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June 10, 2006

Comments

Ellyn

Funny. It appears that while you were posting this I was busy ranting on my own spot about the gender imbalance in the Church workplace. (I don't mean to turn on my own sex, but I must say I dread the days the priests are out of the office...)

MTM

In the U.S. at least, I predict there will be a full reversal of this trend in the next generation. Much responsibility is being laid on young men's shoulders by the Church these days. Ask something of men, and they will respond. They are not asked to protect, nor to lead, nor to serve, but all that seems to be changing. The question is, when it does--and it will--how will womanity respond?

reluctant penitent

Men have to fight their natures harder than women in order to be good Christians. Maybe this was the reason that Christ established a male priesthood and episcopate--in order to force the men to take part in the life of the Church. Now if we could just do something about sexually and morally effeminate priests and bishops.

Father Ethan

This is a serious issue, especially in regards to the Mass, the center of the Christian life. It makes me, a male and a priest, cringe at times. Moreover, the reformed liturgy of the Mass is very effeminate. The fact that we have to turn the alters around, bow instead of genuflect, hide the tabernacle, remove rubrics, altar girls, etc, has had a negative and effeminate effect on the way we worship. The music used in the Mass, in the majority of parishes, are very effeminate. I just hope the young bishops realize this.

franklyn

The article reminds me of the warning the charismatic leader,Fr.Tom Forrest, gave the bishops at the synod of the laity.He referred to the "feminization of the sanctuary".He predicted that one day the only male in the sanctuary would be the priest.He said the Church has no problem with women-they make up most of the daily mass congregation and the parish associations.The Church has a problem with men.The churchnhe told them ,needs a more masculine face. Was Fr.Forrest,who according to the Wanderer gave the best synod intervention,heard? Judge for yourself.After the synod came the allowance of altar girls.

wahappi

When I go to mass and hear the "gender inclusive" language that is used by the Parishes in my hometown, I look around and and see a large disparity in the numbers of men Vs. the women, I can't help but ask why we're trying so hard to make churchaccessaable and palatable to women when it's the men we are loseing.

I asked my pastor about this and he said he wondered the same thing. Then continued to use the inclusive language that seems to be required in all the local parishes.

Of course, he also tells me I'm a handsom man--maybe there's a connection?

Barry

Maybe Catholics should be more like Islam to butch up the mass. Have the women sit somewhere else, in full cover, while the men prepare to do battle. Would that be butch enough to turn the tide of the "effeminate" church?

Old Zhou

Interesting, odd little article.

Leaving aside the deformed machismo that is manifested in the name of Islam in various parts of the world, the author mentions "manly" Judaism and Buddhism, but says nothing.

While Judaism, perhaps as manifested in the state of Israel, might be manly and have an army, etc., well, try some of the more liberal Jewish communities in New York or Los Angeles, and get back to us.

And Buddhism? How many women Buddhist priests are there in California? (clue: more than in all of Asia).

Honestly, it is not a matter of this or that religion, but how the religion is adapted to this or that culture. Western Culture has become largely feminine (and there are more women than men in the university, also). Most marketing in the media aims at women (because men don't shop).

Also, apparently the Knights of Columbus did not get the memo.

Fr Raymond Blake

"... has had a negative and effeminate effect on the way we worship. The music used in the Mass, in the majority of parishes, are very effeminate."

I not think I agree with you Father, I think on the contrary our spirituality is essentially masculine - maybe we might compromise and agree a via media in that it is androgenous.

An effimate liturgy I would think would attract men. Those machismo South American cultures all used to have a great and profound devotion to the Blessed Mother of God, in the UK and the States Marian devotion is almost lost. The notion of Church as Mother seems to be almost unknown. We have lost any sensuality in our liturgy (I don't mean sentimentality) church architecture, vestments, music, texts are brutal. Men don't want that type of thing in women and they don't like it in their religion.
It would be crass of me to suggest that our worship, and possibly our catechesis and therfore our popular theology, has been styled by effeminate men and masculine women. I think that is a product of our age, but our notion of God has certianly lost the vigour and potency of previous ages.

