Spiritual Infidelity: A Crisis in Catholic Marriage

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

Image via shutterstock. Used with permission

New study says 83% of Catholic couples are committing ‘spiritual infidelity’.  Are YOU in a spiritual ‘open marriage’?

Over the last several weeks, infidelity has been a top story in the news after hackers released the records of 35 million users of a popular adultery website. According to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, approximately 20 percent of husbands and wives will commit sexual infidelity and another 20 percent will fall prey to an emotional affair, in which they develop strong, sustained romantic feelings for someone other than a spouse.

Spiritual infidelity

These are disturbing findings, but they pale in comparison to a recent report suggesting that up to 83 percent of Catholic married couples commit what I call “spiritual infidelity.” Infidelity is the betrayal of one’s marital vows. Sexual infidelity is the betrayal of a couple’s vow to be “true” to one another. But there is another implicit vow that Catholic couples make to one another that is broken with disturbing frequency.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1661-2) tells us that, in the Sacrament of Matrimony, couples promise to become partners in Christ’s plan for each other’s sanctification. In other words, in a Catholic marriage, a couple promises, at the altar, to do everything they can to help each other get to heaven. Presumably that requires couples to actively share their faith, to worship together, to challenge each other to grow in Christian virtue in their daily lives, and to pray together so they may sit at the feet of the Author of Love himself and learn how to love.

Unfortunately, a recent study sponsored by Holy Cross Family Ministries and conducted by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that only 17 percent of Catholic couples pray together. So what? In practical terms, if a Catholic couple is not actively sharing their faith, worshipping together and praying together, they are, in effect, committing spiritual infidelity by placing something other than God and the Faith at the center of their lives together.

A spiritual open marriage

In my extensive work with Catholic couples, I find that, sadly, Catholics take spiritual infidelity for granted. It is a tremendous scandal that the majority of Catholic spouses do not assume that they should be expected to pray with their spouse, or even to expect their spouse share their faith, or at least actively support it (as opposed to passively tolerating it). I hear all the time from husbands and wives who say, “I can’t force my spouse to go to church,” or “I can’t make my spouse pray.”

It isn’t about forcing anyone to do anything. It is, however, about presenting a persistent invitation to your mate to be faithful to the promises he or she made at the altar to share more deeply in your faith journey with the clear expectation that — if for no other reason than out of respect for you — your spouse will come to Mass with you at least weekly, share a meaningful prayer time with you daily and support your moral values always. Failing to do this is to consent to a spiritual open marriage where anything — money, careers, sports, hobbies or just sheer laziness — occupies the central place that faith has a right to enjoy in Christian marriage.


It is true that you cannot “make” anyone share your faith. But, by saying “I do” in a Catholic church and promising to live marriage as the Church defines it, your mate gave you the right to expect certain things…CONTINUE READING..