Friday, 10 August 2012

Catholic Dating : 12 Safety Rules

I thought I would post these ‘Rules or Boundaries for Catholic Dating’ because today’s hook-up culture; today’s self-directive, self-expression culture, promotes things that can be most unhelpful to the soul! I have taken these from several sources, and while I suspect many will see them as over-the-top, the question must always be, ‘Can we really take too much trouble in protecting our soul from the fires of passion and hell’?

So follow these rules and make sure your companion keeps them too, then you will be able to look your children in the eye when you have to guide them on their way to marriage and family life. If your companion isn’t willing to keep the rules they are not the person you thought they were, and if they are going to let their passion run wild with you, then maybe they would have done that before -and are not the Catholic you think they are.

While dating is part of life it should, like marriage, not be your only social outlet. Even marriages require that the spouses keep their outside friendships to prevent the spouses becoming stale and narrow, and while friendships must never disempower a marriage, dating should not disempower friendships.


1.  Be sure your life is based firmly on prayer, reception of the Sacraments and scripture reading so that you have the spiritual strength to fight temptation.

2.  Never be alone together or sit alone together in a car: such seclusion only gives space to say or do something you wouldn’t say or do in front of your parents or your priest -which probably means they shouldn’t be said or done at all. Instead, spend time with one another’s family: get to know your date in a family context; go out as part of a group; get to know what your date is like socially. Seclusion, remember, is a precursor to what is intimate and sensual.

3.  Watch your conversations: they can be used to convince one another that you are not doing wrong; while innuendo’s introduce talk of sex in a hidden (occult) way.

4.  Make your time together active times: go to a dance, to a walking day, to a fairground etc. and always have a back-up plan so that you are not left with an unexpected space to fill. The devil finds work for idle hands...

5.  Make sure your activities are wholesome: sensual activities or watching erotic films even in a group can arouse the passions.

6.  Dress appropriately and modestly; dress to look good, but not in order to make your body a focus of attraction: that would be to arouse lust and to use lust as a magnet.

7.  Avoid actions that cause arousal: if you don’t want to get burned, don’t arouse smouldering embers. Passions are powerful and lead us astray: don’t be ruled by your feelings but by your head. Inflamed emotions are hard to extinguish.

8.  Be honest about yourself: do not ‘act’ as you think a man or woman should act; that is to deceive: be truly who you are. If you try to impress by ‘acting’, you will have to maintain that act throughout life to keep them happy.  If you aren’t genuinely devout, don’t act as though you are; if you are genuinely devout, don’t act as though you aren’t.

9.  Be honest with yourself: we are all weak and broken, and we endanger our own soul and that of our date if we think we are strong enough to go ‘this far but no further’.  

10. Keep any kisses to a quick peck; keep mouths closed, and don’t let a quick hug become a cuddle.

11. End it as soon as you realise this is not the person for you. The purpose of dating is to find your lifetime spouse, so as soon as you are aware that you cannot live with your date’s attitudes, values, habits, dynamic etc., end the relationship -first of all, it cannot go where you need your life to go, and second of all, it is unjust to lead your date any further on.

12. Don’t be secretive about your dating: let your family and friends share in your joy; after all, what has to be kept hidden is not of God. Also, secrecy provides an intensity between you that is not actually about you but about the dating; the secrecy becomes the bond but can be misread by you both as being about you, when it is not.

29 comments:

  1. How sad I didn't have these kind of tips some years ago. Very well said here here!

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  2. "the question must always be, ‘Can we really take too much trouble in protecting our soul from the fires of passion and hell’?"

    Another, more immediate question is, "Can I really take too much trouble in choosing the person I will spend the rest of my life with, the person who could become the father or mother of my children?" When you realize that your behavior NOW can have an enormous impact on the happiness of your children in the future, you will most definitely want to follow the advice above. Sexual activity before marriage clouds your judgement and reduces the bonding effect of the sexual relationship. You do NOT want a moment of passion to lead to an unhappy marriage.

