Published on February 24, 2014
Adultery or Fornication What is the difference between adultery and fornication?
What does the Bible Say? 17 To a fornicator all bread tastes sweet; he will never cease until he dies. 18 A man who breaks his marriage vows says to himself, “Who sees me? Darkness surrounds me, and the walls hide me, and no one sees me. Why should I fear? The Most High will not take notice of my sins.” 19 His fear is confined to the eyes of men, and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun; they look upon all the ways of men, and perceive even the hidden places. (Sirach 23:17–19). An adulteress is described in Sirach 23:23 For first of all, she has disobeyed the law of the Most High; second, she has committed an offense against her husband; The Holy Bible : Revised Standard Version Second Catholic edition (2006), with the ecclesiastical approval of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Thomas Nelson Publishing for Ignatius Press.
Let’s take a look at these readings in view of the modern world. Jane marries Paul which is a contract between Jane and Paul to do certain things until they die, one of which is to have sexual intercourse with each other only and forsake all others. Jane and Paul, like all married people, have problems and argue but can’t seem to make up. They have sought the help of skilled professionals but that doesn’t seem to be working out to Jane’s satisfaction. One of the people she works with, Fred, a single man, is always kind and listens to her as she unburdens her problems on him. They start eating lunch together and in time they feel physically attracted to one another. They begin having sexual intercourse with each other.
Jane is practicing the sin of adultery because she is married to another. Fred is practicing the sin of fornication because while single he is having sexual intercourse with someone who is not his wife. Both have committed mortal sins which will remain on their souls until confessed in the confessional or reconciliation room. The reason is that both know that sex outside marriage is a violation of God’s law. They know it is a very serious matter that will not produce anything good other than the physical feeling at the moment of the act. And finely they both freely make the choice to ignore God’s law and act on their physical desires.
Another situation we often hear of is that two unmarried people decided to move in with each other. Their reason are: Why would you marry a person if you aren’t sure you want to live with them for the rest of your life? Living together is better than marriage because if it doesn’t work out you can pick up your belonging and leave, you don’t even need a divorce. Pregnancy won’t be a problem you just practice a birth control method.
In these usual responses there are common threads. The primary thread is the unwillingness to make a long-term commitment. A secondary thread is selfishness. A third thread is lack of respect. In reality you can’t have a long lasting marriage without an unselfish commitment that demonstrates respect. If John and Sarah go ahead with their plans to move in together they will each turn the other into a fornicator which is another way of saying my physical needs take precedence over my respect for you and your soul.
They could have gone through a celibate engagement process to determine the long-term commitment issue but they, for selfish reasons have chosen not to do so. The divorce prevention issue is the same as selfishness. “There may come a time I’ll want to dump you so I can take up with another or just because I don’t like you act.” Statistics however, show that those who live together before marriage are more likely to get a divorce than those who do not. Another point to consider is that if the person is willing to move in with you, how many other sexual encounters have they had and what is your risk of acquiring Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) from them?
Summing up. Adultery is the breaking of the marriage vow by consensual sexual intercourse with someone other than your spouse. Fornication is having consensual sex with someone to whom you are not married. I am reminded of a young man whose girl friend was killed in a car accident. As you might expect he was devastated by his loss but her death was but a small symptom of the major problem. They were fornicating and she had not gone to confession and died in a state of mortal sin. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sor cerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8–9).
Think about eternity not about the moment.
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