Catholic Church says unmarried women 'do not have to be virgins'

Catholic Church says unmarried women 'do not have to be virgins'

CATHOLIC women who pledge their lifelong virginity as "brides of Christ" do not actually have to be virgins, the Vatican has ruled.

'Brides of Christ' are unmarried women living outside of religious communities who pledge their chastity as part of a spiritual commitment to Jesus.

They usually live like normal lives with non-ecclesiastical jobs to support themselves financially.

There are an estimated 5,000 consecrated Catholic virgins (not including Nuns) in at least 42 countries, with more than 200 in the UK and 230 in the United States.

Now, a new Vatican document has declared that the basic requirement of unmarried women "is not reducible to the symbol of physical integrity”.

The ruling adds: "To have kept her body in perfect continence or to have practised the virtue of chastity in an exemplary way, while of great importance, are not essential prerequisites.”

However, not everyone has been left pleased by news of an adaption to policies surrounding chastity in the Catholic Church.

The US Association of Consecrated Virgins said in a statement: "The entire tradition of the Church has firmly upheld that a woman must have received the gift of virginity - both physical and spiritual - in order to receive the consecration of virgins.

"In the case of virgins leading lives in the world, it is required that they have never celebrated marriage and that they have not publicly or manifestly lived in a state contrary to chastity."