“Thou hast committed fornication; but that was in another country; and besides, the wench is dead.”
I give you the above quote only because it has the word “fornication” in it, and because I always like a touch of artistry in my posts. There’s not much artistry to be had today. I need to be rather dull and explain something about Latin Catholic teaching to Latin Catholics who ought to know better. I apologize if my readers of other faiths find it hard to follow, and I apologize if Latin Catholics who do know better find it a little dull.
I bring this up because of an article that’s making the rounds, about a teacher who was fired from her Catholic school because she told her boss she’d gotten pregnant by her partner to whom she wasn’t married and didn’t intend to be. This post is not about that particular teacher, because I don’t know enough about her personally to comment at all, and it’s not about whether teachers who aren’t teaching catechism ought to be fired from Catholic schools for disobeying Catholic teaching. I’m the wrong person to ask about how Catholic schools should be run. I don’t even like Catholic schools in the first place.
This post is about the comments that Catholics who should know better were making about sin and the nature of a mortal sin. I have to address what I saw, because it’s all wrong.
First of all, there was a gentleman claiming “pregnancy outside marriage is a sin.” Full stop. That was his whole statement and he stuck to it when people tried to correct him.
It is not a sin to get pregnant out of wedlock.
No, it’s not.
It’s gravely wrong to have sex outside of wedlock, and if you knowingly consent to commit a grave wrong you sin. But it’s not a sin to get pregnant out of wedlock.
Pregnancy isn’t a voluntary act. Pregnancy is something that occurs when Mr. Sperm bumps into Miss Egg under the right conditions. It is something that happens inside female mammal bodies, like digesting food or running a fever. Strictly speaking, you cannot choose whether you get pregnant or not. You can choose to create or eliminate favorable conditions for pregnancy, but pregnancy is a thing that just happens. Therefore, pregnancy can’t be a sin. It’s a morally neutral thing. The baby that results from a pregnancy is a human person, infinitely valuable, a child of God with an immortal soul, a wondrous and beautiful icon of God. Babies are always good, and whoever welcomes them welcomes the Father. Mr. Sperm and Miss Egg are body parts. They have a certain amount of metaphysical goodness because they exist, but they can’t be morally good or bad any more than a fingernail clipping is. The state of Mr. Sperm being inside Mrs. Uterus at the same time as Miss Egg is morally neutral as well. The means by which Mr. Sperm got into Mrs. Uterus in the first place might be morally good or morally evil, but once he’s in there it’s not a matter of sin anymore.
If a person deliberately and voluntarily commits fornication eight times but doesn’t get pregnant, that person has committed eight sins.
If a woman deliberately and voluntarily commits fornication once and immediately gets pregnant with octuplets, they still only sin once.
If a man deliberately and voluntarily commits fornication every night for fifty years with a different woman each time, he sins that many times, but he’ll never once get pregnant.
If a woman does not commit fornication, but is the victim of rape, she can still get pregnant, and she does not sin at all.
If a young virgin woman in Bethlehem is visited by an angel and consents to become pregnant by a miracle of the Holy Ghost, never having had sex with anyone, that woman is without sin. Trust me, she is.
Sin requires a choice. You have to choose to do something you know is evil, to sin.