It’s an obvious nickname that Elvis acquired because of gyrations that accompanied his performances. When asked how it started, he said: “My manager told me that everybody was hollerin’ and screamin’ whenever I was wigglin’ my legs—the more I did it, the wilder they went.” For a long time, church leaders have also been hollerin’ and screamin’ about the moral evils of pelvic issues: pre-marital sex, homosexuality, contraception, stem-cell research, abortion, sex education, gender identity, divorce and its tremendous ramifications, etc. For decades, these issues have resided at the center of morality for many Catholics.
In recent years, however, we have been reminded that charity, not chastity, is—and always has been—the central virtue of Catholic moral teaching, and that love, not lust, is the core of Jesus’ message for living honorable lives. Though I understand, and agree, that the moral code for godly people and others of good will directs us to mature sexual behavior and respect for healthy, wholesome, and holy practices, it is unfortunate that some church leaders have allowed sexual issues to take center stage among all virtues and distort fundamental Catholic moral teachings. I don’t think it is primarily because some church leaders like to scream and holler about sex like teenage girls watching a favorite rock and roll idol; rather it’s probably because so many Catholics were taught to live in fear more than love.
The “thou shall nots” of The Ten Commandments instill fear in us for not possessing perfect virtue. Fortunately, The Beatitudes of Jesus and Catholic Social Teachings of the church help us to understand those same commandments in the more positive light of divine love. There are many virtues that the church calls us to embrace: faith, mercy, humility, kindness, integrity, temperance, hope, compassion, diligence, prayerfulness, patience, etc. Chastity is among them. But it is a mistake to make it central or use it to label others as intrinsically disordered or shun others as lesser-Catholics or judge others as sinners. There is one judge; it is not us. It is The One who put love at the center of all virtues and the greatest of all gifts.
If I had one wish for Catholics that holler and scream about the pelvic issues, it is that they might trade in their God of fear for the God of love. If they do, they will more eagerly embrace human dignity, common good, grace-filled virtues, and the tremendous blessings given to us by our loving Lord.