Can I have a Catholic marriage if I’m not a virgin?

Dear Anthony,

I’m confused, and slightly worried.  I recently read an article by a respected Catholic author talking about being married to the person you lose your virginity to, that it is a fact the Bible teaches, and that those who marry someone else are not really married in the eyes of God.  It was very confusing to me, but I’m mostly worried because I am (unfortunately) no longer a virgin, but I have changed and become convinced of chastity before marriage.  Is it too late for me?

First of all, let’s make it clear that you have nothing to worry about.  Though you are no longer a virgin, as a Catholic, you are completely qualified to have a valid, sacramental marriage one day when you find the person you choose.  The loss of virginity before marriage absolutely does not disqualify you from Catholic marriage, nor are you “too late” in God’s eyes by your conversion to a chaste life after losing your virginity.  In fact, your conversion is God’s inspiration and gift to you which you accepted, and takes great delight in those who return to Him.

I have heard this argument before and understand the basis of the argument.  I understand how it can be confusing to people.  It’s not something you hear in your upbringing, or in your religion or C.C.D. classes. At least, not explicitly.

This argument is rooted in the Biblical concept of marital union; namely, genital intercourse.  The Bible phrases this act as a “knowing” of another.  To “know” the other means that you have had genital intercourse.  In the Old Testament, you see many instances of a man taking a woman into a tent where he “knows” her.  That act is all that is necessary to be officially married.

The person in the article you read is probably stressing the point that there is something very real and objective about the act of genital intercourse and becoming married.  Some teach that there is an exchange of persons in that act, and that “becoming one flesh” (another Biblical teaching) happens when you have genital intercourse.  Therefore, the person you lose your virginity to is the person you are married to, regardless of how you feel or if it’s legal by civil standards, etc.  It’s a compelling argument because it does makes sense based on certain Biblical realities.

It’s first important to be said that loss of virginity is traditionally a very big deal, both positively and negatively.  Positively, because two people getting married was celebrated.  It was culturally as well as religiously expected that the person you marry is the first person with whom you engage in genital intercourse.  Negatively, because if you were not a virgin at the time of marriage, it was cause for divorce.  Parents would actually need to prove the virginity of their daughter to prevent divorce if a man claimed after marriage that he did not know if she was a virgin or not.  And if it were known in the community that you were not a virgin, you ruined your chances for marriage.

And, of course, at the time of the central event of history, the clarity of the Gospel writers that Mary was a virgin was of strict priority for two reasons; one, the prophecy of the miraculous conception and virgin birth, and the intention of the just man, Joseph, who, by law, had to divorce Mary when she was found with child.  He could not stay married to a woman who was not a virgin (which, as we know, the angel made sure he did not further pursue).

Contrast this with today, when the chances of finding a virgin for marriage are remote.  For better or for worse, remaining a virgin before marriage is not a priority of the culture today.  But it is reality.  And we all must live our lives in reality, not in what we want, hope, or wish.  Therefore, it would be impractical, to say the least, to insist on marrying a virgin.

But how do we reconcile this with the clear Bible teaching about virginity as a requirement for a valid marriage?

The answer is actually quite simple.  As Catholics, we do not live our lives solely on what we read in the Bible, nor on our personal interpretation of what we read in the Bible.  Jesus Christ is the authority of Truth, and He established an authoritative body, which is His own mystical body and presence, on earth for all time and ages, with a self-appointed head of that body; the person of Peter, the first pope.  The Pope and all bishops in union with him are the official representatives of Jesus Christ and all revealed Truth of the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing in official Catholic Church teaching that says you must be a virgin before you are married.  When a couple approaches the Church for Catholic marriage, there is no question asking if you are still a virgin.  The Catholic Church allows marriages between a man and a woman with whom one or both are no longer virgins, and those who have been previously married civilly with a decree of nullity.  Non-virgins are welcome to the altar of the Lord in Holy Matrimony.

