“Ask a Priest: Should My Boyfriend and I Take Apartments in the Same Building?”

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Q: I have just graduated college and moved away from home for my first full-time job. My boyfriend of four years has transferred his job to the same area in order for us to stay together. He and I have found separate apartments in the same building. We have respected our Catholic faith in the four years we have been dating. We are planning to get engaged in the next few months, and we will wait until we are married before we have sex. My mother is concerned that our close proximity is too much of a risk for us. I believe the risk would be the same whether he lived in the same building or down the road. I understand we are at risk, which is why we have chosen to get married. I would appreciate any concerns or advice you may be able to share. -T.K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good that you have a desire to live your Catholic faith in an integral way.

Your question touches on the notion of the near occasion of sin. An occasion of sin can be near (or proximate) or remote, depending on a number of factors.

Jesuit Father John Hardon wrote in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, “There is a positive obligation to avoid a voluntary proximate occasion of sin even though the occasion of evildoing is due only to human weakness.”

The question, then, is whether living in the same building constitutes a near or remote occasion of sin for you and your boyfriend. This is something you and he might want to pray about. True, he could live down the road or across town, and there would still be a chance for an occasion of sin. Occasions of sin always exist in one form or another.

The more immediate and practical questions worth considering might be: If you are in the same building, how much time will you spend together? Will you be dining together every night? How often and how late will you be in his apartment, and he in yours? The answer to those questions could change remote occasions of sin into near occasions, for various reasons. Again, it is a matter that you might want to pray about and discuss.

It is interesting that you write, “I understand we are at risk, which is why we have chosen to get married.” One would hope that you and your friend would enter marriage for positive reasons, and not just to avoid “risk.” That you use the phrase “at risk” seems to imply that there might be a difficulty with chastity. This is understandable, since it is not an uncommon challenge in courtships.

Still, to speak of marriage as a kind of counterweight to risk, and then to consider living in the same building, might be something to pay special attention to. If you think the risk to chastity too high, then special prudence might be in order.

My apologies if I have read too much into your note. That is one of the risks of e-mail.

In the meantime it might be good to intensify the prayer life and sacramental life. A good preparation for marriage is the awareness that spouses are meant to help each other grow in holiness. That awareness ideally shows up before marriage. You might also find the RC Spirituality retreat “Three Hearts” useful.

Stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She will help you.

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