“Ask a Priest: Is My Use of Dating Apps Gravely Sinful?”

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Q: As a single guy in the modern world, I’ve been using dating apps and social media to try to meet women to date and see if there is a connection. While online dating has its positives, some of the profiles have photos that can be provocative, and I can find myself having impure thoughts and considering pursuing relationships with immoral intent. However, despite these thoughts, I usually come to my senses and click away or don’t respond to certain messages. My question for you is, have I committed a mortal sin in these scenarios, or does my decision to come to my senses and avoid these profiles and click away or stop messaging show I’ve resisted the temptation to sin? Any guidance is appreciated. – B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: If you run across a provocative photo and quickly click away and get your mind on something else, there might not be any grave sin.

On the other hand, you mention that you were “considering pursuing relationships with immoral intent.” That suggests a conscious decision to pursue something sinful, which could be grave matter.

Moreover, if you know that certain dating apps will likely have provocative photos and you continue to use them, you might ask whether you are deliberately putting yourself in the near occasion of sin. That too could be grave matter.

Here, you need to be honest with yourself. Only you know what your intentions are.

It might be good to step back and look at the bigger picture of dating apps.

No doubt, it’s harder to find a potential spouse who holds traditional views of chastity and marriage. That is where a dating app can help a marriage-minded person to throw a wider net in the search for a spouse.

Unfortunately, not all dating apps are geared toward helping people to find a lifelong spouse. Some apps are geared toward fostering a hook-up culture. Perhaps that app you found is one of them.

The key here is look for apps that are designed to cultivate serious relationships. Apps billing themselves as Catholic might be an obvious place to start, though it’s always “Buyer beware.”

Worthwhile apps would presumably feature modest photos and texts.

Aside from the apps, you might do well to find other ways to meet women. Think about getting involved in volunteer work at your parish, or a young-adults group in your diocese, or even a mission of some sort.

In the meantime, keep close to prayer and the sacraments.


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