Un-Married Intimacy


I have been looking for OFFICIAL Catholic teaching on intimacy between un-married couples and find LOTS of opinions but no real “rules”.

It seems “sex” lies somewhere between “french” kissing and coitus as per CA opinions. Even a prolonged kiss or embrace a “sin” per opinion.

If this is so does one lose their virginity by heavy petting? Even tactile manipulations?

I figure sex is an act that violates virginity. Other more lustful acts I will refrain from being graphic about certainly being sins of lust and passion but NOT mortal/grave sins of fornication (based on the 3 standards of mortal sin being met)

I firmly believe SEX is reserved for married heterosexual couples and contraception shows a lack of trust in God.

BUT lacking a firm definition how can any of us call any other acts between unmarried couples sin? Is this not in and of itself a sin of judgement?

I’m not looking for loop holes. I just don’t want to be running to confession every other day because I french kissed my girl friend or caressed her breasts even in a gentle loving manner. She is beautiful enough that I am aroused upon sight so that could be considered a sin. This sans lustful thoughts, just a wonderful inspired reaction I do not fuel as much as possible.

So aside from opinions can someone provide citations from “official” church teaching on the limits of physical contact between and man and a women.

Respectfully, Please keep your “opinions” to yourself.

Oh yes…I am in a new town and my parish has no priest at present and has not for some months. We get visiting priests and even the Bishop pitches in but no steady confessor. Sure I can go to another parish but this one needs my support.




There’s no point in engaging in this discussion. As long as a guy has his brains in his crotch, the BVM herself could stand in his front yard with a sign that says, “Respect your girlfriend and yourself!” and he would still demand to hear it from a higher authority.

That’s a rather sexist statement.

and you’ve opened a can-o-worms here too.
other than the actual physical act, you’re not going to find a list of you can do this, but not that, and that, but not this, and don’t touch here or there, or stick you tongue in more that between 1mm or 3mm because at 4mm you’re in mortal sin.

OK with that said, the easy part:
Physical intercourse, in any manner what so ever is reserved for husband and wife to be celebrated within the context of a sacramental marriage. This includes all fore-play or other activities that would normally lead to physical intercourse.

Other than that, we have to start looking at intent an understanding of persons involved and that can get murky.
Simple holding of hands does not violate the rules.
Simple, quick kiss, most likely doesn’t result in sin.
A simple full-on mouth kiss would not in-an-of-itself violate the rules; however, if you or your girl-friend couldn’t stop and you go on to the “heavy petting”, lustful thoughts, maybe leading to the act… then you let yourself be influenced by the near-occasion of sin and you should most likely take it to the confessional.

What I highly advise are the following documents,

(we use a program for our teens based on the following two documents:)
-Also Pope St. JP2 - GENERAL AUDIENCES: JOHN PAUL II’S THEOLOGY OF THE BODY along with his actual book which you can find in/on any Catholic bookstore either online or brick-n-motar.

  • Patrick Coffin’s book, Sex au Naturel ( patrickcoffin.net/ )

  • Unfortunately the book I like to goto for things like this, The CCC, has this spread all over the text from 355 thru 2360 so it’s a very hard thing to decipher.

Now, once again, you’ve opened a can of worms here so try to keep an open mind.


No, it doesn’t have to be half that dramatic. Please quote one authority, point me in a direction to find church teaching as opposed to opinions.

The problem is there are other sources of opinions on the interweb and I have found some that suggest fornication not a grave sin (IT IS IMO!).

I’d like to be able to spell it out in no uncertain terms, sit with a book and explain the bounds we are expected to behave within. I read on CA can be off set by I read it elsewhere.



You want a specific Church document on a non specific idea?

Holiness and Purity are pretty easy concepts to understand when you are not driven by lust.:shrug:

:thumbsup: It really is quite simple.

There is extensive information about chastity in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, to sum up: Keep your hands to yourself.

Hopefully you are not planning the defense “well the Church doesn’t have an official document so I am free to do as I wish”, because that is already setting off on the wrong foot.

Here is the CCC on the Sixth Commandment which puts the main focus of chastity in our sexual lives…


Here is a great website to help answer your questions:


This is a sexist and offensive statement. In my early 20s it was my non-practicing Catholic girlfriend who kept pressuring me to engage in sinful acts - as a young man who was trying to live his faith, I resisted for many months before certain things happened after being “worn down”. I am not making excuses for myself, but it was certainly the woman and not the man who was “pushing” for greater intimacy. The fact that it never progressed to the level of intercourse was also due to me firmly putting my foot down as well.

I’m presuming that allegra’s response would be non-sexist if it were simply revised to apply to both sexes.

This is another good resource that draws on the teachings of St John Paul from Love and Responsibility.


(Gosh I love saying “St John Paul”. :heaven: )

I don’t know about official documents, but speaking very practically, this works:

–no genital contact
–no touching of areas covered by swimsuits
–no touching of non-genital areas that either finds particularly stimulating
–physical affection needs to be appropriate to the relationship–the physical activities should be an expression of the relationship, rather than driving the relationship.
–pace yourself
–don’t do anything that makes you lose control or feel close to losing control, even if it’s not on the list.

That’s why people upthread were saying this is easy–it’s a question of self-knowledge and self-monitoring and self-control, rather than a question of particular rules.

And, as a matter of fact, this has life-long utility even during marriage for stuff like avoiding inappropriate behavior with women not your wife, as well as weathering the inevitable periods of abstinence within marriage. Obviously, married people are able to give themselves more latitude, but there continues to be a need for self-control and pacing (particularly as regards NFP–if you have good reason to delay having a baby, don’t drive your future wife mad with passion mid-cycle).

“I’m not looking for loop holes. I just don’t want to be running to confession every other day because I french kissed my girl friend or caressed her breasts even in a gentle loving manner.”

The latter is exactly the kind of activity that will make chastity very hard for her. A lot of women find non-genital touching very stimulating.

You’re not even engaged–pace yourself.

“She is beautiful enough that I am aroused upon sight so that could be considered a sin.”

It’s not a sin to have involuntary reactions, but it is sinful to linger over them.

In general, if one is struggling to avoid actual sin (and that’s the vibe I’m getting from your post), it’s a good sign that one needs to dial down one’s activities.

By the way, this is much more a pastoral and a practical problem than a doctrinal one and the correct answers are going to vary from person to person, so it’s not reasonable to expect a definitive doctrinal answer.

There’s never going to be a creed that mentions French kissing.

El Paso said:

“I firmly believe SEX is reserved for married heterosexual couples and contraception shows a lack of trust in God.”

Contraception is wrong, and there is a very strong Christian tradition of it being wrong, but it isn’t wrong because it shows “a lack of trust in God.”

You might want to start a separate thread on this, either in family life or in moral theology.

I’m sorry for offending you. Women who let hormones and feelings dictate their actions are also unlikely to use common sense in regards to chastity.

His statement didn’t mean that contraception itself is wrong because it shows a lack of trust in God. But many couples fall to the sin of contraception because they fail to fully trust God. Notice the difference in those statements: the intrinsic morality of an action and the temptations or vices that lead to committing an immoral action can be different ideas.

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