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The Holy Father would have made a terrific relationships counsellor

One US ‘expert’, on the other hand, believes that people are just not cut out for monogamy

By on Thursday, 15 September 2011

Benedict XVI meets engaged couples in the Italian city of Ancona (Photo: CNS)

Benedict XVI meets engaged couples in the Italian city of Ancona (Photo: CNS)

According to an article in last Sunday’s Telegraph Magazine by John Preston entitled, “Is monogamy making us miserable?”, a certain Dan Savage, who I hadn’t heard of but who is apparently “America’s leading relationships columnist”, suggests that as a species we are not cut out for monogamy. Savage, who is homosexual himself, believes that heterosexuals could learn from people of same-sex attraction. He declares: “My partner’s fidelity to me is as important as anyone who’s in a monogamous relationship with somebody else; we just don’t define sexual exclusivity as the be-all and end-all of commitment. In other words, we’re faithful to each other, but sometimes we have sex with other people. However, that in no way violates our commitment to each other.”

My first thought on reading this was, “What in heaven’s name is he doing as a relationship advisor?” My second thought was, “You can’t separate ‘sex’ from ‘fidelity’ in this casual fashion.” Luckily John Preston agreed with me. I don’t know what his religious beliefs are, if indeed he has any, but he showed masterly common sense in his response to the claptrap above.

He writes: “Is it time to draw down the curtain on monogamy… Before we do, let us pause for a moment.” Canvassing a panel of his friends for their views, he continues: “All have succumbed to temptation. All cling feverishly to the idea that they’ve done nothing that bad; they’ve simply followed their instincts. Yet there’s something else they have in common: all are divorced and all are steeped in record levels of confusion, misery and self-pity…To be unfaithful can never be a minor infraction. It is a betrayal – there’s no way round this.”

He concludes: “And whatever this or that survey may say, once broken, the bond of trust between two people frequently proves impossible to repair. You look at your partner with new eyes and wonder if you ever really knew them in the first place – if whatever you shared wasn’t just a sham.” Preston quotes relationship counsellor Andrew Marshall, author of How Can I Ever Trust You Again? From Infidelity to Recovery in Seven Steps, who says he has never met a heterosexual couple who have made licensed infidelity work: “You’re playing with fire and you’ll almost certainly get burned… and any children you may have are almost certain to suffer too.” Not surprisingly, Dan Savage wasn’t thinking about children.

Then I read the words of Pope Benedict in Ancona on September 12, addressed to hundreds of young couples who had told him that they were worried about “the definitive nature of marriage”. He said to them: “Educate yourself on the freedom of fidelity. It leads to a life where you can care for one another until the point where you live for one another. Get ready to choose ‘forever’ with conviction, because that is the true expression of love.” And he reminded them that love is based on “gratitude, sacrifice, forgiveness and mutual respect”.

What wonderful and inspiring words. In another life the Holy Father could have made a terrific relationships counsellor.

  • WSquared

    Right on, Holy Father!

  • Anonymous

    Savage is not anyone to take seriously. He has no academic credentials. His has become popular by writing an advice column that is extremely explicit and deals almost exclusively with disordered sexuality. He also is known here in the US for a childish and grotesque attack on Senator Rick Santorum after the latter made some remarks about homosexuality.

  • Anonymous

    John Prescott in his usual blunt style has to got the heart of the matter and effectively explains the inherent contradictions in Dan Savage’s article.  Fidelity is dependent upon the mutual trust and love that binds together a couple with regard to how they relate to each-other in all aspects of their lives.  This is especially true with respect to the sacred covenant of marriage.  One cannot pick and chose which behavioral expressions can be admitted or omitted from this reality.  When such a bond of loyalty is broken, as in the cases where one or both partners in a marriage decide to have casual flings, promises become disposable like tissue paper and the basis of the marriage comes under severe strain.  Marriage in effect is a life-time commitment and it needs sacramental grace to get it through the worst of times.

  • savagefan

    I suppose the “holy father” could make a great “relationships (sic) counsellor (sic)” if he wasn’t so busy protecting child rapists.

  • a rational person

    English syntax and grammar are a bit different from what we are familiar with in the US. With so much wrong with this article, savagefan, stick with the relevant nonsense, like the protection of child rapists. The author of this article clearly doesn’t know Dan’s reputation regarding keeping kids safe (those unfamiliar with the It Gets Better Project would be wise to look it up.) I, for one, would never seek relationship advice from a celibate!

