Why does the Church teach that having sex before marriage is wrong?
First of all, if you’ve ever heard anyone – a priest, layperson, or anyone else – tell you that sex is something bad, then he or she is absolutely wrong! Our Church believes that sex is a wonderful thing. In the Old Testament, the book Song of Songs features wonderful poetry about the beauty of human sexuality. More recently, Pope St. John Paul II gave many lectures about the beautiful Biblical view of sexuality in his Theology in the Body (also recommended is his classic book Love and Responsibility).
However, sex – like all gifts – has to be used appropriately. God has designed sex to occur within marriage. According to the Bible, marriage occurs when a man and a woman “become one flesh.” Thus the consummation of a marriage happens during a sexual union. When two people don’t commit to be together for the rest of their lives, sexuality becomes tied to a tentative relationship, something that can be ended at any moment. If we engage in such an intimate, powerful experience as sex with someone we aren’t committed to, then in effect we are using the other person’s body to feel good, either physically or emotionally.
There is another reason. Sex is a delicate, intimate, emotionally charged experience. When someone experiences this extremely powerful bond and suddenly is abandoned, that causes great pain, feelings of loneliness and yearning. Instead, sexuality should be an expression of unity for life, just as newlyweds vow to be with each other until death does them apart. If you wait until marriage, having sex will truly be “making love” and will be a unique experience with that one special person.
So how much can I “do” with my boyfriend/girlfriend without sinning?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with expressing your affection for a boyfriend or girlfriend. Kissing, holding hands and hugging are all perfectly acceptable ways of showing your feelings. A good rule of thumb is that if something involves genital contact, contact with other intimate parts (breasts, buttocks, etc.), leads to orgasm or feels sexual (French kissing, for example), then it just isn’t appropriate for a dating relationship. Casual sex with someone you barely know is an absolute no-no. Remember that if you are engaging in inappropriate sexual contact with your boyfriend or girlfriend, then you’re not only offending God. You’re also taking advantage of another person, using his or her body as a tool to make you feel good.
I’ve had sex or engaged in sexual contact before marriage. What should I do? Am I somehow a worse Catholic?
We are all sinners. Pope St. John Paul II went to confession every week; Pope Francis goes every other week. If even such holy men were aware of their sins, then that must mean that we are all sinners, just as the Church’s doctrine on original sin teaches. God knows that nobody’s perfect. He also gave us sexual desire with the purpose of expressing our love for our spouses in a beautiful way and creating new life. God knows that sometimes, under the influence of hormones and emotions, we can sometimes forget ourselves and do something inappropriate. This does not necessarily mean that you are a “bad Catholic.” If you’ve read St. Augustine’s Confessions (and if you haven’t, you should!), then you will find out that, before his conversion, the future bishop of Hippo had a particularly strong sexual appetite! Yet after his conversion, St. Augustine became one of the Church Fathers and one of the most important people in our Church’s history.
If you’ve engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct, first acknowledge that you did something wrong. Then go to your local Catholic parish, confess to a priest and make a commitment to do better in the future. If you haven’t been to confession in a while, this might make you a little nervous. But think about the great benefits for your soul and the great reward you will have in heaven!
I really, really want to have sex. I can’t wait until marriage. What should I do?!
Wanting to have sex is a perfectly normal human desire. In fact, our sex drive is a gift from God. God gave us the beautiful gift of sexuality so that we can express our love to that one special person and create new life. However, all gifts have to be used appropriately. Think of your sex drive as something like your hunger for food. Food is a great thing. Look at how many cities’ cultures are to a large degree defined by the delicacies that come from there: Paris, Bangkok, Budapest, New Orleans… But if we abuse food and become obese and cause ourselves other maladies threatening our life and health, then we aren’t respecting our bodies, a gift from God. Similarly, sexuality is something great, but it shouldn’t be abused. If you feel that you can’t control your sex drive, talk to a Catholic priest and he will definitely give you advice. Don’t be embarrassed; the priest is human, too! Above all, try to think about things in the long-term. What’s more important: feeling good for one night, or experiencing bliss and union with God in heaven for eternity? Also remember about how the other person will feel. As Catholics, we want to treat our brothers and sisters as we want ourselves to be treated. Casual sexual encounters often lead to people being hurt. After all, people often claim they were “used” in such cases.
God gives each of us a cross to bear in life. Managing a strong sex drive while not married can be such a cross. But it is only through the cross that we achieve salvation.
