Dawn Eden’s explication of chastity is both traditional and contemporary

A new, Catholic edition of "The Thrill of the Chaste" follows in a venerable tradition that includes works by Fr. Gerald Kelly, William E. May, and Fr. Benedict Groeschel

An older generation in the United States was brought up on Modern Youth and Chastity by Gerald Kelly, S.J. and his collaborators. The work was originally entitled Chastity and Catholic Youth and published by The Queen’s Work, Inc. of St. Louis. The first copyright was 1941 and by 1947 it was in its seventh printing.

Later a small book reflecting morals and read widely by young people was John Powell’s 1972 Why Am I Afraid to Love? For those focusing on orthodox Catholic morals after the publication of Humanae vitae in 1968, there was William E. May’s 1982 Sex, Marriage, and Chastity: Reflections of a Catholic Layman, Spouse, and Parent followed in 1985 by Benedict Groeschel’s The Courage to be Chaste. In an age of dissent perhaps Groeschel’s writing did not get the attention it deserved.

Chastity fell out of fashion culturally in Western Europe and North America during the secularizing of morals in the Nineteen Sixties. Seeking competent popularizing in the Catholic tradition became more difficult than in 1933 when Vincent McNabb, OP published his commentary on Casti Connubii: Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pope Pius XI. On Christian Marriage: In View of the Present Conditions, Needs, Errors and Vices that Affect the Family and Society (Sheed and Ward). Casti Connubii had been promulgated in 1930.

The generation born since Father Groeschel’s writing now has Dawn Eden, a doctoral student at the University of St. Mary of the Lake (Mundelein Seminary) in Chicago. She has attracted public attention “fighting for orthodoxy” against competitors in this field, one of whom was the subject of her master’s thesis. Her work in chastity-education is self-consciously conformed to the most venerable of Church tradition and it fills a need.

The 2015 edition of The Thrill of the Chaste (Catholic Edition): Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On is accessible to the average reader. Since it does not target academics, there is no mention of the classical notion of spiritual marriage (see Dyan Elliott’s Spiritual Marriage, 1995 reissue) nor any reference to those who practiced perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom (Jacques and Raïssa Maritain; Robert and Mary Rosera Joyce – see their New Dynamics in Sexual Love: A Revolutionary Approach to Marriage and Celibacy, 1970).

Dawn Eden’s doctrinal orthodoxy is beyond reproach, but her writing technique of “self disclosure” may hinder her from appealing to the older generation who require “the theology of the veil.” Younger readers influenced by secularism and the therapeutic culture (well described in 1966 by Philip Rieff’s The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud), can connect.

Criticisms from various quarters may stimulate Dawn Eden to produce for us yet a third edition in the future. Perhaps her doctoral studies will figure into that production. Meanwhile we hope the lost or misguided out there in the readership will discover “the thrill of the chaste,” responding both to Dawn Eden and to God’s grace.

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About Brian Van Hove, S.J. 0 Articles
Brian Van Hove, S.J., now retired, was for many years the chaplain to the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan.