I don't get why people think this is such a good thing. From where I'm standing, it looks an awful like prematurely taking on bitterness in order to avoid getting hurt, and a whole lot of guilt because your emotions are bad, dirty and inherently invalid, with a tiny bit of actual morality thrown in. It looks an awful lot like putting the cart before the horse in terms of commitment and love. (Commitment first, love after.) And it attempts the impossible and ultimately futile task of making human relationships work exactly how you want them to. In my experience, the only people who come close to achieving that end are abusers. Food for thought.
And what's more, it doesn't seem to work very well in preventing heartache. But then again, neither does anything else, and nobody seems to care about the damage that results from just turning your heart off. If what the advocates for emotional chastity want is an army of coldhearted Catholic women marching around with a checklist of "courting" points for each individual man they encounter before even starting to "like" him, well, that sounds like a horror movie to me. If the problem is that men are reckless with women's feelings, and flit here and there with their jars of hearts, tearing love apart, then they are the problem. Women's feelings are not the problem, and telling women to basically have no feelings is not the solution.
But I don't think it's really either of those. What strikes me about the whole thing is how closely this attitude towards relationships mirrors that of non-Catholics: obsessed with sex, terrified of love. No wonder the old Italian priest was at his wit's end. Italians don't go around terrified of love all the time. They love love. There is a reason why the Vatican is in Rome.
But can we talk about chastity for a minute? Avoiding sin is not the same thing as avoiding a broken heart. Having an impure fantasy is a sin against chastity, not a sin against some imaginary other thing called emotional chastity, so I see no reason to have some special campaign against women and their damned feelings, and then calling it "chastity" to make it seem like a nice Catholic idea which you will burn in hell for not following. Women don't need a special category of chastity with a special name, as though "real" chastity is only for manly men and their manly visuals. If the current mode of speaking about chastity seems aimed mostly at men, then that's a problem, but telling women to stifle their feelings and start sucking it up when they feel bad is not the solution, and what's more, it has nothing to do with sin. As far as I'm concerned, if everyone talked a bit less about their struggles with chastity we would all be a whole lot better off.
Chastity is nothing except the absence of sexual sin. Really, can't we do a bit better than that? If you're thinking about chastity all the time, you're thinking about sex all the time, and you're thinking about yourself all the time. And then to top it off, you throw out the only thing that will help you to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about someone else: emotion. You know, that stuff that sociopaths don't have.
But the trouble is that it's all theory. In theory, emotional chastity sounds like a great idea. Here's a girl who never feels hurt in her entire life because she only loves the man who marries her. Marvelous. It's like Adam and Eve before The Fall! Except that everyone forgets that after The Fall, the first thing that everyone who wasn't Eve did was blame Eve for how messed up everything was. "If only you had had your emotions in control, this wouldn't have happened." Because in theory, we can always imagine paradise and how awesome everything would be if only everyone else would stop being all over the place, but people who apply these theories to real life tend be jerks who create a lot of pain, bother and upset. They tend to be fanatics.
If had married the first man I ever fell in love with, it would have ruined my life. Does that mean my feelings for him were bad and dirty? Does that mean that I should have gotten to know him better before falling in love with him? Does that mean I should look back and feel ashamed? No, to all of it. I look back and think my feelings had validity, and that there was no other way I could have come to know what kind of person he really was. That's just how love is. Sometimes it's the tropical island, and sometimes it's the barrier reef, but there's no way to find out if you never set...well, you get the idea.
All I'm saying is that if you want to fall in love, you have to be open to the idea of falling in love, and you have to actually think that that's a good thing and not something that should be avoided except in the most ideal circumstances.
More on this topic next time. It might be a ten part series; we'll see.