Monday, September 8, 2014

Missing the Point

Anonymous (another Anonymous or the same one?) replies to my post The Mystery of Finding Love, and since apparently my point wasn't clearly made, I'll insert it here in Fr. Z-style red.

Honestly, I don't think you get the point here. 

Devout Catholics aren't dating people they don't find physically or emotionally attractive just because that is some fetish of theirs. 

It's because there are so few Devout Catholics around and they are so hard to meet that if you find one, it could be your only chance to get married at all. 

Date someone you can tolerate but don't love in romantic sense. Or be alone and feel that you are just going to sit and rot for the rest of your life. 
My point is that this is a false dichotomy.  That's not really the choice that's open to you. 
The sheer loneliness of being a Devout Catholic is crushing at times. Our parishes ignore us. 

There is nothing as discouraging as watching your prime family building years waste away -- or in my case, disappear further and further back in the rear view mirror. 

Actually, that red bit was my only comment.

But let me expand upon it - our faith becomes a neurosis when it interferes with our ability to deal with the real world or even (frankly) with our ability to be faithful to God; and we will not be true to our vocation until we are faithful to God.

God is good and life is filled with good people, even though this day and age most good people are Anonymous Christians and are not self-consciously "devout"; perhaps it was ever thus.  And so the choice is not between dating someone you don't like who happens to share your level of seriousness about the Catholic Faith and dating some atheist you're hot for who only wants sex and no babies.  There are plenty of sane attractive men in between: men who aren't seriously devout but who understand, though they may not be able to verbalize it and though they may never go to church, that God not only exists but is very active in our lives, especially in the good that's all around us, and who totally get the Big Two: love God and love your neighbor.  In contrast, there are a lot of Devout Catholics who can spew off a dozen devotional prayers daily, but who don't get the Big Two.  Beyond that, to think that you're obligated to marry a man who shares the same level of devotion you do (especially if you're very devout) is exactly like demanding that God provide you a soul mate within your very specific nine-digit zip code.  But there's been a lot of resistance to my pointing that out, so I must be on to something.

Which is this.  I am beginning to suspect that much of this trouble comes from using the Faith as a contraceptive device, as a barrier to keep something real from clicking, from catching on, from carrying us out of our damned comfort zones, and from bearing forth the blessing of unexpected fruit.



I am updating this post because one key point Anonymous makes sticks out.

The sheer loneliness of being a Devout Catholic is crushing at times. Our parishes ignore us. 

There's an antidote to this.  Don't ignore your parish.

Start a Bible Study.  Start an after-Mass catechism class.  Start a movie club or a book club where you discuss movies and books from a Catholic perspective.  Will the pastor give you grief?  Maybe.  Will it be hard to get these things off the ground?  Probably.  Will this involve inconvenience and mild suffering?  Certainly.

As I said in the post you're commenting on, I got to a point in my life where I realized no one would hire me to do what I loved, and that I had to hire myself.  I've been writing and producing my own shows ever since.  It has been neither easy, nor comfortable.  But it's what God was calling me to do.


Shadowfax said...

To marry somebody you can tolerate but don't love in the romantic sense is one of the cruelest things you can do to a person. It doesn't make the cruelty any less just because they agree to suffer it from you, either.

I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy, much less to somebody I supposedly cared about enough to marry and reproduce with.

If you choose to be lonely rather than date otherwise decent and kind-hearted men you are physically attracted to but don't meet your definition of a "Devout Catholic," that is your choice. But don't fool yourself that you are not choosing it and that you are victimized by the circumstances.

I am sorry if I sound harsh, but I've grown up in this crazy world of "Devout Catholics,", and I've seen the very real harm that can result from that attitude that you can only marry somebody you consider equally devout. All I can say is: be careful what you wish for.

In a world where most people were practicing Catholics, you still wouldn't meet very many guys you considered "devout" enough, you know. The world has never been full of uber-pious people, even when a majority of people were so-called "practicing" Catholics.

Marry a good, gentle, kind-hearted man rather than a devout man. There is a difference.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, I get that you're trying to get singles to date non-catholics. You don't need all this pseudo philosophy and hipster intellect to make that clear.

But my faith, my relationship with God is the biggest aspect of my life. If I can't share my faith with my future wife, that's most of my life I can't share with her. It wouldn't be a sacramental marriage as God intended. The bible itself commands us to not be unequally yoked, that is how serious it is.

Besides catholics already have around 40% of mixed marriages in the U.S.A, so it's not like they are excluding non-catholics as you've concluded. (Source:

Original Anonymous said...

Hi. I am the original Anonymous poster that you cite above.

I did not recommend dating or marrying someone you are not physically attracted to. I just observed that it happens a lot. The results in dating are unhappy and in marriage can be tragic.

You’re the one proposing a false dichotomy. The choice is not between devout and not-devout but nice. Let’s just stipulate that the minimum acceptable is no pre-marital sex and no contraception. Sunday mass once in a a while would be nice. The Catholic dating scene remains disastrously bleak.

I am involved in a lot of parish activities and non-parish Catholic organizations. The common denominator to them all is that there is no one remotely datable and my age in any of them. Instead, most people are married, in their fifties or above, with grown children who no longer come to church.

Your suggestion that I start a parish book club or catechetical society or something else that I am not remotely interested in is hypocritical. It is every bit the same sort of insincere and dishonest behavior as dating someone you aren't attracted to. It can’t come to a happy end and it is just a waste of time while you try it.

I want to get married. I don’t want a book club. I have realistic expectations but know I am facing near-impossible odds--which seems to be the sentiment of your other commenters.

I reiterate that Catholic parishes are failing their single population, first by allowing so many of us to leave, and secondly, by ignoring those few of us who stay.

I am writing here, because whenever we speak up, singles like me are told “that’s okay, you can marry outside the Church.” Well, it is not okay. It is a terrible suggestion. For a small number of people it may be fine, but for most it means leaving the Church, leaving the sacramental life, never to return. Where do you think all the young people of prime marriageable age who aren’t in the pews have gone? They are either living outside the Church, or married outside the Church.

Many if not most are gone forever. They are following your advice, not mine.

Kevin O'Brien said...

I'm not telling you to marry non-Catholics.

Learn how to read, people.

Anony mous said...

"There's an antidote to this. Don't ignore your parish.

Start a Bible Study. Start an after-Mass catechism class. Start a movie club or a book club where you discuss movies and books from a Catholic perspective. Will the pastor give you grief? Maybe. Will it be hard to get these things off the ground? Probably. Will this involve inconvenience and mild suffering? Certainly. "

I actually think dating within your own parish is a bad idea. That's like trying to find a date at a family reunion! These would be people you've grown up with. It would cause to much drama and rumors and such. Everyone wants to see to people from the same parish get married because it is such are occurrence. For the same reasons it's a bad idea to date friends, it's a bad idea to date fellow parishioners. If it doesn't work out you'll be forced to see your ex at every parish event.