Seraphic Single Makes a Heart-Wrenching Plea to Single Catholic Guys

Via me and Fr. Z.:

Dear Father Z and Mark Shea,

I am writing to you because I believe you are read by the largest number of Seriously Catholic Single Men in the USA and Canada, or certainly ought to be. Personally, I write my blog for Seriously Catholic Single Women, and after reading their thoughts about Seriously Catholic Single Men in America, I have a request.

Would you please ask the Seriously Catholic Single Men of the USA and Canada not to mention Theology of the Body on the first date? The Seriously Catholic Single Women of the USA and Canada do not like discussing sex, no matter how marital, on the first date. Even secular humanists just out for what they can get tend not to put their sexual cards on the table until the third date.

Frankly, it makes my readers blush. My readers don’t even know if they are even remotely attracted your readers yet, and there your readers are, saying, “So… Christopher West. Ever heard of him?” It rather ruins the mystery, Father and Mark. A nice Catholic girl doesn’t know what to say. Obviously she wants to make a good impression on Seriously Catholic Single Men, but that doesn’t mean she wants to discuss mutual gifting on the first date.

Additionally, it would be kind if you reminded readers that Catholic dating websites often conduct orthodoxy tests on their members when they sign up, so there is no reason for your readers to behave, on the first date, as if they are volunteers for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the women across from them at the coffee tables of the world are Mary Daly, alive again and in disguise. They aren’t.

The whole point to a first date, as apart from a first winkie on a dating site and an introductory email in an In-box, is to discover if a man and a woman have any spark or sense of rapport when they meet in person. It should involve polite, lighthearted and humorous chit-chat or, if there must be a deep, soulful discussion of something, a deep, soulful discussion that does not involve the most private thoughts and most personally held beliefs of either party. There is a reason dates used to be preceded by a trip to the cinema: it gave the man and the woman something neutral but shared to talk about. A man who needs to discuss women’s ordination on the first date gives the unpleasing and heterodox suggestion that he thinks his date might personally bring it about.

On behalf of my readers, dear Father Z and Mark Shea, uncrowned earthly vicars of the anglophone segment of the Catholic blogosphere, I ask for your intercession in this matter.

Auntie Seraphic

Two things must be stated.

First, laddies, is that despite the title of the blog, the fetching lass who styles herself “Seraphic Single” is, I am given to understand, no longer single and therefore not available for any trans-Atlantic wooing by corn-fed strapping American men.  So don’t get any ideas.  Please feel free to mourn–in a manly way–this state of affairs.

Second–and I will try to put this as gently as possible–what is *wrong* with Catholic males that they need something like this pointed out to them?  Bringing up the Theology of the Body on a first date is just the smells and bells way of telegraphing “Let’s cut the chit chat.  I’m thinking of one thing right now and it’s not the Eucharist.”  Channel all that male energy, not into talking about your male energy in particularly unsubtle, creepy, and unnerving ways, but into the traditional things like courtliness, elevating your intended with talk and action about things she cares about, a dash of adventure and charm, and real–not pretend–self-donation that is not calculated to bring the conversation right back to “So.  About me and my needs and desires.  Here is how I fit them into my theological system.  How about it?  Can you sign on to that?  And how quickly?  I realize it’s our first date, but I’m not waiting forever here.”

This is perhaps not the most pastoral advice to single males (perhaps Fr. Z will provide that).  But… sheesh!  Theology of the Body on the first date?  Makes me glad I’ve been married since 1983.  I like being out of that loop.

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  • James H, London

    And that, boys and girls, is why they’re still single. Oy!

    • KML

      Heh! Yeah, I was wondering if maybe she should change the moniker to “Seriously Single Catholic Men.”

  • In my Baptist seminary days, the date killer was guy wanting to know if she was pre-, mid- or post trib.

  • victor

    I can see bringing up the topic of sex on a first date, but Christopher West? That’s a dealbreaker, ladies!

  • Kirt Higdon

    Were I still single, I’d not mention West at all and would pretend ignorance if someone else brought him up. I had the misfortune to be exposed to one of his DVDs at a conference and he is puerile and embarassing. But mentioning him on the first date would be a good tip-off to any Catholic lady that she should not have a second date with the guy who did the mentioning.

    • Clare Krishan

      Sadly the conjugal spirituality of Theology of the Body has been hijacked by Christopher West and railroaded into a ‘sexually-active’ dead-end. (He and his ilk need to Radiation of Fatherhood by Karol Wojtyla to see where they lost track – purity is the human telos, chastity a means to that end not the end itself).

