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May 06, 2005


Gerard E.

Weird Parallels Dept.- what the Church faces worldwide is similar to that of the Democratic Party in this country- distinct and noticable absence of working-class males 18 to 28. The guys who listen to Howard Stern. Follow sports passionately. Probably do hard work with their hands or serve in the armed forces. Addressed by Spike network, WWE wrestling, 'laddy' magazines such as Maxim, Stuff, and FHM. Dragged to church by their wives, girlfriends or mothers. When there on occasions not named Christmas or Easter, forced to hear the whole post V2 litany of sappy songs from OCP. Plenty of flowers. A priest in very pretty robes with dramatic presentations. Choirs and liturgies led by stern feminists in pantsuits. In our pursuit of being 'meaningful and relevant,' we've neglected a sizable demographic. Other people haven't. Therein lies the problem.

Dan Crawford

Maybe we could replace the "stern feminists in pantsuits" with women in Hooters singin' soulful C&W tunes amid piles of dung - that'll bring the boys home.

Momma K

Loved your post Gerard!! Don't forget the songs all sung in octives well above men's vocal ranges.


I'm not surprised to find the Evangelical emphasis on "masculinity", especially the gun-toting all American frontier type.

But that really won't translate well into traditions such as Buddhism, which tries to cultivate and passionate and gentle spirituality in men and women or Hinduism. For anyone who has ever visited a Hindu temple/shrine, if we think Catholic priests are overdressed well -- the divine couple Krishna and Radha are almost androgynous. Krishna is just as bedecked, bejeweled and colorful as his female consort Radha. And there will be plenty of flowers, incense and other offerings.

And while Muslim men are decidely "masculine" modesty is encourage for both men and women.

The Christ of the New Testament was a person in whom the masculine/feminine aspects of being human were never in conflict.


Good heavens I DO need new reading glasses - I meant to post "which tries to cultivate a compassionate and gentle spirituality"


At the risk of being oversimplistic, and perhaps offensive, men avoid church because it's wimpy. Not that the gospel is wimpy...we all know much better than that! But, if you're uncatechized, and your only connection with the church is a typical Sunday mass, we all know what you get.

My Dad grow up in a rough part of town in an Irish Catholic family that valued honor, duty, poetry, scholarship, and the occasional fisticuffs if someone insulted your sister. He still embodies an irresistible combination of kindness and toughness...I'm the third of six girls (no boys!), and we all knew that if any young man stepped out of line, Dad was at the ready to take care of him and was glad to do so. We loved his protection...I still do. He wouldn't back down for the devil himself.

I think the modern church has removed the "toughness" from that equation, much to their detriment. We all need a little "hardness" in our lives...when things are too easy, or nothing is expected of us, life is hollow and dull. Challenges make us strong and sharp. While the gospel is the toughest of life's challenges, (and we could say the only real challenge), if you're uncatechized and mass is the only place you hear the gospel, you ain't gonna feel challenged in most Catholic churches on a typical Sunday.

Now, before anyone starts hurling missiles at me, I'm NOT advocating we teach fisticuffs in church. All I'm saying is that Jesus' challenge to suffer for His sake as we defend ourselves, our families, and our faith requires a strength and toughness that we just don't hear about much anymore. And men, especially, need that call to arms.

Nathan Ael

Mostly, Church seems nothing like emotional window dressing. It is completely unrelated to the rest of our lives. If I want to feel good, I'll watch a ball game.

When the Church begins to demand that we live as Christians, maybe the pews will start filling up again.


"High achievers, alpha males, risk takers, and visionaries are in short supply. Fun-lovers and adventurers are also underrepresented in church."

Yes, as a laywoman I sorely regret the loss of these!

Though there are fine Eastern Orthodox men, and apparently a higher male/female ratio than other churches, I'm not sure the culture hasn't selected for wimpiness there, just as in other places. And please don't suggest to me pacifist American Buddhists as a balanced male-female model. There may be more male bodies, but alphas, fun-lovers? I don't think so.

We have the tools. I would like to seriously propose a serious anthropological analysis of high achievers, alpha males, risk takers, visionaries, fun-lovers and adventurers, as the basis of what aspects of the Christian faith already engage them. (Hint: it might be rigor and mysticism, with minimized Myers-Briggs "feeling"-type hurdles to jump. Brisk efficiency, high aesthetics, devotion without emotionalism, philosophical and theological density, swift loving discipline of the prevailing "nice" nonsense now presided over by a Parliament of Hens.)

Sr Lorraine

There's a book called "The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity" by Leon Podles. It's quite interesting. The author makes the case that Christianity has become too feminized to appeal to men. But not everywhere. In the Greek Orthodox Church, for example, more men than women go to church, at least in Greece.

Dale Price

I think Gerard and Cathleen are on to something. If Mass is the focus, and men aren't showing up for that, it should provoke some soul-searching. There's no shortage of advocates in the Church for inculturation, inclusive language, increased participation for women (!), multicultural sensitivity and even foreign artistic expression like liturgical dance/movement/whatever.

But heaven forfend you suggest that there might be something amiss that is repelling males, or that serious top-to-bottom re-evaluation and self-criticism about the way we do things is in order. Can't have that. Instead, you get a response like Dan Crawford's.

The good news is that I believe the powers that be in the Church in America will start to recognize the problem eventually. The bad news is that they will recognize it the way they always do--about 25 years after the situation has become dire.

Sr Lorraine

Leanne Payne also writes about this in "The Broken Image" and "Crisis in Masculinity." I think she makes a good case that our culture is undergoing such a crisis. When a man's masculinity is not affirmed, troubles follow.
How many little boys are being drugged with Ritalin just because they're acting like boys? The crisis in masculinity is a broader cultural phenomenon--it's not just the church that is facing it.

john hearn

We have a very good and masculine pastor in my parish and we have lots of men in the pews and in the confession line. I think that leadership is the problem - too many limp-wrested priests.


"And please don't suggest to me pacifist American Buddhists as a balanced male-female model. There may be more male bodies, but alphas, fun-lovers? I don't think so."

My point was merely that the post stated that they have a greater male involvement than the churches do.

Zhou De-Ming

Indeed, as the author notes, "Church is a place for little old ladies--of both sexes." I would add, "and little children of all ages."

Men like challenges. Men like to solve problems. Men like to climb rugged mountains of spirituality and virture, not listen to sister in a sing-song voice talk about how we need to "stand up for Jesus."

The men of Islam are manly--in their family life, in prayer, in business, heck, even in war. Same for Buddhists. How many Catholics do you know who still practice asceticisms like Buddhists? One Buddhist in Berkeley walked from a temple in Los Angeles to one in Ukiah bowing every three steps--through all the bad neighborhoods, through the rain, etc., in 1977. Buddhism is not for wimps (and not really for movie stars, either). Sikh men carry knives.

Let's bring back discipline. Let's bring back asceticism. Let's bring back religion that really challenges our character. Then men will come back (as they still come to monasteries; remember the BBC reality show thing?). How about real Vigils where you stay overnight in Church in prayer and chant and reading?

Coming to church to sing sappy OCP music, listen to Father say "God is love," and hold hands just doesn't cut it.

John Farrell

Cathleen hit the nail on the head. It is wimpy. It is a weekly temptation for me to skip--because of just how unappealing the modern liturgy is--with its crappy music, watered down psalms, and our priests forced to always wear effeminate pastel robes with silly kindergarten cutouts of fish and other nonsense on them.

Men don't like to go to church? File this under "No kidding dept."


Indeed, as the author notes, "Church is a place for little old ladies--of both sexes." I would add, "and little children of all ages."

Men like challenges. Men like to solve problems. Men like to climb rugged mountains of spirituality and virture, not listen to sister in a sing-song voice talk about how we need to "stand up for Jesus."

Hey, Zhou!

Does that make me a man?

Cheerfully and ruggedly, off to solve some problems...



"Coming to church to sing sappy OCP music, listen to Father say "God is love," and hold hands just doesn't cut it."

I'll not argue with that. And thanks for your wise observations of Buddhism, Zhou. There can be great strength in compassion and there certainly is a deep ascetic dimension to Buddhist spirituality (which has unfortunately been coopted by various Hollywood types).


