My post in June 2016 on this topic I cited, no less than, St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica.
He sought to answer the question whether passionate kissing before marriage is a mortal sin. Of course, he answered that it is. He writes, “Consequently, when these kisses and caresses are done for this delectation [a.k.a. delight], it follows that they are mortal sins, and only in this way are they said to be lustful. Therefore in so far as they are lustful, they are mortal sins” (II-II, Q. 154, A4, co.).
A MORAL THEOLOGICAL MANUAL
What follows is an excerpt on this topic from a manual on Catholic moral theology. It is called “Moral Theology: A Complete Course Based on St. Thomas Aquinas an the Best Modern Authorities,” by John A. McHugh and Charles J. Callan. It is available online for free here.
Although there exist many moral theological manuals, few of them are translated into English. This one not only is, but is available to be read for free. Its concern over the moral illicitness of passionate kissing can be found throughout the manual, and it serves representative of the manuals on moral theology, I am told.
In section 2492, impurity is given as another name for lust—the inordinate desire for sexual pleasure. We are told impurity’s object is sexual pleasure. We are also told the sin of impurity arises from “the sense of physical enjoyment in the bodily organs or of psychical satisfaction in the lower appetites of the soul derived from acts related to generation” (2492[a]).
After defining impurity as a mortal sin in section 2494(a), the moral theologians, McHugh and Callan, add the following. This is from section 2496(b) and all emphasis is my own:
“By reason of the matter, impurity according to the common teaching is always mortal if directly willed, but sometimes venial if only indirectly willed.
“Impurity is directly willed when one posits an act intending to obtain from it unlawful venereal delectation, or perceives that such delectation is already present and consents to it.
“No matter how brief this voluntary assent, no matter how slight the commotion of the animal nature, no matter how far from the consummated is the impure act in question, there is always a serious injury done to a great good or at least (exception is made for the case of married persons) the proximate danger of such injury, and hence mortal sin (see 260).
“That even slight yielding to impurity is a serious peril is the teaching of Scripture (which declares that lust has killed even the strongest, Prov., vii. 26), of the Church (which condemns the opinion that libidinous kisses are not dangerous, see Denzinger, Enchiridion, n. 1140), of theology (which reminds us that by original sin reason has been darkened, the will enfeebled and the passions strengthened), and of experience (which shows that those who expose themselves to passion’s flame will be burnt).
“A small spark of fire is not trivial in the vicinity of a powder magazine, a minute flaw in a machine is not unimportant if it may bring on disaster, a first step is not safe if it is made on a slippery downward declivity.”
The moral theologians go on to discuss the moral implications of kissing in more detail in sections 2514(a-c) and 2518(d).
SO, IS IT WRONG TO KISS BEFORE MARRIAGE? AND WHY DOES IT MATTER SO MUCH?
So, what conclusion are we to draw? Is it wrong to kiss before marriage or not?
We could reword McHugh and Callan this way: physical enjoyment of acts suitable for the procreation of marriage, outside the bounds of marriage, are always sinful. They can even be mortally sinful.
That is the point I wish to draw.
As McHugh and Callan break down in several places, this is not to say all kissing is sinful. Cultural custom or mere charity—say, toward one’s elder female relative—may warrant a kiss be given.
The sinfulness of kissing arises when those who partake in the activity are doing so outside the context of marriage inordinately. These acts are aimed toward the procreative powers. Powers, which by definition, unmarried persons, do not hold in union with one another.
So, it is wrong to kiss before marriage?
Yes, it can be. Especially passionate kissing.
Why write about it here on a pro-life blog? What’s the connection?
It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.
Of course we want to end abortion. Abortions are utilized largely by people who wish to continue fornicating without the “inconvenience” of raising any resulting children. Abortion serves as a form of birth control when the rubber and the pills fail to do their jobs. People want to keep having sex, and leave children out of it.
Thus, a way to end abortion is to end fornication. To end fornication, we would do well to warn people not to engage in activities—such as passionate kissing—that lead to intercourse.
I admit it won’t likely stop the majority of people. Still, there will be some who will be prevented, just by becoming aware of the dangers to their immortal souls.
No one is questioning the delectation of kissing. But just because something is enjoyable does not make it morally acceptable. In fact, because it’s so enjoyable means it could lead to grave sins. “For she hath cast down many wounded, and the strongest have been slain by her” (Proverbs 7:26).
Besides, when is it ever a bad thing to promote the truth? The truth will set us all free (John 8:32).
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