  • Bremertonian1959

    I would definitely take sex and relationship advice from Dan Savage rather than the Pope (or any other bishop)!

    When it comes to sex, I simply do not listen to the Pope.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Do you mean the time Mr. Santorum “frothy mix” compared homosexual and rapists, or the time he compared their relationships with beastiality? Santorum got exactly what he deserved on that one.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Successful non-monogamy is dependent upon the mutual trust and love that binds together a couple with regards to how they relate to each other in all aspects of their lives. This is especially true with respect to the sacred covenant of sex. One can pick and chose which behavioral expressions can be admitted (trust, love) or omitted (jealousy, insecurity) from this reality. When such a bond of trust is created, as in the cases where one or both partners in a marriage decide to open their relationship to other people, promises to trust and love become even more important and the whole basis of the partnership is based on that love and trust. Marriage in effect is a life-time commitment and it definitely needs a lot of patience and love and openness and honesty, especially in regards to sex, for it to get through the worst of times.

  • AltarBoy783

    I can just imagine the advice column now:

    Q:”Dear Holy Father: I am a priest and I am MADLY in love with a 10 year old altar boy.  When he says ‘no’ does he really mean ‘yes’?”

    Holy Father: “Altar boys cannot refuse priests, so it doesn’t matter what he says or he wants, our Lord and Savior wants you to be with this boy.  Go for it, and if those God-hating police come knocking at the door with their so called profane ‘child abuse laws’, remember that the Church will do everything in it’s power to protect you.  Have fun you two!”

  • spiritual, not religious

    Yes, Holy, Holy marriage, which used to be a transaction of a woman from one man to another. But, let’s ignore history for our crazy, unnatural ideals!

  • Anonymous

    The comparisons are valid insofar as sodomy, rape, and bestiality are all forms of sexual behavior that are prohibited by law. His point was that “the government shouldn’t get involved in what goes on in your bedroom” is not a valid argument. I don’t believe he was equating these behaviors.

    If Savage disagrees, then he should act like a grown-up and make arguments based on evidence and logic. Not engage in gross-out publicity stunts.

    Furthermore, it’s interesting that Savage does not seem to appreciate the logic behind it. That is, its force, ironically for Savage, derives from the grotesque nature of homosexuality. Savage unwittingly (?) assumed that people have a natural revulsion to homosexual sex.

  • Treacle

    Wait, guys, the POPE has had LOTS of relationships!  He must know alot!  I believe the Pope always. He’s got God on his side, that that makes him always right!  (Sorry, God, for writing God, I know that’s a sin… sorry…)

  • Anonymous

    So you are an advocate for polygamous marriages which goes against Christ’s words that  “Whoever divorces his rife and marries another commits adultery against her”(Mark 10:11), which as the words imply, restricts marriage  to a relationship between one and one woman.  Old Testament teaching is just as clear on the advocacy of matrimony between a single man and a single woman as opposed to multiple partners:
    ..”But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband..”(1 Corinthians 7:2).  You can substitute whatever words in my original comments that you want to distort their meaning,  but you cannot escape from the biblical teachings on marriage which definitely rule out polygamy.

  • Porkfish66

    what kind of responsible mother would let their kids that close the the head of Child Rape International?

  • dhawk

    Didn’t King David, chosen of God, have a whole slew of wives? No matter how you distort the meaning, you cannot escape from the Biblical precedent for polygamy.

  • Anonymous

    Also lets ignore the clear, biblical teaching on the sacred nature of marriage due to it’s “unnatural” demands for self-sacrifice and mutual love and respect on the part of husband and wife. Yeah!,  it is so against nature that modern studies have found this institution to be the best environment to bring up and nourish children as well as being beneficial to the well-being of the couple involved and society as a whole.  Wow, what outlandish ideas are behind this Christian concept of marriage that they form a dangerous threat to the recognized order of things.
    As for your caricatural definition of marriage in the past as being the ” transaction of a woman from one man to another”, this does not tally with the historical record as regards how marriage developed in Christian societies over the centuries.  Certainly marriage did cement alliances between kings and emperors across Europe through different eras of history and were more for political reasons rather than overtly spiritual ones and dowries exchanged hands.  But the historical consensus is in line with the sacramental nature of marriage as it developed over time.

  • Anonymous

    More trolling from someone who has little knowledge of the man that he calumnies and the valiant efforts that he has made while in office to tackle the scourge of child-abuse.

  • dhawk

    And since when is 1 Corinthians part of the Old Testament?

