Q. There’s this guy that I recently reconnected with. I like him and I think he likes me. The only issue is that he isn’t Catholic. I know he’s Christian, though. I’m unsure of what to do if he asks me out and/or it eventually gets serious. Is it okay to date someone who isn’t Catholic?
A. I grew up in Bible Belt, where being a Catholic is almost as rare as a Catholic sitting in the front row at Mass. Since the majority of people I’ve dated (before dating my beautiful, wise, smart, funny, super-Catholic wife) weren’t Catholic, I thought I’d take a crack and answering this one for you.
First, I’ll say that there is nothing inherently wrong dating someone that isn’t Catholic. The eleventh commandment isn’t, “Thou shall only date Catholics.” Not being a Catholic doesn’t magically make someone unworthy of being in a relationship. I know plenty of amazing Catholics that are married to equally amazing non-Catholic Christians.
When you’re interested in dating someone, the biggest question you should ask yourself is why you want to date that person. What’s your motivation? Is it just because you want to date someone – anyone – and he or she happens to be available? That’s certainly not good motivation.
Maybe it’s that you think you can change them. There’s a term for this: Evangi-dating – you know, #FlirtToConvert. Let me let you in on a little secret… that’s not good motivation either.
I have known a lot teens who have bounced from relationship to relationship because they just wanted a boyfriend or girlfriend. Countless times I’ve heard things like, “He doesn’t go to church, but he said he’d come for me,” “she’s spiritual, but not religious,” or “but this one’s different, I can change him (or her).” It almost always ends in the same way – heartbreak. The two of you don’t have the same motives or life goals, and so either one person ends up settling or both people have their hearts broken when the inevitable conflicts over faith arise. There’s a huge difference in someone who is waiting until marriage and someone who is “willing” to wait until marriage. The first says “I’ve made a decision and I know who I am,” and the second is compromising core values for the sake of being together. More on that here.
That’s not to say that God doesn’t sometimes bring people into the church through relationships with members of the opposite sex. I’ll admit that I started paying attention in church because I liked a girl in youth group and she was paying attention to God. I thought church be a good thing in common with her. God used that, but He didn’t need me to date the girl for me to know Him. Today, I’m still good friends with that girl and I’m very grateful that we didn’t date. Instead of pretending to like God for her, I fell in love with God for me.
Let’s say your motivation is good – you found someone who is funny, smart, good looking, you have something in common, and you like spending time with them. The only problem is they aren’t Catholic… now what? Pray about it. Talk to your friends, youth minister, and other trusted adults about it. Then, if you feel it’s right and they do too, date them.
You and the person you’re dating should be equally yoked, plain and simple (2 Corinthians 6:14). You should be on the same page as the person you are dating. If faith is important to you, it should be to the person you are dating. While it can be difficult to date someone who isn’t Catholic when you are, it’s much more difficult to date someone who isn’t a Christian. When I was in college, I dated a girl who didn’t take her faith seriously at all. As the relationship progressed, I found myself compromising more and more of beliefs until I almost didn’t recognize myself. We get blinded by the relationship and lose track of who we are – God’s children.
Dating is preparation for your vocation – whether that’s marriage, religious life, or singleness. If God is first and foremost in your life, at a minimum, you should be dating someone who is trying to follow God with his or her whole heart as well.
So the answer is yes, it is okay to date someone who isn’t Catholic, but what does that look like? Invite them to come to church with you and go to church with them – just make sure you don’t miss Mass. It would break my heart if you walked away from the Church just because you fell in love with someone who isn’t Catholic. Being Catholic and dating someone who isn’t shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
Go on dates, get to know them – that’s what dating is for (and a date is not a marriage proposal). Ask them about their faith and tell them about yours. Do your best to answer questions when they ask you about what you believe, but don’t make up an answer if you don’t know the answer – go learn and come back with the truth. In my own life, dating people who weren’t Catholic led me to learn a lot more about my own faith and what our Church believes.
I know some amazing Catholic people who married amazing non-Catholic Christians. I have a great friend who is a wonderful Catholic woman and married to a Protestant pastor. They both are committed to their own faith while supportive of the other’s faith (and they’re raising their kids Catholic, too). She says it’s one of the most rewarding and difficult things she’s ever done. If this is the path God calls you to one day, be prepared: it’s not easy. Similarly, dating someone who isn’t Catholic can be both rewarding and difficult. Through prayer, you can decide if it’s right for you.
Do you have a question about dating and relationships you’d like to ask David and Rachel Leininger? Email them at Itscomplicated@lifeteen.com and your question could be the next blog post!