When Speaking to the Clergy

Recently a friend informed me that she was contemplating talking to a priest at her parish about ways in which the Church could encourage more vocations to the sacrament of marriage.  After our conversation it occurred to me that she, and anyone else who is inspired to speak up to the Church on this topic, might need a few quick facts about single Catholics in order to back up the point they’re making.  So I put together a “cheat sheet” of information that I suspect many of the clergy are unaware of these days.  I decided to list this information for anyone else thinking about speaking to/writing to various members of the clergy.  The data listed below, along with the sources, is pulled from all of my previous posts.  I thought it might be helpful to have it all listed in one place, and so, here is is:


Emma Green of The Atlantic writes, “Beginning in 1970, however, Catholic marriages went into decades of steady decline, until the turn of the new century—when that decline started to become precipitous: Between 2000 and 2012, Church weddings dropped by 40 percent, according to new data from the Official Catholic Directory.” (https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/07/how-important-is-it-to-have-a-church-wedding/374767/)

Emily Stimpson, writing for Our Sunday Visitor, cites statistics from the National Marriage Project, which describe some of the ill effects of the single life. “As statistics collected by the National Marriage Project show, the single life is rife with risk factors. For example, single people in general are two to three times more likely to be depressed than their married peers and far more likely to commit suicide. Singles, particularly men, tend to suffer from more health problems than married individuals, as well as die younger.” – See more of this excellent article at: https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/ByIssue/Article/TabId/735/ArtMID/13636/ArticleID/1353/Being-single-in-the-universal-Church.aspx#sthash.F0YC6o87.dpuf

According to The Tablet, a British Catholic newspaper, some of the Catholic Bishops of France have offered their own insights on the topic of single Catholics.  The Family and Society Council of the French bishops conference states that, “many adults live as singles, not always willingly, and the Church should address their problems in its discussion of the family. . .  Bishop Herve Giraud of Soissons said single Catholics felt  ‘forgotten, even devalued, by the Church.’  They are often overlooked because they rarely come forward to speak about their problems.” (http://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/1843/0/synod-asked-to-consider-situation-of-single-catholics-by-french-bishops)

According to Hannah Furness of The Telegraph, “A new study of churchgoers found many Christians feel isolated within their own communities, due to attitudes towards single people.

Four out of ten single worshippers reported feeling “inadequate or ignored”, with more than a third claiming they were treated differently to those who appeared happily married.

More than 40 per cent of those surveyed said their church “did not know what to do with them”.”


Anastasia Northrop, founder of the National Catholic Singles Conference, states that, “there are more than 27 million single Catholics in the United States, which is a record number.”  Ms. Northrop’s information, in turn, is taken from a Pew Research poll.  She also notes that, ” ‘Certainly, many singles could be called ‘young adults,’ but there are many in their 30s, 40s and older who are part of the Church, but often feel there is no place for them or that everything is centered on families.’ ” (http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/no-reason-to-fear-the-s-word-single).

Emily Stimpson asserts, “Chances are, however, you’re still single for the same reason most of us are:

We’re Catholic and the culture is not.

The sexual revolution, divorce, abortion, contraception, pornography, cohabitation, even serial dating have left countless potential mates wounded and in need of healing. Others want and expect things from us that we cannot and must not give. The pool of eligible spouses is small, which leaves many of us single later—maybe much later—than we’d like.

But your unwillingness to widen that pool by turning your back on God and compromising on what you know to be true doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you. It means something’s right.”      (emphasis added). http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/cw/post.php?id=639

It may also surprise a good number of people to know that there are definite spiritual dangers inherent to the single life.  As Jared Silvey describes it, in the single life, “There is no sacrament to go along with it. The single lay person may not have a community of support on hand, or a structured religious life. As we alluded to before, the single lay state, in a sense, is the most dangerous vocation, and because of the lack of accountability and ready-made structure there are many more opportunities for falling into sinful bad habits.”   http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/single-lay-state-deserves-attention.

David Mills states, “The rest of us who are married can also do something for the single people around us: Make them real friends, especially if the default setting of your life is—as it usually is—to spend your time with other married people. . . http://www.aleteia.org/en/religion/article/single-and-catholic-5864386572845056s

“Cardinal Dolan recalled a ‘well-said’ observation offered some years ago when he was archbishop of Milwaukee by an archdiocese pastoral council member. The council was discussing ways of increasing vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life.  In that context, the pastoral council member stated that ‘the greatest vocation crisis today is to lifelong, loving, faithful, life-giving marriage.’ She added, ‘You take care of that one, and you’ll have all the priests and sisters you need.’ “  http://www.foryourmarriage.org/cardinal-dolan-sees-new-urgency-around-marriage/

Cardinal Dolan has suggested, “a ‘new phrasing’ of a prayer of the faithful during Masses.  His rephrased prayer would petition God ‘for an increase in vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life and the sacrament of marriage.’ ”  http://www.foryourmarriage.org/cardinal-dolan-sees-new-urgency-around-marriage/.

Michael O’Loughlin, in his analysis of a Pew Research Center study states, married people only make up 52% of the Catholic Church in the U.S. (http://www.cruxnow.com/church/2015/05/12/pew-survey-percentage-of-us-catholics-drops-and-catholicism-is-losing-members-faster-than-any-denomination/).


3 thoughts on “When Speaking to the Clergy

  1. I wonder how helpful David Mills suggestion about having married people make “real friends” with single people would be in real life given that the two groups are so different from each other. When a married friend visited the area recently, his kid tagged along with us and it was awkward. There was no staying out late and talking about whatever you wanted. Other married Catholics I’ve met who are my age just don’t seem to grasp the loneliness of singlehood because they’ve had a spouse for so long. I don’t think I’d identify with having to take the kids to soccer practice either.


  2. Great insights! I stumbled upon this blog (OK, the Holy Spirit brought me here!) after a period of almost drowning in an ocean of loneliness and isolation. I am 65, was married 24 years, but I never had a husband, if you get my drift. I have received an annulment for that little lapse in judgement. So here I am, grown out of the bar scene, seeking friendships with other practicing Catholics, but I can’t seem to find friends whose lives don’t revolve around a kid or grandchildren. The Church needs to get a handle on the fact that there are lots of faithful practicing unmarried Catholics who are: 1. mature, not old, 2. active and interesting, 3. have established careers (vs just a job), 4. in full understanding that marriage just passed us by, 5. are looking for friendship/commonality as opposed to just looking for a date, and 6. perturbed by other married parishioners who feel threatened by us, or think we are gay. I agree–they don’t know what to do with us, probably don’t notice us because we don’t make a lot of noise. All the energy gets expended on families and keeping Millennials and teenagers in the pews.

    My parish has a ministry to those “over 50 and single”, who go out for dinner a couple of times a month. That group only attracts people who are one step away from the nursing home. IMHO, people such as myself and those who are posting in response to this perceptive article are not looking for a “ministry” so much as just a way to find each other for activities such as spiritual enrichment, service projects, travel, and just hanging out as friends–like we used to do when we were of “marriageable age”. Any thoughts about how to find each other? We don’t have to be in the same parish, city/state, whatever. Just a way to connect for some real face time.


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