Post # 1
This will probably be TL;DR but I’m trying to sort out my feelings and would appreciate some advice. 🙂
I’m preparing to go to confession tonight for the first time in a long time. Long story short: raised Catholic, stopped attending church, struggled with faith for a long time, met FI, got engaged, started going back to church and found my faith again. I’m definitely a “cafeteria Catholic” in that I disagree with a lot of the church’s teaching on sexuality – I don’t believe homosexuality is gravely disordered, I can see the point of their teachings on contraception though I don’t really agree with it, and although I’m not really in favor of abortions, I think the most compassionate stance is to make sure they’re legal and safe rather than making women risk their health and liberty to obtain them. So obviously, I have a history of being at odds with their teachings on those issues, though after honest attempts at understanding the theology behind them and praying to ask God to guide my conscience to harmony with his will.
So anyway, I’m going to confession tonight and I need to confess about having pre-marital sex – but I’m having a really difficult time believing that it’s really a mortal sin. I don’t want to make a hypocritical confession, where I’m confessing it because I know I have to but I don’t really have any sort of meaningful contrition about it. I’ve read some Christopher West writings on sexuality and summaries of the Theology of the Body, I’ve thought about it and prayed about it and still this is where I find myself. A big part of me feels like, even understanding all of the reasons pre-marital sex is maybe not a great idea and agreeing that sex is a gift from God and meant to be shared in a loving union – I feel like now that we’re engaged, we are united. Even assuming, arguendo, that unitive sex is the only non-sinful kind to have, I feel like we’re not just having sex out of selfishness or just desire for pleasure or whatever, but as a way to show and strengthen our love for each other and deepen our bond. I have a really really hard time believing that God disapproves of that.
We’ve also decided to abstain for the two months leading up to our wedding. I’m cool with that, though I feel like my reasons are sort of more practical than spiritual – I think it’ll make our wedding night and honeymoon more fun and I’ll probably feel less guilty at our wedding ceremony knowing that I at least made an effort to abide by the church’s teachings. But it’s like – if someone put a plate of cookies in front of you and said, “You’re not allowed to eat those cookies” and you eat them anyway and then feel guilty. Do you feel guilty because you were told not to eat the cookies and you did anyway, or because it’s inherently wrong to eat cookies? And does that distinction matter, in God’s eyes?
Anyway, I’m curious to hear other Catholic bee’s opinions on this. And I promise not to get defensive in my replies! I’m really open to hearing different opinions.
Post # 3
I am currently reading Christoper West’s book “The Good News about Sex & Marriage”. I have to say, while it’s informative, I find his interpretations very extreme in certain areas! I think he kind of went off the deep end in the chapter about masturbation. If that is, in fact, the official teaching of the Church, well, I’m sorry, they’re off the deep end, too! LOL
My FI recommended this book to me: http://www.amazon.com/Redemptive-Intimacy-Perspective-Journey-Adult/dp/0896221237/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1364240324&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=Rdemptive+Intimacy
Apparently, it’s more moderate. I think it’s importsnt to read many perspectives on theology, as it is all about interpretation.
Like you, I differ with the Catholic Church on some issues. Namely that homosexual acts are immoral. I believe God made people homosexual for reasons we don’t yet understand. They’re not a mistake and their expressions of love are not unnatural. I believe the Church is highly misguided on this issue and making a huge mistake.
Ultimately, the Catholic Church is an imperfect organization of humans. And change comes VERY slowly in the Catholic Church. It is what it is.
Post # 4
@KatieBklyn: This is wonderful that you are seeking the Sacrament of Reconciliation! What is required for “true contrition” is acknowledging in Confession that you knowingly broke God’s law. You should mention to the Priest what you are telling us here — that you struggle with seeing how certain sins are mortal sins. He can probably give some great advice on that!
There will always be actions which don’t fully understand why they are sinful, this is all part of conversion (growing in the faith) that takes place throughout our lives. We will grow to understand God’s will. The key thing is to acknowledge that God/the Church disapproves of said actions and therefore we do not commit or support those actions.
As for your analogy about the cookies, as Catholics we have sin that cover both of these scenarios. For example, knowingly disobeying and eating meat on a Friday in Lent is a sin because you are not following the Church’s mandatory rule. The Church says that as Catholics we have to honor Jesus’ sacrifice by doing this small sacrifice during Lent. There is nothing inherently wrong about eating meat on a Friday. (This is one of the 5 Precepts of the Church)
P.S. Fellow Brooklynite here 🙂 I got married last year. Feel free to PM me.
