The Personalist Project

A questioner at the talks the other night asked the speakers to give examples of things that are prudish and things that would not be prudish. I doubt he was completely satisfied with the response he got, which offered cases that were too obvious to be helpful for those trying to judge borderline cases in the here and now.

But there’s an reason for the speakers’ vagueness, which goes to the heart of things. Prudishness, like chastity and salaciousness, has an inescapable subjective dimension. Since it is often hard to know what is really motivating ourselves, never mind others, we cannot easily judge from the outside whether a given comment is coming from prudishness or salaciousness or a an entirely wholesome attitude toward sex.

I am reminded of those who demand examples for what does and does not counts as a “serious reason” for postponing pregnancy through NFP. I have heard people ask: “Is finishing my education a serious reason?” and I have heard Christian teachers say, “Finishing your education is not a serious reason.” I think both the question and the answer betray an externalist tendency that violates the spirit of the Church’s moral teaching in this area.

In truth, for the same thing (a desire to finish one’s education, for example )can be in the case of one couple a deeply serious reason and in the case of another an unserious one.

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