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Dear Father Angelo, 

We have already exchanged several emails and I am living another difficult period and would like to receive your input.

I am 17 years old and have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for 7 months, months in which we have always had regular, perhaps even excessive, physical relationships.

I am a christian, but she is not.

I acknowledge that I have not always been as good a servant of God as I should have been. I am determined to change because I feel a sense of uncleanness. I have the feeling that I am not doing well and that my soul is not at peace with God.

I am trying (so far successfully) to put an end to masturbation, but I would also like to stop having sexual intercourse, so I talked about it with my girlfriend.

She immediately did not want to know about stopping having intimate relationships, she says that since I was the first one for her, bringing this to a halt would bring her despair and insecurity. She said that she didn’t want to stop, ended up crying and I, given her difficult past, didn’t feel like going too deep into the conversation on how special sex is when done for its true purpose, which is to create life, and that other modalities are just tricks of the devil.

She does not want to know about faith, despite my telling her how the pleasures of the flesh are not everything and that sex has only led us to be so attached to it that we question our stability without it.

She also says that God is creating problems, not helping and is damaging our relationship.

In short, she has a view of an antagonistic God who denies us the pleasures we should take advantage of. 

Apart from these thoughts, she is a lovely person, and I can’t let her suffer like this, because she also sincerely loves me and I am very sure of that.

She is very attached to our relationship and I know that sex means a lot to her, but I cannot turn my back on the Lord. 

I want to do God’s will, I want to carry the crosses that the Lord entrusts to me and unite my sufferings with hers for the redemption of not only my sins but those of those who reject the Lord’s love. I pray a lot for my girlfriend, but I need to know how to act now, because both of us are really hurting like this. 

I ask for your thoughts, Father, and your advice closer to the word of the Lord, because here it seems that I am at a crossroads: choosing one way will leave the other behind, and I would like to balance the situation.

I thank you and send you my deepest prayers.

Have a good evening.

Priest’s answer

Dear friend, 

1. St. Giovanni Bosco applied to purity, and not without a sure biblical reference, what we read in the book of Wisdom 7:11: “Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands”.

It is true that the author of the holy book is talking about wisdom. But it is equally true that in another book of Holy Scripture we read, “I sought wisdom and found it in purity” (Sir 51:20).

2. This applies to you both, your girlfriend and yourself: if you want your union to endure and become more and more solid and more secure, take the path of purity.

Do not hand yourselves over to those who do not belong to you.

You know very well that you do not yet belong to each other permanently.

With sexual relations before marriage you unknowingly get used to handing yourselves over to those who do not belong to you.

This is the premise of marital and even pre-marital infidelity.

3. Just recently I responded to a girl who was desperate about cheating on her boyfriend. 

She did not mention the premarital relations with her boyfriend, but they were obviously happening, because she certainly would not have given herself up to another man over her boyfriend.

I responded to her by saying that the very sexual relations with her boyfriend were the premise of premarital infidelity.

This girl responded by thanking me and promising to live the rest of the engagement in purity.

4. I was struck by a statement you made: you realized that discontinued (disordered) sexuality put a strain on your relationship.

This means that by lacking sexual relationship your love for each other is lost.

But even in marriage there will be times when the sexual relationship will necessarily be lacking, but it will not be the sexual relationship that will put a crisis in the marriage, if your bond is founded on self-giving.

Now, self-giving is a spiritual event that takes place at the moment of marital consent during the celebration of marriage.

5. The crisis was born when you told your girlfriend that you wanted to express a more beautiful love with her, which is pure and chaste love. This stands to say that there is still a long way to go, because there is no true love.

The contraception you have implemented, while it marks on the one hand a minimum of responsibility so that you do not want to bring a child into the world in a state of professional immaturity and outside the institution of marriage, nevertheless it is the clearest sign that you do not give yourselves in totality.

So far you have united the bodies, but you have not united the spirit. You have not yet built that inner house that consists of the perfectly shared heritage of values in which you are committed to breathing and living.

6. John Paul II was right to say, “Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.” (Familiaris consortio, 32c).

It is, in other words, a lie. And it has been observed, precisely in reference to our topic, that even in telling lies one eventually tires. In other words, the spontaneity and freshness of what seemed like love, but was not, is lost.

7. A great Catholic bioethicist such as Cardinal Elia Sgrecia wrote, “When man and woman unite, if the act is human and full, it involves the body, the heart and the spirit; if one of these dimensions is lacking, it is then a humanly incomplete and objectively false union, because the body has no meaning except as an expression of the totality of the person” (Handbook of Bioethics, I, p. 329).

8. The reasoning that you use in your email shows an exceptional maturity, not easily found in any seventeen-year-old boy.

This maturity is made evident by your willing interruption of autoeroticism with a single act of self-determination.

It seems to me that I can say, almost with certainty, that you will be able to rebuild the relationship with this girl by remaining determined to be chaste.

It is a strong act by which you will gently force her to mature and to defend your affection.

This is the time for the trial by fire.

9. Finally, however, I cannot hide the difficulty of carrying on a spiritual relationship when one of you does not have faith.

It is faith that gives a new view and for that very reason projects life toward the supernatural and eternal goal to which it is directed and of which it continually yearns. For it is well true what St. Augustine wrote at the beginning of his Confessions, “for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee” (Confessions, I, 1,1).

10. St. Thomas reminds us that marriage cannot limp (matrimonium non potest claudicare; non claudicat; Supplement to the Summa Theologica, 47:4).

Just as there cannot be a mother without children, just as there cannot be a husband without a wife, and vice versa, there cannot be a wife without a husband, so there cannot be true and total fusion of spirits if one of them has turned it off or even does not have it.

We are now on the eve of Christmas.

Ask baby Jesus for the grace to break through your girlfriend’s heart.

I bless you and wish you a peaceful and Holy Christmas.

I thank you very much for the prayers you sent me. I believe the Lord has accepted them.

In my turn I remember you warmly in prayer. 

Father Angelo