'Living in sin'

Marriage is becoming the endangered institution according to latest research; marriage will be down by a half in the next generation. People who Never marry will outnumber (for the first time) married couples. But it’s not as if parts of the population en masse are taking religious vows and that the Jesuits are having a revival (as if…) but rather that many more are cohabiting. It’s estimated that there will be a sixty five per cent swell in cohabiting couples.
Cohabiting will increase that much, really? But if marriages are set to radically decline, than the prognosis is that the majority will never say ‘I do’, instead they might ‘shack up’ and ‘live in sin’ interminably. Oh no, I've used really anti-social lingo, and to say this term in public risks volcanic emotional reactions from 'shaker-uppers' or cohabitees. Some may even start crying, and scream, ‘why did you say ‘living in sin’!?’  It’s amazing that anyone is ‘free’ to live with whomever they want, and have the ‘choice’, but ‘we’ are not free to offer an opinion, nor do we have the ‘choice’ as to say 'living in sin'. But the ‘you’re so old-fashioned and judgmental for saying living in sin’ reaction is outrageously defensive. This guilty reaction was dramatised in the televised version of Brideshead Revisited. 

PS-I remember that a former colleague of mine was afraid to talk to me or even say hello because she knew I was a practising Catholic (the statue of Our Lady of Fatima on my desk may have given it away) and was afraid that I might breath something approaching the dreaded words..'living in sin'. The fear of the words was that terrifying...


  1. But I guess the point is also that God wants us to love other people- encouraging someone to find his Truth and to live a holy life is going to be hard if we do not meet people where they are without compromising the truth, but without driving people away by using language that immediately repels people and consequently blinds them from discovering the true beauty of God's love...

  2. I believe that the most horrible word in the English language -and it isn't a four-lettered obscenity- is: 'partner'. It describes the one with whom you shack-up: be it man, woman or beast.


  3. I agree with you Brigitte, tact is essential when trying to win people over, and Our Lord when he met the woman at the well, did not instantly judge her with 'you are living in sin'. I've never told someone who is cohabiting (sometimes because their life circumstances have precipitated 'movin'-in-with-the-partner) that they are 'living in sin'. But the term 'living in sin' exists to pithily draw our attention to a reality. What I seek to question in the above post, and elsewhere is that if 'living together' sans wedding band is So acceptable, why is there such hypersensitivity about the 'right' words and politically correct language such as 'living together'? Research has found that women in particular feel the need to voluntarily explain why they are not married, but 'living together', and say that feel they are 'being interviewed for a job...marriage' when they live with their fellow. It's very sad, but all the more reason why we must as you say, 'meet people where they are' so that we may show them another path.

  4. Someone left an anyonymous comment, but I'm considering not posting Annonymous comments any more. They wrote:

    "Perhaps you could try walking a mile in other people's shoes (those that live together) before passing judgement. Marriage is a ring on the finger and more legal rights for the couple - that is the difference from living together. But to love someone and live with them, through better or worse, and build your lives together doesn't require a marriage ceremony to make it complete. If the Catholic Church stopped pointing fingers and making comments about "living in sin" and instead focused on it's own abusive priests and other issues, the hypocrisy factor would diminish."

  5. To 'Anonymous'

    Would completely agree with you that we need to walk in-the-shoes-of-others to understand how they feel, and what motivates their decisions and responses.
    But may I ask how you know that I’ve never lived with someone in an-unmarried-sexual-relationship? I’ve never posted to the effect that I haven’t ‘lived in sin’. I know that I’ve made enough mistakes in ‘the men market’ and, spent years recovering from them to know that everything my generation of women has been taught isn’t always so wonderful.

    The focus of my post ‘Living in Sin’ was to demonstrate that whether we are pro or anti cohabitation, it seems that freedom of speech is, in this 2010 climate curtailed. If we accept the freedom of others to live together (something that factually speaking has only been socially acceptable since the 60s/70s), then it is hypocrisy to censor others when they use stock English phrases (‘shackin’ up’ etc).

    Freedom of speech is actually older than the freedom to cohabitate. But we need to honour the freedom-to-speech and for others to use clichés such as ‘living in sin’. And if the Catholic Church wants to use this phrase (which fits with the Church's teachings...) then the Church may. If you have freedom for others to live together, institutions like the Church should be allowed to speak Her mind. If not, that is basic hypocrisy.

    Also, ‘living in sin’ can be a bit of a clanger in its own way – if we accept the Judeo-Christian concept that we are sinners – then we all live with our own sin. It’s just that ‘living in sin’ is a pithy expression that has a shared meaning. And now it sometimes draws more laughs than long faces. But when there is a really censorious reaction – “I can’t believe you said that!” – to the phrase ‘living in sin’. That my friend is the time to say, “they doth Protest Too Much.”

    With my best regards,

    Mary O’Regan


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