Mixed messages on premarital unchastity and other sexual sins


#1

Hi everyone! First of all, I am going to make some generalizations here and I apologize in advance. Been pretty busy lately, but checked in on CAF today and I saw yet another topic where someone asks for help dealing with a spouse’s sexual past, and is quickly barraged by posters who tell him to “just get over it” as if a sexual past really is no big deal, that not caring about it at all is the most rational response. Sexual sin seems to be treated as no bigger a sin than someone, say, shoplifting, or missing Mass, etc, since most people would see such sins, though technically mortal sins, as being readily excusable and forgettable, as opposed to sins like murder, rape, etc., that I think most would agree that the average person would find hard to forgive, even if that is the saintly response, even if a murderer or rapist has gone to confession. I guess I could compare it to “soft” drugs like marijuana vs “hard” drugs like cocaine and heroin, that many people see sexual sin as “soft” sin, not a “hard” sin like murder.

Which would actually make sense to me, except that I also have read so many posts that give me the impression that sexual sin is a really big deal, much more so than nonsexual sins. I’m not even talking about actual intercourse here. I’m talking about when people harshly judge women who dress in an immodest fashion, even suggesting they be kicked out of Mass. I’m also talking about the many topics (more in Moral Theology) where a young person (often a man) will ask “how far is too far”, and many claim that even kissing is going too far, unless it’s the kind of dry peck the man would feeling comfortable giving his beloved in front of Grandma. Or even, the kind of peck he’d give Grandma herself.

Interestingly, I have often seen the argument made that the young man shouldn’t do anything that he’d have a problem with if his future wife had done with another man. Maybe the people making this argument aren’t the same people who are saying to actual married men, “you shouldn’t have a problem with ANYTHING your wife did before she married you”! Maybe. But I can easily see such a man, trying to keep chaste, being confused. “So I’m not supposed to do anything that this girl’s future husband would be bothered by…but if he does get bothered, even if we had full-on sex, then there’s something wrong with him?” Why this complete contradiction?

Or, people who caution young people that sexual activity can create strong bonds and ties between people, even if they don’t intend to, because sex is inherently unitive. No one jumps into those threads and says “BUT if you confess the sin the bond will disappear!” Yet it seems to be assumed that a person who has sex with one person (or many people) but goes on to marry someone else, that all these ties are instantly severed because “she chose YOU to marry, not those other men” and do not affect the marriage at all. Again, I find this contradictory. And perhaps not even realistic…for example, many married people do wind up falling into adultery with former flames.

And as a woman, I am very confused by the idea that women who dress in a halter top and mini-skirt deserve no forgiveness, no charity, but should be judged harshly as trollops who tempt men to sin…but women who actually do sin with men in terms of actually having sex with them, deserve complete forgiveness and understanding, to the point that anyone who has a problem with that actually has a problem himself.

Now, I can understand a little bit why women would have a problem with a man who wants a virgin, because most women out there know that the chance of marrying a man who is a virgin is so small that holding out for a virgin really isn’t practical. I can see why they’d be annoyed that men have a better chance of finding a virgin, enough to proclaim that they would only seek virgins to marry. (Although it is somewhat unfair if the man looking for a virgin is a virgin himself).

But I really am confused. Can someone help me out here?


#2

If were talking about the same thread (I think we are) it was more like, "Poor guy, I know how you feel" rather than my response, which was, "Get over it".

I'll help you out-it doesn't matter what you were, it matters who you are now.


#3

To me the "you have to move on" comes in because the people who are having issues are doing so by holding past sins over their spouses head. I don't know about you but if my husband suddenly had an issue like this and felt this way about me after we were already married, that would be really bad news. I definitely wouldn't want to share my life with someone that made me feel as though I weren't good enough or somehow hadn't made up for my past yet or were worst of all "damaged goods". Yikes, I think I would run away screaming from a relationship like that!

Trollops in Mass (LOL) and being severe about kissing/foreplay etc before marriage is a different issue in my opinion. People giving advice on these subjects are trying to keep someone from sinning or being led into sin. With the past sexual issues, what's done is done. How much blood do you want those people to sweat before you'll feel better about it?


