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by Catherine Frakas 10 Mar 2002

Pre-Marital Relationships QUESTION from Doug December 21, 1999 I'm in high school, and like many people my age I have a girlfriend who I like very much. Also, like most people my age, we are both tempted to go farther. We both agree that we would not have sexual intercourse, but I am wondering where the line is drawn for pre-marital sex?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on December 27, 1999 Dear Mr. Doug:
Thank you for this question. It is a VERY important question and frankly, one that most people are afraid to give the real answer to. I shall be bold and give a complete answer. I will explain to you some things that virtually no one else in this culture, even loyal Catholics, will tell you.
Before we begin with the practical realities of the high school dating scene, it should be pointed out what dating is NOT for.
Dating is often an activity of peer pressure. Everyone else has a girlfriend so I may feel pressured to seek a girlfriend too. Or, everyone has a girl for Saturday night, so I feel a need to have a girl too. This is an improper way to relate to other human beings, of course. It demeans the girl or boy who becomes merely an object procured out of peer pressure.
Another popular, but erroneous reason for dating is for mere companionship. One is not really interested in their date, they are just a companion for the evening, or for several evenings. This is not much more than treating one’s date as an escort. (There is a form of escort that is appropriate, however, in such formal settings as a date to the prom, which may be a date of an escort type, rather than a romantic type. There are no expectations of any sort other than attending the formal event.)
Yet another improper reason for dating is loneliness. While loneliness may be a factor that motivates one to get out of the house, it should not be the primary reason for dating. If it is, then the dating partner is playing the part of a therapy tool to help a person overcome the feeling of loneliness.
Another, and should be obvious improper reason for dating is to have access to sexual activity. Pre-marital sex is an insult to God and an insult to one’s future marriage partner. We are admonished to refrain from all sin and to refrain from the near occasion of sin. I repeat: we are to refrain from the near occasion of sin. That is the part that catches us.
This leads to the item that I will explain that virtually no one else will; and I am sure I will get a flood of email bashing me on this):
Dating is for courtship only! That means the only reason to date is to look for a marriage partner.
Courtship in the old days consisted of 6 steps:

Dating: dating several people who may show some potential as a marriage partner, and thus one dates them to see if this might be true.

Keeping Company: narrowing the potential candidates down to maybe two or three and dating only those two or three a little longer to see if any potential develops.

Going Steady: selecting only one person to date from the two or three in the keeping company stage. This person is beginning to show real promise and the relationship with them deepening.

Making Promises: The relationship with the steady has now developed to the point that the couple are thinking of really being married. Thus they promise their love to each other in hopes of future developments.

Engagement: The hope for future developments is realized and the couple formally decide to marry and thus become engaged.

Marriage: The end of the beginning stage is marriage itself.
If one is not prepared to transcend these steps because of age, immaturity, personal desire, or whatever, then DON’T DATE. If a person dates anyway, they may be placing themselves in the near occasion of sin and will most likely commit sin unless very, very, careful.
Bottom line. Dating is for the marriage search. If one is not ready for marriage, then is makes no sense to be searching for a marriage partner.
Second bottom line: To place oneself in the near occasion of sin (especially sexual sin) is to light a match while standing in a barrel of gasoline.
But if you do date, how far can you go is the question? Well, holding hands and that is about it. (maybe a small kiss or two, but not deep passionate ones). The issue is the lust that is engendered by the relationship.
Let us see what the Church teaches about lust from the Catechism:
2336 Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins. In the Sermon on the Mount, he interprets God's plan strictly: You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
The tradition of the Church has understood the sixth commandment as encompassing the whole of human sexuality.
2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.
2361 Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.
Tobias got out of bed and said to Sarah, Sister, get up, and let us pray and implore our Lord that he grant us mercy and safety. So she got up, and they began to pray and implore that they might be kept safe. Tobias began by saying, Blessed are you, O God of our fathers.... You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve as a helper and support. From the two of them the race of mankind has sprung. You said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.' I now am taking this kinswoman of mine, not because of lust, but with sincerity. Grant that she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together. And they both said, Amen, Amen. Then they went to sleep for the night

