“That premarital sexual relations make the choice of the right life partner more difficult than easier” (St. Pope John Paul II).
What is it?
“Premarital sexual relations” means the relationship of a couple in which a young man and a young woman are already sleeping together without having made a final decision for each other. The Church is not hostile to the body and does not want to spoil the fun of sex for young people, but she strongly recommends that full sexual relations should only be entered into when everything is together: love and desire, complete fidelity, an exclusive decision made before God for each other and the willingness to give life to children. The Church is the great protector of love only when it speaks clearly on this point. Sleeping together is not only a pleasurable expression of tender affection; it can also mean that (despite “foolproof contraception”) one gives life to a child who might then have to do without the security of a parental home with father and mother. Experience also shows “that premarital sexual relations make the choice of the right life partner more difficult than easier” (St. Pope John Paul II).
What does the Holy Bible say?
Holy Scripture says nothing on this subject because in Jesus’ time it was taken for granted that people did not live together before marriage. All the more clearly the importance of marriage is emphasized already in the first book of Holy Scripture: Because it is “not good for the man to be alone”, God wants to make him “a suitable partner for him” (Gen 2:18); and therefore “a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gen 2:24). Jesus reinforces this unity so vividly expressed (“ … one flesh…”) once more by adding a sentence that has become a kind of rock of Christian thinking about marriage: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mt 19:6). In the erotic-sexual becoming one – the wedding – something completely new comes into being, a unity that can no longer be divided. It is at the same time the existential turning point in the life of a man and his wife, as it is something divine. God unites the two, he creates a covenant into which he himself enters and declares this covenant indissoluble. At the same time, marriage becomes a “sacrament”, a sacred sign of something even greater: people should see in it how indissolubly deeply God has committed himself to his people and Christ to the Church. That is why the Church repeatedly points out that sex is not a toy for people who just fancy each other. Sex is the most binding signal of body language and the opposite of “non-committal”. Premarital, extramarital, co-marital … this only indicates that people are not yet (or no longer) at the level of love for which God created them.
A short YOUCAT-Catechesis
The Queen’s Garden
A bishop I was talking to about catechesis was obviously not a fan of catechisms – and not of the Youth Catechism either: “the YOUCAT is not up-to-date,” he said. “What do you mean by that?” I wanted to know from him. “Yes, what it says about premarital sex, no one adheres to that anymore!” I didn’t really find this view convincing. If it is true, for example, that one should not beat a child, then that is true whether one, all or just no one uses violence against children. The somewhat older Swiss priest who lectured a young visitor from Poland about the fact that in Catholic Switzerland one is a bit further ahead in matters of homosexuality and premarital relations than in his home country also created wrinkles on my forehead. These nice older gentlemen wink a little and think it will go down well with the coming generations!
But what does YOUCAT 407 say about why certain warning lights still go on in the Church’s teaching when young people just go to bed with each other like that? Why is that? The answer is: “Because she would like to protect love. A person can give someone else no greater gift than himself. ‘I love you’ means for both, ‘I only want you, I want all that you are, and I want to give myself to you forever!’ Because that is so, we cannot really say: ‘I love you’ on a temporary or trial basis, even with our bodies.” And then it says: “Many people take their premarital relationships seriously. And yet there are two reservations involved that are incompatible with love: the ‘exit option’ and the fear of a child. Because love is so great, so sacred, and so unique, the Church teaches young people the obligation to wait until they are married before they start to have sexual relations.” Is this unreasonable? No. Is it overkill? For some, maybe even most: maybe.
At the gate of her garden …
… once stood a beautiful young queen. One day a young man knocked on her door and demanded to be let in. The queen took a liking to him and said: “I’ll let you in. Come! I offer you what I have, the space and the time, my kingdom and my love. You are strong and will protect the borders of our garden. Together we will tend it, live from its fruits and grow old with the trees. Our children will play in the garden and we will have a good time in it. But know: You will never leave this garden again!” Then the young knight’s face darkened and he said, “I wanted to visit you and play with you. But I did not want to become your prisoner. There are so many gardens in the world, all of which I have not seen.” – “You had a choice,” said the queen and turned away.
That is only a fairy tale. In the reality of our day, the young man says, “You want it too!” The beautiful young queen is afraid that perhaps no real knight will ever come to the garden gate again. She opens the door for him and the two play together. They enjoy themselves until the young man remembers that there might be other gardens where something is up for grabs.
After the third knight of this kind, the beautiful young queen is also transformed – she forgets the royal garden and “wants it too.” Nevertheless, the truth remains: basically, every woman is a queen and deserves to be treated like one. And actually, there is a secret knight in every man who deserves to be challenged like a knight.
