Monday, 22 October 2012

Auntie Seraphic & Wants a Matchmaker

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

I am no mathematician, but when I look out into the crowd of Catholic events like Theology on Tap and the like, the women far outnumber the men.

Now, I understand that women are usually more religious than men. But for those young ladies that want a good Catholic man, this becomes a problem. Statistically speaking, she has a 25% chance (estimation) that she will forever be single, because there are not enough good Catholic men to marry good Catholic women, which explains this phenomena of frustrated single Catholic women that is increasing by the day. It is every woman's fear that she will never marry, and looking at the math, this is a real possibility! And in addition to all of this, we as women cannot pursue a man, and so our hands are tied.

Pondering all of this, I was thinking of a possible solution, and it made me think of Orthodox Jews, who have matchmakers in their community. My proposal is that we have Catholic matchmakers who are responsible for setting up Catholic couples. I know, it's kind of a crazy idea that touches on the 'arranged marriage' idea, but if you think about it, E-Harmony is very similar, except it's a computer that does the work, not a person. What do you think of this, Auntie? I would like to hear your thoughts!

In Christ,

Wants a Matchmaker

Dear Wants a Matchmaker,

I am not a mathematician either. Tax season leaves me a total wreck, and I can just manage how to cut a pie to feed an entire dinner party. So I don't guess about how many Single women there are compared to Single men: I just look up the official statistics online.

As most people marry, the cold hard data may have a soothing effect on the nerves of the catastrophizing Single woman. In the official 2002 American data, only 8.2% of American women aged 40-44 had never married. However, 14% of American men aged 40-44 had never married.

Of course, you should factor in those men and women who simply had no wish to marry in 2002: those ideologically opposed to marriage, nuns, monks, Latin Rite priests, those with developmental disabilities, those with homosexual orientations, and those (perhaps) who have obvious problems that always made them unlikely to marry, e.g. severe mental illness.

Now, 46% of women in the USA in 2002 aged between 15 and 44 were married, and 9% were co-habiting (i.e. living in a sexual & domestic relationship with someone). Among men of that age group, 42% were married and 9% were co-habiting. Thus, more women than men between age 15-44 were married. However, as very few Americans marry before age 15, and some Americans marry after the age of 44, this data does not reflect the actual fact that 90% of adult American women do marry.

Here are the official statistics on marriage in the USA as of spring, 2012.

This does not directly address the question of how many "good Catholic men" there are to go around, although I am delighted that you brought up "Theology on Tap" because when I wrote about my hometown's "Theology on Tap" as if it were a Catholic marriage-market, many people got mad at me. They thought it wrong that I should consider "Theology on Tap" a Catholic marriage-market, and my attitude was "What's wrong with a marriage-market?" Marriage! Marriage! Babies! Babies!

Not that marriage and babies are the only calling in life. No. Certainly not, and we should be careful to stress the importance of perpetually Single people to society.

However, the 1980s are over, and I think it's time women stopped being embarrassed about wanting to get married, not to mention writing about it. And I'm glad you mentioned the Jewish community because they are not at all embarrassed by marriage. They think marriage is very important--more important than Catholics do, because we believe life as a consecrated religious is superior to the married state. However, if you are not called to consecrated religious life, then--yes--you are going to envy Orthodox Jews their matchmakers and attitude that Jewish men have to marry Jewish women if they want properly Jewish babies.

That is definitely an ace that Jewish women have that Catholic women don't. Catholicism is not transmitted by blood tie but by baptism, so a Catholic guy can marry anyone he likes and still have Catholic babies, if he still cares enough about that to insist. However, it occurs to me that one thing orthoprax Catholic girls have that sets us apart from other girls is that we won't insist on birth control. If a devout Catholic guy wants a wife who is willing to forgo artificial birth control, well, he just might have to find a Nice Catholic Girl.

But I'm just throwing the birth control issue out there. I do not have any data that there are more Single Nice Catholic Girls than there are Single Nice Catholic Boys. Also, it is difficult to define what a Nice Catholic Girl or Boy is. My entire life I've been clutching my chest when a friend announces she has a new boyfriend and demanding, "Is he CATH-olic?" and when she says "Yeeeees, but he doesn't go to Mass",
I always shrug and think, "Well, you'll probably whip him into shape." Which she generally does. It takes a strong faith and some backbone, so if you have both, don't turn up your nose at the Mass-skipper, if he's otherwise a decent chap and cute.