  • Totally Chavezed

    Pretty sure sodomy is totally legal.  So the comparison is totally valid if you have no concern for consent and are living in the dark ages.

  • Anonymous

    I can see your point here and Mosaic law did not express a strict prohibition of polygamy.  I think that Judaic laws in the OT tried to regulate polygamy so that it did not become rampant and cause distress to the wives or children.  Because the Bible recorded certain instances of this, did not in essence mean that it was right.  Jesus who came to transcend the OT legal system as well as fulfill it, implied in his words that this practice of taking multiple wives was wrong:
    ..”He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”  (Matthew 19 :7-11)

  • Anonymous

    Then you are on a hiding to nothing taking advice from an advocate of promiscuous homosexual sex which could be damaging to kids.  The pope has made very positive steps to counteract the terrible plague of child sex abuse since his days as CDF and presently as pope.

  • Oconnordamien

    Why not.. I get driving lessons from a blind non driver who’s afraid of a stick shift .

  • pmw29206

    This article is so ridiculous. Dan Savage promotes diversity in relationships. He’s not saying monogamy is wrong and no one should attempt it; he’s saying that there are people out there for whom monogamy doesn’t work, so those people should seek each other out and enter into non-monogamous relationships. Obviously, if your religious or personal beliefs require monogamy, by all means, be monogamous.

    I’m so tired of religious groups demonizing people who promote ideas that contradict their own. As much as you may want to discredit Mr. Savage, let’s face it: he has a point; the would would be a much better place if people who are not capable or willing to be monogamous would stop attempting it and stop wasting monogamous-relationship-seeking peoples’ time.

  • College Dude In Madison

    Dan Savage’s position is informed by his own experience in a happy, balanced  relationship with his husband (and co-parent) and by the evolutionary theories put forward by well cited author and researcher Richard Dawkins in his book “Sex At Dawn.” The core of his argument comes down to the fact that it is unlikely the human sexual drive evolved within the context of monogamous commitment, and thus many adults find it difficult. This need not be completely dismissed by  Catholics who desire or believe in monogamous commitments. Acknowledging that biologically speaking, being faithful can be difficult allows one to recognize the sacrifice their partner makes for them. Just acknowledging the outside temptations that come and go in *every* committed relationship can make fidelity that much easier. Immediately dismissing Dan’s work (of which I am an avid follower of) could cause one to miss out on a point of view that may help their relationship. 

  • College Dude In Madison

    For the record, I come down decidedly in Dan’s camp on this issue. I just would like to see a more open minded, less dismissive dialogue coming from the Catholic community I was raised in, but felt compelled to leave because of attitudes like this.

  • John

    Saying that you are “pretty sure” that Santorum was not equating bestality with homosexuality proves that you either can’t comprehend English or that you are ignorant of Santorum’s quote.  Because equating the two that is exactly what he did. 

  • anosognosic

    Here is what I would, personally, consider a valiant effort to tackle the scourge of child abuse: first, swift action in removing all those seriously suspected of child abuse from any contact with children; then, a public airing of events, showing both the faithful and those outside the Church that the institution is not complicit in these crimes; then, full cooperation with secular authorities, given that these are, in fact, crimes; a generous attempt at penance and restitution toward the victims; followed by restructuring to monitor and prevent further crimes, as well as preventing any attempt to discourage further victims to come forth about their victimization; and finally, a philosophical consideration of dogmas and practices that seem to systematically lead the clergy astray.

    I’ll leave it up to those who claim to have more intimate knowledge of the Holy Father to judge whether he has even approached a sufficient response to this scandal.

  • Oconnordamien

    I don’t know which is sillier, the denial of different sexualities or the different relationships which can then spring up from them. I for example are a serial monogamist, I stay “true” to the person I’m with for the length of the relationship. But they don’t last too long.

    Whereas one of the happiest marriages I know is my aunt and her husband who have three cool kids. They have not had an easy life as one of their children is disabled. It’s made easier by my aunt’s girlfriend. Question answered, there is no sexual group thing involved. The husband is smart enough to know how things are separate, and confident enough to know where he can be a husband and where his wife needs her girlfriend.

    He also knows that they are not in competition. 

  • Oconnordamien

    Ever notice how things go quiet and driftweed blows across when you ask things like that.

  • savagefan

    “Sex at Dawn” was not written by Richard Dawkins.

  • savagefan

    You do realize that lots and lots of heterosexual people have and enjoy anal sex, don’t you?

