The Bible is very clear on fornication – it’s wrong and it’s a sin. Most Catholics know that. What many get confused about is where the line is between chastity and sinning. So here’s a guide on how far a Catholic can go before marriage without falling into sin.
What You'll Learn Today
What Does The Bible Say About Fornication?
Let’s start with the basics. Fornication is an outright sin. In fact, it is considered a mortal sin if you do it with the full knowledge that it is against the will of God.
The Bible regards marriage as a sacred institution that should be honored. Any sexual immorality, whether it is adultery or sex before marriage is a grave sin of the flesh.
Here’s Hebrews 13:4.
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
And here’s what the Catholic Church says about fornication (CCC 2353).
Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.
There’s no gray area or mitigating circumstances when it comes to sex before marriage. It is a sin. If you’ve broken your chastity, you need to go to confession and seek forgiveness.
Can Catholics Date Before Marriage?
Sex and dating are two different things. Just because the Bible forbids sex before marriage doesn’t mean you cannot date.
As long as you abstain, date away as much as you want.
How Far Can You Go Before Marriage?
So dating is okay. But what’s allowed in terms of physical intimacy? In other words, how far can you go before you commit a sin.
Can you kiss? Can you boy/girlfriend sleep over? What about making out?
Obviously, sex is going too far and it’s a sin. But anything that makes it easier to fall into the temptation of fornication can also count as sin.
This is called the near occasion of sin.
Near Occasion of Sin
The near occasion of sin is any situation that puts you at greater risk of sinful behavior, either because you are unable to recognize temptation or resist it.
Here are some situations that put you in a near occasion of fornicating.
- Kissing that goes beyond a simple expression of affection. Kissing is okay before marriage; but prolonged or intense kissing can make you fall into sin.
- Making out. Physical touch beyond kissing is an even bigger risk as it heightens passions and affects your judgment.
- Sleeping over. Even if you don’t sleep in the same bed, simply being in the same house alone makes it easier to sin. Of course, some circumstances can make sleeping over necessary such as a storm or if it’s dangerous for one of you to go home. But you should avoid any situation that puts you in danger of sin (e.g. sharing a bed).
Note that you do not have to have sex to sin. If you are in a situation that creates desire for sexual pleasure such as sharing the same bed, that’s lust and it is a sin.
Here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 5:28
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Sin of Scandal
The other danger of committing sexual acts before marriage, even if they don’t lead to actual sex, is the sin of scandal.
Sin of scandal is any behavior that causes others to sin.
For instance, you can sleep over at your boyfriend or girlfriend’s house without committing sin. But a neighbor or roommate who knows you are Catholics assumes you had sex.
If they conclude that, since you did it, it’s okay to have sex before marriage, you are the cause of their sin. That is a sin of scandal.
The Bible takes it very seriously. Here’s Matthew 18:6.
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
Yeah, it’s that serious.
How you live your faith also affects others around you, especially those who know you as a believer.
Father Mike expounds more on the near occasion of sin and the sin of scandal in this great video.
Is Kissing a Sin Before Marriage?
No, kissing is not a sin before marriage.
But you should be aware that kissing can lead to sin. If kissing arouses you and increases the temptation to be intimate, avoid it.
For couples who are dating, light kissing, hugs, and hand holding are the best ways to physically express affection. Anything beyond makes it easier to fall into sin.
Remember that it’s not just about having actual sex. Kissing or any physical intimacy that introduces lustful thoughts leads to sin.
Is It A Sin To Live Together Before Marriage?
Cohabitation is understood in the Catholic Church as living together while having an active sexual relationship.
So living together before marriage constitutes living in sin.
Some people will say, what if we live together but don’t have sex?
For one, that’s a difficult situation to sustain for two people in love. Sooner or later, you are going to fall into sin. Remember the near occasion of sin we discussed earlier?
Secondly, even if you don’t have sex, there are still the dangers of lust and the sin of scandal.
To maintain purity, it’s best to avoid cohabitation. In fact, some priests will refuse to marry you if you’ve been living together.
What To Do If You’ve Had Sex Before Marriage?
Many Catholics commit the sin of fornication, which drives them away from God’s grace.
If you have sinned, the first step is to stop living in sin. If you’ve been having sex before marriage, make a commitment to each other to stop.
If you’ve been living together, find separate residences.
The second, and most important, step is to seek forgiveness. Go to confession and also pray to God to forgive you and cleanse your soul.
Remember that you cannot partake in sacrament while living in mortal sin. You have to confess first.