The power of women to make not-so-observant men of their own religion suddenly become a lot more devout is amazing to behold. And this leads me to suggest that the Nice Catholic Girl cast her nets a little farther than Theology on Tap. Instead of focusing solely on the devout, she might want to contemplate the cousins of the devout. Where are they? Well, who are they? Are they Hispanic? Are they Italian? Are they Polish? Are they Vietnamese? Are you? One advantage Catholic girls have over Jewish girls is that there are a LOT more single Catholic (even if in name only) men than there are single Jewish men.

And this may be why we do not have a matchmaking tradition. Before the 1960s, forward-thinking priests in Canada and the USA organized parish dances so that young Catholics immigrants could meet each other, but I think that's as far as it went. (It would be interesting to find out if Polish migrants to the UK are marrying other Polish migrants to the UK they meet at Polish Mass.) There are communities (like the Hungarians of Toronto) who have Debutant Balls, but the debs are usually way under the contemporary average age of first-time brides.

Now Catholics are so integrated into mainstream society, very few would come to parish dances. I once organized parish dances, so I know whereof I speak--at least for the 1980s. I am open to correction on this point: perhaps we are ripe once again for parish dances. If I win a lottery, I will organize a ball for all the devout Catholic Singles-under-45 in Britain. It will begin with Mass, simultaneous TLM (in a chapel) and NO (in a church), and whoever doesn't go to the Masses can't come to the ball. There will be dance cards and the pipe-smoking trad Catholic men won't be allowed to smoke unless they can prove they have at least asked a girl to dance. Cards will be checked at the door to Smokers' Alley.

And that is as far as my imagination goes. We can't make up traditions we don't have. Well, we can try, but that's how we got "Sing a New Song"--no longer so new--and I won't have any part of it.

Which brings me to dating websites. We don't need a Catholic Eharmony. We already have a number of contenders for Catholic Eharmony. You will notice that despite my popularity and charm, I have not been signed to provide content for these people. It may be because I have Grave Misgivings about Catholic dating websites and think they are mostly a waste of time and money. Not always. But mostly. If subscribers were sensible and confined yourselves to chatting and meeting with people IN YOUR OWN CITIES, then I would be less critical.

So to answer your question, I think the way forward would be for married Catholics with money to fund dances for that segments of Catholic society that really do want to meet marriage-minded Catholics. It should be held at the most expensive, high-status venue around, for the awe factor, and make the Knights of Malta weep with envy. (Potentially lottery-winning Auntie is pondering the Balmoral Hotel. Or should we grace the Caledonian? Hmm.) And people who want to go should have to apply to get in, and at least half the tickets must go to men.

To return to the statistics, I am not very worried about Single women who wish to marry never getting married. I am more worried about Single women who wish to marry so badly that they end up getting divorced. That in itself is enough reason to stop denigrating the Single Life, to say nothing of denigrating long-term Single women.

Finally, I will repeat that feelings are not facts. It may feel like there are more Single Catholic women than Single Catholic men, but feelings don't make that so. And if I read the statistics correctly, the older an American woman is, the more likely she is to be (or have been) married.

Grace and peace,


Mary E said...

This is a great post! I love what you said about not limiting one's self to simply the devout and being open to the "cousins of the devout". I had a great conversation with a friend (a seminarian)about the lack of dating at my Catholic university campus (decent amount of single people in their 20s and 30s). He said that just because someone is a good Catholic, that doesn't make them a good boyfriend or husband. He wasn't making judgments about people's character, but simply stating that someone's faith shouldn't be the only criteria that judges if they'd be a good spouse or not.

And yes, I've seen it quite often. Many women (and men!) are often able to influence their significant other's faiths in a positive way. My mother wasn't Catholic before she and my dad got married and now she is one of the most devout people I know.

Sarah said...

Catholic matchmakers: No. Definitely not. There are enough well meaning little old ladies and friends of my mothers who sneakily trap me into sitting next to or talking to men I don't like, we don't need to give them a badge.

After high school, I had a group of friends my age (boys and girls) and our bishop called each of us into his office individually to ask, "Hey, you know, X is a nice boy and you're both good Catholics. Why aren't you two going out? What about Y, then?"

It was kind of sweet-- if fruitless-- but then, that was our bishop who all of us had known since childhood.

Abby said...

