06 December 2010

Courting, Dating, and the Catholic Family

As the parent of 37 children, I have occasionally contemplated the prospect of how to handle the spouse-finding process for those three children who won't be priests or nuns. As my eldest daughter nears end-stage marital eligibility, I have been contemplating it more and more.

A recent email from a reader to the long-forgotten "Ask thetimman" feature prompts this post:

What is a Catholic parent to do about dating? Courtship? Shotgun weddings? And the rest.

There is a growing trend in the traditional and conservative Catholic world of returning to a "courtship" style of meeting/socializing with members of the opposite sex. In such a scenario, the contacts between the young couple are highly supervised, and the couple forgoes some of the more common "near occasions" that are usually found in the normal dating scenario. A growing number of Catholics-- not just crazy trads, but your biggest JP2-we-love-you conservatives, too-- are embracing this strategy. For an example of the latter check out Steve Wood's Faith and Family site and click on "courtship" for specifics.

Of course, the far greater percentage of Catholics--even crazy trads-- allow their children to date in some form or fashion, with restrictions consistent with the faith. Overgeneralizing to a shameful degree, these Catholic parents allow dating only at a much later age than the secular crowd, give earlier curfews, get to know potential suitors very well at the beginning of things, restrict the times and length of unchaperoned dates, and generally wear out rosary beads for the duration.

The question for Ask thetimman was, "What are your thoughts on dating and courtship?" My initial response is simple: "That's the Mother Superior's problem."

I have yet to undergo this trial. My gut feeling is that I will botch it terribly, ruin my children's lives and have to watch them await results on the Paternity Test episodes of Maury Povich.

I guess I would love to see the courtship thing work out, but it seems like it would take an exceptionally well-formed suitor on the other side to buy into it. I have a high respect for the spiritual instincts and intelligence of my daughter, for example, but I also know how guys are, having been one. I do wish to avoid jail, so allowing her to date seems risky, since I will have to destroy any boy who gets out of line (it's a joke!).

Perhaps college is the place to meet the right mate. However, it's hard to find a traditionally Catholic college near the Midwest.

Oh well. Maybe I can get it done the old-fashioned way: pay a dowry to some traditional Catholic parents whose sons have good formation and a clean medical history, then spring it on the unsuspecting bride and groom to be. Won't they be delighted?

In all seriousness, I am throwing this one out to you, the reader. What are your thoughts on dating and/or courting? Age issues? Types of dates etc., allowed? Anything you want to add?


Anonymous said...

Currently have two eligible, mature Catholic sons in their early 20s. Minimal dowry requirements. Ford pickups or Stihl chainsaws would be considered. Email details...

Mom of 9 said...

As a mother of good Catholic children nearing adulthood, living in an isolated area with no real prospects for suitors (Protestants and pagans need not apply), I have wondered the same thing. Are we going to end up trying to meet up with other Catholic families to check out their children and set up semi-arranged marriages?...or maybe set up some sort of Catholic courtship website, where the whole family watches (and comments) as the prospective spouses interact via the web?

All right...don't tell me you never thought of it!

MC said...

As a young woman of dating age, I have found that the fear of a young man not "buying" into the idea of a more courtship-centered form of a relationship is relative. Of course, the average date-a-dozen man of today falls into this category, where "tired hearts" (as St. Francis de Sales puts it) are as common as head colds.

However, the man of chaste respect and upright character, who has kept his own heart pure, I suspect would similarly have respect for the young woman, her family, and a loving courtship. Boy does it go against the grain- but isn't it worth the trouble?

Mark S. Abeln said...

All I can say is that it is insane. Our culture sets up marriage to fail.

Anonymous said...

Ten Simple Rules for Dating my Daughter:

Rule One: If you pull into my driveway and honk you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up.

Rule Two: You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Rule Three: I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose his compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact, come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your waist.

Rule Four: I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, sex without utilizing a "barrier method" of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

Rule Five: It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is "early."

continued ...

Anonymous said...

continued ...

Rule Six: I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Rule Seven: As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process that can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don't you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?

Rule Eight: The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there are no parents, policemen, or nuns within eyesight. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka - zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which features chain saws are okay. Hockey games are okay. Old folks homes are better.

Rule Nine: Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.

Rule Ten: Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi. When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway you should exit your car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car - there is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.

Anonymous said...

How did you meet the man/woman you're married to? How were you allowed to date? Did you turn out okay?

Why can't you trust your kids to do the same?

thetimman said...

Just because I met my wife in the mosh pit at a Midnight Oil concert doesn't mean my daughter will have the same luck. They broke up anyway.

Rule guy, wow, that's pretty intense.

Bieber Fever said...


