- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

Among Catholics, the search for a suitable spouse can be frustrating because of the church’s insistence that one marry within the faith. Sometimes it’s slim pickings, said several local singles who gathered recently at Theology on Tap (ToT), a spiritually based lecture series at Ireland’s Four Fields on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest.

“Jennifer,” a well-dressed federal employee in her 40s, said she has sought a Catholic husband for more than 15 years but finds it hard to deal with how many men expect sex early on in the dating relationship.

“Premarital sex and living together seem to be the natural and quick progression of a relationship,” she said, “and as a Catholic Christian woman, that is not my expectation or practice.”

Among her heartbreaks was a potential husband who committed suicide.

“The church needs to realize that not everyone finds their soul mate under 30,” she said, “and that it would really help us in our search if we felt more support from the church.”

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, the numbers should be in her favor. There are 6.9 million never-married Catholic men and 6.1 million never-married women, and 72 percent of all U.S. Catholics marry within the faith.

But the Washington area - which, with Boston, has the country’s largest percentage of singles - has a ratio of nine men for every 10 women, according to the 2000 census.

Moreover, the men and women at the ToT meeting said their station in life - known as “unconsecrated single life” in Catholic parlance - does not fit neatly in the two predominant life roles suggested by the church: Marriage and religious orders, which are sacraments. There is an obscure vocation to perpetual virginity. The United States Association of Consecrated Virgins says there are about 100 such women in the U.S. and 1,000 worldwide.

But at this particular ToT meeting, Andre Leyva, a psychologist and a Catholic, was talking to adults who are hoping to marry.

“Mental health is about relationships, starting with God,” he said. “Get that one right and everything else falls into place. Guys, if you are on a Princess Charming quest, give it up. There is no such thing as Princess or Prince Charming.

“That’s a romantic fantasy, because it is commitment that makes it work. You need to be an authentic person yourself. Do you like you? Your radar is better if your heart is still.”

Lauren Parks, 29, who works in international development and lectures at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Tenleytown, came to hear Mr. Leyva speak. When asked whether the Catholic Church helps women find husbands, she said “absolutely not.”

“The good Catholic guys are either in seminary or married off to Protestant women. Women would welcome some human intervention, like church-sponsored speed dating,” said Andrea Lemieux, 29, a member of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Northwest.

Kim McKenzie, 28, coordinates a young adults group at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill. She complained about seminarians being encouraged to date, even though their calling requires them to cut off the relationships.

“Some priests told the men to go date. It’s not fair to women, who are more emotionally vested in the relationship,” she said. “Their expectations are different, so stay away from the collar.”

Other religions handle the matter differently. Simeon Pollock, a married acupuncturist in Silver Spring who was not at the ToT event, has facilitated matchmaking among Orthodox Jews.

“In the Jewish community, girls are being encouraged to date outside of their comfort zone,” he said. “You can’t have everything you want. This is a person, not a custom-ordered car.”

He knows some people may see matchmaking as old-fashioned but said, “You can’t do anything with no effort. Matchmaking takes patience and persistence.”

Matchmaking hasn’t caught on among Catholics, but the Rev. Thomas Morrow, a local priest, has tried to come to the rescue with a book, “Christian Courtship in an Oversexed World.”

He endorses AveMariaSingles.com, a Web site that helps Catholics find spouses. His parish, St. Catherine Laboure in Wheaton, is sponsoring a speed-dating event on Jan. 3.

In his book, Father Morrow writes that women should let bad apples go regardless of a desire to be married, saying, “Perhaps you’ll plant a seed that will help him reform and become a good husband for someone else.”

He encourages women to respect themselves and insist “on the proper treatment every woman deserves.”

Stacy, a Catholic in her 30s from Arlington, has dated in the Catholic community for years and says pornography addictions render men unable to relate to real women.

“The men are emotionally and psychologically stunted - adult in body but a hormone-driven 13-year-old in reality,” she said.

But one man at the ToT event said there are plenty of choices.

“I want to let people know there are many normal, fun, faith-filled people out there,” said Rick Their, 42, an entrepreneur and a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington.

“A lot of women are looking for Prince Charming, Warren Buffett and Pope Benedict XVI in one, and that’s hard to find,” said Chris Corish, 43, of Arlington. “They want good looks, wealth, and a theologian in one guy. Women complain that they are never asked out, but really, it’s that they are not asked out by the guys they want. There is a tendency to say ‘no’ to someone who doesn’t fit their mold.”

He said he is seriously dating a woman in New Jersey whom he met through Catholicmatch.com.

“I would encourage people to use online meeting as another avenue to find the right person,” he said. “Don’t hem God in. I have seen 12 weddings for 12 months this year. The weddings are happening.”

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