Auntie Seraphic, I'm involved in planning events for my Catholic college group and believe me I push for these formal dances all the time(people remember from a year ago how much I pushed), but when put to a vote everybody chooses dumb 80s themes which have zero couples dances. Any ideas how to convince the other powers to be that a more formal dance is incredibly important? I feel odd suggesting we all get out of the friend zone (but as I have a boyfriend I can get away with saying these things) but any ideas how to pitch this? I want to facilitate relationships among young Catholics too.

Jam said...

"IN YOUR OWN CITY" -- this is the criterion almost more than anything that makes me feel like I'm never going to get married.

Charming Disarray said...

"It takes a strong faith and some backbone, so if you have both, don't turn up your nose at the Mass-skipper, if he's otherwise a decent chap and cute."

He's also less likely to be a manboyish Belloc-wanna-be with a toy sword and a hangup about women in trousers.

Of course, he's also more likely to be unwilling to have a chaste relationship, so it pays to be careful.

Seraphic said...

Why? Is your city really tiny, or is it New York? Is it Rolling Prairie, Indiana? I used to go there on family holidays and although it has a nice lake and KILLER WASPS, it is the belly-button of the midwest.

Anyway, it's just the temptation provided by dating websites just to take the easy way out and have amusing textual flirtations with a cute guy in Juneau who has noooo real motivation to come out to see you in Rolling Prairie, Indiana that makes me say "your own city."

If you want to talk to guys from other towns, it's a better idea to get on the road and actually meet them. Look at me. I went to Edinburgh and met B.A. and now I'm still in Edinburgh. And you know what? We didn't email much before we met, and there was NOOOOO texting.

One traditional way to meet men from other towns is to go on pilgrimage.

There are lots of pilgrimages, from the Camino, which lots of people will do just for the challenge--which means you will meet "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" types, although they might at least be open to Catholicism, given that they're on a CATHOLIC PILGRIMAGE ROUTE--to young Paul Smeaton's August marches to see Our Lady of English Village (I can't remember, which is stupid as B.A. and Co never stop talking about it. Our Lady of...Not Haddington. Our Lady of WALSINGHAM!!!)

There's also Taizé in France, for Taizé people, and there's the Chartres Pilgrimage in France for super-trads. And there's World Youth Day, of course.

Mass is for worship, of course, but pilgrimages feature a lot of chatting, and always have.

I do not know if more Single women than Single men go on pilgrimage, for I haven't been to one in AGES.

Abby, I went to 80s dances when the 80s were still on and there were indeed couple dances. I still remember who I danced with to "Never Surrender" (Corey Hart), "Careless Whisper" (Wham), and "With or Without You" (U2) because I had crushes on them all. Oh, maybe not the "Careless Whisper" guy.

So do not despair: if everyone votes for an 80s dance, demand that there be "slow songs." And tell them I said that no Catholic high school dance in the 1980s was complete without "Stairway to Heaven" and the chaperones getting antsy.

If, however, you get a chance, strongly suggest the next dance feature a dance instructor who will teach everyone various country dances as the night goes on: Irish and Scottish are very popular. And learning the waltz and the polka is eesy-peesy. They are, of course, a million times more modest than the "Stairway to Heaven" mash-up.

I have been to a wedding in which a caller instructed us as we went along in various contra (country) dances and to a Newman Centre St. Patrick's Day dance in which a caller instructed us all in Irish dancing, and it was all incredibly fun.

Seraphic said...

My first remark was to Jam, not Charming Disarray.

Aha! Charming Disarray, you are unmasked. It was you who made the remark about toy swords. Chesterton had a swordstick, but I don't I know anyone of your generation with a toy sword. My nephew has one or two, given to him by me. I am all for toy swords. Beats X-Box, I would think.

It would be great fun if our boys had toy swords because then they could fight with them for our amusement after Mass in the carpark. Oh, awesome. Serious Christmas present idea happening here...

Seraphic said...

Another toy sword remark. I think one of the swords I gave my nephew actually made clanking noises when it hit something. Yes, he had two swords, a Nerf one and the fancy one that clanked. We used to fight each other around and around the sitting-room. Presented with a toy sword and a young man or woman of under-seven, I might fight again!

Were the young trad men of my parish to have toy swords, I doubt they would fight me. Boys of four are much more broadminded about these things. Aunties are foes worthy of their steel.

Bernadette said...

Last spring one one of the Catholic YA organizers in a nearby large city put together a huge square dance, and invited all the Catholic young adults from many miles around. Lots of us came, and I know of at least two couples who started dating after meeting each other there. In between the square dance sets they had a dj playing what I think of as wedding reception music - good dance tunes from the 80s & 90s - and everyone danced with great abandon and had a lovely time. We've been talking off and on about having another one ever since - the main obstacle is the amount of work that goes into an event like that. All of us have fairly busy lives, so no one wants to be the one to exhaust herself putting it on, and then be too tired to enjoy herself.

