Kisses and touches performed for sensual and lustful motives are condemned as mortal sins by the Catholic Church

Pope Alexander VII, Various Errors on Moral Matters #40, September 24, 1665 and March 18, 1666: “It is a probable opinion which states that a kiss is only venial when performed for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight which arises from the kiss, if danger of further consent and pollution is excluded.” – Condemned by Pope Alexander VII. (Denz. 1140)

Jean Gerson, Oeuvres Complétes: “Several doctors [of Divinity] maintain that willingly fostering wicked carnal thoughts in order to enjoy oneself is a deadly sin, even without doing the deed. Be sure, however, that kisses, gazes, and fondling, mainly caused by such wicked and lustful thoughts, without anything more, is an even greater sin. … it is even worse if these kisses do not respect the honesty which is usually kept in public.

“… Is it a sin to kiss? I answer that kisses between spouses who maintain the same modesty as the kiss of peace at church, or who do them openly, are without sin. If they do them so immodestly that I cannot be more precise, it is an abominable deadly sin. If kisses are made between strangers and publicly, as a sign of peace, by friendship or kinship, without wicked thought, there is no sin. They could be dangerous between clerics, or people of the same sex or lineage, or in a secret place, and in a prolonged way.

The Church’s moral teaching that condemns kisses “performed for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight” might come as a surprise to many married couples who thought that this was lawful to do within a marriage. Now some people will indeed be quick to suggest that this statement only applies to unmarried people. However the truth of the matter is that there is not a single indication in the decree that even remotely suggests this. This objection is also easily refuted by considering the wording and reason behind the decree, which applies even more to married people. Note that “pollution” is an older term used to describe “ejaculation” or “discharge of semen” other than during sex.

The Free Dictionary, The Origin & History, pollution: c.1340, "discharge of semen other than during sex," later, "desecration, defilement" (late 14c.), from L.L. pollutionem (nom. pollutio) "defilement," from L. polluere "to soil, defile, contaminate,"

Therefore, according to the above Church condemnation, even if spouses or unmarried people do not consent to do anything more than the act of kissing itself and don’t commit any other sexual sin, it would still be considered as a mortal sin for them to be kissing “for the sake of the carnal and sensible delight” even if “danger of further consent and pollution [or ejaculation] is excluded”. This, of course, is true both before, during, and after the marital act, and applies both to married and unmarried people alike. Thus, spouses may never kiss each other in a sensual way and in this way provoke themselves into sexual lust or “pollution,” because, unless husband or wife are totally degenerated or hardened through sexual perversions, it will not take much excitement before a husband ejaculates, hence the wording of the decree. Again, the condemned proposition specifically mentioned that kisses for venereal pleasure is mortally sinful even though “danger of further consent and pollution is excluded,” so that no one should get the idea that they would be allowed to kiss another person for sensual pleasure as long as they did not proceed any further than that.

This point is important to mention since many lustful couples use all kinds of unnecessary acts before, during and after sexual relations. They try to excuse these shameful acts by claiming that they cannot complete the act without them. However, their sinful excuse is condemned by this decree alone.

Now, the main reason for why the act of kissing for the sake of venereal pleasure is mortally sinful according to the teachings of the Catholic Church, the saints, and theologians, is because it’s lust and serves no reasonable purpose other than wickedly arousing the selfish sexual desire of the spouses while not being able to effect the conception of a child. This fact then shows us that sensual kissing is a completely selfish and unnecessary act with no other purpose than to inflame a person’s shameful lust, which is contrary to virtue and the good of marriage. Again, unless husband or wife are totally degenerated, the mere thought of having sex with their spouse should be enough to inflame their lust and make them ready—at least on the part of the husband. And if this is true with mere thoughts, how much more with kisses and touches?

There can be no doubt about the fact that many men who are ignorant about sex and women would be in danger of “pollution” by the mere thought of, or act of, sensual kissing or touching. That’s why the condemned proposition even mentioned if “pollution is excluded,” because, as men was not as perverted in former times, such lustful kisses would indeed be able to cause “pollution.” It happens even today amongst some men, mostly in young men who are unlearned in the ways of lust—if one can call it that. The fact that many men today have no danger of pollution from sensual kisses or touches does not make it lawful or right either. Because it is obvious that the act is not made lawful just because some men have hardened their hearts and become perverted. Simply said, all kisses and touches performed for the sake of sensual or fleshly pleasures is condemned as a mortal sin by the Catholic Church.

