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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.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.nearing 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!

  • Abankele

    Are you a Christian? If you are you should understand that Christians are not to conform to the world, its something more much deeper than the world we are living. So you are never going to see the teaching of the bible and the world agreeing with each other, its never going to happen. If it does, then there is church or christianity and may be the saints must have been raptured

  • WSquared

    The question of contraception is not nearly as narrow as you’ve construed it here.  It addresses fundamental questions of humanity.

    It behooves us to know whether our future spouse will accept children or not in general, and whether they have respect for human life, whether or not it is “convenient” for them and what they want– or whether they believe sex and life are primarily about their pleasure and their “stuff,” and that their spouse and children are subordinate to that pleasure.  It also behooves us to know that they are willing to accept God’s grace in their lives and will do their best to cooperate with it (by also rejecting what will impede it) for the good of their spouse and their children.  In other words, what we are interested in is whether our potential spouses will or will not dispose their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls to seeing what they must in ways broad and deep;  whether they truly are disposed to love.  Are we therefore both willing to love each other with a love that is “stronger than death”– in a way, therefore, that is Christ-like– that will be there in the bad times as well as good, when the chips are well and truly down, and when we feel as though we have nothing, or do we make “love” all about fun, cheap romance and other forms of sentimentalism, and buying bigger and better “stuff”? 

    Furthermore, do they truly believe that ideas have real consequences for how we view the human person and life itself, or do they merely traffic in and consume ideas, whereby ideas merely become another kind of swag, to go along with the rest of their sundry accessories, no matter how clever it all sounds?

    And by the way, God’s grace brings with it an abundance:  among them children, possibly, depending on what God wants for you (which may include biological children, adopted children, or even both), but also the grace to space those children naturally with prayerful discernment, whereby it also enables self-control.  It enables wanting less, which further enables truly enjoying and being grateful for what one is given, which may include travel and going on to an advanced degree, whether now or later on.  It also includes the many talents that one has, but also the increased ability to use them wisely and share them with others in a way that is grace-filled.  It involves learning to care for others also in ways that address their material and spiritual needs, which is what the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are, neither of which can be divorced from the other.  But lest anyone think that Catholic Christianity is just another way to get to “the goods life” as Brad Gregory puts it and just be “nice” people, whereby leading a good life is reduced to bourgeois respectability and comfortable suburban living, it also involves being able to bear suffering when it comes, but learning to trust that it won’t sink you, knowing that suffering opens up areas of your heart that you’ve tried to hide away or did not hitherto know existed. 

    So I’d say that Catholic Christians live full and interesting lives, whereby the everyday and mundane can become an adventure, especially when viewed with renewed hearts and souls, and thus fresh eyes.  For one, an authentic Catholic finds the freedom to truly be his or herself.

  • WSquared

    Er, excuse me?  The Church does not teach that all Catholic women lie back, think of the Pope, and pop out as many children as humanly possible.  Kindly read Humanae Vitae– particularly paragraph 10– before spouting ignorant nonsense.

    There is nothing wrong with being a housewife;  some women feel called to be as much.  But that is not the only thing that the Church calls all women to be;  the Church teaches that all women are called to be mothers, but that does not mean that motherhood is reducible merely to having babies.  The Catholic view of motherhood is far broader;  it is spiritual, and may include but is not exclusively biological.

    I’m a practicing Catholic, I do my best to be devout though I fail daily, and I’m also working on my Ph.D.  Every Catholic priest whom I’ve ever spoken to has always been encouraging while encouraging me to not be afraid of motherhood– in other words, God’s grace can help me find the balance that I need.  Helen Alvare is a law professor, and has four children.  The mother of one of my priest friends is a physician, and was a young doctor when she had him and his brother.  When she did her residency in England, her husband looked after the kids.  St. Edith Stein was a brilliant philosopher.  St. Gianna Beretta Molla was a doctor with four kids.  A Catholic woman is meant to choose for Christ always, wherever she is, inside or outside the home, whether she works or not, and with whatever she’s been given.  And you know what? The Church teaches that we don’t need contraception to do any of this stuff.

    Besides, one of my mother’s friends is going to be defending her dissertation.  That woman is a single mother, has seven children, and is a devout Catholic, having come back to the Church.  What I wish is that I’d had more examples like the above in my life, instead of numerous stupid caricatures like the one you’ve just written.

    Human sinfulness being what it is, though, not every young Catholic man is a chauvinist creep, and Catholic women are not obliged to date one who is if she should happen to come across one.  Likewise, a young Catholic man is not obliged to date a narcissistic spoiled brat, who is hardly grown up, either.  In either case, no Catholic, man or woman, is obliged to marry someone who is selfish, and who will not make sacrifices for them.  And they themselves are not obliged to make all of the sacrifices, either, at the expense of who God means them to be; grownups know that sacrifice goes both ways.  But then, any Catholic who truly practices, and who does not merely hide behind the faith, thinking that they’re “devout,” already knows this, or has learned it the hard way.

  • JR

    Gregory, you are only 21. What’s the rush? You’ve a way to go before you reach the age and ( presumed level of desperation) of Ratzinger pere.  Anyway, horses for courses. There are dating sites for all sorts, as you all know.