Chastity, Abstinence, and Sex

Chastity is a virtue, not a habit. Chastity is respect for our sexuality to such an extent that sex is reserved for marriage only. Chastity respects the power and beauty of sex and desires never to misuse this gift from God. Chastity says “yes” to sexual purity and God’s plan for marriage.

Abstinence means saying “no.” It is about what you cannot have or cannot do. It means avoiding certain things. Sexual abstinence encourages withholding sexual activity.

Studies show that parent-child communication is the most effective way to encourage children to remain chaste.

Talk to your teen about sexual activity in the context of God’s plan for sex and marriage.

  • Educate yourself on the Catholic Church teaching on sex and marriage.
  • Model chastity within your marriage and/or relationships.
  • Teens want their parents to discuss human sexuality with them.
  • Living chastely allows a clear conscience and a right relationship with God.
  • Teach your children how to say no to sex prior to marriage.
  • Discuss the differences between lust and love. Explain that oral-genital sex is sex and leads to sexually transmitted diseases.

Sexually active teens risk:

  • Exposure to HIV, genital warts, herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s) There are over 100 strains of HPV; one-third of those are cancer causing. Regarding the vaccine for HPV--The Catholic church believes there is nothing inherently wrong with vaccinating your child to prevent the possibility of disease. In addition, the Church believes that it is the responsibility of the parents, not the state, to make this decision on behalf of their child. NOTE: The Parent Network does not endorse or condemn the use of the HPV vaccine.
  • Pregnancy
  • Increased chances of infertility and cervical cancer
  • Loss of self-esteem and self-respect
  • Increased susceptibility to STD damage because teens have a lower level of antibodies than adults
  • Exposing others and spreading disease, even years after teen sexual activity, because STDS’s may have no external symptoms


  1. Start young and continue the conversation as they grow. Be their “source.
  2. Present a united front. Effective parents support one another.
  3. Telling them not to have sex is not enough. Educate yourself first, and then teach your children.
  4. Pick your moments. Use stories of others, TV, movies, and music to initiate the talk. Remember that their timing is not our timing. Our teens are most ready to converse with us at times that are inconvenient to us – late at night, when we are busy, etc. If we miss these moments, they’re gone forever.
  5. Tell them about real life. Share stories and information about healthy and dysfunctional relationships.
  6. Encourage chastity before and during marriage.
  7. Talk to them about the risk of disease if they are sexually active.
  8. Make sure they have things to occupy them. Often teens have sex because there is not much to do.
  9. Instill a sense of hope and vision for their future. Tell them you have confidence in them and believe in them. Give them some good news, like how many teens aren’t having sex.
  10. Show them what healthy, responsible relationships look like.

“How many . . . think that because certain forms of sexual behavior are socially accepted they are therefore morally right? They abuse the beautiful gift of sexuality . . . I appeal especially to young people to rediscover the wealth of wisdom, the integrity of conscience and the deep interior joy which flow from respect for human sexuality understood as a great gift from God and live according to the truth of the body’s nuptial (marital) meaning.” Pope John Paul II

Reviewed and edited by The REAP Team, a ministry of the Catholic Youth Apostolate of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, April 2013