Secretly Unfaithful ~ Pope Pius XII


Your marriage is a holy union. Protect it from the evil one’s subtle and cunning pitfalls that can come along the marital path (especially when we are weak or feeling alone).

From Dear Newlyweds by Pope Pius XII


The law of the Divine Redeemer, which is a law of love, also protects and preserves true love and true fidelity. It is a law of love which is not confined to the detailed and formal provisions of a code, but penetrates the spirit, the heart, to the point of excluding even the sin of desire (Mt. 5:27-28).

Could there be, then, despite appearances, a secret infidelity hidden in the most intimate recesses of the heart? Without doubt, for out of the heart, says Our Lord, come evil thoughts and other iniquities (Mt. 15:19). And yet this sin of secret infidelity is unfortunately so frequent that the world pays no attention to it and the lulled conscience grows used to it, like the spell of an illusion.

However, true fidelity which has as its object and foundation the mutual gift not only of the bodies of the wedded couple, but their spirits and hearts as well, opposes and overcomes every deceptive charm. Is it not perhaps true that the least infraction of this exquisite and ardent fidelity, leads sooner or later to breakdowns of married life and happiness?

With the wedding ring as its symbol, fidelity is truly a most delicate virtue! Before it was formulated and taught by Our Lord, it had been carved by the Creator in the depths of honest hearts, as exemplified by Job’s famous saying that he had made a covenant with his eyes to refrain from any impure look.

Compare such an austere restriction, which is the prerogative of any soul that is its own master, with the conduct of so many Christians washed from birth in the waters of regeneration and raised in the glowing light of the Gospel. Like children accustomed to regarding the anguish of maternal solicitude as an exaggeration, they smile at the moral anxiety of their mother the Church.

And yet she is not the only one to give thought to this; all serious persons, even those who are far from the Christian concept, utter a cry of alarm. Along the public roads, on the beaches, at entertainments, women and girls shamelessly expose themselves to impertinent and sensuous glances, to indecent solicitation and unseemly promiscuity.

How violently the passions are aroused under such conditions and encounters! With the exception of the final step, the descent into formal infidelity—supposing that by some miracle they do not go this far—what difference would there be between such habits and the conduct of those unfortunates who openly cast aside all shame?

Unless we blame the decline of their sense of morality, we cannot understand how honorable men tolerate the bold looks and familiarities which their wives and fiancées permit other men or how a fiancé or a wife who values her dignity could stand for the husband’s or fiancées taking such liberties and intimacies with other women. Who does not see the last dying flame of honest feeling revolt and rise up against such grave outrages to the holy fidelity of chaste and legitimate love?

But we have said enough concerning these regrettable and disconcerting debasements. In the order of the spirit and the heart, discernment between good and evil is even more delicate. It is true that there are natural tendencies, blameless in themselves, for which present living conditions offer easy and frequent outlets. Whatever danger they may sometimes present, they do not, of themselves, offend fidelity.

Nevertheless, we must warn you against any secretly sensual intimacies, against love that would be called platonic but which is all too frequently merely the prelude to, or discreet veil for, an affection less pure and licit.

As long as intellectual attraction is limited to sincere and spontaneous agreement on ideals, to the enjoyment and admiration of a soul’s grandeur and nobility, it is without reproach. Nevertheless, St. John of the Cross warns these same spiritual persons against deviations which could follow from this.

Imperceptibly, the proper order of things is often turned about, so that an honest attraction for a person, arising from a similarity in thinking, habits or character, reaches a point, by unconscious consent, where a person harmonizes and conforms his own views and ideas to the views and ideas of the one he admires.

At first, one gives ground on trifling questions, then on more serious subjects—on matters of a practical nature, on more intimate topics of art and taste, then in the truly intellectual or philosophical field, and finally on religious and moral doctrine, to the point of renouncing one’s own personal criteria so that one thinks and judges only under the other’s influence.

Principles are subverted, norms of living are abandoned. While the human spirit naturally, and often to the point of excess, proudly adheres to its own opinions, how can one then explain such an easy submission and complete subjection to the ideas of another?

But at the same time that the spirit in this way comes gradually to be modeled on that of a stranger, each day it becomes more alienated from the soul of its lawful husband or wife. To everything the husband or wife thinks or says, one begins to react with an irresistible instinct to contradict, with irritation, with scorn.

This feeling, unconscious perhaps but no less dangerous, indicates that the mind has been conquered and monopolized, that there has been delivered into the power of someone else the spirit which had been irrevocably given on the wedding day. Is this fidelity?

Guard against a subtle and misunderstood illusion. It could be that through the influence of a noble ardent soul, motivated by purest zeal, an intellectual attraction would become the dawn of a conversion; but more frequently than not it is dawn only. Rarely does the morning light brighten to midday.

On the other hand, how many in this way have lost their faith and their Christian perception! Illustrious examples, even though they are rare indeed, seem sufficient to reassure some who imagine themselves a Beatrice or a Dante. In many cases, however, it develops that in their twofold blindness they tread upon the slippery edge of the road and both fall into the ditch.

Even supposing that the spirit was not, as has been said, the “dupe of the heart,” the heart, blind in its own right, is the spirit’s companion and does not hesitate in its onrush to drag the spirit along as well. Once the spirit gives way, the heart yields, but not without becoming unfaithful to the person to whom it was given in the beginning in an indissoluble bond.

The world is content to proclaim as faithful the wife who has not physically committed a fault, to boast of her magnificent fidelity because, perhaps by heroic sacrifice, but only human heroism, she continues to live without love at the side of the husband to whom she had joined her life, while her heart, her whole heart, belongs definitely, passionately to another.

 More saintly and austere is the morality of Christ!

One may try to exalt the nobility of a pretended union of hearts chastely joined “as the stars and the palms,” to wrap this passion in the cloud of empty religiosity, which is only nonsense nourished by poetry and novels, not by the Gospel or by the Christian bond. They may try to fool themselves into continuing this love in lofty serenity, but nature, after original sin, is not so receptive to conceited aphorisms of deluded spirits. Fidelity was already violated by the illicit passion of the heart.

Young husbands and wives, guard against these illusions! Illumined by the Divine Light, under the protection of Mary, Mother Most Pure, love each other in a holy way, drawing ever closer your lives, your spirits and your hearts.

In a happy home, parents often hold firm against other allurements which tempt them to put the needs of their children in an inferior place. Such allurements include the desire for an overly active social life, the constant pursuit of pleasure in the form of commercial entertainment and the exclusive choice of hobbies (golf, cards, dancing clubs, etc.) from which children are excluded. -Fr. George Kelly, 1950’s

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