Friday, February 14, 2014

It is Not Good for Man to be Alone (part two)

The first thing God saw, and identified as "not good" was the human He created, alone. 
If that's first thing that really concerned the creator, shouldn't it matter more to the Church? 

As it stands, if a long-time, unintended single expresses their pain and burden of being alone to a representative of the Church, they are met with either uncomfortable laughter, or stoney silence. 

The Church is woefully unprepared for the effects of the sexual revolution on the faithful. The latest data indicates, that for the first time in history, single adults nearly outnumber married adults, yet the Church continues to serve the married, with families, nearly exclusively. Isn't it time we acknowledge the single elephant in the room? 

Two years ago, on Valentine's Day, Catholic writer, Simcha Fisher got a taste of the fury of the slighted single when she dared to grumble about the overwrought holiday in her column in the National Catholic Register online.
The unveiled response from singles: ”You’re married. You don’t get to complain about Valentine’s Day.”  This either amused or irked Mrs. Fischer, so in response in a subsequent column, she asked what it is that singles need from the church.

Whoo boy. Then it blew up. There were hundreds of responses from single Catholics, explaining their marginalized status in the Church and in society.

There, in one place, were tons of suggestions, reasons and ways for the Church to reach out to single adults. (Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about singles in terms of twenty-something’s. We’re talking prolonged singleness for which there seems to be no cure. Other than a call for all the divorcees to get annulments and a heart transplant.)  If one or two churches in every diocese would have implemented just one idea, the plight of Adult Catholic Singles might have eased, just a bit.

The singles flooded the comments with descriptions of the agony of their single life, the loneliness and isolation. The lack of accountability, as daily, they return to an empty house, where it would be nice to just have someone to bounce their thoughts back and forth. 

Sadly, among the wealth of suggestions from those experiencing prolonged singleness, were glib - nay ignorant - condolences from the smug marrieds;

Um, Sebastian honey, we’re over 40, the only impending diapers are our own and most of us already have a mortgage, thankyouverymuch.  World Youth Day? Can 35+ year-olds go to World Youth Day? Wouldn't we be arrested for being creepy predators?!  Oh and don’t forget. Yay! I get to go to the dentist!

Soon? Many singles have been anticipating "soon" for more than 20 years. Every year or two, one thinks, "This is it! God can't hold out much longer. I'm sure I'll meet someone soon and my waiting will be over." Rinse and repeat. Suddenly you're over 40 and invisible to the world.
Soon may never come.

All of this, makes it clear that the Church does not see the adult singles. In the minds of Church-going Catholics, all single people are in their 20s!
Insert flashing arrow pointing to obvious problem right here.

Worse yet, the smug marrieds who think all adult singles are perverted, lazy slobs:

Wait a minute, after we're all done being gravely insulted, we need to finish laughing at the absurdity of this comment! 
No distractions yet?!  Har har. If we're not counting the ticking biological clock, does a mortgage, or burying one's parents, or sitting all by yourself in an emergency room count? 

So, what has happened since Simcha’s figurative olive branch? Well, the National Catholic Register promised a single’s column – of which I’ve seen two (2) offerings. One by Emily Stimpson and another by some guy who never managed to complete his thought.  (Although, I was recently at a friend’s house – married of course – who showed me a column by Emily that was really quite good… so maybe the NCR has been publishing these columns in the hard copy, leaving the easily accessible online version to play cricket reruns…  ignoring the fact that the single’s scene is online – but I’m glad my one married friend and someone’s grandma got to see it.)

Where was I? Oh yes, what happened after Simcha extended an olive branch to Adult Catholic Singles? After the roar died down? Pretty much nothing. At least on the NCR, there's not been another word about it. 

All the smug marrieds went back to their Creighton charts, the mommy bloggers went back to writing about the tribulations of mothering. The Catholic husbands who insist that their single brother or nephew or cousin isn’t suitable for a relationship with a Nice Catholic Girl, went back to being okay with that.

It’s time to stir things up. How can you help?

(I'll share thoughts on that in my next post, but I'd love to read yours in the comments.) 

 Read part one of this series here.


  1. Tammy, you have a lot of great insights about single Catholics and their experiences in the Church. Thank you for taking the time to blog about this issue. I too have wondered about NCR and their lack of a singles column. Would it help if enough singles wrote in to NCR and asked about it? For now, I would love it, if you have the time, if you could take a look at my blog. It’s about single Catholics, how the Church could help us, and why they should help us. (e.g. There are going to be fewer priests/religious if the marriage rate continues to fall.) Any feedback you're able to give would be great. I’m trying, in some small way, to help the Church grow in this important area. Thank you!

  2. Hi Tammy. I have to apologize. I signed in with the wrong user name when I posted the above comment yesterday. That name is to an older version of my blog that I need to delete. I hope this one makes it easier to get to.

  3. This series of articles was highlighted on Cathy's (aka reform4) blog. I thought I had found every article about the plight of Catholic singles, but had not seen these.

    You do an excellent job of summarizing the problem. I've written comments on all the existing articles and I've made the exact same points that you've made. There is nothing more I can add.

    A common solution proposed by the marrieds is for singles to start their own groups. I've tried that. In one parish which has "date nights" for married couples and "family masses", I asked about similar events for singles. The reply was "we'll get back to you" which of course is code for "go away". Nothing came of it.

    Our bishop recently wrote a paper blaming men for all the problems of modern society. I found one of his advisors on that paper, a semi-prominent mommy-blogger in our area, and tried to start a discussion with her. Within two exchanges, her reply was "you don't seem like a very nice person, maybe that's why you don't get any dates." No, the reason I don't get any dates is because in thirty years here post-college, I've never met a single Catholic woman. It's like you say, I could be sitting near them at mass every week, and there's no way to know it.

    1. Whoops, the comment about not knowing who you're sitting next to at church was not from your article. It was from another article that Cathy linked to. This blog appears to be dead. Is anyone here?

      “It’s so hard when you’re a single person, because the church really revolves around the family,” Cripps said. “When you’re a single Catholic, you often have no way of knowing who the other singles are in your parish. You could be sitting next to another single person and never know it.