1. Strict parental units are too scared to send their kids away and so they send kids to secular, "catholic", or community colleges here in STL.

Us kids meet great boys/girls to date there. Oh wait. Just kidding. We then become so desperate we'll date losers behind our parents' backs.


2. They sit at home.
No, Prince Charming does not just ride up on a horse for you. There are no potential suitors my age (20) at SFDS, and I doubt there ever will be.


3. Send your kids to a real Catholic college (TAC,Ave Maria,Christendom) and meet real Catholic kids.

Latinmassgirl said...


You know of two recent marriages between good Catholic home educated men who married home schooled girls. It can happen. We also know of a nice young home schooled Catholic lady who met a Protestant and told him that she wasn't interested in courting him unless he was willing to be a Catholic. They are happily married now and he is a very good Catholic.I am using the example of home educated children, but of course there are wonderful Catholic families who send their children to school and I'm sure they are looking for holy spouses as well.

Athelstane said...

Hello Timman,

"Perhaps college is the place to meet the right mate. However, it's hard to find a traditionally Catholic college near the Midwest."

Well, there is Benedictine College in Atchison, KS, which is becoming tolerably Catholic in identity again...

Otherwise, most of the "serious Catholic identity schools" seem to be on the coasts or the sunbelt (alas). And even these are not without issues on this score - in my experience. (They also tend to be pricey.) Too many of the young men at these schools seem emotionally stunted, and/or too idealistic in their career ambitions to properly support a family. Not all, to be sure; but it's an issue.

Of course, there's always the off chance they might meet someone after mass (yes, even traditional masses, if you are lucky enough to have one). I used to think this was unlikely - until I met my current other half after a weekday TLM. Which is not to discount the forbiddingly small dating pool for young "intentional" Catholics, especially girls.

Anonymous said...

Timman, you are hilarious. You should have a blog.

Delena said...

I've got some young ones, you've got some young ones...let's make a deal. Oh, to be related to THE TIMMAN! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the 10 rules. Unfortunately, most young guys would read them and laugh, thinking they were a joke! Obviously, they do not have daughters. Speaking of, why does it take having a daughter for most guys to think like this? Someone once told me that young men used to be told to treat the girl like he would treat his Mother and Sister. Good rule of thumb.

V. Double

thetimman said...

Delena, deal. You match 'em up. Oh to be related to the former "Traditional Catholic Mom"!

Bieber fan (shudder), I wonder just how Catholic some of the real Catholic places are. I asked the student rep from Benedictine about whether there was a traditional Mass on Campus or in town (I knew there wasn't but wanted to gauge reaction) and his eyes glazed over like I was a pod person. Now, of course, with me that may have been exactly the right reaction.

But I agree, I think Benedictine just might be the best bet anyway. We'll see. Eighteen months to go.

To those who responded that the pool of eligible guys in the 18-25 range at SFDS is small, I would agree, when compared to the large number of young ladies. Maybe some West Co. oratory guys would like to fill out my lengthy application to date my daughter.

But 35 nuns and 2 priests doesn't sound bad, either.

Anonymous said...

This is apropos:


On a related note, true story, I once dated a girl who lived way out in the sticks (a different part of out in the sticks where I lived, anyway). When I got there and she was getting ready, her dad took me out on the deck of their house to demonstrate his target shooting prowess with an antique dueling pistol by shooting at a can in the middle of the state highway that ran in front of thier house.

Even at my precocious age at the time, I appreciated the theater for the warning that it was.

Anonymous said...

Also, I think we oft worry too little about the chastity of our sons (at least as compared to the chastity of our daughters).

Granted, the potential practical effects of sexual sin hit daughters more directly than they do sons. . . but in many ways, sons/boys/men are more susceptible to the sexual temptations that are all too prevalent in our oversexed society.

Frankly, pre-marital sex is less available to young men than other temptations that are just as wrong. It takes two to tango, after all.

And coincidence of all coincidences, you would not believe what the word verification for this comment is. Let's just say it's a euphemism for intercourse.


he Anon that posted the youtube

Jane Chantal said...

My Rule #1 for anyone who has become a parent since 1970:





The damage that the Baby Boomers did continues to blight the lives of the generations that have followed us.

Marie Z said...


Athelstane , Bieber, and Tim Man forgot about the University of Dallas.

Athelstane said...

Hello Timman,

Well, I would not say Benedictine is perfect - it's just gotten better sufficiently that we can say it's a school that takes its Catholic identity seriously, where there's a critical mass of intentional Catholics on both faculty and in the student body. But in the Midwest, I am hard pressed to think of anything better...save for Steubenville, which is only barely in the Midwest, and overrun with Charismatics anyway. And who wants their daughter marry one of them? :-)

The truth is that for traditional Catholics, tertiary education options are vanishingly thin. TAC is probably at the top of the list. But very pricey, and very selective.