I certainly understand why someone would want to marry a virgin, or someone who has never been married.  Perhaps it is a desire to avoid possible diseases.  Perhaps it is to avoid dealing with another person’s ex-spouse or their children, or they only want their own children.  Perhaps it’s just that they feel it’s too risky, or they want someone who has also exercised self-control in refraining from pre-marital sex. It’s everyone prerogative to choose married to whomever they please, and hold out for someone who personifies the priorities they seek in their marriage partner.  Who wouldn’t prefer to be with someone on their wedding night who has never been with another person?  It’s a very nice hope, indeed, to find that. Yet, it’s not very practical in today’s world.  And it severely diminishes one’s opportunities.

Don’t be worried.  You are not a virgin anymore, like most of today’s society, including many Catholics.  But you are still very much a Catholic, and absolutely a candidate for sacramental marriage when you finally find the love of your life.  Keep up the good fight for remaining chaste before marriage.


Like, ever.

Dear Anthony,

I recently asked a girl out who I met on Ave Maria Singles.  She seemed so nice, but not very Catholic.  I think she would be so awesome if she would just get more serious about her faith.  I met with her so I could evangelize her and she stormed out of the coffee shop.  I really want to marry a Catholic girl strong in her faith. What do you suggest?

So many single Catholic men and women feel it’s their duty to evangelize the people they are dating.Too many.  

You may have heard of Taylor Swift.  She sings a lot of songs about terrible relationships.  She has some wisdom in this department that men can learn from.  I have no doubt that if someone tried to evangelize her on a date, she would not only storm out, but you would be in her next song. But anyway…

The problem is not in the concept of evangelizing.  We are all called to evangelize.  The majority of effective evangelization is example, not confrontational.  Observing exemplary Christian living leads to trust.  Genuine friendship leads to trust.  Without trust, you can’t be effective in speaking to someone about your concerns.  

You should never, ever, ever evangelize by confrontation on a date.  That’s simply bad timing, to say the least.  I’m not surprised this woman stormed out. She was blindsided by your so-called evangelization because she was expecting something totally different.  She expected to be on a date, and you made her feel like she was on trial.  

You are implying she is not strong in her Catholic faith.  Another colossal mistake.  Just because a person seems to be behaving or speaking a way that you believe shows weakness in faith does not mean they are not strong in their faith.  Not at all!

So many good people who love Jesus Christ have strong, deep roots in their faith, but have attachments and influences from the world, culture, media, and people around them.  Don’t we all?  These have a way of causing confusion and blindness.  We can easily succomb to deceiving ourselves and falling for our own excuses. That leads to ignoring and turning a blind eye, and so on and so forth.  

Many people are too impatient for the real process of this primary method of authentic evangelization. Perhaps upon observing your Christianity, a person like this girl you met gets turned off.  It would have served you better to be a fantastic first date, with absolutely no hint of putting her under the microscope or taking it upon yourself to point out her spiritual weaknesses and flaws. The Holy Spirit works through non-threatening, non-confrontational happenings which can naturally work on the conscience and inspire change for the better.

Perhaps you didn’t really intend to see her again.  And that goes for people on the website whose profiles you find questionable. Contacting them to “evangelize” is wrong. Those who join Ave Maria Singles have an expectation of using the site to meet someone. Any attempts to evangelize will likely be unsuccessful. They saw that a message was waiting. They got their hopes up. When they open it, they find you telling them what they are doing wrong in their life. They are really mad.  And then the customer support team has to hear how terrible members can be and clean up your mess.  

I think it’s wonderful that you have such a heart for Christ that you want everyone to live Christ-centered lives, and desire to share Him with others.  But our hearts are to be governed by our minds. The mind determines important virtues such as prudence. It can actually be imprudent to do confrontational evangelization.

My advice is live by example and allow the Holy Spirit to do the primary work of conversion. The more you are living the life of perfection in the Christian life, the more attractive it will be to others.  

So it’s back to the drawing board with you and online dating.  Never, ever, ever meet with a woman without being sincerely interested in getting to know her.  

Nobody wants to be with someone who wants to change them.  If you persist in trying to confrontationally evangelize women, you will very likely hear her quoting Taylor Swift, “We are never, ever, ever getting back together.”

True love does not require romance

Another Valentine’s Day is upon us.  For some, it’s exciting and romantic.  For others, it’s another stinging reminder there is no one to share it with.

For me, it’s a reminder to write something in the spirit of the holiday.  So I will start with these words of wisdom:

Without romance, love is just an obligation.  

