So you’ve met a super cute guy, really friendly and charming, and you get along well. You sit down to chat with your girlfriend about him and she interrupts to ask the deal breaker: “Wait...is he Catholic?”
Should the answer to that question determine whether or not you date him? I’m hoping to walk through this question with you. I don’t know if the answer can be the same for everyone, but here’s to some food for thought!
There are many practical reasons why it’d be more convenient to only date Catholic men. The first and most obvious reason is that he will understand you when you say you’re going to adoration tonight. Anyone else might say, “You’re going where?! To do what for an hour?” Mr. Catholic will surely be up for going to Mass with you on Sundays and even on some weekdays. He might also be completely ok with you wearing your mantilla to Mass. And most importantly, as a Catholic man, he’ll pray the Rosary with you every night (or at least every other night).
If we’re looking to date a Catholic guy only for the reasons stated above, or similar ones, I think we’re missing the mark. More than a guy who knows how to run beads through his fingers, I think we should be looking for a man of integrity; whose life and actions are a true reflection of his heart, whose word carries weight. We should be looking to date a man of authenticity; what you see is who he really is and he is open to change and becoming a better person. He’s not trying to fit into the great, yet at times suffocating, “Catholic box” but is free and is himself. I think we should be looking to date a man who lives passionately for God and is not bound to only praying when Sunday comes around and it's time to sit, stand, and kneel at Mass. Have you ever seen a man really praying? That humility is what is to be treasured more than anything else: a man who recognizes who he is before God and others.
When we date, we should not look to check the Catholic requirements off our list as if he were registering for a Pre-Cana course. Instead, we should take into account if this man knows how to honor and value my friendship, my time, my body. The truth is that not every Catholic man understands and accepts chastity. It’s also just as true that so many non-Catholic men know how to uphold a woman’s dignity and worth--and no, they haven’t sat in on a Theology of the Body course.
So should you not date the sweetheart just because he’s not Catholic? I think the bigger question here is, what are the characteristics you are looking for in the man you want to date and possibly have a future with? These virtues and characteristics are what should help you determine whether or not he gets a chance to take you out for ice cream; not so much whether he knows the Catechism of the Catholic Church cover to cover.
All this being said, I have a disclaimer. Once you are in a position to seriously begin dating with the hope of marriage, religion is something that has to be thoroughly talked about by both parties. A friend I know married a Jewish man. She was not so much into her Catholic faith at the time but now she is. Though he is respectful and attends Mass with her and the children, she has really undergone much suffering because of religious and moral differences. Another friend of mine told me he loved his girlfriend dearly but broke it off with her because she was Muslim, and though she was willing to convert to Catholicism, he felt guilty and wondered what if in the future she wanted to take her Muslim faith seriously? Also, converting meant she would have the disdain of her family. He loved her and did not want to put her through that. He made the decision to end the relationship because religion was a big factor in both of their lives.
So, at the end of the day, though whether or not a guy is Catholic shouldn’t determine your openness to dating him, it can be a big factor you will have to take into consideration when you are looking forward to marriage. An interreligious marriage or marriage with a non- Catholic Christian requires a lot of mutual compromise, commitment, and understanding. You have a lot to think about and consider when it comes to marriage but the good news is, for now, we’re just talking about dating.
Rocio Perez is currently a missionary in Ethiopia where she spends most of her days taking kids to the potty and teaching them to count to 5. She has lived in a discernment house called Casa Guadalupe and served in the chastity ministry, Corazon Puro, as well as other groups within the Catholic Church. Rocio considers herself indebted to John Paul II and hopes to spend the rest of her life sharing the Good News of the Theology of the Body. She enjoys good chocolate and bold sunsets.