Lustful kisses and touches between spouses are also mortal sins

Master Jean Charlier de Gerson (13 December 1363 – 12 July 1429), French scholar, educator, reformer, and poet, Chancellor of the University of Paris, a guiding light of the conciliar movement and one of the most prominent theologians at the Council of Constance, had the following interesting things to say about lustful kisses, touches, contraception and about sensually arousing oneself:

Jean Gerson, Oeuvres Complétes: “Several doctors [of Divinity] maintain that willingly fostering wicked carnal thoughts in order to enjoy oneself is a deadly sin, even without doing the deed. Be sure, however, that kisses, gazes, and fondling, mainly caused by such wicked and lustful thoughts, without anything more, is an even greater sin. … it is even worse if these kisses do not respect the honesty which is usually kept in public.

“… You have committed the sin of lust: If you have fondled and stroked yourself on your shameful member until you obtain the dirty carnal pleasure. If you initiated such sins with others, by words, kisses, fondling, or other signs, or immodest paintings. … If you committed this sin differently from Nature ordered, or against the honesty that belongs to marriage. … If you wanted to be desired and lusted after for your beauty, your behaviour, your clothes, makeup, dancing or dissolute gazes.

“… What a young boy should tell in confession: I sometimes stroked myself or others, urged by disorderly pleasure; I fondled myself, in my bed and elsewhere, something I would not have dared to do if people had been there. Sometimes the priest cannot absolve such fondling. If they are not confessed and the details given, whatever the shame, one cannot be absolved, and the confession is worthless: one is destined to be damned for ever in Hell. The action and the way it has been done must be told.

“… Is it a sin to kiss? I answer that kisses between spouses who maintain the same modesty as the kiss of peace at church, or who do them openly, are without sin. If they do them so immodestly that I cannot be more precise, it is an abominable deadly sin. If kisses are made between strangers and publicly, as a sign of peace, by friendship or kinship, without wicked thought, there is no sin. They could be dangerous between clerics, or people of the same sex or lineage, or in a secret place, and in a prolonged way.

“… Is it a mortal sin to eat and drink in order to carnally arouse oneself? Yes, if it is out of wedlock, and even with one’s spouse, if it is to enjoy a pleasure which is not required in marriage.

“… The fifth commandment is: thou shall not kill. … They commit this sin who succeed, in whatever way, in preventing the fruit which should come from carnal intercourse between man and woman. … It is forbidden for two people, married or not, to do any kind of lustful fondling without respecting the way and the vessel Nature requires for conceiving children [that is, one cannot perform “extra” sexual acts not able to procreate or intended for procreation]. It is worse when it is outside of the natural way [unnatural sexual acts], either if it is out of wedlock or even worse, within it.

Is it permitted for spouses to prevent the conception of a child? No: I often say that it is a sin worse than murder. It is a sin which deserves the fires of Hell. Briefly, any way of preventing conception during intercourse is dishonest and reprehensible.”

It is clear from the evidence above that sensual kisses and touches is not only a mortal sin, but in fact also a sin against the natural law. That means that any person who thinks it’s right to kiss or touch for the sake of carnal pleasure or lust is a heretic against the natural law, and as such, are therefore outside the Church of God and salvation. Everyone without exception who have kissed or touched someone or something for the sake of sensual pleasure proved by their deed that their primary or secondary purpose for doing this inherently evil, selfish and shameful deed was not the lawful motive to procreate or quenching concupiscence, but rather the sinful and unlawful gratification and excitation of their shameful lust like brute beasts without any reason. No, it would be an insult to beasts to call these vile spouses beasts! It would be more accurate not to call them beasts, but demons, since beasts have no reason, and thus are blameless. In truth, such husbands and wives are lower in their actions than the beasts of the Earth!

St. Hilary of Poitiers, Doctor of the Church (360): “Bodies corrupted by lust are the dwelling places of devils.”

