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Dear Father Angelo,
I am a boy who is rediscovering the right path, unfortunately I have been cohabiting with my girlfriend for a year; I went to confession several times and the confessor never sanctioned my mistake, but only advised me that it was good to get married; I also partook of communion many times unaware of my mortal sin, I know I am ignorant and I regret it feeling very bad in my heart; the saddest thing is that my girlfriend absolutely does not want to get married and justifies that by saying that she does not want such a great responsibility before God, and that she acts like that because she believes in marriage too much and is afraid of divorces; please help me understand what I should do, I have tried in every possible way and the terrible thing is that I cannot go to confession and partake of communion; for now, I abstain from sexual intercourse, but I think this will lead to her rebellion; help me, I’m desperate.
Answer from the priest
1. The situation you are in is complicated.
It seems to me that you want to get married, while your girlfriend has no intention at all.
It is true that marriage is a serious and great thing before God and that divorce is always traumatic.
But if marriage is a very big thing before God, is not cohabitation all the same a very serious sin before God?
2. In cohabitation, couples live together having sexual relations that touch the intimate core of each person.
But such sexual relations are twisted, because that act which by its very nature means that you are giving yourself totally, in fact excludes in its intentions (as your girlfriend does) and in its actions (contraception) the total self-giving.
It is a deceitful act, as John Paul II said in the Familiaris Consortio: “The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally” (FC 11).
What, then, is the sexual relationship among cohabiting couples shrunk down to?
3. Here is what John Paul II further says about the issue: “If the potential element of fatherhood and motherhood is radically and totally excluded from sexual and matrimonial relations, the reciprocal relationship between the persons is thereby transformed. The union in love slides towards mutual pleasure, or rather, it is better to say, towards the pleasure of the two partners” (K. Wojtyla, Love and responsibility, p. 216 [of the Italian edition (Translator’s note)].
And “by violating the laws of nature, the person is also violated, by being made into an object of pleasure, rather than an object of love. The disposition to procreate, in marital relations, protects love, it is the indispensable condition for a true union between persons” (Ib., p. 218 [of the Italian edition (Translator’s note)].
4. I do not want to shift all the blame onto your girlfriend. Because you also indulged yourself and fostered in her, as well as in yourself, a recreational (game-like) attitude towards sexual intercourse.
Sexual intercourse, on the other hand, was conceived by God with a view to a total personal self-giving.
When we say total, it means that nothing is held back in such a relationship. We sacrifice ourselves forever for the person we love.
This self-giving also includes putting oneself on the line for a true and real sacrifice for one’s children as well.
5. Your confessor, perhaps because you told him that you have no intention of going back, advised you to go forward to marriage, that is, to a “rectification of the situation”.
And that is right.
But if your girlfriend absolutely does not want marriage, what is the point of living together?
What is the vision of this cohabitation?
6. You tell me that you are willing to stop having sex but that you fear that at some point this might lead to her rebellion.
You must be strict on this point, and you must tell her that you do not want to trivialize sexual relations, that you only want them if they maintain their intrinsic meaning, the one willed by God.
And that therefore, until marriage, that is out of the question.
7. Your girlfriend says marriage is a very big thing before God.
But faking sexual intercourse and giving it a different meaning than the one God gave it, is this not a very big thing as well? Indeed, not only big, but is it not a very serious thing?
And being deprived of Holy Communion and the absolution of one’s sins (with all the related consequences), is it not a very serious thing?
8. If your girlfriend fears the responsibilities of marriage, she is free not to marry.
But she is not free, before God, to use sexuality as she wishes, altering its meaning of sacrifice, sanctification, and procreation.
These meanings are written into the intimate structure of sexual acts and generative powers.
9. My advice, therefore, is to take a step back, so that you commit yourselves above all to a path of chastity and sanctification, returning to live life as the Lord wants (that is, by giving up cohabitation).
Thus, you will undertake a path to verify and mature your intentions.
It is to be hoped (and for this we must also pray and offer some sacrifices to the Lord) that your girlfriend can understand and decide to walk by trustingly following God’s ways.
If, on the contrary, she will hold her idea of opposition to marriage, you will take your dutiful choices in order to build something serious, solid, and lasting, for your love life and for your future.
I assure you that you will be in my prayers. I will also pray for her so that the Lord enlightens her and touches her heart.
I bless you both and I wish you a peaceful and holy Easter.