Caroline Gissler

Seems the only way to get men and boys to step up to the plate is for women and girls to deliberately hobble themselves. We are supposed to believe that if girls refused altar service and women refused to serve as lectors or EM's including in hospitals, men would rush forward to lead. Didn't men make themselves scarce in religious devotion long before women were allowed in the sanctuary?

Tim Young

" women-they make up most of the daily mass congregation and the parish associations."

At the cathedral in Tulsa, the daily mass crowd is at least half, if not more, male (many of them young males ). Are there any real statistics about mass attendance and sex? ( not gender, which is not the appropriate term )

Kevin Jones

Here's one sure way to force an engagement of masculine spirituality: cut out some of the co-ed activities, especially among the young.

How many sex-segregated activites are there at a Catholic church? I'm almost positive that my junior high confirmation retreat was co-ed on everything, even when discussing sexual matters. From my few memories of the high school group, it was similarly co-ed. This is a revolutionary phenomenon, and possibly a very harmful one.

At the university level, the very successful Fellowship of Catholic University Students has guys-only and girls-only Bible studies, plus special events where the guys prepare dinner for the women, engaging in all sorts of saccharine yet necessary attempts at chivalry.

I don't believe I attended a single sex-segregated Catholic lecture until the National Catholic Singles' conference earlier this year. The change in the crowd's dynamics was remarkable. The men were less tense and more open, unable to surrender all the duties of conversation to women. For the first time, I heard a speaker addressing men as men.

The same distinct dynamic is at work in the Knights of Columbus, too. Praying the rosary among men takes on a different style that I haven't seen replicated in the regular activities of parish life.

Barry

I'm mystified by how genuflecting is more masculine then bowing.

charles R. Williams

When a man loses the faith, he disappears from the mass (unless he works for the church). Women like church stuff. When a woman loses the faith she often stays at the mass and stays active in the parish adopting some congenial form of "progressive" dissenting theology. Women of this sort dominate parish life in America. This is the typical audience for which the mass is celebrated.

Personally, I find the mass as celebrated in the typical American parish an embarrassment. I would never invite a male friend whom I hoped to convert to the faith to join me at mass without very careful preparation.

Glenn Juday

This very point - the correlation of a skewed female sex ratio to the degree of emphasis on the personal relationship element of religion/liturgy - is what strikes me as constituting a major part of the whiplash experience I have when I attend the Novus Ordo after my generally happy immersion in the Traditional Latin Mass.

Get a 1962 Missal and read and compare the prayers with the Novus Ordo. There is a huge difference. In the Novus Ordo, God is exclusively soft, accomodating, loving (with a particular emphasis on the sentimental sense). In the 1962 Missal God has those characteristics but also judges, punishes, vindicates, is angered, and in general has some spine.

In the Novus Ordo we approach God as an intimate, and often are accepted with no particular terms, if only by indirection. In the 1962 Missal we approach the Throne of Grace with supplication, with fear if our spiritual state demands it, and the prayers constantly make our weakness and God's strength the axis of the prayer dialogue.

I have to say it. In the Novus Ordo, even when the congregation is committed, alert, participating actively, when the clergy are following the rubrics, when everything is “being done right”, I sometimes do not quite recognize the God I am praying to. Or more precisely, I don’t recognize all of Him. It’s like hearing somebody go on and on about somebody you know but they are creating a misimpression by what they never say that constitutes an important part of the whole personality.

The debate about the Traditional Latin Mass generally has seemed remarkably shallow to me. It’s as if the biggest offense to those who disregarded the explicit decision of Vatican II to retain Latin in the Roman Rite and who instituted an exclusively vernacular Mass is that it offends the sacred American right not to have to learn another language, and even worse, was old. Only a miniscule amount of the discussion deals with what the prayers SAY in Latin versus in ICEL/American English, as the numerous “American adaptations” have established it.

In general, I do see a more nearly balanced sex ratio in Mass communities using the 1962 Missal. I’ve also seen this language-based difference in perspective of the Divine essence work at the individual level among people I know, many of them men.

