Pope Francis tells couples not to have sex before marriage for the sake of 'true love'
The Church understands that such ideas are largely in "contrast with common mentality".
Pope Francis has warned people against premarital sex in a new Vatican guide that seems at odds with his own views on marriage, divorce and same-sex couples.
Fewer and fewer people are getting married each year, with data from the UK Office for National Statistics suggesting that heterosexual marriages are down 50 per cent since 1972.
In response, the Catholic Church has released a 97-page document that unpacks the do's and don'ts of marriage for priests and dioceses working with engaged couples.
Praising "the precious virtue of chastity", the document acknowledged that such rhetoric is largely in "contrast with common mentality."
It adds: "It is worth helping young spouses to be able to find the time to deepen their friendship and to accept God's grace. Premarital chastity certainly favours this course."
As reported in The Telegraph, the document was not without opposition from those in the religious community.
On sex before marriage, Italian theologian Vito Mancuso told the outlet: "To exclude it, as Catholic doctrine has always done, is a grave ethical error."
"Documents like this … are a step backwards," Father Alberto Maggi told La Repubblica.
Austen Ivereigh, an expert on the Catholic Church, said that the guide is only an invitation to "follow this path."
"The Church understands that nowadays most people cohabit and have sex before getting married," they said.
Regardless of the intention, the new guidance appears to be a step back for the Church and the Pope. The 85-year-old religious leader has made a series of statements in recent times that suggest the Catholic Church is slowly but surely adapting to new ideas.
"There are cases in which separation is inevitable," Pope Francis said on divorce earlier this year.
"Sometimes, it can even be morally necessary, when it's about shielding the weaker spouse or young children from more serious injuries caused by intimidation and violence, humiliation and exploitation, neglect and indifference."
In another left-field statement, he also shared support for LGBTQ+ folks and said parents should be more supportive.