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D.F. wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is it a sin if a man and woman who are not married, engage in foreplay but do not have intercourse?
  • Is it considered adultery?

D.F.

  { If an unwed man and woman engage in foreplay, without further love-making, is this a sin? }

Paul replied:

Dear D.F.,

The moral principle for the unmarried couple is that no acts should be undertaken that, by their very nature, would incite, in either person, sexual arousal. This would include what is called petting, but also intimate hugging and kissing. Doing so freely and with knowledge is a sin.

This is logical because arousal is the body's way of preparing for intercourse, which is morally licit only within marriage. Physiologically, it is illogical to arouse without having any legitimate outlet. Anger and lust are the two vices that naturally demand a physiological release if harbored.

With anger it's violence (outward) or depression (inward), and for lust it is fornication or masturbation — all of which violate our human nature.

Our Lord seems to allude to this in the Sermon of the Mount, Matthew Chapter 5, when He condemns not only killing and adultery but also their internal forbearers of anger and lust. Remember, what arouses your boyfriend might be different from what arouses you, so an open and honest conversation between you on the difference between legitimate, friendly displays of affection versus sexually, arousing activity should be undertaken, with a plan to ensure that
Our Lord will be pleased and not offended.

I know, as well as you, that this is counter cultural today as well as very personally challenging but it's absolutely necessary for a healthy spiritual, and hence physical life, for self-esteem, and for a right relationship with God.

Remember, if ever you fall out of weakness, Jesus awaits you in the sacrament of Confession.

Peace,

Paul

Mike replied:

Dear Donna,

Thanks for the question.

As my colleague Paul has stated, any act, outside marriage, between two unwed couples that leads up to the conjugal embrace would be considered sinful. This would include those who plan on getting married, along with those who have no intention of getting married.

Your question appears to address those who have known each other for a while.

Paul stated in his first paragraph:
The moral principle for the unmarried couple is that no acts should be undertaken that, by their very nature, would incite, in either person, sexual arousal. This would include what is called petting, but also intimate hugging and kissing. Doing so freely and with knowledge is a sin.

Within the context of a man and woman who are dating each other, I would be a little less strict than Paul.

I have never heard of any couple, who have dated for any period of time, who have not petted, kissed, or hugged during the courtship process, sometimes intensely. We are human and there is, to a limited extent, a "getting to know you" process.

The couple that prays together during the courtship process will be able to bring up, as Paul said, issues in an open and honest manner that address the differences between legitimate, friendly displays of affection versus sexually, arousing activity.

Mike

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