Jam said...

My problem is more than I never seem to be in one place for a very long time. In the last 12 months I've lived in three different towns. I've been attracted to two guys in that time and in both cases as I was thinking "ooh, he's cute", I had an actual airplane ticket home booked for the following week. I might be living in one place next academic year but I will have all my time taken up trying to get a job -- which anything good will be elsewhere. Realistically, moving around a lot is the only chance I have of supporting myself for the next couple of years. And how could anyone get to know me well enough to like me under the circumstances, boo hoo hoo.

Anyway, I shouldn't complain. If the greatest injustice I face is that I'm perpetually in the wrong place to further my social life, I'm ahead of the game.

Anonymous said...

It was me. These things come in waves. I have no problem with little boys or even teenagers who get a kick out of swords, but a grown man over six feet tall on a Catholic dating site looking for a wife needs to listen to St. Paul and put away childish things. I also ruined my Saturday by watching Michael Voris videos, and he's waving a sword around and talking about how the traditional Mass is so manly in one of them. I'm preparing a post on this, actually, because my life needs a little more controversy in it.

Anyway, Scottish dancing and country line dancing are AWESOME.

CD wasting time at work

MaryJane said...

"I am more worried about Single women who wish to marry so badly that they end up getting divorced."

Amen, amen. Preach it.

Dermot girl said...

Have you read recent articles in the Washington Post and the New Yorker regarding being single in 2012? It was helpful to see the data (51% of American adults are single, 33% of American households are one person) as well as interviews with single people of different ages.

I have found, living in a big city, that dating takes on the phenomenon of internet dating. Meaning, that because there is an apparent large dating pool, there is not a pressing need for a man to make a decision or to make much effort for one woman when there are so many other possible women. Such behavior becomes a great litmus test to make the decision, no thanks. I'm a person, not a commodity and I'll wait and enjoy my life instead.

Dealing with such antics can either make you bitter or help you to become patient and kickstart your sense of humor.

Thanks for this forum for discussion.

Dermot girl

Jo said...

My situation an thoughts are similar to Jam-I have moved upwards of 5 times in the past 3 years for professional training and a career that enables me to support myself, and the uncertainty of not knowing how long I will be in my current city makes it tremendously difficult to forge new friendships, let alone meet NCM(And it's not just the nature of the career, but the necessity of short contracts due to the economy-I would never choose to work in an area like sales where traveling would dominate). Also, how many times is it said that the average person change careers nowadays? Isn't it something like more than five? It seems to me that for many people, the only thing that does keep them in one place is marriage and family, since younger single workers with mobility take advantage of the professional opportunities afforded by geographically-rotating corporate training programs, for example. When I was in graduate school and attempting to organize social/spiritual activities for young adults at our local parish, it was SO difficult to gain a regular attendance of any kind, because it seemed like everyone was always off traveling for job interviews, business trips, research, conferences, etc.

Also, since I am much more inclined to forge new friendships at things like book clubs and discussion groups, the idea of meeting people at dances makes me want to whimper, unless they are introduced by already friends and friends-of-friends. At least where I am, hardly any young adults have a habit of hanging out at the after-Mass coffee social.

Anonymous said...

Going anon for this one. The problem with cousins of Catholics is that you have to have the sex talk sooner or later. Which means a man you don't really know well will be wondering about the use or non-use of your lady-garden by other men, even if you stay as vague as possible about your own history. And the idea of sharing information about something so private makes me tearful for my dignity and the dignity of all women.

Alisha said...

