Is French Kissing a Mortal Sin? (Pope Alexander VII)

Does “making out” or “French kissing” constitute grave matter for people who are not married? I was recently asked this question and had to do some digging. I also checked out the Latin sources. Here’s what I found.

Alexander_VII (1)

Pope Alexander VII

Apparently Pope Alexander VII (r. 1655-1667) was busy condemning not only French Jansensim, but also French kissing. Here’s the decree:

According to a decree of Pope Alexander VII in 1666, a kiss is not “merely a venial sin when performed for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight which arises from the kiss, even if the danger of further consent and pollution is excluded.”{1}

- Alexander VII, “Condemned Decrees” proclaimed on the 18th day of March in 1666 (Denzinger 2060, 1140 40).

So even if two people plan on preventing “further consent and pollution,” that is, they’re not going to engage in fornication, the kissing itself is gravely sinful if it elicits “carnal and sensible delight.”

Obviously giving someone a quick kiss or peck is does not cause “carnal and sensible delight.” However, prolonged kissing would. So what do we make of this? I suppose that this would be a very controversial topic in our day. Our culture and even our Church is concerned about all things sexual. What do you think? Please leave a comment.

{1} Here’s the Latin of Alexander VII. For the sake of clarity, the following opinion is not endorsed but is judged as false:

2060 1140 40. Est probabilis opinio, quae dicit, esse tantum veniale osculum habitum ob delectationem carnalem et sensibilem, quae ex osculo oritur, secluso periculo consensus ulterioris et pollutionis.

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  • GFvonB

    Did you check St. Alphonsus “Doctor of Moral Theology” Ligouri’s Moral Theology? I’d be surprised if it wasn’t covered in there, and it’s the most authoritative manual the Church has – the only one confessors are allowed to apply without regard to the circumstances of the sin.

  • DoTheRightThing

    Kissing, “when performed for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight which arises from the kisses”, is gravely sinful for the reasons that: (a) by doing so, the kisser clearly, in the basest sense of the word, uses the person being kissed as an object of sexual pleasure; (b) debases for the the kisser his/her ability to understand the true purpose and proper circumstances for this marital type of kiss; and, (c) leaves the kisser oriented in the direction of greater exploitation/objectification of other persons for his/her personal gratification. 

  • DoTheRightThing

    Kissing, “when performed for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight which arises from the kisses”, is gravely sinful for the reasons that: (a) by doing so, the kisser clearly, in the basest sense of the word, uses the person being kissed as an object of sexual pleasure; (b) debases for the the kisser his/her ability to understand the true purpose and proper circumstances for this marital type of kiss; and, (c) leaves the kisser oriented in the direction of greater exploitation/objectification of other persons for his/her personal gratification. 

  • geshaw
  • RJ

    French Kissing is not a Mortal Sin.  It has no presence in The Catholic catechism of The Catholic Church.  Even Pope Alexander VII doesn’t make that clarification that clear.  He doesn’t goes out and say that “French Kissing IS a Mortal Sin.”… Even masturbation in the Catholic Catechism, while still considered mortal, is not if there are other considerations (psychological or other) present.  This isn’t a black and white issue.  Alexander VII knew it.  Your not clearly reading his writings.  Saying something “Is Not Venial…” doesn’t automatically constitute it as “MORTAL”…

  • Micah

    Any kiss that is done for the sake of “carnal and sensible delight” is immoral, regardless of marital status.  However, any kiss that leads to “carnal and sensible delight” clearly isn’t wrong.  My wife and I share many such kisses…in the proper context and with the proper intentions.  The question is whether French kissing, by its very nature, serves to produce “carnal and sensible delight” and whether those involved are aware and doing it for that purpose.  I think that French kissing does cause that, and that seems pretty far beyond reasonable debate.  So the question goes to a matter of when it is appropriate and when it is not.  French kissing could not be appropriate outside of marriage because it would be disordered.  Even with good intentions, it is a type of kissing that leads to such delight, the proper place for which is marriage, where that delight can do what it is supposed to do…lead to the marital embrace.  There is no greater good outside of marriage toward which French kissing could be oriented, and so it is done for the sake of “carnal and sensible delight.” In a marriage, however, it may be done in such a way that its delights may be oriented toward the marital embrace.

    The real question is whether married couples may French kiss outside of the marital embrace with no intention of taking it there.

    • kalbertini

      Can you please show me in the Catholic Catechism or church documents today ? How about Charging interest on a loan that Council Of Vienne & Pope Clement hailed as heresy & excimmunicable ? How about pius IX holding slavery moral & condemning democracy ?

      • Veritas81

        Amen!

  • Micah

    Any kiss that is done for the sake of “carnal and sensible delight” is immoral, regardless of marital status.  However, any kiss that leads to “carnal and sensible delight” clearly isn’t wrong.  My wife and I share many such kisses…in the proper context and with the proper intentions.  The question is whether French kissing, by its very nature, serves to produce “carnal and sensible delight” and whether those involved are aware and doing it for that purpose.  I think that French kissing does cause that, and that seems pretty far beyond reasonable debate.  So the question goes to a matter of when it is appropriate and when it is not.  French kissing could not be appropriate outside of marriage because it would be disordered.  Even with good intentions, it is a type of kissing that leads to such delight, the proper place for which is marriage, where that delight can do what it is supposed to do…lead to the marital embrace.  There is no greater good outside of marriage toward which French kissing could be oriented, and so it is done for the sake of “carnal and sensible delight.” In a marriage, however, it may be done in such a way that its delights may be oriented toward the marital embrace.

    The real question is whether married couples may French kiss outside of the marital embrace with no intention of taking it there.

  • Andrew

    Do you people actually work for a living?  What a bunch of legalistic nonsense.  Seriously.  I cannot believe this blog is linked through New Advent. 

  • Peter

    Get a life!

