April 06, 2016

Article at Authory

Lessons from a 1940s Chastity Booklet

I was paging through an online magazine "for the trad [Catholic] woman" and found a review of a booklet on chastity, written in the 1940s by a Jesuit priest, Fr. Gerald Kelly, S.J. Since there was a notation that the full text of the booklet was available online, I went and looked it up.

I skimmed and said, "Meh." It's not as bad as some publications of the period, but it is definitely the product of a bygone era. For example:

An even graver danger for her [a young, unmarried girl] is that when her love is strongly stirred by marks of affection, then she will yield to his urges rather than offend him or lose him. Furthermore, nature has so fashioned her love that it exhibits in a marked degree the quality of self surrender. When the fires of passion are once enkindled, this craving for self-surrender often becomes dominant.

Um, yeah. *stop skim*

Anyway, I was curious about the priest, so I Googled. Turns out he did important early work in American Catholic medical ethics, and his life and work was the subject of a paper by a female Ph.D. candidate at Boston College.

Here's a snippet:

Problematically, though, Kelly shied away from educating others when it was difficult. For instance, [Daniel] Callahan reminds us that Kelly simply reiterated the papal stance on birth control and artificial insemination rather than explaining them. Kelly's own method of investigating the controversy and looking at the historical context would have served him well in those areas, as it would have given him an opportunity to explain teachings that were poorly understood and poorly received. Kelly also opted to limit doctors' moral choices, rather than engage in training and teaching doctors. He sought to rescue physicians from personal discernment and instead offered them a clear course of action.

As an alternative to this approach, Catholic health care ethics should empower health care professionals with training in ethics. Ethics boards are also ways to encourage thoughtful ethical decision-making done on a group level. Kelly's missteps are good reminders for health professionals today to face difficult questions with rigorous engagement and education.

In resurrecting and promoting Fr. Kelly's work for a popular audience, the magazine "for the trad woman" basically repeats Fr. Kelly's mistakes. Which is additional evidence substantiating my theory that Trad Catholics enjoy tradition but oftentimes do not understand (or learn from) history.

(Image: Couple, traveling; Pixabay.)