Catholics are much like everyone else in most ways. But in some important ways, Catholics are very different from non-Catholics. Non-Catholic readers who may be considering dating a Catholic may appreciate some advice about what it may mean to date a Catholic. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, or agnostic—this post is meant for you.
Who are Non-Catholics?
“Non-Catholic” refers to any religion aside from those who believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church and encompassing the doctrines and disciplines flowing from those teachings.
What Does It Mean to Be A Catholic?
There are basic teachings of the Catholic faith that must be followed. The core of what Catholics believe can be found in the Nicene Creed, which is recited at every Mass.
Not All Catholics Are Alike
Not all Catholics are the same. Yes, the teachings of the Catholic Church are universal, but the Catholic Church allows individuals to have the freedom to practice their faith in their own way. As a result, while certain tenets of the faith must be strictly observed, others are left up to the individual.
Also, just because someone says they are Catholic, does not mean that they believe everything the Church teaches.
Dating as a Precursor to Marriage
From a Catholic perspective, dating is considered a precursor to marriage and not just something that single people do. Dating from this standpoint takes on a more serious meaning than its casual meaning. It is more likely to involve a commitment to be honored and respected.
The Catholic Church does allow marriages to non-Catholics but cautions not to underestimate the difficulties involved. Unity between faiths, however, is not always a reality. Consider the following Church teachings to fully understand these challenges.
Chastity—Are you Willing to Wait?
The Church has been steadfast in its teachings on chastity. In a nutshell, sex before marriage is not allowed. It is not because the Church doesn’t want people to have fun, or because the Church is old-fashioned. Far from it.
This teaching is based on the truth that the marital embrace is a holy act, one in which two bodies become one, mirroring the Trinity in the love that flows between the couple.
The Catholic Church is not against sex at all once two people have made a lifetime commitment to one another. This teaching is meant to uphold the dignity of each individual in the healthiest and most loving way. This teaching is explained in great detail in Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body.
The question for the non-Catholic then becomes are you willing to wait? Chastity in any relationship with a Catholic will be a fundamental cornerstone.
You may have met Catholics who do not follow this teaching strictly so you may be confused. However, practicing Catholics, meaning those who practice their faith by going to Sunday Mass and regular confession, may struggle with living a chaste life. Sexual temptations can be very strong, especially when faced with repeated secular messages that sex is only for pleasure.
Having Sex with a Catholic is a Lifetime Commitment
Despite what popular culture would have you believe, the purpose of sex is to create babies. People are offered all kinds of ways to avoid this fundamental truth, including artificial birth control and abortion.
However, both birth control and abortion are strictly prohibited by the Catholic Church. Catholics following the teachings of the Church would not be using artificial contraception.
For those who do use artificial contraception, there is no guarantee that it will be 100% effective. A recent report found that half of all abortions are provided to women whose contraception had failed. In the case of a failed birth control, abortion would not be an option for a Catholic.
Confession, or the Sacrament of Reconciliation
Ideally, Catholics will wait for marriage before engaging in a sexual relationship. Of course, this ideal is not always realized leading to feelings of guilt and regret. Thankfully, Catholics have the ability to ask for forgiveness through the sacrament of confession.
You may have heard about “Catholic guilt.” What this means is that Catholics have been given clear rules to live by. Rather than being suffocating, many Catholics embrace these tenets to live more freely and authentically.
However, Catholics are human and not always perfect. And the Church in its beauty knows this and has provided for reconciliation between God and man through the sacrament of confession. A practicing Catholic will take advantage of going to regular confession, and at the very least once a year.
Mass Is Not Optional
Catholics are obligated to go to Church on Sundays and on other holy days. This is not an option. Non-Catholics may have their own religious obligations either on Sunday or another day of the week.
There is nothing wrong with a Catholic attending a service of a different faith. A non-Catholic Christian may hope to find a common bond with a Catholic by spending time together in worship. But be aware that doing so would not relieve a Catholic from fulfilling the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday.
Until Death Do Us Part
While divorce may be on the rise in the general population, the rate of divorce among Catholics is lower than that of the general population. This is likely because unless the couple receives an annulment they are not free to remarry.
This means that in the eyes of the Church the spouses remain married, despite a civil divorce. Remarriage would be considered adultery – a very serious sin. Because of this teaching of the Catholic Church, Catholics tend to take marriage very seriously.
Speaking of marriage, for a marriage to be blessed by the Catholic Church both spouses need to agree to be willing to accept children lovingly from God and to have those children baptized in the Catholic Church. Absent this agreement, the marriage would be considered outside of the Church and not sacramental.
The raising up of children is very important to the Catholic Church. Catholics must promise to do everything in their power to have all children baptized and raised in the Catholic Church. Catholics must also declare that they are prepared to remove all dangers that might cause them to fall away from the faith. A non-Catholic intending to marry a Catholic must be informed about the Catholic party’s promises and obligation to fulfill them.
Mary, Mother of God
Mary is an important woman to Catholics. Catholics believe that Jesus gave them His mother when He was dying on the cross. Catholics pray to Mary for her intercession. Catholics believe that there is power in praying to Mary, especially through the rosary.
Conversion to Catholicism
Non-Catholics may not be too concerned about dating a Catholic, figuring that if the relationship is meant to be the Catholic would convert. Of course, there are likely many Catholics who are not strong in their faith, or who have not been well formed enough to understand the consequences of denying their faith.
However, attempting to convert someone from their faith could be very destructive. Dating a Catholic with the expectation of conversion is not a good way to start a relationship.
Important Things to Consider Before Dating a Catholic
Hopefully, the topics discussed above have clarified what it would mean to date a Catholic. The following are some questions for further consideration:
- How does your family feel about the Catholic faith?
- Would your family object to having grandchildren baptized or raised Catholic?
- Would you attend Mass?
- Would you expect someone to attend your religious services as well as the Catholic Mass?
- Are you willing to be supportive of another’s religious practices?
- Are you open to life and all that entails?
- Are you planning to contracept?
The world has become a much smaller place. Singles can easily connect with other singles through dating websites such as CatholicSingles.com allowing people from all walks of life to connect with each other.
Catholics and non-Catholics now have the ability to meet people from outside their friend groups, their geographic location, and outside their faith community. Hopefully, this post has helped clarify some of the most important aspects of dating a Catholic.