    I love the movie "Pride and Prejudice", especially when the main character is dancing with a man she just met (although he is known to people who know her and who would most likely warn her if he should be avoided). She is asking him several questions and when he asks why, she says she is judging his character. Good move on her part! And as the movie progresses, after much misunderstanding she realizes what a strong and beautiful character he has. The movie ends just after they are married, and you have such a sense that theirs will be a strong and happy marriage. They did not compromise along the way, and they will teach their future children to do the same.

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  3. My sentiments exactly, only probably longer ago, like the 1960's, which I am still paying for.

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    1. All I can say is that I am glad to have been born in the '40s and not in the 2000s.

      Sadly, with extra-marital sex a staple of today's entertainment fare, it must be extremely difficult for today's young adults to stay on the high road without the nagging feeling they are out of step.

      Perhaps the principles of the natural law should be taught earlier, so that the logical basis for what is right and what is wrong can be better appreciated.

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  4. Thank you.......it seems I'm the only mother of teenaged people that feel this way...now I can share this as being written by someone ELSE!!!

    Praise be to God!

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    1. Sadly Ebeth you are not alone I too have a teenage child and worry about all of the above. It's very easy to say you can control your passions but I have found it can be very difficult. And I am between 20-35 years old.

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  5. TwentyToThirty11 August 2012 16:59

    I like to think I'm a good Catholic but not to be alone witha girlfriend? To always do something and not just and watch a film together? I can't see the harm in any of these. This sounds like re-hashed advice of a by-gone age. Yes there are dangers, but I can be strong when I need to be and I could keep the whole thing safe if we weren't alone.

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    1. I take it your final sentence means 'I can be strong...if we were alone', but surely we cannot rely upon our own strength? And I wonder if people are so different today to those of a by-gone age? Our passions are just the same -and are fuelled by todays sexual culture. Sins against purity are not limited to sex outside of marriage: immodest dress, certain kinds of talk, places and touches etc, can be occassions of sin.

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    2. By your comments you sound like you have experienced the temptations Andrew is wary of in his tips. Be careful you pray well and keep the Holy Spirit with you for strength. It may sound like rehashed advice but the devil knows how to use these temptations very well
      For twenty to thirty

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    3. An occasion of sin, Fr. John A. Hardon writes, is “Any person, place, or thing that of its nature or because of human frailty can lead one to do wrong, thereby committing sin.”
      .
      In the Act of Contrition, we resolve to “avoid the near occasion of sin.” I’d like to share these helpful words from Scott P. Richert: "Perhaps the best way to think of near occasions of sin is to treat them as the moral equivalent of physical dangers. Just as we know we should stay alert when we’re walking through a bad part of town at night, we need to be aware of the moral threats around us. We need to be honest about our own weaknesses and actively avoid situations in which we’re likely to give in to them. Just as the person on a diet is likely to avoid the all-you-can-eat buffet, the Christian needs to avoid circumstances in which he knows he is likely to sin."
      .
      From Fr. Greg Coyne: (We need to remember) not to be naive in thinking that “we’re strong enough to handle the situation” but to be humble enough to recognize our human weakness and prudent enough to avoid situations which could be potentially dangerous to our souls.
      .
      And lastly, from St. Philip Neri: ”Humility is the safeguard of chastity. In the matter of purity, there is no greater danger than not fearing the danger. For my part, when I find a man secure of himself and without fear, I give him up for lost. I am less alarmed for one who is tempted and who resists by avoiding the occasions, than for one who is not tempted and is not careful to avoid occasions. When a person puts himself in an occasion, saying, I shall not fall, it is an almost infallible sign that he will fall, and with great injury to his soul.”

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    4. Thank you for commenting and for the quotes you have given. How few see the wisdom and holiness of what is being said by such good men.

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  6. Never be alone together? Seriously? I can understand that for teenagers but adults really trying to discern whether to marry someone? I dated a lot of guys in twenties and early thirties before I got married and had to breakup two engagements before I found the right man. It was in the mundane, hanging out with each other times that I really got to know who this person was. I was a virgin when I got married at 32. I didn't need a chaperone at my age!

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    1. Thank you for your comment.
      You have shown yourself to have exercised significant self-control, and I commend you for that: I’m sure the Holy Ghost was with you.
      I know it sounds too restrictive to say never be alone together, but the tendency to sin does not diminish with age; nor can we rely upon our own strength to remain chaste. Remember, couples can meet at, and be ‘alone’ in, a crowded pub or at a table for two in a restaurant, which would be fine, and I don’t think Andrew has excluded such meetings in his post.
      May God bless you and your spouse.

