The Rev. Penny Ellwood, United Methodist Resurrection, Blue Springs, Mo.: Setting aside for a moment the voice of my mother, which rings in my ear with this question, we would have to start by defining sin.
In the original Greek New Testament, the most common word translated as “sin” or “sins” is “hamartia,” which literally means “to miss the mark.” As in an archer who shoots an arrow and misses the target, or in this case, the path God intends for us.
I believe God’s intention is that one person would give himself or herself fully to another in a relationship where “two shall become one flesh,” as it says in Genesis. The problem with premarital sex is that it causes us to miss the mark of God’s intent for this relationship.
For when we give ourselves to another and it doesn’t turn out to be the right one it causes a host of consequences from the pain or wounding of another in a broken relationship to a loss of purity and innocence that can’t be recaptured.
My pastor offers a duct tape analogy for this situation, that when you give yourself to someone, and it doesn’t work it’s like placing duct tape on carpet and then pulling it away. When we pull the tape away some of the adhesive stays on the carpet and some of the carpet sticks to the tape. Then when you go to stick the tape to something else the bond is compromised.
You lose a piece of yourself, and you take something of the other person away. You bring this past into every new relationship and you don’t have the full innocence of yourself to offer ever again. It doesn’t mean that you can’t work through the past when you meet “the one” but it’s not God’s ideal for us.
Now that I have children searching for the right partner, I know this to be true. When I was young I didn’t want to admit it. I hate it when my mother’s right!
The Rev. Justin Hoye, St. Patrick’s Church, Kansas City, Mo.: Yes, sexual activity of any kind outside of marriage is considered sinful, because sexuality is meant to be “a complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
From the earliest pages of Scripture we see the differentiation of mankind into male and female, how the two complement one another and how their union – the conjugal act – participates in creating new life: “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28); “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18); “the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
In the conjugal act of man and woman is the experience of companionship, a permanence of union, and the openness to new life. Catholic teaching maintains these reflections as statements on the constitutive nature of the human person. Jesus affirms the creation and union of male and female into one flesh, and ascribes attempts to undo this union as a result of hardened hearts (Mark 10:5-9).
Scripture and tradition propose a view of mankind that asserts a specific purpose of sexuality, and of men and women’s unique physical and sexual differences.
The Church believes that when we reflect on these proposals, we will find a truth that speaks to the longings in the depths of our being: companionship; a permanence of union; and the invitation to participate in the creation of new life.