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Purity – the Key to a Healthy Nation?

March 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Book Club, Cardinal Virtues, Vicki Burbach

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The Four Cardinal Virtues (Week 12 of 12)

Only the combination of the intemperateness of lustfulness with the lazy inertia incapable of generating anger is the sign of complete and virtually hopeless degeneration. It appears whenever a caste, a people, or a whole civilization is ripe for decline and fall. – The Four Cardinal Virtues, Temperance: The Power of Wrath, Paragraph 12

Purity – the Key to a Healthy Nation?

In 1996, United States Court of Appeals Judge Robert Bork published the book, Slouching Toward Gomorrah, to describe the certain decline of America due to our obsession with radical individualism, among other things. But I contend that we are not just slouching, we are actually sprinting our way blindly toward Gomorrah, or in more recent history – Rome – destined for certain destruction lest we step back and reconsider our values as a nation.

You’d think we would heed lessons learned from the late, great empire of lust and licentiousness. On the contrary, we appear to be using the history of Rome as a guidebook for our own demise. For how could we not head the way of the Roman Empire given the direction our values have headed? We are obliviously skipping our way down the same path!

Not that it’s necessary, but for the sake of discussion, I’ll provide just one example to illustrate the depths to which we’ve sunk. Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of 50 Shades of Grey – a story about a young woman and her lurid relationship with a billionaire who introduces her to a twisted world of sexual bondage and eroticism (not that I’ve read it). Apparently, the book sold over 100 million copies, breaking print records in the United States as well as in The United Kingdom before readers and their friends as well as curious bystanders flocked to the movie. Despite heartfelt campaigns against the film by organizations concerned with purity and chastity, the motion picture was a record-breaking, box office hit. According to Variety Magazine, on opening weekend, Fifty Shades of Grey” sizzled at the…box office, setting new records for the highest-grossing Presidents Day holiday opener of all time and ranking among the biggest R-rated debuts in history.”

But 50 Shades of Grey is not the problem. The success both of the book and the movie merely amplify “the dishonorable team of blind lust and calculated greed [surrounding] the province of sexuality” (p. 173) in America. We, as a culture, are over our heads in the intemperateness of lustfulness, among other things.

But as Pieper makes clear, intemperance is only part of the problem.

Not only does our culture lionize lust, perversion, and virtually all other sexual immorality, it has disparaged righteous anger to such an extreme that even the most passionate soldiers of Godliness have been pummeled to a bloody pulp.

Have you ever seen a dog after he’s been beaten down? Over…and over…and over again? He loses his will to fight, eventually cowering at even the possibility of a first strike. That is America today. Those who continue to promote purity are a mere whisper in a stadium full of cheering fans. And if their pleas are acknowledged at all, it is with venom and disparagement. Rather than continue to allow the wrath of anger to swell within them, many turn their backs to the problem. Or worse, they resort to the old adage, “When in Rome…”

So is there any hope?

Only when we reverse the course – when more of us address lust and perversion with righteous indignation – will there be a chance at regeneration.  When individuals take steps not just to stop the course, but to change direction. When we refuse to watch out of curiosity. When we bring back the stigma associated with sexual immorality, rather than having a “to each his own” attitude. When we actually ask store managers to remove pornographic magazines from the checkout line. When we decline to “click” on questionable material. When we refuse even one dime to any book, movie, music or other form of entertainment that promotes lust and intemperateness, even if it means standing alone in the midst of friends or family for the cause.

We must return to the values of nobility and purity with a passionate wrath that is not stymied by political correctness, individualism or radical egalitarianism. Only then will we be able to light a match in the darkness. For if we reclaim purity as a value, our nation may turn a corner and avoid the fall.

Conclusion: Overall, this has been a great book – although I must admit at times I’ve been tempted to pull out a no-brainer novel just to balance it all out. It definitely required active reading, but in the end, I think it was well-worth it. The last few chapters were profoundly impactful for me, personally (That whole temperance thing – I could certainly use a dose of self-discipline!). What did you think about it?

Note: We are making a bit of a change to the schedule – after completing The Four Cardinal Virtues next week, we plan to take a two-week break over Holy and Easter Weeks. Join us again on April 14th, as we begin our next book,  30 Days with Teresa of Avila, part of the Navigating the Interior Life Series, put together by our own Dan Burke and Anthony Lilles!! If you give a donation for scholarships for priests, religious, and the faithful poor at the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Dan will send you a signed copy (be sure to order now because Dan is a lot slower than Amazon). Just click the link HERE to make a donation. Otherwise, you can purchase the book HERE, or on Amazon HERE.  (FYI – For those who have examined our posted schedule, we do plan to return to the original schedule and read The Confessions by Saint Augustine immediately after reading 30 Days with Teresa of Avila.)

Reading Assignment:

None!  Please enjoy a prayerful end to your Lenten journey, as well as blessed Easter week!  We'll meet back here April 14 when we begin our next book (see note above)!

Discussion Questions:

1. What are your thoughts about this book?  Is it one you would recommend?  Why or why not?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

Read More:

For More Information on the Book Club:

Reading Assignment:

None!  Please enjoy a prayerful end to your Lenten journey, as well as blessed Easter week!  We'll meet back here April 14 when we begin our next book (see note above).

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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