Already I can hear the commenters objecting that I am making the unsupportable claim that this means the only reasonable course for the Church is to re-institute the Traditional Latin Mass exclusively. Please don’t. We don’t need another long thread about taste, personal experiences, pseudo-practical issues, essentially about emotions.

What would do the Church a world of good is to think, THINK about these matters, and to pray, PRAY about them. If at first you don’t get it, God will make things obvious eventually. And, if necessary, He can teach with really blunt instruments such as dying congregations, absent men, liturgical crises, wrecked lives. He will let us have our obtuse way as much as we can stand it until we just can’t stand it anymore.

reluctant penitent

Effeminate does not = feminine. Manly Christians do not flee the feminine in liturgy and devotion. There is nothing more masculine than to bow before the Virgin.

Why would the effeminate man want the liturgy, church and altar to be bare? Because he does not like it when transcendent pictures, statues and music distract the audience. They'll forget the star of the musical show and the host of the hugathon.

You can't get music more effeminate than the ditties of the Haugen-Haas-Joncas repertoire. 'You hear me singing mom? It's like I'm on Broadway!'

And, trust me, you'll hear them singing. Because, the speakers in the community theatre parish are turned up to 11.

Jason

We are supposed to believe that if girls refused altar service and women refused to serve as lectors or EM's including in hospitals, men would rush forward to lead.

Maybe not, but having a positive male identity in the parish certainly helps. John Paul helped pick up a lot of the slack, with his emphasis on truth and sacrifice. That's probably why we're seeing so many solid young men in the seminary today.

I had to laugh when I saw two Priests on our local Catholic station singing show tunes. It's not that they were outrageously effeminate, but somehow Priests singing show tunes doesn't bring out the best in manliness. And that's really part of the problem we see in parish Liturgies. The Mass will always have a necessary element of theatre, but it works best when everyone understands themselves as a participant in a Heavenly drama, rather than...show tune divas.

Jimmy Mac

There was nothing more effeminate that the old days when the priests flounced around the altars in lace, brocade, etc. Take a good look at the web pages for the Latin Mass Society, the SSPX, etc. View Pell et al in their 15 foot cape trains, the gloved hands, buckled shoes, etc. And you call THAT masculine?

Mark Andrews

I don't know what is more mysterious - the article or the weird speculation I've been reading here.

Go find two Catholic men, one who attends church and one who does not. ASK THEM WHY THEY DO OR DON'T ATTEND. Repeat 10,000 times at random and take notes. Then summarize the results and report them.

I often find clear thinking on this blog. Well not in this thread, at least not today.

Angela

I'm with Tim Young...in the middle of Michigan, we're overrun with men at 6:30 AM Mass (I'd say we're hovering at 70/30 percentage-wise) and at Masses later in the day, it's about 50-50.

When I've visited other parts of the country, sometimes there are more women, but from my experience, it's a pretty even distribution.

Liam

Uh, as Amy hints, this issue LONG predates the conciliar reforms of the liturgy, just not in America. Anticlericalism was a particularly male fashion that descended the classes from at least the Enlightenment (and actually back to the high-tide of clericalism centuries before that). In the 19th century, there were overt efforts to involve women in more ways, more devotions and such, so as to maintain a strong Church influence in the family.

And laying it at the feet of women who took up the invitation (and their spiritual descendents) is looking in the wrong place. It's a very teenage guy thing to do, though. I kinda wince at the lameness of it.

Also, daily life in the Catholic church was largely mediated by an important and numerous group of women into the 1960s: nuns (actually, sisters, OK). Far more visible and influential than the relatively fewer number of priests and brothers. They were layfolk then. And actve women layfolk are just more married now, by and large.

Glenn Juday

If, in fact, what the Church has always taught that we are doing at Mass - worshiping God by our actions and prayers, and receiving strengthening for the spiritual struggle - is wrong, even wrongheaded, then what attracts or repels men vs. women in the liturgy and the life of the Church is actually just a matter of style. And if that is so, of course, the more modern and in tune with the sensibilities and prejudices of the day that style is, the better. But if it works the other way around, if we were instructed by God on His Own very nature and on how to worship Him, then He knows better than we do what we need and what we will find in how we approach Him even if we may not have been aware of it.

