Does this sound familiar?:

“Sex is bad and dirty and it angers God if you do it before you get married. You must practice self-control by never thinking about sex, lest you anger God and violate his commands in the Bible. Sex should only be experienced in marriage, in which case then a married couple can have at it as much as they want.”

This, of course, IS NOT Catholic teaching—however, it can sometimes be an outsider’s perspective of a Christian’s understanding of sex. What disturbs me, however, is when I see good Christians take this understanding of their sexuality. I see this, on occasion, when couples practice abstinence in their relationship apart from chastity.

Chastity is the virtue which allows you to express your sexuality according to God’s designs. It is what enables the human person to express their sexuality as an act of love instead of an act of using another person as a means to an end. Abstinence is simply saying no, or abstaining, from sex. Abstinence is a necessary part of chastity, but shouldn’t be practiced apart from chastity.

Problems can arise within a relationship or within a person, when the sexual appetite is treated as something inherently bad and evil, instead of something that must be tempered for the sake of love. I’ll give you a few examples of people who I think take abstinence too far:

–        I recently heard a story of a 17 year old boy and girl who were dating. They got in trouble because they had “crossed second base.” What had they done? The boy had put his arm over the girl’s shoulder.

–        I have a female friend who recently spoke at a conference where someone approached her and asked her why she would speak on chastity while also leading men into sin with the way that she dressed. What body part was exposed? Her elbows.

–        I recently saw a video where an engaged couple stated that they hadn’t expressed any physical intimacy other than a side hug.

–        I recently heard a young woman tell me how she was struggling with chastity and that she just couldn’t control her thoughts. She said, “I just need to get myself to a point where I never think about sex!”

It is impossible for me to judge the hearts and intentions of these people and their relationships. But, when I hear stories like these, my first thought is that these people don’t have a healthy understanding of God’s plan for their sexuality—and they are trying to repress their sexual appetites rather than live them out according to God’s plan.

Don’t get me wrong; it is commendable and encouraging to find couples and individuals who strive for the virtue of chastity. For the chaste couple, the relationship needs boundaries and those boundaries need to be agreed upon by both parties in a relationship. The reason why you set physical boundaries in a chaste, dating relationship is because it is an act of love. The reason why you dress modestly is so that a person looks at you and sees a person rather than body parts. It is also true that when setting boundaries or dressing modestly, it is better to err on the side of being too conservative. But there is huge difference between saying, “no” to sex and saying “yes” to love.

When I was doing my undergraduate studies in theology, someone asked my marriage professor what he thought of couples who saved kissing for marriage. He replied, “There is nothing wrong with saving kissing until marriage provided the intention is for the right reasons. But there is something very wrong with having an attitude toward your beloved of ‘I love you—BUT DON’T TOUCH ME!’” His point was very clear; chastity should be practiced as an act of love. When practiced, it brings freedom and blessing into a person’s life.


Everett Fritz - headshot3Everett Fritz works in Catholic Youth Ministry and enjoys speaking on the topics of chastity, discipleship, and youth evangelization. He is the Content Development Coordinator for YDisciple at the Augustine Institute and holds an MA in Pastoral Theology with concentrations in Catechesis and Evangelization from the Augustine Institute. He also holds a BA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Everett resides in Denver with his wife Katrina and their three children. You can connect with him through Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catholiceverettfritz or Twitter: @Efritzfritz1 and http://everettfritz.com/



  1. All I have to sayy is Amen!!!

    By Catherine Cortez | 7 years ago Reply
  2. I really enjoy listening about this topic, specially to learn how to explain this life style to my family and friends.

    By Kevin Sambula | 7 years ago Reply
  3. Beautiful

    By People love | 7 years ago Reply
  4. Usually I do not read articles like this because they piss me off. Why do they piss me off? Not because I’m against chastity or modesty (which I do think are forced down our throats, but good virtues to practice) but because these articles are always missing one thing..the solution! This article addresses the problem but doesn’t give any solutions to help couples or individuals practice chastity and abstinence in a less extreme manner than the examples given. The articles addresses that people are often confused and have a skewed idea of sexuality, but the author never actually states a correct definition of it. Maybe I’m just rambling, but to me this article seemed as if it only stated a problem and didn’t help solve it.

