Are cohabiting Catholics always “living in sin”?


Are cohabiting Catholics always “living in sin”? Two respected family ministry researchers argue “no” and suggest the recovery of an ancient ritual for those moving toward marriage.


Have you read this garbage? Wow, I usually try giving researchers some mercy in judging their work, but Lawler and Risch are off their rockers.

This reminds me of when my brother came back from a college theology class and said, “our class talked about when life begins today and decided 21 days b/c that’s when brain function begins”. Wow Bryan, that’s great, a room full of 19 year old kids got together, discussed for 20 minutes and want to over rule what hundreds of priests and theologians were revealed through thousands of hours in study and prayer.
Where was the teacher to knock you all in the head and teach what the experts know?

These guys suggest an order of:
Betrothal - public consent to wed in the future & blessing.
Nuptial cohabitation - live as spouses with community support.
Sex - duh.
Wedding - now call the betrothal a wedding.

1st there may be a reason that Gratian of Bologna’s little compromies was overruled by the Council of Trent. Probably b/c Gratian’s model called for people to be indissolubly betrothed the second the had sex. So, really he just changed the name wedding to betrothal and now crack pots Lawler and Risch want to put a second wedding at the end of it all.

Then they sing campfire songs about the blessings of a “double committment”. Something that isn’t Biblical, isn’t canonical, and isn’t logical. What’s the point of the second marriage again?

Is it just so we don’t have to get an annulment when we break our betrothal? Is it some attempt to give sex to people without making them commit?

Does anyone think the Church would fall for this or will give Capts. Crazy a seconds real consideration? No. No. No.

This is just to stir media support for whatever their causes are. To get young Catholics riled and disobedient. To get their names out in a field that’s usually ignored. Whatever, it’s rediculous.


:eek: :eek:

That’s honestly what it sounded like to me.

Since troubled marriages tend to dissolve in the first year, can you imagine how many discarded “betrothals” there would be? And they want this to be sanctioned by the church. Can you imagine the broken hearts?? It would be a mockery of what marriage is. Marriage doesn’t come with a trial period. Period.


we tried this arguement on our parents and pastors, my kids tried this argument on us, this argument has probably been used by Catholic youth from time immemorial and the answer is always the same: no honey, I don’t think so, not as long as we are supporting you and not if you want us to pay for the wedding, do I have “stupid” stamped on my forehead? It is, was, and always will be a mortal sin to engage in sex before marriage for this reason, the reason behind all mortal sin: it will hurt you as individuals, it will damage your marriage, possibly beyond repair, it will destroy your growth in intimacy by derailing that growth through too early sexual activity, it will explode in your face years down the line and you will have to deal with its evil effects.


European history is sprinkled with the consequences, sometimes leading to war, of broken betrothals (which were enacted usually by ambassadors and emmisaries) which were binding for royal families. No, sex was not allowed before marriage, they hammered that rule out as well. Yes if a betrothal between two royal personages had been sealed formally in front of a cleric (usually a bishop) a formal process similar to an annulment had to take place before either was free to marry someone else. Among the kings inconvenienced by this rule were Charlemagne, Richard the Lionheart, and several misc. kings of France and Spain.


If a couple is co-habiting and SLEEPING together (i.e having sexual relations) they are living in sin. Mortal sin.

If they are living together chastely, they are still placing themselves in the temptation of sin, not to mention committing the sin of scandal (setting a real bad example to everyone else around them.) Period.


Exactly. It is always a sin, or an occasion for sin.

And don’t believe anything you read in USCatholic. If you want a *Catholic *magazine, read This Rock or Crisis.


This article is a good reminder of why I cancelled my brief subscription to this “catholic” magazine. Talk about confusing the faithful!


There is another aspect to this theory that if you’re engaged you should be allowed to have sex. It’s a mortal sin, as we agree. It cuts us off from God’s grace.

Premarital sex causes more divorces for a good reason:

Not every engagement should result in a wedding. Sometimes people get engaged in the heat of the moment, or too soon in a relationship. If you are sleeping with someone because you think you’re going to marry them, you are cutting yourself off from God’s grace. Any decision you make in that state will be suspect. Including the decision to proceed with the wedding.

So then you get married. You confess your sins (hopefully not in that order.) and you are in the state of grace. Then you realize truths that your mind was clouded from while you were in the state of mortal sin. You realize your wedding should not have taken place. How many couples are in this position?

Bad advice there. It compounds the problem. There is a reason competent priests tell couples who are cohabiting that they must live apart before a wedding can take place.


The Catechism says “the spouses as ministers of Christ’s grace mutually confer upon eachother the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church” (CCC 1623)

In theory then, a Catholic cohabiting couple could marry without a nuptial mass, all they’d need to do would be to make a valid promise to one another before another Catholic as witness, right?

