As a boy He gave me something of the kind, so that a passing glance at an immodest picture used to make me shudder; and until I began my theology at 31 I was quite ignorant of most sexual matters. That was His goodness, not mine.
COMMENT: Today is the feast of St Maria Goretti, the great champion of purity. She preferred death (at age 12) to committing a sexual sin, and as such her intercession is often sought by those with struggles in this area.
Fr Doyle seems to have had an unusual purity. In addition to the above quote, here is the testimony of a fellow Jesuit on the issue of Fr Doyle’s purity:
I knew from many talks with him on the subject that Willie found it hard to realise the difficulties of those struggling with impurity and the awful fascination of this sin, just as those who have never taken strong drink fail to appreciate the difficulties and temptations of the drunkard.
This does not mean that Fr Doyle was never subject to temptations, but rather that through God’s grace his major temptations related to others aspects of the moral life, mostly relating to his temper and impetuousness.
It is fascinating for us to consider that a normal, well adjusted young man 100 years ago could be largely unaware of sexual matters until his thirties. But then again, we live in an age which has lost the happy innocence of times past. Just as the fish does not know that it swims in water, so often we fail to realise the errors of our own age. Of course, there has always been sexual corruption in the world, but rarely has it been so normalised and glamourised and publicised and rarely have people been urged to take pride in it as we are today. We also see the awful effects of this sexual corruption within the Church, and the dreadful legacy of wounded lives and shattered credibility left in its wake.
The words of St Josemaria Escriva on purity are relevant for us to consider today:
Never speak of impure things or events, not even to lament them. Remember that such matter is stickier than pitch. Change the subject or, if that is not possible, continue with it, speaking of the need and the beauty of purity — a virtue of men who know the value of their souls.
These words mirror the sentiments of Pope Francis in a recent homily: he said that we should never turn back towards our sins in nostalgia, and should never be curious about the experience of certain sins. How often curiosity is the first step towards sins of this nature!
Having said all of that, we do not want to fall into a Jansenistic trap of obsessing about sin and about impurity. Sadly, some strains of Catholicism, especially in Ireland, seem to have fallen into this trap. Such an approach was far from that of Fr Doyle. We must resist the temptation, but if we fail, we pick ourselves up and go forward, without scruples, nostalgia or curiosity.
Let us pray today for a share in the purity and innocence of both St Maria Goretti and of Fr Doyle, both for ourselves and also especially for our priests. An excellent article on the life of St Maria Goretti can be found here: http://www.clairval.com/lettres/en/2002/08/15/2140802.htm