I have a good friend who graduated from a conservative Catholic college with a degree in theology. She immediately began working in ministry positions — youth ministry, women’s ministry, and even at a crisis pregnancy center. Teaching people about chastity, Catholic dating, and how the Church views sex was a huge part of her life.
And yet, she still made a mistake in her personal life. She went too far with her boyfriend one time. And she got pregnant.
Now this girl really is an amazing young woman, so despite being embarrassed and mad at herself, and a little frustrated that her one slip-up would now be on display for the whole world and make her look like a hypocrite, she made the best of it. She was honest with people, she sought out supportive friends, and she and her boyfriend discerned what to do with their relationship.
A couple years after her mistake, she’s happily married to the father of her child, still working in the Church, and has a second baby on the way.
I am very, very happy that things turned out so well for my friend. But I know that, for a single Catholic who falls from the path of chastity, things don’t end so tidily.
If you’re one of those Catholics who is embracing the teachings of the Catholic Church on chastity now but maybe didn’t in the past, things can seem very difficult in the Catholic dating world. But even if it feels like you’ll never find a good Catholic mate because of your past, there are a lot of reasons not to be discouraged.
You’re Stronger than You Think
I’ve heard first-hand from some Catholics in this situation that there’s often a stigma associated with having a sexual past, in the Catholic dating world. It’s hard to imagine being accepted by a Catholic community knowing that your past is considered sinful and wrong – even in online dating sites.
If a child came as a result of your past, it can also be difficult to hear that child associated with a “mistake”, “sin”, or a “bad decision”. While other Catholics may be well intentioned, being well intentioned doesn’t mean that they are sensitive.
Of course, if we think about how the rest of the world treats sex and the pervasive hook-up culture that exists, it’s easy to understand why other Catholics might be afraid to date someone who has had sexual partners before marriage in the past: They’re scared.
Even if, by now, you’re truly committed to living chastity as the Church teaches, it’s easy for Catholics who don’t have pasts like this to associate a sexual past with the world’s loose views on sex. When someone is considering a relationship – especially one that is based on the teachings of the Catholic church – they will certainly be interested in knowing whether or not you share the same values.
Even knowing intellectually that someone has converted or repented of past mistakes, a lot of Catholics are not strong enough themselves to deal with the fears and insecurities of dating someone who has sexual experience.
Does that ever make it okay for people to jump to conclusions or judge you? Absolutely not. But here is one instance where that old cliche, “It’s not you, it’s me,” might be pretty true.
You know better than anyone that dealing with the aftermath of falling from chastity is often complicated and often takes a lot of time. But if you’ve triumphed over emotional or even physical consequences, it means you’re very strong.
Not everyone is that strong. A lot of people get stuck in the cycle of sexual sin. And a lot of people are too scared to deal with any possible consequences of a sexual past in a potential dating relationship. Most Catholics understand that physical intimacy, while good, can also be an occasion for sin, especially if they’ve struggled with sexual sins in the past. So they may be looking for a partner where they will be less tempted to give into their own past sins.
“Let the One Among You Who is Without Sin Be the First to Throw a Stone…”
It might be that, even though you’ve triumphed over sexual mistakes in your past and are ready with God’s grace to live chastely, the attitudes of other Catholics toward your past is a little on the judgmental side.
Or a lot.
And while it might be true in the case of potential dates that such an attitude is actually a reflection of their own fears, insecurities, and weakness, that doesn’t necessarily make it hurt you less. You might feel the sting of rejection more often than you’d like, and it might leave you feeling less-than worthy of a holy relationship.
These feelings are not a reflection of the truth. The truth is that everyone has sinned. It’s even quite possible that there are a lot of other good Catholics out there with serious but hidden sins in their past.
That’s why God gave us the sacrament of Confession. And it’s why he told the hypocritical people who wanted to stone the adulterous woman, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” (John 8:7).
And when it feels like you’re being judged and written off on every side in your life, try to keep in mind St. Augustine, whose past before his saintly days included a lot of sexual sin and even an illegitimate child — and he’s now largely recognized as one of the greatest saints of the early Church.
God Has a Plan for Your Life, Even When it Doesn’t Feel Like It
God is the greatest Architect, Storyteller, Creator, and Restorer of grace you can ever imagine. He can take even situations that seem like a total loss to us, and turn them into something absolutely beautiful.
Sometimes, when it feels like everywhere you look in His Church you’re being judged, it can be tempting to turn your back on all your beliefs and embrace the free and loose world who will have nothing to say about mistakes you’ve made in the past (since they won’t consider sexual sins a mistake at all). But don’t give up hope.
That girl, my friend from college who conceived out of wedlock? She didn’t have to totally quit ministry even as a single pregnant woman. She found some wonderful Catholic people who were understanding of human nature and who found her the perfect place to work.
If it feels like there aren’t any wonderful Catholic people like that in your life, ask God to send you some. Ask Him to send you a future spouse who is understanding, strong, and brave.
In the world of Catholic online dating, there is a wide variety of Catholics who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. You know that most members are looking for dating relationships, and many of the people will be less likely to be judgmental of your past.
The fact is, there are many success stories of Catholic men and Catholic women who met online. As Catholics, we stand against the common culture in our understanding and beliefs about marriage, sex, and dating. But we also know that to believe and to live can be very different things.
And ask Him to pour His reparative grace over your life and bring His beautiful plan into fruition.