Being single in the Catholic Church is not fun. I have to agree with the French bishop reported in The Tablet this week, Hervé Giraud of Soissons, who said single Catholics felt “forgotten, even devalued, by the Church.” The idea singles want to stay silent is an anathema to me. As Bishop Luc Ravel, founder of a network for single Catholics says in the same story: “The singles question must not be left to shrinks and Internet sites.”
The French bishops’ Family and Society Council are preparing a theological analysis of the situation of single Catholics, a group it said has been overlooked by the Synod of Bishops on the Family. This is long overdue.
It is as if the Church only considers young people from baptism as a little child until the end of secondary school. From my very subjective experience, the message seems to be: if you are married, then we are interested in you; as you are single, we do not care about you.
This is only the case because singles feel that there’s no forum where they can speak and be listened to. A standard parish church caters for very young children well and runs coffee mornings that are attended largely by OAPs. I wouldn’t turn up to these because my life right now does not quite mesh with them. The priests' intentions are good. But sadly the large gap between 18 and 35 is not catered for in ways single people need.
It is a sorry state of affairs that singleness is only officially addressed in the Catechism in paragraph 1,658. The part which is applies to me is that people who are single – “often not of their choosing” – “are especially close to Jesus' heart and therefore deserve the special affection and active solicitude of the Church, especially of pastors.” The French bishops’ Family and Society Council is right to expand this section of care to singles in the Church in their forthcoming theological analysis of our situation – which is grim.
Provision for young singles is patchy and cathedrals are more likely to run an 18-30+ group than a parish. It would do the Catholic Church in England and Wales no harm to run more groups like the Leeds Cathedral 20-35 Group which I attended while I was studying at Leeds Trinity University. It meets for spiritual fellowship and friendship and offers opportunities to get involved in charitable and social activities. I would like to thank Mgr Philip Moger, the cathedral dean, and everybody else who makes such a group work. Another good example takes place at the Jesuit church in Farm Street in London, where First Sunday Plus follows a similar model.
These need to be promoted by local bishops and tried in parishes and cathedrals throughout the country. Groups such as these are the only way the Catholic Church can fill the massive void in how singleness is dealt with.
Gary Spence is an unemployed theology graduate in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle
Above: Pope Francis greets newly married couples at the Vatican. Photo: CNS