[quote="soreofhing, post:1, topic:181395"]
Good Morning to you all.
I am not Catholic so have decided to ask those who know.
At present I am writing a historical novel set in Liverpool, England in 1862.
One of the characters, an unmarried, 15 year old, Irish, Catholic girl has consentual premarital sex with a 17 year old, unmarried, Protestant boy. As a consequence, she becomes pregnant. She regrets her actions and goes to confess at her local Catholic church.
Now my questions are these:
What sort of penance would a reasonable priest have stipulated for this sin, at those times? Would it have been regarded as a mortal sin? Or what kind of sin?
In addition to the penance, would the priest have recommended that they marry? If so, what would have been the complications, bearing in mind that the boy was Protestant? The couple were infatuated with each other, and he would have done anything to marry her.
As you can see, my ignorance of the Catholic church is enormous.
With best wishes for a Happy New Year.
I don't know offhand what the penance might have been, however, I might be able to point you in the direction of finding-out. In the 19th century, confession "manuals" were very popular. These were books with lists of sins and suggested penances. They were a newer version of the old Irish or English Penitentials (which served the same purpose), although the older penitentials (going back to the middle ages) were more severe. A Catholic university library will probably have some copies (ie some kind of reprints) of "Penitentials" or "Confession Manuals" You might even get lucky and find a manual from the late 19th or early 20th century. It's worth a trip to a Catholic Univ. library, or even a non-Catholic one that would be large enough to have such things in their collection.
Be careful on the dates though, because you don't want to reference one from the middle ages, because the penance would be more severe, and possibly unrealistic
Here's a start
Yes, it would have been regarded as a mortal sin.
It would not be adultery because neither is married; instead it would be "fornication" but most likely, it would be described in polite conversation as a "sin against the 6th commandment"
The priest might (but probably not) have recommended that they get married (he's your character after all), but most likely the fictional priest would recommend that the girl go to a convent, have the baby there, and give the baby up for adoption (ie, send the child to an orphanage or to be raised in a monastery). I don't know if that last part would fit in with your plot. He might even have recommended that the girl become a nun.
The priest would probably not recommend that a Catholic girl marry a Protestant boy--at the time, that sort of thing was possible, but very very much discouraged. The Catholic Church did not have a single code of canon law until 1918--much too late for your book, so canon law won't be of much help here; unless of course you can locate a canon law historian who would be familiar with the canons in place in England at the time. They would have needed a dispensation from the local bishop at the very least, most likely a dispensation from Rome.
If marriage was a consideration, the priest would have recommended that the boy convert to Catholicism first, then the priest would marry them in a somewhat private setting (like the rectory parlor, but not the church building). There was no RCIA back then, so the priest could have just "received him into the Church" (as we say today) in a brief ceremony that could have been done the same day.
Good luck with the book.