I keep saying that if everybody who _says_ they like Celtic spirituality was doing _real_ Celtic spirituality, there'd be some changes. Walking up mountains barefoot on saints' holy days like on Croagh Patrick. (Sp?) Walking in circles all day and night while praying and fasting and freezing your butt off in the damp Irish chill, like at St. Patrick's Purgatory. Just plain freezing your butt off in the damp windy sea air, like the old monks on that one tiny rocky island. It wasn't all decorating holy wells and making jack o' lanterns out of turnips. Uh-uh.

Steve M.

While I do not want to turn this into a liturgical thread, I will note that the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Agnes in Manhattan has always--over 15 years or so--had men as at least a slight majority of those in the pews. I tend to think of the men I encounter there as a fair cross section in terms of personality type. (Obviously not a fair cross section in terms of political/cultural proclivities!)


We women should just shut up and sit down in our place and let the men run things 'cos that's what they're supposed to do. Right?

Zhou De-Ming

Amy, I'd say at least your a Mensch!

[a] mensch is a someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being "a real mensch" is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous. (Rosten, Leo. 1968. The Joys of Yiddish. New York: Pocket Books. 237)

William Porter

Cathleen is right: Men (Catholic men) skip Mass because it's wimpy. But there are other reasons. The wimpiness isn't just a matter of pathetic liturgies - although I think men are more sensitive to that than women - but it's also a reflection of the fact that the Church these days demands virtually nothing of us. Maybe these delinquent men will all rot in Hell, but in the last three decades, I don't recall a single sermon (say, on Christmas or Easter) that reminded them of this, or a pastoral letter, or a declaration by the Bishops. I don't know when I last heard a sermon telling men to respect their wives and girl friends, not to have sex with women they weren't married to, to pray every day, to accept the great challenges of being honorable Christian men. I might go further and say that I can't remember the last time when I heard a sermon that actually had any meat in it at all. I don't know whether Catholic priests even KNOW Church doctrine any more. I'll mention an exception. I recently heard a sermon at a Confirmation Mass by a Msgr who is also president of a local university. He actually enumerated the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and talked about where they came from and what they mean. Facts, stuff one can make mental notes of and carry out of church. Most of the sermons I hear from the pulpit of most RC churches could be delivered almost without editing by Barney the Dinosaur on Saturday morning television. Be nice. Sheesh.

I've spent some time visiting an Orthodox church (member of the OCA). There are as many men there as women - and they're good men. They know that a lot is being asked of them, and they are willing to accept the challenge. When I drive past a big local, fairly conservative Presbyterian church on Sunday morning before their service begins, I see lots of well-dressed (ie respectfully dressed) families coming to the church together - and every family has both a father and a mother. Not the way things look at my local Catholic parish, where people feel free to show up either in the party clothes they wore the night before OR in ragged shorts and flip-flops.

The message all this sends to men is that church is a waste of time. Stands for nothing, demands nothing. They're wrong but I can sure understand why they feel that way.

Dale Price


That's EXACTLY what we're saying. You've figured us out. That, and we're trying to repeal the 19th Amendment, bring back the rule of thumb, end compulsory education for females (the first mistake, of course, was teaching women to read) and all sorts of other fun stuff like it. After that, we'll hoot, drink beer and scratch ourselves reflectively.

That reminds me--gotta call my chattel and make sure she has my dress socks ironed.

Mark R

Would not a testosterone-laden evangelical-type spirituality be just as superficial as an over feminized Catholicism? I think only over-self-consciously masculine men might demand such a masculine milieu. I know that Catholic men from a blue collar background would also find a lot that is in traditional Catholicism (i.e. tridentine) a lot that is too feminine as well (just listen to a few Italian- and Irish-American comics). I guess maybe Gerard E. is right, and Mass is part of the problem. Jewish men can be very religious, but they have not Mass to deal with.
Maybe it is best for Catholic men for the parishes to cut down on the overt feminity at Mass and for the priests to be honest and forthright in their preaching and to emphasize responsibility, which is what most decent men can relate to, in my experience.


Amy's post not too long ago about the culture of "freedom" since the Council being a mixed bag, I think, applies here.

There is no longer a sense of "duty" in going to Church. A man doesn't get up, put on a suit and tie, and fulfill his duty to God and family by getting them spruced up and off to Mass. There is no peer pressure.

I suppose this is true of society in general. This isn't exactly The Greatest Generation. How many young men today would be spurred on by "duty" to fight for his country? Pat Tillman, of blessed memory, being a notable exception. The chief motivation today in joining the military, it seems, is the promise of money and education.

Zhou De-Ming

Meggan wrote: "We women should just shut up and sit down..."

Well, I think there is something there. Before you hit me, let me explain.

Some weeks ago I read a romance advice column in the newspaper. A young woman was distraught. She calls and calls her boyfriend all the time during the work week. Then, on the weekend, he wants to go fishing by himself. The columnist asked: "What does a trout offer your boyfriend that you don't?...Silence."

Wednesday we went out to dinner at sat next to a family with four kids. Mom and Dad were at the table. Mom talked non-stop, with the kids, almost hysterically at times. Non-stop. Dad said nothing, until the very end of dinner. Mom and the kids were yadda, yadda, yadda, for an hour, and Dad quiet as stone.

Many men like quiet. Maybe that is why they like monasteries, or Tridentine liturgy, or outdoors. Or hiding in their library with a pipe and a drink after dinner.

Parishes tend to be like a place full of women and children, with non-stop chatter. (And there is a reason that most of the mobile phone advertising is aimed at women...).

Many men really need quiet time for spiritual health. Eucharistic adoration may be helpful, as long as Sister is not playing her cassette tape of happy songs.

Silence is really a lost art in the modern pairsh life.


Zhou, maybe I have a masculine soul. I love quiet, I yearn for it. When I go to Mass, I try to pray before, but it's hard since a large portion of the congregation chat non-stop till Mass begins. Then it's sing, sing, sing at every moment during Mass. We have, maybe, three minutes of silence all told.

Steve Galvanek

I think most posts here are way off track. This is not an issue of the mass is too wimpy, or feminized, or unappealing to men. This is a symptom of the larger western culture that is simply more observable in men than women. Most folks professing to be Christian are just mouthing the words. That being the case, most have little interest in 'practicing' their suppossed faith. For men, this plays out clearly in a lack of effort to practice as evidenced by lack of attendance at Church. With a seemingly greater need to communicate, socialize and be part of a community, it seems that many more women are willing to 'fake it' (ahem) and attend Church despite lack of any deeper spiritual life or belief.

The real question is how many men (or women) who ACTUALLY believe what they say the believe (answering yes to a poll question doesn't qualify) are skipping Church? I bet you'd have a hard time finding many. Any men who BELEIVE, but skip mass anyway here?........I didn't think so. Quit blaming the liturgy, the bad music, et. al. (which have always had problems throughout history), and recognize that Western culture is being de-Christianized and fast!


Last year at my parish Father's Day received exactly this much recognition: " ". It wasn't mentioned. It was not the subject of the sermon, it was not even acknowledged in passing. Men were not challenged to be good fathers, or honored for being good fathers, or chided for being poor fathers. Father's Day received no mention whatsoever at 10:30 Sunday Mass.

In part, this was due to the fact that some visiting representative priest of a charitable organization delivered a 19 minute guest sermon asking for money. So that kind of pre-empted what might have been a standard Father's Day sermon. But I still found it pretty offensive that this visiting priest took 19 minutes to ask me for my cash and couldn't be bothered to say "by the way, Happy Father's Day." And my local priest never thought to mention it anywhere during Mass, once he realized that the sermon was co-opted without any such mention.

Was my reaction petty? Perhaps, but it disturbed me greatly, and the event was all too revealing, I think. The contrast to the treatment of Mother's Day a month earlier was overwhelming. Mothers were honored, and rightly so. But it wasn't just the lack of honor, and jealousy was not the form of my disaffection. There is simply no way that if a visiting priest would fail to acknowledge Mother's Day; if somehow that did happen, our local priest would certainly have set it right. But Father's Day can go without mention, because men and fathers are taken for granted by some.

Had the priest delivered 19 minutes of scolding to bad fathers, and improperly assumed that we all are bad fathers, it would have at least acknowledged the importance of men and fathers to family life. Instead we got nothing. Instead, we got the message that our parish values fatherhood as much as the welfare state does. Open your wallet and give us cash. Beyond that we don't really care. I was appalled. Nonetheless, I still go every week, because I know the importance of my role, and faith, even if my parish Fathers (ha!) do not.


