Thursday, April 30, 2009
The Grammarian, XV
Chaste and decent, if you please.
Just yesterday as I was teaching my young catechumens the meaning of "Thou shalt not commit adultery" it occurred to me (again) that I even had to be careful about how I explained this sin to them. The coarseness of our society has numbed our sense of decency even with regard to the way we talk about things we should not be doing.
The catechism's old explanation of this commandment indicated that we should "lead a chaste and decent life," but the newer (well, 1986) version altered it slightly thus: "lead a sexually pure and decent life," an unfortunate alteration. There's something untoward about parents and clergymen having to use the word "sexually" at all, particularly with younger children.
Whatever were they thinking? That "chaste" is too obscure? Or rather, too out of date. Precisely so: and we need to learn the meaning of chaste and decent lives, all over again, and it starts, boys and girls, at the level of word (i.e., what we say and do, in that order).
Over the years our culture has been increasingly sagging, by almost imperceptible increments. And in the church, we would do well to begin to retrace those steps and perhaps, bit by bit, begin to recover what we lost.
We could start, grammatically, by resisting the unnecessary use of provocative terms.
(which leads me to wonder, now just what am I supposed to do with the '86 catechism? 86 it, after all these years? There I go again, thinking too hard . . .)