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    2. Fr., a person never shows his true colors on those early dates out for dinner or a movie. Everyone is on their best behavior. But if you are serious about marrying someone you have to get beyond "dates" to just doing the ordinary things of life together. I would be miserable today if I had married either of the two guys I was once engaged to. Both had very serious issues but the behavior didn't come out on "dates" in public. It's when they start feeling comfortable with you that stuff starts to slip. I was always a devout Catholic and dated devout Catholics (although some neurotic ones). We knew sexual activity was off limits. I am not saying it would have been impossible for me to mess up but at the same time it's never impossible for me to sin no matter where I am. YAlso, even though all people are faced with temptation to sin no matter what age, age does bring maturity which helps order the sexual drive and other appetites. A child in a candy store allowed to would eat himself sick while I, having the same sweet tooth but being a mature adult, know the consequences and don't over indulge. Everything in life has risks. Should I never cross the street because I might get hit by a car and be killed? Or should I cross but just be careful and look both ways first? I think a person just has to use common sense. When it's the sacrament of marriage at stake, I want to be darn sure who I am marrying and that's going to take more than a weekly date in public.

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  7. I really have to thank you for posting this, Andrew. Being that I'm a 20-something in a college town it is easy to forget the tips my parents gave me only a few years ago.
    I have always been careful to find a catholic community wherever I go, but I've still really struggled with just about every one of these areas.
    I would say I am in desperate need of some re-prioritizing starting with the honesty. Any tips on how to get back to ME once I've already let the "act" of what I think I should be consume my life? I've been working on prayer, but I know there is SOMETHING else I need to do I just don't know what it is.

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    1. I hope you don't mind, Ana Maria, but I have asked Father to blog about refinding oneself at some point... hope you don't mind!

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  8. Andrew, this is the most ludicrous expression of sexual repression I have seen. Give up blogging and get living. The church is about life and freedom of God's children. Stop living out others' repressed ideas. Break free of this narrow-minded neurosis. It will not serve you o the Church well.

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    1. This post is a collation from several sources, so I presume that there are others just as “repressed” as you suggest I am.

      Those who would claim not to be repressed may simply be lacking self-mastery and therefore tend toward licentiousness. What can appear oppression to some is, I suggest, freedom from one’s base animal instincts by use of reason, intelligence and will. For those able to live with such self-possession, there is freedom from the animal instincts which would otherwise rule our lives. Society today may see sex as the ultimate in self-expression and fulfilment but there are others, like me, who value it and other people too highly to use either as a means of transient self-gratification outside of marriage; marriage being the arena in which satisfaction of both partners physically, emotionally and spiritually, in permanent, life-giving commitment, is the desire of both.

      I might add that Blogging is not an escape from life, simply sharing ideas with a wider group of people.

      Your comment suggests sex is the prescription for a personal utopia... and that seems to me to be at least a ‘constricted’ understanding of humanity and happiness. You say ‘stop living out others repressed ideas’; the alternative is to live out someone else’s trigger-happy lifestyle.

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  9. Good tips, surely. I have only one concern: “Passions are powerful and lead us astray: don’t be ruled by your feelings but by your head.” I am not certain this is always true. Disordered passions are as strong as all passions, and disordered passions certainly lead us astray. But passion in the general sense is a gift, one that must be subordinated to the will, of course, but which ought to be expressed nevertheless. I do not doubt that young people – especially young people in our society – often have difficulty in determining which passions are proper and which are not. The love/lust conundrum certainly expresses this. But love most certainly has its passionate elements and does not stray into lust when properly understood. Expression of such passion is never wrong. It is exactly what Christ did on the cross. The problem lies, rather, in the misunderstanding of one vs. the other – which is where the will must come into play.

