A letter from an anonymous woman to an Italian magazine's advice column recently created a buzz in Rome. It read: "On the Internet, you can fall in love, you can seek, you can truly desire. I ask myself, what difference is there for the Church between a real extra-marital affair and a virtual one?"
A priest, responding, said adultery is adultery, even if it is virtual. Newspapers in Rome have been awash with reaction since.
Glenn Stanton, author of Why Marriage Matters, sides with the priest's response.
"It's the matter of the heart and the matter of the soul that really does matter," said Stanton, who thinks Internet chat rooms are breaking up marriages around the world. "It's about not being faithful to your partner in giving your heart, your feelings, your emotions to somebody else. Whether or not that's done physically is, in some ways, of small consequence."
Steve Hewitt, editor of Christian Computing Magazine, echoed that cyber-romance can be problematic.
"I think the Internet's ability to establish anonymous relationships over distance is a very dangerous thing to the present relationships we have," Hewitt said.
Added Stanton: "Although there isn't a meeting of bodies, there's a meeting of souls, which is really what Christ was getting at, in some sense, of what adultery is all about."
Forty percent of Italian women responding to a follow-up survey feared their husbands might find a woman more interesting than them while surfing the Web. No word yet, though, on husbands' fears over their wives being led astray.
If you or someone you know is in an unhealthy online relationship, see: http://www.pureintimacy.org.
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