Lets stop for a moment and notice something. I would guess that poster's here are about evenly matched male/female. Actually, I would guess a little more male.

What are we doing that isn't happening in Church?

chris K

An example of a priest I find to reflect the masculine image, speaks the truth with conviction but not with some lecturing tone, who respects women, based on their differences and talents, and also gives example of suffering as well as expectation for children, is Fr. Fessio. If we only had more like him. I think his type would be a great leader for men in a parish and put things back into balance.

Also as our culture has grown more materialistic, men get the impression that what really is pleasing to their wives is that they be successful in the world, make more, in order that there is more for the wives in luxuries, more for the children materially as well. Thus, men will worry more about pleasing the folks at the work place in order to advance, conforming more to the world and its destressing outlets and feel that an hour or less on Sunday can't do much for them in that area. So they show their faces only, again, to keep the wife happy. Women, then, have a great part to play, other than designing feminine music or liturgies which try to tame the "beasts". They also have to be willing to possibly do without some of their own abundant lifestyles to let the husbands know they care more about their characters and relationships with God than their wallet sizes.



Isn't the de-Christianization of Western culture coinciding with the "emasculating" of Catholic liturgy?

Is that coincidence, or does the one feed the other?

Jimmy Mac

" Or hiding in their library with a pipe and a drink after dinner. "

Goodloradmighty ... does ANYONE do THAT anymore? Did they ever? I never knew any man who had the time nor will to be that Ozzienelsonish.

Steve Galvanek

>>>Lets stop for a moment and notice something. I would guess that poster's here are about evenly matched male/female. Actually, I would guess a little more male.

>>>What are we doing that isn't happening in Church?

Without knowing the comparative levels of usage of the internet in this format such analysis is not meaningful. If 50% of all believing males use the internet and frequent blogs extensively, and comment, but only 25% of women do so, you might have a larger group of female believers that the dynamics of the medium hide.

I am not saying this is the case, just highlighting that since we don't know the usages, it might be meaningless that the comments are split 50/50.



I agree with you to an extent. However, I also see a severe lack of real fathers in the church to help young men become sons! Where there are fathers, there are sons.

There is a deep need for men to teach each other what it means to be men...just as St. Ignatius and St. Cuthbert and our heros of the faith did.

Jay Anderson

"Or hiding in their library with a pipe and a drink after dinner."

Jimmy Mac: "Goodloradmighty ... does ANYONE do THAT anymore? Did they ever? I never knew any man who had the time nor will to be that Ozzienelsonish."

Jimmy Mac,

I sometimes do exactly THAT.


Much of that article rang true for me. Driven away at first by liberal sisters with felt banner fetishes, but when I came back and reverted, I got lucky. The Church I walked into is the very definition of Orthodox, and it is mentioned here often. Parochial Vicar who used to be a Marine Captain. The Pastor the former seminary rector, who filled the place up. Tough Homilies about Abortion, Porn, what is a sin? What is truth? Etc.. Discussions of the works of the early church fathers. The real deal.

But you know, after 7:30 Mass on Sunday, I grab a theology book or the Bible and I head to the mountains for hiking. I tried going down to the hall after mass, but it was too many screaming children for this single middle aged guy. Other than certain devotions, I have not really become involved in anything else.

Now I am faced with a move to Manhattan, along with my job, and I need to find a new Parish. Fortunately there are some excellent options.

It also strikes me that Rod Dreher has the knack of attracting or finding heterodox Priests. I am considering hiring him for a trip to Churches, in the city, he should be able to flush out the bad ones.

What us guys would like are things like Morning and Evening Prayer, things with a structure, not sitting around a tile floored room on folding chairs discussing something.


Maybe if, during the General Intercessions, men were allowed to stand up and explain why more men don't go to church, more men would go to church.

Rick Lugari

The emasculation of Western society is no doubt the cause; and with as much displeasure I have for the current liturgy, I think it too, is a victim of this emasculation. After all, men of western society created it. Are not the abuses that we see regarding the liturgy further emasculation? It seems to me that every abuse I can think of is effeminate in nature.

Steve Galvanek

>>There is a deep need for men to teach each other what it means to be men...just as St. Ignatius and St. Cuthbert and our heros of the faith did.

I agree with you 100%. My point is that the article and most of the comments are argueing that it's a failure of church's to get the 'real fathers/men' to attend. I think that is nonsense. I think the lack of men at church is just evidence of a lack of men who are real fathers and real believers in the society at large, that simply evidences itself more clearly in male church attendance. This as oppossed the the notion being pushed here that they are out there, but we are failing to get them to come because of the music, liturgy, or whatever other excuse is being used.


The more things change ....

Let me quote a recent book review of Clifford Putney's Muscular Christianity: Man and Sports in Protestant America, 1880-1920 (Caleb Cain, "Hymns and Gyms," New Republic 6/10/2002). A little history might serve as a sort of warning:

"Like 'political correctness,' the term 'muscular Christianity' started as a joke. It was first used in 1857 in the Saturday Review of London to describe the philosophy of the adventure novelist and Anglican clergyman Charles Kingsley: 'His ideal is a man who fears God and can walk a thousand miles in a thousand hours--who, in the language which Mr. Kingsley has made popular, breathes God's free air on God's rich earth, and at the same time can hit a woodcock, doctor a horse, and twist a poker round his fingers.' The anonymous critic who coined the phrase trusted his readers to find it at least mildly ridiculous.

"In Christianity as it was commonly understood, after all, the body compromised the soul. It was to be mortified. Fasting, chastity, kneeling, and even pole-sitting could be Christian, but not push-ups. Moreover, churches in the first half of the nineteenth century had grown steadily more feminine, especially in America. Women crowded out men in the pews, and women's taste determined hymns, sermons, and general ecclesiastical style. Churchgoing ladies liked to hear about homely virtues and heavenly rewards; they were not interested in biceps or eye-hand coordination. ...

"The customers sought by muscular Christianity were men. In 1910, a YMCA survey found that two-thirds of American church members were female. Their predominance was long-standing. For decades Protestant leaders had known that men considered churches impractical and over-emotional, and that they preferred to join all-male lodges when they wanted to do good works in a spiritual environment. Ministers felt themselves to be part of the problem. 'Where in all the sweep of freaks and failures, of mawkish sentiments and senseless blathery,' a self-hating reverend expostulated in 1899, 'can there be found an object to excite deeper disgust than one of these thin, vapid, affected, driveling little doodles dressed up in men's clothes, but without a thimbleful of brains in his pate or an ounce of manhood in his anatomy?'

"When churches set out to make themselves more relevant to men, remarkably little theology went into the decision. It seems to have fallen under the interdict of masculine disgust. And so churches committed themselves to the support of endeavors that were fated, in their maturity, to leave churchly aims behind. Muscular Christianity was a grand, collective act of wishful thinking. After all, a person may pursue good health and good character without holding any opinions about God or the afterlife. And the saving of souls cannot really be made into a practical or unemotional business.

"Before they were reconciled to these disappointments, however, Protestant leaders created a whole new class of public and semi-public institutions. The YMCA grew from a single Boston chapter in 1851 to 725 chapters in 1912, and it gave America the teamwork-intensive sports basketball and volleyball. Christian men's clubs such as the Gideons, the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, and the Knights of Columbus were launched to compete with secular lodges such as the Masons and the Odd Fellows. Elite Episcopal high schools such as Groton refashioned themselves as training grounds where the sons of the idle rich could learn self-discipline. For the sons of the idle middle class, there were summer camps, staffed by 'trained Christian specialists.' The camps' success in combining moderate wilderness and adult supervision inspired what Putney calls 'the paramilitary nature organizations': the Boys' Brigade, Seton's Woodcraft Indians, the Sons of Daniel Boone, and the Boy Scouts of America. ...

