Countless threads in the forums have been dedicated to it. Debates have raged on about it. Friendships have started – and ended – over it. More importantly, perhaps, many CatholicMatch members have avoided going on dates because of it.
I am referring, of course, to the seven faith questions on every CatholicMatch member’s profile. (In filling out our dating profiles, we are each asked whether we accept seven matters of church doctrine: the Eucharist, contraception, sanctity of life, papal infallibility, premarital sex, immaculate conception and holy orders.)
Is there any CatholicMatch forum fan who hasn’t seen heated discussions about it?
While no one should compromise their beliefs or religious commitment, nor should anyone feel forced to accept another ideology if it conflicts with their own, I think it might be helpful to look at these seven questions in a different light.
Instead of viewing them as a litmus test for a future prospect, perhaps we could use them as a means of understanding one another.
I’ll use myself as an example. I grew up in a Catholic: weekly mass, prayers each night and Grace at meals. Icons and crucifixes featured prominently in our home. Everyone had their own rosary.
I also went to Catholic school for 10 years straight, as well as a Catholic college for my undergraduate degree. Not once was a Bible opened. Not once was the role of the pope discussed. No one questioned why women weren’t ordained; we knew we wouldn’t get an answer. Other than a poster of the Ten Commandments in every classroom, we never never learned about any church teachings.
I look at the list of seven now and know for sure that five of them were never discussed. The other two, sanctity of life and premarital sex, were learned not so much from discussions as from unspoken warnings. If I hadn’t paid attention to these unspoken warnings, as was the case with many of my classmates, I would not understand what the church taught.
How could my upbringing yield such a disconnect? How could it be that 10 years of Catholic school did not result in a thorough understanding of these teachings? It could very well be the fault of my particular school, but I think this case is far more widespread.
From what I gathered reading threads in the forum, it appears that many are in my situation: They simply never learned the church teachings. The one-sentence explanation in the profile may not be enough for a true understanding of the teachings.
Of course, members are free to find out more from their parish or from countless Christian websites. But the issue here has more to do with how we are approaching our fellow members whose understandings differ from our own.
A closer look
Sure, many members simply check off “yes” to all seven and leave it at that. The others, however, who check “no” may have a plethora of reasons for doing so. Those reasons may not have anything to do with disagreeing with the Church. It may just be a case of not knowing the full scope of the teaching.
I fully admit that when I first joined CatholicMatch many years ago, I checked “no” for papal infallibility. I was thinking of it only in terms of the church scandals. However, since then, I’ve read up on the role of the pope, as well as excerpts from encyclicals – in large part, I might add, from forum discussions. I’ve learned of the many wonderful things our pontiffs have done for the Church. I came to a new understanding of the word “infallibility” and changed my profile after that.
One case I remember reading about in the forum was from a young man who’d checked “no” for premarital sex ecause he’d committed this sin in the past. Through the forum discussion, he’d learned that the question applied only to current beliefs, not to past transgressions. He changed his profile, and thanked the forumites for their sage advice.
Another CatholicMatch member checked “no” about holy orders because she truly thought women should be able to serve. A profound discussion ensued about the role of men and of women in the Church. She came to understand that this teaching is not about the exclusion of women, but rather about the various roles that both men and women can serve, in different – but equally important – ways.
While the plethora of 7/7 threads cover the same ground, I think the issue is an important one to discuss. We should continue to have a dialogue about the Church teachings, and it should be done in the spirit of Christian charity rather than condemnation.
In this very same spirit of acceptance and open-hearted charity, I wonder if anyone on CatholicMatch would try something different: instead of saying “Next!” when browsing a profile that is less than 7/7, perhaps we could ask that member to elaborate on their response. The answer may be beneficial for both parties involved: One could make a new friend and the other could learn more about our wonderful Catholic faith.