Sacra Virginitas is an encyclical of Pius XII (March 25, 1954) on holy virginity "to counteract the contemporary depreciation of the life of perfect chastity." The Holy Father expounds the teaching on consecrated virginity, calls for a true appreciation of its excellence, and defends it strongly against disparaging attacks.
The Christian idea of virginity was derived from the teachings of Christ (Mt 19.10–12). According to the Fathers, it is not a Christian virtue, unless embraced "for the Kingdom of Heaven." It is inspired by the love of Christ; its purpose is to "consecrate body and soul to Him," perpetually. Christian virginity is superior to marriage (Mt 19.10–11; 1 Cor 7.1, 7, 26, 38). It derives its excellence primarily from its higher aims (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 2a2ae, 152.3, 4). Perfect chastity renounces marriage love but chooses instead a "better one" that is ennobling and "the nearest approach to the love of the Word Incarnate."
In particular, the pope refutes those opinions that so exalt matrimony as to give it precedence over virginity. He shows clearly that those dedicated to Christ by vowing chastity do not stunt their personality; rather, they perfect it thereby. Objection is offered likewise to a type of counseling given to the young that discourages in them priestly and religious vocations.
Virginity is not necessary for Christian perfection; in the words of St. Ambrose, it is "not imposed but proposed" (De Viduis, 12.72). The Holy Father elaborates on the following means: vigilance and prayer (commended by Christ), the Sacraments, modesty, mortification, and devotion to Mary.
See Also: virginity.
Bibliography: pius xii, "Sacra virginitas," (Encyclical, March 25, 1954) Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 46 (1954) 161–191; Eng. tr. Catholic Mind 52 491–512. p. de letter, "Sacra virginitas," Clergy Monthly 18 201–212.
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