On dancing - ooohhhh so much to say!
I like the idea of Seraphic's dance very much! The thing is, if a dance is set up as a means to an end - for matchmaking, for eg. - it can be artificial and place a lot of pressure on people. I'm guessing that dances also happened more often before simply because people liked dancing and it was a common social activity. I really think that needs to be reintroduced in culture, specifically Catholic culture for the sake of interacting in a way that is not solely cerebral and heavy. It encourages a different kind of communication and listening, it gives people the opportunity to laugh and struggle and move and express and create.
In terms of putting on dances, it's good to know a few things about the differences between men and women (stereotypically)
1) women often go to dances to dance and men go to meet women. Sometimes the men fall in love with the dance - which is awesome for the women who are follows because they get really good leads, and great for the men who thus get a lot of female attention along with the fun of dancing. Why it's important: men need to make the connection that dancing can help them meet women as well as learn to appreciate it for its own sake
2) Women often will have fun just from dancing, period, while men will have tend to have more fun if they are dancing well. Why it's important: men may only be willing to dance if they feel they can do it well - so making sure they get an opportunity to learn something - like with instructors - is important.
I actually think staying in the friend zone is what can encourage the possibility of marriage - when it's genuine Christian friendship that takes discerning how the Lord is acting in our present reality seriously. I also think cultivating courage - not sword waving - and emotional maturity in men is what is going to help solving the problem. There is a serious lack of balance when a man can wax on and on about orthodoxy for hours and take women to task about wearing pants but is too afraid to ask a woman to dance. Good things - like defending the faith - can easily be a defensive mechanism for being incapable of dealing with the reality of a human being in front of you.

Alisha said...

"The power of women to make not-so-observant men of their own religion suddenly become a lot more devout is amazing to behold."

The pain if this does not happen can also be horrible to experience or behold. Yes, people can change...but my advice is to ask yourself "Am I ok with it if he NEVER becomes more devout than he is?" and even more important, in my mind, "Am I ok with my future children growing up with a father who does not practise his faith and possibly concluding because of that they won't either?" You cannot guarantee your children will remain observant, but given that your responsibility IS to transmit and teach the faith to your children, you want to give them the best possible opportunity, and studies have shown it is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children. (check out the article here:

It is true that someone who is devout will not always be as good of a husband as someone who is not. But at the end of the day, our relationship with Christ is more important and if we aren't marrying someone who will strengthen that actively, what are we doing? Wouldn't it be better not to marry instead? While it is good to be truly open - perhaps God may be calling us to marry someone who is not practising, after all - it's important that we be doing it for the overall common good as well as our own desires. What if women ONLY married and had sex with men who were truly genuinely devout? Wouldn't that rebuild a culture of faith? I don't want to advocate being overly stringent but don't we perpetuate the problem of there being a lot of men who are lukewarm Catholics if we accept that and marry them, and consequently our sons grow up to continue the problem for another generation of Catholic women?

Jessica said...

Hi Alisha and Anon (since you both expressed concerns about dating non-practicing Catholics):
With regards to the "sex talk," it's possible to be discreet and simply say, "I don't believe in sex outside of marriage." If the response comes back, "So you've never had sex??" just say that you're not ready to discuss past history yet, but that right now and moving forward you won't be sleeping with anyone until your husband.
And yes, there might be more risks in going on a date with a non-practicing Catholic man (or a non-Catholic man), and Alisha raised some good things to think about before you commit to marriage. But if you continue dating for awhile you have time to figure out those things: what's his background? is he really anti-religion or did he just decide to ignore it for awhile? is his family pushing him toward the faith, or away from it? was he on the path to deeper spirituality before you met him? can he help you grow spiritually/morally, or is he just going to church to make you happy? It's true that you can't know how people are going to change, but if you carefully discern the evidence, I think you can predict how things might turn out.

Maggie said...

I agree with Alisha on this one (re: lukewarm Catholic husbands may equal lukewarm Catholic fathers). In my ministry, I see on the front lines the difficulties caused by mixed religion marriages, in which I include not just "Lutheran + Catholic = befuddled children" or "atheist + Christian = apathetic children" but also "devout Catholic (usually mother) + lukewarm Catholic (usually father, but not always) = confused and often leaning-to-lukewarm children."

Obviously we can all think of anecdotal exceptions- I'm certain Seraphic will bring up her friend Boston Girl and her cheerful Lutheran husband, but overall, I'm quite skeptical of mixed marriages. Seraphic, you are often saying that sharing core values is what makes a successful match (plus chemistry, etc etc), and that is well. But for your letter writer, and many others, one of the core values is devout Catholicism, not "conveniently Catholic because I'm Irish/Italian/Polish and my mother expects me to be."

And, with Anonymous above, the Chastity Talk is awkward enough with "normal" guys(postmodern men with post-sexual-revolution values), let alone with Catholic men who claim to belong to a faith that directly teaches against what they are suggesting... ugh.

My goodness, I'm maudlin tonight!

I will say for its 2 cent value that in some cases, online dating *can* make the Chastity Talk easier. A good friend of mine who met her spouse online (he was a lukewarm Lutheran at the time, she a devout Catholic) made it clear to him (and the other men she was chatting with online) that there would be no sex, and she made this crystal clear before they even met in person so all cards were on the table ahead of time.

