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Can't Cope With This
Dec 14, 1998

Father, I'm not Catholic but my wife and three children are. For twenty years (I'm 34 now), I kept a secret from everyone: I was curious about what it would be like to have a relationship with a man. For 20 years, I battled this urge. Sometimes it was very easy, other times it was tougher. For whatever reason, over the summer, I acted on it. I had a very short affair (2 weeks, 2 encounters) with another man. I justified it as an experiment. Regardless, I quickly realized two things: It was adultery, and I couldn't do that to my wife, and (2) I really didn't enjoy it as much as I though I would. Seems the curiosity was better than the reality. I think I finally acted on this for a lot of reasons: stress of a new job, stress of raising twins, and an incredibly reckless lapse of judgement. I blame no one but myself.I thought we were safe in what we did, but maybe we weren't. I didn't think HIV was a possibility, but it looks more and more like it is. I now have reason to believe that the person I was with was probably exposed to HIV on multiple occasions in the few months prior to my meeting him. I tested negative at 12 weeks (just a few weeks ago), but I continue to have symptoms that I'm sure are HIV seroconversion. I go back for another test at 20 weeks. Negative then will make me feel a lot better. I haven't seen a doctor, just HIV counselors. They say what we did may have been low risk, it may have been high risk. Can't really tell...My concern is not for me, it's for my family. Father, I never realized how much they mean to me. I love them all more than anything else in this world. I have a beautiful wife and three beautiful daughters (age 4 and 1 year old twins). To think that there's the possibility that I could have infected them is too much for me to handle. I think my wife is showing signs. Too make this even more tragic, she was still breast feeding our twins for about 3 weeks after my affair. I had never even heard that HIV could be transmitted via breast milk to children. Now I think my 4 year old is showing signs, but I don't know how that could have happened. A father is supposed to protect and nurture his children. I'd gladly lay down my life any day at any time to save any of them. I can't even begin to deal with the fact that I may have infected all of them, all so I could finally see what it would be like to act on these urges. I wish I had been hit by a bus before any of this happened. I had to take their pictures off my desk at work because I could no longer bear to look at them. They were supposed to have a bright future ahead. My 4 year old keeps talking about the day she'll be a bride. What am I supposed to say? "That's right, as long as Daddy hasn't killed you." What a reckless fool I was.I'm talking to a Catholic priest who is a friend of the family (I was raised in the Eastern Orthodox Church). He is providing a lot of support for me to try to get through this. He has told me not to tell my wife unless my next test comes back positive (we've hardly had any sex since I started to worry, and the few times have always been "safe"). I am mad at myself. I don't know if I can live with myself if any of them are infected. I know that is the coward's way out, but I think about it every day and how I could kill myself. I'm meeting with my priest again in less than a week. He's helping me to try to work through this, but I'm sure there's a special place in Hell for a man who would destroy his family like this.Sorry for the long message. I guess that I'd ask that you say a short prayer for my wife and children. After my children are asleep at night, I put my hand on them and say a silent prayer to God to spare them. They (and my wife) don't deserve any of this.

Response from Father DeMartini

Dear Friend,I have read and re-read your very painful letter several times and each time I simply hope and pray that God--who is a God of compassion and mercy would take you in his arms and reassure you that forgiveness and consolation are within your grasp. I hear your regret, anger and shame very clearly and I know that they can also do great damage to your body and spirit if you continue to look into this dark mirror. I am glad to hear that your are talking with counselors and a pastoral friend about your experience. I would like to encourage you to sit down and write a letter to God and, in the same way you would trust and ask a friend for support, tell God how you feel and ask God for his personal help to keep faithful and loving no matter what the outcome. You are very strong in expressing your love for your wife and your children and I am sure that they return that love daily---try to believe that God, too, will reflect back and return your love so that it can help heal your wounds. You are also welcome to stay in contact with me and, if it would help please call me at 707-874-3031. I will remember you and your family in prayer during this season when we celebrate the love of God made flesh in Jesus Christ--our redeemer. Blessings, Fr. Rod

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