I read No One Wants To Date A Catholic yesterday. I thought it was a good and interesting read of a thought-provoking topic. I suppose whenever God is involved, the masses will have a reaction. I had a reaction too. As a practicing Catholic, I had several reactions to be perfectly honest. I empathized with the author to an extent. And my thoughts on the subject isn’t a response to his article as much as it is my take on the subject of the place of faith, religion, and religious differences in relationships.
I guess in the first place, I’ve always thought (almost) everyone wants to date a Catholic. Excuse my pig-headedness but there are a lot of countries that are known for their “beautiful people” that coincidentally are also traditionally Catholic countries. Example: Ireland, Italy, Spain, all the countries in Latin America, etc. Furthermore, for better or for worse, Catholic girls especially, have stereotypes; they are either known as the good girls or as the bad girls that don’t get caught. Or they’re forbidden fruit. Who doesn’t want forbidden fruit?
Putting my humorous and pompous views aside, I do think that the subject of faith in relationships is a very complicated one. Identifying with a faith is an individualized experience these days, especially in this part of the world. From a Catholic perspective, I can tell you that lay U.S. Americans and Europeans are considered by some of the more traditional African and Latin American Catholics, as being “cafeteria Catholics.” Meaning people pick and choose what they like and ignore what they don’t like and move on with their lives. Being African, having been to all four continents, and living in the USA, I’d have to say, I agree based on mere observation. Of course, this is just a generalization and it doesn’t hold true for every individual or group or city or town.
One of the things I enjoy about being Catholic is that contrary to popular belief, the Church is always changing. The Church is always in conversation over liturgy, social justice, morality, and humanity, as a whole. Even as an imperfect person, I have always been proud of my Catholic faith and have considered it a blessing that I grew up in the family I did. As an adult, I choose to continue to make that faith my own. This of course is always fun in the world of dating where you may or may not fall for someone with the same beliefs as you, whether they are Catholic or not.
I think it has taken a lot of humility for me to recognize that everybody is on their own faith journey even when they identify as the same faith. I identify strongly with the precepts of my faith which doesn’t always make me feel the most comfortable in a culture that sometimes views Catholicism in a negative light. I have probably been in more fierce arguments with Catholics about the Church than with non-Catholics. One of the moments that I am most ashamed of, is when I condescendingly asked a Catholic who seemed to not agree with anything about the Church, “If you don’t like it, why don’t you just leave? Why don’t you just go to another church where you agree with everything, instead of pretending to be a Catholic?”
I am not proud of it and I am not proud of feeling that way because sometimes I still feel that way. I feel that if I’m over here, swallowing the abuse of popular culture daily, on the grounds of my faith, while trying to practice it the best way I can. And then there are people who get to nod and smile at the popular culture, come to mass whenever they feel like, disagree with pretty much everything the Church has to say, and still get to call themselves Catholic? It doesn’t seem fair to me even though I know I don’t have the right to feel that way. Ultimately, only Jesus who will always be the center of this faith, knows the heart of every person. Including mine, which is sometimes very judgmental and sinful and imperfect, practicing Catholic or not.
Dating is hard but when you’re religious, it is 10,000 times harder. Trust me. My mum always said, “You meet the best ones at church and you meet the worst ones at church.” (I’ve never actually really dated someone I’ve met at church.) I’ve dated/”hung out” with/been interested in, people of many faith and religions, and people who don’t profess any. But the older I get, the more faith in relationships seems to matter to me. And not just having the same faith as someone, but having the same values about that faith as someone. It will matter to me in marriage and how I choose to raise my children, and how I choose to lead my life.
Could I end up with someone who isn’t Catholic in the same way I am Catholic? Could I end up with a non-Catholic? I don’t know. I’m not saying it could never happen; I’m just saying it’s probably a long shot. In the end, I think that any long-term relationship will lead to marriage from my religious standing. And marriage is about more than love and laughter. It’s about values and principles, some of which are most central to the two people getting involved. And if those values are not consistent or worse, polar opposite, I’m not saying it’s impossible to make it work, because lo and behold, I know couples that make it work. I’m just saying it seems REALLY difficult.
When you have a faith, when you profess belief in a dogma, when you believe in anything, whether you are religious or not, you have prejudices. For the Catholic faith, maybe for the Christian faith in general, I simply reiterate St. Augustine’s words, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like; it is not the gospel you believe but yourself.” That’s a tough stance to take but it is a stance that I take in a Church that is continuously conversing about the meaning of the gospel. In a Church that above all other teachings, has taught me that I owe every single human being, love. And that’s the one message I hope to never fail to bring in any relationship, romantic and otherwise.
In the end, I think most of us hold our faith and values as the ideal because we mostly fall short of them, every day. At least I know I do. I also know that people are not the sum-total of the religious dogma that they ascribe to, or any other dogma for that matter. I am Catholic and ideally, I would like to “end up” with a Catholic of the same values. But if it doesn’t happen, then I hope it’s because I looked beyond that person’s religious dogma or lack thereof, and saw inside that person, everything that I wanted and needed anyway. I guess when it comes to faith and relationships; it all depends – on the faith and on the relationship.