Dating Outside the Church


I would never date outside the Church at this point in my life, although I know good people exist outside the Church. Some of the most touching moments in scripture are those in which Christ finds faith outside the Jewish community. My favorite example is the Roman soldier who says, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof” (Luke 7:6). I am forever amazed by Jesus’ response: “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel” (7:9). At heart, Jesus is saying that he has come to call everyone.

Still, I would never date outside of the Church. The divide between Catholics and non-Catholics (Protestants included) seems wider than ever. I’m beginning to expect anti-Catholic feelings and secularism among co-workers. I’m surprised when I don’t find it. Christ came to call all sinners, but I judge it prudent to put limits on myself regarding those whom I date.

What I Used to Think of Dating Outside the Church

I used to think dating outside the Church was inevitable. I wish I could say I reasoned my way out of this opinion, but it was experience and dates that did it. I have had my share of uncomfortable experiences on dates with a secular person from work or elsewhere.

I think I used to go out with secular women with the idea that even just from a numbers perspective I was doing the logical thing. My thinking was there are more non-Catholics around us than Catholics. The possibility of meeting someone becomes greater when we stop worrying about whether they are Catholic. We also have the advantage of being able to ask out a coworker or someone at school.

I also often told myself that dating or going out with a non-Catholic was good for my faith and tolerance. I liked to tell myself I was helping someone. I think we all have heard a story of a spouse coming to the faith through a marriage. I thought even if I had doubts about what I was doing it would be wrong to give up on someone.

What I Think Now of Dating Outside the Church

Let’s dig a little deeper into the arguments that persuaded me into these dates. Obviously, I was persuaded by the numbers game. More than that, I was scared. Appeals to fear simply should not be a reason to do something like dating or even marrying a non-Catholic (and possibly divorcing later).

Next, while I thought that I could become more tolerant, I learned that dating a non-Catholic can destroy one’s faith. The same could be said of spending a lot of time with friends outside the faith or worse opposed to it. I would wager that in every conversion story that it has never been the significant other who does most of the work of conversion. A person on the way to the faith needs an impartial person such as a priest to talk through doubts and struggles with the faith. Otherwise, the conversion might be done simply to please the significant other.

Dating is even more dangerous than friendship because it usually involves some sort of physical chemistry. This physical chemistry can overshadow differences in values or beliefs. Desire for the magic of the chemistry can lead to closing the door on anything that is a threat to amicable feelings. In my case and probably many others, I was making very little progress in persuading my dates and much more progress in corroding my own belief in order to keep alive the chemistry.

Finally, Catholicism is a culture and if you have been against it your whole life or just simply outside of it, it will be hard for you to become integrated into it. I have always enjoyed talking to women that can understand from where I’m coming, when I talk about confession or Mass and who know what it’s like to go through the Triduum. The women I have dated outside of Catholic culture have not understood what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. This has automatically made it harder for us to understand each other.


Christ says “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt 5:29). It seems draconian to apply this to dating someone outside the Church, but we should. This is not to say that it never works. I would add this might have been different, if I had met my dates on their way to Catholicism. Usually I met them at a meet up or some other place. We didn’t meet at a Catholic event or anything like it. My brother-in-law is a convert and wasn’t Catholic when he met my sister. That relationship worked because my brother-in-law was already on the way. This made it easier for him to integrate into a Catholic framework. I hope for more conversions like his, but I will not expect them through dating relationships.

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15 thoughts on “Dating Outside the Church”

  1. My Catholic family may have been unique. There were several mixed marriages to Protestants. My beautiful Protestant aunt Evelyn chose to become a Catholic. She became a strong Catholic convert. Perhaps stronger than her husband, uncle Frank. You mention divorce as if it were not a Catholic condition. The church’s insistence on annulment has dangers. An annulment says that the marriage never existed. How do you tell that to a divorced mother who has 4 children from her failed marriage? Add to that grief the silly cost of an annulment. We all know that the singles field outside of the church is much larger.

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  3. How fragile does one’s faith have to be for a significant other, let alone friend/s, to be able to separate him or her from his or her faith? If you really believe, it does not matter if 10,000 people around you believe otherwise. If your faith is so easily shaken by others, there is a much bigger problem at work.

