Sunday, June 24, 2012

DATING AND CHASTITY--Preparation for A Warm, Loving Christian Marriage

[Editor: This a pretty good article but I don't have time to comment on it. Hopefully I will in the future but just so those reading this know that French kissing was condemned by the Church officially ,when dating, it isn't just the opinion of this priest::

CONDEMNED= "It is a probable opinion which states that a
kiss is only venial when performed for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight which arises from the kiss, if danger of further consent and pollution is excluded."--condemned. Pope Alexander VII Various Errors on Moral Matters  [Condemned in decrees of Sept. 24, 1665, and of March 18.1666] Denzinger 1140

 Also the primary purpose of marriage is children:
"Whether the opinion of certain recent persons can be admitted, who either deny that the primary purpose of matrimony is the generation and raising of offspring, or teach that the secondary purposes are not essentially subordinate to the primary purpose, but are equally first and independent....the answer must be: In the negative." --Decree of the Holy Office, March 29, 1944 (Denzinger 2295)


by Rev. T. G. Morrow

Published in Priest Magazine, June 2011, pp. 16-23

Every year we bring our high school age youth to some excellent youth conferences. These events are Eucharistically centered, they provide ample opportunities for confession and just about always have a talk on chastity. These conferences are always very orthodox, but there is usually one ingredient missing: an explanation of what activities short of sexual intercourse are immoral and should be avoided.

The young people who attend these conferences are our best kids. They want to live the faith and they want to live chastely. However, because they seldom hear (apart from our local youth group discussions on chastity) about what activities they should avoid to really be chaste, they often come back, get into French kissing with their boyfriends or girlfriends, and end up having sex. Many high school students are unaware that there is another type of kissing. Kissing to them means French kissing.

French kissing, because it's so highly stimulating is almost an implicit invitation to have. Perhaps many of the young girls who do it don't realize just what is happening to their boyfriend when they kiss this way, but the boys know. And, they complain, "Why are you getting me so turned on if you don't want to have sex?" And, in a way, they're right. Why is she doing this? It is just asking for trouble.

And, of course, a fair number get pregnant. Some we come to know about because they have the baby. Others we may never hear of since they abort.

The point of all this is that it just isn't enough to encourage and even convince young people that they should be chaste in their relationships. We need to tell them what specific behavior they should avoid, and I submit, what good behavior they can replace the bad behavior with.

In this article I hope to give evidence that French kissing in courtship at any age is sinful and so is long-term kissing on a couch. And, I will present a beautiful way of affection that a number of young people have used to replace this behavior, a way that has moved them from unchastity to chastity.

What Is Chaste Behavior?

The key Church teaching on chastity is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), "Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes." (CCC 2351) The unitive purpose implies the celebration of the existing marital love covenant. In other words, sexual pleasure may be sought only in marriage. And, the "procreative purposes" means the act itself is open to having children, regardless of the intention of the (married) couple. In other words it must be a complete marital act. It is not licit to seek sexual pleasure apart from a complete uncontracepted marital act.

The point is for single people dating, it is immoral to seek sexual pleasure in any action. Simple enough.

However, there has to be a bit more to it than that. After all, some may argue (and some do) they are not seeking sexual pleasure in their sexual encounters, but just to show affection. What, then would be another reasonable criterion to judge by? The nature of the activity. If an activity is by its nature highly stimulating, then it belongs only in marriage. This would include French kissing and touching sensitive areas of the body.

Unintended Arousal

But, one might ask, what if a man gets stirred up sexually when he chastely hugs a woman or holds her hand or kisses her gently. Is that immoral?

No, not if he is not seeking pleasure in these acts which have the nature of affection. If a man begins to be aroused by holding his sweetheart's hand (possible, though unlikely), as long as he doesn't latch on to that pleasure and start rubbing her hand trying to cultivate this arousal he doesn't sin. Granted, the man who would do that might need counseling, but no doubt, stranger things have happened. Holding hands is a praiseworthy sign of affection and as long as any sexual pleasure is accepted as an unintended side effect, there would be no sin.