Well, it all depends on what your definition of romance is.  I think it is most commonly understood to be associated with feelings and emotions, as modern novels and movies portray.  We want love to be this way.  

Despite the romantic notion (pardon the pun) of love being a choice, especially when you don’t feel it, no one wants to love because they are obliged to.  And no one wants to feel they are only loved out of duty.  

Yet, Jesus said nothing about romance when teaching about love. The deepest Christian meaning of love is that it’s a decision, an act of the will.  That it has sacrifice for the sake of the other as it’s highest good, regardless of feelings and emotions.  In other words, true love does not require romance. Any Christian who desires to be married must accept and live this definition of love.  Life has no real meaning whatsoever without the existence of this kind of love in the world among individuals and communities.  Putting the welfare of others first is the heart of this love.  It is ‘Agape’.

I have heard many definitions of this Greek word for love as it applies to Christ and His commandment and example.  They are all summed up in the fundamental concept of being fully invested in the love proclaimed and promised – to be fully committed.  God loves in this way.  God has called us to love one another in this way.  Sadly, we all fall short to some degree.  But we should all strive for it at all times, with the help of God’s grace.

Having said this, and accepting this kind of love is the highest priority in Christian love, there isn’t a single person who desires marriage who does not wish it to also include romance.

Romance requires feelings and emotions.  There is no way around that.  Many pious persons would like to dismiss feelings and emotions as a distraction to holy pursuits.  But it’s a mistake to dismiss feelings and emotions.  God created human beings with feelings and emotions.  It stands to reason that they play a major role in our human experience.

Granted, they must be guided by our mind and will.  But we must pay close attention to them.

In the area of dating and falling in love, feelings and emotions are critical to everyone.  How can anyone falling in love without a strong feeling and emotional connection to the other?  Romantic love requires the participation of these very human attributes.

Let’s assume we all agree that to fall in love and get married requires romance.  A romantic relationship has two people mutually attracted to each other. There must physical attraction as well.  

It’s very romantic when the person you are sharing an intimate friendship with develops into a desire for physical intimacy.  This is a must!  Hand holding, hugs, and kissing are the first physical experiences of the romance.  You definitely want there to be a desire for much more physical intimacy that is exclusive to two persons who are married.  In fact, that is one of the most (if not the most) practical reasons to get married.  Physical desire is one of the signs that things are leading to marriage.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, full physical intimacy is expressed far too often prior to marriage, and accepted as common practice within the dating process. A romantic relationship with full physical expression is not so romantic today because it has led to many putting off marriage.  The adage of “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” comes to mind.

So today’s singles have to learn other very important signs of a romantic relationship that can make both persons say “This is the one I want to marry.”  They are not signs noticeable by feeling and emotion.  It takes your wits to notice them.

Two of the most important qualities for creating a strong, lasting romantic relationship are being observant and a good listener. Without these, instead of progressing forward with a solid potential spouse, there is misunderstanding and premature break up.

Being observant and a good listener is actually very romantic!  Experiencing these qualities in the person you’re dating can be quite attractive.

As an observant person, you pick up on the non-verbal cues of the person you’re dating and respond accordingly.  As a good listener, you make the person you’re dating feel important, understood, and loved. Close friends are good listeners for each other for venting, sharing, discerning important decisions, cheering up, providing laughter, and providing healing. Close friendship is a cornerstone of love and marriage.

Many find candy, flowers, expensive and fancy dinner to be romantic. They’re nice. All warm, fuzzy feelings are nice. Being on emotional highs from being in love is an extraordinary thing.  But at the end of the day, most people would trade these in for a good friend who knows when they need a hug, can make them laugh, and  knows what to say (and when to say it).  Someone who will patiently listen to them when upset, or when they want to share the great joys of their day. 

Any man can buy a woman things, take her to nice places,  charm and seduce her, and stir up her feelings and emotions.  How difficult it is, though, to find a man who is willing to, and capable of, investing the time to get to know you, be observant of everything about you, know how to make you laugh, and listen to you with full attention.  

How difficult it is to find a woman who wants to get past the male persona and reach into the heart of a man with all his vulnerabilities and insecurities, support him, has a good sense of humor, and wants to listen to him, rather than wanting to do all the talking herself.