"The end came when the military metaphors turned literal. The recovered neurasthenic Theodore Roosevelt was a hero to muscular Christians, and they followed him gladly into the Spanish-American War. 'It's been a generation since we let blood,' a YMCA columnist wrote in 1898, and 'now we feel the old Anglo Saxon passion to go out and kill somebody.' Kristin Hoganson has hinted that the masculinity crisis may have been partly to blame for America's imperialist missteps: 'The political pressure to assume a manly posture and appear to espouse manly policies gave gender beliefs the power to affect political decision-making.' ... Even before the revelation of American atrocities in the Philippines, many Christians began to have second thoughts. They turned to pacifism, and for two more decades they continued to hope that muscular Christianity could provide what William James called 'the moral equivalent of war'--a nonviolent alternative to the classic ratifier of manhood.

"Unwisely, they relinquished that hope during World War I. They embraced the war. The president of the General War-Time Commission of the Churches justified it as a 'war against war.' This cataclysm would be the acme of muscular Christianity, as well as its downfall. Reform raised the prestige and the numbers of the chaplaincy (the young Reinhold Niebuhr complained of their 'rather too obvious masculinity'), and the YMCA provided more relief services than the Red Cross and handled nine-tenths of the military's welfare work, which included recreational and educational programs for enlisted men. Unfortunately, the Y's preaching was resented by veterans, who remembered the free cigarettes from the Knights of Columbus more fondly. And the carnage and the pointlessness of the war left the clergy permanently disenchanted with even a metaphorical militancy."

The real problem with "masculinity," then, is that it might get what it wants.



Dan Crawford

Though I appreciate the seriousness with which Dale Price regards the issue of missing men in the church, I assure him that as a pastor of a parish I take the matter very seriously. I was attempting to poke a little fun at one the charicatures employed to place the blame for this state of affairs. My apologies for offending Mr. Price - I should have realized that that Amy's respondents are very serious.

Be that as it may, men need to understand that their faith is not a matter of dressing in fiddleback chasubles and wearing pom-pom birettas nor is it a matter of filling the church with pretty things and hearing sacharine sermons. Living faith demands masculine virtures like courage, persistance, and the willingness to be steadfast in the face of all sorts of adversity. Maybe Oregon Catholic Press and the Novus Ordo and "stern feminists in pant suits" bear the much of the blame for the current state of affairs. I rather doubt it. I think the disappearance of men has to do more with a culture in the church that has been around a lot longer than the decrees of Vatican II.

And the problem, as has been noted, afflicts all the Christian denominations.

Sorry, Mr. Price. I hope you will at least concede that I do have a serious thought or two.


If I could get my two cents in. I have had some experience with an indult parish (Tridentine 24/7) in the diocese of Camden, NJ. The thing that I noticed first off was the much greater represetation of blue collar males than in any other parish I had been in. These are the type of thick-necked men who install huge air-conditioning units during the day, but will readily volunteer to serve or MC a Mass in the evening or on weekends--or do anything else for the pastor. Add to this the fact that these are beautiful liturgies with good sacred music--not hyper-masculine, AND that there is also a good representation of women (and college educated men). The congregation is truly "diverse."

Dale Price

You usually are serious and raise serious points, Mr. Crawford, which was why your image was particularly galling. It struck me as akin to dismissing observations about a lack of Latinos by suggesting the hiring of Johnny Canales as cantor and serving tequila in the parish hall.

It is reassuring you meant it in jest. Forgive me: I'm still on anti-rejection medication for my humor transplant, so I tend to miss these things sometimes.

The thing is, I have heard similar comments about the lack of male participation used in deadly earnest by people who should know better. Yours struck me as being in that grim tradition. I am pleased that it is not.

Ah--it's almost 2pm. Time for my pills.


One thing that makes men interested in attending something is when they've financially invested in it. When men don't go, they don't give money. If a man contributes 10% of his paycheck to the church on the other hand--you can guarantee he's gonna get every last cent out of that. It's tough for the average guy to stay interested in something that costs nothing, demands nothing, and has no tangible reward.

Zhou De-Ming

Oh, Tom. Don't go there. If our great new Papa said something like, "You know, those Mormons have the right idea. If you want to be Catholic, we want 10% of your income right off the top," do you have any idea what would happen? I mean, if American Catholics actually had to put their money where their mouth is (or is not, depending on the case)?
The Baptists would become the largest Christian denomination in the US overnight as at least half of the US "Catholic" population defects.

Just so you know, I was formed in a tithing tradition, and I think it is great. I was kind of horrified at how Catholic want everything--for free. Well, so they put a dollar in the collection basket. Ha!


I think this topic is somewhat linked to the recent one of whether boys should be encouraged to play-fight with swords etc. It makes me think of Christ saying "I come not to bring peace, but a sword". Men are naturally strong and imbued with fighting spirit, and I think that needs to be encouraged in terms of their religion. We've come to confuse meekness and gentleness with sentimentalness (if there is such a word!). Actually it requires great strength to acquire these qualities in their true sense and it requires fighting spirit and discipline to overcome our lower selves. Spiritual life is not for the faint-hearted but for the courageous and it would be nice to see that expressed more.

Steve Galvanek

>>overnight as at least half of the US "Catholic" population defects.

They've already defected in all by name.
And a further the 'official' defection (that they choose) might in the long server both those who stay and those who leave better than the current status quo (Of course with the hope and prayer that they have a conversion and end up 'coming home').

Unapologetic Catholic

I have to mildly disagree with Steve. I really don't like going to Mass. I hate it. It's hard. I really struggle to make it. I'm a father with three sons, so we go--like it or not. I encourage my sons to be altar boys. I serve as an extraordinary Eucharistic Minister. So I do believe. Even so, going to Mass is not much fun.

I don't know why this is because it's been that way for so long I haven't given it much thought. Now that I think about it, there are four times during Mass I feel "different."

The Gospel--I feel transported to a different place and time (where real people like me walked with Jesus) every time I listen, and I've heard them all several times.

The Creed--"Catholic" becomes real for me. This is what I believe in a long chain of being with others extending back through the centuries.

The Consecration- a miracle performed before my very eyes.

Communion--Jesus enters me physically. Total time of these four moments, maybe 10 minutes. It leaves a lot of dead time.

After Mass, I send my son out for doughnuts and I spend time in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. It's dim, except a spoltight on the tabernacle. It is beautifully silent. That's where I can really feel I'm in God's powerful presence. He doesn't talk to me. I don't get answers to prayers or problems. I get powerful silence. and the strength to live another week.

Steve Galvanek

Unapologetic Catholic,
I think you've only served to illustrate my point. The folks who believe go DESPITE the fact that they might not enjoy it or feel that it's not much fun.

You said...

'so we go--like it or not'

...and most 'real' men/fathers who REALLY believe would do likewise. The ones who don't take the committment seriously enough to make that sacrifice are likely not going to be drawn back by better music, the Tridentine liturgy, or whatever other stick folks want to use to smack the church with.

The Challenge is 'out there' to get more men (and woment) believing, and taking faith itself as a serious challenge. If THAT happens, the feminization of the liturgy, and all the other complaints might start to be reversed.

The idea of 'fixing' the liturgy to bring them back is totally backwards. Bring them back (both men and women) in REAL faith, and the problems will likely be addressed.

Nathan Ael

1) "Believers attend mass."
2) "The Church these days demands virtually nothing of us."

I have a friend who is thinking about going to mass again, and she asked me about the Church I go to - "So are the sermons any good?" I didn't know what to say. "Well," I replied, "not all the time. But I don't go for the sermons. I go for the Eucharist."

Even if we realize that Christ is the center of the mass, it doesn't matter unless we realize that Christ is the center of our lives.

Yet I understand those who skip mass. Why should they go if Christ is going to be put in a back corner? Christ demanded much of his Christians, and the Church should too. We should take a cue from the Army. In a strange paradox, soldiers are happiest under strict discipline. It is only when discipline falls apart that the men begin to grumble.

God Bless, and peace.


I sense that somehow our culture's deification of self, of autonomous personal self-determination, is appropriated differently by men and women, and that for some reason I can't yet put a finger on, the way men tend to appropriate it makes formal religious observance feel absurd in a way that doesn't happen as often to women.

Dave P.

A lot of great points and insights have been raised here. In fact, reading them, I think I have to back off my previous comments on this subject in the earlier thread. I'm starting to think that we don't need to make our parishes more male-friendly per se. What we need to do is borrow a page from the evangelicals' playbook and get our priests to preach regularly on how we, the laity -- men and women -- are "in the world, but not of the world." Then challenge us to live lives of heroic virtue and sacrifice in a fallen world tempting us at every turn to give in to vice and hedonism and an entitlement mentality. Draw a sharp line between the world's way and God's -- not only in social justice matters, but personal holiness too. Dispatch us to the front lines of the battle within and without. (Sorry for the military imagery, but it works.)

