PAMPLONA, Spain, MARCH 8, 2004 ( To speak of fidelity "is a Christian imperative at this time," says a professor of dogmatic theology and spirituality.

Professor José Morales, who teaches at the School of Theology of the University of Navarre, reflects on the meaning and crisis of fidelity in his latest book, "Fidelity," published by Rialp.

In this interview with ZENIT, the author says the public does not give the same esteem to the idea of fidelity as it does to the ideas and objectives of peace and democracy.

Q: Is fidelity declining?

Morales: Without a doubt, it is declining in many people, due in part to an environmental culture that values more ill-considered changes and impermanence.

However, it is not declining, in my opinion, in the quality and intensity with which it is lived by many men and women who wish to remain faithful to ideals, plans of life, and personal, ethical and religious commitments that are absolutely worthwhile. They are freely acquired commitments, which support their lives morally and make them more human.

Fidelity does not have, of course, the general implantation enjoyed today in the greater public that ideas and objectives such as peace and democracy have or, in the socioeconomic sphere, the world market has.

Precisely because of this, it is a value that is very necessary for individual and social life, which must be stimulated in all men and women of our time.

We are talking about fidelity to one's family, to friends and colleagues, to one's spouse, to one's small homeland, and to the nation to which one belongs.

To say or to think, for example, "united until divorce separates us," as we sometimes hear, does not make the man and woman better or more human.

Q: What does it mean that loyalty is a Christian imperative at this time?

Morales: For a Christian, fidelity to God and to his commandments, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church, our spiritual mother, is essential.

We have recently lived decades in which fidelity to these mysteries of the faith and to what they mean has been seriously blurred in the conscience and mind of many Christians. Loyalty and fidelity to serious commitments undertaken in marriage, in the religious state, in celibacy has collapsed.

It could be said, perhaps, that the crisis suffered by the Church has been a crisis of fidelity on the part of many of her children.

It is a situation that is undoubtedly related to a weak sense of Christian identity. It is very important today to speak and preach in the Church on the virtue of Christian fidelity, which embraces many other noble loyalties.

Q: Is there a temptation for the faithful person to be vainglorious about his or her fidelity?

Morales: The temptation to vainglory can exist in any virtue or noble attitude. However, it is less grave to feel this temptation, and even to give in to it to a degree, than to be lacking in fidelity.

The Christian man and woman who are faithful to their commitments in the midst of difficulties and surrounded at times by a hostile and unfavorable environment, know that their fidelity is the fruit of their effort, but above all of the help of God. To know this will help them overcome vainglory effectively, if they ever feel it.

Anyway, I think that a woman who is faithful to her husband, or a mother who sacrifices herself for her children, lives her fidelity in such a natural way that she will hardly feel any vainglory.

Q: What are the substitutes for fidelity that prevail today?

Morales: One can be faithful to indifferent habits that help one to live, or also to objects, ends or plans that merit support on the social, sports, political, etc., plane.

It is then a question of constancy in a determined way of behavior, which a mature and reasonable person can adopt morally as long as it does not violate the law of God. There are trivial attachments that do not merit the name of fidelity, as happens with fashions [and] the use of certain brands.

There are other memberships and militancies that corrupt the conscience, engender criminal attitudes and actions, and never imply a real exercise of fidelity. To be faithful to evil does not imply fidelity, save in cases of madness, bewilderment or invincible ignorance.

Q: Why do you say that fidelity is an art?

Morales: The course of a faithful life is somewhat like the navigation of a ship. The pilot needs skill, ingenuity and a certain capacity of faithful improvisation to surmount more or less unforeseen crises that might occur. It is in this sense that I say fidelity is an art.

All worthy and consistent human actions have within them a certain beauty and aesthetic element. Fidelity is an art because it is not only true and good, but also beautiful.