Please don’t take this as a suggestion to abandon all those wonderful romantic things that touch our emotions and make us feel loved.  Just don’t forget that there are other things that are just as romantic, that get overshadowed by the typical trappings of romance.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

the love songs of the Beatles

It’s been 50 years since the Beatles first landed in America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.  I’m a pretty avid Beatles fan, and like following the continued legacy of the band.  My favorite aspect of the Beatles is the songwriting team of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

The Beatles were a phenomenon many believed would be just another fad, like so many before them, and so many after them.  Though the screaming fans chasing after the foursome everywhere they went did die off, the power and influence of their songs have not.

Paul McCartney was not a complicated person.  He had a happy childhood with two loving parents who supported his musical ambitions.  John Lennon was a very complicated individual with many tragic aspects of his upbringing.  Both of these very different men were able to come together and contribute their songwriting talents in writing simple, happy love songs in those first few years of their recording career.  Consider just the following songs released between 1962 and 1964:

Love Me Do,  Please Please Me,  P.S. I Love You,  All I’ve Got to Do,  All My Loving,  Do You Want to Know a Secret?,  From Me to You,  I Saw Her Standing There,  I Want to Hold Your Hand,  I’ll Get You,  It Won’t Be Long,  She Loves You,  Thank You Girl,  This Boy,  And I Love Her,  Any Time at All,  Can’t Buy Me Love,  Eight Days a Week,  Every Little Thing,  A Hard Day’s Night,  I Feel Fine,  I Should Have Known Better,  If I Fell,  I’m Happy Just to Dance with You,  She’s a Woman,  Things We Said Today

I’m sure you recognize many of these.  And that’s just within their first three years.  They are catchy, beautiful, short and sweet, very singable, and very endearing. These songs express the longing we all have for intimacy with another.  

Paul McCartney is the one critics claim is the happy love song writer, and John Lennon wrote more strange and angst filled songs. Like all stereotypes, it has elements of truth to it.  However, Lennon did write love songs (e.g. All I’ve Got To Do, Do You Want To Know A Secret?, Julia, Don’t Let Me Down) , and McCartney wrote non-love songs (e.g. I’m Down, I’m Looking Through You, For No One, Sgt. Pepper, Helter Skelter).

I would like to point out two songs that Lennon himself referenced as love songs.  In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine on December 5, 1980 (just 3 days before he was murdered) about his album, Double Fantasy (my favorite Lennon solo album).  Lennon said that the song Woman was the “grown-up” version of his 1965 song Girl.

If you have never heard this song, please listen to it.  In my opinion, it’s one of the most beautiful love songs ever written. It is also quite a lesson in what true love between a man and a woman really is. You can tell he was deeply in love with his wife, Yoko Ono.  

Let’s compare the two songs:


Is there anybody going to listen to my story, all about the girl who came to stay?

She’s the kind of girl you want so much, it makes you sorry

Still, you don’t regret a single day, ah girl

When I think of all the times I’ve tried so hard to leave her, she will turn to me and start to cry

And she promises the earth to me and I believe her, after all this times I don’t know why

Ah, girl

She’s the kind of girl who puts you down when friends are there, you feel a fool

When you say she’s looking good, she acts as if it’s understood

She’s cool, cool, cool, cool, girl

Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure?

Did she understand it when they said

That a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure?

Will she still believe it when he’s dead?  Ah girl


Woman, I can hardly express, my mixed emotion at my thoughtlessness

After all I’m forever in your debt

And woman, I will try to express my inner feelings and thankfullness

For showing me the meaning of success

Woman, I know you understand the little child inside the man

Please remember my life is in your hands

And woman hold me close to your heart, however distant, don’t keep us apart

After all it is written in the stars

Woman please let me explain, I never meant to cause you sorrow or pain

So let me tell you again and again and again

I love you, yeah yeah, now and forever

You can see that Girl has adolescent game playing and immature behavior. Woman shows the maturity, gratitude, humility, mutual respect, and deep sense of partnership that are required for a successful relationship and marriage.