Post # 5
I am not a Catholic. Perhaps it means I don’t really get it, but I would not personally confess anything which you do not think is a sin. Confession is a way of getting things off your chest prior to changing your ways. The idea is that you confess, do penance, and then if you are tempted again then you remember the penance and stop. If you have no intention of stopping, and you don’t think it’s wrong, I probably wouldn’t bother.
This said, I come from a branch of Christianity which focuses more heavily on personal relationships with God, so we are less keen on the idea of confession anyway… (sounds odd when I say it like that, but it makes sense in context)…
If it bothers you, I would speak to the priest about it. He’s probably heard it all before. Ours is a pretty cool guy (I’m marrying a Catholic).
Post # 6
@solidarity: Thanks! I’m going to order that book. I totally agree that it’s important to hear different theological perspectives… There’s usually a lot to consider there. And I agree that the church is currently misguided re: homosexuality. I hope that as our church continues to grow, we will all get a lot closer to changing that – but yes, change is definitely not very fast. 🙂
@Garnety: Hey Brookkynite! Thanks for that very thoughtful response. Your analogy about eating meat on Fridays is a good one – sometimes we have to respect the church’s rules even if we don’t agree with them, the same way you would respect someone’s desire to, say, keep a vegan house, even if you don’t agree that eating meat is wrong. I think that’s kind of how I feel about premarital sex for myself – I don’t feel guilty for the act itself, but I do feel a little guilty for breaking the rules of the house (or religion) that I’ve chosen to be in. And yes, it is definitely a journey!
@Rachel631: I get what you mean. 🙂 Our priest is a really cool guy, so I definitely think I could talk to him about my struggle. He was very responsive and encouraging this evening during my confession, so I think he would be a great person to talk it out with. Thank you!
Post # 7
@KatieBklyn: Not gonna lie, spending more time reading about Catholic marriage has triggered the Catholic guilt in me about premarital sex and living together. I don’t even think it’s wrong! LOL! The Church definitely has the guilt complex down.
Post # 8
@KatieBklyn: Imperfect contrition is fine for confession. Sometimes we do just obey on faith even if in our hearts we don’t “feel” its wrong. Its good to discuss these struggles with coming to grips with sexual sin in the confessional. I’ve often found that what I associate as the feeling of “guilt” is really my own wounded pride, anyway. Our conscience is not what makes us feel guilty, but rather is what helps us judge right from wrong. True guilt is an objective reality whether we have an emotion connected to it or not.
I don’t think its so much that engaging in sexual contact with someone you are engaged to is purely using a person. Certainly the couple is looking for intimacy and connection. I would rather say that there are types of intimacy reserved for marriage. Even while you’ve declared your intention to marry, you’re not husband and wife. You should not treat each other as husband and wife. Your wedding day isn’t a celebration of what you’ve developed in your dating relationship. It is a new beginning – the birth. The engagement is like the pregnancy. Yes you want to hold that baby so much, but God makes us wait for a reason. It’ll be better for your marriage if you do not blur the line between engagement and marriage.
Post # 9
My experience is very similar to yours. I was raised a Catholic, my mother is deeply religious and I live in the South of Switzerland, near Italy, only 5 hours train from Rome and the Vatican, the influence of the Church here is really palpable. In the past, I stepped away from the Church for some years and then refound my faith and started to go to Mass again a few years ago. Like many other young Catholic women (at least this is the reality in my country), I had pre-marital sex. What I think is that, if you feel the partner is the right person for you it is not a sin, if you look within your soul and conscience, you will probably know. There’s a very good priest in my Parish (one of those who live fully their mission, not only words and words), he became a priest only at the age of 35, so that he could taste and know worldly life before taking is vows (in my opinion these priests are the best). Before getting married, my husband and I had a long talk with him about pre-marital sex and other religious issues. He thinks exactly as we do. when we deeply love our fiancé and feel it is a relationship of LOVE and not jsut for fun, it isn’t a mortal sin. Sin is when someone sleeps around with anyone, without even knowing him or her well (some non-Catholics I know will agree that this is just an unhealthy, self-destructive behaviour), but God will forgive us for this too. My sister is getting married end of April and she’s pregnant, in her 6th month, She was afraid the priest would be upset or even wouldn’t celebrate the wedding, on the contrary he understood and didn’t judge at all. I think being a “good Catholic” is no longer about having or not pre-marital sex. It is about living what Jesus taught in everyday life, which is the highest and the purest form of LOVE ever. My husband has a master in history and phiosophy of religions and told me the point of view of many catholic theologians he met at his university, some are still strict on the topic, but many don’t consider it mortal sin anymore.