Several years ago I fell in love with my second cousin. We had planned to be married by my parish priest (with a dispensation), but my mother was so violently opposed to the idea that I could not even talk to her about it.
Finally I called off the engagement. Several months ago I met a young man in the armed forces, and we started going together until he was sent overseas. I am very fond of him and we correspond regularly.
Meanwhile I see my cousin now and then and I know he is still in love with me. I feel guilty about having hurt him. Do you think I am still in love with him, or did I do the right thing in breaking off our engagement?
It is always good to escape from a situation in which you have to apply for a dispensation from the general laws governing marriage. There are serious reasons behind the law that prohibits relatives (second cousins or closer) to marry.
A wedding between cousins is not quite a normal wedding, and though the Church does grant a dispensation for such in exceptional cases and for grave reasons, she does so with reluctance, preferring to see her children marry without seeking exceptions to the natural and ecclesiastical law.
Things have turned out so well for you that you have reason to be grateful that obstacles prevented your marriage to a cousin. Your feeling for the latter is now more one of sympathy and pity than of real love.
You should not accept any dates with him, because that would only make things difficult both for him and you. You are bound to see him when there is a gathering of relatives, but on such occasions you should avoid as much as possible, tete-a-tetes and sad reminiscences.
You need have no fear that his life will be ruined as a result of your broken engagement. Just as you have been fortunate enough to find anew boy friend, so he, in time, will find someone whom he can love and will want to marry. Neither of you will then have to go through life with the thought that you broke through the barriers that nature has set up to prevent close relatives from marrying each other.
On Reading Books about Sex
Is it lawful or advisable for engaged couples to read one or the other of the many books that are published about sex and the details of married life before they are married? My boy friend and I have heard our non-Catholic friends talking about such books, and have even been offered one by a friend.
He thinks we should read it because so much is said nowadays about the harm done by ignorance in the married. I have held off because I had my doubts about such books, and wanted first to ask you to discuss the matter in your column.
This much can be said as certain: It would be exceedingly dangerous, so much so as to be wrong, for an engaged couple to read any books on sex that might be offered to them by a friend.
On no type of writing must more caution and discrimination be exercised than on books dealing with matters of sex. There are too many bad books of this kind, books that teach immoral practices, books that stress the importance of the physical aspects of sex far out of proportion to their real place and purpose in human lives, to make it lawful for even engaged couples to pick up and read any book about sex.
Another thing that is certain: There should be no thought of any sort of special study, or reading or discussion of sex science until very shortly before actual marriage. This is assuming that a young man and woman have the ordinary, general knowledge of the purpose of sex and of sex morality that is a part of any decent education.
If, as happens once in a while, that much is lacking, a general briefing on the subject should be sought from a priest.
But to read detailed, or so-called “scientific” books before marriage would be foolhardy and wrong.
It is not wrong, but rather reasonable and even necessary, for an engaged couple to seek clear knowledge of the privileges and duties, the rights and wrongs, of married life, shortly before their marriage.
The priest who prepares them for marriage has an obligation to impart such instruction. If he fails to offer it, a couple should ask for it, or go to another priest to receive it. He may direct them to sound and good reading matter that will supplement the instruction he gives and help to prepare them for happy married life.
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For the guys: “The bright husband will never relinquish the prerogative of being a gentleman. Thoughtfulness is his watch word. A kindness here and a consideration there go a long way to promote companionship with his wife. The opening of a car door for her, helping her with her coat, seating her at table, these and a dozen other little actions evidence his tenderness for her. She is precious to him, so he surrounds her with attentions.” -Fr. Leo Kinsella, 1950’s