Jackie said...

Anon @ 20:55

I hear you, Anon! And this kind of ties in to Alisha's Comment Part 2.

As much as I'd like to believe that "cousins" would be able to led back onto the straight and narrow, that has not been my experience.

Ever, I am sorry to say. (The last one said I was in for a life of "misery and joyless endurance" for living my principles. Ouch, buddy!)

Last week, a woman who is (ostensibly, nominally) Catholic, whose own daughter is now RCIA, after deciding against confirmation as a teenager, said as much to me.

She said she supported pre-marital relations and living together :(, because she had known women and men who had waited due to religious principles and later divorced to incompatibility.

This is the heart-breaking thing, if you want marriage and children. This woman told me that praying and trusting in God will get me "nowhere" and her method "works in today's society."

She happily lived with her future husband with no such qualms or reservations. Her method -- which I could never do -- resulted in a church wedding and a devoted 30-yr marriage and family. I see it happen quite a bit, more often than not, actually.

Seraphic, I apologize, as I do not mean to be a doom-cryer in the combox! But if there is a way to encourage greater devotion in our brothers in Christ, I think we should find it, encourage it and reward it. It can't be easy for them, either.

I am learning from this blog (and your book!)to focus on the good men that I already know. I definitely want --both women and men-- to live good, devout, happy and fulfilling lives. Seraphic or married :)

(Thanks for listening to all that-- I think this woman may have been the 21st century incarnation of Mrs. Bennett from P&P!)

n.panchancha said...

First, I must say that it's very hard to read blog posts with Cary smouldering at me from the sidebar. Heavens.

Also - I really appreciate some of these comments. I think taking both sets of advice ("not-currently-involved-in-church men might still make good Catholic husbands" vs. "don't get stuck in a marriage with someone who doesn't share your core values") in context is helpful.

As much as I would love to get married, I'm really, really grateful that I live in a culture and time wherein I don't have to marry, if I don't want to. From a secular perspective, I'm perfectly capable of supporting myself (thanks, past generations of feminists) and having fulfilling non-romantic relationships; from a Catholic perspective, staying single is a perfectly legitimate way to wobble towards holiness.

So the fact that I'm free to say "no" to any potential husbands who wouldn't make me happy (and holy) is an immense blessing. And since I know I wouldn't be happy with someone who doesn't love God, and who doesn't love my heart for God, I'm free not to marry any such men.

That being said: the fact that a man loves God, and even that he's in love with me, doesn't mean I have to marry him - or even that I should. Thank heavens that the pressure's off, in that sense; and I have total compassion for any woman who feels she's being pressured by her religious community to marry a man who's not right for her.

But. Many of us (most of us?) were probably made for marriage, and God likely has that plan for us. And it's quite possible for my own expectations to interfere with God's plan: if I expect to meet my husband at a Catholic young adults' event, I might not be open to the possibility that the nice fellow from the library is the one God has in mind for me. I think the most helpful thing, in that respect (as in all things, perhaps), is to love God first and desire that his will be done. Easier said than done, I know; but it's so much easier saying, "This might be a deal-breaker, but it'll be nada on the sex front from me," when you've got "Love God" prioritized over "Must Not Scare Off Potential Husband." And yes, if you're in this situation, it might just happen that a previously not-so-faithful fellow who is totally infatuated with you will say, "Of course! Who needs sex! And tell me more about this mass you love so much." Then again, it might not happen - but in that case he's not husband material for us, and we'll count his departure to be no great mischief.

I had a very nice experience with a fellow from the United Church last summer: when he asked if we could date, I pretty much immediately (and probably fairly awkwardly) blurted out, "This might be a deal-breaker, but as far as physical intimacy goes - there's not going to be too much." He was quick to agree. And the next morning he came to mass with me, simply because he knew it was important to me. (I hadn't asked him.) Obviously we didn't get married; after a few months, some other stuff got in the way - but for a long time I hadn't been open to considering him, because of our religious differences. He really was a lovely boyfriend, virtue-wise, and he was clearly in a time of spiritual growth - and I know Seraphic's wary of "dating" stories that don't lead to marriage, but I have to admit I was really grateful for this one.

MaryJane said...

What strikes me as kind of funny in all of this is that these kind of hot-button topics are SO theoretical that they can border on being funny. As a woman, sometimes I find myself in a discussion with friends that goes something like, "well, If I met a man who was y, but lacked a, b, and c, I might marry him if c was a possibility, but z made up for a..." like it's some kind of weird algebra problem.