Why is the Catholic Church opposed to couples living together before marriage?
There are several reasons for this. As we have seen, the Church believes that the beautiful gift of human sexuality should be reserved for marriage. When you live with another person you are romantically involved with, you will likely share the same bed. You will shower in the same bathroom. You are likely to walk in on each other changing. These potential situations happen each day. In other words, this creates ample opportunities for temptation to engage in intercourse outside of marriage.
Secondly, why do people move in together without being married? It’s because they haven’t made a commitment to each other yet, but they want to try out if they would like to get married. In other words, cohabitation is enjoying the benefits of marriage without the commitments. This is a selfish approach. People are not cars that can be “tested.” Such an approach objectifies the other person and, consciously or not, encourages an attitude of non-commitment towards the other person.
Living together before marriage also naturally encourages selfish treatment of the other person. It is also bad for the development of a relationship. In the first stage of a romantic relationship, you might feel like cupid struck you with an arrow. You might smile for no reason and think about your boyfriend or girlfriend constantly, getting distracted at work or school. At this point, your brain pumps tons of enzymes called dopamines that make you feel ecstatic.
Eventually, however, this feeling of being lovestruck fades. This is often a challenge for couples. Suddenly, they are faced with the other person’s faults and weaknesses. This is usually the make-or-break point of relationships. Naturally, part of whether or not a relationship succeeds depends on compatibility. However, another ingredient to a relationship’s success is whether or not a couple works on being together. When a couple lives together before marriage, they make no commitments. Thus when the hormones die down and reality sets in, they began to see that the other person snores or leaves the toilet seat up. When a couple is married, they make a commitment to stay together during good and bad times. They won’t leave each other just because of some petty thing (and even because of major challenges). When a couple has made zero commitments, then they are likely to leave each other because of some minor quarrel. In other words, living together before marriage will not teach you about commitment and tenacity, the ingredients for a successful long-term relationship. Rather, it will teach you the “easy way out” of rough times in a relationship. Remember that the Cross is the ultimate symbol of love. Love isn’t just about candlelit dinners and snuggling. It’s above all about staying at the other person’s side at all times, including the frustrating and unpleasant ones.
I’ve been seeing a guy/girl for some time. I might want to marry him/her, but I’m not quite sure. Won’t living together help us test out if we want to be with each other permanently?
Actually, research shows the exact opposite. In fact, studies by scientists demonstrate that couples who live together are 50 percent more likely to divorce when they marry and much less likely to marry at all. In fact, violence against women is more likely to occur among married couples who cohabitated before.
Several more things should be said about this. First, many unmarried couples who live together often end up having children (today, about two in five American children are born to unmarried couples). It is a basic fact of psychology that children grow up healthy when they are raised by married parents. And seeing as how previously cohabitating married couples divorce more frequently, think of the disastrous consequences that such a divorce would have on these children! Many children are traumatized by their parents’ divorce and have to see psychiatrists. In a recent discussion about the Church’s teaching on divorced and remarried Catholics, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Vienna said that his parents’ divorce was the saddest day of his life, and that couples that divorce should think about the pain they cause their children.
As we saw above, living together before marriage objectifies the other person, making him or her a commodity that can be “tested out.” Treating another person as something that can be thrown away at any moment can’t be healthy for any relationship.
I live with my boyfriend/girlfriend. What should I do now?
To live in full accordance with the Church’s teaching and God’s will, you have to change your living situation. We know that this may not be easy. But if you really want to have a good relationship with God and with each other, you must live separately, confess to a priest and avoid such situations in the future. Don’t worry; the Church is compassionate, and the priest you confess to will, in fact, likely be happy that you have decided that living together is inappropriate and want to change your ways.
Naturally, this may not be easy. But think of the rewards you will receive in heaven and how your relationship with each other will be better!
Why does the Church oppose in vitro fertilization?
