Chastity - A Catholic Understanding

The Morals and Purpose of Catholic Dating

and the Martial Act

Dear Parents,

I am sharing with you more catechism teachings to help you teach your children about holiness.

Dating is now or will soon be a part of your children’s life experience. They will observe friends who are dating. Parents need to discuss the expectations for healthy dating and healthy friendships. Every Catholic commits their life to the Gospel teachings at Baptism. The Gospel teachings tell us to be chaste. Catholic teachings limit sexual intercourse to the Sacrament of Matrimony. Young Catholics need told this. Your children need you to teach them about vocational states of life, the morals of chastity, and wise dating. God calls your children to their best selves, and you to guide them toward heaven.

Chastity means to refrain from sexual pleasure or sexual intercourse outside of marriage. Sexual acts are reserved for two people who are married to each other.

An outline of a Life of Service to God: the 4 Vocational States of Life

  1. Ordained Clergy - Deacons, Priest, and Bishops – These men serve God’s People by providing the Sacraments and guiding His people with teaching. Because their work for the church is a huge commitment and never-ending responsibility, they do not marry nor become parents. Holy Orders is a Sacrament of Service to the Church.
  2. Religious Life – Religious brothers and sisters are a single man or woman who joins a Catholic religious order to work continuously for the People of God. The order becomes their family. They take on vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to the Superior of the Order and the Pope. They can take on work that would be hard for a family to do. Some work in society; some are contemplative. There are dozens of Catholic religious orders like Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites, and Jesuits.
  3. Marriage – For a Catholic, this is the Sacrament of Matrimony thoughtfully entered into and witnessed by clergy. The Church only recognizes the Sacrament between one man and one woman, not any another combination. The purpose of marriage is for a man and woman to help each other reach heaven. The second purpose is to lead their children toward heaven. There is no room for selfishness in the Sacrament of Matrimony. Married couples serve God by serving their family. A husband serves his wife with love, and a wife serves her husband with love. Together, they raise any children to be mature, holy Catholics. Matrimony is a Sacrament of Service to the Church.
  4. Single Life- A blessed vocation equal to the others. This is the state of life that your children are in now. Single life is holy and not to be rushed through. Some people are called by God to remain in the single life vocation their entire life which is a beautiful way to serve God within places of work. People return to this vocation after the death of a spouse. Single life is a fulfilling way to serve God by serving his people. Many single adults, that I know, volunteer abundantly, work in busy, service careers, and are very involved in their extended families. They live joyful lives.

Each vocation is a holy, good option that parents should encourage children and young adults to consider. Each can be an immensely fulfilling way to serve God and others with hard work. Each vocation calls us to a passionate love of Christ. Holy Orders requires many of the same skills as fatherhood. Some religious sisters and brothers teach children and work with families. All four deserve our respect.

It is false that God has created a human spouse for every person. That is a fictional movie idea. Thousands of people are not called to matrimony. 

A Catholic adult should discern that God is calling them to the new vocation before entering Holy Orders, Religious Life, or Matrimony. This should never be a sudden decision because these three vocations are a lifelong commitment. Prayer, receiving the sacraments, and guidance from the Church are part of the discernment process.

Dating is one tool that helps single people discern if Matrimony is their calling. Matrimony would always be a specific calling to a specific person.

Dating should be a state of chaste friendship. Chaste friendship allows for simplicity and emotional honesty, so a couple begin to know each other better. Chaste friendship allows true affection to develop. Affection is wanting goodness for each other; true romance is wanting what is best for your girlfriend or boyfriend. Physical lust is not love.

True love is as much a choice as an emotion. It is viewing the beloved with dignity, respect, and intellectual affection. True love looks for ways to serve to help the beloved be healthy and good. True love does not own the beloved but raises up the beloved. True love choses to continue to love each other even when things are difficult. Read 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 from the Bible often as a family.