But we forget that there are only real men out there to marry! It's fine to hypothesize, but we will never really know until we actually meet a real man, who is a concrete person with real, concrete virtues.

Maybe we should try meeting some real men who are not super devout, and then see what we think of them as individual people, rather have than a hypothetical discussion about imaginary non Catholic men. (Of course, actually meeting real men is its own problem, and hypothetical discussions are fun when there are no real men around, so I completely understand. I just wanted to point out the importance of the concrete!)

Seraphic said...

Goodness, so many comments. I'm back in a situation of only occasional internet access, so I couldn't leap in.

First of all, GIRLS, STOP jumping to marriage when I'm talking about dating. I would never advise a devout woman to marry a man who is lukewarm or even aggressive against faith. Never. All I am advising is that you at least HAVE COFFEE with the cousins of the devout.

A coffee. If cousin-of-the-devout mentions sex at once, you don't ever have to have coffee with him again. You don't have to go out to dinner.

Dating is all about deciding if you are at all compatible with a man before entering into a more serious time of discernment. It is about giving him a chance. If he blows the chance, well, off he goes.

So far readers have not told me that devout Catholic men are knocking their doors down. In fact, in recent weeks there has been a lot of complaining about devout Catholic men.

And this leads me to suggest that we all be a bit more open-minded about MEETING (not marrying, necessarily) and HAVING COFFEE WITH (not marrying, necessarily) men who do not seem to be as devout as we are.

And, yes, if you go out long enough with a man who is sexually attracted to you, you will have The Talk. You will probably have a Talk of some kind even with a devout Catholic boyfriend that sounds like "Okay, stop it. That's enough. I mean it. No. No, listen. I just went to confession, and I don't want to wreck it." Because that is the reality of being involved with a man who is sexually attracted to you. And be he Catholic or Lutheran or Muslim or whatever, this man will respond to your wishes in a way that is respectful or disrespectful, and if it is disrespectful, you should tell him to get out.

And in the case of blunt, bold Talk with someone you barely know, so you are hideously embarrassed and angry, this is the price we pay for the Sexual Revolution. Our grandparents lost the war for decency, if they even bothered to fight, and we are left with the occupying troops, if you get my metaphor.

The American election is coming up, and with Mark Shea I am inclined to think (in my foreign way, so it doesn't really matter) "Why can't they both lose?" However, I do agree with Billy Graham that the votes of my American readers really matter. When Christians lose to secular, sex-obsessed forces, we and our children PAY THE PRICE. If you don't at least vote for candidates who will protect you and your children from the power-crazed whims of a teeny-tiny percentage of the population, you will be complicit in your (and your children's) continuing marginalization as Catholics.

You have to have the talk with almost-strangers not because there are too few devout Catholic boys in the world but because Catholics and other Christians lost a very important culture war in the 1960s. They may have really lost it in the 1950s, but I'm not sure.

And now I am off topic.

Sarah said...

Wow, Seraphic, I liked that last comment of yours I think even more than the original post.

Anonymous said...

Also going anon for this one, if that's ok, Seraphic. I completely agree with the suggestion to at least give a chance to non-devout men. I can only speak from my own experience, but I know three young married devout Catholic couples, and in all three, one of the couple were lukewarm/not Catholic when they started dating. In one couple, both parties became Catholic after their marriage, although not at the same time. In both of the others, the devout Catholic party found a great person and explained how important their faith was, and made a leap of faith and in both cases it paid off. That said, the young, devout Catholic women I know who wish to get married are all totally single with no prospects at all, and the young, devout Catholic men I know are all currently discerning the priesthood. It should be added that the women greatly outnumber the men by a margin of 3-1. I hope these lovely girls meet good Catholic boys, but realistically (particularly here in the UK), this seems unlikely. So ultimately, it may well come down to a choice between giving a (dating) chance to a non-Catholic boy or never marrying. Obviously, that's their choice and if they decide that it's only sensible to date Catholic boys, that's fair. But I've seen quite a few devout young people who are the result of mixed marriages or marriages where only one parent was devout, so I think as long as your husband was a. respectful of the Church and b. willing to marry and raise children in, and follow the marriage-related teachings of the Church, non-Catholics could make very good husbands. To be honest,based on my experiences working in a Catholic school, I would say that it's better to have completely non-religious parents than lukewarm Catholics. The students with agnostic or Protestant parents are a lot more interested in learning about the Church and open to it than the children of lukewarm and non-practicing Catholics. That's just my 2 cents, though.