    A more significant concern I have, however, lies in the realm of passions other than lust. Our culture actively encourages lust and purposefully confuses it with love – to the extent that it has wholly replaced loving behavior with lustful behavior and nevertheless calls it love. But the same culture actively represses other ordered passions, encouraging, for example, that young children take pharmacological concoctions just so that they can sit still in school. There are, of course, proper uses for such powerful medicines, but Ritalin has become as routine as mistaking lust for love – and its sole purpose is to repress the passions growing in small children, especially in small boys. Rather than change the institutional setting to allow for distractions and teach young children how to deal with them, we have chosen to chemically alter the small boys. One is tempted to recall the scene early in Tom Sawyer where Tom meets a new boy and the two have a brief go at it. Today, we would get the police and the doctors and the social workers involved – all to settle an issue that the young boys can better settle on their own. In those halcyon days, the go was the end of it, and no more than a few ears were ruffled, and perhaps one’s Sunday best might need an extra washing. But a good hour at the washtub would serve a young boy well in learning the proper order of that sort of passion – and such was the thing that Tom might properly expect in consequence of the behavior. Not so today.

    But there is more. Passion is what drives the young person to run hard at the end of practice so that he might run harder when the game comes along. It is what drives the young person to stick his nose back in his book when his peers are reveling on the quad. Even the act of will known as discipline is often the result of an inner passion – the sort which chides severely when one’s mind drifts into wistful thoughts of doing what everyone else is doing. Such passions are a gift – as any drill sergeant or high school coach can attest to.

    But most importantly, ordered passions are the driving forces we see in the actions of many saints. John the Baptist took to the desert, and while the locusts fed his body, fire fed his heart and soul. And Jesus says there had never been a greater one than he. Likewise with St. Francis when he stripped himself of all his worldly possessions in the city square. His heart drove him – and then his will took over so he could put on the severe habit and begin begging for his bread. And who can read Justin’s pleading with the emperor or Father Campion’s Ten Reasons without detecting the driving force of passion leading those two exquisite minds in the proper explanation of the faith and one’s proper role therein?

    Passions do not always lead us astray. They need to be tethered and directed, of course. But no more than that.

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  10. 1. Agreed, though not just to avoid temptation.
    2. Oversimplified and scrupulous. This rule is arbitrary. It assumes that sexual tension is always the same and that arousal develops linearly. Without real self awareness and self mastery, this rule only promotes making out in public.
    3. Because you have to be overly self aware and constantly anxious because you just might say something wrong. No, rather, cultivate a chaste mind when you’re separate, and strive positively for wholesome conversations. Focus on what you should talk about rather than what you shouldn’t.
    4. Because its impossible for introverts to be chaste?
    5. Wait! Watching erotic films at all is sinful. Do you really think someone who’d seriously consider watching erotic films in a group to take this list seriously?
    6. As you always should!
    7. True to a point, but recognize that resisting sexual temptation increases sexual tension and arousal as well. Chastity is more than just stomping your feet into the ground. It is much more like you are a sail boat and sexual stimuli is the wind. Self mastery involves knowing how to dance that sail around that wind so you relatively stay where you are. In marriage, chastity involves knowing how to use whatever wind current you have to move forward or stay still. Sometimes the wind is strong and it seems effortless to move forward, but sometimes it takes extra labor as well. This lack of mastery is why the secular world likes spontaneity (which is partially what contraceptives protect) and “waiting for the mood” to hit them which can lead to refusing your spouse’s advances. The important thing is not to look at your sexuality as evil, but to prayerfully struggle to know yourself and master yourself. Arbitrary rules like this don’t come from self mastery.
    8. Eh, balance it out. Being extra polite and friendly on a special date might actually help you to become a more polite and friendly person
    9. Being honest with yourself also means recognizing how you haven’t mastered yourself and that you will likely slip up a bit as you try to steer that sail to keep yourself in place. Regular confession and prayer is the key. Don’t be hard on yourself. Rely on God’s grace.
    10. Oversimplified. View dates as social outings. View courtship as an agreement to see each other exclusively to discern marriage. Appropriate affection depends on where you are. Kissing someone you barely know merely because you’re sexually attracted to them is morally different than kissing your fiancé. Again, self mastery is not developed through digging your heels in the ground.
    11. Agreed
    12. If you’re a teen, its probably best not to be exclusive with anyone. If you’re an adult, calling up your parents who live in another state to inform them of every date you’ve gone on can be monotonous.