      Gents try Dr Mary Shivanandam (search for “Chart 3” on page 232 to see a reflexive role for grace working on our consciences, his contribution to an anthropology of phenomenological personalism)
      or Dr Alice von Hildebrand
      on for size before approaching the feminine mystique in moonlight!

      • Mikayla

        As a Christopher West – reader/listener, who triggered me to read JPII’s original TOB work (in English translation), and met my husband through this reading (he was reading it at the same time), I’d like to offer a differing modern feminine perspective on Clare’s comment.

        Please, gents, don’t approach me in an Alice von Hildebrand fashion. If I’d been born 100 years ago, perhaps I would resonate to her exceedingly dainty and delicate manner of discussing matters of sexuality. Some of my modern female friends adore AvH, but many of us do not, or even find her an engaging read.

        TOB is a difficult read. It’s subtlety, nuance and depth is hard to present in a pithy fashion, and Christopher West’s presentation is, inevitably, lacking in comparison. I disagree that it’s hijacked or railroaded TOB toward a sexually active dead-end, and from my former reading/listening, it was clear (even prior to reading TOB for myself) that chastity is a means to an end… and end of personal holiness and unity with Christ. Now, I haven’t read CW for some time; since having children I haven’t had the time, but I’ve heard that he took criticism seriously and made some adjustments to his presentation, especially as regards grace and concupiscence, and his earthy modern pitch.

        While I agree that TOB should not be raised on a first date, that doesn’t mean I share AvH’s concerns about Christopher West’s presentation of ToB, or would prefer a less, erm, “robust” approach to discussion that West provides.

        Also, ensure you don’t use phrases like “approaching the feminine mystique in moonlight” in your dating profiles. Just because a lady online used it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. It’s a charming sentiment, but in print and in a dating context will seem creepy.

  • KMT

    Or, as a young lady friend of mine once put it, “I’m not ready to put on the plaid jumper yet.”

    • KML

      ….but what about the Bump-It?

  • “Catholic dating websites often conduct orthodoxy tests on their members when they sign up”
    True. I know this because I met my wonderful wife on “Catholic Match.” Great site for which I’m profoundly grateful. Single Catholics could do a lot worse than to check it out.

    • ivan_the_mad

      Same here, I second that, etc.

      • Bill H

        I’ll third that, for what it’s worth.

  • jcb

    Calling them immediately after the first date and leaving a rambling 45 minute lecture on their voicemail about how their clothing choices could better showcase their modest feminine beauty is still cool, right?

    • Jmac

      Are you kidding? If they’re wearing pants, it’s a MUST.

      • Beccolina

        You went on a date with a woman who wears pants? How dare you! I hope you didn’t take communion afterward. 🙂

        • Jmac

          Went to confession, shook the dust from my feet, took a shower and brushed my teeth. Then engaged in self-flagellation while thanking Good for saving me from a pit of lechery.

    • Mark Shea

      Ummmm…. Suuuuuuurrrrre. This provides the woman with *vital* information that she really needs to know.

      • Clare Krishan

        “she really needs to know” about YOU and what rocks your boat – and its not all that flattering, need I say!

    • SecretAgentMan

      Depends how much tequila you’ve had.

      • jcb

        Whiskey is my drink of choice for haranguing my way into a woman’s heart.

  • Sus

    My husband is looking better and better by the minute. He should send Mark money 🙂

    • Roz

      Where’s the “like” button?

  • Bill Kirby

    Is anyone really that surprised? The generation of Catholic young men now growing up have been told from the time they first started to notice girls, “Courting, not dating” and “Dating is to find your future spouse” and let’s not forget, “I wish WE’D known about Theology of the Body when we were dating.” So of course they are going to take any dating seriously from the get-go, because if they don’t take dating seriously they’re practically libertines.

    I’m not saying they are justified in bring up TOB on the first date, because tact and sense are necessary in dating, but when they do bring it up they aren’t necessarily focused completely on their own needs and desires-they have been taught to find a spouse who is in accord with Church teaching, and that’s what they are trying to gauge. Like most things young men do, they don’t always go about it the smartest way.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      but when they do bring it up they aren’t necessarily focused completely on their own needs and desires-they have been taught to find a spouse who is in accord with Church teaching, and that’s what they are trying to gauge. Like most things young men do, they don’t always go about it the smartest way.

      This. Let’s not assume the worst of intentions out there, or worse yet, the worst possible interpretations of Christopher West we can come up with. His work needs clarification, but he’s helped a lot of people who have gone down a bad sexual path to start to take the Church’s teaching seriously. I know I did.

