On the feast of St Agatha Holy Church celebrates the triumph of Christ centred chastity. In the heat of the current battle it is easy to forget the Church is blind to people sexual orientation, it sees all humanity, and human action, including especially our sexuality, as flawed and damaged and yet, in Christ, all is redeemable.
These youthful martyrs like Agatha remind us that there was a time when the Church to exhort chastity in a world as sexualised as our own. The various accounts of these early virgin martyrs torture and sufferings are sexual, Agatha had her breasts cut off, Agnes was exposed in a brothel, their martyrdoms were focused on their sexuality. Even if we attempt to strip away later exaggeration of their various passion narratives behind everything seems to be an attack on their virginity, and the early Church exalted their chastity and virginity.
20th Century Catholicism seems deeply uncomfortable with speaking about sex ans sexuality, in England and Wales, though the Church is often caricatured as being sex obsessed, the truth is that in many parishes it is something that is never ever mentioned. It is significant that many priests, and not a few bishops, have been silent on the gay "marriage" issue.
We can expect no action to be taken against politicians who publicly proclaim their Catholicism and yet break communion with the Magisterium. Even after making a very public stance against Catholic teaching it seems very unlikely prominent Catholics will be moved to the Archbishop of Westminster's "garden parties only" list. Indeed the legendary Tina Beattie, professor of Catholic Studies at Roehampton University, theological advisor to Cafod, trustee of The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly, the welcomed speaker at the Westmiinster diocesan justice and Peace events, is in the Guardian today offering her own Magisterial views.
There is a serious danger of us as Catholics, not simply being seen but seeing ourselves, in opposition to what has become the status quo. Our faith is not merely about condemning but offering a new vision of a Kingdom of God. Condemnation of what is bad is only the first step, it is the message of John the Baptist. Jesus not merely invites us to turn away from something but to turn to something.
The Christian vision of sex and sexuality, of marriage and the family, of chastity, of brotherly (and sisterly) love, we have more to say than just a negation of the current world view. Even so our condemnation of the view of what is being put forward in today's debate is just the tip of something that should be much deeper, something which goes to the very heart of the Gospel and our view of mankind.
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind", is at the very heart of all that we are. Its implications are that our very beings are consumed by God, this is surely why masturbation and pornography are highly problematic and why in our Catholic tradition we have exalted consecrated chastity.
The sacrifice of Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia and countless others, not just women, comes from a radical attachment to Jesus Christ and world view in contradistinction to "the world".
St Agnes pray for us
Holy Virgin Martyrs pray fir us