Is Mixed Company-Keeping a Mortal Sin?
I am a Catholic nineteen year old and have a non-Catholic boy-friend whom I like very much. Recently my father told me that I must give this boy up because it is a mortal sin for a Catholic to keep steady company with a non-Catholic.
I am sure that this cannot be true because if it is there are surely hundreds of Catholics committing this mortal sin.
My father reads The Liguorian and I beg you to write the truth about this question so that he will understand.
Your father is considerably nearer the truth than the many young Catholics who are endangering their happiness and their souls by mixed company-keeping, even though there are some distinctions to be made in the matter.
Your father no doubt bases his statements on a principle that is clearly set down in the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, according to which Catholics are seriously forbidden to enter into mixed marriages.
The law goes on to state that this prohibition arises from the divine law whenever there is danger of loss or lessening of the faith of the Catholic, whenever there is danger that the children of such a marriage will be deprived of a full Catholic upbringing, and whenever there is danger of scandal or weakening of the faith of others. (Experience proves that in most mixed marriages some of these dangers are to be found.)
But even apart from these dangers which one may not deliberately encounter without breaking the divine law, mixed marriages are forbidden to Catholics by the universal ecclesiastical law.
Since mixed marriage itself is thus forbidden, the conclusion can surely be drawn that, since company-keeping is only lawful when it may be a preparation for a good marriage, mixed company-keeping is unlawful for Catholics.
There may be exceptions to this general rule, but the exceptions can be based only on definite reasons for which the Church grants dispensations for Catholics to marry non-Catholics.
Some of the exceptions would be based on the following circumstances:
1) If a Catholic lives in an area in which there are very few Catholics, so that there is little chance of marriage except with a non-Catholic.
2) If a Catholic is well past the ordinary years in which marriage is thought about, and thus has greatly lessened chances of finding a partner for marriage.
3) If a Catholic starts going with a non-Catholic who almost at once shows a sincere interest in the Catholic faith and thus gives solid hope that he (or she) will become a Catholic, preferably before marriage or even engagement.
In any case the company-keeping is forbidden if there is obvious danger to the faith or morals or future children of the Catholic.
As a girl of nineteen, living in a city with a large Catholic population, you cannot defend your mixed company-keeping on either of the first two counts.
If you are in love and cannot possibly marry for a number of years, is it better to give up the person you love or to continue keeping company in the hope of eventual marriage? My case is this. I got married during the first World War, and a few years later my wife ran away and divorced me.
Now I have met a girl who, I believe, would make an excellent wife. I want to be married as a good Catholic, by a priest, but have been told I cannot because my first wife is still alive.
I am 42 years old. I am still determined to be married only by a priest. The girl wants to wait until I am free.
Should we continue to keep company until something happens to make it possible for us to be married. or should we separate?
There is a principle of Christian ethics that must be applied directly to your case. The principle is this: Only they are permitted to keep close and continuous company who are free to marry within a reasonable and foreseeable time.
The reason for this is that company-keeping between a man and woman who are attracted to each other ordinarily becomes a greater and greater danger to their souls the longer it goes on.
It is intended by nature to lead, not to sin, but to marriage. If it cannot lead to marriage, as in your case, it will almost surely lead to sin of one kind or another.
You are not permitted to risk so great a danger when you can escape it by giving up the company-keeping.
Having a lawful wife, even though divorced, you are not free to marry within a reasonable or foreseeable time, and therefore, the security of your soul demands that you forego company-keeping till such time as you are free to marry again.
A second reason why you should not continue to keep company with the girl is that, despite her expressed willingness to wait for you, you are doing her an injustice by limiting her freedom to go out with someone whom she could marry.
It is also a sin of scandal to keep her in the circumstances that can so easily lead to sin, and of bad example to others in the same situation as you are.
It must be remembered that the evil of adulterous thoughts, intentions and actions is not changed by the fact that a married man does not happen to be living with his wife.
His marriage vow binds him till death breaks it, and in the meantime he may not think of another marriage or those things that led to marriage.
I cannot see the justice of your statement that company-keeping is lawful only when there is some prospect and intention of marrying.
I have a boy friend with whom I have been keeping company for ten years.
Neither of us cares to get married. He does not want to be tied down to marriage and I do not want to give up my job because I have no taste for house work or bearing children.
I suppose I should admit that we fall into sin now and then, but we always go to confession afterward.
Certainly we have a right to each other’s companionship even though we do not plan on ever getting married.
I am afraid I must be blunt in contradicting you. Under the circumstances you describe you have no moral right to keep company.
Two things make it sinful.
The first is the fact that you have actually excluded the prospect of marriage from that which is lawful only as a possible preparation for marriage.
The second thing only multiplies the guilt you incur under the first head; it is the fact that your company-keeping has become an occasion of habitual sin.
It is practically certain, moreover, that your confessions are bad, because a confession cannot be good unless there be sincere and practical sorrow for sins confessed.
Such sorrow is impossible unless there be a determination to give up unnecessary occasions of sin.
It is obvious that when you confess the sins committed with your boy friend you have no intention of giving up the unnecessary occasion of those sins, which is keeping steady company with the deliberate intention of never marrying.
It is one of the moral monstrosities of our day that there are people who keep company for years, take to themselves the pleasures that are lawful only in marriage, and yet exclude marriage and its responsibilities from their thoughts and intentions.
That it is a monstrosity is evident in the fact that your own conscience has become so dull to so fundamental a moral principle.
I beg you to pray hard for light and courage to see and do what is right; to talk things over with your boy friend, and then, for the sake of your immortal soul, to decide to give up company-keeping or to plan on marriage soon.
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