Sexual promiscuity among single people is nothing new, nor is it considered that big of a deal these days. And I’m sure there has always been pre-marital sex throughout world history. It should also come as no surprise that even some Catholic Christians engage in pre-marital sex, and though that is surprising, it is still not “shocking” (though it should be).
Well, let’s face it…the experience of sex is a “good” and pleasurable thing. God has made it so. But God designed our sexuality to be used appropriately. That is a topic for another day. Suffice it to say that God absolutely does NOT want us to have sex outside of the marriage covenant.
Yet, some single people still allow themselves to have sex, and casually allow themselves to get into what is called “the near occasion of sin”; which means they unwisely allow themselves and another person into situations where the movements of sexual attraction and desire can be stimulated, encouraged, and built up to the point of being acted on. They choose an environment or place where it could go too far with no disruption. For example, being alone together in someone’s apartment/house.
So for some, this desire is too strong, and the will is too weak; therefore, they make the decision to commit the sexual act. It’s thought that if you can remain chaste, then wonderful. If you can’t, then seek God’s forgiveness and move forward. Let us thank God there are many single Catholics who truly do live a chaste single life and save themselves for marriage. They will be rewarded. But it’s a shame that they are seen as aliens or monsters. And all too often (especially for women) their chastity commitment ends up being the cause of a relationship ending (and this is from another so-called Catholic) because the other is open to “giving in” to sexual desire, or is even expecting it to happen.
Well, I would like to shed a little more light on this subject with something that must be said more and more often if we are going to make any progress helping single people lead more chaste lives and become good marriage partners.
What is that something? It is this: Every single promiscuous sexual act (especially intercourse) does a level of damage to the individuals involved which threaten their capability of making the commitment to marriage, and therefore, is harmful to the future spouse and the future marriage. In fact, if someone has been very promiscuous, it is doubtful they have the capacity to make the commitment to marriage, or keep that commitment. This does not necessarily mean it is a permanent thing. But it does mean that a person with a sexually active past MUST take time off from dating (a “fasting”, if you will) and focus on aggressively being restored in their Catholic religion; namely, their personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The damage is not easily detected or immediately felt. It’s kind of like becoming overweight and unhealthy. You start out eating too much and not exercising in very subtle ways, and then one day (without knowing it) you are overweight and not as healthy as you should be. And those who have tried to lose weight know how difficult that can be and how much focus and discipline is required. Certainly, an overweight person cannot just keep living the lifestyle they have recently been living.
This example still pales compared to the reality of the damage done to a person who is sexually active before marriage. It can be so many levels of damage that we cannot get into here (i.e., psychological, emotional, physical, temperamental, etc.). But let’s be clear. I am not talking about pregnancy or the potential of getting pregnant. That is stating the obvious. What is not so obvious is how a promiscuous past produces sexual baggage that MUST be dealt with appropriately for there to be the potential of being a good date, a good companion, a good friend (in the scheme of marriage), a good husband/wife, and a good father/mother.
For my purpose here, it is extremely important that single people realize that they are not simply just committing a sinful act, and then going to Confession to remove it. No, every sexual act outside of marriage creates a “WEED” in the soul that will never be uprooted, and will take an overgrowth of “WHEAT” (namely, virtuous habits) to overcome those weeds to the point of being healthy for marriage.
Sex is an act of the entire being of a person. It is an extremely beautiful thing when you are with the one person you are committed to for the rest of your life. And intercourse has an effect on the two persons involved that is very real, despite whether or not the two people involved are ignorant of it. When done outside of marriage, they might think it is some random act of weakness or it means nothing or they can walk away, but it just is not true.
It is unimaginable how much damage pre-marital sex has done to marriage. It means that there are countless single people out there (including Catholics) who have issues they are likely not even aware of but are very much keeping them from sustaining a good relationship toward marriage. This is why, I believe, there are so many single people and not enough marriages taking place.
Again, this subject is too deep to cover here, but we have to get it through our heads and let it steep in our hearts and souls that the sexual act is profoundly “spiritual” as well as bodily (connecting the “whole” person), and MUST never been seen as some act of the body alone. And we MUST understand that we are inflicting terrible damage to ourselves and the other persons involved by engaging in pre-marital sex.
The more promiscuous, the more damage. The longer the damage is not dealt with aggressively, appropriately and effectively, the more incapable of making marriage vows and keeping that covenant.
I cannot stress this enough: if someone has been sexually active and you are interested in dating them, be careful. No need to jump the gun and cut that person off, but it should be a red flag for the time being that must be tested. But the red flag is someone who has done nothing or very little in proportion to their sexually active past. Their weak will not only threatens the new relationship sexually via temptation, but in so many other ways where a weak will and the effects of that past activity will be harmful to the relationship.
And if YOU have been sexually active and desire marriage, please do your future spouse and the sacred institution of marriage a great favor and take action to get yourself healed and going in the right direction. Good habits and virtues need to be worked on and lived. And absolute chastity must be committed to.
So there is hope. A person with a sexual past can heal and become quite capable of marriage. Those with a sexually active past MUST STOP dating and focus on strengthening the will. There is no excuse for a weak will. So much grace is at the disposal of every Catholic that can serve to strengthen the will. Once it is admitted that the will is weak, there must be great efforts do something about it. It will take a lot of work, but it will be worth it. If you have only been mildly or slightly sexually active, you might still be capable of the marriage commitment and could be dating. However, you should work very hard at discovering any issues you have and work on. You owe it to your future spouse.
The last word is this: Stay chaste. Stay a virgin (if you are one). If you are not a virgin, never, ever give in to sexual activity again. It is a sacred gift only meant for a spouse. Pre-marital sex is just not worth the mess and garbage it produces, no matter how pleasurable and harmless, or even “forgivable” you think it is. It should be enough that God commands and expects no sexual activity before marriage.
Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice. Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.