Lies that surround extramarital sex

Often young people challenge the Church: “Why must we wait until we are married to
have sex? When I hear such questions I like to ask: “Why would you want to?” The young people
are taken aback by that, thinking: “Doesn’t everyone want to?” But this question forces them to
think and come up with a reasonable answer. The best one would be: “Because we love each
other.” Then I ask: “What is love?”

In answering that question, some will stay on the superficial: “Love is a warm, fuzzy
feeling you have for the person you like… or it is strong emotional, sexual attraction for

Love is not something physical, it is not something emotional, it’s not a
feeling—although it may be accompanied by physical expressions and strong emotions. No, love
is spiritual, otherwise God could not love because God is pure spirit (see John 4:24) and “God is
love” (1 John 4:8,16). So love must be spiritual.

So, what is it? Love is simply a union of spirits. When two people love each other then
they become one: they begin to think the same way, and want the same thing. As St. John Paul II
describes it: they begin to have one life-project. No longer do they live for themselves but now
live for a common good, a common goal.

Yet human beings are not pure spirits, but we have a body, and everything spiritual about
us must be expressed in a spiritual way: we express our thoughts—spiritual
“intentionalities”—with words, physical sounds (air vibrations) we make with our mouth and
vocal cords, splotches of ink as we write a note or love-letter, digital ones and zeroes as we send
text messages or emails, etc. All these are physical means we use to express spiritual realities.

The same is true with love: it is a spiritual reality that must be expressed in a physical
way. We express this spiritual union with a union of bodies: it could be by holding hands or by a
kiss, a hug… or by the sexual union. Each of these expressions of love is a union of bodies that
expresses a union of spirits.

At this point someone usually gets it and pipes up (most often it’s a guy): “So it is OK,
father, since my girlfriend and I love each other and sex would just be expressing that love we
have…” I reply: “But you love your mother, don’t you?” —“But father! That’s a different kind of
love.” Then I ask: “What’s different about it? It’s OK to give your mother a hug or to hold her
hand, or to give her a kiss. What does the sexual act say that the hug, the kiss, or the holding
hands does not?”

It takes some time to think, but usually I can draw out the answer: Totality! In the sexual
act you give your whole body to the other person, you don’t hold anything back, you don’t hide
anything, or keep anything to yourself… you give everything. And the other person gives him or
herself totally to you. It expresses a total spiritual union. You don’t have that with your parent, as
your parent should only have such total spiritual and physical union with their spouse.

So, if a guy says to his girlfriend: “Honey, I really do love you a lot… and I want to give
my whole self to you, without holding anything back… but just for tonight. How about it, can we
have sex?” Her reply: “No way!” Why? Because it is not total. Then he tries a bit harder: “How
about for the next six months? … As long as things work out?” “No, no, no,” is her reply. “How
about until death do us part?” There you go, but what do we call that? Marriage!

The sexual union expresses the kind of totality we only see in marriage: a lifelong, total
self-giving, and faithful love. That is why sex outside of marriage is a lie… and a mortal sin at
that! This includes masturbation—self- stimulation to induce sexual pleasure (see CCC 2352);
adultery—infidelity to one’s spouse (see CCC 2380-84); fornication—sexual acts between an
unmarried male and female (see CCC 2353), or uncommitted cohabitation in “free unions” or
“trial marriages” (see CCC 2390-91); prostitution or harlotry—sexual acts done for gain (see
CCC 2355). Besides being a lie, extra-marital sex may include violence: rape—forced sexual acts
against an unwilling victim (see CCC 2356); incest or child abuse—sexual acts with close
relatives or with minor children; polygamy—having multiple spouses (see CCC 2387);
homosexual acts, etc.

Any action, word, willed desire—whether alone or with another—that detracts from true
marital love is disordered. Such acts are mortal sins if fully voluntary, but are venial sins if we
were only partially aware or we partially consented to the sin.