May 01, 2008
Is French Kissing before Marriage sinful?
God bless, Lorna
Asked at 12:49 am on May 01st 2008
In a nutshell the answer is that French kissing is highly unadvisable and could well, depending on the circumstances, be sinful.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church deals with the subject in a general way when it examines the virtue of purity.
2522 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.
In applying this to your specific question I think that the explanation of the dangers involved in French kissing on the Web page of the Pure Love Club shows the dangers of such intimacy and the problems it can lead to.
But I think that in addition to looking at the issue from a consideration of what is sinful and what is not the issue needs to be put in a wider context, just as John Paul II did in his theology of the body.
There is an interesting article Titled, “Men, Women, and Tenderness by Edward Sri, who bases himself on what the then Karol Wojtyla wrote in his book Love and Responsibility.
“Tenderness may be quite selfless and innocent when it is based on concern for another person and what that person is going through interiorly. However, Wojtyla warns that outward gestures such as an embrace or a kiss can lose their altruistic character and quickly fall into utilitarianism once they are used primarily as a means to one’s own pleasure. Once “the need to gratify one’s own feelings” begins to overshadow genuine selfless concern for the other, expressions of tenderness have crossed over into egoism and will prevent love from fully developing” (p. 203).
“And crossing that line into egoism is something we can easily fall into, for two reasons. First, as Wojtyla reminds us, the love between men and women is driven in large part by sensuality and sentimentality, which are never fully satisfied and which are constantly demanding ever greater amounts of pleasure. Given our fallen human nature, therefore, outward expressions of tenderness may be sought more for the emotional or sensual pleasure we receive than out of a selfless desire to enter into the inner life of the other person. As Wojtyla explains, “Various forms of tenderness can easily diverge from love of the person, and stray in the direction of sensual, or at any rate, emotional egoism” (p. 205). “
If we prematurely experience the powerful feelings associated with sensual pleasure, we are less likely to cultivate the objective aspects of love (virtue, friendship, commitment, self-giving), since those aspects require much more time, work, and sacrifice to develop. Why go through all that effort when the sensual pleasure of love can be so easily and immediately obtained? Yet in reality, the giving or receiving of tenderness, apart from the objective aspect of love, creates only the appearance of love, and it often covers up the real underlying attitude driving a relationship: an egoism that is the very opposite of love.
Mark Lowery also has a helpful article on chastity before marriage.
“You cannot have a healthy marriage without chastity — that virtue by which we are in control of our sexual appetite rather than it being in control of us. And chastity is a tough virtue to develop. If it is not in full development before marriage, it is going to be very hard to develop after marriage. So, before marriage is the time to accomplish this very positive thing, the virtue of chastity.
Avoid the near occasions of sin. Today this idea is often looked upon as quaint and prudishly out-of-touch with reality. In fact, it is a gem of practical wisdom and will go a long way in helping young couples with their special project. Concretely, it boils down to this: when spending time alone together, do not spend it on your own. Be together publicly — parks, malls, other social settings. This is not prudish, it is realistic. You will have more fun and will be free that terrible accusation “they’re so exclusive.”
Lowery also says:
“Not only is French kissing an inappropriate level of physical intimacy, but it is also highly imprudent as it could well lead to further activity that is sinful and is thus putting yourself in the proximity of committing a sin.”
Returning to the Catechism it says:
“Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person, because of the unity of body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way our aptitude for forging bonds of communion with others.” (no. 2332)
So I think it can help us if we look upon sexual questions not in an isolated way and instead see what they mean for us in the context of our faith, our dignity as a person and our respect and love for others.
Replied at 06:41 am on May 01st 2008
Thank you very much Fr John for your very detailed and helpful answer.
God bless you, Lorna
Replied at 01:44 am on May 04th 2008
Another question that has been asked and debated on many times is “Is there a difference between normal and french kissing?” and “can normal kissing be not sinful?”
Replied at 07:14 pm on May 04th 2008
Well I think you can apply some of the points raised in the answer to the French kissing matter. Any acts that would amount to putting yourself at risk of sinning against chastity or purity should be avoided.
That’s not saying that any physical expressions of affection and love are prohibited, just that they should be kept within the bounds of what is appropriate for a couple who are not married.
Replied at 01:39 am on May 05th 2008
Interesting question and response. It’s times like this when I feel a little guilty but more wiser in the end.
As a general rule of thumb though, if the intentions are impure, even if it is as something that superficially looks as innocent as french kissing, it’s advisable not to go there?
Replied at 12:31 pm on June 11th 2008
Aaron, I think that clearly the point about intentions is a good one, but what we do also counts. In judging whether something we do is morally good or not we have to look at the act itself, our intentions, and also the consequences. The Catechism has a good explanation of this at nos. 1750-54.
Replied at 10:19 pm on June 11th 2008
Yeah. The answer to this is no, there’s nothing wrong with it and it’s a normal part of growing up.
