Does infidelity need to be confessed to the innocent spouse?

Apples

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If a married person confessed infidelity to an Orthodox priest, would the priest require them to tell this to their spouse?
 

JamesR

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I'd think it should be

Infidelity is a serious thing. It's the ONE ground that Jesus Christ Himself grants for a divorce.

That being said, shouldn't the other party be notified about it?
 

ialmisry

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Papist said:
ialmisry said:
Mor Ephrem said:
Not necessarily. 
it would, however, have to be some serious extenuating circumstances.
Could confessing that infidelity do more harm than good?
It could. But one would have to demonstrate why that should determine it.

I have a friend who has told me that even if I knew her husband was cheating (she wasn't married-or even knew him-at the time), not to tell her.  She hasn't changed her mind (fortunately I can't imagine him cheating).

Many have been doubly hurt by being the last to know.
 

ZealousZeal

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ialmisry said:
Papist said:
ialmisry said:
Mor Ephrem said:
Not necessarily. 
it would, however, have to be some serious extenuating circumstances.
Could confessing that infidelity do more harm than good?
It could. But one would have to demonstrate why that should determine it.
The harm has already been done. Keeping one spouse in ignorance is not letting them make choices about their own life with all the information available.
 

Mor Ephrem

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ialmisry said:
Mor Ephrem said:
Not necessarily. 
it would, however, have to be some serious extenuating circumstances.
Agreed.  

Of all questions this is an "ask your priest, but I hope you never have to" question.  I can imagine a priest requiring a penitent to come forward with this information and confess to the spouse.  But I can also imagine circumstances in which a priest might think it is better to deal with the penitent's sin without aggravating the marriage further.  AFAIK, there is no canonical requirement (the canons actually imply some "leeway" on this, IMO), but the answer to the OP would depend on any number of circumstances unique to the particular situation.  I don't think there is "one true Orthodox answer for all time".  
 

DeniseDenise

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The question was not 'should the person confess this to their spouse'
But rather
'Should the Priest require that they do so'

That is the distinction I think Mor is addressing.

There might be situations where the Priest would not 'require' it.
 

Agabus

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Will the spouse need to get tested?
 

Papist

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Porter ODoran said:
Papist said:
ialmisry said:
Mor Ephrem said:
Not necessarily.  
it would, however, have to be some serious extenuating circumstances.
Could confessing that infidelity do more harm than good?
Ah a papist and casuistry. ;)
Haha, that was not my intention.  :D I was seriously curious as to what people thought about the matter.
 

Apples

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I read an article in which an influential Orthodox priest encouraged not disclosing this for the sake of the marriage and the feelings of the innocent spouse. The adulterer gets to feel relief because his religion teaches unconditional divine forgiveness, but his spouse now believes a lie about the other and the marriage, loses a chance for restitution, and loses the option to end the failed marriage (as allowed by Christ in this case) or to forgive.

This might be the final straw for me. It has become clearer and clearer to me over the past few months that I just don't share the Christian view of how to deal with evil actions. Forgiving others unconditionally, without restitution and justice, does not solve these problems in any real way, it simply ignores them. Letting God forgive while not owning up to actions to the people who've actually been hurt - that is abhorrent. I remember reading in Wounded By Love how Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia helped a man who murdered his wife escape from the police, because he had "repented."

Orthodoxy has made me feel very intense self-hatred and guilt over the fact that I cannot feel emotional "forgiveness" toward my abusive parents for their unrestituted actions. The only solace the church seems to give is "well, you're evil too, you're especially evil if you ever feel wronged even for the most heinous of acts, and we won't even require those who have hurt you to honestly reconcile with you, just with God and their confessor." I think that this religion might just not be for me.
 

minasoliman

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William said:
I read an article in which an influential Orthodox priest encouraged not disclosing this for the sake of the marriage and the feelings of the innocent spouse. The adulterer gets to feel relief because his religion teaches unconditional divine forgiveness, but his spouse now believes a lie about the other and the marriage, loses a chance for restitution, and loses the option to end the failed marriage (as allowed by Christ in this case) or to forgive.

