Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 30, 1992
'Chastity Lady' Says Teens Are Capable Of Self-Control
By Thea Jarvis
Molly Kellys message to young people is simple and direct: sexual intimacy is a wonderful gift. The practice of chastity, or sexual self-control, means that gift can be used as it was intended.
Mrs. Kellys unusual success with young audiences and their parents is more subtle, but no less real than her message.
I dont claim to be an expert, Mrs. Kelly admits, but I believe in what I say and I believe in young people.
The diminutive, fiftyish mother of eight is a one-woman show combining personal warmth and humor, family stories and an overflowing concern for the teens she talks to.
We have a wonderful generation of young people. These kids are better than we were. But theyre growing up in a society thats selling them sex, she said in a talk to over 600 young people, their parents and grandparents at All Saints Church in Dunwoody Jan. 22.
The date marked the 19th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Courts landmark abortion decision, Roe vs. Wade. Mrs. Kelly had addressed a pro-life rally at the Capitol, and students at St. Pius X High School, earlier in the day.
Her message, delivered annually to some 100,000 teens in public, private and parochial schools in the U.S. and Canada, is geared to empower young people to make thoughtful decisions about their bodies. Delivered with respect, affirmation and affection, the message is surprisingly well-received.
I believe our young people are capable of practicing chastity, Mrs. Kelly said, but we are mired down in a society that looks for a treatment of every ill. This is the first generation thats been written off with a theyre going to do it anyway mentality.
Chastity, which means sexual intimacy protected by the bond of marriage, is not abstinence. It is saved sex rather than the popularly proclaimed safe sex, she said, adding that she wasnt against sex, but against the selling of sex.
God knows we are being condomized in our country, Mrs. Kelly continued, despite the fact that such safe sex tools have a 10 to 17 percent failure rate. Chastity, which is 100 percent effective against teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, respects the sacredness of the sexual act and the human body itself, which is wonderfully, awesomely made.
Young people, the Peter Pans of the human race, are neither children nor adults, said Mrs. Kelly. They are at the wonderful age when they are breaking away, seeking more independence in their lives. But they are being given the awful message that they cant control themselves.
Mrs. Kelly said teenagers can learn the difference between affection and arousal and the importance of modesty in language and dress. She encourages parents to talk about issues of sexuality and intimacy with their teens, thus making young people less susceptible to depictions of casual sex in the media.
The worst effect on young people, she said, is desensitization to the gift of their own sexuality.
Becoming internationally known as the chastity lady didnt happen overnight to Mrs. Kelly. She took up the pro-life standard in her native Philadelphia after her husband, Jim, a physician and pro-life advocate, died in a freak sledding accident 18 years ago. Being involved in a cause he believed in was one way Mrs. Kelly could begin healing the pain she felt after her husbands death.
The worst thing had already happened, Mrs. Kelly aid in an interview following her talk. Her fear of standing before an audience was clearly a minor issue in the face of her great loss.
Ive always has a silly side to me, she acknowledged. Speaking to rooms full of young people allowed the silliness to surface.
What surfaced as well was her sense that there was a gaping void in the message of pro-life. The well-intentioned were opposing abortion, but a positive, life-affirming alternative wasnt being emphasized.
Seven years ago, she integrated the option of teen chastity into her pro-life presentations and found public schools were more open to listening.
I took it on the road, she said, giving Gods message, often without using Gods name.
I have become one smart snake, she said, citing the Biblical admonition to be wise as a serpent. My kids call me wonder-worm.
Mrs. Kelly is currently executive director of Pennsylvanians for Human Life and distributes a book and several videos through the Center for Learning in Villa Maria, Pennsylvania. She receives no fees for her talks, only cost of her transportation.
Were all in the trenches, she said of her commitment to young people and life issues. Her time at home is spent simply, with frequent visits from her children, now aged 18 through 29, and a growing brood of grandchildren.
She recently spoke in Rome, Italy, at a worldwide retreat for priests, and expressed surprise at being invited to join a roster of 12 speakers, one of whom was Mother Teresa.
If someone had told me 18 years ago I would be talking to 6,000 priests in Rome, she would have said they were crazy.
But sexual self-control is for everyone, she said married, single, priests, nuns and especially for young people making the difficult transition to adulthood.
What we have to do is teach the truth, Mrs. Kelly said. God always gives us the power to carry out his will. Sexuality is his gift. Its good: protect it, respect it.
Chastity she told her listeners, is contagious. Get it, catch it, give it to others.