How do we battle against the sin of lust? The Catechism again advises us:
2520 Baptism confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins. But the baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires. With God's grace he will prevail
by the virtue and gift of chastity, for chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart;
by purity of intention which consists in seeking the true end of man: with simplicity of vision, the baptized person seeks to find and to fulfill God's will in everything;
by purity of vision, external and internal; by discipline of feelings and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God's commandments: Appearance arouses yearning in fools;
by prayer: I thought that continence arose from one's own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you.
2521 Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.
2522 Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.
2523 There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.
2524 The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.
2525 Christian purity requires a purification of the social climate. It requires of the communications media that their presentations show concern for respect and restraint. Purity of heart brings freedom from widespread eroticism and avoids entertainment inclined to voyeurism and illusion.
2526 So called moral permissiveness rests on an erroneous conception of human freedom; the necessary precondition for the development of true freedom is to let oneself be educated in the moral law. Those in charge of education can reasonably be expected to give young people instruction respectful of the truth, the qualities of the heart, and the moral and spiritual dignity of man.
2527 The Good News of Christ continually renews the life and culture of fallen man; it combats and removes the error and evil which flow from the ever-present attraction of sin. It never ceases to purify and elevate the morality of peoples. It takes the spiritual qualities and endowments of every age and nation, and with supernatural riches it causes them to blossom, as it were, from within; it fortifies, completes, and restores them in Christ.

The real answer to your question, is that if you do ANYTHING other than behave yourself with COMPLETE purity, you are tempting yourself and your friend with a powerful temptation that is VERY STRONG. Do not be fooled thinking you can control it. I can tell you from personal experience that once you begin the trek into sexual activity, no matter how innocent, the temptation is so strong to go one step further, then one step more, then one step more, until you have no steps left.
Once sexual intercourse takes place you must accept the possibilities of pregnancy, disease, etc. etc.
As one remarkable young man said on Focus on the Family once, If you don’t like the consequences (pregnancy, single parenting, marriage at too young an age, missing out on college, disease, etc., etc, ), if you don’t like the consequences, CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
I would advise you to adopt a life of total purity. That is the life God has called you to until your marriage day. Stay out of harm’s way. Do not even THINK of finding yourself in the near occasion of sin.
It is not worth it. I married when I was 17 and still in high school. I was divorced just short of seven years later. As a result of our mistake, my ex-wife abandoned the faith, I spent some time away from God and seduced into the occult, but returned to God, Praise Him, my oldest child is now a witch with a daughter of her own fathered by who knows who, my second daughter is in a stable but concubinage relationship (living together without marraige) and is now pregnant (they plan on marrying finally), and my third daughter is still playing the field. All three daughters were promiscuous as early teens, all three dropped out of high school (including one who had a 4.0 gpa), all three suffered terrible scares. Why? Well, the responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of their parents who couldn’t keep their pants on.
Do not risk your own story that might even be remotely like mine.
Hear is a prayer to say when going on a date. Say this prayer together as boyfriend and girlfriend before the image of Our Lady and our Lord Jesus. Say it EACH time you go on a date.

O Mary, Mother of us all, you have taught us the meaning of true friendship by your constant concern for helping and pleasing others, especially your own Divine Son.
Your life is a perfect example of genuine interest, generosity, courtesy, warmth, and unselfishness.
Mary, please help us to make this date strengthen true friendship in our hearts. Only then will it be worthy to be offered to your Son as a pledge of our respect for Him and for each other.
Help us to be an occasion of grace to each other and to all who share these hours with us. Protect us, body and soul. Make us aware of the presence of God in one another.
Keep us chaste, O Virgin most pure!
Make us wise, O Virgin most prudent!
Brighten our date with laughter, O Cause of our Joy!
We will then be richer in mind and heart for having shared each other's company.
We will be strengthened in true friendship for you, for your Son, and for each other, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Finally, draw up a contract of chastity that you make to each other, to your parents, and to your future spouse. There is an organization that offers these contracts made up, I will see if I can find them.
We will pray for you and your friend.
May both of you remain pure.
P.S. bottom line? Don’t do anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in front of your parents and in front of Jesus. Your parents will not always be around to keep an eye on you, but Jesus, and your Guardian Angel, are standing right beside you watching every move you make :-)
If you find yourself sinning, resolve to stop, go to confession, and to make sure it doesn't happen again, take even stricter measures to avoid the occasion of sin †such as never be alone together. That might be a good idea to do anyway.
God Bless.
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