I think the whole thrust of "making nice" with the world, which continues to be the dominant theme in most suburban parish Masses I've been to -- "they will know us by our luv" -- rings not so much feminine as /irrelevant/ to men ... and, in particular, young men. They'll sit through this week's session under the big electric blanket, but inside they're bursting at the seams to shake it off, get out there and /do/ something. Something beyond being nice just because it's so nice to be nice. Like Jesus -- he was nice, wasn't he? Yawn.

Show men a war to be waged -- even if it's an interior one, to be fought against the demons of their own fallen nature -- and most will rise to the challenge. Women, too, although I do think they respond to different cues than men, in general.

Maclin Horton

This is a big question with no single answer, but I'd be willing to bet on one technique for reducing male interest a great deal further: ordain women. Not a very nice thing to say but I think it's true.


When our children get presents from HIS sisters, I send the thank you cards. For HIS mothers birthday, I buy a present and a card and I make him sign it, before I get stamps and send it to her. I go to Mass with the children. For some reason, I think American men delegated the task of taking care of human as well as divine relationships to their wives.


Had a conversation with the wife along these lines a while ago. It dawned on me that the reason my family attends the parishes we do is because of the masculine liturgy. I had never thought of it that way before. But reflecting on it I decided I liked the litugy because it made me feel good about being a man(sounds goofy, but this is a "boys are stoopid" society). At the same time it serves as a call/reminder to stand up and be the St. Joseph of my clan. My wife also feels that it is a reminder of an all powerful God and a God who is protector/provider.


I came to this thread late, but it seems that most commenters here agree with the premise that men don't go to church? I go to mass every Sunday and the church is full of men. Mostly fathers with their families but of the single folks I would say it is split pretty closely. I don't think there is anything particularly "masculine" about the parish that would make it unusual. It is a very large suburban parish in the "New South," maybe it is a demographic thing.

Dave P.

Check out this site:


Dave P.

From the site linked above:


Where are all the men?

You’re not just imagining it: Christianity is short on men. Here are the facts:

• The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories.

• On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.

• This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.

• Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.

• The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male).

• As many as 90 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it by their 20th birthday. Many of these boys will never return.

• More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only two out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.

It’s not just a lack of presence; most of the men who do attend our worship services just aren’t “getting it.” Every week the gospel bounces off their souls like bullets off Superman’s chest. Here are the facts:

• A significant number of churchgoing men attend out of habit, unaffected by what they hear.

• Quite a few men go to church simply to keep their wives/mothers/girlfriends happy.

• The majority of men who attend church do nothing during the week to grow their faith.

• Relatively few churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.

This gender gap is not just a U.S. phenomenon; churches around the world are short on men. No other major religion suffers such a large, chronic shortage of males. In the Islamic world men are publicly and unashamedly religious—often more so than women. Of the world’s great religions, only Christianity has a consistent, nagging shortage of male practitioners.

Jesus had no trouble captivating men. Fishermen dropped nets full of fish to follow Him, but today’s church can’t convince men to drop their TV remote controls for a couple of hours a week.

The big questions:

• What is it about modern Christianity that is driving men away?

• Jesus was a magnet to men, but our churches repel them. What’s changed?

• Why do rival faiths inspire male allegiance, while ours breeds male indifference?

• What can we do about it?

Dave P.

I should point out that the ChurchForMen website linked and referenced above bills itself as inter-denominational -- but it's clearly an evangelical-Protestant initiative. Doesn't mean lots of its data and suggestions don't apply to Catholics, just that there are some key differences along with the striking similarities.

Steve Galvanek

>>Isn't the de-Christianization of Western culture coinciding with the "emasculating" of Catholic liturgy?

>>Is that coincidence, or does the one feed the other?

I would think there's a relationship for sure, but the source to me seems to be the culture. As others have pointed out, this is happening acrosse the board regardless of denomination, so positing that the changes to the liturgy are a driving force seems too much of a stretch.

Zhou De-Ming

Here's a nice Catholic reference from 2002, by Tom McGrath.

A. Noël

I followed the link to the entire piece and found it thought-provoking.

Has anyone read John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart"?

One of the reasons cited for the imposition of noise and activity at Mass was because people were indulging in private devotions instead of participating. Does anyone know whether the men did that, too, or whether it was mostly women who resorted to prayerbooks and the Rosary during the quiet parts? (Though I've always closely followed the prayers and the rites, myself - female though I am.) (p.s., Unapologetic Catholic, I can recommend Latin Mass if you want more than 10 minutes of meaningful worship. To put it in today's parlance: I treat myself to Latin Mass. It's one of the Good Things I do for myself.)


This as oppossed the the notion being pushed here that they are out there, but we are failing to get them to come because of the music, liturgy, or whatever other excuse is being used.


I don't think that anyone's suggesting that fixing the liturgy is the simple, or the only, answer to engaging men in the life of the church. Men's absence, in general, of course, is symptomatic of much wider and deeper issues as you alluded to. But the liturgy, as our public worship, needs to offer the answer to those wider and deeper issues in the form of truth and holiness. For many people, the Sunday liturgy is their only encounter with the church, so we have an even greater reponsibility to ensure that the liturgy reflects the stirring demands posed by the gospel combined with the assurance of Christ's love and steadfastness as we strive to live the gospel with everything we have.

As is so often the case, I also believe that catechesis is a key here. With only a superficial understanding of the mass, it's easy to dismiss it as just saying the same things over and over, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's only when we enter into the consecration, when we understand that we're saying "Lord, I am not worthy" with the Roman centurion and "Behold the Lamb of God" with John the Baptist that we can stomach the emptiness of many of the silly externals that were the brainchild of a middle-aged woman with sensible shoes (and I can say that because I AM a middle-aged woman with sensible shoes!). I also believe that better catechesis would prevent much silliness to begin with. When we understand that we are joining Christ in his prayer to the Father, somehow taking liberties with this prayer just doesn't seem like such a good idea.

The church's mission is to speak to our deepest, truest selves as Christ does...to remind us that we are called to be saints with all the trials, sufferings and joy inherent in saintliness. Liturgy is not the only place we should encounter this message, but if we don't hear it there, we're all in big trouble.

Rod Dreher

I've spent some time visiting an Orthodox church (member of the OCA). There are as many men there as women - and they're good men. They know that a lot is being asked of them, and they are willing to accept the challenge. When I drive past a big local, fairly conservative Presbyterian church on Sunday morning before their service begins, I see lots of well-dressed (ie respectfully dressed) families coming to the church together - and every family has both a father and a mother. Not the way things look at my local Catholic parish, where people feel free to show up either in the party clothes they wore the night before OR in ragged shorts and flip-flops.

The message all this sends to men is that church is a waste of time. Stands for nothing, demands nothing.

That's right. That's so very, very right. I am to the point where I have to fight to make myself go to mass. I go only because I am intellectually convinced of the truth of Catholicism. It has become so repulsive to me, every week, to sit through the same pointless, happy-clappy crap. There is no sense of mission there, nothing to suggest that Jesus wants anything more from us than feeling groovy about ourselves. If not for the Blessed Sacrament, it would be the biggest waste of time. And worse than a waste of time for me: it is an occasion of anger, and even sin.

I won't go into it here and bore you all again, but I can sum it up for you in a single anecdote, which I've told in these boxes before. Last year, I saw an advance screening of "The Passion of the Christ" two days before Ash Wednesday. I was broken to bits by that film, and its brave, masculine Jesus, a Jesus we never get presented to us in mass. I kept praying, "Lord, I want to be like you. Please help me to be as brave and as strong as you."

So I go to Ash Wednesday services, and the priest, a very plush fellow, begins his homily with, "It's Ash Wednesday, and you might expect me to preach about sackcloth and ashes, sin and penance, but" -- pregnant pause for effect -- "that's not my style."

Honestly, I wanted to run out of the back of the parish and put as much distance between me and this bulls--t as possible. I still do. It's everywhere. It's like Father Wilson said once about, I believe, the bishops: they're eunuchs, but not for the Kingdom of God.