Should he immediately take his hand away from the woman if such a reaction occurred? No, but he might simply take her hand and kiss it before releasing it, especially if he feels he might be tempted to cultivate the unintended arousal.

What if the same thing were to happen when he gives her a hug? Again, it seems that the same principle would apply. He should simply ignore the unintended arousal and finish the hug. Again, if he were to move in a way to increase the arousal or to prolong the hug hoping for continued arousal, that would be sinful. (Some people could ruin a free lunch.)

The point is that affectionate acts such as hugging or holding hands do not ordinarily cause arousal, because they are not essentially sexual or sensual. For that reason some moderate brief unsought arousal can be quite licit, as long as it is not sought. [editor Catholic Data: I wouldn't say "licit" but a normal chemical reaction, which is not the intention]

One seminarian asked me if he should stop hugging the young women who wanted to hug him, because at times he had looked forward to the physical buzz he might experience. I told him no. He should rather purify his motives. Hug them to manifest a true selfless love for them, knowing that such hugs are quite helpful to the young especially (and the elderly as well).

In fact, one sign of sexual maturity in a man is to be able to make a habit of ignoring unwanted reactions to women. This is a virtue which is likely to serve him well throughout life.

Tender Kissing?

Now, kissing is a popular subject of discussion nowadays. There are some promoters of chastity who propose never kissing until the wedding day. Alas, our culture–especially that in high school–seems to see kissing as French kissing period. They seem oblivious to the tender, gentle affectionate kissing I knew as a young man. If French kissing were the only kissing possible, I would agree with the kissing nay-sayers.

But, there is another kind of kissing. Pope John Paul II implied recognition of such kissing when he wrote, "...pressing another person to one's breast, embracing him, putting one's arms around him... certain forms of kissing. These are active displays of tenderness [or affection]." [1] Pope John Paul distinguished very clearly between this affection and satisfying one's sensuality. He went on to say, "Of course a need to satisfy the demands of sentiment [emotional love], makes itself felt, but it is fundamentally different from the need to appease sensuality. [Emotional love] concentrates more on the 'human being', not on the 'body and sex,' and its immediate aim is not enjoyment', but the feeling of nearness'. [2]

The pope spoke of a need for "educating [in affection]." Affection calls for "vigilance" so that it not become just a form of "sensual and sexual gratification." [3] He stated clearly, "There can be no genuine [affection] without a perfected habit of continence, which has its origin in a will always ready to show loving kindness, and so overcome the temptation merely to enjoy..." [4]

Prolonged Kissing?

So, affectionate kissing can be a way of manifesting a feeling of nearness, especially if it is brief. Prolonged kissing, even if done in a tender, affectionate way, is a way of enjoying each other, more than communicating nearness or solidarity. Furthermore, it is likely that the man (at least) will get aroused and seek to extend the arousal. This seeking, of course, would be sinful by the Catechism definition above.

But even if he (or she) were not to pursue the continued arousal, prolonged kissing shifts the emphasis from giving to taking (even if not sexual), which is not a good preparation for successful marriage. Taking, as opposed to receiving, is fundamentally selfish. It is what might be called recreational kissing. It doesn't contribute to a deeper knowledge of the other, which should be the point in courtship. Even if it didn't result in seeking sexual pleasure (which is unlikely) it's not in line with the purpose of courtship.

Following the above logic, what if someone (usually the man) gets aroused kissing his girlfriend goodnight–tenderly and briefly? Must he refrain from kissing her goodnight? No, as long as he never makes that arousal a goal, but seeks simply to manifest his warm feelings toward his sweetheart.

