It’s typically a good practice to assume the best about people, especially our fellow Catholics.
But the reality is that there are plenty of people out there who claim to share our religion but aren’t at all committed to living out the Church’s teachings.
Sadly, even near us in the pew on Sundays we could sometimes find fellow parish-members who think the Church has it wrong on certain issues, or who just don’t really care what the Church teaches in some areas.
In everyday life, we do our best to live out what the Church teaches ourselves, set good examples, pray for others, and perhaps occasionally call out our brothers and sisters when it’s necessary.
But in the dating world when we encounter such “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose which aspects of Church teaching to live out, things can get complicated.
How can you tell if the person you’re dating is as committed to the faith as you are? And how can you figure out if lack of commitment to the faith on their part will spell doom for a future relationship between you?
Here are three things to consider to help you navigate these tricky waters.
Is the Faith an Obvious Part of their Everyday Life?
For starters, do they go to Mass regularly on Sundays? If you can figure out that they do, that at least rules out the possibility that they’re merely clinging to the title of Catholicism with zero interest in having a sacramental life.
But fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation is really a bare minimum for living as a Catholic. So try to figure out more about their faith life (or lack of it) by asking things like what parish they belong to, if they’re part of any ministries, or what they’re favorite types of prayer are.
Sometimes these type of things feel awkward to ask. But a lot of times, when the other person is authentically Catholic and you share a bit of your own faith life with them, the conversation will flow naturally.
If these types of conversation topics do start feeling outlandishly awkward, or your date tries to immediately change the subject, it might be a good clue that they’re not that interested in their faith.
How Important is Chastity to Them?
Let’s be real. There’s probably nothing that gets flouted quicker by an un-serious Catholic than the demands of chastity. We can look anywhere around us to see that most people who don’t have strong religious and moral convictions have no interest in living chastely.
And it just so happens that dating a Catholic who isn’t interested in living out the Church’s teachings on sexuality is going to be one of the hardest, most complicated tasks you could possibly embark on, if you’re committed to chastity yourself.
At least if you’re dating someone with no background in Catholicism who doesn’t get chastity, you can explain that your religion doesn’t allow for pre-marital sex (or the type of “fooling around” that leads directly to it).
But when the person your dating claims Catholicism as their religion too, explaining your commitment to chastity becomes much less straightforward. While you could still definitely try to explain the what and the why of the Church’s teachings on the matter to them, someone who is used to living a life of sexual license will often balk at this.
So try to feel out from the get-go whether chastity is important to them, or even on their radar at all. If they’re open about things like cohabitation in past relationships, with no explanation that they’ve changed their lifestyle, that’s a red flag in this area.
Other red flags could include things like a cavalier attitude toward porn, and of course indications that they think sex with you in the near future is going to happen.
Are they Willing to Learn More?
There’s a big difference between a Catholic who is ignorant about Church teaching, and a Catholic who simply doesn’t care.
If it seems like the person you’re dating is not quite as strong a Catholic as you are, it doesn’t alway have to spell doom for the two of you. Because sometimes what appears at first sight to be lack of commitment is really just a lack of knowledge.
Probably the best way to deal with this issue is to be authentic yourself. Don’t water down your love for the faith and your enthusiasm for holiness. If they’re turned off by this attitude, it will probably be easy to tell.
But if they just don’t know yet why being a faithful Catholic is wonderful, your enthusiasm might spark a desire in them to learn more.
If they seem at all open to going deeper in their faith, and the two of you are otherwise hitting it off, don’t write off their initial lack of devotion. Be cautiously open to going deeper yourself along with them, and pray that God shows you His plan for both of you.