      For what it’s worth, I once awkwardly loaned a girl a book about TOB right after a first date. She thought it was pretty weird, so Seraphic’s advice is probably good.

      On the other hand, I married that girl.

      • Meredith

        “On the other hand, I married that girl.”


  • Tim in Cleveland

    Is Christopher West back in the news? I saw his name over on Kevin O’Brien’s site in connection with an article on CNS claiming that pornography is the path to Jesus (Mr. O’Brien was criticizing the article).

  • math_geek

    I’m probably on the left side of the practicing Catholic spectrum, even by US standards. I’ll leave it to others to determine whether I’m Seriously Catholic, but Single and Male I can definitely attest to.

    I’ve dated Catholic women that brought up the Theology of the Body on the first date, and there typically hasn’t been a second date. It makes me unbelievably uncomfortable for exactly the reasons Seraphic Single describes. Sexual compatibility is important, I get that, as is Chastity, but … just… weird. The worst was a woman who eagerly wanted to communicate how much she was looking forward to submitting to a man. I think I actually ran to my car.

    And, for serious about the running test of determining if I’m Catholic enough. Yes, I’m no Fr. Z devotee and yes I barely know the rosary and struggle uncomfortably through Eucharistic Adoration in the cases were I’m convinced to go at all. But I go to Mass and Confession and I pray and give alms and read Catholic websites like this one and I try hard to be generous and kind and loyal in my relationships and outside of them. It’s frankly condescending to ask me to submit to proper theological testing. It also shows that the person has no interest in me as a human being and only as a tool to meet their needs.

    • Michelle

      Wow! You sound just my type! Too bad this isn’t a dating site. 😉

    • Beccolina

      That puts you way ahead of some of the Catholic guys I met in college, who would assure me that sex before marriage wasn’t *really* a mortal sin if we really loved each other. My pagan/atheist/not really anything friends were much more respectful.

  • Ed the Roman

    ” I once awkwardly loaned a girl a book ”

    Had you lent the book, it would not have been awkward.

  • deiseach

    Not that I can speak from experience, but my first reaction is if the guy brings up Christopher West on the first date, the Single Catholic Woman should reply with great enthusiasm how she’s always dreamed of a Josephite marriage. That’s sort out the men from the boys 🙂

    As you say, Mark, I’m extremely glad not to be faced with these kinds of choices.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      You win it ALL today, sister!!!

  • anna lisa

    I married a quasi pagan who knew God exists. He just didn’t have it in him to be a neurotic Catholic, nor does he now. He would have been down with Christopher West, but still has no idea who he is. All I know is that he totally agrees with him. I guess I do too. (Alice Von H. choked on that one) Not first date material though–especially when you’re 16, like I was. Hold on…maybe I’m wrong. 40-something me says that’s not kosher, but in all reality if that teenaged kid that I ended up marrying had said: “I truly believe that we speak a language with our bodies that can be deciphered by all that we *do*.”–I would have been impressed. Really impressed. I might have wanted to marry him even sooner.

    • Michelle

      …but in all reality if that teenaged kid that I ended up marrying had said: “I truly believe that we speak a language with our bodies that can be deciphered by all that we *do*.”–I would have been impressed.

      I, OTOH, would have been worried he was referring to my having just spilled something down the front of my blouse.

      • anna lisa

        I actually might have thought twice about the leather mini and crop top I was wearing. (Not kidding.) I’m reformed now, but fate is punishing me with a teenaged daughter.

  • anna lisa

    Oops, I forgot to add that guys who start out as well meaning pagans can turn into ardent Catholics too…

    • John

      Lord knows Lewis got pretty close.

  • JM

    I stopped narrowing my ‘Catholic’ dates to ‘seriously serious, like I really mean it, and totally orthodox’ Catholic men after being asked the following questions, repeatedly:

    1) So, are you a virgin?
    2) I want to have at least 8 kids. I assume you are able to bear children?

    I think my respective responses of ‘Are YOU?’ and ‘I’m sorry, but am I a brood mare?’ were under-appreciated.

    One of my More Catholic Than You male friends, who knew that I’d had a hysterectomy, actually told me I had no business EVER getting married, because I was unable to produce offspring. I’ve honestly never met a group more obsessed with virginity and baby making than Dudes That Are More Catholic Than The Rest of You Sinners.

    • AC

      Wow. And to think I missed out on all that by marrying a non-Catholic, lol! Not that I’m happy my husband isn’t Catholic — I dearly wish he was — but at least there was no first-date interrogation about my virginity.