    By Gretchen | 7 years ago Reply
    • Agree with you.

      By CC | 7 years ago Reply
    • Look at the top of the web page and you will see a tab called answers.

      By ed | 7 years ago Reply
  5. Great article! Thanks for posting.

    By Kellie Conrad | 7 years ago Reply
  6. Jesus said if someone looks at a women with lust, he has done adultery in heart!!

    When a couple is not married but engaged they are still two different men and women, are they still supposed to follow the words of the Lord even if the intention of the couples is pure love?

    Can I change the word of God according to my wish and the culture around me?

    I believe nobody can go too modern by compromising with physical contacts like french kissing etc by saying that it’s out of true love!!

    What’s so hurry? if it’s true love? as word of God defines love – “love is patient ”

    It’s just for few days or months… Still the so called ‘true love ‘ can’t be patient?

    I think it’s the pleasure of breaking the word of God provided by the evil as for any other sin which is working here also for justifying such statements…

    Using the terms “conservative ” and “modern ” won’t work with Christ I believe 🙁 🙂

    Sorry if I am wrong… 🙁 🙁

    God bless… + 🙂

    By Matt Pratt | 7 years ago Reply
    • The difference is between looking at a person with love and looking at a person with lust. In the case if lust, it’s using the person for (selfish) pleasure. In the case of love, it’s admiring the person whom God has given you to share your life in marriage. Even married couples can look at each other with lust.

      By Delene | 7 years ago Reply
    • Amen Matt. Love is patient and sex is intended to be a beautiful thing, drawing two people closer together by Gods design, within the confines of the martial bed. Not just any bed, figuratively speaking. And not being too physical with your dating partner, holding hands, hugging, putting your arm around the shoulder and kissing while dating, is very commendable and keeps one from temptation. I commend anyone who will put god first before their human desires.

      By Kristie Maure | 7 years ago Reply
    • What he is talking about, is that people will take it to the extreme, i mean look at the examples he used, a woman didn’t cover her elbow and yet she is being told she’s leading men to sin! A bit extreme if you ask me. Its not bad thing to show your affection towards your partner, but as Everett pointed out, it has to be pure and from a place of love! God doesn’t want us to be like robots when it comes to love. Abstinance and Chastity should go hand in hand, you cant have one without the other. Let’s not be the extremists the world likes to portray us as but rather men and women of God!

      By Maria | 7 years ago Reply
    • Yes I agree with you partially but I encourage you to read over Matthew 5.27-30 while Jesus says “that everyone who looks at a woman LUSTFULLY” He does not say ‘lovingly’. Yes I agree that there should not be a reason to wait however, if I look at my girlfriend and see the Beauty of God why is that lustful? And why should I not express a small portion of my love to her? I believe that with boundaries, set according to the Tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church ‘all is good in moderation’

      By Matt sluder | 7 years ago Reply
  7. Christ went out into the world, to the people who didn’t know him, to the lowliest of the low and the worst of the sinners. He didn’t ask anyone to live in his world, he came down to live in ours and to change how we live. So I don’t think using the words “conservative” or “modern” is an issue, because it relates to the time and place that we are now living in. One can commit acts of love without lusting, it’s merely a matter of which of those acts of love should be exclusive to marriage. That’s the real question.

    By Hagen Lendewig | 7 years ago Reply
    • Exactly! The love expressed by specifically marital acts is uniquely intimate, but love is not lust.

      By Gabriel | 7 years ago Reply
  8. I am agree with you, Everett!
    In Spain we can see couples that life with strict rules that are completly different to the God love and the Church, where we are sinners but with full of hopeness! Full of sins but happy and with peace because the Lord love us!
    Before now, we though not to kiss my boyfriend because we want be perfect and saints easily but is much more difficult but (I think) better for the eyes of God if we are responsables with our decission of live Christian love throw our concience, with a good Christian formation, talking with the other one, going to the Confession one more time, … Harder but happier!
    If the Church doesnt establish strict limits is because our concience is the most important, (always in accordance with the Magistery of the Church, that is very clear in one or two questions, but not say a lot of rules for every cases). I think this is the hard but the happy way of the personal responsability and internal freedom in the Christian life.