The reasons for the Church’s opposition to in vitro fertilization are twofold. First, the Church teaches that human dignity is best respected when the beautiful sexual union of two people conceives a child. This does not happen when a human being is created in a laboratory. As the Catechism teaches: “Techniques involving only the married couple (homologous artificial insemination and fertilization) are perhaps less reprehensible, yet remain morally unacceptable. They dissociate the sexual act from the procreative act. The act which brings the child into existence is no longer an act by which two persons give themselves to one another, but one that entrusts the life and identity of the embryo into the power of doctors and biologists and establishes the domination of technology over the origin and destiny of the human person. Such a relationship of domination is in itself contrary to the dignity and equality that must be common to parents and children. Under the moral aspect procreation is deprived of its proper perfection when it is not willed as the fruit of the conjugal act, that is to say, of the specific act of the spouses’ union . . . Only respect for the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and respect for the unity of the human being make possible procreation in conformity with the dignity of the person.” There is also another reason. Human life begins at conception. This is not just Church teaching, but science supports this claim. Modern genetics has established that a human being’s DNA is created when the sperm fertilizes the egg. At this moment of conception, a unique identity of the human person is created. Unfortunately, in vitro fertilization does not fully respect human life. For the process to be effective, several human embryos are created, and the overwhelming majority is destroyed in the process. It is also worth noting that in vitro fertilization is a process that is relatively ineffective (less than one-fourth of treatments are successful) and causes much physical pain to women. Research also indicates that children conceived in this way are more prone to genetic defects.
So does this mean that the Church essentially teaches that infertile couples cannot share in the great joy that is having children?
Absolutely not! The Catholic Church celebrates human life and the family more than perhaps any other institution in today’s world. The Church recognizes that infertility can be a great cross for couples to carry. The Church is a compassionate and loving mother, and thus she encourages infertile couples to nonetheless try to form a family. In particular, the Church encourages infertile couples to try two options. First, there are millions of children in the United States and all over the world who dream of nothing more than to have parents. It is a great act of Christian charity, and one that brings much joy, to decide to adopt children. This does not mean, however, that the Church is against science in its efforts to help infertile couples. Pope Benedict XVI has said: “The Church pays great attention to the suffering of couples with infertility, she cares for them and, precisely because of this, encourages medical research.” As the Catechism affirms: “Research aimed at reducing human sterility is to be encouraged, on condition that it is placed “at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, and his true and integral good according to the design and will of God.” In other words, the Church is not against medical advancements that would help infertile couples as long as they do not interfere with God’s vision of human sexuality and do not disrespect human life. For this reason, the Church is an enthusiastic supporter of NaProTECHNOLOGY. This pioneering method, developed by world-renowned gynecologist Dr. Thomas Hilgers, allows physicians to diagnose the causes of fertility and help couples find a time when they can engage in intercourse with the greatest chance of getting pregnant. In fact, NaProTECHNOLOGY is much more effective than in vitro fertilization, not to say much cheaper and safer. To learn more about NaProTECHNOLOGY and find a doctor who will lead you through the process, click here.
Since the Church is against in vitro fertilization, does this mean that the Church sees people conceived this way as somehow worse or evil?
Absolutely not! If a priest tells you this, then he is blatantly going against Church teaching. The Church believes that every human life is a beautiful gift from God, even if that life was not necessarily conceived in accordance with God’s plan. For this reason, the Church celebrates life and is pro-life in the case of every pregnancy, regardless of how it was conceived. When Louise Brown, the first “test tube baby” was born in 1978, Cardinal Albino Luciani, who would become Pope John Paul I a few weeks later, said: “From every side the press is sending its congratulations to the English couple and best wishes to their baby girl. In imitation of God, who desires and loves human life, I too offer my best wishes to the baby girl. As for her parents, I do not have any right to condemn them; subjectively, if they have acted with the right intention and in good faith, they may even obtain great merit before God for what they have decided on and asked the doctors to carry out […] Getting down, however, to the act in itself, and good faith aside, the moral problem which is posed is: is extrauterine fertilization in vitro or in a test tube, licit? […] I do not find any valid reasons to deviate from this norm, by declaring licit the separation of the transmission of life from the marriage act.” The future pope essentially sums up the Church’s position: while she opposes the process of in vitro fertilization, she condemns no one.
I have tried in vitro fertilization. Does this mean that I cannot be a part of the Church?
Absolutely not! Our Church believes in the doctrine of original sin, so it realizes that all people make decisions that are not necessarily in accordance with God’s plan. Our nature inclines us to do so. Every single human, except Christ, is a sinner. Even the holiest of saints were sinners. The Church does not exclude people simply because they had made decisions not in accordance with Catholic morality. If that were the case, the Church would literally have zero members! The point of being a Catholic, rather, is to recognize that certain decisions we made were not the best, apologize to God and make an effort to live better. For this reason, we are blessed with the great gift that is the sacrament of reconciliation. Thanks to this beautiful sacrament, God absolves us of our sins and gives us a new chance to try to live as Christians. If you have gone through in vitro treatments, then the Church will embrace you with its loving arms as soon as you recognize that that was not the best decision, confess and seek alternatives in the future. Don’t feel that you are somehow a “worse” Catholic. There are many saints – including people without whom Christianity would be inconceivable, like St. Paul and St. Augustine – who did much more morally troubling things before their conversions.