      (The most Catholic guy I ever dated actually wanted to insert the word “obey” into our vows, if we got married, even though it isn’t used in the Catholic marriage vows. Then again, he also thought the UN wanted to invade Detroit — heaven knows why they’d want it — so that relationship was going nowhere fast.)

  • Confederate Papist

    Wow….just wow.

    I’m glad I got married the old fashioned way. Met Mrs. CP on a blind date, beat her over the head with my club and dragged her by the hair back to my lair…oh, wait…that was something else..

    But I did meet her on a blind date…and I was a Neanderthal back then (19 year old male)..

  • Thanks, Mark! I very much hope Father Z follows suit…

  • Marcus

    I hope Father Z. gets some background into the issue first instead of just caving in like Mark does to his internet crush. Support your brothers, Mark and be a man we can respect instead of getting some cheap shots in.

    • Mark Shea

      What are you talking about?

      • I suspect he thinks I’m attacking men. That’s not what this is about, and this is not what my blog is about. My readers really want to click with Catholic guys, and I assume any Catholic guy who actively seeks Catholic girls wants to click with them. One way to do that is not to embarrass them with coded sex talk or distress them with barely disguised orthodoxy tests when they’re trying to calm first date jitters and make a good first impression. Some guys do not seem to know that, and I assume that most of the time their ignorance is honest. But in the meantime, they’re hurting a lot of honest Catholic women’s feelings and shooting themselves in the foot. Those are the only “issues” I was thinking about.

        Except one: Marcus bolsters my suspicion that some men will be more easily convinced if they hear it from a man rather than from a woman, which is why I asked Mark and Father Z to say something.

        • Bill Kirby

          That’s what I got out of your post Seraphic, and it was a courteous and helpful advice. I think what may have Marcus upset (and me a little bit, as well) is Mark’s translating all such blunders as:
          “So. About me and my needs and desires. Here is how I fit them into my theological system. How about it? Can you sign on to that? And how quickly? I realize it’s our first date, but I’m not waiting forever here.”

          Aux arms! While I am sure there are some calculating jerks out there, the majority of guys who do this are doing so as a blunder, and the issue needs to be addressed as such.

          • Mark Shea

            I see nothing calculating in such emotionally and socially clueless boorishness. It’s all blunder, all the time when guys are acting that way.

  • Janet

    I’m a long time reader, but a first time poster. Thank you for sharing this. Speaking as a woman and a lay ministry professional, who uses the Theology of the Body in my ministry and could probably take to school any guy who brought it up as a “first date litmus test”, if a guy has to bring it up in conversation to show that he knows something about it and wants to impress me all that shows me is that he probably doesn’t understand the meaning of it at all.

    Talking about the great divine mystery that speaks to the deepest desire of the human heart and using it as some sort of test of my level of orthodoxy is not only insulting, but presumes a level of intimacy that if he had the FIRST CLUE as to what the Theology of Body was all about he would never dream of approaching on a first date. Plus, I can tell pretty quickly by how someone acts if they are familiar with the Church’s teaching on love, sex, and the human experience, there really is no need for them to bring it up in conversation.

  • Cinlef

    I’m vaguely troubled that Pharisaical jerks seem to be far better at meeting single Catholic women than I…….

    • Beccolina

      Want an intro to my sister?

  • SecretAgentMan

    For some reason I’m very heartened to see another lesson in “101 Reasons Why Doctrinal Orthodoxy Won’t Cure Personality Problems.” Or as Orwell wrote, there are many people trying to be saints because they’re afraid of being humans.

  • Mark R

    Jeez, just talk about what you like in common. It is that simple.

  • Jack

    I think Seraphic is on to something here, I know guys like this. I also know girls like this, but then I know of people who started a TOTB study group in order to meet some people they thought dateable.

    In all honesty though I avoid socialising in Church circles mainly because I recognise that some people are so desperately lonely that they’re dating people they don’t find attractive. My friends encouraged me to date a girl simply because she was single and I was single – however, we both found each other boring. Outside of church circles I don’t feel that pressure and can – hopefully – find a more honest relationship.

