Wednesday, September 25, 2013

French Kissing

In our all boys Catholic high school class we sensed that the priest was waffling on the topic of "french kissing."  Up till then it was thought to be a mortal sin, period.  We started to press him.  "Father, how long can the french kiss be, before it is a mortal sin?" Ladies, I am not making this up!  Our objective was to french kiss, but not go to hell.  This is how morality was taught back then.  It was all private actions, rule breaking, that I had to avoid. What was missing in this teaching?  The girl.  There was nothing about the girl we might be kissing.  What was her interest?  What were her feelings?  Morality, in sex anyway, was not about the common good, or relationship.  It was between me and the church's rules.  For many people today, sin, wrong, has nothing to do with the common good, or social justice, or communal relations.  Yes, we should give alms, care for the less fortunate, but we won't burn for ignoring them.  We will burn for french kissing.  As many a young girl would say to the boy, after the deed is done, "I feel like you do it as if I am not even here."  If the boy is still into guilt and confession, he will confess this as breaking a rule, but never as offending another person.


  1. Beautifully drawn. You bring back my 1950's Catholic school educationi so perfectly and go to the greater consideration, one that so many teenagers may not be mature enough to fathom. If we could teach that way, perhaps when we humans are mature enough we will remember the other person more than the rule. Maybe, if we had stressed the human over the rule, we would not be so quick to throw out the teaching.

    Two memories from that time for me, one rueful, one funny. I broke up with a boyfriend who would not tolerate my expressed unwillingness to go along with his ideas of our relationship after I confessed french kissing. The poor priest probably just wanted to save me from my precarious situation and not have an unwanted pregnancy on his spiritual record. That boyfriend "had to get married" to his next girlfriend and their lives did not go well. So, I have mixed feelings about that time.
    Another time a neighbor boy a few years older than me looked like he just escaped the Bataan Death March after he went to confession; unusual because his family did not observe Catholic traditions much.
    When asked what was wrong, he replied, "I have to say five rosaries - do you know how long that takes?"
    Shocked because I never had more than a couple of Hail Marys or Our Fathers, I blurted out, "What did you do?!?"
    "Nothing, I just asked him how far I could go with a girl," my friend lamented.
    Yes, those were the days of rules, no questions tolerated.