the Eucharist, the opposite, they were reserved for God’s use, and before being returned to common use (washed, dried and put away after purification), they must be purified with a ritual washing.

applying this sense to marriage and family highlights the Catholic belief, and gives it basis in Jewish law, that marriage, reproduction and the sexual gifts are exercised in the service of God, and only incidentally for pleasure of the couple.


Second best?
How is that second best? God created most of us for marriage.
How can you even put it in a hierarchy like that… its not a hierarchical thing and this is not the time of plato and aristotele. God does not want everyone in a convent… He wants everyone to follow their vocation which is the utmost a person can do, whether this leads them to the convent or to married life. Following the Will of God is the only BEST… Going to live celibately for a man or woman who was not intended to in the eyes of God …for that person celibacy would indeed be “second best”.
Paul said: “I wish everyone were like me… but…” As you see this is a clearly subjective stance… If everyone were like him you wouldn’t be here today… its as simple as that.
The Catholic Faith is not irrational. The blessing of Abraham is also still standing: “Go and multiply…”. this is the will of God by which we honour Him.

As for “Human sexuality has been corrupted”… certainly sir, but do not forget that though Christ we are restored. He restores also the human sexuality and our will if you let yourself be transformed in Him… then you can use your sexuality to glorify God.
Receive Christ and everything that was corrupted in this world will not be part of you anymore for you have a new life in Him and you are a new person, not off this world although you are still in it. I do not have to teach you this which is taught at sunday school…

I do not suppose you are married and have had the privilege of consuming this beautiful Sacrament though lovemaking…

Just like a man is not superior to a woman but only different and each have their dignity and purpose and calling, so does each vocation have its own dignity which cannot be compared to any other but is willed by the Most High.

How great is our God!


But not all of us.


What part of “most of us” confused you?


Hi Anna,

I had some of the same questions when joining the Church. Part of it has to do with historical context. The world around many of the Church fathers at the time of their writings was extremely sexually perverted. I’m talking the kind of stuff that you couldn’t even put on MTV in the wee hours of the morning was everywhere in society. It was gross.

So, the stress on virginity that you find in the Western Church can be historically linked to this. For many, celibacy was seen as the ultimate rejection of “the world” and therefore, the result of a “purer” love for God. Note that the eastern Christian traditions have comparatively less emphasis on celibacy as a way of expressing love for God. That’s because the east was less perverted.

Jerome himself was tortured by visions of dancing naked women that tried to tempt him out of his decision to remain celibate. He strugged with purity, and its not suprising that he often seems to be one of the most “anti-sex” of all the Church Fathers. It was his cross to bear.

So in some respects, they were people of their own time and they had their own struggles. You have to take everything in comparison to contemporary Church teaching which affirms the goodness of married love.


Since it is second best, why did God call me to be a wife and mother instead of joining an order? I tried and I prayed and I was open to that calling, but marriage is my calling. How silly of God to call people to be spouses and parent’s!:rolleyes:

We should all be celibate and take our Holy Orders! Sure, the human race will be over, but so what! Why keep wasting our time being second best:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

Go sit back on the pedestal you put yourself on. I’m keeping God on mine.

Anyway, I do agree the whole virginity thing is weird. No way does the martial act nor childbirth make anyone unpure. Though, I definitely see how it could appear that way.


Hej There Sis :slight_smile:

 I second that  <><   Amen


I think that we need to distinguish between what if objectively a and what is subjectively a higher state in life. Subjectively, the state to which you are called is the higher state – as other posters have correctly pointed out.

But, objectively, virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom is a higher state in life.

See, for instance, the Council of Trent, Session 24, Canon X:

CANON X.-If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema.

or St. Pius XII Sacra Virginitas 24:

. . .according to the teaching of the Church, holy virginity surpasses marriage in excellence.


Virginity is preferable to marriage then, as We have said, above all else because it has a higher aim: that is to say, it is a very efficacious means for devoting oneself wholly to the service of God, while the heart of married persons will remain more or less “divided.”

I would daresay that it is clear that that the teaching of the Church is that virginity for the sake of the kingdom is objectively more excellent than marriage.

For some of us who are married, it might get our dander up for a moment, but hopefully only for a moment, and then we will move on to the real task at hand which is to investigate this teaching and learn from the Church why she teaches this.

Happy hunting!


Thanks VC… good post.

I have to say I dissagree or at least dont understand the stance of the Church at this… I mean especially when you say married people are “divided”. I dont think it should be so. I believe Mary wasn’t divided… she was wholly for the Kingdom of God, as was Joseph, and they were married… they loved each other and served eachother not with a divided heart but though loving each other and their Holy Child they liftet up God.
Even in a monastery a man ought to love his brothers… this does not mean that his heart is divided… also Jesus loved us all so much but precisely through loving people He was the perfect redeemer. And what is matrimony but a way of living Love?
Jesus will always be my Love and Spouse… loving a man and raising children, I hope, will glorify Him. I dont think that Abraham was inferior to Paul in anyway. And even Paul says with indignation: “why should an apostle be prevented from taking a sister for his wife?!” we must read Scripture in its entirety.

These are my thoughts… sorry that some pope curses me then. but that practice with cursing people was also a practice of a certain time that the Church does not use today… thank God for that…
Jesus knows my heart… He has created me as a passionate romantic :slight_smile:



Thank you for the thanks.

I think you bring up some excellent points, and maybe this thread will be a good place for everyone to contribute and hash those type of things out.

As far as Trent’s “let him be anathema”. . . I think you can take that with a grain of salt. . . or better yet, take it as it was intended. It was strong language used to emphasize the Church’s teaching. In other words, it means “Pay attention! We’re serious about this!”

