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The internet is helping faithful young Catholics find love

Madeleine Teahan says more and more Catholics are trying out dating websites. And, what’s more, they work

By on Thursday, 14 February 2013

It’s becoming harder for single Catholics to meet (Photo: PA)

It’s becoming harder for single Catholics to meet (Photo: PA)

In March 1920 an advertisement appeared in a German Catholic newspaper that would change the history of the Catholic Church. It read: “Middle ranking civil servant, single, Catholic, 43-years-old, immaculate past, from the countryside, is seeking a good Catholic pure girl, who can cook well, and who can do all housework, who is also capable of sewing and a good homemaker in order to marry at the soonest opportunity.”

It was through the Altöttinger Liebfrauen Messenger newspaper that Joseph Ratzinger met Maria Peintner. They soon married and Maria gave birth to three children; Georg, Maria and Joseph.

As Valentine’s Day approaches the majority of us may not be inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s father’s business-like approach to romance. But the modern equivalent – Catholic dating websites – are producing happily-ever-afters for Catholics. In some respects, this makes sense. What are the odds of meeting a devout Catholic at a friend’s birthday drinks in central London? In our busy single lives, how often do we attend Mass at the same time and same location every week? How regularly are we free to attend parish events and how often will we meet someone young and single there?

I made friends with Clare shortly after her engagement. The natural question I asked was how she met her fiancé. Suddenly it became a little awkward. “Catholic Match,” she replied bashfully. “It’s a Catholic dating website.”

Clare was in her early 30s when I met her but looked younger. She was striking, exceptionally bright and heavily involved with her university chaplaincy. I was shocked and a little disillusioned that she had resorted to a dating website and had not met a Catholic spouse sooner. Surely she’d had Catholic men queueing up to take her out?

But Clare was at a different point in her life than most of her fellow Catholics at university. She was slightly older, a recent convert to Catholicism and was still considering her vocation. After a period of discernment, Clare returned from a pilgrimage in Rome having realised that her vocation was marriage and motherhood, not religious life. Two of her close friends had both met their husbands through Catholic Match and encouraged her to follow their example.

“You need humility to sign up to the website because you do feel embarrassed, especially when you spot people from you local parish,” Clare told me. “But in many ways a dating website makes sense because you are removing the initial physical attraction and so it’s easier to establish a relationship of the mind first. By meeting on a Catholic site, your relationship is grounded in the faith from the outset and God is at the centre.”

When you sign up to Catholic Match, you begin by answering basic questions about your weight, height, eye and hair colour in order to create a profile. The website also asks if you have tattoos or piercings. Once you have covered the basics, you are then asked to answer “yes” or “no” to whether you support Church teaching on the Eucharist, contraception, the sanctity of human life, premarital sex, the Immaculate Conception and Holy Orders.

Some Catholics may be put off at this point. Is it really necessary to include a questionnaire checking if Catholics accept basic Church teaching? But painful as it is, at least such questions sharpen the process of elimination. Thanks to this section, you are less likely to endure a steak dinner while your date insists the Pope is personally responsible for the Aids epidemic in Africa or that she thinks she has a vocation to the Catholic priesthood.

Of course, no tick-box exercise can completely assess romantic compatibility. A lawyer first made contact with Clare and they seemed to get on reasonably well over email. But when they exchanged pictures of their social activities, Clare’s match included pictures of him judging a bikini contest and she promptly put an end to the contact.

Providentially, Clare soon heard from James, a 36-year-old teacher. He had been using Catholic Match on and off for five years and was about to give up. James had initially signed up because he was a busy bachelor who worked long hours in the week and often felt too exhausted to socialise at the weekend. For him, Catholic Match was a perfect way of meeting new Catholics.

James initiated communication once Clare’s profile appeared and he and Clare exchanged daily emails for nine days before arranging to meet. They agreed they would start with Mass at Westminster Cathedral. But they both spotted each other praying in the Lady Chapel beforehand. After eight months of courtship they were engaged and then married. Clare gave birth to a baby boy this Christmas.

Of course, Clare and James’s story sounds a bit too good to be true and you may remain sceptical. But if you find yourself this Thursday clicking on the “like” button through bitter sobs as half of your Facebook friends announce what a fabulous Valentine’s Day they are having, perhaps it is time to log out and register with Catholic Match instead.

