Why the Church teaches no sex before marriage

I previously read “The Good News About Sex and Marriage” and attempted to read “Love and Responsibility” (too thick for me).

It’s been awhile since I read “The Good News…” and I forget the moral justification given for why we restrict sex to marriage. Specifically I’m interested in both the secular and theological reasons for this, as I can’t remember what they were.


For one thing, sex before marriage is forbidden because God said so: thou shalt not commit fornication (sex before marriage.)

For another thing, sex is sacred between marital partners. It unifies a man and wife into one body, mind, and heart, both physically and mentally. When you wait to have sex until marriage, then neither the husband nor the wife have anyone to compare it to. It is satisfying and wonderful with that person, and always will be.

Third, sex isn’t something you use to “try out” on a potential spouse. There are another 23-1/2 hours of a day to live with that person. How they treat you in the rest of that time far outways those few minutes of intimacy. A potential marriage partner should be your best friend first and foremost, then your lover.

The commandment is: thou shalt not commit adultery. Not fornication.

Religious point of view:

Because sex was created for marriage. It is a gift meant to join two people into one in an emotional and physical entanglement to bring them closer together as a couple and to produce “fruit” of that love, one of the “fruits” is in the form of having children, which can be said to be a living sign of the love between spouses. So, anything that takes away from how the act is done, or in the manner in which it is done, thereby perverts its purpose and commits sin. So, anything that detracts from its purpose is using it in a way that goes against what it was designed for, meaning that it is going against God’s will for how it is to be used. These purposes also lend to why rape, masturbation, homosexual sex, and contraception are immoral.

Secular point of view:

It just makes sense. If you restrict sex to those who are married, then you restrict the situation in which children are brought into the world (ie. into a complete household). Studies show, as single mothers and fathers could probably tell you themselves, that raising a child is more difficult on one’s own, and in being married, there is the commitment to stay together and help raise the children together and to provide for them in every way. This also reduces the number of “unwanted” child births thereby reducing abortion rates and contraceptive use. Also, with tax benefits and such, raising a child is easier in a marriage.

One could say that they could use contraception outside of a marriage, but contraceptive pills are dangerous and men would rather not wear a condom. Also regardless of how “safe” you are being, contraception can fail, especially condoms. Also, with sex outside of marriage or commitment, there is an increase in the number of STDs. If sex were only ever performed in marriage, there wouldn’t be the worry of STDs anywhere near to the extent that we have today.

One could also talk about abortion, but abortion is wrong, but that’s another argument.

In conclusion:

Why? Because God says it’s wrong, and it just makes sense.

I’ve been recently thinking about how the rate of American babies born out of wedlock is 40% (I read somewhere that, prior to the 1960’s, it hovered around 4%). That’s pretty remarkable! I was extremely fortunate to receive the childhood that I did, and I’m guessing that a lot of those kids born out of wedlock will never know such a stable bedrock on which to lay the foundation of their life. Sex is not merely an act between two consenting adults, and the aforementioned statistic supports that position. That’s a big reason why the Church takes such a strong, uncompromising stand on sexuality, and not on things like gardening techniques or badminton. A person who was born out of wedlock can absolutely have a good and fulfilling life, but the optimal circumstance is a mom and a dad raising a child within the loving stability of a committed marriage. When we engage in premarital sex, we’re potentially putting something as significant as someone’s childhood at risk.

I realize this conclusion isn’t as clear on its own, so I wish to restate.

In conclusion:

Why? Because God says sex outside of marriage is wrong and sex is made for marriage, and it just makes sense.

Moral considerations aside, I’m going to speak for every man that isn’t asexual here and say that I’d much rather have sex with a condom than not at all. Just saying, tough to pretend that sex isn’t enjoyable. Of course, you can’t just sweep moral considerations aside either…

Yes but fornication, masturbation etc is captured under that Commandment.

This is a misunderstanding of the commandment.

I don’t think so. Adultery is not fornication. Hence the different words.

That may be, but I think it’s better to be accurate. Adultery warranted death.

You are correct, adultery and fornication are two different sexual sins.

The sixth commandment deals with ALL sexual sin. The enumeration we have when reciting the ten commandments is simply shorthand, not intended to be taken literally as the entirety of the commandment. When you read the bible it is clear that many sexual sins (and other types of sins) were enumerated in the Torah all of which can be categorized under these main, easy to memorize, headings. This is reinforced in the New Testament as well.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says this: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Sixth and Ninth to cover all sexual sins. Fornication is coveting (even actualizing it via sexual acts) one’s future spouse.

Because the consequences of the sexual act are too much for the level of commitment before marriage.

Before marriage is a time of building up the personal and social relationship. When sex enters the picture, this process often gets shortchanged.

Before marriage, sex is focused on the pleasure of the couple, and they are in a sense using the other person for their own good, and not submitting to the requirements of love, which demand serving the good of the other person.

Before marriage, a child is most often a burden, a “mistake”. After marriage, a child is a gift. That difference alone speaks volumes.

Before marriage, the giving of self in sex is a lie–because there is no commitment to give oneself totally. After marriage, one can rightly give oneself totally, holding nothing back.

Waiting for marriage promotes respect, discipline, communication, patience, sacrifice. What virtues help build up a good marriage? Respect, discipline, communication, patience, and sacrifice are a good place to start. (Incidentally, we see a similar difference between birth control and natural family planning.)

These two sins where in the noahide laws too weren’t they?

Praying the Rosary put me into a point that I had no desire to sin sexually. Then I allowed myself to become tempted. The devil didn’t make me do it. No person made me do it. I was responsible and let my guard down. God is perfect and we aren’t. I’d rather listen to God than flesh.

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