#4

Saint Augustine had an um "interesting" past and he moved beyond it


#5

I understand that people trying to steer people away from committing sexual sin in the first place have a different purpose than those trying to be charitable and forgiving. But I actually am getting the feeling after reading all these posts that some of these dire warnings of the consequences of sexual sin are just scare tactics on the level of "Reefer Madness", greatly exaggerating the negative consequences in the hope that the message will get through...and I wonder if some others might get the message, pick up on the inconsistency, and conclude that the whole chastity message is bogus.

Now, I understand that we shouldn't be heaping hot coals on those who can't change the past. But the "just get over it" attitude to me, assumes that whatever issue the person is having is minor, irrelevant, no big deal. Premarital sex is either a big deal, or it isn't. It can't be a big deal when you're trying to convince someone not to do it, but not a big deal when counseling someone who's already done it. At least, that's what I think.


#6

I haven't seen the other thread that you are talking about, but I see two things worth mentioning. The first has already been mentioned - that is, a person should try to move past the previous sins of another person. It's not about the severity of the sin, but that the person is not God and therefore is not in a position to judge. It is even advisable to get over your own confessed sins, and not hold onto the guilt.

There is a marvellous book by C.S. Lewis called Mere Christianity, which talks in part about sin, and he says that while a lot of people think that sexual sin is the greatest, it isn't. He says that pride is the greatest sin because it is the only non-physical sin. That is, other sins are influenced by the flesh - gluttony, lust, jealousy etc. Pride is purely spiritual, and therefore has no other excuse (or something like that). The degree of badness of a sin is very subjective, that is, for each person a particular act may be more or less sinful depending on their state at the time. If they were not Catholic when they committed it, they are less culpable. If they knew exactly what they were doing and consciously did it anyway, then they are more culpable. This is for God to judge.

Second, there is a lot in Catholicism that is absolute, and then there is a lot that is subject to opinion. We all have to be very careful when giving advice because it is easy to think that we are absolutely right, when it is a matter of opinion. This is why we have wonderful apologists and priests who can give us wise answers and advice in specific situations we find ourselves in.

God didn't give us all the answers, neatly written and easily interpreted. He made it kind of hard to figure out sometimes. That is why we need to pray constantly and trust in Him to guide us. I think He didn't give us all the answers because then our obedience means more in our uncertainty. I believe He is satisfied with our imperfect reasoning and actions if we have truly and humbly tried to do the right thing.

I hope that made some sense, I think I'm rambling a bit.


#7

[quote="ToeInTheWater, post:5, topic:252462"]
I understand that people trying to steer people away from committing sexual sin in the first place have a different purpose than those trying to be charitable and forgiving. But I actually am getting the feeling after reading all these posts that some of these dire warnings of the consequences of sexual sin are just scare tactics on the level of "Reefer Madness", greatly exaggerating the negative consequences in the hope that the message will get through...and I wonder if some others might get the message, pick up on the inconsistency, and conclude that the whole chastity message is bogus.

Now, I understand that we shouldn't be heaping hot coals on those who can't change the past. But the "just get over it" attitude to me, assumes that whatever issue the person is having is minor, irrelevant, no big deal. Premarital sex is either a big deal, or it isn't. It can't be a big deal when you're trying to convince someone not to do it, but not a big deal when counseling someone who's already done it. At least, that's what I think.

[/quote]

The thing that needs to be understood, I think is that everything in life is about either growing in virtue or growing in vice. Its not just "Ok you do this and God is going to punish you." Premarital sex, like many sexual sins, is the result of giving into the vice of lust. When you give into a vice, that vice grows and it rules over you more. It becomes harder to resist. It is much easier for a person to remain a virgin until marriage than to be in a sexually active relationship, recommit to waiting for marriage and actually abstain from i/c till they're married. However on the same token it is easier for a person who has been living out chastity for awhile (not masturbating, avoiding personal near occassions of sin, etc) to wait for marriage for awhile than it is for say a child just going through puberty struggling with new temptations. The practice of virtue builds positive habits which help you later down the line to practice virtue.

What is far more important is marrying someone who has cultivated chastity in their heart (good virteous habits) than it is to marry someone who just hasn't committed a specific sin. There is nothing virtious about having never committed a sin that you've experienced no temptation to commit and have never had the remotest opportunity to commit. That doesn't mean we ought to be running into near occassion of sin to build up our power to resist sin. What it means is that its more about what is in our will and heart than what we've done. What choices we make reflects what is in our heart and impacts our heart.