  • Anonymous

    No problem with that anosognosic and it would be appropriate to provide the same level of legal scrutiny and oversight to other organizations that come into contact with children.  I’m all for the truth to be set free regarding these scandals and punishment and justice dispensed to all the parties involved

  • Matchgame2011

    The irony of this post is ridiculous.  I’ve now read the whole thread, and the only troll here is you (maybe me too now).  Get your head out of your a** and read a book that isn’t the bible. Your entire perspective is derived from piece of (excuse me) fiction rather than the world around you.  Do you sit around at night chanting “Gay bad, Jesus good” over and over to keep up this facade?

  • Oconnordamien

    Dude didn’t want to say but……

    Never was sure on how to enter the house by the back door.

  • Oconnordamien

    So all files relating to clerics careers will be open. In fact there is no reason why files should be moved to a central hub like Rome. Any files held there should be released without redaction without question. 

    Please stand up and agree.   

  • Jon

    Yes, I’d take relationship advice from a (supposedly) celibate organization which protects pedophiles and knows nothing first hand about sex, marriage or children.

  • Puty

    This is hilariously bone-headed! I know so many intelligent, witty, friendly, kind and successful people who read Dan Savage, who’s a smart, funny guy offering reality-based advice. Francis Phillip can keep his tragically  clueless opinions. As for the Pope’s Catholic church, it — and a lot of other sects and religions — tossed their credibility on topics like love, sex and relationships long ago thanks to out-of-touch and irrational stupidities like being sexist, attacking birth control and condemning gay marriage. You Churchy guys drove a lot of thoughtful, moral people away with your hang-ups and weirdo archaic notions. Good work! Give yourselves a hand.

  • Anonymous

    That “piece of fiction” that you allude to, is the  world’s best seller and has been translated into more languages that any other tome.  It was written by fallible men but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  My  reading material includes a wide spectrum of interests which range from current affairs, biographies to history and philosophy.  So you see, I am conversant with a wide array of topics and do not spend day and night proof-reading the bible.  My beliefs are based on the Divinely-inspired teachings of the Bible and they are based on the Natural law as God ordained.  I do not blindly follow these tenets but have used my reason to test the truths that they reveal.  I do not hate anyone and regard all human beings as being worthy of respect and love.   It is only when certain modes of behavior contradict the Naturally-divined order, that I raise criticism and it is done out of charity and love.

  • Anonymous

    Ok with that

  • Guest23

    To the author:
    Wow. A thoughtless slam against Savage  “Not surprisingly, Dan Savage wasn’t thinking about children”
    Ummmm… Did you know that he and his partners are fathers to a young child, and he is always advocating for the good of children involved in the marriages he advises about?  Check your assumptions, they come off as bigoted.

  • AltarBoy783

    You would have to remove the ostensibly infallible pope first then, as he was one of those who condoned child rape.  The voice of God on earth condoned child rape, why people still believe in the fairy tales of the Catholic church after knowing that is beyond me….unless God condones child rape.

  • AltarBoy783

    And where exactly does the child rape come into play then?  Because the Catholic Church is VERY pro-child rape.  So basically sodomy between a priest and a 6 year old boy = ok but sodomy between 2 consenting adults = bad.  Gotcha!

  • AltarBoy783

    So God condones child rape as well?  Never knew that, though it probably explains a lot.

  • Brian

    Savage is definitely not “an advocate of promiscuous homosexual sex” – to quote him “heteros should have more sex than they do; gay men should have less sex than they could”

  • Carl

    Relationship advice from a pedophile sympathizer?    I think not.

  • Guest

    Oh, anti-Catholic bigots and their groundless ad hominem nonsense.

  • Porkfish66

    Heh. I’d like to see the church come out about a single abuse scandal BEFORE it goes public. Valiant efforts at ass-covering, I’ll give him.

  • AltarBoy783

    HAHAHAHA, just like the Catholic church the admins of this site like to sweep all the child rape under the rug, my posts about how the Catholic Church condones child rape have been deleted.  What a surprise!

  • AltarBoy783

    If defending oneself from the onslaught of the Catholic Church and their pro-child rape policies is “anti-Catholic” then I guess I’m “anti-Catholic”, as I am in fact AGAINST child rape, unlike the Church.

  • Nikolina

    Dan doesn’t condone cheating, he condones open relationships. You might not see a difference, but he shares your disdain for those who lie to their partners and sleep around behind their backs.