Replied at 04:19 am on June 18th 2008
I don’t like the fact that information has been removed. How are we meant to express our views if it gets deleted when it doesn’t fit with the views of the sight moderator. grrr
Replied at 12:38 pm on June 18th 2008
One of my youth leaders once asked me “What is the opposite of love?” And of course, I replied…”hate.” But then he said, “Wrong. The opposite of love is use.” I thought about this for a while and then realized all through out the Bible beginning with Adam when he sacrificed his organ for Eve and then the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus’ crucifixtion, love is portrayed through sacrifice. Therefore, the opposite of love is when you use someone else for your own selfish pleasures, instead of sacrificing and doing what’s best for them and ultimately, what will lead them closer to heaven. Thus, french kissing could be seen as using your partner for that pleasure instead of truly loving them and sacrificing in order to bring them closer to God.
Replied at 04:18 pm on June 18th 2008
I don’t like the fact that information has been removed. How are we meant to express our views if it gets deleted when it doesn’t fit with the views of the sight moderator. grrr – Michael Walter
The content was removed due to a personal attack made on another user. The post was not only highly insensitive and greatly offensive to the user concerned but several other users on the site. We encourage discussion but need to be aware that part of being in a diverse community is to also have consideration. Given the nature of the post it also contradicted the terms and conditions of using this site which all users accepted when creating a profile.
Michael, please be assured we consider removal of content very serious and do not do so lightly.
Hope this gives you some clarity here.
Take it easy
Replied at 04:36 am on June 19th 2008
Certainly, intimacy and love are good things. However, if love is not guided by any principles it becomes egoistic and an excuse for doing anything we like. This sort of mentality that you can do what you like as long as you love is a hangover from the worst of the 1960s era.
I suggest you read John Paul II’s encyclical Dives in Misericordia, which explains that God is love and mercy, but that love needs to be guided by justice and truth.
Replied at 07:28 am on June 19th 2008
Father – I sent your response to this question to a friend because I was utterly convinced by what you said and found it to be very beautiful. However, my friend (who is also Catholic) didn’t agree. I’d be grateful if you could help me put his argument into perspective for me. His response follows:
It seems that you have looked deeply into this.
My opinion is that the position that you outlined s creating a mountain out of a mole-hill… exagerating an issue which, on the grand scheme of things in relatively unimportant!!
Too many people have put this over-emphasis on sexuality and sex in the context that it is sinful. On the subject of sexuality, it is fundamental to remember that EVERYTHING that we have is a gift from God, and a denial in any part of this, even sexuality, is a denial of God’s very generous gift to us. We are created in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1: 27), “and it was good” (cf Gen 1:25).
The Catholic faith is something to embrace, to thank God for this precious gift of faith, passed down through apostolic succession as well as from our parents. The faith is something that should be lived with joy, happiness and love (agape). The over-emphasis on sin is, in my opinion, very protestant indeed.
Don’t forget that Jesus was a radical. He was a practising Jew who, when asked which was the greatest commandment, condensed the entirety of the Law into two simple, but VERY powerful statements: The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these’ (Mark 12: 29-31).
This is not an attempt to change your mind, or in any way to call you prudish, as I respect your position on the matter. It is important that you go as far as your conscience can allow. However, try to find a balanced view on the matter, and not a biased view. I appriciate that you have a great affection for JP II, but remember that he marginalized a large proportion of people when he made personal comments on homosexuality in the Church. I don’t understand why there is this huge issue surrounding human sexuality. At the end of the day there is far greater sin in the world which completely passes an individual by without a second thought.
Replied at 08:01 pm on June 20th 2008
Dear Jude: Thanks for your comments and I will attempt to reply to your friend’s objections.
For a start I always find it amusing when people accuse the Church of being obsessed with sex. In reality it is the modern world and culture that is sex-obsessed. You can hardly open a newspaper or turn on the TV without seeing some semi-clad model being used to sell a product. Web sites and porn channels abound and photos and billboards assail our senses at every turn. Who’s the one with the fixation?
The Church has an enormous amount of teaching and doctrine on a huge variety of themes, which most people simply don’t read. One of the few times the media reports on what the Church teaches is when it says something about sex, and ignores all the other documents and statements. A friend of mine who is good friends with a journalist told me that at the newspaper his journalist friend writes for they are instructed to bring sex as much as possible into their articles, in order to attract the public.
Passing on to other matters, I would say that one reason the Church is so radical in its teaching on sexual matters is that it considers the person as a unity of body and spirit. One of the great errors of the modern world is to create a disjunction between body and spirit, thus leading us to use the body as an instrument of our will as we see fit. We thus instrumentalize our bodies, and inevitably the bodies of others, in seeking pleasure and in so doing reject any norms or limitations. The end result of such conduct is very grave, as we cannot separate our bodies and our acts from our selves and who we are as a union of body and spirit. If we degrade our bodies it is impossible to not affect our spirit, our soul, our heart and our very self.
That is why John Paul II talked about sexual intimacy as being a total self-giving.
I suggest you have a look at the group on this site titled the Theology of the Body, as you will find there some material that should help you.
Replied at 10:36 am on June 21st 2008
I agree, our sexuality is indeed a gift from God. However it is a fragile gift, as fragile as the gift of free will itself, and like all other gifts, it can be misused. Moreover, the greater the gift, the greater the violation if it is misued. Our sexuality certainly ranks as a tremendously precious gift because it enables us to live in the image and likeness of God who is a community of Persons and Love Itself.
Perhaps the following may provide further clarifaction: In condemning moral errors of his day, Pope Alexander VII was asked if kissing outside marriage is a venial sin. He said, “if it is passionate kissing for erotic desires it is grave matter.” Notice how he did not refer to all types of kissing, but kissing which arouses passion reserved for marriage and is directly intended outside marriage.
