A Reminder that Fornication is a Serious Sin that Can Exclude Us From Heaven

The epistle from Monday’s daily Mass (30th Week of the Year) contains an admonition against unchastity. This grave warning is essential in times like these, when many call good or “no big deal” what God calls sinful. This is especially true in the realm of sexuality; entire sectors of society not only tolerate but even celebrate sexual practices that Scripture calls gravely sinful and that will lead to Hell if not repented of. Homosexual acts, fornication, and adultery cannot be considered allowable by any Catholic or any person who sincerely accepts Scripture as the Word of God. Even those who do not share our faith should be able to observe the damage these acts cause: they spread disease, harm marriages and families, subject children to less-than-ideal households (e.g., single mother/absent father), and lead to abortion. Regarding the Pope’s recent remarks on same-sex union, I have written on that here at the National Catholic Register. On account of those remarks it seems necessary review once again important  teachings here and on the EWTN Morning Glory radio show.  

In today’s post I will focus on the sin of fornication and present the clear biblical teaching against it. Sadly, many Catholics report that little to nothing is heard from the pulpit or in the classroom about this issue. The hope in this post today is to present a resounding, biblical trumpet call to purity that leaves no doubt 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, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will). In most situations, these conditions are met. Over the years I have met with many sexually active couples preparing for marriage and have never found them to be surprised that I rebuke them for this. They know it is wrong; the voice of God echoes in their consciences. As for consent of the will, although some fall occasionally in a weak moment, consistent fornicating with no measures taken to prevent it (e.g., not cohabitating) 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 serious sin. The Church must not lack clarity, yet pulpits and classrooms have often been silent. This has led to parents themselves to be silent—and silence is often taken as tacit approval.

Fornication cannot be approved of. It is sinful and excludes unrepentant sinners from Heaven. Our charity for souls compels our clarity about the grave sinfulness of premarital sex.

The following passages from the New Testament clearly condemn fornication and other unclean or impure acts. 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. This mercy must be accessed through repentance, however.

There is a general requirement for 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).

Unrepentant fornicators are excluded from the kingdom.

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)

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).

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).

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

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)

Even our thought life is summoned to purity.

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).

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).

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).

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).

My body is not my own to do with merely as I please.

Can 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).

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).

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 (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

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

Do not despair of God’s mercy but do repent. Mercy is accessed only through repentance. It is wrong—seriously wrong—to fornicate. Repent without delay.

10 Replies to “A Reminder that Fornication is a Serious Sin that Can Exclude Us From Heaven”

  1. Loved the clip. You could see the scales fall from the eyes of the actress as she realizes her own probable situation. Pew research did a study years ago: 80% of cohabiting women think it’s leading to marriage (she shows herself as home maker and dutiful wife material) while 80% of men think it’s mostly about convenience (she covers half the bills…not to mention all that free and willing sssssex!). ROFL!

  2. Our culture slowly prepared us to view fornication as something acceptable. Even the word fornication conjures up images of prudish, finger wagging fundamentalist preachers. Hip, cool, funny (not really) characters in sitcoms (Sex in the City and Friends come to mind) endlessly go on about their sex lives which in fact are rather boring. Funny thing is statistics show that people in their 20’s and 30’s are actually having much less sex.

  3. Praise God for our courageous priests who are not afraid to publicly adhere to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ!! Thank you, Msgr Charles Pope for your cooperation with grace in proclaiming the faith of this One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that Jesus Christ Himself founded!!
    Powerful video at the end!!

  4. I realize that you are sticking with New Testament sources, but one of my favorite scripture verses on the subject comes from Daniel in the account of Susanna and the elders. There Daniel defines lust in a tripartite formula about as well as it can be nuanced: “When the elders saw her enter every day for her walk, they began to lust for her. They perverted their thinking; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments.”

    I think it can be easy for a Catholic to go too far in condemning as lust what is not lust (especially where one is inclined to scrupulosity), but I find the above formula as a great way to explicate the term in an examination of conscience without going too far.

  5. Great summary & Bible verses to back it up, Msgr. Pope! I’ll save this for future evangelization. Our culture has completely accepted the mortal sins of divorce, contraception, and fornication (leading to abortion, gay marriage & gay adoption / child surrogacy, out of control pornography, and even euthanasia, which is just the next stage in the culture of death).

    If our priests would emphasize this right teaching, it might start to nudge our culture in the right direction. We Catholic laypeople must start to evangelize others about this as well. We can all make a difference! We just have to be willing to suffer for the truth… to suffer for Christ, our King!

  6. A practical atheism spreads throughout the world. In other words, a practical disbelief in God is a common attitude in everyday life. Sense appetites rule. Proscriptions “from the pulpit” mean little, in practice. The Cross is so heavy. People just cannot seem to co-operate with Grace, from wherever it is offered.
    Nevertheless, God has gifted us with the power to co-create life.
    Originally, life was inextricably linked to love. It has been weakened. We all want to live abundantly, yet our power to love is hindered. The Fall, you know.
    Deep down however, we do all want to truly love and live well. The sexual act is meant to be a truly loving act. Apart from true love, the act degenerates into self-centeredness. That never ever works out for anyone. Walking dead and severe unhappiness. The Sacrament of Marriage is essential. A Man and a Woman really loving one another, back and forth. It’s difficult, but choose to live and to love for real. Think about consequences. Oh, and believe in God practically; love Him. He loves you. Choose to keep your will free.

  7. Father,

    Thanks so much for this.
    Question: So how does one relate to one’s young adult child, who is fornicating and living with someone? Prudentially, should one welcome that cohabiting couple into one’s house, when the house is filled with the younger, mostly minor age, siblings of one of the fornicating/cohabiting persons. In spite of the cause for scandal, should one invite them into the house as a couple, so as to not shun them and drive them away? Should they be treated as if there is nothing wrong? That is hard to see; because clearly fornication is very bad, morally and prudentially.

  8. Thank you for this wake-up call. It saddens my heart to know that for so many years/decades there has been silence from the pulpit in these matters. 35 years ago, our associate pastor told my daughter it was alright to cohabitate before marriage. My wife and I were livid; it caused great damage to our family relationships even to this very day. Sadly, even now, few priests speak forcefully on these matters. Thank you, Msgr. Pope, keep hitting it hard!

  9. To simple? Especially with the complexity, frailties of the human mind. It can only handle so much pressure.
    With all the pain, suffering in the world today, right now, there are other issues. Individual, social national that should take priority.
    See bio.

  10. Holy marriage, of course, implies, no coercion (common human dignity), no divorce (common economy for life) no contraception (common graces). Confer Gen 2:24-25. Confer also Gen 1:27, it is really all right to live as monk or nun. As regards, no coercion, this probably means civil society with people forgiving one another. On the contrary, the prophet Isaiah speaks of certain demons in the desert (hell or limbo), confer Is 34:14, perhaps demonic male and female heterosexuals, male homosexuals, and socalled autosexual. The sexual revolution. People who waste their time for life waste life.

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