This might be the final straw for me. It has become clearer and clearer to me over the past few months that I just don't share the Christian view of how to deal with evil actions. Forgiving others unconditionally, without restitution and justice, does not solve these problems in any real way, it simply ignores them. Letting God forgive while not owning up to actions to the people who've actually been hurt - that is abhorrent. I remember reading in Wounded By Love how Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia helped a man who murdered his wife escape from the police, because he had "repented."

Orthodoxy has made me feel very intense self-hatred and guilt over the fact that I cannot feel emotional "forgiveness" toward my abusive parents for their unrestituted actions. The only solace the church seems to give is "well, you're evil too, you're especially evil if you ever feel wronged even for the most heinous of acts, and we won't even require those who have hurt you to honestly reconcile with you, just with God and their confessor." I think that this religion might just not be for me.
Forgiveness is not about paybacks.  That's not forgiveness.  And in actuality, it's not just Orthodoxy that requires you to forgive unconditionally.  It's a therapeutic human thing so that you can move on.  The fact that you are unable to forgive your parents is what makes you hate yourself.  You are a very young man, and you have a lot to learn about relationships and forgiveness.

The point of an Orthodox advice of forgiveness is not to feel you have low self-esteem, but that it could help you actually move on in life, and gives you a bit of perspective of how to deal with things in a humble manner.  It makes you the stronger person, not the weaker.

The issue of marriage is something even married people find complicated to answer simply because people try their best to avoid this problem anyway.  But from a therapist/priest pov, it's a good question.  What would a non-Orthodox therapist do, do you think, in this situation?  Don't you think every situation has a different answer?
 

gzt

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William said:
I read an article in which an influential Orthodox priest encouraged not disclosing this for the sake of the marriage and the feelings of the innocent spouse. The adulterer gets to feel relief because his religion teaches unconditional divine forgiveness, but his spouse now believes a lie about the other and the marriage, loses a chance for restitution, and loses the option to end the failed marriage (as allowed by Christ in this case) or to forgive.
I think we need to see this article - he saw fit to publish it, so it's fair game to share it with us. Or at least PM it.

As for your other stuff, I think you've been getting bad advice, but I'm not in any position to give advice.
 

Maria

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William said:
Orthodoxy has made me feel very intense self-hatred and guilt over the fact that I cannot feel emotional "forgiveness" toward my abusive parents for their unrestituted actions. The only solace the church seems to give is "well, you're evil too, you're especially evil if you ever feel wronged even for the most heinous of acts, and we won't even require those who have hurt you to honestly reconcile with you, just with God and their confessor." I think that this religion might just not be for me.
Perhaps this is the wrong forum to address this concern.

I have started a new thread in the convert section.
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,59504.new.html#new
 

Deacon Lance

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How did you get from here:
I don't agree with a lot of what has been said above. If you have come to confession, fulfilled the penance, and committed to not sinning again, you have repented, end of story. The sincerity, sorrow, shame, guilt and compunction you lack is made up for by the action of God through the priest's absolution. Only a saint can feel perfect compunction, so the church only asks you to give what you're capable of giving. This is the whole reason why confession exists - a concrete and visible guarantee of God's forgiveness in spite of our imperfection. Belief in the absolute efficacy of the priest's absolution in the sacrament is simply a matter of faith. Also remember that emotions are not everything. If you regret something, it's better to not feel guilt and not do it again than to feel guilt and continue to do it.

You only have to nudge your toe forward an inch and the Lord will come running to you over thousands of miles.
To here:

William said:
I read an article in which an influential Orthodox priest encouraged not disclosing this for the sake of the marriage and the feelings of the innocent spouse. The adulterer gets to feel relief because his religion teaches unconditional divine forgiveness, but his spouse now believes a lie about the other and the marriage, loses a chance for restitution, and loses the option to end the failed marriage (as allowed by Christ in this case) or to forgive.

This might be the final straw for me. It has become clearer and clearer to me over the past few months that I just don't share the Christian view of how to deal with evil actions. Forgiving others unconditionally, without restitution and justice, does not solve these problems in any real way, it simply ignores them. Letting God forgive while not owning up to actions to the people who've actually been hurt - that is abhorrent. I remember reading in Wounded By Love how Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia helped a man who murdered his wife escape from the police, because he had "repented."