There is no cause for alarm if a person becomes aroused or arouses their partner without knowingly intending it, for serious matter does not always constitute mortal sin; it must also involve sufficient knowledge and deliberate consent. Notwithstanding this, objectively speaking, if a person considered that sins against purity are only a minor violation he would be overlooking that (i) Jesus was indeed radical because He made no distinction between major and minor violations of the Sixth Commandment, that is, unlike the other Commandments, even minor violations of the Sixth constitutes serious matter (Mt 5:27-28); (ii) the Bible clearly teaches that directly willed sexual activity belongs in marriage alone (Ex 20:14; Deut 5:18; Mt 15:19; 19:18; Rom 13:9; Col 3:5; Eph 5:3); (iii) our human sexuality is an extraordinary gift by which God has made us in His image (Gen 1:26-28); (iv) our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 2Cor 6:16); and (v) our sexuality is “by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person” (CCC, no. 2332).
Getting back to the first point: Since sin is a deliberate choice not to walk in God’s ways it sounds reasonable to ask, “What makes God’s ways better than my own?” To this we do well to see that God’s ways are always ways of right relationship not only because “God is love” (1Jn 4:16), but because God IS relationship: He is a communion of Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God has made us in His image and likeness (that is, to love one another according to the love found in the Holy Trinity.) So when we sin, we distort and misrepresent the image of God in which we are made as it filters out His love. This is at the heart of what sin is. It is an injustice to God not only because it involves a rejection but a misrepresentation of His love. Jesus said to St Teresa of Avila, “everything that is displeasing to me is a lie” (“The Book of her Life”, ch. 40, no. 1). In other words, when we sin, we violate the truth of who God made us to be: people made in His image and likeness.
I agree that we should not be prudish, but if the correct use of our sexuality (i.e., that which is in conformity with God’s love, namely, that which is reserved for marriage) enables us to live in God’s image and likeness then we do well to be at least sensitative about using this gift according to right reason and our faith suggests.
Replied at 05:49 am on June 27th 2008
If the Fathers do not like the phrase that the church is obsessed with sex, they might agree that there is a strong focus on sexual morality within the Catholic Church, in the way it defines itself and distinguishes itself from others. Jude’s reply has compelled two priests to jump in with lengthy replies, which isn’t surprising given how the church presents itself. There is a tendency within the church to intellectualize sexuality, which for most people it is something that comes naturally. I do share Jude view that the significance of something fairly innocent is inflated just to make an intellectual argument. Creating a mountain out of a mole-hill is a fitting metaphor.
As it comes to the morality of french kissing you should consider who is actually harmed by it. And french-kissing is no different from other things. You might hurt a person, if you dump then right after the date. And you might hurt them if you do it to them. But french-kissing is in principle no different from giving nice gift, or having a nice romantic dinner, or sharing other experiences that bond people. If you don’t mean it, it may hurt others. It may hurt them deeply, even. And if the other didn’t mean it the way you thought they did, you might get hurt, too. Make sure that you are on the same page. However, being disappointed can’t be fully avoided, it is even part of growing up, and part of life. French kissing isn’t immoral, but hurting other peoples feeling on purpose or out of negligence is. If you feel you are up to it, you probably are, and honestly there are way bigger things to be concerned about than french-kissing.
Replied at 12:21 am on June 28th 2008
Well, I think that if you do go back and read the posts on this matter you will see that the reason the Church does not see French kissing as appropriate has nothing to do with abstract intellectual arguments, but rather with a clear understanding of the human person.
It is, by contrast, arguments such as those you have put forward that are based in intellectual abstractions, thinking that we can somehow separate the body from our will and who we are as a person and then do whatever we wish with the body without it having an effect on who we are – a unity of body and spirit.
And really, this false accusation of how it is the Church is the one obsessed with sex is just a convenient brush-off to reject what it is saying without engaging in a genuine debate. Just look around you, at the media, at TV, advertising, etc., and it is clear it is society that is obsessed with sex. The Church, among many other teachings, deals with this issue, but it is just a fraction of what it teaches.
Replied at 01:53 am on June 28th 2008
Your main argument, that you repeat, again is that body and spirit are a unit. This is not a exclusively catholic teaching, even the Romans knew “Mens Sane in Corpore Sano”, and many people share this view. However, also in Catholics quite often distinguish between the two. But that is an aside.
The fact that you seem to consider body and spirit as a unit only explains why you think it is important. You believe that degrading you body will also degrade your spirit. Fair enough, but it doesn’t explain why you think that french kissing means to degrade your body. But that was kind of the question. Why is french kissing bad for you? And answering that it is bad for you, isn’t an answer.
Nobody, claims that the media, TV and advertising aren’t obsessed with sex. But that doesn’t mean that the church doesn’t define itself for a large part, especially in public, by its stance on sexual issues. Some may want to call this obsession, be it in a different form. True, much of the teaching of church deals, and dealt also traditionally other things, but in the last 40 years, the main focus has become sex. It is interesting to know that in earlier times Lust was considered to be the least of the vices, and Pride the worst. Today it seems the other way round. And how the Chruch presents itself has played an important role in this shift of perception.
