Chastity and Globalization, Advent 2001

Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio

Its a long time that I’ve had the desire to write some thoughts about the evangelical consecrated chastity in the global and interreligious context. A question will arise, where is the link between this item and the world crisis that we are passing through, and what positive things could this argument produce?

With this book, From the Holy Mountain, a Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium, an interesting book, though not very coherent, Mr. William Darylmple, very much worried for the extinction for the Christianity of the East, and nostalgic for late antiquity society, troubled me, telling about the violent riots of the monks of the Egyptian deserts with their supporters, their riots were against the very civilzed Alexandria. There they destroyed temples and libraries, brothels, and even lynching intellectuals, particularly women, who did not align... Like chastened Christian Taliban of the fifth century at the service of the new imperial order!

It is interesting by contrast, jumping from one age to another, how long it has been all throughout the 20th century, and violent, and universal the critic to the Christian morality and to his more irritating symbol: the chastity of priests, religious, and nuns.

Last year, and article of Le Monde has shown how much the religious and priestly chastity is in a crisis in the church. To such a point, that it is considered from the view of many, statistically not proposable.


For many years, I asked myself how we could think about evangelization, more simply a bout a Christian mission, without, also psychologically, failing in an attitude of cultural superiority, of dogmatic absolute, and of a monopoly on truth. Those attitudes are tied, in the end, with Occidentalizing Globalization, where ‘objectively’, also the ‘Star Wars’ and the world fight against ‘terrorism’became allies of the prevalence of the Judeo-Christian or Occcidental/Zionist axis to prevail over all the other cultures and religions, necessarily, from a historical and moral necessity, subordinate and legitimately made subordinate. Doesn’t come to many minds the thought that the terrorisms consititute a kind of really pathological reaction, psychopathologic and sociopathologic, and obviously at that point not tolerable any more, to actions that are also pathologic, and some call it state terrorism, but are to be endured because our legal, official, and state ordered. Terrorism constitutes a criminal reaction to civilization project engaged in imposing their program, without any ethical or symbolic coherence, as universally compulsory. This lack of coherence, let’s say, could be considered, somehow, a good quality, a crack for pluralism, but more often it creates only the space for practicising cynical violences and flagrant injustices, healing the collective feelings of culpability with strong declarations of principles and poetic Christmas feasts together with dogmatic prophecies about generalized paradise to come generated spontaneioulsy and necessarily from the liberal capitalistic system.

At the same time, although democracy stays too often a priveledge of only one part of the world, because most of the time the choice is made to leave the nations in the hands of ferocious watchdogs that, although they bark against the west, beating eachother, or just licking with devotion the hand of the eunuch master, they hold at bay the nations and people, making them instruments of the north Atlantic strategical and economical superiority. It is not a secret for anybody that those watchers (dogs), even the more apparently anti-occidental, hide bones and throw up the blood of their victims in large holes in the banks of the Occidental financial system.

Many good people of all cultures and religions have no other choice but to hawk to the watchdogs their heritage and the fruits of their honest work in order to go to stockpile in the slums of the imperial capitals with the risk to sink during the passage.

The definition of an Arab or Islamic State as ‘moderate’ is a scandal... it means that that state, without any reference to the value of democracy, is shown to be, at least moderately, subordinate to the global logic that serves economically and strategically the interests of the north of the world, being clearly receptive towards the dominant pseudo-cultural idols.

I accept that my analysis could be understood as naive, and also paternalistic (fatherly), and also Occidental itself. I recognize that it can look from another point of view dubious or even false. There is no space or reason to go further and deeper into this, and those considerations can look really external to an article on chastity... but it is exactly what I want to say. There is no meaning to chastity from the evangelical point of view without a political engagement and a political impact; today if you say ‘politic’, it means ‘global’. This was the idea of Ghandi that conceived as chastity, based on the absolute vow, as one of the central columns of the non-violent fight for Truth, justice in all of its extension.