  4. When a person marries/remarries late in life, the children issue is usually not relevant. You are both more interested in providing for each other, especially in the medical area and a secure home environment. This does not mean they are more important than faith, just more immediate. Religious views are probably pretty set and respect for others views more tolerant than when younger. Of course there is also the sometimes contradictory government policies regarding Medicare, Social Security and other programs that must be navigated. I do not diminish religious belief by anyone as each approaches the latter stages of life on their own terms with the best informed conscience of their belief system. My wife being Buddhist has a different view of life after death but unlike many Buddhists believes in a Supreme Being and the concept of reward or punishment based on ones life. She is not a follower of the Dalai Lama and does not believe in reincarnation. She attended a Catholic school in Bangkok and this, no doubt, informs some of her views but like 90% of the country considers herself tied to basic teachings of the Buddha.

  5. I sympathize with the idea behind this article. I have had more opportunity to date outside the church than in it (my chances of dating within the Church have been practically nil)
    but I don’t believe it could ever work long term, so I’ve never tried it.

    However, I can’t agree with the idea that spending a lot of time with friends outside the Church is a bad idea, at least not for everyone. If you really want to evangelize and teach people about what the Church is about, then deep friendship is an important way of accomplishing it. You can also accomplish something similar in other relationships (co-worker, acquaintance, etc) but not on such a deep level. For some people it is a danger to hang out too much with non-Catholic friends, but it’s not a one size fits all solution. It depends on both the Catholic and their friends.
    Furthermore, many Catholics live less ideal lives than non-Catholics.

  6. The article and comments are both valid and interesting as far as they go. When my Catholic wife passed away I had no real intention of remarrying as I am in my 70s. However I eventually met a widow whose interests and experiences were quite compatible with mine, despite that she is Buddhist. Eventually we married in the Church by a very understanding pastor who acknowledged at our age, religious differences were not so important as children were not an issue and we were both at peace with our beliefs. Since the divorce rate among Catholics is approaching that of the rest of married couples, it would appear that other factors are rising in importance of maintaining a stable relationship.

    1. Hi Donald,
      Thank you for reading and commenting on my article. Your personal story is interesting. I think the key point is probably the one about children. As a Catholic, I would have to raise my children in the Church according to the Catechism. I don’t think this is easy for a lot of secular people.

      As far as the divorce rate, the number I’ve seen is 28% among Catholics which is lower than the general population. I haven’t been able to tell whether this rate has gone up or stayed steady or risen. Also, annulments are declining, although this may also go along with fewer people opting to marry in the Church.

      I think these statistics are complicated by a lot of other factors. Were the divorcees really practicing Catholics? How serious were they about their faith to begin with? Anyways, I’m interested by what other factors you think might be more important than faith.

  7. The author’s objective is noble. I suppose I’ve had it too. But other than him and me, does anyone care? How does an unmarried Catholic man find the unmarried women in his area parishes? Parishes quit providing the social environment that nudged singles together for social occasions or dating, in the 1970’s or 1980’s. In nearly thirty years after college, I have never met or been made aware of any single church-attending Catholic women. Never. The Church talks out of one side of its mouth about the importance of marriage but the other side does absolutely nothing to help make it happen.

    The author worries about “anti-Catholicisim” and lack of respect and understanding. I’ve never seen any ill will toward my being Catholic and attending church. Rather, I would say that my many ex-Catholic friends respect the fact that I still make going to church somewhat of a priority, and will try to fit it into my schedule when others would just blow it off.

    1. I guess the author isn’t going to reply to my comment. That’s unfortunate because if he refuses to date non-Catholics, then he’s probably resigned himself to a lifetime of simply not dating at all.

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  9. Gee, I’m glad my wife was happy to date outside the Church! I was a secular Jew when we first met at Carnegie Tech, some 60 years ago. I’m also glad I disobeyed my parents’ strictures to not date shiksas (non-Jewish girls). By the way, in my experience teaching RCIA, a good 30 to 50% of those entering the Church have Catholic spouses–anecdotal, to be sure, but indicative that the author’s thesis might be defective.

    1. Bob, it seems your own experience affirms the author’s opinion (based on his own experiences). You were a secular Jew 60 years ago and you now teach RCIA. It seems, just like the author said, that there was a door opened in your heart and now you are a Catholic 😉

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