I do not quite get why you would call a clear understanding as being opposed intellectual arguments. And I am not quite sure where I intellectualize when I advise to in the first place take your own and the feeling of the other person into account. To be careful, to make sure that your are on the same page, and trust your own feeling whether to french kiss or not. While your advice is to study the Theology of the Body. This study may help, but only that much. In the end every person has to make the decision on his or her own, from what he or she feels is right. And I still think that when growing up there are more important problems than deciding whether to french-kiss or not.
Replied at 05:23 am on June 28th 2008
Dear Ansgar: All your questions were fully answered in the previous postings on this thread, in some detail, both by myself and others. So given you have come into a conversation that started some time ago and has quite a few postings I just restated some of the points, without repeating myself at length.
I did say this in my previous reply to you, and I will repeat it, please go back and carefully read the previous postings and I think you will find an answer to the points you raise.
Replied at 10:24 am on June 28th 2008
I find it interesting you would say this is just a moralising by a priest or that it is the Church that has somehow invented a teaching that if you look at someone with lust it is a sin.
Why not have a look at the gospel of Matthew, ch 5: 27-8.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The Church or priests are not inventing or imposing anything artificial, but transmitting what Christ said. Now, of course, you are free not to accept this. What you are not free to say is that it is something invented by priests or the Church.
And as for it just being something imposed by priests you also conveniently ignore the references I had posted previously to material at the Pure Love Club – http://www.pureloveclub.com/
There are also many groups involved with teaching the Theology of the Body, including discussion groups on Xt3 about this, with eloquent testimonies by young men and women.
So I really don’t see how your post holds water and can only suggest a more in-depth examination of the arguments, instead of merely false accusations.
Replied at 10:33 am on June 28th 2008
I did read the posting before I entered the discussion, and I agreed with a fair bit of the comments, and disagreed with a bit of it, and also found some arguments lacking. Also, my previous posting didn’t contain that many questions, it was more an elaboration on my earlier comment, and a reaction your response.
But I am happy to go over the entire thread again. Apparently, I failed to make my position sufficiently clear.
Your first posting explains that and intimate relationship should be tender and and respectful, and not objectify the other person. And you are not alone with this opinion. Most if not all participants in this discussion agree with you, including me. Which is a good thing because we have at least one common assumption.
The other, maybe implicit, assumption in your, and also in Kates posting, is that french kissing cannot be tender and respectful, and that it necessarily objectifies the other person. And I would strongly disagree with this assumption. French kissing can be tender and respectful, and very personal and intimate. French kissing was even compared to adultery. Sorry, but french kissing between young adolescent couple that fell in love has nothing, absolutely nothing in common with adultery. If anything it is the opposite of that.
The unity of body and spirit means that forming a physical bond is as important as forming a spiritual bond. Yes, both is important, not just one of them. You cannot have one without the other. However, the quotes you offered suggest otherwise. Committing yourself to a serious relationship based only on a spiritual bond is as much a risk, as basing it purely on a physical bond.
French kissing is a serious topic. If you are in high school. Because it is helps adolescent to develop a sense of their sexuality. Because it is different for every person, and it needs time to sort this out. But it is no topic that calls for a deep theological assessment of highly educated people. And there are no simple rules, other than that you should be careful, and responsible, and trust your gut feeling.
Replied at 01:59 pm on June 28th 2008
Ansgar, in all fairness the priests on this site were offering an answer to a question posed by a user of Xt3. I acknowledge that you don’t believe in a God and accept that this will change the lenses with which you see things. I just thought I’d make a couple of point.
“If the Fathers do not like the phrase that the church is obsessed with sex, they might agree that there is a strong focus on sexual morality within the Catholic Church, in the way it defines itself and distinguishes itself from others.”
Do you think it’s possible that the reason we are having this discussion is not because the Church is obsessed or defines itself by this topic, but rather secular society is obsessed by sex and define ourselves by it? The most common use for the internet is porn. Advertisers know that the best way to sell something is sex. We have clubs dedicated to sex. We have a parade in Sydney every year to acknowledge the sexuality of Gay and Lesbians. Our comedians spend hours crafting jokes about it. Slavery still exists because their is market to buy and sell people for sex. Etc etc etc.
Even on this website, the most read and most posted threads on Xt3 are the ones about sex and …Ironically I also note that the thread you have felt most compelled to post on several times is on issues of sexual morality. It is therefore natual that the Church provides guidance on Sex. I should also point out that every other major religion also provides believers guidance on morality.
A more accurate statement is that the church is obsessed and defines itself by Love. The focus on love is because above all that is what Jesus Christ spoke about. The sexual expression of love is one facet of this and yet it is THE focus of press attention from the secular world. You could be forgiven for thinking Catholics only ever hear about sex which is absolutely not the case. You are more likely to walk into a Catholic parish in Sydney and hear about forgiveness, justice, compassion and charity but of course most of all the unconditional love of God.
The church offers an unabashed view on sex; yes it is very different to the cosmo magazine view or the attitude of Hugh Heffner and certainly different to the atheist world view.
Lastly on the point you and Michael raised
“There is a tendency within the church to intellectualize sexuality”
I for one prefer a church that is rigorous and thoughtful. ‘Dumbing down’ things can lead us into a place of fundamentalism and prescription.