Now, if a priest suggests a couple kiss only "briefly" he will most likely be asked for a definition of "briefly." The answer would be perhaps one to three kisses spanning no more than a minute or so.
[editor Catholic Data: "A minute or so"? Sorry I disagree a second or less, should be more like it. A minute doesn't seem long but it is for a kiss! Try holding your breath for a minute! A peck on the cheek or lips should be enough to show affection]

An Example

In fact, one evening, a young man about 30 years old called me after one of our "Christian Dating in An Oversexed World" seminars, and asked, "Well, Father, what should I do to tell my sweetheart goodnight?" I told him, "Well, you might put your hand to her face and move forward ever-so-slowly, and gently kiss her once, twice. Then give her a big, slow hug, pressing your cheek against hers and feeling the warmth as a way of proclaiming your real warm feelings for her. Then, perhaps say something nice, such as, "You are so precious to me." Then say goodnight and kiss her once more, slowly, tenderly, as if you fear she might break if you aren't careful." [5]

He replied, "Not bad, Father, not bad."

"It's been a while, but I have a long memory," I responded. (I dated until I was 33, and entered the seminary at 34.)

(Women are often delighted with the prospect of such a good night ritual, and ask, "Are there any men who do this, Father?" "Not many," I respond. "You may have to provide some training!")

The Mega-hugs Courtship

I have worked with a good number of couples who have struggled with chastity, and after years of little success in helping them reform, I stumbled on an approach that has worked. I have asked them to try an experiment for a month: to hug for five or ten seconds at a time, and to step back, look at her, and then to hug her again, and then again. They should hug several times in succession as often as they like instead of French kissing, and should only kiss goodnight, tenderly, gently, standing up. In this way they can experience that "closeness" John Paul II spoke of without getting highly stimulated.

Hugging is a wonderful sign of solidarity, but it seems with all the emphasis on sex and other stimulating activities, it's been forgotten. But hugging is for many a more profound sign of intimacy than kissing. Alas, in many marriages there is little hugging because couples were so involved in kissing and other activities during courtship, that they totally forgot about hugging.

However, recent studies have shown that lengthy hugging in marriage has a measurable beneficial effect on the partners, including the production of oxytocin (a bonding chemical), reduced blood pressure and a reduction in cortisol (a stress hormone) in the woman. [6]

A number of the couples who have tried this mega-hugs program have found that they liked it, and those who were not living chastely were able to reform and live chastely. And, of course, they found their relationship became far more personal and less selfish.

Other Forms of Affection

To be sure, there are other forms of affection besides hugging: a man kissing her hand, or gently touching her face. One young man would lie on the couch with his head in his date's lap and play with her hand, kiss it, and talk the night away. No problem as long as they don't change positions.
[editor o Catholic Data: I got some time and needed to address this point : WHAT??!! NO WAY! I don't agree that a man can rest his head on his girlfriend's lap, or vice-versa, and not have temptations. This totally undermines the otherwise, good advice of the article. This point is not recommended!!]

French Kissing?

One eighth-grader told me once, "Father, I can French kiss without getting aroused." My response was, "I think you must be doing it wrong." There is no way a French kiss won't send the average young male half-way to the moon.

The point is, French kissing is of a different genre than affectionate kissing. It's very sensual. It could hardly be called affection. Can you picture the married saints tongue-kissing during their courtship? Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Sweden, or the Martins (parents of St. Thérèse)? We tend not to apply the norm of perfection to courtship, but Jesus insisted that perfection was for everyone: " must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48).

Another Danger: Infatuation

Are there other dangers besides certain physical acts which could lead to unchastity? Absolutely. A key danger is what might be called "unchastity of the heart." This refers to couples allowing their hearts to go wild while at the same time planning to be chaste. One young woman at a great Catholic college met the love of her life there. She had found her true soul-mate and just had to spend as much time with him as possible (co-dependence). She was a chastity speaker, so she was committed to having a chaste relationship.

The more she clung to her sweetheart–who was equally taken with her–the more her head spun with exhilaration. And, after some months of this, she went home pregnant. Needless to say, that was the end of her chastity talks. The point is that an unbridled heart can lead to unchaste behavior, despite any commitment to the contrary.