Alternatively, if you are a modern-day Mrs Bennet, desperate to find your daughter a devoutly Catholic Mr Darcy, Catholic Match gift cards start from about £8 a month. When you send her your usual Valentine’s card, signed by her, “secret admirer,” why not pop a gift card in the envelope as well?

  • AprilMary64

    I can vouch for the benefits of Catholic Match. More than 8 years ago I met my husband through this site. We married in 2005 and have 2 children. It was unusual at the time but now is a very common and even sensible way to meet. Once you meet the right person,especially if they are compatible from a religious perspective, it may even speed the romantic relationship on, as the important things have already been assessed. This is why a practising and believing Catholic will find the questionnaire ideal – no time wasting.

  • Gregory Nearing

    I could really use something like this.  I’ve heard that dating online is the fashion now a days though I’ve never actually tried dating in the 21 years I’ve lived on this planet. (sigh)

  • andrew young

    Congratulations to you and your family; what a nice story to tell on St Valentine’s Feast Day. I can undertsand the appeal that such a dating website will have for many committed Catholics and other Christians sympathetic to the Church, its teachings and its praxis. 

  • Mike

    Online dating sites do not work for the vast majority of people who try them out.  Just look at the stats they claim.  Thousands of people signed up!  But only a hundreds married over a period of many years.  I would estimate the success rate is 2 to 3%. 

    These sites are worse than a ripoff.  They produce silly condescending articles like this telling us that don’t worry, online dating is the answer.  It totally isn’t.  I am not even sure it is better than nothing. 

    What’s really missing is a live Catholic community that welcomes single people and helps them get married.  Instead, we have the cop out.  Parish communities need do nothing, because online dating has solved everything. 

    The reality is that single Catholics who follow Church teaching on contraception, cohabitation, and marriage within the Faith face enormous practical problems.  That is not a reason for despair, but it does mean that the whole Church has to mobilize in support for marriage for single Catholics.  

  • AprilMary64

    I do agree that it would be preferable to have a live Catholic community within parishes. Sadly young single Catholics do not seem to be there in sufficient numbers. The issue of opposition to artificial contraception and chastity before marriage were key for me and that is precisely why I found the sifting process in Catholic match useful. I know it’s not for everyone but where it works, it can be excellent and certainly beats the usual dating scene – especially if you are approaching or over 40.

  • Lil_mini_mozart

    I’m 19 and I would NEVER marry a Catholic!!!! Catholic boys today are such chauvenists. They want you to play the Happy Housewife, to stay home cook dinner and have ten babies. Women today do not want that. We have brains, independence and our freedom to be whoever we want to be. That’s why Catholic boys cannot find a girlfriend. Because they are not normal. What is the OBSESSION with having to mary “your own kind.” Please, grow up and get a life!

  • Lil_mini_mozart

    Please just get over yourselves. It is terribly sad that the only thing you look for in a person if “do they oppose condoms.” What about war? What about poverty? What about travel, culture, ideas. No. All you guys care about are narrow little things. No wonder no one is interested in you.

  • Autumn

    That’s simply NOT the attitude Mike! I really believe Catholic Match is different from other dating sites because it is grounded in faith. People who use this site are people for whom faith is key. The questionnaire helps eliminate no-hopers and then all you have to be concerned about (having established shared values are in place)  is that you and the person get on. It’s about moving from a friendship based on faith and shared values to romance. For internet dating to work, you have to be HUMBLE and OPEN. Like Clare said, it’s embarrassing seeing people you know on there and being seen by them but hey, we are all looking for that special someone and let’s face it, the average parish is simply not geared towards singles and modern life no longer provides enough opportunities for people to truly get to know each other. Throw into this, the damage done by the “contraceptive and sex anywhere anytime with anyone” mentatlity, and it is truly hard to find a compatible spouse. I see internet dating (on reputable sites like catholic Match) as the modern day equivalent of going for dances in the village hall. and, it has worked for me :) . Change you attitude  you may be presently surprised.

  • Siscaaja13

    Just because you are catholic girl doesnt mean you are stupid or dependent. Thats ridiculous. There so many catholic girls who are independent and brainy but still practicing their catholic faith.

  • Editor REGINA

    I met my wonderful husband on Catholic Match in 2005. However, we met at an event we organized in NYC — not simply online. They are now called “CM Events” I believe, and they tend to be organized by CM people who just want to get together socially with other faithful, single Catholics. 

    The secular, liberal Catholics don’t seem to be interested, but that’s okay, actually. Cuts down on the wackos. 

    I know many people who have met their mates on Catholic Match. It really does work!