Orthodoxy has made me feel very intense self-hatred and guilt over the fact that I cannot feel emotional "forgiveness" toward my abusive parents for their unrestituted actions. The only solace the church seems to give is "well, you're evil too, you're especially evil if you ever feel wronged even for the most heinous of acts, and we won't even require those who have hurt you to honestly reconcile with you, just with God and their confessor." I think that this religion might just not be for me.
 

TheTrisagion

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William said:
I read an article in which an influential Orthodox priest encouraged not disclosing this for the sake of the marriage and the feelings of the innocent spouse. The adulterer gets to feel relief because his religion teaches unconditional divine forgiveness, but his spouse now believes a lie about the other and the marriage, loses a chance for restitution, and loses the option to end the failed marriage (as allowed by Christ in this case) or to forgive.

This might be the final straw for me. It has become clearer and clearer to me over the past few months that I just don't share the Christian view of how to deal with evil actions. Forgiving others unconditionally, without restitution and justice, does not solve these problems in any real way, it simply ignores them. Letting God forgive while not owning up to actions to the people who've actually been hurt - that is abhorrent. I remember reading in Wounded By Love how Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia helped a man who murdered his wife escape from the police, because he had "repented."

Orthodoxy has made me feel very intense self-hatred and guilt over the fact that I cannot feel emotional "forgiveness" toward my abusive parents for their unrestituted actions. The only solace the church seems to give is "well, you're evil too, you're especially evil if you ever feel wronged even for the most heinous of acts, and we won't even require those who have hurt you to honestly reconcile with you, just with God and their confessor." I think that this religion might just not be for me.
I hope that is not the counsel you have received. If so, it is not good counsel.

Coming from a background that could be considered physically abusive by some and was definitely mentally and emotionally abusive, the best I can say to you is that granting forgiveness to those who have wronged you is a healing mechanism for you, not an obligation that you must do.  I have been able to put my past behind me and be at peace with it.  My brother has had a much more difficult time with doing that and it has caused greater stress and anxiety in his life. He is just now learning how to deal with those emotions 15 years after they happened. The sooner you are able to go through that process, the better. The only person you hurt by withholding forgiveness of others is yourself. The person who has hurt you doesn't need your forgiveness, they have been able to go through their life quite easily without it and will be able to continue to do so. You are the one who is hurting and in need of healing.  At least, that is what I have learned in my own experience, hopefully, it will help you to some degree.  :)
 

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Having read the article, I disagree with his reading of it, as the article specifically states that it strongly advises, in accordance with the prevailing wisdom in the literature, disclosure of infidelity under the guidance of a spiritual father and professional therapeutic help, and points at a review article about therapeutic responses to marital infidelity. However, it does not mention "requiring" it.
 

orthonorm

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TheTrisagion said:
William said:
I read an article in which an influential Orthodox priest encouraged not disclosing this for the sake of the marriage and the feelings of the innocent spouse. The adulterer gets to feel relief because his religion teaches unconditional divine forgiveness, but his spouse now believes a lie about the other and the marriage, loses a chance for restitution, and loses the option to end the failed marriage (as allowed by Christ in this case) or to forgive.

This might be the final straw for me. It has become clearer and clearer to me over the past few months that I just don't share the Christian view of how to deal with evil actions. Forgiving others unconditionally, without restitution and justice, does not solve these problems in any real way, it simply ignores them. Letting God forgive while not owning up to actions to the people who've actually been hurt - that is abhorrent. I remember reading in Wounded By Love how Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia helped a man who murdered his wife escape from the police, because he had "repented."

Orthodoxy has made me feel very intense self-hatred and guilt over the fact that I cannot feel emotional "forgiveness" toward my abusive parents for their unrestituted actions. The only solace the church seems to give is "well, you're evil too, you're especially evil if you ever feel wronged even for the most heinous of acts, and we won't even require those who have hurt you to honestly reconcile with you, just with God and their confessor." I think that this religion might just not be for me.
I hope that is not the counsel you have received. If so, it is not good counsel.

