Is "light" dating a no-no for potential priests or religious?

Hello everyone. As many of you probably know, I have been discerning a calling in the Church for a while. By now, I am fairly sure that God wants me to become ordained sometime in the near-future, though I obviously cannot know that with absolute certainty until the day (if it comes) when a bishop or father superior lays hands on me. With this being said, I still struggle with an interest in girls. I am still in college (I should have been graduated this year, but I am intending to extend my stay for a while longer and learn more rather than try to find a boring job while waiting until I am allowed into a community or major seminary), so seeing young women is still a part of my everyday life. Even before I started my discernment, I never asked a young lady out on a date for a few reasons, including my now-deceased mother’s (may she rest in peace) bitterness towards marriage as well as my not wanting to “lead on” anyone whom I did not see as a potential wife. However, now with my mother gone (my grandmother, while well-intentioned is not the same kind of person as she was, and my sister and I have what one might call an ambivalent relationship), I think that I feel lonelier than ever and really want to have female companionship (my confirmational sponsor is a very nice lady, but I do not see her everyday, and she has her own family to take care of). So, would any form of dating be permissible for me to engage in? I am talking about trying to to strike up a conservation with an attractive lady whom I see on the street (unfortunately, you often never see those women twice) and then asking for her telephone-number, but someone with whom I have some sort of acquaintance (like a classmate). As long as I soon tell the girl that I am in discernment, would it be acceptable for me to ask her to have coffee or lunch with me (I almost did that today but hesistated until I felt like it would be awkward to ask) and, if we do start some sort of relationship, try to not let it become too serious? I would appreciate any advice.

I wouldn’t call this dating.

I would call it going out with a friend.

As long as they know you are discerning the priesthood and you are not looking for marriage. Also the relationship should not get physically intimate, that is no kissing or hand holding.


**A couple of things you said jumped out at me that maybe you need to ask yourself.

The first thing I picked up on was you saying that you were feeling lonely, and that you wanted female companionship.

What is going to happen if you do become a priest and you get lonely ?
Most priests will tell you they lead a very lonely life at times.

As a priest, it’s possible to have platonic women friends, but you would really have to watch how it looks from all sides, and watch that you have a way to protect yourself from getting accused of anything. That’s just the world we live in now.

The second was this; I think having women friends right now would be good, and it may help you decide if being a priest is what you really want. You kind of gave yourself away when you mentioned that the lady you passed “was attractive”. What is it you are really looking for ? A girl as a friend (in which case it wouldn’t matter how she looked), or for someone you are physically attracted to ? If you are going to be a priest, why would you be looking for someone who you are physically attracted to ?**

If you are lonely now, getting ordained will not change that feeling and may make it worse. I would suggest trying to figure out why you are feeling lonely. Companionship to overcome loneliness may not work for too long still leaving you lonely.

Again, perhaps this feeling isn’t true loneliness but another part of discernment telling you perhaps you are called for the married life.

I wish you the best of luck in your discernment.


Most communities today look for individuals who can maintain strong relationships. Your OP gives the impression that you are young, too young to enter most communities. Concentrate on developing platonic relationships. If you do decide to date, be honest about your discernment.

I am sorry; I mistyped that particular sentence. I meant, “I am not talking about trying to to strike up a conservation with an attractive lady whom I see on the street (unfortunately, you often never see those women twice) and then asking for her telephone-number, but someone with whom I have some sort of acquaintance (like a classmate).”

I will admit, though, that as a man, the first thing that I concentrate on over any woman is her physical appearance. And if I do not know much yet of her personality or activities, I will at first be concerned upon how she looks before I get to know her better (or rather, if she is pretty, that will likely be what draws me to her), even if I am not interested in romance.

Remember, priests are not alien creatures bereft of sexual impulse and awareness. Rather, they are men of discipline. Having feelings of attraction towards the opposite sex is not an obvious sign that someone is unsuited for the priesthood or a religious vocation. Part of discernment has to involve figuring out whether or not you cope well with denying natural inclinations towards finding a mate and raising a family.

Of course, there is a spiritual dimension as well as an emotional one. Many men have a God-given calling to marriage rather than the priesthood. The difficulty in telling the difference between biological imperatives and spiritual vocations is one of the challenges of discernment. It is a matter of sacrifice and discipline.

It isn’t like all our unmarried clergy and religious woke up one day and said, “You know, I really don’t feel any inclination to find a mate and a raise a family. It’ll be really easy to live a celibate life in God’s service. Sign me up!” They offer up those parts of their being every day to the Lord.

  • Marty Lund
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