  • AJJP

    My two cents:.
    My first thought is to wonder why you would want to french kiss. If you’re honest with yourself the answer should clearly indicate whether or not you be makin out or french kissing.
    With unmarried couples,  if you’re trying to figure out ‘how far you can go’ then there’s a problem: you don’t have the right things in mind and you’re not looking at the issue with sincerity. 
    I remember hearing a talk on purity when I was in college and if I remember correctly the speaker, Kevin Majeres MD, mentioned a chemical bond that is created when you kiss or demonstrate other forms of physical affection, and that this bond can of varying degrees depending on the intensity of the kiss. 
    I think he said that the bond is usually felt with greater force by women then by men.  If that’s the case I would think that more than a peck would be ill advised.  It’s been a while, but I think Dr. Majeres also said something about french kissing mirroring the marital act.
    With married couples I think it would be useful to refer back to the ‘Why do i want to do it?’ question.  Overall I think that even wondering about it is probably indicative that there is something to be careful about…

  • AJJP

    My two cents:.
    My first thought is to wonder why you would want to french kiss. If you’re honest with yourself the answer should clearly indicate whether or not you be makin out or french kissing.
    With unmarried couples,  if you’re trying to figure out ‘how far you can go’ then there’s a problem: you don’t have the right things in mind and you’re not looking at the issue with sincerity. 
    I remember hearing a talk on purity when I was in college and if I remember correctly the speaker, Kevin Majeres MD, mentioned a chemical bond that is created when you kiss or demonstrate other forms of physical affection, and that this bond can of varying degrees depending on the intensity of the kiss. 
    I think he said that the bond is usually felt with greater force by women then by men.  If that’s the case I would think that more than a peck would be ill advised.  It’s been a while, but I think Dr. Majeres also said something about french kissing mirroring the marital act.
    With married couples I think it would be useful to refer back to the ‘Why do i want to do it?’ question.  Overall I think that even wondering about it is probably indicative that there is something to be careful about…

  • Stephen

    Great follow up, AJJP! It is very telling that the Church’s moral advice, given centuries ago, is confirmed by modern science!

    I would add that my own experiences agree with Alexander XVII, and AJJP.

    • Veritas81

      Alexander the 17th.? What happened to 7-16?

  • Stephen

    Great follow up, AJJP! It is very telling that the Church’s moral advice, given centuries ago, is confirmed by modern science!  
     
    I would add that my own experiences agree with Alexander VII, and AJJP.

  • Stephen

    Great follow up, AJJP! It is very telling that the Church’s moral advice, given centuries ago, is confirmed by modern science!  
     
    I would add that my own experiences agree with Alexander VII, and AJJP.

  • Sky

    I can hardly understand why this is in any question. Catholic teaching is clear: any deliberate stimulation of the sexual appettites for the purpose of experiencing sexual pleasure is mortally sinful except between two persons lawfully married to one another.

  • Sky

    I can hardly understand why this is in any question. Catholic teaching is clear: any deliberate stimulation of the sexual appettites for the purpose of experiencing sexual pleasure is mortally sinful except between two persons lawfully married to one another.

  • brencel

    This demonstrates the mess our hierarchy got and gets itself into by dabbling in the specifics of morality. They should have and should now stick to giving the parameters and let the laity use the consciences given us by God to make the specific decisions. The bishops should stick to the job Christ gave them instead of getting ensnared in the nitty gritty.

  • Nick

    I think a lot of this is tied to the time/circumstances. For example, before the 1960s, a woman showing skin in a bathing suit was considered indecent, just as a woman dressing in jeans and such could also be. In regards to dating, modern dating is far more open/lax when it comes to having your girlfriend in your apartment or even going camping or whatever (with or without family), *even if* the relationship is chaste.  In regards to some boundaries, kissing to arouse sexually (mortal), or even kissing with disregard to potential danger is a venial sin (with the near occasion of mortal).

  • Nick

    I think a lot of this is tied to the time/circumstances. For example, before the 1960s, a woman showing skin in a bathing suit was considered indecent, just as a woman dressing in jeans and such could also be. In regards to dating, modern dating is far more open/lax when it comes to having your girlfriend in your apartment or even going camping or whatever (with or without family), *even if* the relationship is chaste.  In regards to some boundaries, kissing to arouse sexually (mortal), or even kissing with disregard to potential danger is a venial sin (with the near occasion of mortal).

  • Chantal

    I am French… I thought that the all world was kissing the way we kiss between boyfriend and girlfriend seriously in relationship.
    I did not know that the rest of the world was just clapping their lips to each other when they were in love.

  • Chantal

    I am French… I thought that the all world was kissing the way we kiss between boyfriend and girlfriend seriously in relationship.
    I did not know that the rest of the world was just clapping their lips to each other when they were in love.

  • Shamrock

    Years ago when I was in hs a Paulist Father came to my all girls school to give a
    retreat. During the course of one of his lectures he referred to French kissing to
    the young ladies in his audience as “swapping spit”! Needless to say it was the
    “turn-off” he meant it to be…and never forgotten.  Of course he was the same
    priest who got really going on the then ( and still ) popular pajama parties we
    were all attending and hosting.  He had a totally inaccurate understanding of these
    innocent overnight all girl parties which featured scary movies, popcorn and cokes.
    and an attempt to stay awake all night.  Our parents were always at home…in
    nearby proximity! ;)
    !

  • Shamrock

    Years ago when I was in hs a Paulist Father came to my all girls school to give a
    retreat. During the course of one of his lectures he referred to French kissing to
    the young ladies in his audience as “swapping spit”! Needless to say it was the
    “turn-off” he meant it to be…and never forgotten.  Of course he was the same
    priest who got really going on the then ( and still ) popular pajama parties we
    were all attending and hosting.  He had a totally inaccurate understanding of these
    innocent overnight all girl parties which featured scary movies, popcorn and cokes.
    and an attempt to stay awake all night.  Our parents were always at home…in
    nearby proximity! ;)
    !

  • JViere

    I agree with that to an extent-too often is saying one thing is not this, it automatically makes it the polar opposite.

  • Judy Bowman

    As Jerry Seinfeld once famously commented, things become sexual when the nipple makes its appearance.  I’d also say that french kissing is obviously a sexual act.  Otherwise, we’d french kiss our grandmothers.

  • Charles Jules

    Guys,forgive my ignorance,can somebody define for me what a french kiss is.

  • geekcatholic

    The main essence whether something is mortal is that: (a) against the law of God, (b) done at will even knowing such to be wrong.

    The law of God is a law of Love. Love tells us that a person must be loved as a person, not as a means of (carnal) pleasure.  I believe that when one does French kiss, its primarily for (carnal) pleasure.  If one wanted to express his or her authentic love to the loved one, kissing or hugging would do the trick.

