The Holy Father would have made a terrific relationships counsellor

Benedict XVI meets engaged couples in the Italian city of Ancona (Photo: CNS)

According to an article in last Sunday’s Telegraph Magazine by John Preston entitled, “Is monogamy making us miserable?”, a certain Dan Savage, who I hadn’t heard of but who is apparently “America’s leading relationships columnist”, suggests that as a species we are not cut out for monogamy. Savage, who is homosexual himself, believes that heterosexuals could learn from people of same-sex attraction. He declares: “My partner’s fidelity to me is as important as anyone who’s in a monogamous relationship with somebody else; we just don’t define sexual exclusivity as the be-all and end-all of commitment. In other words, we’re faithful to each other, but sometimes we have sex with other people. However, that in no way violates our commitment to each other.”

My first thought on reading this was, “What in heaven’s name is he doing as a relationship advisor?” My second thought was, “You can’t separate ‘sex’ from ‘fidelity’ in this casual fashion.” Luckily John Preston agreed with me. I don’t know what his religious beliefs are, if indeed he has any, but he showed masterly common sense in his response to the claptrap above.

He writes: “Is it time to draw down the curtain on monogamy… Before we do, let us pause for a moment.” Canvassing a panel of his friends for their views, he continues: “All have succumbed to temptation. All cling feverishly to the idea that they’ve done nothing that bad; they’ve simply followed their instincts. Yet there’s something else they have in common: all are divorced and all are steeped in record levels of confusion, misery and self-pity…To be unfaithful can never be a minor infraction. It is a betrayal – there’s no way round this.”

He concludes: “And whatever this or that survey may say, once broken, the bond of trust between two people frequently proves impossible to repair. You look at your partner with new eyes and wonder if you ever really knew them in the first place – if whatever you shared wasn’t just a sham.” Preston quotes relationship counsellor Andrew Marshall, author of How Can I Ever Trust You Again? From Infidelity to Recovery in Seven Steps, who says he has never met a heterosexual couple who have made licensed infidelity work: “You’re playing with fire and you’ll almost certainly get burned… and any children you may have are almost certain to suffer too.” Not surprisingly, Dan Savage wasn’t thinking about children.

Then I read the words of Pope Benedict in Ancona on September 12, addressed to hundreds of young couples who had told him that they were worried about “the definitive nature of marriage”. He said to them: “Educate yourself on the freedom of fidelity. It leads to a life where you can care for one another until the point where you live for one another. Get ready to choose ‘forever’ with conviction, because that is the true expression of love.” And he reminded them that love is based on “gratitude, sacrifice, forgiveness and mutual respect”.

What wonderful and inspiring words. In another life the Holy Father could have made a terrific relationships counsellor.