Its important to remember that chastity is a virtue that helps married couples in their sexual lives. It helps them to have respect for each other sexually, it prevents them from demeaning and using each other. It is the path to discovering God's design for sexuality and revel in the mystery of the marital embrace. There are elements to it that simply cannot exist without the foundation of marriage. As a woman who is married, I can say that what I experience as the marital embrace with my husband almost seems like an entirely different thing than what is spoken of in the secular culture. What is spoken of is profane. It degrades the act. It is like listen to a bunch of people who live their lives eating raw cookie dough that they don't even have any concept of what a real cookie is.

Premarital sex doesn't ruin a person. It simily cultivates lust and thus the lust ruins a person. But the lust at any part of someone's life can be crowded out with virtue so that the person does repent turn around and learn to lead a chaste life. There are people who've eaten the raw cookie dough and then later learn to be patient enough to wait for the cookie dough to be cooked in the oven till its completely done.


#8

Here's an interesting way to look at it. Say someone is living chaste when you meet them but has a sexual past. Compare that with a convert to the Catholic Church. Do you continue to hold the convert up to the moral standards of the Catholic Church before they converted to the same standard that you would hold someone that wasn't chaste in their life before they decided they wanted a chaste life? Wouldn't you hold anyone up to the standards of the life they profess at the point they profess? So to judge someone on the life of chastisty before they made a commitment to the standard of chastisty and morality is unfair, correct?


#9

[quote="ToeInTheWater, post:1, topic:252462"]

I saw yet another topic where someone asks for help dealing with a spouse's sexual past, and is quickly barraged by posters who tell him to "just get over it" as if a sexual past really is no big deal, that not caring about it at all is the most rational response. Sexual sin seems to be treated as no bigger a sin than someone, say, shoplifting, or missing Mass, etc,

And as a woman, I am very confused by the idea that women who dress in a halter top and mini-skirt deserve no forgiveness, no charity, but should be judged harshly as trollops who tempt men to sin...but women who actually do sin with men in terms of actually having sex with them, deserve complete forgiveness and understanding, to the point that anyone who has a problem with that actually has a problem himself.

[/quote]

I think you have made some valid observations. There is indeed a variety of opinions out there on these matters. I'd like to address the two paragraphs above and try to explain what the issues are.

  1. Getting over other people's past and their sexual sins. This definitely falls under the 'don't judge' category. We all sin in this way or the other and thus should not judge other people for their sins. Simple as that. Many posters will fanatically repeat this, as you have noticed. But on the other hand, all sin has consequences. Even when the sin is forgiven the consequences don't just magically go away. They can leave a mark on that person's soul , and that past sin can also hurt other people. That is reality and unfortunately we just have to live with it. Obviously, we are free not to get involved with people whose sexual past we can't handle, and that is ok. (I've always had a list of deal breakers when it came to dating, things I simply couldn't deal with).
    So in the end it all comes down to whether people repent of their sins and change their life. A person who perhaps had a sexually promiscuous past but now lives a chaste life and is genuinely repentant is not on us to judge, but to love and support. The past sins are a big deal but it is not on us to judge. Whether someone alse experiences hurt because of them is a different issue. So the reply "oh, just get over it" is not the best advice imo because it seems flippant and disrespectful to someone's pain. There were many thoughtful responses on that thread which addressed the problem in a better, more mature way.

  2. I think you have missunderstood the modesty issue. Nobody is saying that a woman who dresses in a certain way doesn't deserve forgivness. I'm not sure if this is a forgivness issue at all. What people debate is what is appropriate in terms of clothes. Some think they are free to wear whatever they like, and others that there is an objective standard we should all follow, both to show respect to God and to other people. So at the same time we shouldn't judge but should be aware of what is right and try to help others in that department as well.

Easy, right? :D

I guess our religion is full of difficult stuff, maybe even contradictions. It is difficult to discuss these things on a forum, things often come out in a cold way where posters seem to be bent on the law and have no regard for other people. I personally think that most of us are not like that in real life.


#10

high moral standards = high forgiveness standards ;)


#11

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