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Dear Father Angelo,
I have been happily married to my wife for 25 years now, we have 4 children, and we live our marriage Christianly. However, during a normal conversation between us, my wife surprised me by telling me that love should not be something exclusive, but rather open to everyone as sunlight to Earth. She believes that only conjugal love is an exclusive love. She claims that we can fall in love with more than one person, that there is nothing wrong with that, as long as we remain faithful to our spouse.
Is my wife right or wrong according to the moral teaching of the Church? What does the Church mean by loyalty to the spouse? Is sexual loyalty the only loyalty that matters, or the concept of loyalty extends to other forms of attractions (like infatuation)?
Personally, I believe in loyalty as a comprehensive quality, and I would never get involved in anything that could put me on a slippery slope…
Thank you in advance. Your service is a spiritual compass in a world where families sail on stormy seas. Please, pray for us and for our children.
Answer from the priest
1. Your wife’s opinion is correct and incorrect at the same time.
It is right to affirm that love must be “open to everyone as sunlight to Earth,” if by love we mean that we call “solidarity” from a human perspective, and “charity” from a Christian perspective. Solidarity is that bond of benevolence and understanding that binds us together by virtue of the same nature and above all by virtue of the help we provide to each other. Human nature drives not only individuals, but also society, to self-preservation.
Solidarity arises from the human nature to live in society, and imply the instinctively impulse every person feels to help, love, collaborate, and establish friendships.
In this sense, if by love we mean solidarity, then love must have no boundaries.
2. In the Christian perspective, solidarity receives a new strength from charity, the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Charity expresses a universal form of love; in this sense, it perfects and overcomes the limits of human solidarity, which can express incorrectly as solidarity of one group of people (or a nation) against another group of people (or another nation).
Charity conveys the strength to vanish all possible boundaries that might prevent us from being kind to others, especially to our enemies.
Charity excludes no one’s fellow men, neither sinners, nor enemies, or persecutors.
And this is because, when we love with charity, we love with the heart of God, and God loves everyone ceaselessly, even those who hate or persecute him.
3. This form of love is general and is expressed in various shades, depending on the levels of closeness and gratitude between people . Conjugal love, instead, has different expressions.
Paul VI, in his encyclical Humanae Vitae, described the nature of conjugal love and identified four characteristics:
- It is a human form of love, that is, sensitive and spiritual.
- It is a total love, that is, a very special form of personal friendship.
- It is a faithful and exclusive love until death.
- It is fruitful love, which does not end with the communion of the spouses.
4. By conjugal love, Paul VI does not simply mean physical intimacy, but rather that very special form of friendship that exists between spouses.
The exclusiveness of this form of friendship arises from the promise that the two spouses make on wedding day, to give themselves to each other in totality. This totality, in its affective element, implies that such intensity is strictly reserved to the spouse only. The ancients used to say: “amans non patitur consortium in amato”: the one who loves cannot bear the intrusion of others into his affections.
This form of love remains exclusive and cannot be given to anyone else, because spouses give themselves to each other totality. Once the promise is formulated, there is no way to give the same love to anyone else with the same intensity.
This marital exclusiveness declares with facts to the spouse: “You are enough for me, therefore, I do not look for others”.
5. If we define falling in love as being lost to a person, in marriage this losing oneself is a proper and exclusive right of the spouses. Starting from the day of their wedding, it becomes a duty and a right at the same time.
6. Hence, you can call it spiritual adultery when you allow your heart to fall in love with someone other than your spouse. Jesus said that anyone who looks at a woman and lusts after her has already committed adultery in his heart.
Here Jesus reminds us that there is more than just material adultery.
7. Falling in love with another person inevitably leads to less dedication to your spouse and family.
There’s another risk: we are made of body, not only soul, at some point it is inevitable to externalize our passions. Once we fall in love, or we are infatuated with somebody else, it is trivial to explain where this passion may lead. Suffice it to say that it is quite the opposite of what was promised on the wedding day.
I wish you all the best, I remember you to the Lord together with your beautiful family, and I bless you.