I had a wonderful Toronto weekend! On Saturday night I met my poet pal Clara for beer, read parts of her rather occult (!) new book, and went dancing at a Goth club, which I had not done in a year. I got home after 2 AM but was up again by 9 AM so as to be driven by an old friend--my prom date, in fact!--to Solemn High Mass at the Toronto Oratorians' Holy Family Church.
I had not been at the Extraordinary Form (or TLM, for short) since I arrived in Canada, and it was like running water to the panting deer. There were three priests at the altar and a men's schola (including Dominicans) plus organ behind me in the organ loft, and it was positively mesmerizing. I began to think I should have gone to confession beforehand, la la la. Was there still a priest behind me in the box? Oh there was. Hmm.... La, la, la. A priest in the sanctuary began to sing the Epistle. Oh, so beautiful!
Aaaagh! Conscience pricked by beauty, I click-clicked down the side aisle to the box and cast myself on my knees in the compartment of the box with the green light. The last time I was in that box I was given a hard time for not going to confession often enough. However, I would admit this again at once to whichever priest addressed me from the middle. I am not good at confession; I lack a proper sense of sin. I am an arrogant worm. Wah! I suck.
And five minutes later I was out of the box, and the schola was still singing the gradual, and my soul was clean and happy, and Mass was AWESOME.
And during Mass I meditated on the subject of scandal, and now-married women who had lived with their boyfriends, and naturally don't want to be thought ill of for their sins (who does?), versus Single women who so terribly want to find love but dread that they will have to sin to do it.
The fact is that we are all sinners. This is not a world of people who sin very rarely because there are so few sins, and those who commit those few sins (like rape) are irredeemable monsters. This is a world of sinners who sin all the time because we are fallen, and there are so many sins, and the world encourages those sins, either by making sin look glamorous ("This cake is sinfully good!") or by insisting that sin is not sin at all. For example, making out with a guy whom you do not intend to marry is a sin, however serious or venal a sin that might be. Don't marry the man if you don't want to. But do go to confession.
This reminds me that I got an email recently from a guy who was invited by a girl--a NCG, he believed--to make out with her, and then shortly thereafter, she dumped him. She wanted more experience before she settled down, blah blah blah. He had been a perfect gentleman, being chaste and not initiating couch snogging sessions, which had worried this girl, even though she was not actually in love with our Eavesdropper. (Eavesdroppers, though Eavesdroppers, are still OUR Eavesdroppers.) Well, excuse me, but her suggestion that they make out, when her intentions proved not to be honourable, was sinful. She used our Eavesdropper for thrills, or made out with him as a kind of test drive, and that was bad behaviour. Not only did she owe him an apology, she owed one to our Lord and Saviour.
Incidentally, I know some readers think I am out to lunch on the doctrine of "making out is a sin" which is why I bring it up yet again. When I was twenty, I agonized over "How far can we go?" and no priest actually said. Life experience leads me to think "how far can we go" for Singles means a brief and chaste kiss-on-the-lips. And, yes, making out with an attractive man you have a crush on is one of the most intoxicating things on earth, sweeter than wine. But too bad. Fiancés (the REAL kind, with a wedding date) and husbands only. Meanwhile I know a girl who didn't kiss her fiancé on the lips until they were actually married. (His idea.)
And what dread punishment will fall upon you in this life if you make out regardless? Very likely--NOTHING. Zip. Zero. Nada. The problem with chastity education which harps on all the horrible things that can happen to you if you just go ahead and commit sexual sins is that the horrible things do not always happen. You go to college in fear and trembling for "the girls who do" and--surprise--they all seem happy and confident. Some of them are faking their happiness and confidence, of course, but others are not. Some of them are shallow, sure. But some of them are deep. Some of them ponder for a day or weeks or even months if they should sleep with their suitor Such-and-Such, and contemplate if he is "responsible" and take all "responsible" precautions, and initiate a sexual relationship with him, and eventually move in with him, and marry him five years later, maybe in church, and have his baby two years later. Everyone is happy, and nobody--certainly not me--doubts that this family is a pillar of the community and the hope of the future.
"Well!" our sheltered Catholic girl might think. "I have been lied to by my chastity educators! Sod this for a lark, I am getting drunk and letting nature take its course."
WHAM! She gets pregnant. Or an STD. Or a broken heart. Or PTSD after a string of badly-thought out sexual relationships leave her a wreck. Because too many sheltered Catholic girls are all-or-nothing kind of people, unlike their often more sensible if invincibly ignorant non-Catholic friends, who at least think very hard and discuss it with their mother or best friends before they jump in the sack, at least for their first sexual relationship. Because God allows bad things to happen to some and not to others. And this is why it is absolutely terrible for married-or-partnered women to reveal their sexual sins without a trace of remorse. They are a scandal to their weaker sisters, and by weaker I do not mean morally weaker, but the socially weaker vulnerable Single women.
Sin is not always punished in this life; there is this place called hell, or if that is too awful to contemplate right now, this place called Purgatory. Sure, there is sacramental confession, thanks be to God, but it only works if you are SORRY for your sins, and actually recognize that your sins are sins. So the repentant Magdalene weeping in the confessional may actually have the advantage over the blissfully ignorant and happy equivalent-to-married mother of three. And, as we read in Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, feeling repentant for the sins that conceive your beloved out-of-wedlock children is a problem.
I'm not writing this to beat up on sexual sinners, especially as I am one myself, as I imagine so are most of you, if only in a venial way. Among my friends is a happy-go-lucky gay guy, and my imagination just does not go through THAT door. I don't "judge" him--though if he ever were to asked me what I thought of Sin X or Sin Y, I would certainly tell him--I just pray for him, the dear man.
No, I'm writing this to suggest that sexual sinners who, thanks to God's mercy, don't suffer any adverse affects in this life from our sins not spread this news to vulnerable, innocent, virgin women who are terribly, TERRIBLY tempted to give into their sexual desires, in part because sexual desire is one of the strongest forces on earth, and in part because they are told they will "never get a boyfriend" or "never get married" unless they do. Reflecting comfortably on sexual sin, past or present, from a position of social strength--e.g. a great, loving, marital relationship--is a scandal, a stumbling block, to Single women. It can really hurt them.