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Dear Father Angelo,

I am the mother of a man who will get married on … June of the current year. My son has been living together with a girl who is going to become his wife for 7 years. At that time they even had a break-up, but I have never known the reason. Now I am coming to my question, hoping to receive an answer.
I am a devout catholic and I supported this cohabitation. Here is why: the girl met my son in a context where he could have appeared to be very wealthy, while this was not the case. Hence, I have had doubts that she might have had other motives to merry my son.
I have already had the chance to talk about this with several priests and Franciscan friers. Some of them absolve people for this and even give communion, others instead claim it is a sin.
Now I wonder whether I know the Law of the Lord enough. I have always believed that the promise before God (marriage) is and has to be forever but I have never read neither in the Gospels nor in the Bible that the Lord banned cohabitation. At this point, was I sinning, too? So why do some priests absolve and give communion, although they know about cohabitations?

Priest’s answer

1. Living together was unthinkable under the biblical mentality. For this reason, this is not discussed in the Holy Scriptures.
However, fornication, which consists in sexual relations among single, unmarried persons, was prohibited.. Living together is a continuous fornication. 

2. A reference to cohabitation can be found in the Gospels, too, where the Lord says: “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” (Matthew 19,9).
The ”unlawful marriage” was a union which arose from an invalid marriage. And at Jesus’ times there were many invalid marriages because several Jewish women married a pagan (a Roman soldier) for economic reasons.
These marriages were considered invalid and gave rise to illegitimate unions, in other words, to cohabitation.

3. In the Holy Scripture, fornication is considered a grave sin that excludes from the Kingdom of God.
Saint Paul is very explicit on this point and says: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals… will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6,9-10).
Furthermore: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5,19-21).
Also: “Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure … has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5,5).

4. Il Directory of Family Pastoral (Italian Episcopal Conference) observes:
“For some time now, also in our country there has been an increase in cohabitations or de facto unions between people who conjugally cohabit, although their union has no publicly recognized institutional bond, either civil or religious. Nonetheless, some of these people intend to continue living their religious life, ask for sacraments for their children and want to bring them up in the faith.
Although contemporary culture tends to legitimate these cohabitations, Church has to reaffirm that they are contrary to the deep meaning of conjugal love: besides being never experimentation and involving always a total gift of self to the other, this love requires by its very nature recognition and social legitimacy” (Italian DPF 227).
It then concludes: “Finally, it is evident that as long as the cohabitants persist in this life condition, they cannot receive the sacraments: indeed, they lack that essential ‘conversion’ which is a prerequisite to obtain the Lord’s grace” (Italian DPF 230).

5. I cannot question what you are telling me, that is, that some priests do absolve and give Communion.
Perhaps your son and his girlfriend told them that it was impossible to change their situation and split and promised to live in perfect chastity until marriage and take Communion where they are unknown as cohabitants. In this case absolution is possible.
But if there was no real impossibility to change their condition and split and no promise to live in perfect abstinence from sexual relations, absolution is not possible.

I greet you, I remind you to the Lord and bless you.

Father Angelo