Replied at 12:16 am on June 29th 2008
As I said before, nobody refutes that the media is obsessed with sex, although I am not quite sure why you include the Mardi Gras parade in your list. And you equate secular with an obsession on sexuality, which is a false dichotomy. There are many secular groups concerned about these issues too. But this are separate topics. However it demonstrates that even you explicitly define Church by its position on sexuality.
To move on. Admitted, the church cares about a lot of things, like poverty, and peace, and in the run up to the Iraq war the Vatican actually tried to be a positive influence. But, to say that the Church is only reacting to the media ignores that it is also an actor. The Church is not just a passive entity to which things happen.
It is fair enough that the Church wants to be critical of media excesses, but the Church also interferes with the normal life of normal people. Most adults try to live their sexuality responsibly, and reality is different from what the media portray. Every sexually active adult will tell that. I accept that the Church sincerely tries to move the focus on love. The church shares this with many other groups. The question becomes whether the the message of the Church actually serves is aim. Love should be accepting people as they are, and encourage and trust them to live their life responsibly. And from the comments of many within the Church, I believe that they also sincerely believe that this should be the aim. So there is no disagreement, and we should grant others that they are sincerely supporting this aim too.
In disagreement with this aim, however, are simplistic rules, such as that french kissing is immoral. It is not accepting towards the different needs of young people toward physical intimacy. It doesn’t help the young adult to develop an responsible attitude to sexuality. To the contrary, it scares them, by telling them that it all, even french kissing, is extremely dangerous, that they won’t be able to handle it. Sorry, teenagers can handle it, and if you teach them how to be careful not to hurt their own feeling and those of others, they are able to figure out for themselves if they are ready for it or not. This is part of becoming a grown-up. And french kissing is a fairly innocent way to express intimacy, especially if you tell the youth that it is not akin to actual intercourse, or even worse tell them that it is the same as adultery.
And also in this posting I want to express my disbelief that we are making such a big deal out of french kissing. As a married man in his thirties, I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit that I wrote 4 long postings on this issue. Last time I discussed it was probably 20 years ago. If I discussed it at all.
Replied at 01:12 am on June 29th 2008
A few points I did forget. The opposite of intellectualizing is not dumbing it down, but to trust your instincts. A thoughtful approach to life is good, but especially when it comes to human sexuality, you will have in the end trust your feelings.
And fundamentalism can be very rigorous and intellectual. And vice versa. It often is.
Replied at 01:08 am on June 29th 2008
“A thoughtful approach to life is good, but especially when it comes to human sexuality, you will have in the end trust your feelings.”
Concerning the last bit, I’m not sure I agree with you there, simply because if I had to trust my feelings in the end, that feeling is a certain bodily function that wins out every single time no questions asked.
I feel there’s always a contest between my brain and the sexual reproductive organs, and quite frankly I’ve only got enough blood to operate one at a time. In those precious moments, my brain loses out.
To be honest, I can totally see where the priests, and therefore the Church, are/is coming from. If I should trust my feelings in the end, like Ansgar has suggested here, then all is well: what knowledge our resident priest on this thread has brought forth is telling me in words why I’m feeling what I’m feeling.
I’ve been in such situations before where I indulged in french kissing. Oh yes, tonguing your girlfriend is such a great feeling. Let me say right now though, that 90% of the time I come out feeling guilty. It’s not because the Church told me it was a naughty thing to do: I only found this out about a week ago. Even with people that I was in relationships with, indulging in “hook ups” just felt wrong. And yes, it does feel as bad as adultery.
Because I know when I finally see my wife at the altar on my wedding day, my escapades are going to hit me hard like a two tonne brick.
I’m not alone in this. I have non-Christian friends who feel guilty once they found the love of their life. The Church tells us to seriously reconsider pre-marital sex, and funnily enough when the naysayers finally get married, they realize what the Church was trying to say all along. Same thing goes with french kissing.
I left the whole idea of the Church being a “Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Roar!” institution long ago. Rather, it seems to be a “Hey, if you wanna be happy, then follow these guidelines” set of instructions. Who would have thought that following the Church would actually reap rewards?! I’m still trying to follow the faith to this day. It’s not suppose to be easy, and we trip up from time to time.
Now that I’m finished with that, let me just say that we people who choose the vocation of a married life should not have the arrogance to assume that celibate priests know nothing of sexuality compared to us. If you’ve ever noticed, you can give your friends the greatest advice concerning their love life, but when it comes to yourself, you seem to trip up more often than not. It’s the same situation with us; we’re inside the circular pit, and the priests are the ones who are up and around surveying us and everyone around us. They may not feel the pain we feel squashed against each other, but they very well have an informed opinion on the entire situation.
I just want to say thankyou to everyone who contributed in this thread. There’s some pretty eye opening messages here and it’s great to have two different points of view.
Replied at 03:49 am on June 29th 2008
When I said that you should trust your feelings, I didn’t mean that you should trust your “reproductive organs”. I meant you should trust your heart and mind. You nicely illustrate what this means. You learned that for yourself when to draw the lines, and how to act responsible.
If you felt in 90% of the cases guilty, should have listened to and learned from that feeling. I am not sure if you felt guilty it because you objectified the other person, or because you broke other peoples heart. Your responsibility is not just towards your future wife. You bear responsibility for the feeling of the other person, and you should have been more mindful the next time. But good on you that you feel confident now to deal with these issues. It is indeed not easy, and you will indeed trip from time to time, but it is all to human. Yes, and these are problems not just Catolic youth has to struggle with, but everybody.
