Last month’s Synod on the Family has generated lots of conversation and near-constant analysis on issues of marriage and family; but one group that seems to have been pushed to the margins are single Catholics. In his column in the New York Times, Ross Douthat points out that the Synod missed an opportunity in its discussions on the family by not addressing the rise of a post-familial way of life – with many more people who aren’t married, or don’t have kids, or live all by themselves. Douthat writes:
Now some of the people in this broad, varied population are touched very directly by the sex-and-marriage issues that Catholics (and other Christian churches) keep debating … But some, many, are single and likely to remain so, for the foreseeable future or the long term. They’re divorced and widowed people who don’t plan to marry again any time soon (or at all); they’re single parents who aren’t in a position to date or don’t want to introduce a step-parent into the home; or they’re people whose likely destiny is the single life, for reasons personal, societal or both.
As directed to these people, the official/orthodox Catholic message often seems to boil down to something like: “Hurry up and find a mate (of the opposite sex) and don’t have sex until you do!” Which represents, to put it mildly, a kind of falling-off from the broad Christian, and particularly Catholic, history of both valorizing the unmarried state, the celibate vocation, and building rich institutions and networks designed to offer non-marital community and care in all kinds of varied forms.