Everyone without exception that kisses and touches for the sake of “the carnal and sensible delight” is committing a mortal sin against the natural law. How so, you might ask? Well, I answer that it is easy to prove. First of all, acts of lust for the sake of pleasure are completely selfish, shameful and unnecessary for conception to occur. Second, consider how people will not kiss or touch their spouse in a sexual way or for carnal pleasure in front of other people (unless they are totally degenerated). And consider that they would be very ashamed if their parent, child or friend walked in on them when they were committing this shameful, selfish and unnecessary act with their spouse. It is thus clear that their conscience tells them that it is an inherently evil, shameful and unnecessary act; and yet, though they know this truth in their conscience, they nevertheless refuse to feel this very same shame when they are committing this act of lust in the presence of God and Mary and all the Saints and Angels in Heaven.

It is indeed a most true truth that sinful sexual lust blinds people from perceiving spiritual realities (see The evil of lust makes man blind to spiritual things).

Some people may object that there are many other events that are shameful and that are not yet inherently sinful such as soiling one’s pants or being forced to show oneself naked to other people against one’s own will. This objection, however, fails to notice the obvious difference between 1) people committing acts of lust with a desire or longing; and 2) events which are shameful but who are not desired or longed for by a person in a sensual way.

Acts of lust are acts performed for the sake of a pleasure and are performed with the will and purpose of satisfying a sensual desire, while the events or acts of soiling one’s pants or being forced to show oneself naked to other people is not a desire or lust that is sought after. Thus, these people do not desire that these events should happen. If those people who endured the events of soiling their clothes or naked exhibition against their will would sensually desire or lust for that these shameful events would happen in the same way that a man or a woman lust for and desire that acts of lust happen, they would indeed be declared the most disgusting perverts. Who but a complete and satanic pervert would sensually desire or lust after soiling their pants or being exhibited naked?

When Our Lord was going to be crucified, He was forced to be without any covering for His private parts for a while before someone handed Him something to cover Himself with. Our Lord was obviously ashamed for having to appear naked before a lot of people, but He didn’t desire that this should happen, and most importantly, He didn’t lust at it! and so, there was no fault in Him. If, however, a person should lust or desire, in a sensual way, that he or she should appear naked before other people (such as nude models), he or she would commit a mortal sin and be a pervert.

Consequently, it is not a mere shameful act that is sinful, but the shameful act that is performed with the intention of pleasing oneself sensually—that is sinful. Kissing for the sake of venereal pleasure is a completely selfish act that only serves to increase lust, and as such, is against the natural law just like gluttony is against the natural law. It is indeed very similar to the sin of gluttony. One could say that those who commit this sin are gluttonous in the marital act. It is completely self evident that no one ever needed to break God’s law by kissing or touching their spouse in a sexual way in order to perform the marital act. No one ever needed to kiss or touch in a sensual way in order to be able to make a child. This is just a selfish, shameful and condemned excuse used by sexually perverted, morally depraved people in order to try to enhance or inflame their sexual pleasure. Kisses and touches must not and cannot be used to satisfy sensual pleasure as is totally clear from the above Church condemnation and from the words of Jean Gerson.

St. Thomas Aquinas’ thoughts on whether there can be mortal sin in touches and kisses

Now we shall look at what St. Thomas Aquinas has to say about kisses and touches.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Q. 154, Art. 4:

Whether there can be mortal sin in touches and kisses?

Objection 1: It would seem that there is no mortal sin in touches and kisses. For the Apostle says (Eph. 5:3): "Fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints," then he adds: "Or obscenity" (which a gloss refers to "kissing and fondling"), "or foolish talking" (as "soft speeches"), "or scurrility" (which "fools call geniality---i.e. jocularity"), and afterwards he continues (Eph. 5:5): "For know ye this and understand that no fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person (which is the serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God," thus making no further mention of obscenity, as neither of foolish talking or scurrility. Therefore these are not mortal sins.”

[St. Thomas Aquinas] Reply to Objection 1: The Apostle makes no further mention of these three because they [kisses and touches] are not sinful except as directed to those that he had mentioned before [i.e. fornicators, unclean and covetous people (married people can of course also be unclean and covetous as we have seen)].”