A survey of men might be useful, but only if it is informed with the mind of the Church and an appreciation of the dynamics of these survey instruments. A population that it is suspected is missing something in an institution may very well not be able to articulate what the missing element is, especially if it is a lived experience, and even more so if that experience is spiritual and not entirely earthly. Our good old down-to-earth culture is great at grabbing a hold of problems, finding and naming them, and wrestling them down into submission. Spiritual life, the life of God in the soul, just is not confined at all by that embrace.

There is nothing at all weird about going through life, including spiritual and religious life, as male and as female, with different but complementary strengths, gifts, and needs. It's part of being human and was directly willed by God and ratified by Him as a good thing as part of His Divine pedagogy. Rather, it is weird not to seek out our calling within this framework, which, of course, involves a certain amount of questioning of our selves, our culture, and the state and adequacy of ecclesial institutions.

There are no generic humans. There are common elements of humanity in us all. But we live in this world as male and female. I suspect that our ancestors would have be amazed to find the current amount of confusion on this point.

reluctant penitent

Liam,

Who is laying the blame at the feet of the women who took up the 'invitation'? And who is denying the importance of women in the Church? The complaint is about priests, bishops and the liturgy. Check out this ad:

http://www.dor.org/vocations/simple.htm

Yes women religious WERE an integral part of the Church--when the priesthood and liturgy were more manly. As the clergy became more metrosexual and the liturgy more like a Care-Bears jamboree than worship the number of women religious fell.

Of course there were very big problems in the pre-VII. But do you honestly think that recruiting more homosexuals into the priesthood, building grotesque churches and singing banal songs were the solutions to these problems? Uncle Screwtape is having a very hearty belly-laugh at our expense.

Liam

RP

I am mystified by the idea that the preconciliar liturgy was inherently more manly than the postconciliar liturgy. And the issue of homosexuals in the seminaries predates Vatican II as well.

reluctant penitent

A propos the effeminate character of the Gather hymnal liturgy:

Profile of The Touring Broadway Theatregoer

The average touring Broadway theatergoers was female, affluent and well-educated. Moreover, 75% of those who made the decision to buy tickets were also female. Gender ratios were similar across the country, although the Northeast reported the highest percentage of female attendees.

(http://www.livebroadway.com/press_releases_12.html)

Chris

Kevin Jones -

You're right on about the value of separating men and women for spiritual activities.

When I first met Opus Dei, I was a bit surprised that the men's and women's activities were held separately. But I quickly found that to be one of the most attractive aspects: the priest addressed us as men, with a man's spirituality and sensibility. We were encouraged to be manly in the spiritual struggle, and in our relationship with God and the Church.

Deacon John M. Bresnahan

The hymns sung in most Catholic churches are fit for only girls in kindergarten. Even my wife and daughters barf at some of the sweety, cloying, super-effeminate songs sometimes sung.Whatever happened to songs which had some strength, power, and force.
And please, in the urban environment I grew up in men did not hold hands (even while praying the Our Father) nor did they hug each other like long lost lovers--as some men in suburban churches do. A strong, firm handshake is what prevails among men outside the confines of the church sensitivity sessions that used to be called Mass.
And I was confirmed before Vatican II when the bishop used to punch you on the cheek as a sign of your willingness to stand up for and, if need be, suffer for the Faith. That was a symbol that I know all our gang understood, identified with, and it stimulated a lot of bravado comments from the guys. Naturally, that symbol was canned. Too "macho" I guess.
As for the lacy robes some priests wore before Vatican II--that is the one thing mostly gone I cheer about--especially since noone expects me to wear them.

McO

Maybe Catholics should be more like Islam to butch up the mass. Have the women sit somewhere else, in full cover, while the men prepare to do battle. Would that be butch enough to turn the tide of the "effeminate" church?