Coming from a background that could be considered physically abusive by some and was definitely mentally and emotionally abusive, the best I can say to you is that granting forgiveness to those who have wronged you is a healing mechanism for you, not an obligation that you must do.  I have been able to put my past behind me and be at peace with it.  My brother has had a much more difficult time with doing that and it has caused greater stress and anxiety in his life. He is just now learning how to deal with those emotions 15 years after they happened. The sooner you are able to go through that process, the better. The only person you hurt by withholding forgiveness of others is yourself. The person who has hurt you doesn't need your forgiveness, they have been able to go through their life quite easily without it and will be able to continue to do so. You are the one who is hurting and in need of healing.  At least, that is what I have learned in my own experience, hopefully, it will help you to some degree.  :)
Does anyone here actually take the Gospel seriously? Is newage self help blip blap now what counts as good news?

You should talk to a Priest, even a lesbian Anglican one for some guidance on the structure of forgiveness or you could read nearly anything Jesus said.
 

TheTrisagion

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Or you could just ask orthonorm. He will tell you how evil you are, and why self-hatred and guilt are wonderful.  ::)
 

Mor Ephrem

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kelly said:
Mor Ephrem said:
Not necessarily. 
WRONG ANSWER.
Kelly,

DeniseDenise said:
The question was not 'should the person confess this to their spouse'
But rather
'Should the Priest require that they do so'

That is the distinction I think Mor is addressing.

There might be situations where the Priest would not 'require' it.
:-*
 

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Deacon Lance said:
How did you get from here:
I don't agree with a lot of what has been said above. If you have come to confession, fulfilled the penance, and committed to not sinning again, you have repented, end of story. The sincerity, sorrow, shame, guilt and compunction you lack is made up for by the action of God through the priest's absolution. Only a saint can feel perfect compunction, so the church only asks you to give what you're capable of giving. This is the whole reason why confession exists - a concrete and visible guarantee of God's forgiveness in spite of our imperfection. Belief in the absolute efficacy of the priest's absolution in the sacrament is simply a matter of faith. Also remember that emotions are not everything. If you regret something, it's better to not feel guilt and not do it again than to feel guilt and continue to do it.

You only have to nudge your toe forward an inch and the Lord will come running to you over thousands of miles.
To here:

William said:
I read an article in which an influential Orthodox priest encouraged not disclosing this for the sake of the marriage and the feelings of the innocent spouse. The adulterer gets to feel relief because his religion teaches unconditional divine forgiveness, but his spouse now believes a lie about the other and the marriage, loses a chance for restitution, and loses the option to end the failed marriage (as allowed by Christ in this case) or to forgive.

This might be the final straw for me. It has become clearer and clearer to me over the past few months that I just don't share the Christian view of how to deal with evil actions. Forgiving others unconditionally, without restitution and justice, does not solve these problems in any real way, it simply ignores them. Letting God forgive while not owning up to actions to the people who've actually been hurt - that is abhorrent. I remember reading in Wounded By Love how Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia helped a man who murdered his wife escape from the police, because he had "repented."

Orthodoxy has made me feel very intense self-hatred and guilt over the fact that I cannot feel emotional "forgiveness" toward my abusive parents for their unrestituted actions. The only solace the church seems to give is "well, you're evil too, you're especially evil if you ever feel wronged even for the most heinous of acts, and we won't even require those who have hurt you to honestly reconcile with you, just with God and their confessor." I think that this religion might just not be for me.
I was talking about how one does not have control over whether he feels emotions such as guilt, not whether restitution to a betrayed spouse or abused family member should be necessary.

I suppose you have a point, though, in that the "Belief in the absolute efficacy of the priest's absolution" which I mentioned is the reason why some would feel justified in keeping these kinds of secrets. If God and the church have forgiven you, the forgiveness of the offended party would just get in the way.
 

Mor Ephrem

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William said:
I read an article in which an influential Orthodox priest encouraged not disclosing this for the sake of the marriage and the feelings of the innocent spouse. The adulterer gets to feel relief because his religion teaches unconditional divine forgiveness, but his spouse now believes a lie about the other and the marriage, loses a chance for restitution, and loses the option to end the failed marriage (as allowed by Christ in this case) or to forgive.

