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How can young couples go beyond being “physical”?


Alex Holyoake / Unsplash

Katrina Fernandez - published on 08/23/18

Often, we tend to overlook the depth of spiritual and emotional intimacy.  

Katrina, I hope you can help me. I really want to know which specific sexual activities are considered mortal sins, because I am going to be speaking to our college campus ministry group in the fall and I know the subject will come up. It always does when we start talking about TOB (Theology of the Body).

I don’t think a discussion on sexual do’s and don’t is exactly what Pope John Paul II had in mind when he first introduced his ideas on the complementary nature of man and woman. If the discussion inevitably -as you say- turns that way, you can always switch the focus more on healthier ways that young couples can express intimacy beyond being physical with each other. Often, we tend to overlook the depth of spiritual and emotional intimacy.  

I strongly advise against approaching the subject with a list of Church “approved moves,” because 1) it doesn’t exist and 2) a list of what is OK and what is not invites boundary testing. So while passionate kissing might not technically be a mortal sin it still can place the couple in a near occasion of sin, or actually become a straightforward sinful situation.  

In committed relationships each person is in some way responsible for the other’s spiritual integrity. This means recognizing the dignity of the other person, and protecting their chastity as well as one’s own. If a person asks me how far I think they can physically go before crossing that line I would wonder what their motive is for asking such a question. It’s a very strange line of questioning that reduces intimacy to a game of limit testing while also pushing the boundaries of sin. It’s like saying to God, “see, I never crossed that line so we’re square; okay?”

In the end, it is cheap move, completely contrary to the original points of Theology of the Body. It misses the point and you shouldn’t be shy to point that out.

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