I need a little help here - is this setting up a straw-man argument? I could be way off base here, because I'm not even sure what "butch up the mass" means...

James Freeman

You can't get music more effeminate than the ditties of the Haugen-Haas-Joncas repertoire. 'You hear me singing mom? It's like I'm on Broadway!'


Broadway? More like the Weehaucken Community Players.

Or, more accurately, picture Bill Murray in his old SNL lounge-singer sketch. Yean, that's the ticket . . . Liturgical Lounge Lizardry.

Margaret

This isn't a new phenomenon at all. The only thing "new" about it is that women have become more visible by stepping into the positions of reader, minister of Holy Communion and altar server. Men (in general) have never been as "religious" as women (in general). It isn't a matter of pre- or post- Vatican II. Men just have new excuses for the same old patterns of behavior.

I believe that a good part of the crisis of vocations has nothing to do with the changes of Vatican II or with the participation of women. I think it has much more to do with societal changes, parental expectations and a failure to challenge which just happened to coincide with the decade follwoing Vatican II. It won't be "fixed" by making changes in the liturgy or by banishing women from minor roles.

rudi

Lace, brocade, velvet, gold braid, I grew up in the 60s/70s, most of my friends wore that sought of thing. Pre-19th cent, that was what men wore, especially in the most macho professions, look at military uniforms of the period.
Men until recently have been peacocks, have we lost sight of what it means to be a man?
We have lost sight of what marriage means, I think we have last sight of the nature of friendship. Could this be why we have lsot sight of men in church?

Marie

"Or, more accurately, picture Bill Murray in his old SNL lounge-singer sketch."

Exactly. Every time I hear the first line of "Gift of Finest Wheat," I can picture Bill Murray singing it...."Yooooooooouuuu satisfy the hungry hearrrrrrrrt....."

Liam

RP

Were the 1962 Missal reimposed today as the sole missal of the Roman rite, all the parishes with Gather hymnals could continue to use them without a hitch in Low Masses....

Thomas Day's excoriation of Catholic hymnody in the US points the problem of sentimental, theatrical balladeering well back before Vatican II.

Barry

We need to remember that there is something magical about the Latin Mass. If we turned back the clock and pretended this was 1947, tthe problems within the Catholic church wouldn't be solved. Remember that the Vatican II changes came about, in part, because of disaffection and alienation inside the church. We need to be careful about being too nostalgic for the "way it used to be" since the "way it used to be" wasn't so grand.

Barry

Oops, I meant "nothing magical" not "something"

Jon W

The fact of a gap per se doesn't bother me that much. The old Roman taunt that Christianity was "a religion for slaves and women" is a recommendation, not a criticism. Preferential option and all that.

That said, the enormity of the gap in the West is disquieting. Also, I'm often ... not impressed ... by the manliness (or lack thereof) of the churchy guys in my parish.

I think the reason the old pre Vat II mass strikes people as more "masculine" is more incidental than essential to its style. Men tend to be more practical and straightforward than women and have a low tolerance for what they perceive to be "bullsh--". Mass was once seen as necessary. You got confirmed because you had to. You took the Eucharist because that was how you got to heaven.

With the over-application of the "baptism of desire" or "anonymous Christians" concept to pretty much any religion in the entire world, Christianity has become perceived as so subjective that whatever pushes your spiritual buttons is cool with God. The problem with that is that what pushes most men's spiritual buttons is necessity. And necessity implies a blatant bedrock fact.

I don't mean to imply that a pendulum swing completely to the opposite extreme when fathers left after communion to warm up the cars till mom brought the kids out after the closing hymn (or whatever they did pre-Vat II) is in order, but it would be a kindness to people in general - and especially to boys - to point out that we do have The Way to God, and that if He in His mercy accepts those who through ignorance and no fault of their own are playing for the other team that doesn't change the fact that there's a right and a wrong team and being on the wrong team wilfully will land you in hell.

(And those priests definitely need to stop the friggin' show tunes and learn Gregorian chant. Gentleness and refinement in a man mean nothing but weakness and timidity if there isn't strength and resolution to undergird them.)