This might be the final straw for me. It has become clearer and clearer to me over the past few months that I just don't share the Christian view of how to deal with evil actions. Forgiving others unconditionally, without restitution and justice, does not solve these problems in any real way, it simply ignores them. Letting God forgive while not owning up to actions to the people who've actually been hurt - that is abhorrent. I remember reading in Wounded By Love how Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia helped a man who murdered his wife escape from the police, because he had "repented."

Orthodoxy has made me feel very intense self-hatred and guilt over the fact that I cannot feel emotional "forgiveness" toward my abusive parents for their unrestituted actions. The only solace the church seems to give is "well, you're evil too, you're especially evil if you ever feel wronged even for the most heinous of acts, and we won't even require those who have hurt you to honestly reconcile with you, just with God and their confessor." I think that this religion might just not be for me.
William,

I'm not sure how you got from the OP to your final paragraph above, so I'm not sure what to address (and I see Fr Lance has taken that confusion one step ahead).  If you're willing, you can guide this discussion.

I don't know the article you mention above, so I can't comment other than to say that, in my experience, the advice priests might give in such situations is as varied as the concrete situations which present themselves.  There are some basic principles to apply, but no easy answers about how to apply them, to what extent, etc.  When a priest is faced with this sort of situation, there are multiple aspects which he's going to consider.  I don't envy his task, but I also don't think it's unreasonable.  A couple facing such a situation will struggle through how to go forward, what to deal with, etc., and as emotionally and psychologically hurt and conflicted as they might be, it may be helpful to have a third party considering things which may not be in the forefront for them.  These are, after all, people's lives that are in the balance, not just the settling of scores.  

I think Mina has some good things to say in this thread regarding forgiveness vs justice.  If that's the direction you want to go in, as opposed to the more limited situation in the OP, that's up to you.  
 

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I suppose it comes down to this. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that keeping this a secret from your spouse would be absolute, pure evil. Therefore, I cannot subscribe to a system of beliefs which can even occasionally justify this.

These beliefs that the consequences of terrible actions can just be done away with by well-wishing, by asking forgiveness from third parties...I just can't.

I'm sorry.
 

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William, you must have a variety of experiences feeding into your dark view of the thread?
 

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William said:
I suppose it comes down to this. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that keeping this a secret from your spouse would be absolute, pure evil. Therefore, I cannot subscribe to a system of beliefs which can even occasionally justify this.

These beliefs that the consequences of terrible actions can just be done away with by well-wishing, by asking forgiveness from third parties...I just can't.

I'm sorry.
As with most things in life, you can't just come at it with a black and white approach. A priest must tailor his counsel to the specific situation. Also, as much as I respect Mor and much of what he says, I would not cast aside all of Orthodoxy just because some guy on the internet said "not necessarily"
 

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William said:
I suppose it comes down to this. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that keeping this a secret from your spouse would be absolute, pure evil. Therefore, I cannot subscribe to a system of beliefs which can even occasionally justify this.

These beliefs that the consequences of terrible actions can just be done away with by well-wishing, by asking forgiveness from third parties...I just can't.

I'm sorry.
I don't think you need to be sorry.  It's what you believe deep within you.  And it's not like I disagree with you entirely.  I just think it's considerably more complicated from the perspective you asked about--that of the priest counseling a penitent. 

I do think you are misunderstanding forgiveness.  It's not that "the consequences of terrible actions can just be done away with by well-wishing, by asking forgiveness from third parties...", not at all.  Actually, that entire phrase is all wrong, I don't think the Church believes that either.   
 

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I am not a priest nor any kind of therapist and am not in a position to give any advice. However, here's a situation where telling the spouse may not be a good idea: the woman cheats on the husband, which is definitely a bad thing, but has good reason to believe that, should the husband find out, he will kill her. This happens in America. Quite a lot. Perhaps not every day (or perhaps every day - the numbers of romantic partner homicides are grim, and surely some significant portion are from this scenario).

More frequently, the threat is that, if he finds out, he will beat her within an inch of her life. This is much, much more common.

