ASK FATHER: Can I date a Modernist?

modernist_descentFrom a reader…


Is it ok For a Traditional Catholic to date a modernist woman he’s trying to convert?

Modernista, eh?  Convert, eh?

A swift review of Pascendi dominici gregis resulted in no specific pontifical condemnations of the dating of the modernist.  As far I can tell, there was no subsequent pontifical legislation that anathematized the practice.

Thus, barring particular legislation from the local bishop banning it (which you might have to double-check), in my highly-trained and finely-honed professional opinion, I’d say, go for it!

NB: If Miss Modernista begins to quote Loisy or Tyrrell (or the Fishwrap or Card. Kasper), grab your St. Pius X medal and hold up your Garrigou-Lagrange.

WARNING: Before things get serious, have her swear the Oath Against Modernism as a condition before your formal engagement, maybe before you even have an “understanding”.

Unless she’s really pretty.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Polycarpio says:

    Good advice. LOL (“unless she’s really pretty”).

  2. JARay says:

    The use of these terms suggests that there has already been some disagreement. I would caution against rushing into anything. All may be well but…caution!

  3. I think it’s exceedingly foolish to enter into a relationship on the premise that you will change the person. WYSIWYG.

  4. APX says:

    Ah, yes, missionary dating. The ol’ “flirt to convert”.

  5. Derek Brown says:

    I say go for it, especially if she’s pretty. Even if you marry a traditional Catholic, you are not guaranteed to be without modernism in your household. This is exactly what happened to me.
    I married a traditional Catholic woman and we go to a traditional parish (San Secondo d’Asti in southern California). You see, it’s not my wife that is the problem, but our daughter. She will throw up her hands in the orans position, she tries to hold hands, and she even…. sorry, this is difficult… she even claps her hands during Mass. For a while I denied it and then I explained it away, but I’ve finally come to terms that my daughter is a charismatic!
    Your prayers are appreciated in helping me deal with the situation. I hope it’s something she will outgrow, but she’s already 14 months old and it seems to be progressing. In fact, last Sunday, she threw herself down, rolled around a bit and then was seemingly unconscious for a short period of time. I don’t know what I would do if our baby became a Pentecostal!

  6. Daniel W says:

    That’s hilarious. My wife is really pretty and she made ME swear the oath and agree to the 24 theses. (I had problems with no.23!)

  7. haydn seeker says:

    I would strongly advise against dating someone with the aim of converting them,it’s mixing up two concerns that are separate. My wife is not a Catholic.I really hope that she does convert,and hope my example may push her in that direction, but I married her for who she is, not what I want her to become.

  8. Rachel says:

    This sounds like a species of what Protestants call “missionary dating” and what a Catholic friend of mine called “flirty fishing”. Just make sure the right person gets converted!

  9. Nicolas Bellord says:

    Generally speaking I understand that modernists can be dated to around 1900.

  10. Father Bartoloma says:

    This post ad me lol!

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    I’ve heard that Carbon – 14 is good for dating a Modernist.

    The Chicken

  12. Fr. Timothy Ferguson says:

    I’m recalling a lovely young lady in a philosophy class way back in college, who used to write the most interesting papers. One paper was entitled, “On a date with a dualist: dos and don’ts.”

  13. FXR2 says:

    Derek Brown,
    That is amazing! Now I know that the modernist phase usually is typically complete by the time they are five!!

    Seriously, If you are dating watch out for the near occasions of sin and have fun.

    If you are looking for a relationship that might lead to marriage, then think of the impact on your future children. From my experience if you marry a modernist the end result is that your children will directly learn that it doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or a modernist. If you marry a protestant your children will learn that it doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or a protestant. If you marry someone who doesn’t believe in God then the children will learn it doesn’t matter if you believe in God.

    I know that the Church can give approval, but actions speak louder than words. The lesson that it doesn’t matter is a hard obstacle to overcome.


  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    ” For a while I denied it and then I explained it away, but I’ve finally come to terms that my daughter is a charismatic!”

    Naw, just a budding liturgical dancer.

    The Chicken

  15. Peter Rother says:

    Dear Mr. Brown,

    Excellent post, sir. Perhaps you can make a mobile above the little heretic’s crib with phrases from the Oat Against Modernism.

  16. Pingback: Internal strife | New Marian Republic

  17. Serious question:

    Should people date anyone they would not consider marrying?

  18. …Or, should not…

  19. RichardT says:

    FXR2 says:
    “If you marry a protestant your children will learn that it doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or a protestant.”

    Couldn’t he dress the children up as members of the inquisition and torture the protestant spouse a bit once a week to show them that it does matter?

