Why in the instance of an affair would a priest not make you tell your spouse?


I have a personal friend who was having an affair. They claim that they saw a priest multiple times about the matter and was told not to divulge this to their spouse. I feel that if he would have been told to “come clean” or he wouldn’t be absolved of this sin, it would have ended long before it eventually did. (Only because a family member found out and threatened to tell if he didn’t) this is not the first time I’ve heard of a priest giving this advice, i know from experience, that a marriage can overcome anything if you choose to and learn communication, so why say not to tell them!? Even protestants know you can’t have a secret and expect to fix a relationship… just very confused


You have no idea what the priest actually said, as you are getting this second hand from your personal friend who has already established that they (a) were cheating on their spouse, (b) were and apparently are still lying to their spouse about the cheating (I see no indication spouse has found out even as of now) and (c ) even after allegedly seeing the priest multiple times about the behavior, did not end the affair and only did so when a family member threatened to blow the whistle. This person sounds about as reliable as a broken crutch and I would not believe anything they told me at this point.

Second of all, even on the remote chance the priest said this, perhaps he was misled by this untruthful person into thinking “not telling” was the best course of action, for example if lying cheating person had told the priest the affair was over or soon to be over, or had told the priest that spouse was physically fragile and might keel over of a heart attack if told, etc.

It sounds like your friend is trying to pass the blame to a priest for their own failure to own up to their behavior. “I couldn’t tell, the priest told me not to!” Yeah right buddy.


I had the same thought…
I can only think of some reasons for advising NOT to tell directly, for example if the spouse is ill and would risk serious health issues because of stress, as after an operation, heart disease, complicated pregnancy…etc.
But really. This are no ordinary situations.


I think @Tis_Bearself nailed this one.


My understanding is Priests can’t making “coming clean” a requirement of absolution.

Beyond that, What Tis_Bearself said.


This. :+1:

Perhaps what he was told, in the context of confession, was, “look – I’m not going to tell you to tell your wife, as a condition for forgiveness here in confession… but you need to do the right thing.”

It would be all too easy, given the circumstances, to only hear “I’m not telling you to tell your wife”. :man_shrugging:


Unless you have conceived a child out of wedlock or contracted an incurable STD, there is nothing to be gained by telling your spouse that you have committed the sin of adultery. None.

The idea that you must unburden your conscience by spilling your guts to your spouse is great in movies on or Dr. Phil. In real life it causes agony and pain.

Aside from the simple logic, a priest cannot do or require anything that would reveal your sins to a third party, even if you are married to that third party. Your sin is between you and God via your confessor.

Unless it impacts me (a child out of wedlock or an incurable STD or some illegal activity), I have absolutely no desire to know the details of any of my husbands sins. He does not want to know mine either.


Exactly @TheLittleLady


Some couples do have relationships where they talk about this stuff in a reasonably rational way.

Of course, those are the couples who don’t need a priest telling them to tell their spouse because they probably already did before it even got to the point of confession.


When I confessed succumbing to the sin of viewing porn, I was counselled by the priest NOT to tell my wife… there can be many scenarios where unburdening your conscience to your spouse can do more harm than good.


There are certain cases when a greater harm might come out of divulging the truth to someone especially a spouse. These things need to be balanced. In the case of the affair, if the wife was told, their marriage and family might have been broken and that’s something that’s very hard to get back.


He committed the sin, it’s his burden to carry, not hers. It’s selfish to spill your guts to make yourself feel better.

OTOH, should she ever indicate she suspects that it did happen, don’t lie!


What about the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy? Catholic men aren’t to be using condoms if they follow the teaching of the Church. Shouldn’t a wife be told so she can get a physical exam that she is free from STD’s?


Transparency in a marriage is vital I believe,if two people wish to grow in love and faith.If the marriage is over the other deserves the truth even if it hurts.Living with uncertainty and imaginings is cruel


The man should probably discreetly take an exam himself and if there is something then yes he would have to approach his wife even if it results in her leading him.


Yes! That is exactly the advice I heard on a Sensus Fidelium sermon. And it makes perfect sense. I have a dear friend who has gone through this tragedy very recently. She was devastated. Both her and her husband are fallen away Catholics and she has been a practicing Protestant for many years. She has been reading Protestant self-help books and so has he, (a little). This has been going on for a very, very long time. He is a classic sex-addict, so it’s not like a one woman love affair…but they’ve decided he should tell her everything. This has hurt her and her self-esteem so deeply…it’s heart-breaking. I am pretty much the only friend she confides this stuff to (I’m hoping she realizes soon why she doesn’t go to her “Protestant spiritual mother” of many years with this and instead choses me, a Catholic), but I’ve told her what the Catholic position is on this. He, and of course she too, needs a priest. It needs to me hammered out in the confessional and he needs to stop telling her things she ought not know. It’s doing much more harm than good.


She had been asking what’s going on with him, she could “feel” something was wrong… he was turning the tables and making her think she was going crazy. She has literally been losing her hair, having migraines, has been physically ill. He did finally come clean and she was actually relieved that she wasn’t going crazy!


I agree whole heartedly, lies sand deceit Saree tools of Satan. How can you really reconcile this if the whole truth isn’t out, known, and dealt with. Keeping anything back will always be a wedge in the relationship. Every protestants know this, why are we not supporting truth and openness?


Then there’s accountability,support in healing from an addiction or affair,I think the couple should work on that together .if knowledge is with held then there could be a bigger likely hood of it happening again .


I get both sides’ points. Still, there’s something about ‘ignorance is bliss’ that bothers me a lot.

That’s what I’ve read before. The vast majority of affairs don’t happen spontaneously. Something in that marriage was broken before infidelity occurred.

There are no easy answers. Prevention is so much better as with pretty much everything else. I think there needs to be an acknowledgement that there are forces that seek to destroy marriages and spouses need to be on guard. It seems many think they’re invincible and let their guard down, that marriage doesn’t require constant effort. Maybe people should be mindful of what their doing and how they interact with one another. Spot any symptoms and treat the underlying problems before it grows into an affair.

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