Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Is Pre-Marital Sex Always Wrong?

Q - Is pre-marital sex always wrong (a sin)?

A - It seems like a simple enough question - is pre-marital sex always a sin? The answers to that question given by Catholics might shock you. Here is a snip from an article on these results from Msgr. Charles Pope:
In 1972, 39% of adult Catholics responded that premarital sex was “always wrong.” Among Catholics attending Mass at least once a week, 54% responded as such that year. In the most recent survey, conducted in 2008, only 14% of Catholics responded that premarital sex is “always wrong.” Among Catholics attending Mass at least once a week, 30% responded as such.

In other words, more than 70% of Church-going Catholics do not hold or agree to the teaching the Church and Scripture that premarital sex (fornication) is always wrong. Among Catholics who do not go to Mass the number is even higher at 86%.

I knew it was bad, I did not know it was this bad. We have a lot of work to do.
I agree, we have a lot of work to do. But, I am not shocked by the numbers. I see the results of such numbers all the time.

Yes, it is always a sin. Why? Because it is a selfish, unloving, use of another human being and a misuse of our sexuality.

Pre-marital sex is selfish:
It is never about the other person. If it was, then we wouldn't be risking the other person's health, getting someone pregnant while not married, spreading disease, emotional welfare, spiritual state-of-being, and future marriage. It is all about me and only me, whenever pre-marital sex happens. Yes, there might be strong feelings, friendship, etc. But, the act itself is never about true unselfish love (see the next point).

Pre-marital sex is unloving:
Love = "choosing what is best for the other, despite the cost to myself" and could be summed up in one word = "gift". We are called to love others by being a selfless gift for them. Thus, when we choose something that is about me and is not good for the other, then it is not love. Pre-marital sex, by definition, can NEVER be a loving act.

Pre-marital sex is use of another human being:
John Paul II said using another person as a means to an end (in this case your pleasure) and not as an end unto themselves is the opposite of love. It is reducing a human being to an object. Not treating them as a child of God.

Pre-marital sex is a misuse of our sexuality:
Why do we have these desires in the first place? It isn't just to bring us pleasure. It is to be open to new life (procreation) and to bring a married man and woman together (unitive). These two ends are the purpose of marriage. Pleasure is a by-product of sex. A good by-product, but when it replaces one or both of the real purposes - it degrades the act and we are back at selfishness.


Sex is a gift from God and like any gift can be used for good or bad. It is also a meant to be a beautiful act between a man and wife - in the context of marriage. Sex is something intimate and wonderful. But, just like anything good, it can be twisted to be bad. This is what happens with pre-marital sexual acts. While it may "feel" like love, we would never risk another person's future, virginity, pregnancy, disease, soul, broken heart, etc. if we loved them.

Another way to re-phrase the question might be to ask “where is the line between sin and not sinning?” Well, (for some things) it depends on each individual. While all sexual activity (not just intercourse) outside of marriage is sinful, lust is as well. This is the deeper issue. Lust isn't just a passing sexual thought about another person. It is when we grab hold of that thought and use it for our own pleasure.

When we have a control of what is going on in our hearts and minds, then we will easily see where the line is drawn and will do all we can to avoid even approaching it. We want to try and change our hearts, not just our actions.

I know there are many Catholics who struggle with their sexuality and controlling their desires, but it is worth it. Here is the reason - you can't give what isn't your own. If you don't have self-control, you can't give yourself away fully. This means you can't really love another person by being a gift to them. We can either be in control of our desires or allow them to control us.

Chastity is the virtue that allows us to give ourselves to another…remember the definition of love as “gift”. To give everything means we are free of selfishness in our love and chastity frees us of selfishness in our sexual desires. Therefore chastity = sexual freedom! Unfortunately this understanding of chastity is not known well. Most people think that it means just not having sex. It is not a negative thing - it is a positive thing.

Sex should be saved for marriage, where intimacy (of all kinds) is supposed to be. Unfortunately in today's world, we give our sexuality, our emotions, our bodies, and our lives to people we our not married to. We have lost the depth to what a intimacy really means. We end up deadening our sensitivity to it and putting present and future relationships at risk.

To put it another way, I have never met a person who saved sex (of any kind) for marriage and regretted it, but I have met thousands who didn't keep themselves pure and now do. You will never regret purity. Never. But, you will always regret impurity, eventually.

Living a life that is empty of regrets is a full and good life.


Christian LeBlanc said...

It's like a nuclear reaction without a containment building.

bill bannon said...

What the numbers say is that ordinary people see nuances having to do with sincerity within romance. I never had pre marital sex so I'm not justifying a past that would fit in to this problem. I don't think the approving numbers would be as large if you asked whether respondants saw one night stands as mortal sin. I think they would vote greatly against one night stands but if the question conflates one night stands with long lived boyfriend- girlfriend in a bad economy etc, then the conflation produces the sensational.
Even scripture notes a difference that Aquinas was blind to. Scripture says the fornicator will not enter the kingdom of heaven...Ephesians 5:5. Aquinas said that mortal sins were punished with death in the old law. But the old law did not give death as the punishment of the premarital couple but rather required them to marry after the male paid 50 shekels to the father and unlike other
Jews..never divorce...Deut.22:28-30.
Hence the premarital couple got a Catholic marriage before there was one....instead of a death sentence like adultery and sodomy carried. Aquinas' concept of natural law prevented him from seeing scripture's nuances.

Catholic in Brooklyn said...

The best defense of chastity and purity that I have ever read. Thank you so much. This one is a keeper. I wish we could get it to all young people. Unfortunately, with the pull of society and their own desires, it probably wouldn't affect all that many people, but if it changed the minds of any people, that would be a major accomplishment.

Jay said...

This is what they get from taking the word fornication out of the NAB bible translation (e.g. Galatians 5:19-21 - fornication listed as mortal sin in older bibles) now they translate it as the abstract word immorality. What is the immoral act? That is hidden from people who read the NAB. We need to fire some translators.

Airdog711 said...

It is also possible to enter a relationship in which nothing sexual occurs and still end up with a broken heart. Abstaining from premarital sex may decrease the chances of a broken heart, or may make the heartbreak less severe if it does occur, but it does not guarantee that one or both people will not have broken hearts if the relationship ends.

Jessica Patterson said...

Thank you for the post. As a young woman who has sinned, realized it, asked for forgiveness, and am trying to forgive myself now it was a good read.