    Very good your article! Thank you

    By Miriam | 7 years ago Reply
  9. Our Sexual force defines us, Our gender, atraction is great, chemistry is Gods way to draw us to someone, its his desing.I recomend highly JP 2, Theology of the body, its Biblical chasity combined with fenenoligy, a way to understand ourselfs and others through Christ 🙂 Atraction is good, Our body” s are temples of the Holy Spirit, we reach salvation with our bodys not despites our bodys, Thats the oficial teaching of the Chatecism, Christ was born in the flesh, died and reserected in the body, ascended to heaven with body and soul to reedem our fallen states in our bodys, with active sacramental life we expirence a pre mercy state a small part if the heavenly reality, Our bodys are sacred, dont let be fooled by claiming otherways, we are made for eternity in our bodys, reserection if the body our main Truth of faith states “, Gbu have a great Day + 🙂

    By Tomislav | 7 years ago Reply
  10. Well said!

    By Mary | 7 years ago Reply
  11. Some people are more easily aroused — sexually – than others. For some, it occurs at the slightest touch. Boyfriends and girlfriends must avoid doing anything to willfully cause sexual arousal in themselves or each other, including thinking certain thoughts. We should remember that the sins of lust are always grave matter and thus satisfy one of the three conditions for mortal sin.

    The problem comes when someone tries to write a universal rule of conduct based on their own personal experience. Someone for whom holding hands is a mortal sin should refrain from holding hands, but he shouldn’t judge another hand-holding couple to be necessarily guilty of anything. And he also shouldn’t judge his partner as having malicious intent if she doesn’t know his triggers. Couples need to communicate about this most important subject of eternal salvation, even though it is an awkward conversation best held face to face.

    I mention this because your post was shared on Facebook by an ex-girlfriend of mine who did not respect my boundaries. Since this was a topic of argument between us, I assume she has misinterpreted your article to mean that touching the non-erogenous zones is always okay. Sometimes it isn’t.

    By C. | 7 years ago Reply
  12. This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard

    By Ming | 7 years ago Reply
  13. Problems can arise within a relationship or within a person, when the sexual appetite is treated as something inherently bad and evil, instead of something that must be tempered for the sake of love.

    While this is a nice thought, this author is out of step with modern Christianity for when it comes to sex and physical attraction that *is* the message. Physical intimacy is treated as a domino theory: Kissing leads to making out which leads to fondling which leads to sex. The theory goes that if you stop / discourage the first acts then it won’t “escalate” to other things.

    The sad fact is that if one’s goal is to stop sexual activity before marriage, tying the behavior to eternal reward or punishment is the most effective tool followers of Christianity have. It’s also quite damaging.

    The modern Christian view of sexuality runs counter to human biology. No intellectual somersaults or bible versus change that.

    By Scott | 7 years ago Reply
    • The primary problem that leads people to think they are basically slaves to sex is this very theory. If human love is only a matter of biological drives, then it is not really love, but animalism. This is why for a while intentional sexual pleasure was looked down upon even in marriage until somewhat recently.
      Is a kiss, as it was originally invented, a stimulation procedure ,
      or an expression of effection?
      Lust is the perversion of Love!

      By Gabriel | 7 years ago Reply
  14. Mr. Fritz is a very clever man. He knows the power of the half truth, which is oftentimes more dangerous than a bold faced lie. I think he uses a subtly veiled type of sarcasm in criticizing the virtue of purity. He addresses nothing of the dangers of lust and how easily it can be triggered with just a kiss or a warm embrace. Nothing about the sins of the flesh being the one that sends most souls to hell. He says nothing about confessing our sins of “THOUGHT, word and deed.” If thoughts are truly so inocuous and blameless does Mr. Fritz consider it moral to be entertaining racist thoughts about minorities? Whether it’s intentional or not, he uses what I call the logic of the devil.

    By Joe | 7 years ago Reply
  15. I wish I could find more to read on this topic!!

    By Leti | 7 years ago Reply

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