It’s hard to believe John Lennon has been dead for 33 years.  It’s hard to believe Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are in their 60’s.  In my lifetime, all four Beatles will no longer be among the living.  But the beautiful songs they shared with the world will endure for as long as there is a civilized world.  Their contributions to love and the human spirit through the gift of music is a blessing to us all.

Long live the Beatles!  Long live happy, beautiful love songs to inspire our hearts!

why would my ex-boyfriend try to ruin my reputation?

Dear Anthony,

I decided to give in and accept his interest in being more than friends, and we started dating.  Long story short, it didn’t work out and we lost our friendship as well, which I’m still trying to get over.  But what I have to deal with even more is the shock that this man who once called me his best friend, and professes to be such a strong Catholic, told his friends that I tried to have sex with him.  I only found out because a friend of mine told me she heard it.  It’s spreading like wildfire and there’s nothing I can do about it.  

I’m so sorry this is happening to you.  It’s a cruel thing and should not have happened.  I can tell you for sure that you will come out of this stronger than ever if you can stay close to God and not do anything in retaliation.  And don’t panic.  The last thing Jesus wants you to do is lose your peace.  Rest in Him who was innocently judged and unjustly crucified.  I always marvel at the Lord’s silence amid His accusers.

You are not alone.  Many good people have been victims of slander, even by those close to them and who profess to be Catholic Christians.  They obviously do not know their Catholic faith much at all, nor have read the Catechism of the Catholic Church that clearly teaches against this kind of behavior.

The bottom line is every person has the right to their good name, and no one is entitled to spread rumors, true or false, and risk a person’s reputation.  Obviously, you cannot undo what your ex-boyfriend has done to you.  You can try to clear your name and set the record straight.  Or you could simply not do anything and let it pass, allowing others to conclude what they want to conclude based on what they hear.  Anyone who cares about you or knows you will not allow that information to change how they feel about you.  And anyone worth their salt as a person will have the decency to resist passing any judgment on you without having heard your side.

In my opinion, the best thing you can do is follow the Lord’s example of silence. Don’t try to defend yourself.  Don’t confirm or deny.  It’s no one’s business.  Just keep being yourself and living your life.  Maybe confide in a close friend or family member you can trust to help you get through, but don’t let it affect you or change you or make you do anything differenly.  You are not a terrible person.  You might be a sinner, but who isn’t?  You might have done something wrong, but who hasn’t?  You are no better or worse than anyone else.  No need to lower yourself by allowing this slanderous activity to affect you.

I recommend that you read St. Francis de Sales’ classic book on personal Christian formation, “Introduction to the Devout Life.”  de Sales calls the sin of slander “a veritable pest of society.”  I hope it brings you comfort, enlightenment, and strength.  

“He who unjustly takes away his neighbour’s good name is guilty of sin, and is bound to make reparation, according to the nature of his evil speaking; since no man can enter into Heaven cumbered with stolen goods, and of all worldly possessions the most precious is a good name.  Slander is a kind of murder; for we all have three lives–a spiritual life, which depends upon the Grace of God; a bodily life, depending on the soul; and a civil life, consisting in a good reputation. Sin deprives us of the first, death of the second, and slander of the third. My child, I entreat you never speak evil of any, either directly or indirectly; [….]

Those who slander others with an affectation of good will, or with dishonest pretenses of friendliness, are the most spiteful and evil of all. […]

When you speak of your neighbour, look upon your tongue as a sharp razor in the surgeon’s hand, about to cut nerves and tendons.”

John Paul II, Champion of Marriage

All of Rome is sold out for the end of this April.  St. Peter’s Square, and every road around it will be jammed with people on Mercy Sunday (April 27, 2014).  On that day, Pope Francis will announce the canonization of the most beloved Pope of modern times, Pope John Paul II.

Never has there been a greater champion of love and marriage than John Paul II.  His contributions are so vast and deep that it will take generations to unpack it all.  Probably his most popular contribution is what is known as the “Theology of the Body” movement, gleaned from the Pope’s 129 lectures between September 1979 and November 1984 (the first years of his pontificate) during the Wednesday audiences in St. Peter’s Square.  

These lectures were given as a reflection on God’s creation of mankind and the role of human sexuality, with particular concern for the defense of the human body in response to the permeating and widespread modern philosophical and cultural errors and abuses.  It was attempt to counter and undo the damage of the sexual revolution.  And he masterfully and beautifully accomplished that.

