“Ask a Priest: May I Go to Communion If I’m Not Living Chastely?”

Q: My question relates to sex. I confessed having sex, since I’m not married, and the priest doesn’t make a big deal out of it as I thought he would. The other day during the Mass the priest said that those who serve should receive Communion because that is what makes the Mass so special. Am I allowed to receive the body of Christ, even though I’m having sex? -C.P.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Thanks for your note. Sex between two unmarried people is the sin of fornication.

The Catechism in No. 2353 says, “Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.”

That phrase “gravely contrary” means that it is objectively a mortal sin. One should not receive Communion without having gone to confession first.

Valid confessions require, among other things, that we firmly resolve to make amends – in this case, to avoid fornication again. That the priest might not have treated the sin of fornication as a “big deal” in the confessional might be because the sin is so common nowadays. Also, he is there as a minister of mercy, not condemnation. That doesn’t make the sin any less serious, however.

His exhortation that everyone should receive Communion should not be interpreted as some kind of blanket absolution. To receive Communion in mortal sin is itself a mortal sin.

It might help to study about the nature and purpose of sex and marriage, such as theology of the body. Christopher West is among the writers who have dealt with the topic in popular form (see here). I hope some of this helps.

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