We, clergymen sometimes look more like clergy machos, we had to become aware that the evangelical chastity and all the sexual Christian morals cannot be imposed by a decree on a society, even when this society has a cultural connotation in a Christian sense. It is not history that the democratic nations have criticised the imposed Christian morality and have often fought against it. This will not mean that we have to easily give up the social witness of our own vision of what is authentically human, and that we have no right to propose it democratically in a strong way, although more often in a way that will constitute a gradual correction.

For the Muslim people, or those I know a bit better, they feel attracted and they admire the Christian project about the human person, his body, and his relationships. In the Holy Koran, and in the culture it has helped generate and connected to it, Mary, Jesus, and John constitute a positive example of perfect consecrated chastity. The Christian monastic ideal is a symbol for Islam of a project of holiness, or sanctity, certainly appreciated. But with that, there is a strong accusation of incoherence towards the Christians that speaks loudly about great principles in order to declare their superiority, but then, they statistically negated it in practive, being often less civilized than they people they want to evangelize and submit, And here, we should speak alos about the violence of Christians, and the non-violence of the gospel... it is another big item.

For the majority of the Muslims, the majority of the Christians are constituted by liars and hypocrites having a dual life: nice principles on their lips, and awful actions on their arms. Islam, believed to be the religion that brings back equilibrium to what is human, offering a complete realization and bringing harmony in a realistic way, between nature and spirituality in a social and anthrolpoligical project built on the acceptance and therefore the conveyance of the natural instincts through obedience to the dictates of the revealed law with the help of the spiritual education of the cultural acts like prayer and fasting.

The ideal of Islam is equilibrium. And the ideal equilibrium is the one represented by the Prophet Mohammed. This will not forbid believers from developing in their personal, religious, and moral life, those more spiritual and high aspects of that perfect model. This is perfect in the obedience to God in the particular and contextual situation and not in an abstract perfection. The person of Jesus, like he is presented in the Holy Koran, is recognized to be one model, often the model, of holiness, but then there would be an effort to distinguish between formal or categorial holiness and perfection in the situational obedience, definitively the highest, represented by the Arab prophet.

It is a fact that the Islam of today finds it difficult to adapt and update the interpretation of the ideal traditional Koranic and Mohammed reference pattern in the face of the challenges represented by the modern evolution of humanit, particularly regarding the meaning of the individual, both men and women. It is also a fact that the anthropoligical proposals carried by cultural globalization and evangelization have a real impact on the imaginary, on the thought, and on the choices of many Muslims and on the Islamic socities. It is a third fact that the contradictions inherent within the Islamic project in itself as it has been concretely developed in history are painfully felt as much in the level of the Islamic elites as in the masses, and this fact is also demonstrated by the nervous attitude of repression and historical negation, and agressive apologetic of a large part of the most diffused Islamic prose.


Just one example, so that we might understand eachother: The value of monogomous marriage is recognized by a large majority of Muslims, not only the most educated and urbanized. The symbolic Mohameddian reference is present in the first, very noble monogamous and happy phase of the married life of the Prophet in Mecca. However, the influx of the anthropolical modern vision, having a Christian background, is evident in today’s large Islamic criticism of polygamy. But what is refused by Muslims is that such a contradictory and, from their point of view, so often inhumane, hypocritical and ruinous society, like the Occidental one, would find it reasonable to judge as unacceptable and abrogate the institutions of the Islamic law, in the matter of polygamy, when those institutions are considered, once again from the Islamic point of view, as able to rationalize and humanize social and personal situations otherwise considered without an issue, and able to channel the natural sexual desire and the affective need, otherwise sociologically and psychologically much more dangerous and subversive than polygamy.

It is as if, Islamically, two ideals are conjugated in the Prophet, and they appear to be opposite to one another only if observed from outside that symbolic world: from one side, a large way is opened to a strong spiritual and moral elevation - and in this case the more, the better - and from the other side, together with the first, is offered the ideal of individual and social control of the human being, otherwise understood as subjocated to instincts by nature.