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    1. I think you've expanded well on some points I tried to make. I agree with many of the rules but some are just oversimplified. If all you are doing is avoiding sex before marriage by never being alone, then you've really never mastered your passions and you haven't learned chastity. When you are married there are just as many temptations out there. What are you going to do, only go out of your house when your spouse is with you so you always have a chaperone? At some point we have to make a commitment to chastity and learn self-discipline. You will never be able to completely avoid temptation. There will be temptation in the workplace, there will be temptation on the Facebook. If you have a deep faith conviction and have learned to order your passions, none of these temptations will affect you.

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    2. embersofincense and Anonymous,

      As Father Dickson usually says, Thank you for your comments. Indeed I can see where you are coming from, but I think the 'rules' are useful in challenging the presumed strength people can attribute to themselves in the control of their passions; also the dangers in situations that people tend to ignore.

      That said, I don't think the 'rules' were meant to be a treatise on dating encompassing all shades of ideas and variations of situations. I collated the ‘rules’ from several sources because they seem to me to be useful advice to those in the dating world. No matter what our age, and whether married or not, temptation affects us all.

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  11. Lets not kid ourselves, all of us are tempted in one form or another on a very regular basis and almost all of us yield to that temptation. We're human and all of us have the weaknesses of a human being. Jesus Christ understands our weakness, he is down there in the pit with us, he carries us through the dross of our lives and gives us strength to carry on. Advice on avoiding sin is all well and good but we all know that wrapping rosary beads around our wrists when lying in bed doesnt work. Lord have mercy on me, I am a sinful man.

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    1. Thank you for your comment.

      Yes, we are all human, and that human nature is fallen. But might I suggest that Our Lord did not come into the pit to camp there with us but to lift us out of it. Plus, never underestimate the power of the Rosary; it has wrought miracles of chastity before and can still do so.

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  12. I agree with most of the rules in this blog, some of them quite strongly. However, I VERY strongly disagree with rules 2, 4, and 10. All three of these rules are excessively restrictive and pretty much assume that the people in the relationship are naive, immature, and cannot resist ANY temptation at all. They suggest that the best way to deal with temptation is to completely avoid it at all times, rather than building up the personal strength to not give in to the temptation. Also, these three highly-restrictive rules will turn a lot of people away from being in a proper Catholic relationship. The more restrictive a rule is, the more often people won’t follow it or will completely rebel against it by doing the exact opposite. For example, I imagine that a very common reaction to rule #2 will be: “‘Never be alone together’? That’s ridiculous! If this is what it takes to have a proper Catholic relationship, maybe I just won’t have a proper Catholic relationship. I want to get to know my date on a 1-on-1 basis!”

    I will now discuss these three rules separately below.

    Rule #2 (quoted from above): “Never be alone together or sit alone together in a car: such seclusion only gives space to say or do something you wouldn’t say or do in front of your parents or your priest -which probably means they shouldn’t be said or done at all. Instead, spend time with one another’s family: get to know your date in a family context; go out as part of a group; get to know what your date is like socially. Seclusion, remember, is a precursor to what is intimate and sensual.”

    Being alone together is absolutely essential to developing a strong, meaningful romantic relationship that will result in a successful life-long marriage. The whole point of such a relationship is to get to know the other person for who they actually are. You will never get to know someone in that way if you are constantly surrounded by other people — people only show their true colours to their date when they are relaxed in their most comfortable environment, which is usually their home, car, or other such personal space.

    (continued)

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    1. Eric, Thanks for your comment.

      Sorry it has taken so long to post this. I have had so much going on and haven;'t even been able to create a post for a while.

      Erik, I cannot respond to your comments individually, so can I respond generically? I think the rules are good and important; and that they would not have been thought over-strict 50 years ago before society decided that there was no such thing as sexual temptations because all sex is fine -if indeed, there is any concept of temptation and sin left.

      I welcome your opinions though. None of us (me, you Andrew or any dating couple) will have it entirely right in this world!

      God Bless.