Your future wife will want to marry for the person you are with all your experiences, good or bad. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it, but feel happy that she accepts you the human that you are. And she will know that the relationship with you is special, not despite the stupid things you did, but also because of the stupid things you did, and that you learned from it. When you marry you future wife, don’t let yourself burden by the past, but look with confidence and optimism into the future. Marriage, is a promise for the future, and you should forgive you partner for the past, just like your partner forgives you when he or she said yes to you.
When growing up, french kissing can evoke deep feelings. It is for many the first time they get into contact with the kind of feelings that come with sexuality. It is all too real when you grow up. But fortunately french kissing is not adultery, even if it feels like it. It is part of growing up, and learn how to responsibly deal with these feelings. It is much better to experience these feeling and learn how to deal with them, rather than to be afraid of them.
And I agree, you should not look at advice as clear cut rules, but as advice be mindful about yourself and other people. Making your own mistakes is useful, and something you have to figure out yourself, but luckily, you can also learn from the mistakes of others. But, in the end you will have to do what feels good and right for you. Nobody can and should take that responsibility from you. And, just to make it clear, I don’t means what feels good in a sensual way, but what feels good in your heart. If you are confident that it is the right thing, it probably is. Good luck with your marriage Aaron.
Replied at 06:27 am on June 29th 2008
Just some thoughts on a couple of points you have raised.
“the Church also interferes with the normal life of normal people.”
I think this does show a bit of a lack of understanding about what the Church is and how we are to understand its teachings. As Christians know the two most important commandments are to love God and to love our neighbour.
How to put this into practice has been thought about and debated over many centuries and a body of Church teaching has developed that helps us know how to apply and put in practice.
And I think that your seeing this as an imposition is related to what you said about following your feelings. I know you say this is not sensual, but is rather “what feels good in your heart.” Nevertheless, how are we to know if what we feel in our heart is truly good or not. If we go down the path of a purely subjective morality, which is certainly a strong tendency these days, then it leaves us without any objective standards.
So I would like to ask you if you believe in an objective morality, or if there are some objective standards that you think are valid for all persons?
Replied at 10:12 am on June 29th 2008
I agree with a lot of what you say Angsar, there are just a few niggly bits that I disagree with.
I think the reason French kissing is such an important issue is because when Catholics say they don’t agree with sex outside of marriage, that doesn’t mean that you can do everything but. There are a lot of things that prepare your body and your mind for more sexual activity – it’s the way we as humans work, we always want more. So it is important for young people today – who live in a culture where sex has been put up on a pedestal to the extent that people can’t see the point in a life without it or even just waiting until marriage – to think about how far they are prepared to go, or rather – how far it is moral for them to go.
With regards to French kissing specifically, it can stimulate sexual desire in many people, in which case it is too far to go outside of marriage. Fr Michael has already stated how passionate kissing that causes erotic desire is very wrong; French kissing can come under this category for many people, and therefore it is prudent for young people to consider seriously whether French kissing is suitable for them outside of marriage. It may be the case that French kissing does not evoke sexual desire for some, in which case there isn’t anything wrong with it, but it is important to realise what effect it will have before you enter into it – it is no good to say “I’ll just do it and see what happens”.
I agree with you that the Church makes a big deal out of sexual issues, but it is only in response to the culture I already referred to – where sex is put on a pedestal. Different times causes different sins and it seems that in this age sexual sins are most people’s downfall, and it would be crazy for the Church not to respond to this. If the Church ignored it and buried its head in the sand, it would get criticised for that – and rightly so. But it is important that young people today understand that what is presented by the secular world is not right, that it is not the best way, that it isn’t the way to happiness and that it is better to have God than to have a god out of sex.
As for learning to deal with feelings rather than being afraid of them – I agree in the sense that we shouldn’t be afraid of what we feel, definitely, and this isn’t what is being said here. It is understanding your feelings and learning to deal with them in the sense that you should know how far you should go and what you shouldn’t give into, and how to do this. You can’t tell someone to French kiss in order to tell whether or not it’s right for them – you have to think about it and pray about it seriously.
A lot of people make the mistake in assuming that the Church is some scary organisation who is threatening hell to anyone who makes the slightest mistake, particularly with regards to sexual sins. People think that Catholics are afraid of sex – that we’re afraid to admit that we have sexual desires which are hard not to give into. But none of this is true. The Church, as the Bride of Christ, is so loving – she understands, as do her members (including priests, bishops, cardinals, the pope) that people fall. The Church also has a very positive view about sexuality, which you will understand if you read Theology of the Body, as Fr John suggested. In Theology of the Body, John Paul II addressed many issues by examining Scripture and one piece of Scripture he examined was the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is felt by many to be indecent and too erotic, yet John Paul II thinks (as does the Church) that Song of Songs is a beautiful portrayal of sexuality because it shows that while the couple desire each other, they do not give into their desires and they still have complete respect for each other (which is seen in fraternal imagery and the image of the woman as an “enclosed garden” which the man cannot enter). So the Church does not deny that people have sexual desires, and Catholics are not taught to be afraid of them, rather they are taught to master them until the time is right for them to act on them.