There are things we do not want in our Catholic families. These are the same things we do not want in dating relationships.

jealousy, violence, lies, threats, cruel words, stealing, resentment, Hollywood style movie drama for the sake of drama, alcoholism, illegal drugs, pornography, belittling people, controlling others for your own benefit, blaming others for your own faults and mistakes, ridiculing skills and talents, fear for safety, fear of sharing thoughts and emotions, repeatedly asking or attempting to force someone to sin, masturbation, pre-marital sex

These destroy the body and soul of humans. These cause sadness and fear. Stop dating someone who puts anything on this list in your relationship. Ending dating can be tough, but it is more peaceful than a bad relationship.

Crystalina and Jason Evert, who teach about chastity for the Augustine Institute on the FORMED website, share this advice for chaste dating and healthy relationships:

For Catholics, dating relationships end in either marriage or breaking up. Respect the fact that a boyfriend or girlfriend may marry someone else or have a religious vocation or remain single. Pray for and with your boyfriend or girlfriend.  A boyfriend/girlfriend who does not build you up is not worth your time. Expect respectful behavior and words. Do not use flirting to control someone. Do not date to save or heal someone. Break up with someone who acts badly when upset. Cruel words or violence are signs that someone is too immature to date. Do not make serious decisions when grieving or in spiritual desolation. A dating couple should spend more time in public than in private. Set boundaries for physical affection and expectations for time together. Know the difference between affection and arousal. (2015 Augustine Institute)

Sexual intercourse is not for dating and is to be saved for Matrimony. Our body and souls are intertwined as one being, so what we do with one affects the other (CCC 362). Sexual intercourse has deep emotional and physical meaning for both men and women. It is always a gift of large consequence. Biologically, sex is designed to create a lifelong commitment between the man and woman. It is a physical promise, a physical covenant, which bonds the two people. It is the same commitment spoken publicly on the altar by a couple who is entering into Matrimony. It is a commitment to care for each other through illness, financial strains, exhausting days of work and chores, changing diapers, a broken hip in our eighties, grief, and joys. Sex before marriage would be a broken order of commitment to each other biologically, spiritually, and physically. First, there should be the public promise to care for each other forever, the wedding in a Catholic Church. The Sacrament prepares the couple with holiness for nurturing any children. Sex is a gift from God in which the couple join God in the creation of human beings. Sex outside of Matrimony destroys peace. The gift of sex is for the Vocation of Matrimony.

Dating should not progress into Matrimony until the adult man and woman realize that God is calling them to marriage to each other. Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A couple who are considering marriage should be in a safe relationship for both the man and woman to express themselves honestly. The couple must know how to communicate for the thousands of decisions they will make together over a lifetime. Their relationship should have the basics to grow holiness as a new family, a holy Domestic Church. Encourage goodness. Do not marry someone to save them, especially if you feel unsafe during difficult interactions. Do not marry someone who cannot handle anger, frustration, and disagreements maturely. They are not ready for the Vocation of Matrimony. Anger, frustration, and disagreements are natural parts of marriage as well as the joyful and romantic moments.

Civil marriage is governed by the state. The Sacrament of Matrimony is governed by the bishops of the Catholic Church. The Sacrament of Matrimony includes a civil marriage. Baptized Catholics should receive the Sacrament. The couple prepares with a final discernment process led by the Church, often called marriage preparation. It usual lasts months.  

A holy marriage encourages the best in both spouses and each to grow in holiness. The couple lives the virtues of love, faith, hope, humility, prudence, justice, fidelity, temperance, fortitude, and tenacity. A holy marriage provides teamwork in meeting the needs of family. A holy marriage encourages spouses to share their skills with family and community. A holy marriage builds humility and confidence in both spouses. A holy marriage reminds spouses to rejoice in family members’ successes and happiness.

Adult Catholics and young Catholics should choose wise adults who act with goodness for advice. Not all advice is good advice. Some adults are selfish or misunderstand human dignity. Be holy and cherish peace.

Your fellow disciple of Christ, Marie Chenevert