Why Cohabitation Is Morally Wrong

Full Question

Where is the dogmatic teaching that cohabitation before marriage is always wrong?


It’s not simply that cohabitation in and of itself is wrong, although it invariably places an unmarried couple in the near occasion of grave sin and is typically a cause of giving scandal to others (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2284-85).

The main objection to cohabitation is that it almost invariably involves fornication, which is an intrinsic moral evil (CCC 2353), meaning that it is always and everywhere gravely immoral. Conjugal love is meant to express the marital covenant between a husband and wife and is meant to be a mutual giving that is truly free, unreserved, faithful, and fruitful.

The possibility of procreation is a further reminder why married sex is called the “marital act”: because it is ideal for a child to be raised in a stable, two-parent household. This is not to say that single parents aren’t good parents but rather that the difficulties accompanying single-parent households are a reminder that couples should prepare for marriage well, i.e., in a virtuous, self-giving manner so as to lay the best foundation for a lifelong commitment. (To be clear, one may prepare well for marriage and still be subjected to a spouse who, God forbid, abandons or abuses the family.)

The Church’s infallible teaching on fornication is rooted in Scripture, as both Jesus (Matt. 15:19-20) and St. Paul (1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21) make clear the immorality of this misbehavior. For more on this topic, see this Catholic Answers presentation.

By  Tom Nash


1 comment

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Why should we believe Jesus, look at the passage:

    ” 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Mat 15:19-20.
    Think about how many millions of people Jesus could have saved by telling people about germs and sanitation. Eating with unwashed hands, can not only defile a man, it can kill a man. If Jesus was truly a god, one would have expected him to know this and to warn people to wash their hands and exercise good sanitation. Jesus, however, like every other prophet or messenger, knows absolutely nothing about any technology or learning that does not exist in his day. Why should we take him seriously, when he tells people they don’t have to wash their hands? This is not the only place he says this. Note as well that Jesus turns water into wine for rich guests at a wedding, but never turns lead into gold in order to feed the poor. Why not?
    Why should we believe Paul? Paul is adamant that the end times are near. Jesus too says on more than one occasion that there are some still living who will see end times. Paul expected Jesus’ return in his lifetime, or shortly thereafter and it didn’t happen. That’s why he told people to try and abstain from sex, and not get married unless they had to. If you could hold off, you would be more holy if you abstained from sex, and would get a straight shot to heaven – and after all, it wasn’t going to be long… but it was. Jesus told people to leave their wives, jobs and children and follow him. That’s horrific under normal circumstances, however if the end of the world is imminent, who cares – get right with Jesus and let the old lady and the kids fend for themselves! Paul and Jesus both preached imminent end times, and both were wrong. They have no credibility. (This all assumes a historical Jesus, something very much in doubt to begin with).

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