In addition, my friend recently summed up my opinion on sex and everything else outside of marriage recently. Another friend asked her if she knew that I had decided French kissing wasn’t right for me outside of marriage and she replied, “I didn’t, but I know that Jude feels that everything she doesn’t do outside of marriage is a gift to God, something extra special once she is married.” This coming from a friend who happily has sex outside of marriage, I was quite pleased with the way she summed it up and I completely agree.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me whether I’m the kind of person for whom French kissing outside of marriage is a bad idea, or whether for me it’s okay, I’m not going to kick myself when I get married and French kiss for the first time and I find out that it would have been perfectly fine for me to have done so before we married – I’m going to be thanking God that He gave me the grace to save this special act for my husband, and I know that God will be so happy with the gift that I have given Him by waiting.
So ultimately I have to ask the question, what am I actually losing by waiting until marriage to French kiss?
Replied at 11:42 am on June 29th 2008
The teachings of the Church has evolved over centuries, and it will continue to evolve over centuries. What we are doing right here is to continue this long debate. And over centuries many useful things have been said, which we can learn from. Just as there is a lot you can learn from other people, your peers, your family. sometimes they make mistakes, sometimes they do something well.
When you mention purely subjective morality, you describe it as a novelty of our times. But the problems is not that that morality is suddenly subjective, the problem is that the morality is defined by what you may want to call consumerism.
Why do I say that subjectivity isn’t a problem? Because morality is always subjective, there is no alternative. Even when when my grandma grew up, way before Vatican II, way before television, and even way before radio, every person had in the end to decide what is right and what is wrong. The centuries of catholic teaching can help you to define your position, it provides a rich body of work. But, you have to define your own position. Even if you decide to carbon copy the morality from a book to your heart, then that was still your decision to do that.
So, why am I not afraid that this all lead to arbitrary moral. I am not afraid, because I think that all humans, regardless of faith and race share some same basic human experience. They all want to feel secure, respected and loved by their community and loved ones. All humans are able to feel compassion towards fellow humans. Yes, this is not a matter of logical necessity, but it an observation of how human actually act. So, the objective part of morality is defined what is objectively shared by humans.
Other than that, and this is not a wish, but also an observation, morality does change. Like it or not. The morality today is different from what it was a hundred years ago, that morality was was different from what it was in the middle ages, which was different from the morality at the fall of the Roman Empire. And in each era people have been able to live a happy life if circumstances permitted, regardless religion or dogma.
Replied at 12:45 pm on June 29th 2008
Thanks a lot for your long and detailed answer. I enjoyed it a lot. But in order to keep it short, I try to focus on a few issues your raise. I guess the remainder on your answer speaks for itself.
A bit out of order a resonse to on how important french kissing is in the big picture. If we look at the traditional vices, pride, envy, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust, I’d say that pride, envy and greed are the greatest threat to a peaceful life, not lust. And within Lust, french kissing is a small fish. Putting Lust last was also how it was in medieval times, and I think these people we’re up to something, even if they were medieval.
I am glad that you find do not find that the teachings of the Church are restricting you in your life. I myself also have nothing really bad to tell about the very catholic environment I grew up in. The catholic teachers, priest, and nuns (and some of my teachers were priests and nuns too.) had a lot to offer, and tried be inclusive and helpful, rather than dogmatic. Unfortunately, not everybody has the same experience. And unfortunately, what is meant as a cautious warning, often comes across as scaring people from their own sexuality. It reflects a lack of trust in people. If think that rather than teaching clear cut rules it is important to teach that young adults should be mindful of other peoples feeling, but also mindful of their own feelings. And this is nothing new, so i don’t want to take credit for it, if you read the other postings, you see this in almost every persons answer.
Which brings me to your last interesting question. What do you you loose if you wait until marriage to French Kiss? It depends. I have a friend who says that she is not interested in sex, and she is very sincere about this. This means that she doesn’t miss or need physical intimacy, as others do, but that doesn’t mean that she cannot have a fulfilled life.
But not everybody has the same sexual needs, and when you decide to marry a person it is quite important that you also match sexually. People are seriously unhappy in an otherwise good relationship, because the partners don’t fit sexually. And French kissing is a fairly innocent way to get to know how important physical intimacy is for you and your partner. Of course, there are young adults who know that it is not important for them, just like others know that they want to become a medical doctor. In that case there is no need to try it, just like there is no need to try a liberal arts major, just to see how that is, if you are dead certain that you want to become a doctor. If you know what you want, go for it. But for the unfortunate lot of us, who aren’t blessed by that much knowledge about themselves, they should be allowed to cautiously explore this side of their personality.
Still, one word of caution. When you decide to wait, don’t do it just because you want show that you can live up to a romantic and maybe pious ideal; do it only if it feels right for you and our partner. The same rules apply either way. Don’t french kiss just because somebody else expects it, and don’t abstain just because somebody else expects it. Do it if it feels right, and abstain if that feels right. Part of growing up is learning when to say no, and when to say yes. Maybe that is is even part of the entire adult life. Cheers.
Replied at 01:26 pm on June 29th 2008
Well, Ansgar, if you do believe in a subjective morality, where people make up their own minds about what is right and wrong it’s not surprising you would reject moral teaching on mattes of sexual morality, or in other areas.