The locked garden
In the most erotic book of Holy Scripture – the Song of Solomon – the garden plays an important role; it says: “You are an enclosed garden, my sister, my bride, an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed” (The Song of Songs 4:12). The garden is an image of the inner richness of a young woman who is still “closed”, that is, who has not yet given herself to a man. She certainly does not want to keep the treasures of her love to herself; she longs for the play of love and union, and she says: “Let my lover come to his garden and eat its choicest fruit”s (The Song of Songs 4:16). And indeed there is the promise of all delicacies – “myrrh … honey … wine … milk … Eat, friends; drink. Drink freely of love!” (The Song of Songs 5:1)
It goes without saying that this cannot mean the ideological principles of the Sexual Revolution. These ideas, with which the world is currently being flooded, are not made for queens and knights, but for people who have made up their minds about romantic love. A new level of happiness is promised (to all who take part). Forget everything – say those of the Sexual Revolution – that you have heard about man, woman, love, marriage, children, decency, morality, God, and responsibility! It is pure, unadulterated sex! The sex that everyone is looking for – the children, the young people, the adults, the old people! Admit it! Behind your innocent façade you all want only one thing: maximum pleasure! So loosen up! Play around! Try it out! Agree on what you enjoy! If you still need love, marriage, children, decency, morality, and responsibility – please, nobody is stopping you!
All that is needed for a miracle
A woman who is still a “closed garden” seems like a joke in this perspective. In fact, some girls between 12 and 16 today have no bigger problem than how to stop being a virgin as quickly as possible. This is “technically” not a problem and usually goes quickly. However, the girls often wonder how, instead of acquiring an experience, they get a wound inflicted on them that hurts them emotionally deeply and permanently. Adolescents trained by pornography who violate girl after girl have no idea about the “closed garden”; and they sometimes don’t even know that a woman has a womb and that their deepest secret is that this mysterious being whom they were just enjoying for 10 minutes has space within – space for another human being who is not yet there. It is all that is needed for a miracle.
For a child to come into the world and into the maternal womb, it needs the man. And it needs, by the man’s penis entering the vulva, a “violation” of the woman’s bodily integrity. A wise woman rightly guards the “closed garden” like a treasure. Only love with a carefully chosen and thoroughly tested Mr. Right makes it so that the woman’s precious inviolability may be breached. It is only in love that this wounding breakthrough is longed for by the woman. For it is through a wound of love that the miracle of life comes about.
Only in love worthy of the name is sex not an illegitimate crossing of boundaries. And any “use” of a human being without this love is abuse. God has been the inventor of the human blueprint; he has put elementary drives into human beings that cause beautiful women and strong men to long for each other and want to unite. But God must not be thought to be so unimaginative as if he had only provided people with a proper “sex drive” for this purpose. God has embedded this desire in something much greater – in love. Even more imaginative: … in the love that women need and can give in their own way. And in love, as men need and can give it in their own way.
“Women are different – and so are men …”
stammers the German humorist Loriot (1923-2011) as he tries to enlighten his son. How right he is. How do women love? Women want to be seen and recognized; that’s why they make themselves so beautiful that men can’t take their eyes off them. They are beings with a dream of the future, beauty, homeliness – and a garden where children grow and are happy. The key to this vision is a strong man. He should be healthy and radiate the drive to create a new, fascinating reality together with her. She wants to be able to trust him to build a high wall around their shared intimacy and their nest ready for children, if necessary. The project of children presupposes stability and a secure milieu for at least two decades. This cannot be done with an infantile boy.
Women are more like interior designers who already know what the nursery will look like, even though they don’t know the architect yet. Men are more like architects. They are not so interested in the bed linen and wallpaper with flowers. They want to build something that deserves respect. There is also a little conqueror in every man. If this “conqueror” is not tamed by a clever woman, conquering becomes an end in itself. Such a man leaves behind nothing but conquered ruins.
A woman who knows what she is worth lets herself be conquered by her husband in such a way that he has “arrived,” that he no longer has to roam restlessly from garden gate to garden gate to “collect more trophies.” Really strong men find proud and beautiful women irresistible. The stupidest thing young women can do is let themselves be conquered without resistance. And sometimes the best sexual experience for a young man who can’t keep his hands to himself is a slap in the face.
But when the “queen” signals to the “knight”: “You may have me. But it will cost you your life” – then a young man learns that love does not cost him a cinema ticket and a few flowers from the supermarket. Then he has to give everything to the woman who is worth it. And enter into the project of marriage and family.
The order matters
In the past, people got to know each other. Then you became friends. Then you fell in love. Then they made their love public. Then you got God on board and got married (“…until death do you part”). Then you had sex. Then came the children. It was a brilliant order for happiness. Today it is often the case that first, you have sex. Then comes a child. Then you get to know each other. Then you fall out of love. And then you tell your friends via smartphone that “we’ll stay good friends.”
The Pope also knows that the order is confused for various reasons: “In some countries, many young persons ‘postpone a wedding for economic reasons, work or study. Some do so for other reasons, such as the influence of ideologies which devalue marriage and the family, the desire to avoid the failure of other couples, the fear of something they consider too important and sacred …” (Amoris Laetitia, 40).
It can be incredibly difficult for young people to desire each other physically and to be expected to wait until marriage for the full union. But it is the only heavenward solution. In a way, sex is marriage. And for a real marriage, you can’t miss anything that makes up real love – security, a lifelong commitment, the decision to never leave each other again. And if you simply start at the wrong end after a wild night in the club, wounds can occur that are almost impossible to heal. Because if one or the other then can’t keep what he or she promises with the body, it’s not a marriage. Usually, many lies follow: sexual escapades, marriage with reservations, temporary love.
Marriage is the greatest thing. Something unique in life. You can’t repeat marriage as often as you like. It is advisable to do it once and never again. With one person. Forever.
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