Josef Pieper’s Presentation of Purity and Virtuous Temperance

It is now many years ago that a learned Catholic priest said to me in passing and with modesty during one of our conversations that “in the Old Testament there was always a close connection between impurity and idolatry—as is so today with sexual promiscuity’s link to the ‘cult of man’.” This was indeed “a searchlight insight,” as Hilaire Belloc once called Cardinal Manning’s sudden but abiding words to him as a boy, which Belloc was more deeply to understand and to apply later in his life, not only as a Catholic in the British Parliament: “All human conflict is ultimately theological.”

Moreover, in that memorable conversation in the mid-1970s, Father promptly added: “Yes, and the link between impurity and idolatry is to be seen in the Old Testament not only in the shameful manifestations of temple-prostitution, itself a grave degeneration and human degradation—and an unmistakable blasphemy.” For “idolatry,” he said is “to worship something created, not the Creator.”

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