Wednesday 18 March 2015

Singles Mentioned at Synod?

From reader Catherine comes this Tablet article about the French bishops. They don't think Single Life should be left to such as I! :-D

The Family and Society Council of the French bishops conference is preparing a theological analysis of the situation of adult Catholics who are neither married nor in religious life, a group it said has been overlooked by the Synod of Bishops on the Family.

Many adults live as singles, not always willingly, and the Church should address their problems in its discussion of the family, it said.

“The single life is a significant social fact in our societies and it's surprising they didn't give it a single line in its exhaustive summary of family issues,” said Bishop Luc Ravel, founder of a network for single Catholics called Notre Dame de l’Ecoute (Our Lady of Listening). “The singles question must not be left to shrinks and Internet sites,” he told the daily La Croix.
A minor quibble: the article refers to Catholics who want a family but do not  succeed in "founding" one.  I will take this opportunity to point out yet again that most people already HAVE families, and in that case they are not "founding" a family by having or adopting children , but merely adding members to existing ones.

N.B. This link is not an endorsement of the Tablet.


  1. Hmmm. I hear people say that the Church needs to "do something" for the many single Catholics, and I don't necessarily disagree (although I feel well-catered for at the churches I attend Mass at), but I wonder what people have in mind. Because I don't have any suggestions. Most single people want to get married, and as far as I can tell there's sort of no way to just make that happen, so I can't work out how the Church is supposed to help in that regard.

    I don't feel hard done by that the Synod doesn't mention singles or whatever. It'd be lip service anyway, right? The Synod fathers deciding to chuck in a paragraph about singles isn't going to get me a husband or make my life better or easier in any meaningful way, so I don't really care if they put that in or not.

  2. Well, maybe they will think of something helpful. Convincing the vast majority of English-speaking Catholics that we shouldn't have sex before we're married would be helpful. How they can make up for the failure of the past 50 years to do that is beyond me. Take out TV ads?

  3. Oh, and another thing they can do is stress the different paths to holiness in Catholic education, introducing models of Single life. You don't have to go all the way back to Saint Catherine of Sienna for that. There were many holy men and women in the 20th century who never married or were ordained or joined a religious order. The divorced Dorothy Day dedicated her chaste, post-confirmation life to workers' rights, peace and the poor. Jean Vanier, who still lives, dedicated his life to living with and working for those with developmental disabilities. And health class must go hand-in-hand with discussions of marriage. As soon as children are deemed old enough to understand the Facts of Life, then they should be deemed old enough to understand what makes a marriage work and why a happy marriage is both desirable and possible.

  4. I'm glad for your comment, Julia, because I was wondering the same thing. For the record, I can't stand it when I hear singles moan that "the Church" needs to "do something" for us. Like put on ice-cream socials and try to make us feel special? Hello, I'd rather just have a party with my friends..... I've always loathed official get-togethers. But Seraphic's reply makes a lot of sense. I sure would like it if the synod would "stress the different paths to holiness...introducing models of single life."

    1. I'm of a mind with you, Amused. Although I don't mind official get-togethers. But yeah, "the Church needs to do something" sort of reminds me of when people demand ACTION from politicians, but they don't really know what sort of action they're demanding, and they don't really care what happens as long as ACTION is taken. I see so many protests/demonstrations and I think to myself, "I can't actually work out how what you're protesting against is the government's fault or how the government is actually supposed to rectify this."

  5. I would be so grateful if the Church would point out to the married folk that not all singles or childless couples are hedonists, but that we have struggles too. Sometimes I get the impression that certain marrieds-with-children (those of orthodox mindset) think they have cornered the market on suffering and sacrifice. I know they have struggles aplenty, and I want to support them in their heroic efforts, but I also wish they would acknowledge that we struggle too...just in different ways...and we could use their support also.

    Honestly, I wish the Church would do as you did earlier this week, Seraphic, in sticking up for us in the face of the kinds of thoughtless comments such as the married-father-of-many made in your comm box. Thanks for that.

  6. Clarification: not all marrieds of orthodox mindset think as I described above. I changed a word and it now seems to imply that I mean all...I don't.

  7. I think it would be nice if priests would talk about single life in their homilies if the same homily discusses other states of life. Homilies often give concrete advice to parents raising young children, spousal relationships, and also even grandparents or parents of grown children, but usually everyone else is not mentioned at all.

  8. There is one obvious thing the Church can do.

    The Church can pray for single people.

    There should be prayers "For single Catholics seeking marriage" at every mass.

    In my entire life of going to mass, I have never heard prayers for single Catholics even once.

    1. Peter, that is an EXCELLENT idea, for many reasons!


    2. Nailed it!

      Prayer, prayer, prayer. For our future husbands/wives and happy marriages. For meaningful and faithful lives of those of us who remain Single.

      So far I have heard a prayer for Single people just once, but I think it is a good sign :-)

    3. You are right on the mark. If the Church wants stronger families, then they need to start with praying for singles, old and young, who are called to the married state. These prayers need to start long before people even begin their search for a spouse. Prayers said at Mass would encourage faithful singles to keep trudging through the difficult course they're on and perhaps obtain extra graces for the many singles who need to return to the consistent practice of their faith.

  9. Unfortunately, many singles today DON'T have families. Either they literally no longer have one (parents are deceased and they have no siblings/other close relatives) or they effectively don't have one due to how often one must move far away for work and the like even when that work leaves no means of going back to visit – especially when our subculture has become nuclearized to spouses/parent-child that the distant uncle/aunt or cousin isn't brought back into gatherings any longer unless they have their own sub-cell of the larger family to contribute.

    As for the question of "what can the Church do for singles?," the problem has always been that what we'e been asking from Day One has been to be brought into the Community of the Church as equal brothers and sisters in a Family whose meaning has shifted in the last few decades precipitously to that of nuclear cells so much that even the Synod now only considers couples among the unmarried as worthy of 'family' designation (instead of the "those who do my Father's work are my brothers, sisters, and mother"). Given how the old communities from which our parishes traditionally drew – and from which we so often me the friends-of-friends who we'd marry – have been spread out by economic and demographic change, we're extra alone when operating as Practical Catholics with neither proper support from the secular or spiritual communities.

    It's unfortunate to assume that we'll all have coteries of friends or extended families around us when so many of us don't (recall how many of us are children of broken homes or the Odd Catholic Out among agnostic or atheist friend groups whose lifestyles we don't mesh with outside of occasional hobbies). Especially in places like suburban parishes where we're not going to find many potential spouses around, what we need is the sort of community that we can't find elsewhere and that the Gospel promises us.

    With the various foci that different groups of bishops have had on distinct stakeholders among the broader Catholic and lapsi population, I find that reading this a few weeks ago made the French bishops officially my favorite! Of course, being a Lay Dominican with a love of the Ressourcement probably predisposes me in that direction, but eh... ;)


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