Does adultery justify divorce and shunning?


#1

My sister-in-law’s husband had an affair with one of his friends. Unfortunately, this was not the first time. My wife’s family advised her to divorce her husband. Is it justified? I personally feel really awkward at the thought of meeting with her husband. I don’t feel like we can stay as a family anymore as I don’t trust him in anything he says. Should I just treat him like a total stranger?


#2

You have two questions here:

[quote=thanhple]My sister-in-law’s husband had an affair with one of his friends. Unfortunately, this was not the first time. My wife’s family advised her to divorce her husband. Is it justified?
[/quote]

Perhaps, but it is something only your sister-in-law can decide, possibly in concert with an orthodox and balanced priest or spiritual director. (I recommend that she contact the Pastoral Solutions Institute or CatholicTherapists.com for a referral to a Catholic-friendly counselor in her area.) For example, her husband’s repeated sexual indiscretions could very well endanger the health and lives of his wife and any future children he and his wife may have together. The Church considers personal safety and the safety of minor children to be reasons that justify legal separation.

That said, a civil divorce would be considered by the Church to be the equivalent of a permanent legal separation. The Church tolerates such separations (that are obtained for just cause) for the purposes of determining custody and financial settlements. However, the couple is still considered to be married in the eyes of the Church and may not remarry anyone else unless one spouse dies or an annulment of the marriage is obtained.

[quote=thanhple]I personally feel really awkward at the thought of meeting with her husband. I don’t feel like we can stay as a family anymore as I don’t trust him in anything he says. Should I just treat him like a total stranger?
[/quote]

Whether or not you should shun your brother-in-law is something only you can decide. Be aware that doing so may cause a rift between you and your sister-in-law, especially if she decides to remain with her husband. It would be impossible to behave as if nothing serious is not happening, but I recommend not taking any irreversible action – such as disowning your brother-in-law – at least until your sister-in-law has decided which course of action she must take. Perhaps it will help if you focus your love and solicitude on your sister-in-law and give your brother-in-law only that attention and acknowledgment that a politely civil meeting for the sake of his family would require.


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