Is it sinful for priests or/and those in state of religion (eg. Franciscans, Dominicans, etc.) to hug women (of course, we are not speaking of hugging mother, sister or something like that)?

Argument against.

We can see this happen publicly on the show The Voice (about 7 minutes and 45 seconds in the video). Also, I see many examples in the youth groups where the priest becomes (very) friendly with the youth. So, obviously those who have authority are seen to do such things and I have seen no one to reproach them; so it seems that they are not doing anything evil.

Argument for.

It would seem that all hugging between male and female (which are not husband or wife or are family) is sinful (so for a priest or religious it is also a sin). For it is mentioned as a sin in the Eisenger Confessionale p.180:

qui deliberate exosculatus aut complexus fuit vel tetigit mulierem (who deliberately kissed, hugged or touched woman)

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    The most likely answer is that it depends on the rules of their order. And it is entirely possible that the rules are different for when someone hugs you (as shown in the video) compared with when you hug someone. Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 17:16
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    @DJClayworth There's an order that mentions hugging women in its rule?
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 23:05
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    @Geremia perhaps not in any rules for religious, I know some traditional religious communities where it is their tradition not to hug or handshake anyone.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


Yes, it can be:

  • Scandal
    • So as to avoid scandal, can. 667 on enclosure prohibits certain people from entering cloisters.
    • Can. 667 §4 governs how semi-cloistered nuns (i.e., those with episcopal enclosure) can be outside their convents:
      §4. For a just cause, a diocesan bishop has the faculty of entering the cloister of monasteries of nuns which are in his diocese and, for a grave cause and with the consent of the superior, of permitting others to be admitted to the cloister and the nuns to leave it [their cloister] for a truly necessary period of time.
      Contemplatives, who are under papal enclosure, need the Pope's permission.
  • Lust
  • Over-familiarity
    • Super Io., cap. 4 l. 6.: "nimia familiaritas, reverentiam minuit, et contemptum parit" ("over-familiarity diminishes reverence and breeds contempt")
  • Sacrilege
    • Just like a chalice, consecrated to hold the Precious Blood, used for a profane purpose (such as for drinking water) would be sacrilege, so, too, is "laying violent* hands on clerics or religious of either sex" or "the commission of acts of unchastity by or with a person bound by the public vow of chastity" sacrilege.
      *The hugging you show in your YouTube video appears violent, forced upon her.

Also, regarding your link to the The Voice show, listen to this sermon: "Sister Cristina & the Current Church Crisis."

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    @Thom St. Paul says (1 Cor. 7:1): "It is good [or 'a beautiful thing,' καλόν = beautiful] for a man not to touch a woman."
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 22:25
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    @Thom Cf. St. Thomas's commentary on 1 Cor. 7:1. {Also, contrary to some Protestant exegetes, St. Paul asserts (not merely relays or repeats what the Corinthians wrote to him) that "It is good for a man not to touch a woman."}
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 22:52
  • Even Paul would agree that "It is good to do this" is not the same as "It is a sin not to do this". Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 0:17
  • @DJClayworth Yes, if he thought it is always sinful to touch a woman, he would be condemning marriage (or at least its use) and contradicting himself (e.g., v. 3).
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 0:19
  • @Geremia I think in context, St. Paul means "to be sexual with any woman:" "Now concerning the things you wrote to me: It is best that a man not touch a woman. Nevertherless, to avoid sins of a sexual nature, let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband. Let the husband render to the wife that which is due her, and the wife likewise to the husband. The wife has no right over her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband has no right over his own body, but the wife. ... Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 0:28

Is it sinful for priests or/and those in state of religion to hug women?

It is not intrinsically sinful for priests or religious to hug or be hugged by members of the opposite sex. If it were there would be well founded guidelines to be found in every diocese, seminary, house of formation, etc etc.

One can find on YouTube popes being hugged by women too.

That stated, this subject matter merits a caveat.

Although it may not be intrinsically sinful for a priest to hug a woman, it should something rarely done. More often than not, it is the priest who is the recipient of this gesture.

Prudence dictates that in order not to be tempted in such circumstances, priests should strive to avoid such occasions where they can be tempted by the Devil 😈 into committing sin!

This whole question reminds me of the story found in the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great about how the demon tempted a bishop to sin against chastity by simply patting the back of a nun. This particular episode as recounted by Pope St. Gregory the Great would make a great Halloween story:

Chapter Seven: of Andrew, Bishop of Funda.

I know, though experience that there exists Benedictine cloistered nuns that according to their tradition will not hug anyone, they will not even shake hands with someone.

On the other end of the spectrum, I know of cloistered Poor Clare religious that will hug women visitors and shake hands with the men.

Hugs given to or received by priests or consecrated religious is not intrinsically sinful, but could be the occasion towards sin. Thus it should be frowned on, to say the least.

As side note, I have noticed that married deacons are very generous in this regards in our diocese.

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    @Thom No, but it something that needs to be avoided.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 18:04
  • @KenGraham St. Gregory the Great seems to be speaking of the virgines subintroductæ (female servants surreptitiously brought into bishops' homes), a practice the Church has condemned.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 18:30
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    @Thom cf. this article on the subintroductæ: Elizabeth A. Clark, “John Chrysostom and the Subintroductae,” Church History 46, no. 2 (June 1977): 171–85.
    – Geremia
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 18:52
  • It all starts innocently enough (just one touch): “Bishop Andrew, concerning that Nun which he kept in his palace: whereunto whiles the master devil gave attentive ear, considering with himself what a notable gain it would be, to undo the soul of so holy a man; the former devil went on with his tale, and said that the very evening before he assaulted him so mightily, that he drew him so far forth, that he did merrily strike the said Nun upon the back. ” Read the story.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 19:38

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