So. . . the Church is serious when it teaches that virginity for the sake of the Kingdom (an important qualifier) is more excellent than marriage. And since we are serious about understanding what the Church teaches, then. . .well, lets see what light this thread might shed for us. :thumbsup:



Maybe it would help to look at this in terms of sacrifice. Love and sacrifice are inseparable in this life. Jesus teaches us this. We instinctively see that there are small and great sacrifices.

Being married and having children is a holy thing. Spouses bring comfort to one another and they love and delight in one another, assuming they are in grace filled marriages. They also sacrifice themselves for one another and their children. Paul points this out saying the husband should be like Christ. Children are also blessings that come in this state. But the couple sacrifice for the children which gives marriage and family nobility.

Those who are called and chose to remain celibate to serve God and the Church also sacrifice themselves. They give up the good comforts of a life partner, sexual pleasure, children and grandchildren so that they can serve others, primarily families. They give up goods for another good, a greater good.

If one state is better than the other, spiritually speaking, it is because one is a greater sacrifice. If anyone can’t figure out which state in life requires greater sacrifice they are not thinking clearly. Which would be harder to do, successfully? Which is a greater denial of self? If there are any married couples out there between the ages of twenty and fifty who can’t figure it out try giving up sex, as a lenten sacrifice for forty days this year. Also as you do this, forbid yourselves from longing for one another.

Finally, when it comes time to teach your children chastity and morality, as they grow up and become sexually mature, how will you explain to them that this great gift belongs in marraige only? If you think you can do this without instilling in them a desire for holy purity, you will probably not succeed in this permissive age.

Saint Maria Goretti, martyr for purity, pray for us.


You weren’t called. Very many little boys want to be fighter pilots, only a few enter basic training as young men.
That’s always the way.


I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree sir.
I think we should leave the sacrifice and suffering part up to God… as a priest once said to me: “The human capacity to suffer seems infinite”.

You seem to think sex is a huge sacrifice… so it might be… but I am 25 and not married and I have lived through every lent in my life without sex and not even once yearning for it. So that would probably be your sacrifice, not mine or some one elses.

Its funny, when I became a catholic, I was, and still am, certain that being a nun would be the most fulfilling kind of life you could have… just think: to wake up every morning and fall asleep every evening knowing that you were called to be the bride of Jesus in a special way… having that vocation and being certain of it and walking in His presence… that I was sure is the most fantastic joy -enough for this life and for the coming world…
Yet you make it sound as though the priesthood is about sacrifice and suffering. I believe it is not. If a man sees it as such then he should not enter the priesthood… a priest may have moments of lonelyness -maybe due to a sleeping laity- but it should not be his normal mood, just like a mother can be depressed and worried or lonely in her marriage, but neither is that what was intended by the maariage.
It was the time in my life where I lived most fully for Christ that I never yearned for marital love and where I was the least lonely. And I know many priests and religious who are totally happy and content and many married people who are not… just as some married people are happy and some religious are not.

You see… its not about vocation, but everyone suffers. How can you say that the suffering and sacrifice Mary endured as a wife and mother when she lost Joseph first and then her Son, having to provide for her family, being ridiculed etc, were less than those of Paul?.. Do you think the sacrifices that comes in the vocation of Mary is lesser than the sacrifices that Paul lived with, just because he was celibate? I find no grounds for that… neither in Scripture nor in the things I observe around me.

Where I come from we say: If a nun looks sad she needs one of two things: she needs a man, or she needs the Holy Spirit.
I believe in that.

I think its a misunderstanding to compare vocations and say which kinds of sacrifices and suffering are worse or easier than others. Let me remind you that a priest has certain sources of happiness that a young woman like myself will never have in my life… that might also be seen as a sacrifice on my part… but you would not say that perhaps… you would just say that I have other blessings and that my vocation is the best for me… if so, you have just stated my own point.


I am a bit dissapointed or confused…
You quote Trent and Canon etc as though they were the direct oppinion of God… yet when I state that I dont like the anathema-part you water it down into meaning something which it does not say, because the anathema does not sound nice or charitable to your ears. take it with a grain of salt…? then why not take the whole thing with a grain of salt? Instruct me as to how you know which parts to take with a grain of salt…
I think you must quote and then take your quotes to the full consequence, not apologising for the text as it is. It says what it says.



You need not put words in my mouth. Yes I have read “Story of a soul” and to me Terese was a happy and fulfilled person because she followed the will of God for her life. She had the Holy Spirit. Had she not been allowed to enter the convent then that would have been sacrifice and suffering. Terese was not someone who went around feeling lonely and depressed. I realise there are spiritual dark nights and tribulations for a religious… all I am saying is this has nothing to do with whether you live in a monastery or in a house with a family. Everyone who is a disciple have their nights and their crosses. Peter was also married… he had his severe trials too and they were heavy.
See, I dont think we really dissagree that much. What I just dont find right was the way which you put the things in a hierarchy saying that a priest’s lack of sex or family necessarily means that his sacrifice and suffering is greater than others … and that this would put the status of his vocation over a married person’s. As I said: If you are called to be a religious or a priest, then you find peace and contentment in that… not in a superficial way, but in your soul. You have a huge privilege that other people dont have. Jesus says that the one who follows Him will have in abundance both in this world and the coming. That is His Word and promise. It goes for both married and religious… one vocation is not better than another just as Aron was not finer than Moses but each has his vocation and a role to fill.
As for me: no, I am not going to enter a convent. I have already discerned that my ideas about being a nun in the beginning came from selfish reasons and girlish romantic thoughts… it did not come from my intimacy with Christ… To be hidden with Christ in God… that is the key… that is the cell in the heart and I know well that a married woman can have as much an intimate relationship with Jesus as a nun can… I have seen this and experienced it. Besides … as it is written: God has no favourites.

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