Claire said...

"There will be dance cards and the pipe-smoking trad Catholic men won't be allowed to smoke unless they can prove they have at least asked a girl to dance. Cards will be checked at the door to Smokers' Alley."

This made me laugh really hard. Is there any Catholic young woman who moves in trad circles who hasn't experienced the phenomenon of the men who apparently come to dances for the sole purpose of smoking the night away?

I like the idea of a formal ball with equal number of guys and gals, but I agree with Alisha that part of what makes men uncomfortable at dances is not knowing how to dance very well. For this reason, an old-fashioned contra dance, square dance, or other hoe-down type affair might suit the purpose better. In such a setting, the dances are called so no one can claim they don't know the right steps. And, let's face it, in many of these types of dances, everyone looks a tad bit ridiculous, so you wouldn't feel that you were the only one making a fool of yourself. [I say this lovingly; I LOVE contra dancing. And some of the dances, the "proper" ones (as opposed to the improper ones), are right out of a Jane Austen movie, and very elegant.]

Some awesome young ladies I know have been organizing these informal contra dances every couple months and they are very well attended and pretty much everyone dances! (They instruct the men to ask a lady and line up, at which point, detailed instructions are given/followed before the music starts). I think this is a very fun, non-threatening way to get men dancing. Maybe once you've done enough informal dances, you could arrange a formal ball.

Charming Disarray said...

One hard thing about having the talk is when to have it, especially with cousins of Catholics. It's really hard to know if a guy has already assumed that you're waiting for marriage, or if he's just counting down the days. It's kind of embarrassing to have a stammering "Well, I just wanted you to know..." conversation while trying to not to sound APOLOGETIC and then getting a surprised look and a "yeah, I figured" in return. Besides, you don't want to assume that just because he's a guy that he hasn't already made that decision for himself.

And sometimes devout church going guys pressure you and pressure you and then dump you, but a friendly atheist, to whom you announced your religious and very personal moral views while somewhat tipsy in a bar, wants to date you anyway and treats your values with a lot of respect. Just sayin.'

Alisha said...

I'd like to state simply that my comments come from experience and are not theoretical. I dated someone who was an exceptional person but a non believer. He was open, would discuss, come to Mass, pray with me, we met priests for advice etc. etc. I was continually and genuinely surprised at how God seemed to work through him to teach me many things about His mercy and love. I began to consider that perhaps my black or white view was one that didn't allow enough for the mysteriousness of God's ways and decided that I had to seriously discern whether or not this might be what I was called to. We consulted with many wise people, lay, priests, etc. I was looking for someone to either validate my serious worry (which should have been a clue for most of them anyway) or show me in a spiritually mature explanation, why I was worrying for nothing, or too much. For the most part, they were either vague or didn't seem too concerned about the real challenges faced by a marriage where one spouse was non believing. Most of the time I felt my bf and I were more serious about the Church's teaching on that matter than the priest! In short, I don't remember any of the advice we received as being particularly helpful. Had I gone to a Protestant minister, maybe they would have said "You're unequally yoked" and left it at that!! At the end of the day, despite all my prayers and tears and what have you, he simply was not given the gift of faith - and yes, he prayed for it. (We were together a very long time.) He concluded that if there is a God and God wanted to know him, there must be a reason he hadn't done so yet, but that at the moment, he couldn't accept as true all the tenets of the Christian faith, or accept having them taught to his future children as definitive truth when he didn't believe so himself. I respected his desire to live with integrity on this matter given the information he had but it remains the most painful experience of my life and I would like to spare others that possibility. When you give someone a chance and happen to fall deeply in love with a really good person, it is not a simple choice to walk away, particularly if that person in every other way is ideal and has stayed with you through the hardest time of your life. I might have avoided it all if I had just said "I won't date non-Catholics, period."

Seraphic said...

Charming, I don't think any woman should ever initiate the Talk. The Talk will happen, but it shouldn't be you bringing it up. No Single woman owes a man sex, so it is really a bad idea to bring up the subject, just to say there won't be any.

Alisha, I would never date a non-Catholic either. When I say "cousins-of-the-devout" I am talking about lackadaisical Catholics brought up in Catholic families. I do not, as a matter of fact, think Catholics should date atheists, whether they are post-Protestant or Jewish, etc. Catholic atheists are a little more complex, and I'd have to think a little longer about them.