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Asking the clergy about fidelity

It is easy in today's changing world to call something old-fashioned. But could fidelity, whether to one spouse or to one's word, ever be out of style? Our clergy discuss the topic:

The Rev. Msgr. Charles Fink, guest priest, St. Dominic Church, Oyster Bay; also director of spiritual formation at St. Joseph's Seminary, Yonkers:

I think fidelity in all relationships is more needed in the world now than in the past. When people think of fidelity, marriage is what first comes to mind. But, it is larger than that. Without fidelity, there is no trust.

There definitely is a crisis of infidelity today. We don't trust institutions, elected officials. There is even a crisis in the church because of the scandals we've experienced recently.

I see it in young people when they enter into marriage with trepidation. "Will he be faithful to me? Will I be faithful to him?" There is this lack of confidence in the other person's fidelity. This is a symptom of a general societal breakdown of trust.

Scripture talks about fidelity to God (Numbers 23:19, Deuteronomy 4:31, Psalms 9:10). Fidelity is a key virtue that cements human relationships. It is not just fidelity in marriage. It is fidelity in all our relationships: My fidelity to my vows. The plumber's fidelity to doing the job he has agreed to do. I don't think you can compartmentalize fidelity and trust.

In the short term, being a good liar may be a good thing for the individual. But, in the long-term, it weakens the fabric of society. One of the greatest gifts one person can give to another is to be trustworthy.

Rabbi David Senter, Manetto Hill Jewish Center, Plainview:

Fidelity is the basis of all relationships. It is the foundation upon which healthy relationships are built.

We usually think of it in terms of conjugal fidelity. What is infinitely more important is what leads up to conjugal fidelity, that partners can trust each other. Can I believe that what my partner is saying is accurate? Is this person loyal to me? Will he or she do what is in my best interest? But, one can have conjugal fidelity and still not trust the person.

It is very easy to think of fidelity strictly in relationship to conjugal fidelity. Fidelity, or loyalty, is a defining factor in all of our interpersonal relationships and our relationship with God. It is also a factor in our relationships with ourselves. Each of us has to have a certain fidelity to the core values that define who we are.

Without that, we are like ships without rudders. Without fidelity, it is impossible to build any relationship.

To someone who argues that conjugal fidelity is out of date, I'd remind them that sexual intimacy is not emotional intimacy. But sexual intimacy is often the first step to emotional intimacy.

While one might argue that sexual intimacy in a secondary (nonmarital) relationship would not impact the primary (marital) relationship, I would argue that the fact that sexual intimacy can lead to emotional intimacy would create a situation that clearly would be detrimental to the primary relationship.

The Rev. Eric Olsen, pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Plainview:

Although my simple answer would be yes, it is difficult to answer that question without first discussing God's unwavering fidelity to us.

He wants to provide the most abundant life for all of us. In order for us to enter into that life, he invites us to maintain and keep all his promises to all creation. He wants us to be oriented toward him, rather than toward ourselves.

For us to be one of God's promise keepers, to live a life of fidelity, requires humility. It takes greater strength to acknowledge that we are not in ourselves the end all.

For the Christian, God's faithfulness reaches it apex in Christ's life, death and resurrection.

In the Christian context, we believe that Jesus gives himself to the world. The church is, therefore, in a special relationship with Jesus. It is wed to Jesus. For us, biblical -- marital -- fidelity is a calling and a true challenge. It is perhaps one of the ways we can really and truly show another person and God a picture of our love -- through our fidelity and faithfulness to our partner. So, no, biblical fidelity is not an outdated concept. Our sexuality is a gift that needs to be used responsibly to bring honor to and underscore our love. It is our job now and always to celebrate and respect what God has given us, including our spouses.

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