Right or wrong?

I think this is the right forum for this one.
If a man loves a woman who is married, or involved in a serius relationship, or are in some other way not “available” for all possible reason known, and the woman don’t know that this man love her, and maybe don’t even know there is a man loving her, and we leave the element of sins like lust aside, and this man have only pure, and very real feelings toward this woman, but never do any move to let her know, or even make her know that he exist, is it a sin? And if, why?

Hi lasting faith,

If I’m understanding you correctly, you are saying that if a man develops feelings for a woman that is either married or in a committed relationship, but does not act on them, is that a sin?

If that’s the question than the answer is no. Feelings are feelings. We can’t control them, we are simply obligated to not act on them if that would be sinful. In this case, I’d advise such a person to know that the feeling itself isn’t sinful, but that he should exercise due diligence and maintain a healthy distance from this woman to help prevent temptation and putting himself in the occasion of sin.

Essentially, as long as he doesn’t act on his feelings and does his due diligence to remove himself from the occasion of sin, then he is not sinning simply because he is experiencing feelings for another woman.

I hope that helps!

Not necessarily a sin, no. However, I’m not sure how a man can have only “pure and very real feelings” toward a woman who does not know he exists. I would think a pure love born out of a desire to sacrifice one’s self for the sake of another (which is what true love is) would be incredibly difficult to discern from afar, from a position of anonymity. Without getting to know another person, to see their interior disposition, their thoughts and feelings, I don’t see how one could say they have a pure love for them. I’d warn this man against the very real possibility that what they think is pure love may actually be somewhat obsessive yet subtle physical attraction.

Just to make sure I understand the scenario: an unmarried man has allowed himself to develop romantic feelings towards a married woman. That’s the scenario, right?

and we leave the element of sins like lust aside

Given the scenario as you’ve painted it, I don’t know that this is a reasonable qualification. Romantic feelings lead to a desire to consummate the relationship (emotionally and physically).

and this man have only pure, and very real feelings toward this woman

I would challenge you on both assertions. Is it possible to allow ‘pure’ romantic feelings to develop for a woman who is already married? I can’t imagine a scenario in which a man might allow himself to become romantically attached to a married woman in a way that might be described as ‘pure.’ :wink:

Secondly, I would disagree that these are ‘very real feelings.’ Yes, they’re feelings, but they’re not true love, by any stretch of the imagination. They might be described as an ‘infatuation,’ or a ‘fantasy,’ or any one of a number of other adjectives, but they’re as far from true and loving care as the east is from the west.

[quote=smichhertz]Feelings are feelings. We can’t control them, we are simply obligated to not act on them if that would be sinful.
[/quote]

So, one approach would be to assert that we cannot control our feelings. In a limited sense, there’s truth there – it is certainly the case that our emotions can act outside the realm of rationality. However, the case that smichhertz seems to be making is that the only ‘action’ in this scenario is a physical acting out of one’s emotional urges. That simply is not the case. If the man has “very real feelings” toward the woman, then I would assert that it’s gone beyond irrational emotion, and has proceeded into the realm of conscious, rational thought. The man has allowed himself to act (in thought) about the emotions that he initially felt. These thoughts are a form of action that have moral content – that is, they are sinful.

Therefore, if the scenario was simply, “a man is walking down a road and sees an attractive married woman, and has a romantic emotional response; has he sinned?”, then I’d say ‘no’. However, since the scenario as stated seems to be implying that the man has acted on these feelings in his mind and in his heart, I would say that ‘yes’, there has been action on his part that has moral character, and that action is sinful.

I agree. I was speaking of “feelings” in the sense of the raw emotion. Certainly, if the man dwells on the thought of being with her, allows himself to fantasize about her, etc than he has moved from just experiencing the feeling to an action and is thus sinful in this situation.

The problem is, the word “feelings” is very vague. Hopefully, that helps clarify.

OK. So it is a “kind of sin” to have pure, not sexual, feelings toward a woman even though the man know he can’t act upon his desire, and have no plan what so ever to even contact this woman?

I do ask this because I have often been thinking about when love may become a sin. IMO it should not be a sin nor even wrong. A man with theese feelings are not married or in any kind of relationship, and will never be, by his own choice. As said, we can not control our feelings, yet we are told that anger (a feeling) is a sin. That make no sense. I know that there are many different kind of love. We love our kids in one way, our spouse in another. Theese are not sins, so what harm is it really to love someone and never even think about her in a sexual light. He just love her, and we know that our heart often take an other road then our brains. Thus we can not love without the option of a possible sin? At what point are this love change from love without sin to love with sin? As I see it he does not sin. If he act, by let us say, send her a letter, it is a sin, or close, but pure, romantic love can not become a sin.

Just experiencing the emotion? No. Constantly dwelling on the desire to be with her? Yes. I think simply put, a man in that situation has due diligence to not dwell on the thought. Simply distract himself as best as he is able. Of course the thought of being with her or desiring her will continually pop up. That’s not sinful. But when he willfully entertains the thought, that’s when he would be sinning.

Love can never be a sin. Desiring someone who is already married is not love.

Well, technically the man’s relationship status isn’t really relevant. If the woman is in a relationship or some sort of formal commitment, the man should do his best to not desire her or allow that desire to spread.

I’m not sure where you heard that, but that is dead wrong. Anger the emotion is not a sin. Anger in the will of how we act is, but not just the emotion.

Remember - experiencing emotions can’t be sinful. That’s just natural. It’s when we ACT on them that it is sinful. The correction the above poster made, was simply to note that action can include our very thoughts.

Example: If I’m experiencing the emotion of anger at someone, that is just an emotion. Not sinful. If I act on that anger, in the sense that I constantly think bad about the person, fuming over what they did to anger me, etc. Now that is a conscious decision I have made, and is sinful.

Do you see the difference between experiencing the emotion and ACTING on it? And do you understand the concept that you can act on an emotion simply by willfully thinking about it? That’s the key.

Hopefully, I’m not confusing you more!

Feelings are not in and of themselves meritorious or wicked. They are at best/worst the fruits of a meritorious or wicked disposition, that is, external signs of such dispositions. For instance, “joy” in the emotional sense is not meritorious, but it may be a sign of meritorious “joy” in the volitional sense, i.e., of avoiding attachments to unimportant things, trusting in the goodness of God, etc.

Catholicism would be a pretty barbarous religion if you were judged on the basis of fleeting passions. You are, instead, judged on the basis of how you act.

If your passions are basically disordered then it is best not to act on them in any way, and “not to act” is in the strict sense, i.e., to avoid even entertaining such passions, avoiding the near occasion of them, etc.

smichhertz and Gorgias have addressed this situation well.

We can sin in our thoughts, and I agree that a man dwelling on and fostering emotions towards a married woman is sinful.

Romantic feelings are appropriate for married people, or for people who are exploring the posibility of marriage (dating, courting, etc). They are not at all appropriate for a person towards another’s spouse. Such feelings are to be shunned. Dwelling on them is sinful IMO.

You can love other people’s spouses in certain ways, but not romantically. You can admire them, want what’s best for them, have a friendship with them (keeping in mind certain boundaries that are appropriate). But you cannot “covet your neighbor’s wife”, and I would say that romantic feelings *always *involve coveting (wanting to have).

Hmmm…

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.