AJP

There's a significant difference between "effeminate" and "feminine." Often the terms are confused and tossed around carelessly when discussing the changes in the Church. I hate, hate, hate it when folks of a more traditionalist bent bemoan the "feminization of the Church." For one thing, the Church is the bride of Christ, so shouldn't *she* be rather feminine?

Secondly, this way of speaking makes it sound like being feminine is something bad, icky, and best avoided. Yet many traditionalist leaning folks I know who bemoan the "feminization of the Church" as if being feminine is a bad thing, are also very much invested in traditional gender roles, traditional notions of masculinity and femininity which cannot be deviated from in the slightest. They can get pretty nasty if a woman is not being "feminine" enough for them (for example, by going to grad school). What's it gonna be folks? I'm not allowed to be anything but feminine (how you define it) yet you use this term as an insult. Who would want to be feminine then?

Thirdly, saying the Church has become feminized implies that at one point it was more masculine, or androgynous, and not feminine. Well, is that OK? Women are half the population, and more than half the population in the Church. What's wrong with the Church reflecting this fact to an extent? Why is it OK for the Church to be masculine, to disproportionally reflect its male members, but not OK for the Church to disproportionally reflect its female members?

Finally, the "feminizing" changes that are complained about the most are mostly changes towards iconoclasm and sissyness. Those are NOT feminine qualities. Those are effeminate qualities. No good Catholic woman I know supports these things. They may have more patience for putting up with them than men do, but they don't favor them. Don't blame women for this mess we're in.

Get rid of the effeminacy which pervades so much of Catholic life nowadays and you'll get more men back in Church. You'll also attract better women to the Church, and hopefully steel up the women that are already here.

Barry

Since "effeminacy" is ulimtately a sophisticated way of saying "gay," are we just preparing for another round of purging gays from the seminaries and blaming gay, again, for a Catholic problem that has nothing to do with gays? When will the scapegoating end?

reluctant penitent

Liam,

I agree that the old sentimental hymns ought to be avoided too, though they are less distant from the ideal than the new hymns and settings. I also agree that simply mandating the 1962 Missal is not the solution. As you point out, there is nothing to prevent the use of the Gather Hymnal together with the 1962 Missal.

AJP,

Absolutely right, 'effeminate' is not the same as 'feminine.'

Barry,

No, 'gays' have no place in the priesthood. (A man who has experienced SSA but who has been chaste might be another matter.) Here is a story about a gay the very appropriate 'scapegoating' of a gay priest (unfortunately, the bishop was strangely unwilling to remove the priest):

One shady staple of gay culture is "cruising" for sex in public places—typically parks, public restrooms, and highway rest stops. It appears to be the quickest and most reliable way for an overheated gay man to find a partner for the purposes of satisfying his disordered sexual appetite in one manner or another. This frequently entails anonymous public sex, usually between consenting adult males who don’t know one another from Adam. By any standard, it’s reckless behavior. It’s also illegal. Father Raymond Larger made that startling discovery the hard way. This summer, the Cincinnati priest was arrested and charged with two counts of public indecency in Dayton, Ohio’s Triangle Park, some 50 miles from his parish. Fr. Larger made the mistake of soliciting sex from an undercover police officer. His method: groping the man’s groin and exposing himself. Triangle Park has long been a popular meeting ground for anonymous homosexual encounters. Fr. Larger was not there by accident. In fact, according to the arresting officer, Fr. Larger told the detective that he’s a frequent visitor to the park. In other words, the priest regularly "cruises" for public sex, a far cry from fitting behavior for any grown man, let alone for a pastor of a Catholic parish. Fr. Larger pleaded no contest to sexual misconduct charges, was convicted, and given a 30-day suspended jail sentence and one year of unsupervised probation. He was also temporarily stripped of his priestly faculties and suspended indefinitely by Cincinnati’s Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk. It is instructive to note that the convicted priest was not immediately placed on leave. It was only after reporters from Cincinnati’s Channel 9 News confronted the archdiocese about the priest’s arrest and conviction that the archbishop addressed the issue. An archdiocesan spokesman told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the archbishop’s decision to place Larger on paid administrative leave was "a response to loud and numerous complaints from Larger’s flock."