Objection 2: Further, fornication is stated to be a mortal sin as being prejudicial to the good of the future child’s begetting and upbringing. But these are not affected by kisses and touches or blandishments. Therefore there is no mortal sin in these.”

[St. Thomas Aquinas] Reply to Objection 2: Although kisses and touches do not by their very nature hinder the good of the human offspring, they proceed from lust, which is the source of this hindrance: and on this account they are mortally sinful.” --- [Editors note: Notice that St. Thomas here said that kisses and touches was mortal sins in the general sense if “they proceed from lust”, and that he did not say that “it depends on whether they occur in the context of marriage/fornication or not” or that “this is what decides or determines whether it becomes sinful.” Thus, it is totally clear from this definition of St. Thomas that he views the lustful intention when performing these acts as the source of the mortal sin itself, and not simply because they occur in context of marriage or not (as we shall also see further down).]

[St. Thomas Aquinas general reply to all the objections:] On the contrary, A lustful look is less than a touch, a caress or a kiss. But according to Mat. 5:28, "Whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart." MUCH MORE THEREFORE ARE LUSTFUL KISSES AND OTHER LIKE THINGS MORTAL SINS.” --- [Editors note: This means that St. Thomas views lustful kisses “and other like things” as worse sins than adultery or fornication! This is probably due to the fact that St. Thomas views sexual sins that cannot serve for procreation as worse sins than those that can.]

Further, Cyprian says (Ad Pompon, de Virgin., Ep. lxii), "By their very intercourse, their blandishments, their converse, their embraces, those who are associated in a sleep that knows neither honor nor shame, acknowledge their disgrace and crime." Therefore by doing these things a man is guilty of a crime, that is, of mortal sin.”

I answer that, A thing is said to be a mortal works/sin in two ways. First, by reason of its species, and in this way a kiss, caress, or touch does not, of its very nature, imply a mortal sin, for it is possible to do such things without lustful pleasure, either as being the custom of one’s country, or on account of some obligation or reasonable cause. Secondly, a thing is said to be a mortal sin by reason of its cause: thus he who gives an alms, in order to lead someone into heresy, sins mortally on account of his corrupt intention. Now it has been stated above [I-II, Q. 74, A. 8], that it is a mortal sin not only to consent to the act, but also to the delectation [or pleasure] of a mortal sin. Wherefore since fornication is a mortal sin, and much more so the other kinds of lust [1] it follows that in such like sins [that is, sins of lust] not only consent to the act but also consent to the pleasure is a mortal sin. Consequently, when these kisses and caresses are done for this pleasure [lust] it follows that they are mortal sins, and only in this way are they said to be lustful. Therefore in so far as they are lustful, they are mortal sins.”

[1].and much more so the other kinds of lust…” i.e., lust both inside and outside of marriage. And by the way, St. Thomas also views sexual sins committed within a marriage as worse sins than those committed outside of marriage, as we shall see further on.

And for those objecting that St. Thomas was referring only to the unmarried people since he mentioned the word “fornication” in some instances (but not others), we will provide the following quote by him refuting this argument.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Supplement, Q. 64. Art. 1, Reply to Objection 3: “If the husband [refuses to pay the marital debt without a just cause] . . . then he sins, and his wife’s sin, should she fall into FORNICATION [adultery, impure thoughts or masturbation] on this account, is somewhat imputable to him. Hence he should endeavor to do his best that his wife may remain continent.”

Hence, it is totally clear from above that when St. Thomas was mentioning the word “fornication” that he was using it to refer to the sins of both married and unmarried people. Therefore, when St. Thomas condemned lustful kisses and touches above – in the Second Part of the Second Part, Q. 154, Art. 4 – he is in fact referring to both the married and unmarried people, since, as he said, all fornicators, all unclean people and all covetous was included in this category of mortal sinners (see objection 1 and reply to objection 1).

The main point we can gather from this explanation of St. Thomas that he so eloquently gives to us is that kisses and touches for sensual pleasure is completely unnecessary for procreation of children and serves nothing but a shameful, selfish, sinful and condemned lust. They are therefore mortal sins and are unreasonable and unnatural.

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