Fornication Featured

A hundred lashes for fornication – huh! Fancy that! Outrageous, no? But not so in those remote, sun-drenched islands, the Maldives. ‘Fornicate’ many would be able to spell it? It means sexual intercourse outside marriage. From the Latin ‘fornix’, a brothel. In the New Testament it often translates the nasty Greek word ‘porneia’, pornography, geddit?

The sober folks of the Maldives, a posh tourist paradise, don’t like fornication. Thus a girl found guilty of that was sentenced to flogging. It aroused the righteous wrath of Ms Polly Truscott, from Amnesty International. ‘Inhumane’ she called it. Bet most readers of the Metro paper, a free rag available in the London tube, would concur. Pre-marital sex is OK, normal, natural and fun, ain’t it? Those benighted Maldivians must be nuts! Let us pressurise them to allow fornication free rein – they will then join the blessed, civilised and progressive people of the West.

The Maldivians are Muslims. Pretty strict. Islam is part of the law of the land. Wrongipedia says Christians can’t be citizens and proselytizing for another religion is forbidden so you won’t expect the priest of being quite cock-a-hoop for the islanders. Still, the matter of fornication matters.

One platitudinous preamble: copulation is pleasurable. Eunuchs and the abnormally frigid might dissent but most people are not like the legendary Oxford don who sat through a heated debate on sex looking bemused. Eventually he piped up: ‘I don’t understand why you people get so worked up about something that happens only twice a year and last only one minute


Yes, most creatures feel orgasm is enjoyable. However, call me a stick in the mud, pleasure is not the supreme good. That is why I agree with Plato and Rousseau: virtue is a value, even a joy, higher than pleasure. With sex there is in fact a right way and a wrong way. Both ways are clearly set forth in Holy Scripture and in the wholesome teachings of the Christianity. Sex is all right within marriage, wrong outside it. Tough but... Dura lex sed lex.

‘Flee fornication’ warns St Paul in First Corinthians. ‘He who commits fornication sins against his own body’. The Apostle’s point is that a Christian is mystically joined with Christ in baptism - unlawful intercourse must therefore be shunned in horror because it would unite Christ to harlots. Improper desires will occur but Christ will aid you to resist them. Some sins may be pleasurable and yet ultimately destructive of those who indulge in them. As a priest exercising the ministry of confession, I can vouchsafe for that being true.

Fornication may occur within marriage or outside it. In the former case it is called adultery. It is the graver form because it damages the marriage bond, both a sacrament and the basis of society. It contradicts one of the Ten Commandments. In many countries adulterers incurred criminal penalties – in England it rated death under the Commonwealth – all removed today in unhappy Ukania, ex-Great Britain. Yet, do not be deceived: God not mocked...

As for copulation outside marriage, many in the corrupt and suicidal West think sex before marriage, or ‘premarital sex’, is innocuous. If it were, God would not have forbidden it. The consequences for society are dire. I’ll spare you tedious statistics but teenage pregnancies, one parent families, parentless and anti-social kids plus widespread venereal diseases are there to prove the obvious. Voila’ broken Britain!

In Islam Zina is the name for illegal sexual intercourse. The penalties attached to it account for the hundred lashes to the Maldivian girl. Mind you, Hudud punishments are only a small part of Sharia and they are hedged about with numerous restrictions and qualifications. However, as a Christian I cannot approve of such sentence. Chastisements should be tempered by compassion. Besides, as Tariq Ramadan has pointed out, those punishments are too often inflicted only on the poor and the marginalised. The rich and the privileged (e.g. fornicating Saudi princes) get away scot-free. What kind of justice is that?

Lastly, Amnesty International. One of nearly 40.000 international NGOs. Usually treated with the reverence and awe once accorded to goodly religious orders like the Franciscans, Amnesty campaigns for human rights worldwide. Some of its causes are worthy, no doubt. Still, Amnesty is neither an elected body nor accountable to the people. Its vision is based not on divine revelation but on a fallible and dubious text, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I ask: isn’t the right to life the most fundamental of all rights? That without which there can be no enjoyment of any other rights? Significantly, the Vatican has accused Amnesty of promoting abortion. Amnesty denies it but it says it supports ‘sexual and reproductive rights’, a verbose, evasive and sinister expression coming down to the same thing – including fornication. I fear Amnesty is under the sway of feminist, egalitarian and subversive ideologies. Until it comes clean on the vital matter of abortion, I cannot respect it.

I read now that the Maldivian High Court has overturned the flogging sentence. That is good. Pity for the sinner should not obliterate the reality of the sin, however. Unless the people of the blessed islands desire to sink into the same unblessed moral morass their wealthy tourists come from. La samaha Allah!

Last modified on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 23:54

Frank Gelli I am an Anglican priest and cultural critic and commentator. I have BA in Philosophy, MA in Christian Ethics, MA in Islamic Studies, PGCE in Religious Education and Oxford Certificate in Theology. I have been a journalist & drama critic in Italy and England.
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