    What matters in the end are the morality of the INTENTION and the WAY of showing such intention.  These are what we see from the statement of our Popes and the Church.

  • JoeA

    One very important aspect of the teaching of Pope Alexander is that the position that maintains “It is a probable opinion which states that a kiss is only venial when performed for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight which arises from the kiss, if danger of further consent and pollution is excluded” is “condemned and prohibited” [along with 44 other propositions on various matters] “as at least scandalous.”  That is the censure as found in Denzinger.  It may be more than scandalous, but all the decree says is that is at least scandalous.  “Scandalous,” as a theological censure may be understood as branding a proposition as “likely to do harm to souls” (this understanding of the censure is found in either Fr. Kaiser’s Sacred Doctrine or Fr. Fenton’s The Concept of Sacred Theology, I can’t remember which, but both are sound authors).  So what is taught in the decree appears to be precisely that the above proposition, if maintained or taught, is likely to do harm to souls.  Why that is so is easy enough to see.  I don’t believe that equates to french kissing being necessarily a mortal sin (even if it may be in many cases). 
    I hesitate this next point, but for the sake of clarity–the kiss that is spoken of is one done for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight which arises from the kiss.  First, the word for sensible (sensibilis–perceptible, apprehensible, sensible) is not recorded in the same way in every textual version of the decree.  Denzinger gives an alternate word from a different version: sensualis–endowed with feeling, sensitive, sensual.  Either way, it is not clear to me what is to be thought of the (“french”) kiss done for the sake of something other than the carnal and sensible delight which arises from the kiss.  Don’t get me wrong: such a kiss could well be (seriously) sinful for some other reason (e.g., the proximate danger of consenting to undue carnal/sensual pleasure–a danger which could be very difficult to avoid in the unmarried).  All I am saying is that it does not appear evident from the decree in question that the Pope had within his scope of teaching the french kiss simply speaking–in this particular teaching.

  • David

    If it’s not venial, then what is it? There are only two options. It’s venial or mortal.

  • Seraphim

    For crying out loud, folks.  French kissing is or ought to be an act of love, and there’s no reason why it can’t be even for a chaste unmarried couple.  It was never a problem for me, and my confessor and spiritual director never had a problem with me doing it either.  As Andrew said, what a bunch of legalistic nonsense.  There’s only one question you need to ask – are you giving love, or not?  That’s what determines Catholic moral teaching, not hair-splitting between “sensibilis” and “sensualis” (and, if you really ask this question, you really will get Catholic moral teaching – this is the reason and the only reason why fornication, birth control, and sodomy are always wrong, for example).  And married couples can do whatever they want except withhold love from each other (by using birth control, for example) – the idea that affection is simply a mechanism for producing intercourse which in turn is simply a mechanicsm for producing offspring is either laughably ludicrous or diabolically cold.

    Slava Isusu Christu!  Glory to Jesus Christ!

    • Guest

      If your kissing did not produce sexual arousal in either you or the person you were kissing, then it not was mortal sin. If there was lustful stimulation, then it should have been confessed. It’s not legalism, it’s common sense. It something you need to have clear and teach it clearly to your offspring. Any kissing or touching that derives sensual stimulation is to be discouraged until marriage. Even engaged couples should keep their distance from the temptation to fornicate justifying themselves that it’s ok because they are to be married (given the fact that engagements do get called off).

  • Michael

    I am sure that Alexander VI would most probably have a different view!!!

    • Veritas81

      LOL. I’m glad someone else immediately thought of Borgia!

  • DU

    Would you want your husband to french kiss his co-workers or do you think any man wants his wife to french her male friends or cousins?  Just an act of love?  Seraphim, you are either a lier or an idiot if you say yes.  You must have had a LOT of grace in your life if you remained chaste while lying around french kissing your boyfriend in highschool.  Your kids won’t since you’ve already used up all the grace your grandparents left you.

    • Sheelagh Hanly

      I am aghast at the attitude!e

    • Guest

      LOLS. Is there a Grace o’ meter we’re handed down as a dowry upon marriage? Mine’s on 1/4 tank. I’m good for a generation or two.

  • DU

    Would you want your husband to french kiss his co-workers or do you think any man wants his wife to french her male friends or cousins?  Just an act of love?  Seraphim, you are either a lier or an idiot if you say yes.  You must have had a LOT of grace in your life if you remained chaste while lying around french kissing your boyfriend in highschool.  Your kids won’t since you’ve already used up all the grace your grandparents left you.

  • Andrew

    David is right, a sin can only be venial or mortal, there is no in between.

  • Andrew k.

    David is right, sin can only be venial or mortal, there is no in between.

  • Andrew k.

    David is right, sin can only be venial or mortal, there is no in between.

  • Andrew k.

    This is a quote that I found on french kissing.

    “For married people, french kissing is permitted as part of the marital relations they share. For the unmarried, especially for the young, this type of kissing, which prepares the body for sexual relations, is inappropriate to the chastity expected of single people and could possibly constitute grave matter. Whenever a single person is uncertain whether the physical affection he has shared with another person is appropriate to a chaste relationship, he should ask his confessor who will be able to advise him.”

    If you look i the catechism it tells you the three things that you need for a sin to be mortal. If you french kiss with full consent and you know what it is then of course its a mortal sin.

    “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you please.” – Mother Theresa of Calcutta

  • Brian

    The epitome of scrupulous.

  • Richard

    No. Just no.

  • Bender

    Objectification of another human person, by whatever means, is the sin.

    French kissing, in and of itself, is no more sinful than holding someone’s hand.  It is going on to treat the person as a sexual object, rather than a human subject, that is the sin.  And, as indicated, that can be accomplished as easily with hand-holding (or even pinky-holding), which, with the right person, can get one’s heart a-pumping under the right circumstances.

  • Bender

    Objectification of another human person, by whatever means, is the sin.

    French kissing, in and of itself, is no more sinful than holding someone’s hand.  It is going on to treat the person as a sexual object, rather than a human subject, that is the sin.  And, as indicated, that can be accomplished as easily with hand-holding (or even pinky-holding), which, with the right person, can get one’s heart a-pumping under the right circumstances.

