The ‘King of Infidelity’ spins a web of adultery
There was some sobering news a couple of weeks ago that an online site called Ashley Madison – which is designed to facilitate extramarital affairs – was hacked, and information such as names and email addresses associated with more than 30 million accounts was leaked. When you heard the story, were you surprised by how widespread it was?
Yes, I was. I was shocked to find out that Ashley Madison even existed, but it is a reality that we must face directly. The information on the more than 30 million accounts was made available to the general public, and I know this will be a source of serious marriage problems for those individuals.
Someone has shared with me the list of accounts from Louisiana, and I must admit that I really don’t want to go through the list. But it is 200 pages long with 40 email addresses, single spaced, on each page. That’s 8,000 names, just in Louisiana! Though I don’t intend to examine the list, to me this is just a further indication that our society does not support or cherish marriage and family as we ought to. We as individuals and as a church must do our part in giving more support to marriage. The CEO of Ashley Madison calls himself the “King of Infidelity.” How sad! So what about these 30 million people whose secret is public? I guess some will deny what they did was wrong; others will be embarrassed; and, hopefully, many will use it as an opportunity for conversion and new life. This could be a turning point in healing their marriage and a time of recommitment. For the woman caught in adultery, Jesus saw her sorrow and forgave her sins. He said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:11).
Didn’t the topic of marriage and family life come up during the recent archdiocesan synod?
It came up consistently in the consultative sessions. People told us we need to support and honor marriage, youth and family life. We all know there are real challenges to marriage and family life. The recent decision by the Supreme Court redefines marriage and family. We are living in a time where we as Catholics must promote the sacrament of marriage, life-long fidelity between a man and a woman, and the nurturing of our youth so that they may grow in maturity, faith and healthy sexuality.
What do you think needs to happen to strengthen marriages?
I believe married couples need to cherish what is a sacred aspect of marriage – and that is commitment. It’s easy to say the words, “I take you for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” when things are going well. But when things are not going well, can the couple continue to make that commitment? Today, not just in marriage but in many other things, when the going gets tough, we tend to run the other way. Instead of seeking marriage counseling and seeking some kind of resolution to marriage problems, so many simply run the other way. Now, I’m certainly not talking about situations of domestic abuse. That’s an entirely different situation where people need to protect themselves. But, there needs to be a decision to recommit to each other. There’s a fabulous teaching moment in Retrouvaille, which is an amazing Catholic program that helps those going through serious marriage problems. The teaching is this: “Love is a decision.” Love isn’t a feeling or an emotion, which can come and go in a fleeting moment. Each of us, every day, makes a decision to love the other. Sometimes that is extremely difficult when seri- ous sin enters a relationship, but it is possible, with God’s grace, to find reconciliation and unity. I would urge any couples experiencing what seem to be intractable marriage problems to seek help. To get in touch with Retrouvaille, the number to call is (504) 861-6243. Also, our Catholic Counseling Service continues to see more and more couples every week. It can be reached at (504) 861-6246. We need to resolve issues, not just run away.
What else can Catholics do to support marriage?
We must form our children in such a way that we hand on to them the values of marriage and family life and prepare them to be able to make those kinds of commitments if they are called to marriage. We also have to speak to others in our parishes and the wider community about the importance of strong, stable marriages and about how important it is to make a lifelong commitment.
Do you find today that people for some reason find it more difficult to make commitments?
There is no doubt about it.
What do you think that lack of commitment stems from? What is the answer?
Sometimes it’s a lack of maturity. Sometimes it’s a seeming inability to make any commitments at all. I think it’s a lack of patience – when things don’t work out the way we want them to work out, then we just go find another partner or another solution. There’s so much concentration on sexuality today that when a person’s sexual life is no longer exciting, often there’s nothing left in the relationship to hold it together. Surveys also have shown that when a relationship is sexual before marriage – when a relationship is built on sex and then marriage happens later – that relationship has a smaller chance of being healthy, and divorce becomes easier. When the glamor of sexuality disappears, many times there’s is no depth left to the relationship.
Isn’t the archdiocese updating its marriage preparation guidelines?
Yes. They are completed, and we’re going to discuss them at the priests’ convocation later this month. We are doing well in terms of marriage preparation, but these new guidelines will help us do even better.
Also, hasn’t the synod placed a priority on nurturing family life?
Absolutely. The goals of the synod will be released soon – after the priests’ convocation – and they are filled with ideas and suggestions about reaching out to families, to our youth and especially to those families who feel alienated from the church. We need to build up family life.