In those two situations, what is your advice about the "bad" spouse telling the "innocent" spouse about the infidelity? She must do it immediately? She is required to do it, but not immediately? If not immediately, what conditions should be fulfilled before she tells the man? What if those conditions are never fulfilled?
 

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gzt said:
I am not a priest nor any kind of therapist and am not in a position to give any advice. However, here's a situation where telling the spouse may not be a good idea: the woman cheats on the husband, which is definitely a bad thing, but has good reason to believe that, should the husband find out, he will kill her. This happens in America. Quite a lot. Perhaps not every day (or perhaps every day - the numbers of romantic partner homicides are grim, and surely some significant portion are from this scenario).

More frequently, the threat is that, if he finds out, he will beat her within an inch of her life. This is much, much more common.

In those two situations, what is your advice about the "bad" spouse telling the "innocent" spouse about the infidelity? She must do it immediately? She is required to do it, but not immediately? If not immediately, what conditions should be fulfilled before she tells the man? What if those conditions are never fulfilled?
Say wha??
 

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In the United States, more than 5 million women are abused by an intimate partner each year. In 2007, intimate partners committed 14% of all homicides in the U.S., killing an estimated 1,640 women. Intimate partner violence is a leading cause of homicides and injury-related deaths during pregnancy. Now, those aren't all due to infidelity, but...
 

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TheTrisagion said:
Also, as much as I respect Mor and much of what he says, I would not cast aside all of Orthodoxy just because some guy on the internet said "not necessarily"
The OP asked about what priests would require of penitents in a particular situation, not about what the penitent ought to do.  Though I'm not a priest, I answered based on my understanding of what I've studied and how I was trained.  I never claimed that my answer was authoritative, though I think I'm not out of line to suppose that my posts on any given day are more authoritative than what others might throw out on any number of topics.  
 

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gzt said:
In the United States, more than 5 million women are abused by an intimate partner each year. In 2007, intimate partners committed 14% of all homicides in the U.S., killing an estimated 1,640 women. Intimate partner violence is a leading cause of homicides and injury-related deaths during pregnancy. Now, those aren't all due to infidelity, but...
I'm not questioning your accuracy, but for completeness sake, where do you get these numbers from?

And regardless, I think spousal violence or threat or abuse of any kind is a serious marriage issue.  If that's what leads to infidelity, before even addressing infidelity, one has to address the fact that the spouse is in a dangerous position to continue as a spouse.
 

montalo

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I believe, especially in cases such as these, that a quote from the film The Man in the Iron Mask(1998) rings soundly here. From Aramis " I have prayed every day for forgiveness. But now I realize that forgiveness must come from you before it can come from God. "

In general, if you are truly repentant and sorry for what you have done, then it matters not what the priest would require, or not require, you will confess what you have done to your wife or husband and seek their forgiveness even before you enter the church for confession. Remember, while sacramental confession is still essential, forgiveness comes from God alone, and works through the priest in sacramental confession.

A point to remember is that, during Forgiveness Vespers, we respond with "God Forgives!'" We seek forgiveness from God, but we must, in general, ask forgiveness from our spouse before we are truly repentant before God and recieve His forgiveness
 

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minasoliman said:
gzt said:
In the United States, more than 5 million women are abused by an intimate partner each year. In 2007, intimate partners committed 14% of all homicides in the U.S., killing an estimated 1,640 women. Intimate partner violence is a leading cause of homicides and injury-related deaths during pregnancy. Now, those aren't all due to infidelity, but...
I'm not questioning your accuracy, but for completeness sake, where do you get these numbers from?

And regardless, I think spousal violence or threat or abuse of any kind is a serious marriage issue.  If that's what leads to infidelity, before even addressing infidelity, one has to address the fact that the spouse is in a dangerous position to continue as a spouse.
The government. One place to find numbers is here: http://opdv.ny.gov/statistics/nationaldvdata/index.html

I definitely agree about the issue of domestic violence. But, look: priests deal with all kinds of messed up stuff. This is not outside the purview of what could come up: a woman who cheated on her husband and he thinks he will beat her, or even kill her. There are a lot of issues there that need to be dealt with. But, you know, I want to see what the "always must tell the innocent spouse" crowd has to say about it.
 
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