All the same, they would then be married not betrothed or any other terminology.

What would happen to such a couple if they then wanted a Church wedding?


You need an official witness. That is usually the priest or deacon. Plus the maid of honor and best man. They sign the marriage papers also. If you wanted to have a nuptial Mass afterwards, I don’t think you can do that. The best you could hope for is a renewal of vows. Otherwise you are trying to repeat the sacrament.

Maybe I’m wrong on this. I’ve never tried it.

Marriage is a public sacrament. And you need to have the state legal apparatus also. In the USA, we’re one of the few countries that allows the religious ceremony to also be the civil ceremony making it a civilly binding union. Most Europeans have to go to the courthouse and then do the church ceremony separately. Our priests and deacons are delegated authorities by the state to be witnesses to the union.

So even if you did your vows in secret to each other, you are not married in the eyes of the law.


A betrothal isn’t a wedding, it’s a formal engagement. You have all the same duties of committment that you will when you’re married but you can’t have sex yet. It’s still part of Orthodox weddings, my wife and I were betrothed, granted it was right before the wedding as is done now. Though traditionally the betrothal ceremony and the wedding were separated by weeks or months.


Re - all they’d need to do would be to make a valid promise to one another before another Catholic as witness, right? No that isn’t what it says. It says by expressing their consent before the Church" It is within the power of the Church to define what that means. It has been defined to mean before two witnesses and an ordained cleric who has jurisdiction - Bishop, pastor, or his delegate.


** The priest (or deacon) who assists at the celebration of a marriage receives the consent of the spouses in the name of the Church and gives the blessing of the Church. The presence of the Church’s minister (and also of the witnesses) visibly expresses the fact that marriage is an ecclesial reality.


My cousin (God Bless her) emailed me the other night to tell me that her and her fiance might be moving in together. They’re not having sex, and yes, I believe her, but get this… her PRIEST who is a MONSIGNOR told her this was okay!!! :mad: I emailed her and told her that this priest has done a great disservice to her by telling her that it was okay to live together so long as you’re not having sex. I mentioned the occasion of sin, and sin of scandal…she emailed me back today and said she wasn’t “expecting” my reaction to the email. I guess in my mind I was just looking out for her.

So since this priest said it was okay, they’re looking for apartments. Nice going, Father.


Are cohabiting Catholics always “living in sin”?

Not always!
If one thinks he can sin for living with his g/f, then it is his problem. Just because he commits sins, it doesn’t mean that all do.

While the Church does not encourage people to share places together, in some cases when a couple has a no choice for some limited amount of time.

For eg: what if he does have any family with no job nor money, and the only person who can help him is his g/f. She has an extra room for him to stay until he’s on his own feet. They live as a roommate. Would we judge them by saying they are in mortal state of sins?


I have always looked at living together, as inviting ‘near occasion’ to sin into one’s life. It’s getting close to a flame…that might turn into an inferno…why tempt fate? Not that people cannot have premarital sex, and not live together-we know that this happens, daily in our society.

But, two chaste people will end up being more tempted to sin, if they live together. Just my thoughts.


That is true, but this is a different issue comparing to the original question.


Trying to frame the question in extremes to slide it under a sort of “reasonable doubt” is just avoiding the issue. Cohabitational relationships rarely, if ever, do not include fornication. The issue for Christians should NEVER be how close to the fire can I get without being burned. It should always be how do I stay as far away from the first as I can. When you place yourself into a situation where sin is likely of your own violation then that in and of itself is sinful.



And it begs the questions, “Why would you do it?”

I don’t think I’ve ever heard an absolutely compelling reason or need to cohabitate. And the ones I do hear are very shakey at best. I know they all say money issues - but how much would you spend to receive God’s grace?

Is there really an expense issue so compelling as to make you leave your current place of residence and cohabitate with someone you profess to love and care about so much but it would cause them to be lead into possible sin?

If you want to commit - then commit and get married. If not - stay home with your folks and pray for the patience to wait until you are married. My wife and I did it in the 80’s - it didn’t kill us to wait until after college to get married and get a place of our own together. It made us stronger for the 25 years we have been married.


Can anybody please answer the original question without saying a coupld should or should not cohabitate?

We all know too well we shouldn’t be, but please answer the original question. So far, I’ve seen ltbpoe43 answered “yes”.

I personally don’t want to judge anyone if they are sinful or not.
My answer to the OP’s question is: “Not always” because I just simply don’t know every single case …every single heart.

It is up to you to judge others – not me!

What does the Church say? Does the Church condemn those who cohabitate or say that you are sinful for that? or the Church only gives advice?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit