Premarital Sex is a Mortal Sin – We must be clear and insist on repentance as the only way to be saved

091514We live in times in which many call good or “no big deal” what God calls sinful. This is especially true in the area of sexuality, where whole sectors of our society not only tolerate but even celebrate sexual practices that the Scriptures call gravely sinful, and which will lead to Hell if not repented of. Acts of fornication (pre-marital sex) and homosexual acts cannot be considered acceptable by any Catholic or by any person who sincerely accepts the Scripture as the Word of God. And even for those who do not share our faith, acts of fornication and homosexual acts can be plainly seen to cause great harm in the manner in which they spread serious disease, harm marriage and family, lead to abortion, and for the children who do survive abortion, subject them to having single mothers, absent fathers, and a lack of the best environment which they are due.

I want to focus today on the terrible and mortal sin of fornication and present the clear biblical teaching against it. Tomorrow I will do the same regarding homosexual acts. Sadly, many Catholics say their pulpits and classrooms are silent about these issues. The hope in this post today is to present a resounding, biblical trumpet call to purity which leaves no ambiguity as to the sinfulness of sex before marriage. Scripture is clear: fornicators will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That is to say, fornication is a mortal sin and those who do not repent of it will go to Hell.

The usual conditions for mortal sin apply (grave matter (which fornication is), sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will). However, we ought not lightly conclude that these conditions are seldom met. I have met with many couples preparing for marriage who are sexually active and I have never found them to be surprised that I rebuke them for this. They know it is wrong. The voice of God stills echoes in their consciences. And as for consent of the will, it can be admitted that some fall occasionally in a weak moment. But consistent fornicating, with no measures taken to prevent it, is not “weakness”; it is sinful neglect of prudence and common sense.

We are in a sinfully confused cultural setting in which many either celebrate or make little effort to avoid what God calls a very serious sin. The Church cannot lack clarity and pulpits and classrooms have often been silent. Such silence has led to parents themselves being silent. And silence has been taken for approval.

But fornication cannot be approved of. It is sinful and may well exclude many unrepentant sinners from Heaven. Our charity for souls must compel our clarity about the grave sinfulness of premarital sex and cohabitation.

Let us turn our attention to the biblical text.

The following quotes from the New Testament are passages that clearly condemn fornication and other unclean or impure actions. Again, fornication is the most common biblical word for premarital sex. The gravity and clarity of such condemnations are helpful in the sense that they help us to take such matters seriously and steer clear of them. However, the condemnations should not be seen in isolation from God’s mercy, as He never fails to forgive those who come to Him with a humble and contrite heart. God hates sin but He loves sinners and is full of mercy and compassion for them. But this mercy must be accessed through repentance.

With this in mind, read the following passages from the New Testament, which condemn fornication and other forms of sexual impurity:

THAT THERE IS A PRESCRIPTION TO GENERAL SEXUAL PURITY – Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or crude joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No fornicator, no impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with worthless arguments. These are sins that bring God’s wrath down upon the disobedient; therefore, have nothing to do with them (Ephesians 5:3-7).


1. The one who sat on the throne said to me, “See I make all things new!” Then he said, “Write these matters down for the words are trustworthy and true!” He went on to say: “These words are already fulfilled! I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. To anyone who thirsts I will give to drink without cost from the spring of life giving water. He who wins the victory shall inherit these gifts and he shall be my son. As for the cowards and traitors to the faith, the depraved and murderers, the fornicators and sorcerers, the idol-worshipers and deceivers of every sort – their lot is the fiery pool of burning sulphur, the second death!” (Revelation 21:5-8)

2. Happy are they who wash their robes so as to have free access to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates! Outside are the dogs and sorcerers, the fornicators and murderers, the idol-worshipers and all who love falsehood. It is I Jesus who have sent my angel to give you this testimony about the Churches (Rev. 22:14-16).

3. No fornicator, no impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph 5:5).

4. I warn you, as I have warned you before: those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God!  (Gal 5:21)

THAT SINS OF THE FLESH CRUSH THE SPIRIT WITHIN US – My point is that you should live in accord with the Spirit and you will not yield to the cravings of the flesh. The Flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh; the two are directly opposed. This is why you do not do what your will intends. If you are guided by the spirit you are not under the law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, bickering jealousy, outbursts of rage, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I have warned you before: those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God! (Galatians 5:16-21)


1. You have heard the commandment “You shall not commit adultery.” What I say you to is, Anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his thoughts. If your right eye is your trouble, gouge it out and throw it away! Better to lose part of your body than to have it all cast into Gehenna. Again, if your right hand is your trouble, cut it off and throw it away! Better to lose part of your body than to have it all cast into Gehenna (Matthew 5:27-30).

2.From the mind stem evil designs – murder, adulterous conduct, fornication, stealing, false witness, blasphemy. These are the things that make a man impure (Matt. 15:19-20).

3. Wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart: acts of fornication, theft, murder, adulterous conduct, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit. All these evils come from within and render a man impure (Mark 7:21).

THAT SEXUAL IMPURITY IS A FORM OF WORLDLINESS AND IDOLATRY – Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires and that lust which is idolatry. These are sins which provoke God’s wrath (Colossians 3:5-6).

THAT MY BODY IS NOT MY OWN TO DO WITH MERELY AS I PLEASECan you not realize that the unholy will not fall heir to the Kingdom of God? Do not deceive yourselves: no fornicators, idolaters, or adulterers, no sodomites, thieves, misers, or drunkards, no slanderers or robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but you have been washed, consecrated, justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. Do you not see that your bodies are members of Christ? Would you have me take Christ’s members and make them members of a prostitute? God forbid! Can you not see that the man who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? Scripture says, “The two shall become one flesh.” But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun lewd conduct. Every other sin a man commits is outside of his body, but the fornicator sins against his own body. You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is within – the Spirit you have received from God. You are not your own. You have been purchased at a price. So glorify God in your body (I Cor. 6:9-11, 15-20).

THAT THE CALL TO CHRISTIAN PURITY IS NOT MERELY A HUMAN OPINION; IT IS GOD’S DECLARED TRUTH. FURTHER, SEXUAL SIN IS A FORM OF INJUSTICE – Now my brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, even as you learned from us how to conduct yourselves in a way pleasing to God – which you are indeed doing – so you must learn to make still greater progress. You know the instructions we gave you in the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you grow in holiness: that you abstain from sexual immorality, each of you guarding his member in sanctity and honor, not in passionate desire as do the Gentiles who know not God; and that each must refrain from overreaching or cheating his brother in the matter at hand; for the Lord is the avenger of all such things, as we once indicated to you by our testimony. God has not called us to sexual immorality but to holiness; hence whoever rejects these instructions rejects, not man, but God who sends the Holy Spirit upon you (I Thess. 4:1-8).

THAT FORNICATION AND OTHER SEXUAL SINS ARE NUMBERED AMONG THE MORE SERIOUS SINS We know that the Law is good, provided one uses it in the way law is supposed to be used — that is, with the understanding that it is aimed, not at good men but at the lawless and unruly, the irreligious and the sinful, the wicked and the godless, men who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, fornicators, sexual perverts, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and those who in other ways flout the sound teaching that pertains to the glorious gospel of God — blessed be he — with which I have been entrusted (I Timothy 1:8-11).

THAT FORNICATION AND ADULTERY DISHONOR MARRIAGE Let Marriage be honored in every way and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers (Heb 13:4).

Therefore do not be deceived; fornication is a serious sin. It is a mortal sin. It is a sin that excludes one who does not repent of it from Heaven. It offends God, harms children and the family, spreads disease, encourages abortion, is an injustice against children and society, dishonors marriage, and merits strong punishment, as God’s Word declares.

Do not despair of God’s mercy, but do repent. Mercy is accessed only by repentance.  Little more needs to be said. It is wrong—seriously wrong—to fornicate. Repent at once and without delay.

117 Replies to “Premarital Sex is a Mortal Sin – We must be clear and insist on repentance as the only way to be saved”

  1. Please don’t forget that people need to have full knowledge that it is a mortal sin for it to be a mortal sin. Many people think it is ok to live together before marriage. So please don’t generalize… I find it a lack of prudence from you and especially as a priest.

    1. If they think it is OK to live together before they are married it is most likely because they have chosen the path of spiritual sloth and refused to seek the truth of Christ. Msrg. Pope is kind enough to tell them the truth that what they are doing is not right.

      1. Yes, to an extent this is true. I must point out, however, that many times they have had been poorly catechized or maybe had very little catechizing. This was not at all uncommon after the ‘spirit’ of Vat ll hit the Church. People generally know instinctively that what they are doing is not quite right, so yes, they are culpable to an extent. However, I have personal knowledge and experience with false teaching even from our clergy which would have reaffirmed and even supported some people in their sin. The heresies that I have heard out of the mouths of some of our clergy would curl your toenails, and with the support of their Bishop. So yes, most people are culpable but some have had a little help in justifying their error. By the wonderful grace of God there have been a good number of Catholics that have had their eyes opened, and with a little help from the wonderful Priests such as Msgn. Pope.

    2. Francois, Msgr. Pope made very clear, at the beginning of this discussion, that ‘the usual conditions for mortal sin apply’. He even put it in bold. Who is being imprudent and uncharitable? Thank you Msgr, for your clarity.

      1. I also felt he addressed it by saying that when he counsels couples preparing for marriage that they respond in a way that affirms they know what they are doing is wrong.

        As a side note to think about after reading all this discussion, I started thinking about the results of objective evils on one’s life. There are people out there who may have never been given any reason to believe that premarital sex is wrong. Still, sin has effects on a person’s life both spiritually and temporally even if the person isn’t culpable for mortal sin by fact of full knowledge. Yes, someone may be invincibly ignorant of a given mortal sin, but we don’t live in a vacuum. Other forces are at play. Sins like these also have temporal results as well. All this can be applied to contraception as well.

    3. Obviously you were not being attentive, or were asleep during the First Reading at mass Sunday before last. It may serve you well to review it. Great erudition on the catechism Msgr. ! Prepare to be censored.

    4. @ Francois – lack of prudence on Msgr. Pope’s part how? I suspect it’s not a lack of prudence that you object to, but being reminded sin is sin.

      I remember meeting with our priest before getting married and my wife and I told him we were living together. For lack of a better word we were excoriated (largely because he knew me and in fact was my confirmation sponsor). After he calmed down and pointed out the Church’s teachings on pre-marital sex and the covenant of marriage, he asked that we live as brother and sister in which we did until our marriage. I look back on that moment with great appreciation, both that we were able to approach the sacrament of marriage in a state of grace and that our priest loved us enough to give us the difficult truth.

      To all the priests out there, don’t be afraid to tell people the truth. We need to hear it.

      1. I think that was noble of you to live as brother and sister, but much more noble if you had lived separately with either parents or friends etc. Knowing and seeing you were living together in the same house, apt. still was scandalous to others! You may say well that is their problem, but not so, scandal is just that, causing another to think sinfully of whomever and thinking if they who are professed Catholics are doing it, then it must be right.
        God Bless

        1. Yes, thank you Joyce, however, you’re missing the point and detracting from the main issue. There were a number of other things I was guilty of 15 years ago such as not going to confession and using contraception to name a few — but that’s not the point I was trying to make (nor relevant including your nitpicking). The point is that a priest challenged me with the truth, which, as one small part of a long journey, has lead me deeper in my faith as a Catholic and in my relationship with Christ. I repeat, we need to hear the truth from our priests no matter how uncomfortable!

    5. So, how long have you been cohabiting Francois? Semantic games may work with some people but not in the presence of He Who is All Truth. Lack of full knowledge coupled with vincible ignorance = full knowledge before God.

    6. Most people know it is wrong….please, don’t be so naïve….and thinking it is not a sin, doesn’t make it so, If they are Catholic they need only to make a good examination of conscience and then they will see the evil of their ways. No excuse here! These people are old enough to search for truth, besides God says He has written truth on the hearts of men. You have to be under lock and key in some remote island in todays world not to know about the Catholic Faith and to read all we can on the TRUE Teachings. And may I make this perfectly clear, we are not judging them to Hell, but trying to save them from Hell. ACTIONS usually speak from what is in the heart.

    7. So I have to ask – do you think there are people in hell who didn’t think they were going there?

    8. Francois,

      2,000 of Christianity and people don’t know that Premarital sex is a Sin? Oh please, I see you lame strategy, you are trying to discredit the Msgr. with your “lack of prudence” speech. Ah, I detect Francois is liberal troll.

  2. Who are you to judge who is in mortal sin or not ? You don’t know the heart, therefore you can’t judge if the person is in mortal sin or not… And you can’t judge also that the person will go to hell or not…

    1. I am not judging, God already has. I provided ample Scriptural evidence. I think your argument is with God. Yell at him (and see if you ultimately get away with it). He said it I didn’t. God says fornicators do not inherit the kingdom of God. Go yell at God Francois and see how far that will get you.

      1. Yes…….Francois, we can’t judge any actions….we don’t know the heart. I told a friend that these ISIS guys cutting the heads off of innocent people is wrong and he put me in my place by telling me who am I to judge and that I don’t know what is in their heart.

        1. Actually, James I believe we ARE supposed to judge actions as good or evil, since God has already laid those out there for us (ie., murder is a sin, adultery is a sin, etc). We may not judge the person who commits that sin as good or bad, as only God can see the whole person and only He can decide if that person is worthy to live in Heaven someday.

          It sounds as if you may have been incorrectly judged for calling a sinful action (murder of an innocent) a sinful action.

          1. I suspect James is being facetious; the big clue is his “acceptance’ at being :put in his place’ for judging those who behead others. Beheading gives us a pretty good idea of what’s in their hearts.

    2. But of these things be not ashamed, lest you sin through human respect: Of the law of the Most High and his precepts, or of the sentence to be passed upon the sinful.

    3. Who are you to ignore the teaching of Christ, Francois?

      “And why even of yourselves, do you not judge that which is just?” Luke 12:57

      Don’t confuse the judging and rebuking of sinful behavior; the duty of all Christians, with one’s particular judgment; one’s eternal fate, which is left to Almighty God alone. Monsignor Pope, along with every other Priest, has an obligation to tell us all the truth and neither condone nor enable the sins of anyone. The fact that many of the ordained have abdicated said responsibility is irrelevant for truth is not determined by popular vote.

      “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel: and thou shalt hear the word out of My mouth, and shalt tell it them from Me. If, when I say to the wicked, Thou shalt surely die: thou declare it not to him, nor speak to him, that he may be converted from his wicked way, and live: the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand. But if thou give warning to the wicked, and he be not converted from his wickedness, and from his evil way: he indeed shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul. Moreover if the just man shall turn away from his justice, and shall commit iniquity: I will lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die, because thou hast not given him warning: he shall die in his sin, and his justices which he hath done, shall not be remembered: but I will require his blood at thy hand. But if thou warn the just man, that the just may not sin, and he doth not sin: living he shall live, because thou hast warned him, and thou hast delivered thy soul.” Ezechiel 3:17-21

      God may or may not take one’s willful ignorance and obstinacy into account when passing judgment.

      “And account the longsuffering of our Lord, salvation; as also our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, hath written to you: As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction. ” 2Peter 3:15-16

    4. Francois, pardon my intrusion but perhaps you are being defensive for a reason? Have the quotes cited by Msgr. Pope hit a nerve? If you are following the “don’t judge” cabal, then most of Scripture means nothing to you. What do you think of this one? “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:16. Reproof and correction are not judging, they are helping the individual to live a life worthy of his calling–be as perfect as your Heavenly Father.

    5. Francois – You’d better read this, as you seem to be unfamiliar with it.

      1 Corinthians 5 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

      Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church

      5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?

      3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

      6 Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

      Sexual Immorality Must Be Judged

      9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— 10 not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister[c] who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13 God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

    6. Sorry, Francois, the mere fact that you are already affected with and by the Truth of the Scriptures meant that there is something in the Truth that makes you aware that what you are doing is wrong, sinful. You know in the depths of your heart what is the matter of right or wrong, sinful and righteous. You can go and obtusely justify it but deep within you, you know that it is living in sin what GOD had declared, fornicating is sinful. Quiet down your heart and seek the Truth after yelling to HIM the qualms of your heart. Open your heart and your mind that you will find peace and then you will do what is the right thing. Be true to your self and if you will not be true to yourself, to whom else can you be truthful? May you find yourself, you are a son of GOD. GOD Bless you, in spite of your anger, brother. Be still and know that HE is GOD.

      1. When I was in high school, I had a friend who’s next door neighbors had a child with Down syndrome. He went by the nickname Bucky and he was about our age but was on the cognitive level of about a three year old. He liked to come over to my friend’s house and play in their large garage which usually had the garage door open. Often one of them would come home and walk through the garage to enter the house and Bucky would be in the garage. He obviously felt embarrassed having been caught in their garage while they were away even though they never told him he couldn’t be in there. He would turn his back and stand there thinking if he couldn’t see them, they probably couldn’t see him. They would just say, ” Hi Bucky.” and he would just stand there with his back turned to them without looking at them. As severely limited as he was in his cognitive abilities, he still had a sense of right and wrong.

      2. When I was in high school, I had a friend who’s next door neighbors had a child with Down syndrome. He went by the nickname Bucky and he was about our age but was on the cognitive level of about a three year old. He liked to come over to my friend’s house and play in their large garage which usually had the garage door open. Often one of them would come home and walk through the garage to enter the house and Bucky would be in the garage. He obviously felt embarrassed having been caught in their garage while they were away even though they never told him he couldn’t be in there. He would turn his back and stand there thinking if he couldn’t see them, they probably couldn’t see him. They would just say, ” Hi Bucky.” and he would just stand there with his back turned to them without looking at them. As severely limited as he was in his cognitive abilities, he still had a sense of right and wrong.

    7. In jurisprudence, ignorance of the law is no defense. Knowledge of the law is presumed. Mental state effects the degree of guilt but in the rarest of cases exonerates. Is divine justice to the contrary? .Likewise, is the law dependent on our feelings about it? Does what is right and wrong conform to us? Or is there a right and wrong to which we must conform?

      In the end, God’s verdict is final. Our rationalizations might convince others – but what if it’s not convincing to God? And why would you think it would be? Didn’t St. Paul write “the wisdom of the world is utter folly to God”? As Jesus said, might we not be complaining “we played the pipe for you and you did not dance”?

  3. Msgr Pope,
    This was an excellent article. Thank you for posting. I have shared this with friends, family and Religious clergy.
    and reposted to my timeline.

  4. If “Premarital Sex is a Mortal Sin” then why has the Pope just given his approval to it by marrying couples in a huge ceremony in the Vatican and making it 100% clear these couples did NOT repent before he married them.

    Face it Msgr. Pope, the jig is up, the game is over, Francis keeps telling the world forgiveness is the only thing that matters…no conversion, no repentance, no turning from sin is needed….you are forgiven no matter what you do and no matter if you keep on sinning…..all go to heaven. Heck Francis has also made it clear that people in other faiths need not even become Catholic.

    Game, set, match,……………….the leaders of the church are now the one’s leading gay pride parades and promoting co-habitation.

    1. Well… I do not know the details of Pope Francis marriage celebrations. But beware the hype. It is possible, and I think likely that cohabiting couples can be called to repentance. I do it all the time. I have had a lot of couples tell me after I spoke to them that they had moved to separate rooms and stopped having sex before the marriage. I have asked many of them if I could share a the wedding (to avoid scandal) that they had been living properly before the marriage and most of them said yes. It is possible that the Pope and others who prepared these couples had them repent and confess before the marriage. This is a matter about which we cannot be certain and so I would give the Pope the benefit of the doubt that the couples were called to repent and did not just roll out of bed and go to the vatican to get married. At least we can hope. Many of the media declarations amount to speculation about what is not known one way or the other.

      1. You are likely correct, but it speaks volumes to the chronic ambiguity of the words and actions of this Pope that we are frequently called to give him the benefit of the doubt. I want very much to wholeheartedly support this Pope but I find it very challenging.

      2. Once again I am late to the dance, but, as I read this comment (and the headlines of Pope Francis ceremony) I remembered something I had read a few years back (and searching for it’s source on line revealed that is was actually many years except that I may have remembered a more recent incident and couldn’t find that one).

        This is possibly the article I had read (and, yet, I don’t think i used the internet enough in 2003 for this to be the same article:

        It is about a priest who held a convalidation ceremony for 17 couples. It is also personal enough to help us to understand the reason the need comes about. For me, it was a nice little nugget of knowledge that helped me keep my cool when the Pope embraced our brothers and sisters a couple weeks ago.

        Also, I can’t help thinking about way the sacraments were administered in the fictional account of the early Southwest in “Death Comes to the Archbishop” (deliciously rich novel, altogether).

    2. Maggie, the church’s teaching on faith and morals are final even if leaders do otherwise. But like monsignor says we don’t know the details and hope proper steps were taken. I think and believe many problems in today’s world are due to sin. The best thing to do is turn away and confess, not embrace and celebrate.

    3. By “jig is up” I hope you do not imply that the gates of the nether world have prevailed

    4. There is a very long tradition in the Church that marrying your concubine WAS a sign of repentence.

      Denying marriage to cohabitating couples is a relatively recent development and, IMHO, a highly theologically dubious one. It could be a legitimate practice if the validity of the marriage were in question, but otherwise the sacrament should not be denied.

      1. James, God will be the final judge of whether a sacrament has been granted. If one obtains a sacrament fraudulently (ie in while in mortal sin), the graces normally received in that sacrament may not be conferred. Again, only God will decide this.

        Best practice to confess and repent. Sacraments, when conferred in truth and faith are so much more than just certificates in a drawer. What a pity it would be not to receive sacramental graces due to ones own prideful insolence.

      2. James,

        Nothing is more theologically dubious than the claims you just made. Please provide authentic documentation of your first claim about the alleged tradition of marrying one’s concubine as a sign of repentance .

        Cohabitating couples need not be denied the sacrament of marriage, provided they authentically repent and cease all sexual behavior until the ceremony. Nothing less is acceptable, nor should it be – ever.

      1. Maggie and Maria–the eternal truths and teachings of the Catholic faith do not change, nor can they ever change. Even if all sorts of individuals, whether laypeople, priests, bishops, or even (yes, it’s entirely possible) a Pope were to attempt to “decree, define and ordain” that extra-marital sex is OK, what they are doing is sin and what they are doing is self-excommunicating themselves, i.e., setting themselves outside the Catholic church).
        Time and again, various countries have left the Catholic faith and one of the first things they systematically attack is traditional Catholic sexual morality–defying and rejecting Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The quotes in the article are pretty much “straight out of the horse’s mouth.”
        Henry VIII’s marrying Anne Boleyn, widely believed at the time to be his own illegitimate daughter, did not make for a change in Church teaching. Martin Luther, an Augustinian Catholic priest, who “married” a runaway Cathlic nun and fathered 6 children by her, broke his vows of celibacy.
        There is no point in multiplying examples.
        It seems that when these things go on in a culture, they tend to occur as mass movements (to the madding crowd, might makes right). However, people repent of their sins, confess and return to the Church one at a time, and painfully few at that.
        Your comments unfortunately only confirm that this is a sexually deviant, sexually obsessed culture with no intellectual honesty or integrity. I am praying for you that you may obtain grace and light, to see the truth and to conform yourselves to it, rather than to expect things to be the other way around.

  5. “Mercy is accessed only by repentance”. These are words that I am desperate to hear uttered from the mouth of our Holy Father Pope Francis but fear I never will. This is precisely the message that the world needs to hear — “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. In many ways, it seems to me that the call to repentance – not just for fornication but for all mortal sin – is being downplayed and swept under the rug. We are told not to focus so much on the moral issues but instead to focus on the kerygma. But the necessity of repentance of sin for salvation is an essential element of the kerygma too, no? I imagine Jesus’ Blessed Mother looking down on us on this memorial of her sorrows, weeping over our stubborn refusal to repent and thereby access the Lord’s mercy before it is too late. You almost never hear this preached. Thank you, Msgr.

    1. I believe today’s Gospel says that He may show mercy even if we don’t repent. Neither the widow or her son asked for Jesus to raise the son from the dead, and yet He raised him anyway.

  6. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For loving those in error enough to sound a trumpet call they are not hearing. Here is a much needed spiritual work of mercy: to correct those in error.

    The damage to both partners is almost unmeasurable. The man becomes increasingly selfish and unable to commit as a real man does; the woman’s psyche suffers greatly. And for any hapless children involved? Victims of a greatly unstable household.

    May this fine and crystal clear message act as a loving hand that grabs hold and yanks someone back from the edge of the precipice.

    Please God, may couples considering this barren wasteland of a ‘life decision’ reconsider. God offers a life of great fruitful abundance when we do this His way.

    Cohabitation is the way to ruin and sorrow. Choose God’s way which is the way of Life.

  7. Thank you, Monsignor, for such a clear and precise explanation of the grevious nature of extra-marital sexual activity! Francois says that most people don’t know cohabitation is a mortal sin, so they’re off the hook. However, the law of God is written in every human heart. Also, Maggie: How do you know that Pope Francis made it clear that those cohabiting couples were being married without the Sacrament of Confession first? I’ve been trying to find some info on that.

  8. Thank you for standing up for doctrine. Your writings have been a light – when I feared the world cloaked in darkness as so many poorly catechised catholics gleefully cast of Doctrine and Tradition as outdated. I do not know where the church is going anymore – it seems to depend what bishop or priest you listen to as to whether the church is about to abolish Doctrine. Thank you so very much for preaching the unvarnished truth so many need to be hearing.

  9. I am a devout Catholic and while I respect him as our pope,… I am certain of the truth as taught by Holy Mother Church and it’s plain as the noses on our collective, world-wide faces (no matter where one lives) that the destructive consequences of unrepentant sin are sorrow, division, disease, increased propensity to sin and death. No matter how much those who lead sin-filled lives want the entire planet to believe they are happy and are living consequence-free, anyone who’s paying attention knows that is wholly false. Just look at the state of ALL of humanity!

    I will not be deceived by the so-called mainstream media’s celebrations of every hiccup our Holy Father emits which they deem to be radical and Church-changing. I’m weary of discussing what he “meant,” how his message is “misunderstood” or even how amazing he is. God bless him. I pray for him daily but I am seeing families torn apart by “misunderstandings” of his words and actions. I know the truth and will not vary from it. When I sin, I’ll pray for the grace to make a good confession and I’ll persevere because I know what the Church teaches is truth. Period. No matter what Pope Francis says or does, that will never change. Msgr. Pope, your blog posts give me hope because you consistently and clearly teach the truth with love. If only you could one day be Pope Pope. 🙂

    1. Lord help save the Church from Pope Me! 🙂 As For our actual pope, I fear that my article may be perceived as directed to him. It is not. I am only vaguely aware of what he did or didn’t do in Rome and your comment along with an earlier one caused me to read further. Despite having read a rather long column I am still not clear what happened. It DOES seem clear that nuptials were celebrated for couples in Rome on the Feast of the Cross and that at least some of them had been cohabiting. But the Church does widely do that. What concerns me most is that the priest who prepared these couples warned them of the sin of fornication and told them to stop and repent and get to confession. One solution to restoring cohabiters to holiness is to prepare them for marriage, obtain their confession and have them marry. There are some in the Church who would prefer a pastoral strategy that required separation for there to be a church wedding of any size. If they cannot or will not separate then only a small wedding in the rectory chapel would be provided. This would be my preferred approach. However, I know of only a few diocese in the country where this is adopted. For the most part the priest is instructed to warn the couple against fornication, insist that they get to confession, be morally certain they are ready to marry and then celebrate the sacrament which they are requesting. Sadly I have heard that some priests are derelict in their duty to warn fornicating and or cohabiting couples and “say nothing” to them at all. If so, this is a sort of malpractice. Our silence as clergy, where it exists is surely something we will answer for to God.

      But as for the Pope’s recent liturgy in Rome, I don’t think we can know the details. I doubt he prepared the couples. I hope the ones who were living together or had done so were suitably warned and told to confess by the priests who did prepared them. And, I want to presume good faith on the part of the Pope in this matter. Sadly today MANY couples approach the church in an advanced state of moral and spiritual dis-repair. How we as clergy deal with this may vary, since each situation will also vary. The bottom line is that we speak and teach the truth to them and seek to draw them into line with holiness and proper norms. Sacraments are a kind of medicine in this regard if they are received in a state of grace and this is the goal. Avoiding scandal is also important so that we are not perceived as making light of sin.

      Sadly the media seems to be spinning the pope’s actions to mean that cohabitation is no big deal. And while some may wish the Pope were more aware that he is being spun, our clearest stance as Catholics is to do as you have and to insist that the sinfulness of fornication cannot be overturned since it is biblically set forth and is of divine law. We must continue to teach and insist on conformity to divine truth, even as our pastoral outreach to couples in irregular situations continues. But outreach does not connote approval any more than Jesus outreach to sinners meant approval for what they were doing that was sinful

      1. “some may wish the Pope were more aware that he is being spun”

        Amen to that!!!

        1. Be very careful about attributing anything taken from the mass media to this Pope. It has come out, time and again, that he simply did not say what was attributed to him. When the entire quotation or conversation is aired, it all-too frequently turns out that he said something completely different. Or, in the case of the Italian atheist, that the Italian atheist wrote down his own “take” on what the Pope said, or thought he said.
          Also, what the Pope says in conversations, or in passing, etc., even if 100% accurately quoted, is not infallible. Only formal statements made “ex cathedra” are infallible.
          I would not take anything that this Pope, or any other pope for that matter, as somehow contradicting Catholic truth, or as serving as grist for a “gotcha!” moment.

          1. This is the problem with the “what did the Pope mean?” hermeneutic that is currently forced upon all Catholics. Average people, both inside and outside the Church, are forming judgements based on what appears to be self-evident. All our distinctions mean nothing. As a teacher of theology, I have witnessed the diminishment of my own moral cache with my students because of the perceptions of Pope Francis. One careless (whether distorted by the media or not) “Who am I to judge?” has resulted in the entrenchment in immorality of many of my students. If the Pope cannot be clear on the evils of homosexual activity, fornication and divorce, why should they accept the Church’s teaching?

  10. It seems to me that those who are not married define marriage as much as those that are married. Shacking up has become the norm in such a short time it would seem that in only a few more years those couples that know that it is wrong are going to disappear. Just a matter of time. I am probably wrong on this so The loss of shame and the elevation of sloth. A toxic combo.

  11. FWIW, I had read that part of the requirement for Pope Francis to marry them is that they all rec’d the sacrament of confession before the marriage. God’s mercy is great! In the Vatican situation, now all of those couples are living in grace, not sin. I can’t image any would have been there if there were not willing to repent and confess. That to me is the msg. Pope Francis appears to be sending. We all sin, but we all can be forgiven if we repent and “go and sin no more.”

    Furthermore, Pope Francis has made it more than clear that he is a “Son of the Church,” consequently, he would not marry or give scandal to couples in objective sin.

    Beware of the MSM, which has as its agenda to leave out the important details and normalize and make sinless sexual sins. It’s their goal to make Pope Francis look soft on all of their obsession of all things Catholic and sexual. Do you ever notice they rarely, if ever, bring up any of the non sexual sins? If they and us can rationalize that “it’s okay with the pope,” well, that takes the guilt card away from all of us doesn’t it?

    And God bless you Msg. Pope for having the courage to say what we all need to hear. For me, I was able to give up my sinful fornication lifestyle by weekly confessions and daily mass. The power of grace between those 2 sacraments is beyond sufficient for any habitual sin. Now I make sure I go to confession at least once a month, and mass as many days of the week as I can.

    For anyone who thinks they can’t do this, trust me, I didn’t either. With God’s grace and our will, it’s not only possible, but without question, the “better way.” As St. JPII used to say, “We get so much more back than we give up.” That doesn’t mean we can’t and won’t “fall off the wagon” from time to time, but the good news is that God allows us to get back up regardless of how many times we fall.

    God Bless all of you. We are all human, we all have our struggles, but also know, that the holiness is in the struggle, the peace in the surrender.

  12. Dear Msgr. Pope,

    Thank you, once again, for a clear and very helpful and encouraging post. One of your strongest yet!

    – Mike

  13. Thank you so much for speaking out. While many decry the sin of homosexual sex, I have seldom heard anyone speak out about fornication for heterosexuals. I am certain that our pews are filled with young people who fit the prescription for this sin. However, I also think that few of them have been taught clearly that sex before marriage is wrong. They are inundated hourly with messages from popular media that it is normal and natural. Most popular shows have characters who live together, and their moving in together is a celebrated event with much drama and excitement. Young people must literally fight against an overwhelming flood of information that normalizes this sin. I do not want to accept a defeatist attitude that we are fighting a losing battle. I think the real battle is within our own families. We must clearly teach that this is a sin and it is wrong, and we need the priests, religious, and Catholic teachers to stand firmly with us. I do not have much hope of turning the tide in our culture, but I do have hope that we as Catholics can teach our children what is right and wrong, and if we do, we will stand as a light in the darkness. We may not turn the tide, but we can stand against it.

    1. Culture is far too fluid and malleable–and our culture too superficial–to believe that it cannot be changed. The culture CAN change, but that will require the same kind of love, faith, and fidelity that the Christians of Rome lived and which eventually led to the conversion of Europe.

      1. I agree. Christians overcame pagan Rome, so it is possible. However, that triumph was bought with the blood of martyrs, like St. Perpetua and companions. We have to properly form ourselves and our families to understand the church teaching before we will be willing to sacrifice so much. You and I may not be martyred in the public square, but it is certainly a possibility for our children and grand children. In the present time, there are certainly things that we can do like eliminating television, or supporting wholesome programming and clean movies. But we need a ground swell of other Catholics and Protestants to really make a change. I have not given up, but I want to focus on what I can do.

  14. Far more Pharisees & judges will endure the everlasting fires of hell than will couple’s engaged in premarital love making.

    1. Your argument is with Jesus and his appointed spokesmen the apostles. Jesus had little time for pharisees, be also told the woman caught in adultery to stop sinning. And he says it to you as well Mark. He also tells you to stop looking with list and consigns fornicators to dwell outside heaven. These are his words to you. Let the pharisees worry about themselves. You repent of your error.

  15. “In the Vatican situation, now all of those couples are living in grace, not sin.” – Now that’s far too facile. We simply do not know this. The cohabiters are not living in the *same* state of sin, where they present a specific public scandal in regard to their ongoing *objective* rejection of the sanctity of marriage. But saying some vows or going to confession doesn’t instantaneously rectify the sinful tendencies and false beliefs that these couples had going in to their marriages. Those who choose to dishonor marriage before they are married (by cohabitating) are likely to dishonor marriage after they are married (in any number of ways – adultery, divorce, contraception, etc.).

  16. I think that very often, to our detriment, we say “pre-marital” when we ought to say “extra-marital.”

  17. Thank you Msgr. Pope for stating the truth. We don’t need new ways to reach people, we need to proclaim the truths we stopped proclaiming years ago. As usual, the truth is received with wailing and gnashing of teeth, no surprise there. It always makes me laugh when I hear the word Pharisee thrown around at anyone who tells the truth. Even if our Lord didn’t rebuke them for following the Law but because the internal (the heart) did not match the external (actions). So people use Pharisee as a dirty insult to those who not only follow the Law but do it out of love for Jesus.

    There are those who say they love Jesus but don’t want to follow any of the Commandments, there are those who follow the Commandments but not of love for Jesus; then there are those who follow the Commandments because they love Jesus and know following the Law is truly liberating and helps us love God and neighbor as we should. So who are the real Pharisees?

    God bless you Msgr. Pope! Please keep showing us you truly love us by teaching the truth as you do.

    Thank you!

    1. Jesus told the people to obey the pharisees because they spoke from the chair of Moses. But he told them not to immitate their behavior. Even Jesus thought enough of the pharisees to tell the people to obey them. The pharisees weren’t bad because of what they taught, they were bad because of the way they lived. We must obey and embrace all official Church teaching even when our leaders give less than clear good examples for us to follow.

  18. Thank you for explaining this truth which is not much talked about by ANYONE, not just our priests.
    I think the world has forgot the Story, the story of “whose”they are and “whose”image we are all created in.
    There is beauty and great wisdom in why sex before marriage is a sin, and what it does to you internally,with your emotions and how that is played out in your life,but that too is not talked about either. Come Holy Spirit and fill our priests with Holy courage to teach not only the sin and it’s destructiveness but the beauty of Whose we are and the Dignity of our bodies and the awesome wonder of a Gods wisdom for He knew the suffering that would come to us by this sin…so He told us the way to walk, He left us the map with ALL the directions.

  19. Thank you so much for your clear teaching, Father. I have run into friends who say they want to support their children’s choices, but I don’t know how to explain well that support should not mean approval of the bad choices they make. So how should one support a teenager or grown child who insist they are shacking up or gay?

  20. Great reminder…this isn’t spoken about enough. I was recently so surprised to learn that some protestants dont really think people go to hell (a debate ensued!). Our society has really lost the concept of sin and hell and moral relativism is out of control! It sort of follows that more and more young people are so misguided. Keep the truth coming!

    1. I think you’re right, but it’s not just Protestants. Even Catholics fall into this category. When parents don’t catechise thier children, they are influence by the culture. They will continue to call themselves Catholic, but don’t identify with the Church’s teachings.

      Many believe that all will be saved, as Maggie said. They believe it won’t matter what they do, so long as they have faith in Jesus. John the Baptist proves this point wrong at the beginning of the gospels. John was called to make straight the Lord’s path. His job was to get the people to repent so that they would be prepared to receive the gospel. In other words, salvation begins with repentence. Faith in Jesus is vitally important, but we aren’t pleasing our Father in heaven without first turning away from our sins.

  21. As a convert to Catholicism, a former Evangelical, I think this problem originates not with the couples who do it, but with Church leaders who allow it.

    I worked as music director for my parish for several years after my conversion, played for a lot of weddings. Every couple but one were already living together. I hated it, felt like I was participating in sin. I talked to my pastor about it, a good orthodox pastor, and he said he had no choice as it was the Archbishop’s policy.

    In my Evangelical church, if a couple in the congregation were found to be living together prior to marriage, they were gently approached by a pastor, and maybe one or two others, who would explain to them what it means to follow Christ, including repenting and turning away from sin. If they wanted to get married in the church, they were asked to separate and live apart for at least a couple of months prior to the wedding, even if one of them just crashed with a friend or something, to show they were serious about following Christ.

    If they weren’t willing to separate and live apart, after appropriate spiritual counsel to give them time to change their minds, they weren’t allowed to get married in our church, and they were asked to leave the congregation, since they weren’t really willing to do what it takes to follow Christ. In a 25 year period, my old church grew from 75 to over 6,000 families. It was a thriving megachurch filled with joyous Christians serious about following Christ.

    I’m sure Catholic pastors think they’re being merciful to let couples “live as brothers and sisters in Christ” prior to a wedding. But they’re not. They’re encouraging spiritual weakness, risking the loss of souls by leaving them in the near occasion of sin, starting them off on the wrong foot in marriage, setting a bad example for everyone else, and damaging the witness of the Church to the world. This is anything but merciful.

    Whereas to correct and insist on real change for the sake of following Christ is the very essence of mercy, because along with other good formation it leads to salvation, spiritual maturity, and good witness to the world.

    1. Thank you, Aimee! I am a fellow convert (Catholic for 25 years now) and I could not agree more strongly with your above post.

  22. In our family, three of our children are “married” civilly, one of them for a second time. He was married in the Church 23 years ago but I wonder if it was valid; neither he nor the woman he was living with received any counseling before the church wedding, and they had not been practicing the Faith for years and did not, after the Church wedding. They did this only to please the family, with no intention of going back to church. Now he has a second “wife” after divorce. She is free to marry, but he refuses to even consider going through annulment process. Other two adult children married civilly and don’t want to hear anything about their situation. Our priest counsels charity above all but I keep waiting for an opportunity to explain what they have done and why it is wrong. It will come-it happened a few years ago when the topic of homosexuality came up, and relatives said there should be no moral objection because people of SSA “love” each other. I asked them what “love” meant, and went on from there. One likened same-sex marriage to that of an elderly couple being married, even though they could not have children because of advanced age! Our priests never broach this subject, unless they are Order priests who have no trouble preaching charitably on the “hard sayings.”

  23. To David:

    If the condition was to be repentant and confess, then all sins are forgiven. It’s the same for all of us, regardless of the sin.

    Also David, don’t under estimated the new grace of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. And of course, to have been married by the Pope. Any reasonable person given the extraordinary opportunity to be married by the Pope simply would not brush it off as no big deal. These couples now have new graces to live out their married lives, including plenty to get back up if and when they fall.

    Remember the only difference between saints and sinners is that the saints always get back up when they fall.

  24. The YouTube video at the end of the article was indeed the “icing on the cake”, driving home the points made in the article itself. Very well put. Kudos on the article. Truly a necessary piece for our time and age.

  25. Are there any circumstances under which a priest could refuse to witness the marriage of a Catholic couple with no canonical impediment? Does canon law permit the priest preparing the couple for marriage to make the call, by way of example and not limitation, that the couple is too immature, is not acting voluntarily, or has a really off understanding of the permanence of marriage? How about a diocesan requirement to, say, attend a Pre-Cana weekend? If push comes to shove (not that it should, of course), who ‘wins’?

  26. I don’t have any doubt about this matter. Pre-marital sex is indeed a mortal sin. I am beginning to think that habitual masturbation and pornography too are mortal sins, not sure though. The reason I think they are mortal sins is that, any misuse of human body part, or polluting the mind with a gravely wrong image of man and woman, is a sin more serious than getting drunk. St Thomas Aquinas viewed drunkenness is a mortal sin. If so, anything more serious too would be mortal sin.

    1. What I don’t understand is why the Church does not regard smoking as a sin at all, let alone a mortal one. We all now know that smoking causes premature death and numerous health problems. It smells bad. It’s a bad habit. Does it have any good effects? Possibly, but these are surely outweighed by the negative effects. Yet, not only is it apparently not sinful to smoke, but even some Cardinals do it in public:

      1. A nationally known priest that I saw speak did say that with everything that is now known about the damage of smoking to oneself and others, that it is very likely a mortal sin now to smoke.

    2. @Xavier Abraham:

      There is absolutely no doubt that masturbation and deliberately watching pornography are mortal sins. This is not an issue which is in any doubt. They are a serious matter. You do not have to deduce this from the example of drinking – the constant tradition of the church and teaching of the saints is abundantly clear on this.

      The only issue up for debate about masturbation relates to the level of consent involved. As the Catechism makes clear, there are some habits and certain levels of immaturity that reduce the subjective level of guilt involved in masturbation. Nonetheless the acts are serious enough to meet the criteria of being mortal sins. Certainly a mature adult who knowingly and deliberately masturbates commits a serious sin and could absolutely go to Hell for this one single sin if it is not repented.

    3. Masturbation and pornography are mortal sins. They are a misuse of the good of sex and another form of sex outside of marriage.

  27. Dear Monsignor Pope:
    Thank you for a clear and straighforward reiteration of Church teaching on the matter. We need more of this. We thirst for this type of guidance. We thirst to hear it again and again. You are a courageous shepherd, and we greatly appreciate you. Please write a book. Another book. God bless you.

  28. I’m a 30 year old guy and cohabitation has become almost normative for my generation. Yet I look at these couples and notice that their lives are so plainly impoverished by impermanent quality of their situation. Marriage is really hard and not always fun, but there is a beauty in the order and wholeness of my marriage with my wife that is moved and preserved by the sacramental grace of matrimony that is so entirely BETTER than merely “living with my girlfriend.”

    I mean, no matter how into your boyfriend or girlfriend (or even fiancé) you are, the truth is that you’re never going to come close to the unity I share with my wife. You’re just not.

    Until you get married, which is why the mega-marriage Mass in Rome was not only not a scandal, but actually a beautiful witness to the supremeness of Catholic marriage.

  29. I’m not Catholic, so maybe I don’t understand, but is there any other type of sin?
    If by “mortal sin” you mean a sin that leads to death, that is complete separation from God, then all sin is mortal.
    We all need to repent from sin whether it is lust/fornication, hatred/murder, etc.
    Also, forgiveness is meaningless without repentance if you stop to think about it.

  30. First we need to thank God who has sent us Msgr., to send what appears controversial if not not conforming to the current understanding of matters of human sexuality. But St. John Paul admonished Christians to be a contradiction in the World just like our Lord was with the teaching authorities of His time. The issue is not which side of the truth it finds us but truth itself – these are not relative issues. From the citations of Scripture, we find a common thread how God detests sexual immorality and other sins against marriage. Reason suggest humility in the face of such consistency if indeed personally our conscience does relate the damage to lives of the persons involved and the fateful children to the causes and results.

    Concerning the absence of succinct discussion from the pulpits, it is also our duty to suggest to our priests in confidence what moral there are in our communities that merit regular emphasis on the Sunday catechesis. On top of the liturgical theme being followed for the season, Sunday catechsis will find scope to respond to current or pressing issues. It’s like during war times or times of public disorder, the priests will find scope to discuss and guide on such matters.

    Finally, let’s encourage our priests to remain faithful to the teachings and the church Doctrine. For St. Paul admonished Timothy to preach sound doctrine.

  31. By your argument most people today are going to hell. Your contextual interpretation of the scripture doesn’t give you the right to judge or somehow make you right. Articles like this only make people think your fanatics.

    1. I am not judging people, I am judging a sin to be a sin based on God’s clear and repeated word. It’s not about me being right it is about what God has said. A lot of people thought Jesus was a fanatic too, along with Paul, Peter, James, et al. Folks like these tended to get killed for their views. So I am not sure your point about fanatics. But at the end of the day my job isn’t to please you or the people you seem to worry about, my Job is to proclaim what the Lord has taught, in season or out of season.

    2. Dave, are you saying scripture should be judged out of context?

      In fact, no judgement was involved in this article. Identification was used. Fornication (and Adultery) have been clearly IDENTIFIED as sins in the Bible. Msgr Pope has not reinvented the Word of God for his own purposes, which if I am to read your comment contextually, would be to condemn.

      The Word of God is not meant to condemn anyone, only to save us. Stop fearing the truth – that God loves you. Stop fearing what you don’t understand – that God loves you as you are now – flawed, just like the rest of us. Stop fearing that you could go to hell. It’s possible, but you have a say in that by making choices you know to be good or evil. You will be judged by God. So will I. You will be held accountable for your sins. So will I.

      You can hide your head in the sand and call the Catholic Church a bunch of fanatics and tell yourself you’re better than everyone in the Church, but let’s face it. If you were, would you really get so upset? You’re just like us. You are a child of God. He loves you, just like He loves everyone else.

  32. Once again Monsignor Pope stirs up controversy; congratulations, Monsignor. To paraphrase Gordon Gecko, “Controversy – not greed – is Good”: it clarifies whatever opposite issues create the discussion.

    Given the extensive number of opinions (“doxa”, in Greek), I’ll ask only for clarification of Monsignor’s closing passage: ” Therefore do not be deceived; fornication is a serious sin. It is a mortal sin. It is a sin that excludes one who does not repent of it from Heaven. It offends God, harms children and the family, spreads disease, encourages abortion, is an injustice against children and society, dishonors marriage, and merits strong punishment, as God’s Word declares. Do not despair of God’s mercy, but do repent. Mercy is accessed only by repentance. Little more needs to be said. It is wrong—seriously wrong—to fornicate. Repent at once and without delay.” On the other hand the Catechism of the Catholic Church seems to negate Monsignor Pope’s words: “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1735.
    P.S., “Common law” marriages are frequently declared Sacraments in Catholic nations, a practise apparently unfamiliar to Monsignor Pope and many of his readers. This, it seems, is what Pope Francis accomplished last Sunday. Thank you for the article, Gonzalo T. Palacios, Ph.D.

    1. Some clarification:

      Therefore do not be deceived; fornication is a serious sin. –Yes

      It is a mortal sin. –Yes

      It is a sin that excludes one who does not repent of it from Heaven. –Yes

      It offends God –Yes

      harms children and the family –Yes

      spreads disease –Yes

      encourages abortion –Yes

      is an injustice against children and society –Yes

      dishonors marriage — Yes

      and merits strong punishment, as God’s Word declares– Yes

      Do not despair of God’s mercy, but do repent. — Yes

      Mercy is accessed only by repentance. — Yes

      Little more needs to be said. It is wrong—seriously wrong—to fornicate. — Yes

      Repent at once and without delay. — Always and with every sin!

      Monsignor Pope clarified the conditions of mortal sin a few times, so the argument that the Catechism negates his words is baseless.

      Yes, common law marriages are frequently blessed and only after the man and woman meet certain conditions. Only then does the marriage become a sacrament! Beautiful. Way to go Pope Francis! Our Lord’s arms are always open and He desires to heal us and He does this through His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church!

      Glory to Jesus Christ!

  33. Pope Francis did not marry those couples in Rome. Holy Matrimony is the only sacrament where the couple gives each other the sacrament through their vows to each other. The only requirement is that it be before an ordained priest in good standing with the church and witnessed by two others. The priest and witness only witness the vows.

  34. We live in a time of accelerating “moral ambiguity”. This has not been good for the society at large, just look around you. Confusion reigns and this didn’t happen by mistake. Everyone is familiar that the ongoing battle for the human race is between good and evil. God wants good for but you must abide by his wisdom to be in touch with that. “My own rules” just don’t work on that front. Bishop Sheen taught: The biggest fraud that the evil one perpetrates on the human race is to get people to believe there is no devil and thus no consequences! Well world-wide human race….how’s that workin for ya?

  35. Not that the lesser of two evils gets anyone off the hook, but I have a question for the good Father. (Yes, the rest of you will no doubt chime in, but this is directed to him nonetheless.)

    Fornication is not listed among the four “sins that cry to heaven for vengeance,” but sodomy is. In addition, while fornication is an offense against God, sodomy is an offense against both God and nature. Finally, the early Church banished to the order of penitents, those who were guilty of adultery (as well as apostasy and murder), which is not the same thing as fornication (or so I am to understand).

    Exit question: Given the above, are adultery and sodomy more serious sins than fornication (and please note that I acknowledge the latter to be a grave sin)?

    1. “Exit question: Given the above, are adultery and sodomy more serious sins than fornication (and please note that I acknowledge the latter to be a grave sin)?”

      St Thomas, somewhere, lists the sexual sins in order of seriousness. (Google it if you feel like it.) Your ordering is correct.

      Interestingly, he says masturbation (considered in itself) is worse than adultery, because more un-natural.

      But yes, fornication is most certainly grave matter.

  36. Respectfully, we need to stop calling it “premarital sex”. People are not heading toward marriage any more.
    Call it what it is: non-marital sex. It’s clearer.
    Now our culture is muddying the term ‘marriage’, but we need to speak crystal clear as Christians.
    It’s not about not having sex before marriage. It’s not about “not yet.”
    It’s not about not having sex without a license. It’s not about having the right documentation.
    It’s not about rules.
    It’s about our bodies and it’s about love.
    Sex matters. What we do with our bodies matters. Pleasure is not our only guide. Neither is selfishness.
    When you get naked with someone and share that ultimate intimacy, you are engaging in the most intimate act possible. It should only be done in the context of love and commitment and lifelong and family.
    To do it any other way (non-marital, homosexual, polyamorous, et al) is to sell ourselves horribly short.
    Live up to the greatness of sex and love.

  37. Even if the worst possible interpretation of the Pope’ action was accurate, this would not change the Church’s teaching any more than Alexander VI having a mistress did. Popes make dumb decisions just like the rest of us.

  38. thank you for your clarity. It is so vitally needed these days. my husband and i were married civilly and later in the Church when we became Catholics. our children mostly did not follow our example except for one and have worldly non Catholic relationships. The sin in the world makes raising children so difficult and making these sins more clearly defined makes parenting much easier.

  39. I wait for the day when canon law will list “co-habitating” before marriage an impediment to marriage. Statistically, couples who live together before marriage have an even higher rate of divorce than those who do not. To publicly live together before marriage all the while identifying yourself as a Christian or worse yet, a Catholic, not only causes scandal, but makes a mockery of the sacrament of holy matrimony. It confuses many and is a terrible witness!

    Msgr. Pope – thank you for your courage in speaking the truth!

  40. Excellent article. However, one question is haunting me. Does fornication cease to be a possible sin once we are married? what are the limits of a holy use of marital sex? Should I fear my bestial desires to have sex (for the sake of it, honestly, although I do lovey wife), even though I am a married husband, respecting natural cycles as means of birth control?

  41. The church fathers, such as St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, have stated that extra marital sex is an evil but an even greater evil is when the extra marital sex takes place using contraceptives to prevent a child from being conceived. This of course is so contrary to the ideas we have today. It is considered more responsible to prevent a child from being conceived through casual sex.

  42. An excellent piece, thank you.
    Regarding vincible ignorance and level of culpability – among my coworkers who are cohabitating with their girlfriends, they know (and some have told me) that they “are living in sin,” and even the unbelievers have expressed sentiments that they know it isn’t quite right. So even with pastoral mercy, we ought not view them as victims of today’s corruption. They are making a willful choice. I don’t believe their guardian angels have been laying down on the job! Surely they have stirred their hearts, but as we know, as we continue to ignore our conscience, its voice grows weaker. So the fault is entirely ours and we will be without excuse.
    The mercy we show them is a mercy which continues to let them know it isn’t right. It isn’t merciful to do as the world does and ensure them that nothing is wrong.
    We have a responsibility to them, whether it is to speak in prudence or to simply not cave in and stand our ground, “be a rock” of truth and live our lives truthfully so we can be witnesses to it in our own life.

  43. Thank you, Monsignor Pope, for speaking the truth. The truth is often painful to hear. In this particular area, much of society has fallen, at one time or another, into grave – mortal – sin. I have done so in my past and have suffered greatly for it. Thanks be to God I have repented of this and am now very happily married to man with whom I had been chaste before marriage. I concur with your statement that, inherently, we know that sex outside of heterosexual marriage is wrong. I suffered greatly while engaging in this behavior and yet I persisted in order to make my “partner” happy. I came to the decision to remain chaste and that decision was the death knell for this relationship. It was a terrible time for me and I had fallen away from the Church. I had nearly killed by conscience by ignoring what I knew to the Truth. Yet, the knowledge of Jesus’ mercy and grace brought me back to my senses. My life has changed profoundly since that day and there have been untold blessings….but most of all, peace. Whenever and wherever I can, I tell folks about the gift and power of sexuality and its sole place in marriage. Yet, the pain of my former way of life still remains, but that is, as Paul says, the thorn in my flesh. It helps me to remember my former way and to help others. Thank you again for your sincere, tough and loving preaching. It is truly a God-send. For those who are feeling very challenged or angered by the words in this article, that is the still, small voice of God speaking to you. Don’t ignore it. If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart.

  44. Would you mind commenting on 1 Corinthians 7:36? It was my understanding that we were to encourage our children to approach the sacrament not cast them out.

  45. If a person has not been expressly taught that a given act is gravely sinful do they thereby lack sufficient knowledge as to be culpable for performing that act?

    What does the Bible & the Catechism say?

    Romans 1
    18* For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20* Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; 21* for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.

    Romans 2
    12 All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law…
    15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness…

    Catechism of the Catholic Church
    #1776 Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”
    #1790 …Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.
    #1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.”59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.
    #1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

  46. Magr. Pope, thank you for clearly stating Catholic teaching. I lived that life for 22 years, but I always knew that it was wrong, and always knew that I was in the state of mortal sin. Fortunately, God was merciful in my case and called me back. I have now been back in the church for 22 years, my husband and I have been married in the Church for nearly as long, and the difference is like night and day!
    That lifestyle is soul-shriveling! After having internalized all of the mass media lies and “programming,” it takes a very long time to back out of that very strange madhouse which is the error-strewn modern culture. It’s like being de-programmed from a cult.
    To my way of thinking, one of the most grievous crimes of the Baby Boom generation (after the mass apostasy which occurred in the late 1960’s and 1970’s) was that for those children who were not contracepted and/or aborted out of existence, they were deliberately raised in no church or religious setting whatsoever, as a knowing, deliberate choice by their parents. I had any number of “parents” tell me that they did this on purpose, so that their children would feel free to become sexually active, and to experiment to their heart’s content, with sex, without guilt, as soon as they reached their teen years. Their parents all acknowledged, even if obliquely, that their own consciences bothered them to no end, and posited that if their children were raised in a totally godless manner, that they would be spared their consciences’ bothering them down the line.
    The contortions of reasoning that the Baby Boom generation used to justify contraception and abortion are even worse, but that is a matter for another day, another column.
    Thank you once again, Monsignor, for stating with crystal clarity Catholic truth, and in all sincerity, intellectual honesty and charity, to boot. I am so thankful for you and I try to include you in my daily prayer intentions.

  47. Dear Msgr. Pope,
    Thank you for your post. It’s clear enough for me. Thanks for telling me the truth. I am honestly a sinful person, and haven’t got any repentant.

  48. Having to choose between celibacy (a life with no sex) and marriage (a life with no personal freedom) is analogous to having to choose between homelessness and unemployment on the one hand, or slavery on the other hand. Would you rather be lonely and alone, or would you rather be in de-facto bondage? The sacrament of matrimony is nothing short of a man surrendering all legal rights and entering into indentured servitude to a cruel, unloving female master. I’ve seen enough men who have had to tolerate demanding, unloving wives, who milked them for everything they were worth, then left them, took their children away, and then sued for alimony. God has given us a raw deal.

    And I understand the whole “we are not our own” platitude, but does God have to deal with the torment of sexual urges that cannot be quieted and that have no lawful outlet? Does God have to deal with the pain of loneliness? Does God have to deal with the pain of divorce and the financial RAPE of alimony? If you cut me, does God bleed? What kind of a being creates something (that did not ask to be born), commands it not to do something, then gives it physical urges to do it? And as for those who die in mortal sin, God could easily annihilate that soul and get it over with, but instead he decides to keep it in existence so that it may continue suffering. Infinite punishment – for finite sins! What a merciful God we have!

    1. And there are a lot of women who have had to tolerate demanding, unloving husbands, who abused them and abandoned them.
      And there are a lot of men and women who have had to tolerate loving, supportive wives and husbands, who have formed mutually upbuilding habits in their lives and have grown increasingly joyful in their marriages as the years progressed. My wife and I are in such a marriage, so are my parents, and so were her parents (before her father died after 46 years of marriage).
      Be a good man, so that you can attract and marry a good woman. Start by dropping the negative attitude toward marriage.

  49. Oh Father, thank you for your defense of God’s Word. A true acceptance of martyrdom in these times. I am afraid this particular posting of yours may be pulled and you demoted to the Knights of Malta.

  50. Msgr. Pope,
    It is somewhat for these reasons that I became a Catholic traditionalist because I could never get a definitive answer on the subject of Morality among the modern Catholic clergy. I was in mortal sin at the time, but by God’s grace, I was led on a road to repentance and am now a married woman with six children. My saving grace was through the traditional Sacrament of Penance and an uncompromising priest. Thank you for being a light in the darkness, and letting me know that there are modern Catholic clergy who still stand against the sins of impurity. Thank you for stating the truth blatantly.

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