Worse, I am sick beyond the ability to articulate anymore of an institution that cannot bring itself to rid itself of filthy predators like Father Robert Bester of Anchorage, Alaska, who was captured on audiotape recently trying to get into the pants of a construction worker. I sat there an hour ago listening to the MP3 file of the audiotape, listening to this creepy Fr. Bester telling the construction worker that he wanted to drink all his semen, that he wanted to be pregnant by him, that he (the priest) was "Dracula," and bragging about all his power over the poor dopes who have faith in the Church ... and I thought, "Why should any man want to have anything to do with an institution that cannot commit itself to keeping men like this out of the ministry?"

It's not that the Church is imperfect. It will always be imperfect, as long as men like me are in it, anyway. It's that it doesn't even try for excellence. We are, all of us, fighting a spiritual and moral battle for ourselves and our families, every single day, and for most of the clergy, they act like it's one big damn tea party.


there are no gimmicks or tricks to get men into church. the only way is deep conversion. they are not in church for the same old reasons:
love of the flesh, the "world". and the evil one.

no one escapes the reality of original sin in their life. one day everyone hits bottom and at that point, the reality of Jesus Christ, present in his Church will hit them like a ton of bricks. they will hunger for the word and the bread of life......because they know the power of sin and seek the only one who can heal and save them. we may go to church for many nice reasons, but the only one that counts is when we cry "out of our depths" and encounter the mercy of God in our sin and brokeness of life.

the rest are just nice ideologies, theories, whatever.....but not that important. it matters little when we celebrate ascension. corpus christi and all that on this level.
men go to church when they know the faith is true in their lives, the power of evil, the need of redemption, the poverty of healing and changing ourselves. don't try to get them to come with gimmicks and social theories, etc....the truths of our faith will make them come, when they know that our faith is true, then they will see Christ and the power of his cross in the church. they go out of the need for real conversion or what is the purpose? and if they do not feel the need for conversion, then no gimmicks or programs will really help. conversion is a personal response, and some decide to never make it.

but that said! again i mention that the ecclesial movements have the presence of many men. and in the last 25 years the diaconate has grown with thousands of men joining it.
the picture is not so black and white.in the dioceses that i know they are always turning away more men from the diaconate program since so many apply.

i think this thread is missing an important issue in all this......but i maybe the only one who sees it this way......so my rant will stop! and may Jesus lead all souls to heaven especially us who are most in need of his mercy!

one last thought, the gospel for the vigil of pentecost is the one where on the last day of the feast, Christ stands in the temple and cries.."if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink". so on the last day of the easter feast, he cries again in the temple of his church to all of us and all who thirst will come.....to have living water of the spirit and until they come for this reason, why try to get them into church? one day their thirst will bring them.


In some ways this is similar to what is happening in higher education. Male enrollment in higher education has gone from 58% in 1970 to 44% in 2001. Any relationship between the trends?



I just finished reading your post out loud to my husband to which he repeatedly replied "ain't that the truth!"

Many point out that the only way men will return to the church is through a conversion. I agree. BUT, how are they to initiate this conversion when all they hear at mass is more of "I'm okay, you're okay"?

In a recent conversation with our priest, discussing issues of heterodoxy in the parish, he concluded our conversation with this statement "you need to realize that you are all holy, you are all saved, you're just fine the way you are." He really objected to our desire to hear more about actually NEEDING a savior. He said "that's not my style." My point is: why convert your heart/action/mind when there is no need?

My husband goes to mass faithfully every week and we have made it very clear to our kids that mass is not "optional." However, like Rod notes, it is often difficult for him not to feel angry, irrelevant and unwelcome . Anecdotally, I have many friends whose husbands NEVER attend mass and as a result their children (especially boys) refuse to attend also. They figure, if Dad doesn't have to go...

Steve Galvanek

I don't necessarily disagree with what your saying. But the discussion at hand is about why men are not attending Church, and the problem is across the board w/o regard to denomination. I am sorry to say that the guys who aren't coming, simply aren't going to come back despite changes in the Liturgy in EITHER direction, unles they have a change of heart first.

What I find funny is how much of the complaining here is about how we 'feel' about the Liturgy (see Rod's latest). Good Lord! This is Protestant talk! So much talk about how 'disgusted', how 'sick' it makes us all feeeel. Yeesh! Talk about feminization. That's Jesus Christ in front of us. Be still, be quiet, be a shining light the best you can and for God's sake quit focusing on everyone else's faults and how bad they make you 'feel'. We are Catholic! We suffer, and push on even when it doesn't feel so good.

I'll pray for the situation you've put yourself in (anyone who willing listens to the complete audio you mention seems indded to me to be LOOKING for reasons to get upset). But I want to mention that all of this anectodal evidence, while not meaningless, proves nothing. I'll match you 2 for 1 with holy priests I personally know for every skunk you personally know. And that's just as anectodal and also proves nothing. Just remember that the man whom Jesus picked to be the rock upon which his Chruch was built is the same one who denied him 3 times when the heat was on him. The same man Jesus had to rebuke because he was thinking like Satan. The situation we find ourselves is nothing new by historical standards, so let's just keep our eyes on Jesus, keep picking up our cross and plodding forward.

Steve Galvanek

>>Many point out that the only way men will return to the church is through a conversion. I agree. BUT, how are they to initiate this conversion when all they hear at mass is more of "I'm okay, you're okay"?

This makes no sense. If they aren't in Chruch (by definition not coming to mass), then how will what they hear at mass matter? I agree that the Liturgy/homilies/reverence/etc. could/needs to be better. But that's not what's being discussed, and it's relative to the people who are already coming (men included). The discussion is why men aren't there in the first place. It's people like your husband and yourself boldly living your faith in front of them that may initiate conversion, not the liturgy, and not anything that's being done or said at mass-since they aren't there to hear it.

Granted, all of us who ARE there could probably be getting a lot more out of mass on many occasions, but that's a different discussion.

Samuel J. Howard

I'm not sure how real this "crisis of men" is. For one thing, older people tend to go to Church more than younger people and women tend to live longer then men. The effect: more women then men in church.

Among the unmarried/no children/not elderly I feel like I see a lot of men in Church. I've actually always been kind of surprised by it, but it could just be their increased salience to me since I'm one of them.



I completely agree with your analysis that "Western culture is being de-Christianized, and fast", and that such a phenomenon is a significant, if not the significant cause of male church non-attendance, but just to say "the culture" is behind it doesn't actually answer the 'Church is way too feminized' arguments.

Quote: I would think there's a relationship for sure, but the source to me seems to be the culture. As others have pointed out, this is happening acrosse the board regardless of denomination, so positing that the changes to the liturgy are a driving force seems too much of a stretch.

This is a bit of a false dichotomy because the culture is made up of institutions like the church. The way in which our churches worship God has an enormous effect on how even non-Christian people think about Him and thus how they conduct themselves as they participate in the other institutions that make up our culture.

And when your "average guy" does happen occasionally to enter a church for a funeral, a marriage, Christmas, Easter, etc, he sees how the worship is conducted (thus unconsciously learning what these people believe about God in the process) and hears a waterish sermon and lame music, and he thinks:

A. this isn't very interesting, challenging, or intellectually honest, and

B. even these people don't respect God enough to put much real time and effort into this whole thing (which we don't: just a bit of manipulated and transient 'Precious Moments'-type emotion).

It therefore seems to him to have no relevance for any other part of life, even (or especially) during times of trial or harship when he might otherwise be tempted to seek God.

You say that the culture is being de-Christianized and I agree. But being a Christianized culture isn't about being perfectly Christian in act (because that won't happen in this age) but rather about having ultimate Christian ends and ideals. And when even the church can't hold up truly Christian ends and ideals in her very own worship and teaching, there's no way the other institutions of the culture are going to be able to uphold them.

B Knotts

I suppose there is some truth to the idea that the liturgical practices currently en vogue in the Church in the West are driven by the greater cultural collapse, and are probably not, by themselves, keeping large number of men out of the Church.

But they're certainly not helping.

And, I suspect they are having more of an effect than some here believe.


The Promise Keepers (bowel) Movement was an excellent example of cultural castration. It stereotyped men into a pathetic straightjacket description of either being hypnotized by TV sports, or constantly ogling T&A. It then recommended that to be a better man, you should become more womanly; to be a better father, become more motherly. Open up emotionally, share your feelings, become more emotionally accessible. ****! It was nothing but a sexually-reassigned Oprah-fest. Standard, baby-boomer narcissism.