There are many great things to say about TLM communities, but the spousal potential for young Catholics is not one of them, as a rule. There are a few cities where there's enough of a "Catholic mafia" to create a viable courtship pool, but it may not always be an option to move to one.

dulac90 said...

What is it with you and shoulders?

thetimman said...

Marie Z,

I hear UDallas has three TLMs on Sundays. Is that true?


agreed in full.


They executed Socrates for being a disturber of the peace.

Marie Z said...

Why,Tim Man, yes, the University of Dallas *IS* a dream come true in all ways!

You're completely correct. There are three TLM's at UD.

Also - not so fast! TAC isn't the best out there! It completely depends on what you want to do with your life.
A liberal arts degree works well for some, but not for others! UD still has a core curriculum where you study the classics. However, for the last two years you can focus on what you find most interesting, while still in a Catholic environment!

StGuyFawkes said...

Here is my contribution to the discussion. I have a sixteen year old at a R.C. private school and two twelve year olds at a parochial school. What I have noticed is that the whole concept of dating and courtship in the general sense has changed, and not always for the worse.

My son's peers seem to go out in mixed groups much more than I did forty years ago. This trend, while not foolproof against mischief, does serve to dissipate some of the "near occasions" which might swamp the one-on-one date.

I've also noticed that teens in my son's mileau tend not to get caught up in the necessity of having a "boyfriend" or "girlfriend." Some of them do but the attachement usually only lasts a few weeks.

I've noticed that there is a greater emphasis on showing up for football or soccer games where girls from St. Joe's, or Viz show up than being on a one-on-one or double date. The operating phrase seems to be "hanging out" which as a semantic cover could be camouflage for lots of sin. But not always.

I'm here to report that the oversexualization of youth by our popular culture may have de-sensitized kids which is a bad thing. But it may have also put them off "going steady" which is where unwed pregnancy frequently finds its beginning.

There is lots to be disgusted about. Teens go to formal dances wearing corsages and blazers then start dancing in a manner called "grinding" which is less a form of dancing than a clothed simulation of the conjugal bond. But whoever does this usually gets a "reputation" which tends to police the bad behavior even when the chaperones are not policing. .

I offer these comments because it is my impression that many readers of this blog are so removed from the mainstream experience of Archdiocesan schooling that they deduce that it's all a naked godless moshpit. It can be but there are countervailing tendencies which are refreshing and surprising.

Oddly enough some of the schools that have the greatest reputation for heresy tend to have the girls that care least about pleasing men. That always helps.
On the other hand the most expensive and in concept conservative girl's high school is a place where so many of the ladies make a point of looking like the Kardashians at every mixer.

As in the days of Waugh bad behavior always follows big money.

The Happy Mother said...

Here's another vote for University of Dallas- my husband and I both went there and married shortly after graduation.
Our children are still little, so we don't have any experience with dating, but I do have this to share. We try to make sure that our two daughters have wonderful, trusting, affectionate relationships with my husband. That way, they don't need to look elsewhere for male affection and affirmation. Most of the girls that we know that have made "mistakes" were sadly trying to replace the male affection they were not receiving at home.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Happy Mother,

What you said about girls and their fathers is the wisest comment of all.

St. Guy

Dads are the key said...

Dear Happy Mother,

You are a VERY WISE woman. I totally agree, and I am happy to say that my husband is very close and affectionate with our daughters. My dad was very close to me growing up, but then he divorced my mom and left "me" and I did turn to boys for affection and love that I was missing from my favorite man, my dad

Keeping your marriage strong, and having rules for your children, while letting them make age appropriate decisions is the best thing that you can do for them. My daughter told me the other day that she knows the most important thing to me as a mother is making sure my children go to heaven.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so THAT'S why people go to college... and here all this time, I thought it was to study.

Too bad they colleges don't offer a dating degree.

Anonymous said...

Let's face the facts, all lasting marriages are arranged in some way. Why not officialize it?

Athelstane said...

Marie Z said:

"Also - not so fast! TAC isn't the best out there! It completely depends on what you want to do with your life."

True enough. I may have spoke hastily.

My criteria were only 1) quality of intellectual formation and 2) proper traditional Catholic identity. On these criteria Thomas Aquinas College does as well as anyone out there - likely better.

But if you want a degree in accounting, business, engineering, hard sciences, education...TAC may not be the place for you.

I second the endorsements of University of Dallas - another reasonably solid Catholic institution.

Anonymous said...

YES they do!
You MUST know someone who went to school solely to get her MRS.