  • This article does help point out a terrible trait in much of womandom, especially that of the more educated/pretentious variety, that of assuming the man’s intentions instead of just frigging asking.
    Sure, she might ponder the question, blog about the question, ask her other gal friends the question, even ’cause the priest to nod off during confession with the question . . .but come out and just ask the actually guy the question is , oddly “out of question” !?!
    Unlike the talented blogger I don’t presume to speak for all men (or all women), but can only relay my own experiences and those of the men in the group I once lead.
    When I was a single Christian (o.k., still single, but the whole terminal illness thing is even worse of a first date topic), I dated more than a few Christian women who would suddenly appear au naturale after using the loo . . .and on only the second or third date!!! Now, personally, this is also a rather bad time to bring up ToB.
    While I wish chastity was something that didn’t need to be discussed, the truth is that drawing the lines even before the first date is necessary among we the “21st Century broken struggling towards heaven”.
    Society, and our own personal histories, have confused us to what the “other” expects so much so that not being naked about what we desire and expect upfront could easily lead to the unwanted naked and upfront.
    As most dating today has some pre-date e-mails, my own way of getting “the talk” out of the way was to mention in correspondence Dawn Eden’s 1st book and my own blog review about it, the latter includes my own quick thoughts on dating in the post so hopefully nothing else need be discussed, and so that I don’t have to have an “exit stage left” arranged every time the gal needs to powder her nose. – if I haven’t bored you enough, the above post can be read here

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      That’s more in line with my experience, but here’s what I found works…

      Tell that story. If a 1st date has gone well, toward the end, work in a worst-date-scenario anecdote showing that you don’t want a GIRL who moves too fast. Oh, and don’t slip her the tongue. The fast ones will either slow down because they like you and the way you treat them, or giggle at you for being a pansy and never see you again.

      And don’t let the giggling bother you. Either they will learn, or be miserable, or both. Just be glad you dodged the ‘naked by the 3rd date’ bullet and whistle on your merry way!

    • Susan

      the point of not being boorish, as Mark called it above, and as Seraphic’s post was pleading with NCBs to avoid, is that boorishness communicates intentions you MAY NOT HAVE. So Seraphic wasn’t accusing y’all of motives you don’t have – I think your post was a bit overly defensive. She was pointing out that if you DON’T want to communicate certain motives (either because it’s good to hide them on a first date if you have them, or because you don’t have them) then don’t do X. Whether you like it or not, those motives are what women perceive when action X happens. Don’t yell at us for our perception, maybe just avoid X. In other words, we think if you bring up TOB on the first date, that communicates to us that you’re obsessed with sex and overly intimate and weird and that is offensive and embarrassing. Sorry if that’s not what you intended to communicate. But that is in fact what women perceive. It may not seem fair but that’s the thing about social norms. Like when you don’t hold a door open in a public space for someone coming after you – you aren’t meaning to communicate that you’re selfish and thoughtless. Probably you were texting or you were caught up in your thoughts or something or you didn’t even notice that you just closed a door on someone right behind you. But the message communicated is just the same, fair or not. That’s all Seraphic was saying. We know you’re all wonderful, thoughtful, appropriate, authentically Catholic men and that sometimes we can miss that if you accidentally do something that communicates otherwise 🙂

  • Kevin Miller

    I hope this means that TOB is at least beginning to lose its grip on the Neo-Cats

  • IC

    OK, as someone who just wrote a book on the darn thing (and I’m a woman)–
    I just about died laughing here.
    All the more reason to plug with the message that ToB is not all about sex.

  • Seth Davis

    @Kevin Miller

    Why is this particularly surprising? Every gnosticism eventually loses its hold.

  • Ben Hammer

    Wow. Reading through these posts, as a recent widower, and 47, scares the crap out of me. I just may be single the rest of my life. I was married for twenty years, and sex (looking back on it) was such a small part of the connection that we had. This culture is literally obsessed with sex. Sad.

  • Sarah

    “Have you ever heard of Christopher West?”
    “Are you a virgin?”
    “I assume you are able to bear children?”

    These are not blunders. I have long suspected that deprived of masturbation, pre-marital sex, and porn, many single men will turn to an unhealthy obsession with the Theology of the Body as interpreted by Christopher West.

    Ladies, look upon such “blunders” as gifts. If someone is unable to figure out what self-donation means in the context of a first date, they will never be able to figure it out in the context of marriage, or even in the context of the marital bed on which they are so focused.

    Such men should put down the Christopher West and pick up the Gospels if they want to figure out the true meaning of self-donation.

  • Episteme

    You know, I keep seeing this article pop up in my Google searches, and I keep thinking one thing: I have NO idea what any reference in this is about except to a series of papal lectures, so I’m guessing that this West fellow must have done something regarding John Paul’s work.

    *shrug* I get turned down for all my dates anyway, so it wouldn’t matter. In any case, the proper topic of discussion for a first date would be which historic mendicant would win in a fight!

    ℣: St. Simon Stock or Blessed Reginald of Orléans?
    ℟: Blessed Reginald; although he shouldn’t *make a habit* of celebrating such technical victories, since Simon would avoid Purgatory even when he lost…

    See, much better!