Anytime and Everytime you remove self-sacrifice from Christianity, you remove all traces of masculinity. I'm not saying that sacrifice isn't part of femininity, but it's absolutely essential to men. At least real ones.


I am just now getting back to this thread and I find these comments to all be very interesting. Some make great points.

But, I will never understand the argument that men have turned away from the church because
1.) too many women are involved - they've "taken over".
2.) The Church has become feminized
3.) The Church has become too wimpy.

This theory makes me wonder what's wrong with these men that have turned away? Are they 12 years old??!!! If it's too girly they just won't be involved? Hey! Stand up! Be a man!

This theory also makes me wonder just what a "manly" or a "masculine" mass would look like?
Don't tell me what it's not. Tell me what it is.

Is it a mass where we don't touch or talk to each other? Is it the music? What's "manly" music?

Please explain!


Regarding Rod Dreher's comments. I'm not quite there (our current pastor is not the most dynamic man but he is masculine), but I understand. If I weren't convinced in my soul of the Sunday obligation, would I go to Mass each week? I don't know. So many priests are out-of-touch with masculine reality. The Jesus they preach is not a carpenter who stood up against the Pharisees and Sadducees, telling them they were wrong. He's a limp-wristed fool who didn't rock the boat, unless of course he was "speaking truth to power" (e.g. dissenting from Church teaching).


We cannot despair. It is our job to help fix the problem. First, pray. Second, raise your children to follow the real Jesus. That's where we will find manly priests and womanly nuns, instead of the other way around.


Meggan, while I am no expert, I will try to answer your question the best I can. (warning: this is long because I am peeved)

"This theory makes me wonder what's wrong with these men that have turned away? Are they 12 years old??!!! If it's too girly they just won't be involved? Hey! Stand up! Be a man!"

'Be a man!' you say. Yes, be a man. How are we men to do that? What example does the culture show and tell? Tolerance. Inclusiveness. Be anything but a "conservative Republican"! (whatever that is these days) What's wrong with gay marriage? Etc., etc., Ad Naseum. Be all you can be but remember don't be too "manly".

Then we go to our local parish and we are told Jesus was a 'nice' guy. So be like Him. Oh, and by the way please don't mind when we change the readings and the Gospel passage to gender inclusive language because we don't want to offend the ladies after all.

Oh, yes. I tried to 'be a man' as you say and I went to our "presider/sacramental minister" and asked him not to change those things because Cardinal Arinze and JPII both asked that the liturgical rubrics be followed. I was told "I am charge here, and what I say goes." Go to the bishop? Been there done that.

"This theory also makes me wonder just what a "manly" or a "masculine" mass would look like? Don't tell me what it's not. Tell me what it is. Is it a mass where we don't touch or talk to each other? Is it the music? What's "manly" music?"

These are some very good and valid questions.

A "masculine" Mass to me is one that is not dominated by the presence of women in the sanctuary. I have no problem with the ladies--I have three mothers whom I love dearly (my Mom, The Blessed Mother, and Holy Mother Church) they suffice quite nicely. I have no problem with women lectors or girl servers IF there are no boys available to assist our priest and deacon.

Don't tell me having only boy servers doesn't provide priestly vocations like they used to. Go to the dioceses of Lincoln and Arlington where they do NOT allow girl servers. They have PLENTY of priests and seminarians.

No, I do not like to touch anybody during the Holy Sacrifice. I am there to worship the Lord WITH you. Not get all "touchy-feely" with you or anybody outside of my family. It ain't about us. It's about Calvary. I am fairly certain that at the foot of the Cross the three Marys and St. John were not exchanging wonderful "touch-feely" embraces and saying "Oh, the peace of the Lord be with yoouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu! Give us a kiss! How are your parents?"

Music? What is "manly music"?

First and foremost when you can get to the point you can go to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and NOT have to have all of the "bells and whistles" to be "entertained" then you have really grown spiritually.

Sure, we can praise the Lord and worship Him with Sacred Music (oh, you know---maybe with a few Latin ditties every once in a while---please don't whine about "going back to the pre-Vatican II" days. If it was good enough for a few hundred centuries it's still good enough now).

Somehow though I just cannot figure "One Tin Soldier" or "Puff the Magic Dragon" as being Sacred (I loathe "On Eagles Wings" and "Gather Us In"---those alone can chase many men out the vestibule doors).

Now, to what we men need to hear:

We men need to be told that we are the spiritual head of the family (oh yes, many have DROPPED the ball here---this is why it needs to said all the more). It is Fathers who are to be on the front line of battling Satan and his minions who are seeking to lead your family to Hell FOREVER!

We need to pray WITH our family and bless them with Holy Water every night before retiring to bed and ask for the intercession of St. Joseph. We need to be told that yes-----Hell does in fact exsist (despite what the whack-job Benedictine "pastoral associate" says and her Jesuit buddy--but they'll believe it when they get there).

We need to be told that ladies/girls who dress inappropriately at the Holy Sacrifice are an occasion of sin. THEN, we husbands,fathers, and brothers should be castigated for allowing their wives, daughters, and sisters out of the house in such "fashion" (uh, what was it Our Lady of Lords said about future "fashions"???).

Oh yes, I know of many women who have had to pick up the slack of dead-beat husbands and fathers. May the Lord bless all of you fine examples of our Blessed Mother.

After all of that it goes like this:

Jesus Christ has all of the love, compassion, and sensitivity every woman is seeking.

At the same time He also has all of the intestinal strength, fortitude, power, and "tough-love" every man is seeking.

He has both, and so does His Mother. We just don't get much of the latter at Holy Mass.


I'm peeved too.

I love the Mass. I have loved it all throughout my life.

As a teenager I was allowed to become a lay reader. I didn't start doing it because I had something to prove or because I wanted to do what the men were doing. I became a lay reader because I have that talent and I love to read the Word.

In college I became an Extaordinary Minister of the Eucharist. After college I quit that ministry for a long time and only recently went back to it. Again- nothing to prove. I did it because I love giving the Body and Blood of Christ to my neighbors.

A couple of years ago I was allowed to become a Master of Ceremonies. I really wasn't setting out to do that. I asked if I could attend the training session just to learn more about what an MC does. When it was all over I was asked if I'd like to be an MC. Yes. I love it. I don't do it because I want to be a junior priest. I just want to serve the Lord by serving my bishop and the priests.

In the last few months, my parish has asked me to be an altar server to help with the younger servers (most of whom are male) who need a little guidance. I love doing this too.

Sometimes I am kind of dense and slow to catch on. I don't think about the fact that I am a woman doing this. I just did all of these things because I have the interest, the desire and the talent. I set out to do all of these things and then later find out that some people think I'm "trying to be a priest." Sorry, I am not that calculating. My motivation is really pretty simple.

So, excuse me for turning away all of the men. I'm sorry that I'm a woman. I am sorry that I exist.

Not really, of course. I am proud of who I am and my motives are sincere.



I didn't say that having women serve in some capacity is wrong, and I didn't say women shouldn't be EMoHC. I do not think they are "trying to be priests."

I said it turns men off because oftentimes the Mass is dominated by women and they don't hear the hard truths of the faith.

Evidently you missed this part of my post: "I have no problem with women lectors or girl servers IF there are no boys available to assist our priest and deacon."

I should have added women EMoHC if necessary.

I think there is a good balance which can be struck there. Unfortunately the balance is askewed these days.

I meant no offense.

Peace to you and may the Lord bless you.


BTW Meggan,

When I said I was "peeved" in my first post it was not aimed at you (nor was the post in general). The post was aimed at all of the nonsense that goes on in many Holy Masses I attend, and therein why I feel many men do not come. Thus, it was a rant.

I sincerely apologize for the confusion I caused if you thought it was aimed at you.



I didn't necessarily assume that you were peeved at me. Likewise, I hope that you don't think that I was specifically peeved at you.

And, while you said you had no problem with women serving in liturgical ministries, you qualified it with "...IF there are no boys available..."

Anyway, I've said enough. 'nuff said.

Nathan Ael

No matter how bad the liturgy might be, the Eucharist always seems to work out just fine.

