Practical Moral Principles: Second Practical Principle
by Fr. Gerald Kelly
"Any action is a serious min against chastity when it to performed with the intention of stimulating or promoting venereal pleasure."
Perhaps what we have to say about the second circumstance may be made clear by some examples. From our first two principles we know that these two things are always seriously wrong: i) the performance of a directly venereal action, and ii) the intentional seeking or promoting of venereal pleasure. Now, let us suppose this case: A boy kisses a girl. Externally, the kiss is quite modest and when he kisses her, his intention is not impure. Therefore, he does not violate either of the first two principles. Yet, let us suppose further that the boy knows that this apparently chaste action generally leads him to go too far, for example, to try to perform some directly venereal action.
Or suppose another case: A girl reads a magazine. It is not a bad magazine, though it does contain a few parts that are sexually stimulating for her. However, we can suppose she does not read for that purpose, that she merely wants some information, or some recreation. Hence, she too avoids the violation of the first two principles. But in her case too we are making the further supposition that this seemingly justifiable reading generally leads her to lose control of herself; her good intention wavers and she consents to the venereal pleasure aroused by the reading.
These two examples illustrate the second very important circumstance that must be considered when there is question of indirectly venereal actions. For both the boy and the girl referred to in our examples these actions, though not wrong in themselves, involve what is termed the proximate danger of serious sin. In other words, in performing these actions they are practically certain to sin. Everyone mud avoid a danger like that; one who knowingly courts such a danger is already showing a will to sin.
Situations that involve the proximate danger of sin are termed proximate occasions of sin. For instance, in the examples we have just cited, the apparently decent kissing is a proximate occasion of serious sin for the boy, and the reading of that particular type of magazine is a proximate occasion of serious sin for the girl. It is seriously wrong for one to expose oneself rashly to such dangers. Ordinarily we are obliged under pain of serious sin to avoid such occasions. If the occasion cannot be avoided, as may happen in certain rather rare instances, then we must find some means which will fortify us against the danger. Expert counsel is usually required in such cases.
To a great extent, proximate occasions of sin differ with different individuals; hence the difficulty of solving eases for a group. However, there are some things which are commonly and practically universally proximate occasions. For instance, the modern burlesque show is planned along such sexually stimulating lines that it is a proximate occasion for almost anyone. In fact, we may say in general that real obscenity usually constitutes a proximate danger of sin. The term, obscenity, is frequently used with a rather wide and vague meaning, but with the moral expert it is very technical. Let us illustrate from things to which the term is especially applicable, namely, obscene "literature" and theatrical productions. For such things to be obscene, two elements are required: a) their theme, or content is of an impure or sexually-exciting nature; and b) their manner of presentation is such as to throw an attractive emphasis on that impure or sexually-exciting element. For instance, adultery is a sin of impurity; so when a book or play not only centers about adultery but portrays it in an attractive manner, such a play or book is obscene. Again, excessive nudity, and especially disrobing by a woman in the presence of a man are commonly recognized as strongly stimulating to the sexual passions. Hence, when such things are alluringly emphasized and advertised, as they are in most modern burlesque shows, the shows must be called obscene.
This rather lengthy discussion of the meaning of proximate danger was necessary for our purpose. We can now summarize it in our Third Practical Principle: "It in mortal sin for one to expose oneself freely and knowingly to the proximate danger of performing a directly venereal action or of consenting to venereal pleasure."
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Copyright © Gerald Kelly. Reproduced with permission of Fusion International. All rights reserved.