I will try to emulate St. Thomas Aquinas’ style from his epic Summa Theologica in answering the question, is making out before marriage a sin?
St. Thomas was a brilliant theologian and philosopher who was given the grand title, ‘Universal Doctor of the Church.’ His argumentation on virtually every topic remains the groundwork for much of Catholic thought to this day.
Thomas was never, it seems, in the mood to draw a straw man in refuting his opponents. He would raise their objections first, then give a summary of his response. Then he would then follow up with longer answer. In conclusion, he would refute or counter each of the objections raised in the beginning.
To find his full response to “Whether there can be mortal sin in touches and kisses,” read Article 4, of Question 154, of Second Part of the Second Part of his Summa. You can access it by clicking here.
I will replace his three objections and responses with three of my own, but still give you his answers.
(MODERN) OBJECTION 1
On the question, is making out before marriage a sin, the answer would appear to be in the negative. After all, no intercourse is taking place, and so it would seem as though it does not violate the Sixth Commandment (“Thou shall not commit adultery” [Ex 20:14]).
(MODERN) OBJECTION 2
On the question, is making out before marriage a sin, to respond in the negative seems appropriate. Making out does not appear to necessarily contradict the Ninth Commandment, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife” (Ex 20:17). This appears to be true, since the participants are not yet married.
(MODERN) OBJECTION 3
Is making out before marriage a sin? It would appear the answer is no, since making out is often meant to test sexual compatibility for those who engage in it. If this can be affirmed, then maybe such activity should even be encouraged, since it helps bring forward a good to society: namely, marriages.
ST. THOMAS’ FIRST RESPONSE
“On the contrary, A lustful look is less than a touch, a caress or a kiss. But according to Matthew 5:28, “Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Much more therefore are lustful kisses and other like things mortal sins. Further, Cyprian says (Ad Pompon, de Virgin., Ep. lxii), “By their very intercourse, their blandishments, their converse, their embraces, those who are associated in a sleep that knows neither honor nor shame, acknowledge their disgrace and crime.” Therefore by doing these things a man is guilty of a crime, that is, of mortal sin.”
ST. THOMAS’ FULL ANSWER
“I answer that, A thing is said to be a mortal sin works in two ways. First, by reason of its species, and in this way a kiss, caress, or touch does not, of its very nature, imply a mortal sin, for it is possible to do such things without lustful pleasure, either as being the custom of one’s country, or on account of some obligation or reasonable cause.
“Secondly, a thing is said to be a mortal sin by reason of its cause: thus he who gives an alms, in order to lead someone into heresy, sins mortally on account of his corrupt intention. Now it has been stated above (I-II, 74, 8), that it is a mortal sin not only to consent to the act, but also to the delectation of a mortal sin. Wherefore since fornication is a mortal sin, and much more so the other kinds of lust, it follows that in such like sins not only consent to the act but also consent to the pleasure is a mortal sin.
“Consequently, when these kisses and caresses are done for this delectation, 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” (emphasis added).
(MY) REPLY TO OBJECTION 1
The prohibition to adultery made by God Himself as the sixth commandment (Ex 20:14) should not be limited to just intercourse between two or more people who are not married to one another. The sixth commandment also prohibits lust, as Christ made clear (Matt 5:27-28). And, as Thomas points out above, passionate kissing and touching between non-married persons remains a product or subcategory of lust.
(MY) REPLY TO OBJECTION 2
Similar to St. Thomas’ longer answer above, it should be pointed out that those who make out are consenting to the pleasure associated with the act. If you reread the section, you will see this is a grave sin.
For only one’s spouse has the right to the pleasures associated with the sexual act. And certainly, making out and passionate touching are sexual acts, even if clothes are not removed.
As well, St. Thomas discusses the Commandment against coveting your neighbor’s wife, in another work of his. He points out that the Commandment serves as a chastisement toward our concupiscence. That is, this Commandment seeks to mortify our inclination toward lust.
(MY) REPLY TO OBJECTION 3
One or both persons making out before marriage will one day likely get married, and not necessarily to each other. Rather than preserve one’s self for one’s own spouse, such people are giving away something that belongs to their future spouse.
As well, encouraging this behavior between non-married persons makes them more susceptible to pushing further physical boundaries. Fornication is not far off for those who engage in passionate kissing and touching.
What do you think of this treatment on the question, is making out before marriage a sin?
Do you have another modern objection to add and a good response?
Please leave your comments below!