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!
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,