I am a lifelong Catholic, in my 40’s, who has always had strong faith, attended mass weekly (with a few exceptions), and have always prayed daily, observed Lent, etc. Here’s the thing - I did not go to Catholic school growing up, and my “Catholic education” ended after my confirmation as a young teenager. Meaning, I never was taught “theology of the body”, or even what things were considered moral and grave sins sexually. My parents, born and raised in Central America, never talked to us about sex, birth control, or anything in that regard. We were just assumed not to have sex until we were older, as we were raised in a very strict (not allowed to date until after high school), but loving environment. I think my parent’s M.O. was to keep my sister and I on a tight rope, so they wouldn’t really need to talk to us about sex.
Going to public schools, then off to college, with mostly all secular friends (and reading silly magazines like Cosmopolitan and others), I was surrounded by stories of sex, and how “waiting for marriage” was just an old-fashioned idea, and that “masturbation is completely normal”, etc. All this said, my “sexual moral education” came from the mass media / secular society. Somehow in my immature brain of my 20’s, I never connected the dots to think that sex before marriage, or contraception, was sinful.
It wasn’t until recently when I became very interested in learning more about Catholicism, participating in bible studies, reading Theology of the Body and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, did I realize how off track I was in my 20’s. Since I had engaged in pre-marital sex and took oral contraception before getting married, I was sinning gravely (without realizing it) and receiving the Eucharist each week at Mass. Do I need to confess these past sins (that I didn’t know were actually sins at the time) in my next confession? And, is my past sexual behavior considered “grave sins” since at the time I was completely ignorant about it? How I wish I had been taught Theology of the Body when I was growing up, and given a copy of the Catechism at my confirmation! What a difference it would have made! I’m trying not to beat myself up about it, but I do want to know if - with this revelation - if I need to go to confession about them. Thank you for your answers and feedback.