Two books are essential reading for anyone who wants to experience the heart of John Paul II’s thought and teaching on this subject.  The first is Man and Woman He Created Them, which contains the lectures themselves, and the second is Love and Responsibility, written while still Karol Wojtyla (before he became Pope).  Love and Responsibility is a defense of Catholic tradition on family life and sexual morality, addressing the whole human person (biology, psychology, sociology) and the relations between the sexes.

The heart of all of his teachings related to love, marriage and family life is the importance on the person; a unique, one-of-a-kind creation of God as as man or a woman, and that person’s human dignity. He brought to light that there is no authentic love between a man and a woman where the consideration of the individual persons is disregarded or distorted.  Who we are as a person as God created us and as He expects us to live is the starting point of all love, if it is to exist authentically and have mutual benefit.

This leads to the distinction between a man and a woman, how they interact, how they communicate, how they approach life, how they share love.  He brings out the beautiful differences and similarities between men and women, and provides the guidelines for human interaction.

This human interaction is a sexual one.  John Paul II makes it clear that all interaction between men and women is an expression of sexuality.  As we all know full well, this kind of expression is crudely and ignorantly interpreted (and with great limitation) to mean sexual relations.  In truth, sexuality is the whole being. It defines the genders.  he way we think, feel and act is a product of human sexuality.  

Women are a mystery. Men are a mystery. And love is a mystery. The mystery is rooted in the creation of body and soul, and God’s participation (and centrality) in the movement between human persons (better known as “love”).  Life is a mystery. Love is a discovery. It cannot be put into words, almost impossible to explain, and comes with so much potential suffering, pain and sorrow.

This is the message to us from Pope John Paul II. We should all be grateful for the gift of Pope John Paul II. I will be praying for all those who attend this one in a lifetime event April 27, that it will be full of blessings for them and they will be safe among the unusually high number of people.  If you are going, I’m sure it will be a life-changing event and highlight of your life.  If you want to go and need help finding a way, I know that Ave Maria Trips still has spots left of the group they have put together. To view the trip details, click here.  However you can get there, I strongly encourage you to go if you can.  It’s going to be unforgettable.  

Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

Karaoke: a universal love language?

Have you ever gone on a karaoke date night?  It can be a great way to get to know each other and see each other’s sillier side.  And definitely, you can get up and dance together to a great song someone else is singing.

You might be asking yourself “What if I embarrass myself or my terrible singing does more harm than good?”  The beauty of karaoke is that people basically expect terrible singing.  Karaoke is hugely popular because it’s fun to see other people attempt to sing songs.  They cheer the worst singers the same as they would the great singers.  Most people are somewhere in between.  That’s what makes it low-risk for your love life.  You really can’t go wrong. Just getting up there at all is what people most admire and applaud you for.

There is one way you can blow it.  That’s by choosing the wrong song.  There are some songs that should never be sung at karaoke. The same rules apply to singing karaoke as they do in public speaking.  Keep the song short, and choose a song that will not turn off the audience.  Think about it.

If I could, I would make karaoke mandatory for all single people who desire to fall in love and marry one day.  It certainly does no harm so there’s nothing to lose, and it can only improve whatever social skills you already have (and develop them for those who have none).

“If you don’t sing, you don’t date.”  That’s a harsh and over-exaggerated slogan to impose or adopt.  But basically, that’s a mantra that could work.  

Karaoke not only helps people be comfortable in front of strangers, but also to overcome nervousness, embrace mistakes, and realize how your body language and voice affect others.  The more you get up there to sing, the less nervous you get in front of strangers (and also when with your date).  As you make mistakes singing karaoke, you realize strangers don’t hold it against you (and neither will your date).  The more relaxed you look on stage and move around more naturally, and as your voice is more pronounced and clear, the strangers respond more positively (and so will your date).

So get out there and practice.  Where else do you have access to attentive strangers? And where else can you fail in public without personal repercussions?  At karaoke, nobody cares.  You have nothing to lose.  Loosen up, relax, and have fun.  After all, isn’t that how you both should be when dating each other?

karaoke on the 2013 Ave Maria cruise