Imagine that there was a way for young people to find healthy, fulfilling relationships in the way that God intended. The dreaded “hookup culture” would disappear, and people would more fully understand how to respect themselves and each other.

For Campus Ministry’s Bree Haler, this world could become a reality with a reintroduction to dating.

Haler, Assistant Director of Evangelization, discussed “The Lost Art of Dating” in the second installment in Campus Ministry’s latest project, a Theology on Tap series.

Students appreciated the chance to discuss this common issue.

Talking about the theory and practice of dating is not very common, especially on our college campus where perceptions of dating and relationships tend to be skewed,” shared senior Meredith Holland.

An initiative that began in 1981 in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Theology on Tap programs are now offered internationally in more than 40 Catholic dioceses. The program seeks to reach young people by discussing theology in an informal setting, such as a restaurant or bar.

The Notre Dame events are held at Legends of Notre Dame restaurant and pub. Other topics include “Reconciliation: Why Should I Seek It?” and “Truth vs. Relativism: Why It’s Not Enough to ‘Agree to Disagree’.”

Haler received a Masters of Arts in Theology from Notre Dame’s Echo program in 2011. Originally from Indianapolis, she graduated from Indiana University in 2009.

I think Bree is someone we can all relate to,” remarked senior Ali Quinn. “She did a good job of balancing theology and life, and overall her talk was very applicable to our lives.”

I appreciated the opportunity to be able to engage in this conversation, particularly through the lens of my Catholic faith, and hear Bree’s thoughts and suggestions as a female mentor,” added Holland.

Haler categorized dating attitudes on campus in three ways, borrowed from the research of Boston College’s Kerry Cronin. The first is a pseudo-married couple, one in which the relationship exists in a vacuum, with the couple only acting as “we” and dissociating from healthy friendships with others.

Second is hookup culture: Haler noted that “the hookup culture social script is so prevalent that we don’t understand it anymore.” She defined it simply as “physical intimacy where emotional intimacy does not exist.” The final category is a response to dissatisfaction with the previous two, called “opting out.”

As students struggle to form successful or healthy relationships, Haler explained that “the answer we are searching for is right in front of us.” Drawing from writings of John Paul II, Haler argued that “God has hidden in us the key and secret to love.” She elaborated on this point using Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam—to reach Eve, Adam must first form a relationship with God.

Haler also incorporated philosophical principles into her argument. She remarked that many Catholics think the Church should adapt to the times, but encouraged the listeners to understand that the teaching is “meant to liberate us to love.”

She warned against utilitarianism in relationships, which is evidenced in the hookup culture. Using the example of ignored Facebook invitations in illustration, Haler noted that “we want to keep doors open, but not wanting to commit is selfish.”

Engaging and entertaining, Haler eventually shared her “non-Catholic doctrine” beliefs about dating. Two general rules responding to dating ambiguities were “if you ask, you pay” and “you must ask people out in person.”

She specified that the first phase of dating should not be on campus or exceed 90 minutes—“it’s not special,” “friends make you answer questions you haven’t even answered on the date,” and “you’re probably not as interesting as you think you are after an hour and a half.”

The dynamic evening included small group discussion and a question-and-answer portion. Haler fielded topics such as spiritual attraction, courtship and women making the first move.

When asked how to transition from a friendship to a relationship, Haler recognized that it could be awkward at first, but “if it doesn’t work out, it won’t be awkward forever.” She also invited participants to be authentic in sharing themselves with others, advocating for the “raw and unedited” nature of face-to-face conversation. She promoted a culture that accepts dating invitations: “even if you’re not sure, one date will not kill you. It’s a way to say, ‘thank you for having the guts to ask me out!’”

Haler finally challenged all of the participants to ask someone on a date: “You have the power to change the culture on this campus. And it starts with asking someone out.”

Maybe hookup culture will disappear after all.

You can find more information about the “Theology on Tap” series at Notre Dame at

Grace Urankar is a senior religious studies major at Saint Mary’s College who is slowly succumbing to senioritis. Ask her how Ms. Haler’s challenge went at