Saturday, January 20, 2007

Are singles members of the Church or aren't they?

I've decided to take a break from talking about politics and business the next few days to recharge my batteries, as it were. After a week of intensive training on my new job I can use it. However, I did want to talk a bit about something that nags at me.

As most of you know, I'm single and hating it. That may change in the future, but for the time being I anticipate remaining single for the short and medium term. It does not bother me so much that I am single -- after all, coming from a broken home, I have to extra careful about who I might choose as a life partner.

No, what makes me frustrated and has made me so in the last few years is that single people in general aren't made to feel as welcome in the Church as married people and those pursuing religious "vocations." There may be historical reasons for this, but in the Third Millennium it is almost as if we singles are people to be stigmatized. There's a sense among many, both within our respective families as well as in the gossip cliques, that because we choose to be single that somehow denotes that we're not "normal." Not normal, in the sense that "they" think we're gay or lesbian or have the potential to become pedophiles because we don't want to "settle down."

Which of course, is totally ridiculous. Some are homosexual or bisexual, but the vast majority are straight -- myself included. And those of us who know what it's liked to be abused, whether it's verbal or far worse, don't need any lessons on not passing on those habits to the next generation. Even when church leaders do try to encourage single social groups at a national or regional level, local parishes or church councils go out of their way not to inform singles within their congregations such groups exist.

I was a member of one such group (which eventually imploded over internal politics) and we had a hard time persuading parishes to print advertisements in church bulletins because we were considered to be an "outside group" (even though each parish had dozens of single people who might be interested in joining) until the local bishop ordered the priests in his diocese to comply on the grounds his predecessor had founded the group precisely to get singles to socialize.

Some see the single life itself as being a vocation and I totally agree with that sentiment. Some of us are single by choice, others by circumstance, but that's who we are.

Yes, there are still church dances and pot luck dinners and so forth. Who organizes them, however? Typically they are married people -- in the case of the Catholic Church I belong to, the Catholic Women's League or the Knights of Columbus. What do they know about what it's like to be single? They don't, not any more anyway. It's frustrating, and it's hard to make or keep those kinds of connections, and in this world where we're constantly moving or changing jobs we just can't rely on our family or even close friends to make connections. They have totally lost interest because they have families of their own -- and so the vicious circle continues, and we singles are further shoved to the side.

Just for once, I'd like to see a parish priest make us singles say we're as welcome as anyone else, and encourage married people to help us make those connections again so we can find Mr. or Miss Right. I'm not holding my breath, however ... they might anger those families who think we're gay, after all.

At the same time I'm not going to settle for second best either (as my parents did) just for the sake of satisfying the family majority. After all, divorce may no longer be considered a sin by Catholics but it still costs a pretty penny.

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