Every man here seems to be saying about the same thing: that we don't particularly like the mass, and that sometimes we can't stand it, but all the same - we recognize that the power of Christ transcends the tar and feathering that our Church often gives our Lord.

Is Christ recognizable through it all? Only for those who look for Christ in the first place.

As long as our eyes are closed - holding one another's hands and crying out in rapture, we will never see our broken sinful natures, we will never kneel down in sorrowful repentence, and we will never see the need for Christ's merciful love. Nor will we embrace Christ's charge to proclaim his Kingdom boldly - not only in our words, but truly in our lives.

God Bless, and peace.



To touch on some of the comments here, please read How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist. Written, I might add, by a man.

David Kubiak

Some insight into this question might be gained if you asked Mel Gibson why he goes to Mass every Sunday.

The notion that the problem is not liturgy but faith fails to deal a fact that is quite clear to me from a number of men I know: they would never have embraced or revived the faith they now have if it had not been for their coming to the traditional Latin Mass.


"Every man here seems to be saying about the same thing: that we don't particularly like the mass, and that sometimes we can't stand it, but all the same - we recognize that the power of Christ transcends the tar and feathering that our Church often gives our Lord."

since i am male, and did write on this thread, i just want to go on record that I love the eucharist and try to make it the source and summit of my week and life? in no way did i mean my post to even hint that i 'dont like it or at times cant stand it.' the fullness of the Lord's saving mystery is present in every mass.....and i pray to have the faith to be present to Him.


"But you know, after 7:30 Mass on Sunday, I grab a theology book or the Bible and I head to the mountains for hiking. I tried going down to the hall after mass, but it was too many screaming children for this single middle aged guy." Huh?
This reminds me of coming to church a few minutes late (relatively speaking -I'm Orthodox=) behind some moms and their kids who were unsuccessfully trying to slip in quietly. I loved watching the kids, esp. as some of the very little ones were still learning how to cross themselves and venerate icons, but the man behind me seemed pretty annoyed. The look on his face seemed to say, "Damned wimmen and children." (yes, I know, I should stop amusing myself in church with irreverent inner dialogue.) Sometimes during liturgy a baby's cry punctuates the service - it always reminds me that we're in this together, and that, that little baby recieving the eucharist is, through baptism and chrismation, as fully a member of the church as I am - just as she is. Maybe it's b/c I'm a women, or b/c I don't notice a shortage of men in our parish, active and present (I remember our choir director not too long ago asking for more female members, but NOT males - they already had too many!)

Donald R. McClarey

"Many men really need quiet time for spiritual health. Eucharistic adoration may be helpful, as long as Sister is not playing her cassette tape of happy songs.

Silence is really a lost art in the modern pairsh life."

Amen Zhou! I believe you are on to something.

Daniel Muller

Rod Dreher wrote:

... So I go to Ash Wednesday services, and the priest, a very plush fellow, begins his homily with, "It's Ash Wednesday, and you might expect me to preach about sackcloth and ashes, sin and penance, but" -- pregnant pause for effect -- "that's not my style."

Honestly, I wanted to run out of the back of the parish and put as much distance between me and this bulls--t as possible. I still do. It's everywhere. ...

I am not sure, but I believe that that was the same priest and parish that I did leave on this Ash Wednesday. The "entrance hymn" had nothing to do with Lent and, like all songs more than twenty-five years old in the book, was textually deformed beyond recognition in places. (Honestly, I think some of these editors must believe that Catholics do not know any Protestant hymn texts besides "Amazing grace.") Then we skipped the Sign of the Cross. I must confess that I did not remember that there was no penitential rite (i.e., Kyrie and Confiteor) on Ash Wednesday, but I was so annoyed at what had happened -- and what I dreaded was going to happen, based on experience -- that I waited just until the end of the collect (which in this case was the beginning of the Mass) to get the heck out of there. On the occasions when I go there now, I always make sure to be discreet in choosing a seat towards the rear. Just in case.


I confess I do not know why men don't go to church. To me, the church now is more masculine than it was pre VatII. Mass - no lacy vestments that made the priest look like a bride; music - fewer sentimental ballad-like hymns (such as "Oh Mary we crown thee with flowers today"); fewer effeminate statues of male saints in the raised-eye, long-suffering position (I now look at some of those statues and wonder how their effeminacy was acceptable before.) So, to me this all seems "more male." I also think that any solution of getting men to church that requires women to not honour their own religious selves is a non-starter for the long run.

I have friends who have become Buddhist. (American Buddhists, to be sure, able to ignore the Dalai Lama on inconvenient issues like abortion - I guess the Buddhists have a cafeteria too). They are equally men and women. I have wondered, what is it about being an (American) Buddhist that is seen as masculine? I don't know, have no answers, but continue to puzzle.


I am a man, a convert to Catholicism in 2004, and I believe in the Church and it's teachings fervently. I attend Mass every Sunday.

I bring this up because I chose the Church. It was a decision I made myself. I made the decision because I believe in what the Church teaches.

I made the decision DESPITE:
* the fact that the Church makes no effort to engage me. I had to nag and nag my parish incessantly just to get some very vague and unencouraging information about getting involved in the RCIA program.
* my parish has virtually no way for me to be involved. The very few parish organizations we have only meet on weekdays when I work. The only outreach I ever experience is when the parish asks me for money.
* the Liturgy is plagued by bad music and folk guitarists who can't hold a tempo.
* to a repeat a point: the sermons demand nothing of me. I want rules and I want expectations. Instead, I often get cutesy jokes and Chicken Soup for the Soul stories losely tied to the Gospel.

Don't get me wrong - I feel a thrill throughout my entire being when I take communion. I love the Church with a passion. However, I cannot say that Mass is the experience I would like it to be. I get very little of the reverence, the silence, and the awe that I feel when I attend the indult Latin Masses that are offered at a different parish in my area.

I attend Mass with the hope that it will get better.


I attend a church that has as many men as women. It is vibrant and active. It is charismatic in spirituality - but also enthusiastically and bravely orthodox. The pastor preaches homilies than consistently challenge us to lead holier lives. There are both mens and womens share groups associated with the parish and mentioned in the bulletin, and my husband tells me that the men's retreat always tackles men's problems, particularily porn. Every year there are at least two more men studying for the diaconate. The DSA goal for this parish is twice that as for other parishes the same size because the bishop knows he can count on the parish to exceed its goal, every year. The church has had to update its parish directpry three times this year to keep up with the influx of new parishioners.

I think that STeve is right. Women will got o church long after they have stopped living CHristian lives, because it operates as a social network. Men drop out first when church stops being relevant - and it stops being relevant when it stops calling them to action and reconversion.

The good news is that men will come back to church out of curiousity if they notice it impacting the lives of their friends, colleagues, and family members. The best thing each of us can do is try to live a life of holiness, and to invite others to the same - and encourage your priest to be challenging and orthodox in his homilies.

Nathan Ael

John, Kate, I think you've nailed it. I feel exactly the same way.


I dunno Rod, I'm in Dallas and my priest is no mamby-pamby. He's a darn good liturgist and a forceful homelist. He speaks out on abortion and was at a prayter vigil for Terri Schiavo. When Benedict XVI ascended to the throne of St. Peter, he said, "We have a Warrior, a warrior who will defend the Church!"

For my family it's worth the 20 minute drive to attend. I wouldn't give my children anything less.

Best thing is, he's young too.

mgbada joe



Old post but....

As a female, why I left the church:

a) only available position in life for women is one of cookie baking and subservience - no thanks

b) priest were more interested in having sex with children than attending to their flock

c)mass is too long and I ALWAYS zoned out. Always.

Church is on the decline because as an advanced society, we make things happen and no longer live in destitute so we're no longer motivated to pray / seek God to assist us in our despair. People live better, easier lives now. Why does Islam have such a hold on it's male followers? Because that's all they have. Most live in some sort of oppressive dictatorship and religion is their only outlet. All of the muslims I know living in the U.S. are QUITE a bit more secular without the oppressive weight of their society. Plus, you have religious leader walking the streets literally beating people they think aren't pious enough or are breaking some pointless infraction. I lived in Saudi for 16 years - got to see it first hand. Religion is oppressive to both men and women. That's why church attendance has fallen drastically. The only reason for the gender disparity id because women typically outlive men. Most of the women I know (20's, 30's and 40's) don't bother with church.

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