I recently read an article on the Catholic Answers website titled, Matchmaking Unplugged, regarding the perils of using an online dating service. At first, it piqued my interest and then, prompted me to respond to the author, Michelle Arnold, with this article, albeit six months later. I have great respect for the apologists at Catholic Answers, my own brother, Patrick Madrid having gotten his start there. While Miss Arnold’s article was not addressing an apologetics issue and merely the author’s opinion, I feel compelled to offer my own in rebuttal.
I know what it’s like to be single and hoping to find the right one to marry. I lived through that twice, unfortunately. First, before I married at age 26 and then again, after my unwanted divorce in 1993. The latter was far more lonely and painful. After receiving a decree of nullity, I was back in the search for a Catholic man to marry, but “Catholic” was not my only requirement. I wanted to be with someone who was a “happy” Catholic. Someone who wouldn’t chide me for wanting to actively practice my faith or raise a Catholic family. Our goals and values needed to match. Wow, could I have used a membership to CatholicMatch back then!
This is why I disagree with the opinions Miss Arnold put forth in her article about using reputable Catholic internet dating services. In stating why she “despises” this idea, she suggests this type of spousal search is “dangerous,” “unrealistic,” “isolating,” and “distasteful.” Here is why I believe she is wrong on all four counts:
“It’s dangerous.” I kind of feel like we’re having the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” discussion here. Guns don’t kill people and unless there are links to porn sites and ads that tempt you to sin, a respectable Catholic internet dating site is anything but dangerous. But what is dangerous are people who misrepresent themselves and anyone can do that, online or offline—your neighbor, your boss, your date whom you met through a friend. People can be devastatingly dishonest. But it’s the person’s fault, not the website’s. To the contrary, this is why Catholic dating sites such as CatholicMatch actually can and do lessen the opportunities for dangerous situations to occur. They accomplish this through actively enforcing the guidelines of the site and using staff to to review as much of the content as reasonably possible and educating their customers on best practices. Nothing is 100% safe but in life it is often not the tool that is the problem but the humans that misuse it.
“It’s unrealistic.” Miss Arnold claims that people cannot hide who they really are when you meet them in person. While I strongly disagree with this assertion (people misrepresent themselves in person all the time, just watch political news), it should be pointed out that the online aspect of meeting someone does not remain “online.” If the two people like each other, they meet. They go on real dates. Heck, they might even get married. But when those two people met, they had a head start, thanks to the individual profiles they were able to create and view. On their first date, there were many important questions already answered that could not have been if it were a first date with someone they had met at work or at a picnic.
“It’s isolating.” I’m sorry, to me this is just reaching. Isolation is sitting alone at home waiting for something to happen. There is nothing isolating about reaching out to other people and forming acquaintances that have the potential to turn into healthy, stable relationships.
“It’s distasteful.” What I think is distasteful is her reference to “selling” oneself on an internet site. Frankly, I think what the founders and employees do at CatholicMatch and other reputable Catholic sites is enable people to follow the call of their vocation in a way that is in line with the corporal and spiritual works of Mercy:
Corporal Work of Mercy: Shelter the homeless (creating a community for them)
Spiritual Work of Mercy: Comfort the afflicted (showing compassion for their search for a solid and permanent relationship).
While some people might say that’s stretching it a bit, I’d say it’s a much more reasonable idea than being “distasteful.”
Being single isn’t easy. We were created for relationships and to build society through strong and happy families. Helping singles find other like-minded, happy Catholics in our over-sexed, culture of death society is indeed an admirable and indispensable service. Consider this portion of the CatholicMatch Institute’s mission statement:(The education are of CatholicMatch)
Extraordinary work is being done in the Church by Marriage and Family Life ministries throughout the country. The Church provides valuable instruction to engaged couples and continues to support family life.
Due to various cultural changes, however, the number of single Catholics continues to grow (27 million in the United States), while the rate of Catholics getting married in the Church is dropping. Actively addressing the particular needs of single Catholics is essential in the Church’s work to build a culture that values marriage and family life.
I see nothing distasteful here.
Miss Arnold went on to say in her article:
And it wouldn’t hurt if parishes and dioceses looked into offering matchmaking to Catholic singles—not online but through clergy, religious, and married lay Catholics who can perform introductions at church events.
Miss Arnold, I say amen to that! That’s a great idea, but not the only one out there. We need to help one another, and dating sites like CatholicMatch are doing just that, one Catholic couple, one Catholic family at a time.
Please feel free to send me your comments and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.