Catholic Activity: Cautions on Dating
In our society, many boys and girls of high school age go out together on dates. Such occasional dating generally does not harm the moral or psychological development of the youngster. However, several important cautions should be observed.
When your youngsters begin to date, stress the importance of avoiding the kinds of dancing, kissing, and other contacts which might stimulate sexual desire and thus constitute an occasion of sin. In impressing their teen-agers with the fact that God has reserved intercourse for the married, many parents effectively cite other acts which are restricted only to those who may legitimately perform them. For example, although a seminarian learns how to say Mass and administer sacraments, he may not use his knowledge in a practical way until he is ordained. A medical student who has passed all his courses may not legitimately practice medicine until he has been officially licensed.
The most effective deterrent to premarital intercourse is a fear of God and a desire to enter marriage without profaning the organs He has provided for the sacred act of procreation. Other useful deterrents, in a secondary way, are appeals to chastity based on worldly reasons. For example, marriage counselors have found that young men and women who marry without having violated their chastity have a better chance of succeeding in marriage, because they have acquired the self-control which all husbands and wives must practice on many occasions. On the other hand, the young woman who has engaged in premarital relations often retains a sense of shame all her life.
Venereal disease often results from intercourse outside of marriage, and while new drugs have proved useful in treating syphilis and gonorrhea, these scourges are prevalent to a far greater extent than most people realize. In fact, venereal disease rates among teen-agers have shown a steady and shocking rise over the past several years. You should make your youngsters aware that such a loathsome disease may result from sinful intercourse. Girls should also be told of the stigma which attaches to unmarried mothers in the eyes of society. But do not make this point so forcefully that your daughter may come to consider the act of marriage itself, when indulged in lawfully, as a possible source of sin or shame.
Adolescents also have sufficient reasoning power to appreciate that children who might result from sex outside of marriage would lack mature parents to care for them. The thought that an innocent child might suffer all his life because a boy or girl lacks sufficient self-discipline to refrain from intercourse, is one which youngsters can use to strengthen their own will.
When boys and girls begin to date, mere warnings about moral and social dangers may not be sufficient. You should provide safeguards to eliminate or remove possible occasions of sin. Parents sometimes believe that youngsters who have received adequate instruction can always be depended upon to obey the moral law. Unfortunately, young men and women sometimes are completely unprepared for the powerful urge for sex fulfillment within them and are swept into sin from what they may think are innocent beginnings.
Older cultures, wise in the power of the sexual urge, adopted the custom of the chaperon — the adult who always accompanies young people on their dates. Modern usage has rendered the idea of the chaperon distasteful, but a need for supervision exists nevertheless. Try to prevent situations which enable a boy and girl to be alone together for any length of time. They should go out in groups, should not sit alone in parked cars, and should never be left alone together at home. Sometimes a girl who is baby-sitting seeks to invite a boy to visit her; such a practice should be strictly prohibited by both her parents and the couple who hire her.
Another important rule is that there should be no drinking of alcoholic beverages on any date. A generation ago, young Catholic men and women often took a pledge to abstain from alcohol until their twenty-first birthdays. Such a custom if practiced today would save many souls, help avoid many sins and prevent much heartbreak.
Many youngsters drink on dates because they think it is smart. They are unaware of the tremendous damage that drinking can do. At the very least, it provides a stimulation which they do not need; if they need alcohol to enjoy each other's company during their youth, one shudders to think what they will find necessary in middle age. It is physically dangerous, especially when a car is used. Accident statistics confirm that most fatal accidents at night involve drivers who have been drinking. Finally, and most dangerously, it deadens the conscience and releases inhibitions. The boy and girl who drink on dates lose control over their wills and may fall more easily before the impulse to passion which constantly lurks beneath the surface.
Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959