Those who allow their romantic dreams to carry them into space, and focus on their lover as the end-all be-all, to the exclusion of friends, activities and studies (I've heard of many flunk-outs in this category) are being totally unrealistic and heading for ruin. C. S. Lewis was right on the money when he wrote that if someone makes a god out of eros, this emotional love, it will become a demon and destroy him/her. [7] Emotional love can be good, if it is moderated by reason, but if not, it is a destroyer of souls.

Those tempted to give in to the (natural) tendency to deify romantic love (eros) must constantly remind themselves, "Calm down. This is just a person, not God. You still have to have a life apart from this person, an integrated life. You don't need to be with this person every day. This thing that seems infinite is not."

High School Romance
[ editor Catholic Data: The purpose of dating or courtship is marriage. If the man doesn't have a good enough job for taking care of a family and/or is too young to marry then no dating, period...simple :)...]

High school romance is another dangerous thing. Joshua Harris wrote a best selling book some years back entitled, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The point he made was, "if two people can't make a commitment to each other, they don't have any business pursuing romance." [8] He was not against casual dating or dating in groups, but romantic, one-on-one passionate dating. Romantic dating in high school is playing with dynamite. When two teens are in a hard-core relationship, there are only two things they can do (from their perspective) to solidify it: get married, or have sex. Most know it would be stupid to get married at that age. I wish more knew how stupid it would be to have sex at that age.

Happily, there are some very level-headed attractive young girls and guys who are willing to take Harris' advice, and stay out of heavy dating relationships in high school. They look at some of the problems of their classmates and decide that is not what they want. Would that all teens would take that advice.

Why do teens get into these fatal romances? In some cases they need someone to talk to. Perhaps they are not getting along well at home–a not too rare occurrence–and they need a friend. Unfortunately, when they get into a co-dependent relationship, especially if it includes sex, they often find that their outside-the-home rock on which they were depending, is far less firm than the rock of their family, from which they were fleeing.

Perhaps the best approach for teens who need peer support is to have one or two really good friends of either sex, with whom they talk about all sorts of things without being exploited sexually. This sort of non-possessive friendship is a far better preparation for marriage than the clingy, desperate relationships so many go for. The latter, are a great preparation for divorce.

So, we ought to at least encourage teens to pursue the friendship route, because it is really good for them, and will save them from big time troubles. We may be surprised when they take us up on it.
[ editor Catholic Data: In general close friendship with the opposite sex is asking for trouble...girls and boys after puberty should be acquaintances but not close friends See here ]

Even if they don't, if they stick to the mega-hug program, there is some hope that they might be chaste. In any case, we should teach them about that, and the need to control the heart by reason, so that when they are old enough to marry, and they get into a courtship, they know what to do to remain chaste, and to have gentle but deep intimacy.

Too Radical?

Some will say, "Well, Father, given the state of the world today, aren't you asking too much? Aren't you being too radical?" No, living the Gospel is radical, and it doesn't work half way. If we compromise the truth, we will have much to answer for when we meet the Lord. If this way is truly God's way, it is an integral part of love, the love for which we were created. If it is true, it is the way to happiness, and we need not apologize for it.


So what are the norms for sharing affection in courtship? Lots of chaste hugs, holding hands, kissing her hand, touching the face gently, head in the lap of the other.[ AGAIN NO HEAD IN LAP !!! This is just crazy!  ]

What should be avoided? French kissing, any act which is very likely to cause arousal, and intending arousal.

By following this behavior pattern in courtship, couples may lose some pleasure but will gain a whole lot of personal intimacy–with each other and God–and happiness. And this is a great preparation for a warm, loving Christian marriage.

* * * * *

Rev. T. G. Morrow, STD, is a graduate of the Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, and is the author of Christian Courtship in An Oversexed World (OSV 2003) and Be Holy (Servant, 2009). This article is a development of his thought in Christian Courtship...

1. Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1981, p. 202.

2. Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, p. 203.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., p. 207.

5. T. G. Morrow, Christian Courtship in An Oversexed World, Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003, p. 52.

6. This, according to a study at the University of North Carolina, after 20-second hugs. See

7. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 154.

8. Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Sisters, OR: Multnomah Press, p. 47.