  • Reginaldus

    Looks like someone has a guilty conscience!  ;)
    Thanks for the rational argument, Andrew… personally, I think it is very important to avoid actions that Pope’s have said are mortally sinful…

  • Reginaldus

    Looks like someone has a guilty conscience!  ;)
    Thanks for the rational argument, Andrew… personally, I think it is very important to avoid actions that Pope’s have said are mortally sinful…

  • Reginaldus

    “The bishops should stick to the job Christ gave them”

    Wouldn’t part of their job be guiding the flock entrusted to them in the most important areas of human life – including sexuality? 
    If a bishop can say what dogma to believe or reject, surely he can give advice on how to sleep at night….

  • Reginaldus

    Charles, keep your innocence…the ‘french kiss’ isn’t anything to write home about anyways!

  • Reginaldus

    Charles, keep your innocence…the ‘french kiss’ isn’t anything to write home about anyways!

  • Reginaldus

    Seraphim, I find it very ironic that you show such little respect for the authority of the Holy Father, but then turn around and invoke the authority of some random priest confessor/spiritual director…
    If we can’t trust the judgment of Pope Alexander VII, what on earth could make us trust the judgment of your un-named priest?

  • Reginaldus

    Bender, I really like your first remark — “Objectification of another human person, by whatever means, is the sin.” This is certainly true.
    However, I think that french kissing done outside of marriage is always (by the nature of the act itself) such a case of objectification. 
    This makes it different from hand-holding…
    Within marriage, it is not necessarily objectification because the couple can licitly engage in sexual relations…the act itself is different when between a married couple (just as the act itself of intercourse is different when between a married couple or between an unmarried couple).
    Does that seem correct?

  • Reginaldus

    Bender, I really like your first remark — “Objectification of another human person, by whatever means, is the sin.” This is certainly true.
    However, I think that french kissing done outside of marriage is always (by the nature of the act itself) such a case of objectification. 
    This makes it different from hand-holding…
    Within marriage, it is not necessarily objectification because the couple can licitly engage in sexual relations…the act itself is different when between a married couple (just as the act itself of intercourse is different when between a married couple or between an unmarried couple).
    Does that seem correct?

  • Reginaldus

    You need to look at some Jansenist manuals if you think this Supreme Pontiff is “the epitome of scrupulous.” 
    Ignorance is bliss, but it doesn’t help the accuracy of your comments.

  • Smay

    For a sin to be “Mortal” 3 conditions must be meet: (1) full possession of the will, (2) sufficient reflection/knowledge, and (3) grave matter.  So if one of the three is not met, it is a venial sin.  I think what he was saying is that french kissing is “grave matter”, ergo it could be a mortal sin if the other two conditions are met.

  • Joe R

    You misinterpret the Catechism on masturbation.  Psychology and circumstances can lessen a person’s culpability; it does not change the moral quality of the sin.  A mortal sin isn’t ‘no longer mortal’ in extenuating circumstances; the one who commits it simply isn’t entirely culpable for the gravity of the sin.  It’s still just as grave.

    David and Andrew are right.  If an act is a sin, then it’s either venial or mortal.

    I’m not saying I conclusively think French kissing is or is not a sin.  But RJ’s arguments for the former conclusion are weak. (A bad analogy and an appeal to ignorance.)

  • Joe R

    Inquiring into the moral quality of a common element of dating/romance/marriage is not legalistic.  Especially given how warped the common perception of sexuality is, chastity is a virtue to which we have to be especially attentive.

  • Joe R

    That’s a poor argument.  I give my girlfriend hugs that would be awkward and way-too-long if it was my grandmother I was hugging.  The fact that I share an intimacy with a person that I would not share with my grandmother does not make the intimacy sexual in the slightest.

  • Joe R

    Those aren’t the correct criteria for judging whether or not a sin is mortal.  Read Smay’s reply to RJ above.  If your two markers were the “essence” of mortal sin, my snapping at a co-worker when he asks me one-too-many questions would be mortal, because I know it to be against Jesus’ injunction to extend charity to all people at all times.  All well-formed Catholics would be in a constant state of mortal sin, because we are constantly committing little abrogations of what we know to be perfect behavior according to God’s law.

    I also think it’s impossible to make such a generalization as you have in your second paragraph.  It is impossible to judge what the intention of ‘all french-kissers’ is when they engage in such a kiss.  It would be especially harmful and ‘laying’ unnecessary ‘burdens’ on people that are simply stumbling-blocks to say that french-kissing is wrong always and everywhere because in it, it’s virtually and effectively impossible to focus on the person instead of on your own sexual stimulation.  Better to say “It is wrong always and everywhere to turn a person into a means to sexual stimulation instead of seeing his/her dignity.”  Then let people guard themselves with their own consciences.

  • Bender

    I would not go so far as to say that an open mouthed kiss with tongue is everywhere and always, in each and every case, by the very nature of the conduct itself, an occasion for treating the other as an object of use, a plaything, rather than an act of genuine love and affection.  It might often be the case today, maybe even most all the time, especially in our culture, but it is possible that it might not be. 

    For example, if one were to grow up in a culture where that is the usual mode of saying hello to your grandmother (eww, sorry to put that image in people’s heads), I don’t know many people in whom that would trigger illicit sexual thoughts or desires.

    On the other hand, one can easily imagine not even touching another person, but merely bowing one’s head or smiling, and that result in no longer seeing his neighbor’s wife, but an object of wrongful desire.

    The ultimate root sin here is the utilitarianism — the objectification of the human person, seeing and treating others as toys for our amusement, dehumanizing them – thinking and wanting and acting in a manner contrary to love and contrary to truth — be that french kissing or hand-holding or contracepting or lustily gazing across the room or aborting or “hooking up” with.

  • Judy Bowman

    I think you’re in denial about the sexual nature of the relationship you have with your girlfriend, then.  If a hug you’d give to her would make you feel awkward sharing the same hug to your grandmother, that awkwardness is exactly the sexual nature of the behavior you are experiencing. 

  • Reginaldus

    While I do think that french kissing always is done for the purpose of sexual stimulation (and is therefore only rightly engaged in between married couples), I think we can both definitely agree that the simple act of putting one’s tongue in another’s mouth is not, always and everywhere, sinful.  
    Though the grandma analogy is quite disgusting, it makes a good point ;)  
    When Alexander VII speaks of kissing, he is certainly talking about using the kiss for sexual gratification… To me, it seems that french kissing would always involve such gratification… though, I am happy to admit, I have no real experience in this regard and have only limited information from others…. So I could certainly be missing something.
    Peace!

