I have had some dealings with people from FUS, and I think what others need to understand is that, in effect, the people who come from FUS (and the handful of similar very conservative Catholic institutions scattered around the US) are basically akin to the Amish. A huge percentage of the people there get married either while they are still in college at FUS or immediately thereafter. They’re not geographically concentrated like the Amish are, or technologically limited, but they are similar in that they are a very small separatist-type group that doesn’t generally participate in the culture at large — even in the *Catholic* culture at large that you may see in your local Catholic parish.I have a vague admiration for the Amish, but it strikes me that the orthodox Catholic sub-culture with which I'm familiar isn't all that much like the Amish, and having stated that there is a difference I find myself wanting to explore in a little more detail what that difference is, because I think it relates to how one can get by in the modern world while not being "of it".
The Amish, it seems to me, effectively form a separate culture. It's not just that they reject certain technological innovations which necessarily involve disconnect from the wider culture, but also that they live in fairly self-contained communities, living and working with other Amish in fairly un-mixed communities, if only because us "English" don't have an interest in living in the sort of way that would result in fitting in with Amish society.
Thinking about the Catholic circle in which I move, there is definitely a shared culture of sorts which the rest of the mainstream culture (even the rest of mainstream Catholic culture) does not necessarily say. There are books and periodicals and TV and radio shows that most of us will have heard of, even if we haven't actually followed them. (So, for example, I know a fair amount about EWTN even though I never watch it -- while I would imagine that many mainstream Catholics, much less non-Catholics, would have no idea that there even is a cable channel called EWTN.) On the other hand, it's probably worth noting that most of these are not consumed exclusively by members of the sub-culture, it's just that we consume a lot more of them and thus have much greater familiarity. A more mainstream Catholic might see magazines and newspapers in the back of church or in the church bookstore that we actually subscribe to or read the websites of. And the books that we know well are in many cases the same ones that a mainstream Catholic might pick up as a confirmation present, or stumble across in bible study or reading group.
There is a surprisingly small social network that seems to tie many people in the sub-culture together. We've often met other orthodox Catholics at some sort of social gathering only to find that we already have several acquaintances in common. For instance, the transitional deacon recently assigned to our parish turned out to have a sister in Texas who reads our blog, and also to know my wife's brothers and borther-in-law. However, this isn't because orthodox Catholics don't socialize with other Catholics (or with non-Catholics) but due to two factors: 1) A lot of us have certain experiences in common (certain faithfully Catholic colleges, certain lay movements, etc.) and 2) Even in a parish with 2000+ families, almost all the activities and ministries are run by a fairly small number of people who actually spend significant amounts of time doing church-y things. If you have nationwide connections among the orthodox Catholic sub-culture due to factor 1), and then also have local and diocesan connections due to factor 2), Catholic circles can start to seem like a fairly small world very quickly. And although we may not be "mainstream" Catholics, it's pretty usual to find a several families who are members of the orthodox Catholic sub-culture who are part of that very involved group of people who run most of the activities in the parish.
Laying all this out helps show why "sub-culture" is the apt term here. Orthodox Catholic circles aren't so much a group apart as a sub-group within mainstream Catholic culture. In general, we form only a very small minority within the parishes we go to. We read Catholics books and periodicals which are available to all Catholics, we just read them far more often. (We also tend to have strong opinions about which books and periodicals are "solid" and which aren't -- whereas Catholics who spend less time around on these might not make clear distinctions.)
Again, different from the Amish, members of the Catholic sub-culture lead fairly ordinary lives when not engaged in church activities. Yes, there are certain things that mark us out. Many of us have more than the average number of kids, operate as single income families and a fair number of our families homeschool. You may notice use eating something vegetarian at business lunches on Fridays through much of the year, or see some of the more dedicated slipping off to early morning or noon weekday masses. Sometimes just the books that sit on our selves can be a tip off. Not long after I started at my current company, I had a meeting in the office of one of the top executives and noticed a breviary and some books by John Paul II and Benedict XVI tucked away on a corner of his bookshelf. I never said anything about it, but a while later I made a couple inquiries via friends with wider business networks that mine and quickly found a couple people who knew him and who informed me that he was friends with a couple of the writers who move in orthodox Catholic circles. (No, this didn't lead to any advantages for me in the company -- I never brought it up with him, though I was pleased to note a fellow member of the sub-culture.)
However, there is a certain separateness to our culture. But we don't we live apart or work apart or go to separate churches. We spend the majority of our time around people who aren't part of the sub-culture. However, living and believing differently from the mainstream culture is hard, and so one naturally seeks out others who live and believe similarly. As is observed in Genesis, "It is not good for man to be alone." It's not impossible to stick to one's beliefs without the support of like-minded company, but it's a lot harder and more lonely. When it comes to not only living out but passing on one's beliefs, a community of like-minded people becomes virtually essential. While I know people who do it, I can't imagine trying to live and pass on my faith to my children with a spouse didn't fully share it. And actually, that concern was one of the main reasons I opted to go to Steubenville, a college very much a part of the sub-culture, rather than one of the secular colleges on my list. It's also why we try very hard to always have a core social group of fellow orthodox Catholic families with kids of similar age for our kids to spend time with -- because although many of their friends on the street are nice kids, as they get older we want to make sure that they have friends who are also struggling to live the same faith that they are. And when the time comes, I'll strongly encourage my children not to date or marry someone who does not share their beliefs. So while we certainly do not live in a closed community only seeing other orthodox Catholics, our closest friends are nearly all other members of the sub-culture, and having that sub-culture for support and community is very, very important to us.
Thinking about all this, it seems to me that a better analogy than the Amish would be some of the conservative Jewish communities (who, in my experience, tend to be very much in the world while still having a clear religious sub-culture that is very important to them and their identity), with the big difference that membership is much more fluid: at least half the orthodox Catholics I know did not grow up Catholic or else were baptized Catholic but spent a period of time away from the Church.