Gregory Popcak and the book ‘Holy Sex’ – formal cooperation with the grave sin of fornication

The Catholic Faith teaches that sexual acts outside of marriage are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral.


Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.” (CCC, n. 2353)

Pope John Paul II: “Sexual intercourse is a moral and human good only within marriage, outside marriage it is wrong.” (Speeches, 5 Oct 1979)


The Church also teaches that formal cooperation with an intrinsically evil and gravely immoral act is itself intrinsically evil and gravely immoral. Formal cooperation occurs when the act of one person is directed toward assisting another person in committing an intrinsically evil act.

Germain Grisez: “Formal cooperation in a gravely sinful act is always excluded as gravely sinful….” (The Way of the Lord Jesus, Christian Moral Principles, 12-G-2.)

Pope John Paul II: “Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God’s law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil.” (Evangelium Vitae, n. 74.)


Therefore, anyone who chooses to have sexual relations outside of marriage commits an intrinsically evil and gravely immoral act. And anyone who approves of, promotes, or assists other persons in having sexual relations outside of marriage also commits an intrinsically evil and gravely immoral act, by formal cooperation in the sin of fornication.

In the introduction to his book ‘Holy Sex’, Gregory Popcak talks about his work helping married couples with their relationships and their sexual problems. Next Popcak admits that he has also helped unmarried couples in their sexual relationships.


“In my work as the founder and executive director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute, I both conduct and supervise literally thousands of hours of pastoral tele-counseling every year with a predominately Catholic population. People from around the world contact the Institute looking for faith-filled answers to life’s difficult questions. In my direct work with clients, I’ve had the opportunity to help countless people work through painful marriages and difficult sexual problems in frank and faithful discussions. I’ve also coached innumerable couples in solid relationships who wanted to take things to the next level. I have had the privilege of guiding these couples to a place of greater peace, joy, intimacy, and passion.” (Holy Sex, introduction, page 4.)

First, he says that he has helped countless married persons. Then he says that he has helped couples in “solid relationships”, that is to say, unmarried relationships. He explains that these unmarried couples wanted “to take things to the next level,” which is a euphemistic phrase referring to sexual intercourse, especially outside of marriage. These couples were committing the grave sin of fornication. And Popcak implies that he assisted these unmarried couples in getting more enjoyment from their sins of fornication.

Here he is describing the work that he has done helping unmarried couples to have a satisfying sexual relationship outside of marriage. He describes his role in these sins of fornication as coaching and guiding the couples to greater “intimacy and passion”. In other words, he gives these couples assistance, specifically pertaining to their sexual acts outside of marriage, in order to help them achieve the fullest enjoyment of their sexual experience.

In this way, he admits to committing the objective mortal sin of formal cooperation with the grave sin of sexual relations outside of marriage. Gregory Popcak’s work helping unmarried couples to have satisfying sexual lives is the objective mortal sin of formal cooperation with fornication. And he goes so far as to characterize the number of unmarried couples that he has coached and guided in their sins of fornication as “innumerable”. Therefore, I would characterize the number of objective mortal sins committed by Popcak in this way as many, not few.

Furthermore, Popcak’s statement that he has “had the privilege” to be able to coach and guide couples in their acts of fornication implies that he does not believe sexual acts outside of marriage is at all sinful. His rejection of the definitive teaching of the Universal Magisterium on the grave immorality of fornication constitutes the sin of heresy. His promotion (through his book) of this rejection is the grave sin of promoting heresy. And the fact that he presents his work deliberately assisting unmarried couples to commit the sin of fornication to the reader as if it were good, has the effect of grave scandal to the faithful. When the sin of scandal is widespread, as is the case with this popular book, and when it concerns a grave matter, such as fornication, even promoted without reservation, even using the word ‘privilege’ to describe his formal cooperation with fornication, then the sin is certainly objectively grave.

Do you think that a book which approves of fornication, which openly boasts about the author’s work assisting couples to commit this grave sin, and which adds to these sins the grave sin of scandal, could be a reliable source of Catholic teaching on sexual ethics? It is not.

More in my post: An Unholy Book called “Holy Sex”

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