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  13. Dating someone is not about only saying or doing “[things that you would] do in front of your parents or your priest”. If that were the case then romantic relationships would be pointlessly shallow and would almost definitely result in a failed marriage. Dating is about getting to know the person that you may one day marry, and that requires getting to know them on a very deep level. Getting to that level requires doing and saying things that are meant to be solely between the two people in the couple, and not shared with their parents or priest. For example, there are many aspects of sex that need to be discussed as a relationship gets more serious, even though the sex will be saved for marriage. But, these discussions of sex should almost never be discussed in front of your parents, and often not in front of a priest either.

    Although it is also very important to spend time with a date in social situations, to see what they are like around your friends, family, or strangers, participating solely in such activities, as this rule states, would be disastrous if the couple decided to get married. Once you are married, you are constantly alone with your spouse, and if you were never alone together while dating then it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to get used to that. The way I see it, following this rule to the letter for the duration of the relationship, all the way until the marriage, is an almost sure recipe for disaster. If you only meant that this rule applies to people just starting a relationship then that changes everything, but from the wording of your post you seem to be saying that people who date should never be alone together until they are married, which I find completely unacceptable.

    Also, as stated above I can see this rule turning a LOT of people away from wanting a truly Catholic relationship (at least, by your definition of a truly Catholic relationship). Most/all couples want to be alone at least some of the time, and if they are being told by blogs such as yours that this is not a good idea for a Catholic relationship then they might just decide to abandon being Catholic altogether.

    (continued)

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  14. Rule #4 (quoted from above): “Make your time together active times: go to a dance, to a walking day, to a fairground etc. and always have a back-up plan so that you are not left with an unexpected space to fill. The devil finds work for idle hands.”

    Similar to rule #2, this rule will not allow the couple to actually get to know each other. Following this rule to the letter means they will never have any time to sit back, reflect on life, and talk about deep, important subjects. As with rule #2, this rule will result in a shallow, pointless relationship that would be more akin to a friendship than a romantic relationship, and very often would result in a failed marriage due to a lack of meaningful communication.

    I also find this rule (and #2 and #10 to some extent) quite belittling and lacking trust for those in the relationship. In these three rules you assume that people have no self-control and should never be subjected to any form of temptation at all because they will most likely fail. I know you said “Can we really take too much trouble in protecting our soul from the fires of passion and hell?”, but this world is full of temptations and to be mature individuals we must build up our personal strength against them. Completely avoiding a problem, such as sexual temptation, is not a proper way of dealing with it. You have to face it head-on sometimes.

    (continued)

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  15. Rule #10 (quoted from above): “10. Keep any kisses to a quick peck; keep mouths closed, and don’t let a quick hug become a cuddle.”

    A proper romantic relationship, especially one that leads to marriage, requires much more than just quick pecks and hugs. The couple needs to get to know what it’s like to be physically intimately close to each other (in a non-sexual way, of course), because without that they will not be able to be truly comfortable with each other. The physical aspect of the relationship is also very important for building up trust with each other. Plus, if they get married, then instantly jumping from quick pecks and hugs to sexual intercourse, french kisses, various forms of (Catholic-approved) foreplay, etc is not going to work; such a scenario will completely overwhelm and scare virtually anyone who tries it.

    Also, from what I understand this rule goes completely against what the Theology of the Body teaches. I have not formally studied it, so I can’t say anything specific, but I do know that the Theology of the Body teaches that couples must gradually get to know each other more and more physically. Being restricted to pre-teen-stage physical contact such as quick kisses and hugs, without any progression from there, does not allow for a gradually more physical relationship.

    And once again, if you are telling people that Catholics are this physically restricted while dating, most people are not going to want to be Catholic.


    As a concluding remark, I want to emphasize that all the rules other than 2, 4, and 10 are, generally, quite good rules to follow and I thank you for posting them. But, 2, 4, and 10 are excessively restrictive, will turn people away from Catholicism, and seem to actually go against true Catholic teachings since they will result in shallow, non-communicative, non-intimate relationships that would most likely not result in successful marriages. I strongly encourage you to revisit them and potentially remove them. I also encourage you to seek opinions from priests and/or Catholic scholars who are experts in the fields of Catholic relationships, marriage preparation, and the teachings of the Theology of the Body to verify the validity of these rules.

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