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(Latin seducere, to lead aside or astray)

Seduction is here taken to mean the inducing of a previously virtuous woman to engage in unlawful sexual intercourse. Two cases are distinguishable. The seducer may have brought about the surrender of his victim's chastity either with or without a promise of subsequent marriage. For the purpose of this article we do not suppose the employment of violence, but only persuasion and the like. The obligation of restitution in either hypothesis for the bodily damage wrought, considered specifically as such, cannot be imposed. The obvious reason is that its performance is impossible. We are speaking of course only of the court of conscience. In certain cases the civil tribunal may justly mulct the seducer to make pecuniary compensation, and he will be bound to obey. If the woman has been lured into carnal relations by the promise of marriage, it is the generally received and practically certain teaching that the man is bound to marry her. This is true, independently of whether she has become pregnant or not. Granted that the bargain is a vicious one, still she has executed her part of it. What remains is not sinful, and unless it is carried out she is subjected to an injury reparable ordinarily only by marriage. This doctrine holds good whether the promise be real or only feigned.

Moralists note that this solution does not cover every situation. It will not apply, for instance, if the woman can easily gather from the circumstances that her seducer has no serious intention to wed her, or if he is vastly her superior in social position, or if the outcome of such an union is likely to be very unhappy (as it will often be). None the less, even in these conditions, the betrayer may at times be obliged to furnish other reparation, such as money for her dowry. When no promise of marriage has been given by the seducer and the woman has yielded freely to his solicitations, the only obligation devolving on the man is one which he shares with his paramour, viz., to care for the fruit of their sin, if there is any. Strictly speaking, he has done no injury to her; she has accepted his advances. The only duty therefore which emerges is one that touches, not her, but the possible offspring. It must be observed, however, that if he, by talking about his crime, has brought about the defamation of his partner or her parents, he will be obliged to make good whatever losses they sustain in consequence. Then, however, the immediate source of his responsibility is not his criminal intercourse with her, but the shattering of her and her parents' reputation.


SLATER, Manual of Moral Theology (New York, 1908); LEHMKUHL, Theologia Moralis (Fribourg, 1887); GENICOT, Theologi Moralis Institutiones (Louvain, 1898); D'ANNIBALE, Summula Theologi Moralis (Rome, 1908).

About this page

APA citation. Delany, J. (1912). Seduction. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Delany, Joseph. "Seduction." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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