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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Propriety with Co-workers & the Danger of Adultery


I had a question regarding female co-workers. I have a friend that will be unfortunately soon going through a divorce. She is a nice woman and attractive. We tend to talk a few times per week and the content is usually about work, her kids, etc. She does share some of the frustrations with her spouse who is an alcoholic and abusive. I try to be supportive but I try not to offer any more advice or complements. I am afraid she may be a little attached as she initiates the conversation.

Another friend at work recently confided to me that she was unhappy in her marriage. I will usually exchange pleasantries for a few minutes with her but not real lengthy conversations. Since I like to stay in shape, on the spur of the moment, I tried to get her attention later felt badly about it. My confessor made a comment that adultery is not just sexual contact but he did not elaborate. I confess I find both women attractive but would never do anything to enter into a relationship with them as they are not free to marry. Would this be in the area of adultery since an attachment that might develop with one of the women? I have struggled off and on with scruples over the years. Thank you.


You cannot entirely help how you might feel for others.  The chemistry of friendships is a mystery over which we do not have total control.  The workplace can be particularly problematical because we do not have jurisdiction over such associations and the time spent together.  Workplace adultery is a real and pressing problem in American society and should not be taken lightly.  Part of the problem is that contemporary adults have separated sexual intimacy from marriage prior to contractual and/or sacramental unions.  Fornication often leads to adultery.  Men and women, particularly if they are attracted to each other, struggle with how to relate to one another as friends and co-workers.  An eroticized society is not a healthy environment for men and women who want to pursue chase and platonic friendships.  Mature men and women know this and they must be careful of how they act and the signs they give.  Further, those in bad marriages might seek intimacy and compassion outside their unions.  A good friend might want to be there so as to help but should not get in the way or inhibit the healing of a couple’s relationship.  This means knowing when to back away, when to remain silent and when not to take sides.  Beyond an act of infidelity, one can commit adultery in thought and desire.  You cannot totally master your heart, but true love acknowledges that a beloved belongs to another.  You do not want to become part of the problem.  Avoid flirtation and wrongful fantasies.  Treat all persons with respect and preserve propriety.