  20. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear Chicken,
    LOL! But the margin of error in using the carbon -14 method is 50 years plus or minus, so you risk ending up with a person of quite an unsuiting age for you…

  21. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Unless she’s really pretty.” … According to the ancient maxim, ‘Operit pulcritudo multitudinem peccatorum’, no doubt.

    [And then there’s “virtutem forma decorat”!]

  22. Priam1184 says:

    As usual I failed to get the joke. Thanks Father!

  23. jaykay says:

    Wonderful Derek! Gave me the first real laugh of the day?

  24. Rachel says:

    Fr. Fox, I would say a big fat NO to the question, “Should people date anyone they would not consider marrying?” I heard a saying that it’s like going to the grocery store without any money; you either leave dissatisfied or you take something that isn’t yours.

    But if it’s someone you couldn’t marry *right now*, but might be able to in the future, that’s a different thing.

    Do you have an opinion?

  25. Luvadoxi says:

    Derek–you made my day! Thanks for the laugh. :)

  26. kittenchan says:

    Fr. Fox, that’s a really good, important question. Unfortunately I don’t think many people are asking it anymore. At 27, I’m a Millennial, and there seems to be this spectrum where on one hand, all the Serious Young Catholics are twisting themselves into knots trying to do months of formal Ignatian discernment over every person they think is kind of promising, and on the other hand, people who are going into relationships *knowing* it’s not going to work out or otherwise go anywhere further than maybe eventual cohabitation.

    My personal approach has been a process of elimination, ever since I was interested in the situation: Find someone with no obvious red flags. Maintain a relationship until such time as a disqualifying flaw comes forward that can’t or won’t be fixed. Act accordingly.

    I think there is room for variance in what people consider red flags and disqualifying flaws. For example, I ahve heard many Catholics say they wouldn’t even consider someone who wasn’t Catholic. In my case, though, I had been in relationships with a few Catholics but they weren’t stellar. On the other hand, the man I wound up marrying was not originally Catholic or even especially Christian, but when our friendship started cementing, I was put into a situation where I would have to start taking a very sketchy bus route to Mass, and he agreed to accompany me. Between regular Mass attendance, casual conversations about religion, and his own internal makeup, he started attending RCIA and entered the Church a year before our wedding. However, from the beginning and ever more as we got to know each other better, I could see that he had a solid foundation – he had values, morals, and beliefs that were in line with the truths of the Catholic Church already; he just wasn’t Catholic (yet). I was and am not into missionary dating because that seems like manipulation with an ulterior, utilitarian motive, and it seems like there would be a lot of confounding factors that would undermine either the conversion attempt or the pursuit of a sincere relationship. So I never “tried” to convert him… I just watched it happen. That being said, I wouldn’t have married him before he entered the Church.

    I think many people want to see how far a relationship will go, at all, instead of wanting to see if it will go all the way to the end.

  27. Mr. Graves says:

    In mixed dating situations, one person usually ends up converting. IMO, it’s usually the more modernist one, though certainly therre are situations that go the other way. Modernism is the path of least resistance (short of outright atheism, of course) in the marriage, and the easiest path is the one most people walk. As stated, I *have* see it go the other way, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

    I wish the writer all the best, and would say if he decides to go for it and marry the woman in question, they should set the ground rules for religious participation well in advance of the marriage.

  28. Imrahil says:

    Frankly, from a merely natural perspective…

    given how much of morality, however natural-law it is in itself, is in practice only subscribed to and tried-to-practice by Catholics alone – and that especially in the marriage area…

    converting seems even the naturally easier step, compared with “accepting, in love, that your partner won’t do this and won’t do that” while maintaining one’s own conviction.

  29. Mr. Graves says:

    Apologies. What I meant to say was it is usually the more traditional person who converts, not the modernist.

  30. Amateur Scholastic says:

    The Pascendi guide to dumping your modernist girlfriend:

    “Honey, I’ve become agnostic about our relationship. In fact, if I’m honest, you leave me all disfigured.”

    “I never know what you’re thinking. You comprise within yourself too many personalities.”

    “Our relationship was never more than a formula, and it just doesn’t do my feelings justice any more.”

  31. joan ellen says:

    This surely is a copy n paste link for emails to be sent to young people.
    Was this a topic at the Synod on the family?
    This is the best discussion I’ve seen in along time…& fun also.

  32. Akita says:

    Hey, she may be a pretty Modernist today, but with the passage of time she’s bound to get a butch haircut and start donning those dreadful polyester pant ensembles. She may even book passage on a “nuns on the bus” cross-country tour and sport a “Laudato Si for Me!” button. Can you countanance any of that?

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