Also, if you are not a member of the Catholic Church then its understandable you don’t agree with its teachings.
The Church, and all of us, respect your decisions regarding your religious beliefs, or lack of them, so I would invite you to do the same with our beliefs and teachings.
You are right in saying morality is subjective, in that it is the human person who has to make a decision in conscience about what to do or not to do. On the other hand both centuries of history and our own personal experience shows we are often poor judges about our conduct and so we need help and guidance and our conscience needs to be formed and guided by God and the teaching of the Church.
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:31-2)
Replied at 11:48 pm on June 29th 2008
Hi Father John,
It is a little disappointing that you assume, that just because I believe that it everybody’s own responsibility to be moral, I reject moral teachings about sexuality. I reject one particular one-size-fits-all rule. I advocated that people should be mindful about their own feelings, and those of others, and I don’t see how that is not a moral teaching. I might not be always be respectful towards others, but opening your posting with claiming that I said the opposite of what I actually said, doesn’t show that much respect either. And this while you admit in the second part of you posting that you agree on important and crucial points with me. So, it is not the case that you didn’t understand me, otherwise I would have assumed that you I didn’t explained myself well enough.
I can see where you are coming from. You apparently assume that the teachings of the church are the only source for good behavior, and you are hesitant to accept that they are not. You dedicated you life to these teachings, and they are very important to you. Fair enough. However, if you look at what I have written, I do respect that the teachings that the church can offer, and they can serve for for help and guidance, but I don’t consider them to be absolute because people because morals are in the end subjective. And they are not the only source, because people of all ages and religions have made moral choices. I am not quite sure to which of my personal experiences you refer, but my my personal experience is that you can trust most people, and that most people mean well, even if they sometimes do not do the right thing. I have more trust in people that try to do the good thing, than in people who let somebody else determine what is good for them. Cheers.
Replied at 12:47 am on June 30th 2008
Dear Anagar, When you had said in a number of posts before that morality is subjective and that the Church should not impose its teachings on people then it is not unfair to say you reject the Church’s teaching. if you say that moral decisions are subjective then it’s a bit of a contradiction after that to say you are not rejecting what the Church teaches. So if as you say in your last post “morals are in the end subjective,” you clearly don’t accept what the Church teaches, either about making moral decisions or their content.
On your second point, no, I never said Church teaching is the only source of ethics. You can study Plato or Aristotle, for example, and learn very valuable lessons about ethics. Christians can clearly learn a good deal from other sources about morality, but also given their faith in the Church will be guided by Church teaching.
Your affirmation that “most people mean well, even if they sometimes do not do the right thing,” just goes to show that people need guidance in making decisions. Meaning well is a very good starting point, but when we place our personal feelings and desire to mean well above the objective principles of morality then we make a mistake.
Replied at 01:35 am on June 30th 2008
I think it depends of your culture, of the situation, of the ambient, and depends of your limit.
Replied at 05:03 pm on July 01st 2008
“When growing up, french kissing can evoke deep feelings. It is for many the first time they get into contact with the kind of feelings that come with sexuality. It is all too real when you grow up. But fortunately french kissing is not adultery, even if it feels like it.”
My dear Ansgar!
That is precisely the point. French kissing feels like marriage or adultery. “Who so ever hath looked upon another man’s woman with desire hath already committed adultery in his heart” said our Lord. Even Moses got tablets with the words “thou shalt not covet”.
I am not a priest, I do not think I will be, on this matter I am not at all fit to teach others to be moral. But I can make the point that the feeling counts. For virtue or for sin. That is the point of what Padre and the Catechism were saying.
And if you think the time long between your first French kiss (past?) and your marriage (future?), it is not the Gospel or the Church, but modern society that forces you to wait so long.
Replied at 06:50 pm on July 01st 2008
I am sorry, i have not read all of your posts and maybe someone has touched on what i am about to say, but I still think it is worth to just say my understanding which i developed overtime from observations and experiences. Many people i know regret not knowing/realising this earlier in their life.
If we are too close to someone physically which arises good feeling, it is a bit hard not mistaken lust for love. I understand for those who do not believe marriage is a one time commitment (i.e. until death do us part), the matter of too close physically or french kissing does not matter much or if at all for them.
Therefore, it is up to what really is your purpose to be in a relationship or courtship. Is it to find someone for marriage without playing in the danger area or is it to test drive or solely feeling good or having fun?
What i meant by danger area is that where we make ourselves prone to be in anesthetic without seeing the reality that he/she is not for me. Having said that, Love is not just about feeling, it is beyond feeling and it is an intellectual will. This is to say we are intellectually willing to choose to love someone.
I am not going to marry someone just for cherishing the bodily relation everyday but I will marry someone to love him everyday. Bodily relation is just one of the way to express my love, but why do i have to emphasis that before i even decide to love him as a spouse in the truth sense.
Replied at 01:36 am on July 02nd 2008
You keep repeating your argument that lust is a less important sin than many others, such as pride, therefore it is ok to give into it. Surely God does not want us to give into sin because we view it as the “least important” – in fact, that is just the kind of attitude he doesn’t want us to have, because it distracts us from the severity of the sinful act itself. All sin is abhorrent to God – there is no sliding scale of importance for sin.
Replied at 11:36 pm on July 02nd 2008
Replied at 02:52 pm on July 03rd 2008