  • Reginaldus

    While I do think that french kissing always is done for the purpose of sexual stimulation (and is therefore only rightly engaged in between married couples), I think we can both definitely agree that the simple act of putting one’s tongue in another’s mouth is not, always and everywhere, sinful.  
    Though the grandma analogy is quite disgusting, it makes a good point ;)  
    When Alexander VII speaks of kissing, he is certainly talking about using the kiss for sexual gratification… To me, it seems that french kissing would always involve such gratification… though, I am happy to admit, I have no real experience in this regard and have only limited information from others…. So I could certainly be missing something.
    Peace!

  • Joe R

    Judy, that’s first of all a mixed ad hominem circumstantial/abusive argument that is by nature fallacious. Referring to my own experience was an accident of my argument – in no way necessary to it.

    Your argument, translated into a syllogism, is this: 1) If one is unwilling to engage in a physical act with one’s grandmother, then that act is obviously sexual. 2) One is unwilling to engage in French killing with one’s grandmother; 3) Therefore, French kissing is obviously sexual.  The first premise is clearly absurd.  There are myriad physical acts that I would never engage in with my grandmother (e.g. hugging, hand-holding, touching her face, etc, etc.).

    Intimacy of the sort we’re here discussing is by nature to be shared with a single person.  There are a whole range of ‘intimacies’ of that sort, some of which are clearly to be relegated to the realm of marriage (sex), some of which can be either before or after the sacrament. Holding hands is a perfect example of the latter: one that is clearly morally neutral in and of itself. (So is sharing a long hug.)

    Unless you are willing to make explicit your implicit claim that all intimacies are immoral outside of marriage, your original argument holds no water.  If you are willing to make that claim, then the debate should no longer be whether French kissing is a mortal sin; it should be whether or not Puritanism makes for healthy human beings.

  • Joe R

    Judy, that’s first of all a mixed ad hominem circumstantial/abusive argument that is by nature fallacious. Referring to my own experience was an accident of my argument – in no way necessary to it.

    Your argument, translated into a syllogism, is this: 1) If one is unwilling to engage in a physical act with one’s grandmother, then that act is obviously sexual. 2) One is unwilling to engage in French killing with one’s grandmother; 3) Therefore, French kissing is obviously sexual.  The first premise is clearly absurd.  There are myriad physical acts that I would never engage in with my grandmother (e.g. hugging, hand-holding, touching her face, etc, etc.).

    Intimacy of the sort we’re here discussing is by nature to be shared with a single person.  There are a whole range of ‘intimacies’ of that sort, some of which are clearly to be relegated to the realm of marriage (sex), some of which can be either before or after the sacrament. Holding hands is a perfect example of the latter: one that is clearly morally neutral in and of itself. (So is sharing a long hug.)

    Unless you are willing to make explicit your implicit claim that all intimacies are immoral outside of marriage, your original argument holds no water.  If you are willing to make that claim, then the debate should no longer be whether French kissing is a mortal sin; it should be whether or not Puritanism makes for healthy human beings.

  • Joe R

    Good analysis, Seraphim.

    Reginaldus, by pointing out the “irony” of his disrespect for the Holy Father, you’re implying that yours (i.e., French kissing is wrong) is the correct interpretation of his writing, which begs the question.

    The basic teaching of the Catholic Church on extra-marital activities that are sexual without being fornication, as I understand it, is that one needs to 1) guard against the near occasion of fornication and 2) never view the other person as a means to sexual stimulation.  With regard to these two things, making hard-and-fast rules for any particular activity that are meant to hold for all people seems to be impossible.  Alexander VII’s words could easily be understood within this framework.

  • Joe R

    Reginaldus, Brian’s reply was clearly a hyperbole. Nor do I know if he was referring to the Holy Father.  He may’ve simply been referring to this entire debate.

  • Joe R

    Bender, I completely agree with your analysis.

  • Joe R

    Brencel, I’m with Richard and Reginaldus here.  Your argument depends on a definition of what is “the nitty gritty.”

    As Reginaldus said, making “parameters” for the exercise of sexuality certainly is not simply splitting hairs or laying on burdens, but is fundamental to human life, and so “the job Christ gave them” necessarily includes it.

  • Joe R

    Brencel, I’m with Richard and Reginaldus here.  Your argument depends on a definition of what is “the nitty gritty.”

    As Reginaldus said, making “parameters” for the exercise of sexuality certainly is not simply splitting hairs or laying on burdens, but is fundamental to human life, and so “the job Christ gave them” necessarily includes it.

  • Joe R

    Andrew, there are two problems with your argument.

    First, you came to the conclusion “If you french kiss with full consent and you know what it is then of course its a mortal sin,” from the premise (contained in the quote) that French kissing “could possible constitute grave matter.”  How does the possibility that French kissing fits one of the three criterion for mortal sin, lead to – given the presence of the other two criterion – the certainty that it is a mortal sin?

    Second, the quote you provided itself furnishes no foundation for its assertion that French kissing always and everywhere prepares “for sexual relations,” nor for its assertion that it “could possible constitute grave matter.”  So, as to my first objection, not even the possibility that French kissing constitutes grave matter has been satisfactorily established.

  • Joe R

    Andrew, there are two problems with your argument.

    First, you came to the conclusion “If you french kiss with full consent and you know what it is then of course its a mortal sin,” from the premise (contained in the quote) that French kissing “could possible constitute grave matter.”  How does the possibility that French kissing fits one of the three criterion for mortal sin, lead to – given the presence of the other two criterion – the certainty that it is a mortal sin?

    Second, the quote you provided itself furnishes no foundation for its assertion that French kissing always and everywhere prepares “for sexual relations,” nor for its assertion that it “could possible constitute grave matter.”  So, as to my first objection, not even the possibility that French kissing constitutes grave matter has been satisfactorily established.

  • Joe R

    Right on, Bender.

