Is there a difference between celibacy and virginity?

Full Question

My non-Catholic friend and I are trying to settle a dispute about celibacy and virginity. He seems to think they are the same thing. He believes that I am not celibate because I've been married and had intercourse. I am now divorced. I say that I am celibate because I did not have intercourse prior to my marriage and am not having intercourse now. I am an old-fashioned Catholic who refuses to have intercourse outside of marriage and believe that I am still celibate even though I am married and having sexual relations. Who is right?

Answer

Neither you nor your friend are completely correct. Celibacy and virginity are not the same thing and engaging in sexual relations only within marriage is not the same thing as celibacy.

Celibacy is abstinence from sexual relations or the renouncing of marriage for religious purposes. Virginity is the state of one who has never engaged in sexual relations.

I suspect that you might be confusing the terms celibacy and chastityChastity is the state of refraining from immoral sexual relations (e.g., outside marriage). Chastity within marriage can be either conjugal chastity (engaging in sexual relations) or continent chastity (abstaining from sexual relations).