To air in prime-time, worldwide on EWTN
August 21, 2014– Atlanta (Roswell), GA — Catholics Come Home® will premier its high production quality, moving TV series filmed in over a dozen scenic locations in the US and Canada, called “Catholics Come Home” on EWTN Thursday night, Sep. 4 at 10 p.m. EST.
The series will consist of thirteen 30-minute episodes, each featuring an interview with someone who recently returned to Jesus and the Catholic Church as a result of Catholics Come Home and responding to the call of the Holy Spirit. Guests include former atheists, agnostics, Protestant Christians, and fallen-away Catholics who came home. The series will also air engaging segments on the New Evangelization in each of the half-hour episodes.Episodes will air every Thursday night at 10 p.m. EST, with additional airings at 6 p.m. EST Sundays. The series can also be viewed streaming live online at EWTN.com. After the series debuts in the U.S. and Canada this September, EWTN will begin airing the series internationally, starting in December. Over a dozen archdioceses and diocese are represented, since feature episodes are filmed on location in numerous North American cities, including: Vancouver, B.C.; Allen, TX; Providence, RI; New Westminster, Canada; Denver, CO; Tulsa, OK; Atlantic Highlands, NJ; Denton, TX; Farmington, MO; Austin, TX; St. Louis (Bonne Terre) MO; Philadelphia, PA; and Sturgeon Bay, WI.
The premier episode features Dr. Gloria Sampson, a former atheist and linguistic professor who taught in Communist China during the 1960s and 1970s. She discusses her recent return to the Church after 52 years away from God, thanks to seeing a Catholics Come Home commercial on TV in Vancouver, Canada. This former atheist is now an active Catholic, who says: “all I want to do now, is evangelize!” Catholics Come Home® has released an exclusive 60-second series promo in anticipation of the premier episode.
In response to Pope Saint John Paul II’s proclamation, “Darkness can only be scattered by light; hatred can only be conquered by love,” Catholics Come Home® is sharing stories of Christ’s healing love and light, by means of this new, engaging TV series—just another one of the apostolate’s unique media efforts for the New Evangelization that has already helped over 500,000 souls home to Jesus and His Catholic Church.
To schedule an interview with Tom Peterson, President and Founder of Catholics Come Home®, please send email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.For interviews in Spanish, contact Veronica Schnarre at 678-585-7886 x104, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
- View the series promo.
Have you heard the news of this floating around the Web? “Leading a penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis surprised his liturgical adviser by going to confession during the service.” Check out the rest of the story here, and if you have been away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation for a while, we invite you to come back! Explore GoodConfession.com for more info.
“During Lent, there is one spiritual activity that I look forward to most. Before Lent starts, I get out my calendar and I write the name of one family member, friend, coworker, neighbor, acquaintance, or someone I’m not too fond of on one of the 40 days of Lent. On that day, I offer my prayers and petitions, frustrations, joys, and sufferings for that person’s intentions…” Read more here.
What are you giving up or taking on for Lent this year?
Check out this radio interview with Tom Peterson of Catholics Come Home on the Scott Sloan On Demand Show. The truth will set you free!
Check out this recent article with actor Mark Wahlberg, in which he describes the importance of his Catholic faith. Let’s pray we have more witnesses like his in Hollywood!
Rick Santorum, CEO of EchoLight Studios met with Tom Peterson, President of Catholics Come Home, in Atlanta on October 30th to discuss the new nationwide release of “The Christmas Candle” this Advent. Visit their website http://www.thechristmascandlemovie.com/ and purchase your tickets today! Max Lucado’s new film will be a great flick for the whole family to enjoy this year!
From Lighthouse Catholic Media…
Evangelizing Catholics by Dr. Scott Hahn!
“In this informative and dynamic presentation, Dr. Scott Hahn discusses why the New Evangelization is the greatest priority of the Church at this time, and how we are all called to share our faith. He shows how the Eucharist relates to explaining Jesus’ death and resurrection, and how Blessed John Paul II’s called for a New Evangelization must be based on the Eucharist.”
Get your copy today!