  • Micah

    Put shortly, any sign of affection that is done for its own sake or that of the pleasures it provides, rather than for the recipient of said affection, turns the recipient into a means to the end of self-pleasure (and thus redirects the act toward myself, ergo self-love). So any kiss or hug or even handshake given for the sake of what I get out of it is of a flawed moral value. The question is whether that flaw is a sin at all or merely an unintended outcome of human frailty. If it is a sin, then the question is whether or not it is mortal. Let’s take sex as an example, because it’s such a large act of love that flaws are much easier to spot. If I have sex with my wife intending to give myself to her for union in a way that is open to life, then I do well. Nonetheless, on some level, I not only appreciate and desire the pleasure (which is not wrong in itself), but a part of me may occasionally forget my intention and strive after said pleasure. This happens. It is not a sin, it simply occurs in the heat of the moment, but it is less-than-perfect, becuase for a moment I turned my gaze of love inward. Now if I become aware of this in some small way (I’m striving after some minor pleasure in the whole context of the sexual act), and choose to go along with it, or, self-aware, go along with it in weakness, then I have committed a venial sin. However, if I become aware that I am seeking my own pleasure and in response I continue on, intending more and more for myself, then I begin to lust actively, gravely, and quite intentionally. In fact, more husbands commit acts morally similar to rape than we realize. A human person must never be used, but loved. In kissing, the kiss should be ordered toward the good of the other, as a sign of love. A short kiss can do this (thresholds may differ somewhat from person to person) and I think would not usually be pointed back toward oneself. A French kiss, however, tends to be more than a sign of love. It tends to be not only a sign of love, but also a means of going further, of arousal, and so it is inappropriate for single individuals, who may not go further and for whom it would be disordered. Married couples could French kiss, but it seems to me that it would still be disordered for them if they are not trying to take it to the marital embrace. A French kiss, like any kiss, should be ordered toward the good of the beloved, but when sex is not intended as a result, then the couple intends to arouse, but to no further end, making the arousal the end, which is not for the good of the beloved, since it is disordered. Now, a couple may think that it is loving to the other person to arouse them, even outside the context of sexual intercourse, but this is not the case (if it were, mutual masturbation would be meritorious). In fact, however, I believe most such people, if honest with themselves, want to arouse their spouses because they themselves wish to be aroused, and it becomes a trade-off or exchange of services, which is, again, self-love.

    This is all a different matter, however, from when a couple does something without any intention or desire for arousal and arousal happens anyway. I snuggle with my wife in bed and get aroused. That doesn’t make snuggling bad. It’s an unintended side-effect, but French kissing is, I would argue, almost universally done for the thrill of what it brings about emotionally and with the passions.

    Lastly, God meant for us to enjoy sex, kissing, etc. However, they are to be enjoyed in the giving, not in the taking. One can focus completely on loving the other and still enjoy the scenery and the experience. It’s like enjoying a garden as you walk through it…without staying too long to smell the flowers, lest you neglect the whole garden.

  • Micah

    Put shortly, any sign of affection that is done for its own sake or that of the pleasures it provides, rather than for the recipient of said affection, turns the recipient into a means to the end of self-pleasure (and thus redirects the act toward myself, ergo self-love). So any kiss or hug or even handshake given for the sake of what I get out of it is of a flawed moral value. The question is whether that flaw is a sin at all or merely an unintended outcome of human frailty. If it is a sin, then the question is whether or not it is mortal. Let’s take sex as an example, because it’s such a large act of love that flaws are much easier to spot. If I have sex with my wife intending to give myself to her for union in a way that is open to life, then I do well. Nonetheless, on some level, I not only appreciate and desire the pleasure (which is not wrong in itself), but a part of me may occasionally forget my intention and strive after said pleasure. This happens. It is not a sin, it simply occurs in the heat of the moment, but it is less-than-perfect, becuase for a moment I turned my gaze of love inward. Now if I become aware of this in some small way (I’m striving after some minor pleasure in the whole context of the sexual act), and choose to go along with it, or, self-aware, go along with it in weakness, then I have committed a venial sin. However, if I become aware that I am seeking my own pleasure and in response I continue on, intending more and more for myself, then I begin to lust actively, gravely, and quite intentionally. In fact, more husbands commit acts morally similar to rape than we realize. A human person must never be used, but loved. In kissing, the kiss should be ordered toward the good of the other, as a sign of love. A short kiss can do this (thresholds may differ somewhat from person to person) and I think would not usually be pointed back toward oneself. A French kiss, however, tends to be more than a sign of love. It tends to be not only a sign of love, but also a means of going further, of arousal, and so it is inappropriate for single individuals, who may not go further and for whom it would be disordered. Married couples could French kiss, but it seems to me that it would still be disordered for them if they are not trying to take it to the marital embrace. A French kiss, like any kiss, should be ordered toward the good of the beloved, but when sex is not intended as a result, then the couple intends to arouse, but to no further end, making the arousal the end, which is not for the good of the beloved, since it is disordered. Now, a couple may think that it is loving to the other person to arouse them, even outside the context of sexual intercourse, but this is not the case (if it were, mutual masturbation would be meritorious). In fact, however, I believe most such people, if honest with themselves, want to arouse their spouses because they themselves wish to be aroused, and it becomes a trade-off or exchange of services, which is, again, self-love.

    This is all a different matter, however, from when a couple does something without any intention or desire for arousal and arousal happens anyway. I snuggle with my wife in bed and get aroused. That doesn’t make snuggling bad. It’s an unintended side-effect, but French kissing is, I would argue, almost universally done for the thrill of what it brings about emotionally and with the passions.

    Lastly, God meant for us to enjoy sex, kissing, etc. However, they are to be enjoyed in the giving, not in the taking. One can focus completely on loving the other and still enjoy the scenery and the experience. It’s like enjoying a garden as you walk through it…without staying too long to smell the flowers, lest you neglect the whole garden.

  • Reginaldus

    Joe R., Your point is well taken. It is not entirely clear that the Holy Father is speaking of every case of extra-marital french kissing (though I think that this could be argued for)

    The point I am attempting to make here is that Seraphim’s whole argument rests upon the authority of some random priest… But Mr. Marshall’s argument rests upon the authority of a Pope.
    If Seraphim wants to argue that Mr. Marshall has misinterpreted the Pope, he needs to do that…simply appealing to his own personal experience doesn’t prove anything, I find it to be “laughably ludicrous”. Calling the discussion “a bunch of legalistic nonsense” seems closer to being “diabolically cold.”

  • Reginaldus

    Joe R., I agree. Brian was speaking in a hyperbole, as I was boardering on sarcastic….
    However, even if he refers to the commentators rather than the Holy Father, it is a serious thing to accuse another of scrupulosity…

  • Reginaldus

    Joe R., I agree. Brian was speaking in a hyperbole, as I was boardering on sarcastic….
    However, even if he refers to the commentators rather than the Holy Father, it is a serious thing to accuse another of scrupulosity…

  • Seraphim

    Reginaldus,

    If you read my paragraph a little more closely you will see that I am not “showing such little respect” for the Holy Father of blessed memory, but rather saying that his words don’t necessarily apply here (they could, of course – every person is different, and it could be an occasion of sin for someone – but his words don’t have to).  Perhaps my Latin isn’t quite fluent, but there wasn’t any mention of “French kissing”, but just a “kiss” of any sort.  What the Pope said was that when done merely for the sake of “delectationem carnalem et sensibilem” – carnal and sensible delight – rather than love, it is wrong.  And I don’t think anyone in his right mind is going to disagree – to use someone for pleasure without giving love to them is simply a sin.  My point is that a French kiss doesn’t have to be; it could be an act of love.

    I also made the point that love – in this case, not eros per se but charity – needs to be the guiding factor in determining whether something is a sin or not.  You can’t dissect the moral situation with such mechanical precision, or you lose the human aspect of it.  I don’t want to sound like a moral relativist (I’m not one), but the morality of the act needs to be determined by the virtues it inspires, the person’s intent, and the effects it has on the person’s character and that of his beloved, which ultimately means it might be different for each person or couple and really needs to be gauged on an individual basis, under the guidance of one’s spiritual father.  There gets to be a point where you can’t make hard and fast rules for everything.  Moral rules only reflect the ontology of the situation; the Eastern tradition of Catholicism has typically avoided discussing morality in terms of “rules” or “laws” at all but rather in terms of virtues.  (If we get too far separated from the ontological reason why rules are in place, we are in danger of falling into what the medieval West called “voluntarism”.)

  • Seraphim

    Reginaldus,

    If you read my paragraph a little more closely you will see that I am not “showing such little respect” for the Holy Father of blessed memory, but rather saying that his words don’t necessarily apply here (they could, of course – every person is different, and it could be an occasion of sin for someone – but his words don’t have to).  Perhaps my Latin isn’t quite fluent, but there wasn’t any mention of “French kissing”, but just a “kiss” of any sort.  What the Pope said was that when done merely for the sake of “delectationem carnalem et sensibilem” – carnal and sensible delight – rather than love, it is wrong.  And I don’t think anyone in his right mind is going to disagree – to use someone for pleasure without giving love to them is simply a sin.  My point is that a French kiss doesn’t have to be; it could be an act of love.

    I also made the point that love – in this case, not eros per se but charity – needs to be the guiding factor in determining whether something is a sin or not.  You can’t dissect the moral situation with such mechanical precision, or you lose the human aspect of it.  I don’t want to sound like a moral relativist (I’m not one), but the morality of the act needs to be determined by the virtues it inspires, the person’s intent, and the effects it has on the person’s character and that of his beloved, which ultimately means it might be different for each person or couple and really needs to be gauged on an individual basis, under the guidance of one’s spiritual father.  There gets to be a point where you can’t make hard and fast rules for everything.  Moral rules only reflect the ontology of the situation; the Eastern tradition of Catholicism has typically avoided discussing morality in terms of “rules” or “laws” at all but rather in terms of virtues.  (If we get too far separated from the ontological reason why rules are in place, we are in danger of falling into what the medieval West called “voluntarism”.)

  • Seraphim

    I’m going to take objection to the “grandmother” analogy, and go even further by objecting to the ambiguity inherent in the word “sexual”.

    I don’t french-kiss my grandmother.  In fact, I don’t kiss her on the lips at all.  Does that make a peck on the lips a “sexual” act, and therefore a mortal sin?  I also don’t hold her in my arms gazing into her eyes for hours on end.  This is quite clearly a romantic act.  Does that make it a mortal sin?  Where do you draw the line between “romantic” and “sexual”?  Romance, believe it or not, involves sexual attraction.  And it involves expressions of affection which you would not do to someone you are not sexually attracted to – gazing into your beloved’s eyes, kissing, or even such horrors of horrors as taking naps together or french-kissing.  All of these actions are “sexual” in this sense, but none of them constitute fornication, and none of them ought to be simply foreplay for fornication – none of them are in any way unchaste.  The term “sexual” here is really ambiguous – the meaning it has when it properly refers to a kiss on the lips should not elicit the association with strictly marital activities, which the word usually does in English.

    Slava Isusu Christu!  Glory to Jesus Christ!

  • Seraphim

    And, while I’m at it, I’m going to point out the ambiguity of the term “carnal and sensible delight” in the Pope’s bull.  Taken at face value, even a quick kiss – a kiss of any sort – does cause carnal and sensible delight; that’s why we do it.  There’s nothing wrong with the pleasure of expressing love.  In the context of the Pope’s bull, which is easy to miss when all we are reading is a paragraph quoted out of context, the phrase has a meaning closer to St. Paul’s use of the term “flesh” (lust or concupiscence; flesh as opposed to spirit – nobody interprets St. Paul in a Manichaean sense).  What the Pope said is that you can’t kiss somebody strictly out of lust.  He’s not saying that you can’t like kissing, or that it’s a sin to kiss in any way that might be pleasurable.

  • Seraphim

    And, while I’m at it, I’m going to point out the ambiguity of the term “carnal and sensible delight” in the Pope’s bull.  Taken at face value, even a quick kiss – a kiss of any sort – does cause carnal and sensible delight; that’s why we do it.  There’s nothing wrong with the pleasure of expressing love.  In the context of the Pope’s bull, which is easy to miss when all we are reading is a paragraph quoted out of context, the phrase has a meaning closer to St. Paul’s use of the term “flesh” (lust or concupiscence; flesh as opposed to spirit – nobody interprets St. Paul in a Manichaean sense).  What the Pope said is that you can’t kiss somebody strictly out of lust.  He’s not saying that you can’t like kissing, or that it’s a sin to kiss in any way that might be pleasurable.

  • Joshua Brotherton

    I agree with the Pope’s statement and with most of Micah’s comments. But I don’t see how it is not possible forthose in a serious relationship but not married (perhaps engaged) to french kiss out of love and not out of carnal desire.  And nothing has been said about the fact that many propositions condemned by popes have been later accepted by church authority (e.g. religious liberty, separation of church and state, ecumenism, etc.)

  • clamcake

    No, as long as results in conception.

    • http://taylormarshall.com/ Dr. Taylor Marshall

      …within holy matrimony!

  • kalbertini

    The Catholic Church doesn^t teach that today no more than it teaches Slavery is moral(Pius IX),male & female children cannot be educated in class(pius ii),charging interest on a loan is griviously sinful(the same Alexander pope quoted),Democracy is bad(pius IX), Form your conscience,as the catechism teaches

  • gjraf

    RIDICULOUS
    We as a religion should be more focused on:
    Social justice.
    Food for the hungry.
    Medical care and access
    Clothes for the poor.
    Decent work for a fair wage.
    Free access to our faith
    etc

    • Trent

      We as a religion are far too focused on horizontal justice (that which is due to our neighbor) and not enough on vertical justice (that which is due to God). We can’t have the good of the cross without both the vertical and the horizontal, and this is why we are in such an awful state of affairs today (and perhaps always have been).

      • gjraf

        I disagree.

        We must love one another and as such we must focus on what ails our brothers (and sisters). We must love God and as is said in 1 John chap 4 vs:12 “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.”
        If we love our neighbor we are honoring and venerating our God.
        To focus on the brush strokes such as a kiss causing eternal damnation is missing the whole picture of Jesus/God and Their love for us all and their wish for us to be with them in eternity.

        • Trent

          Except of course, when Judas rebuked the woman for annointing Jesus with oil because it could have been sold and the profits used to feed the poor. And Jesus replied that the poor we would always have with us, but Him we would not always have. Clearly the worship of God is more important. If we have completely given ourselves to God and given to Him what is due to Him, all else will fall in line after that. Of course helping our neighbor is important and our duty as Catholics, but to say that we should not worry about purity is actually missing the whole picture. We cannot focus on one part of truth while neglecting another.

          • gjraf

            You are sadly mistaken.
            I did not say that we should not worry about purity.I said that a kiss should and would not lead to eternal damnation.
            Please read

            1 Corinthians 13
            1 I may speak with every tongue that men and angels use; yet, if I lack charity, I am no better than echoing bronze, or the clash of cymbals. 2 I may have powers of prophecy, no secret hidden from me, no knowledge too deep for me; I may have utter faith, so that I can move mountains; yet if I lack charity, I count for nothing.[1] 3 I may give away all that I have, to feed the poor; I may give myself up to be burnt at the stake; if I lack charity, it goes for nothing.[2] 4 Charity is patient, is kind; charity feels no envy; charity is never perverse or proud, 5 never insolent;[3] does not claim its rights, cannot be provoked, does not brood over an injury; 6 takes no pleasure in wrong-doing, but rejoices at the victory of truth; 7 sustains, believes, hopes, endures, to the last. 8 The time will come when we shall outgrow prophecy, when speaking with tongues will come to an end, when knowledge will be swept away; we shall never have finished with charity. 9 Our knowledge, our prophecy, are only glimpses of the truth; 10 and these glimpses will be swept away when the time of fulfilment comes. 11 (Just so, when I was a child, I talked like a child, I had the intelligence, the thoughts of a child; since I became a man, I have outgrown childish ways.) 12 At present, we are looking at a confused reflection in a mirror; then, we shall see face to face; now, I have only glimpses of knowledge; then, I shall recognize God as he has recognized me. 13 Meanwhile, faith, hope and charity persist, all three; but the greatest of them all is charity.[4]

          • gjraf

            Trent
            I have enjoyed our banter, but I must go. I did want to leave you with one last thought; it is found in 2 James 14

            Of what use is it, my brethren, if a man claims
            to have faith, and has no deeds to shew for it? Can faith save him then? 15 Here is a brother, here is a
            sister, going naked, left without the means to secure their daily food; 16 if one of you says to them,
            Go in peace, warm yourselves and take your fill, without providing for their
            bodily needs, of what use is it? 17 Thus faith, if it has no deeds to shew for itself, has
            lost its own principle of life. 18 We shall be inclined to say to him, Thou hast faith, but I
            have deeds to shew. Shew me this faith of thine without any deeds to prove it,
            and I am prepared, by my deeds, to prove my own faith.[3] 19 Thou believest that there is
            only one God; that is well enough, but then, so do the devils, and the devils
            shrink from him in terror. 20 Rash soul, wouldst thou be assured that faith without
            deeds to shew has no life in it? 21 Think of our father Abraham; was it not by his deeds that
            he found approval, when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 See how his faith conspired
            with deeds done, and through those deeds his faith was realized. 23 Thus he confirmed the words
            of scripture, which tell us, Abraham put his faith in God, and it was reckoned
            virtue in him, and he earned the title of God’s friend.[4] 24 You see, then, that it takes
            deeds as well as faith if a man is to be justified.
            25 Or again, how did Rahab, the
            harlot, win God’s approval? Was it not by her deeds, when she harboured the
            spies and sent them home by a different way?[5] 26 Body separated from spirit is a dead body, and faith
            separated from good deeds is a dead faith

  • Ana Casper

    Correct!

  • Bernadette Vella Wolff

    Don’t heat the oven unless you intend to bake a cake?

  • haggis95

    If you, a doctor of theology, have to do some digging then one of the conditions for mortal sin is absent for mere mortals of French kissing age (though I’m making a few assumptions here :)). It may perhaps be grave matter, but then again maybe not, since the sources are not clear.

  • Eric Neubauer

    If we would just embrace the idea of moderation & modesty we would not have to ask such silly questions. If you provoke sexual tensions (natural between a man and woman) then you experience the consequences of that reality. I would encourage those asking the question to spend time reading CCC, the Early Church Fathers and St. PJPII TOB.

  • Monica Marie Arroyo

    I wonder how many priests talk about this from the pulpit and Religious Ed teachers (religious included) mention it in their discussions.

  • Katie

    I can remember a priest making this very clear for me when he said if you think about it, french kissing is essentially mimicking the marriage act, but with the mouths. It made sense then, that just as the marriage act is reserved for the context of marriage, so would the sort of kissing that corresponded to it.