(http://www.cruxnews.com/rose/overexposure.html)

Julie

--In the middle of the 19th century, two-thirds of church members in New England were women, said Bret E. Carroll, professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus. Portrayals of Jesus around that time depicted a doe-eyed savior with long, flowing hair and white robes.--

So in order to attract more men to the pews, should Jesus have looked more bulky, like someone who often lifts heavy objects? And it's not like women have some sort of physical attraction to Jesus. The theory makes both men and women seem ridiculous: women are extremely needy and turn to God because He'll always love them and is gentle-looking (it must be the robes!), whereas men-- c'mon now. I became a Catholic because the truth was gripping and I couldn't ignore it. Faith isn't about your personal preferences about what kind of "experience" you want.

It is true that traditionally, women have been and are more religious than men are. But I don't think this will necessarily remain true indefinitely. Among conservative Catholics at my alma mater, guys greatly outnumber girls...

Marie

"So in order to attract more men to the pews, should Jesus have looked more bulky, like someone who often lifts heavy objects?"

As a carpenter in an era before power tools, it is likely that Jesus WAS someone who often lifed heavy objects.

reluctant penitent

'Among conservative Catholics at my alma mater, guys greatly outnumber girls...'

But doesn't that precisely support the point that orthodoxy attracts men?

Jesus does not have to be more bulky. It was an unfortunate editorial choice at Our Sunday Visitor to have a picture of a muscular man in a priest's garb on the cover of an issue about masculinity in the priesthood. That is a secular ideal of masculinity, not a Christian one. (And besides, having lots of pumped up seminarians might make the gay problem worse.)

Christian masculinity in the priesthood is a willingness to express the truths of the faith without fear of being thought too 'judgmental', either by the congregants or by the secular culture. A priest expresses this masculinity in the confessional, in homilies and in the liturgy. A priest who wants to sing show tunes because he thinks that this is more pleasing or in sync with the secular culture is not masculine.

Incidentally, the Greek word for courage is 'andreia,' which is related to the word for 'man' ('andros'). We see the same relationship in the Latin between 'vir' and 'virtus.'

Barry
But doesn't that precisely support the point that orthodoxy attracts men

Or does it just mean that orthodoxy is potentially so oppressive that it drives women away, leaving men to chant amongst themselves.

Liam

I guess I am also mystified by the idea that direct, unequivocal communication and unflinching adherence to duty is a masculine characteristic. I've known plenty of women with those characteristics, actually probably more women than men.

I think that, if there is a problem among men today, it is prolonged adolescence, not effeminacy. It is the unwillingness to face the fact that choices have to be made, that you won't always be entitled to good choices, that pain is an inescapable part of life, that gratification is usually better deferred, that fantasy has not necessary relationship to reality and often distracts men from it, et cet. It's a set of problems often positively correlated to the high testosterone of young adulthood for males.....

There is also a bit of a caricature of direct communication that needs to be avoided: the idea of using truth like a brickbat.In order to communicate well, you *do* need to be an empathic listener and speaker. You *do* need to know your audience, meeting them where they are, et cet. Simply hurling the truth like a weapon is not communication, but I have seen a number at St Blog's espouse it in the cause of manly communication.

Carlos

There is definitely a lot of truth in the idea that separating boys and girls in school allows you to tackle specific boys and girls issues.

However, I don't know how well Opus Dei does this. I recall that at one of the first nights of recollection I attended, the priest urged us to "climb into the lap of the Virgin Mary." The priest at the OD parish I attended also regaled us with stories of OD seminarians who giggled like girls as they peered over the bannisters trying to catch a view of El Padre.

No thanks.

reluctant penitent

'I guess I am also mystified by the idea that direct, unequivocal communication and unflinching adherence to duty is a masculine characteristic.'

It's not uniquely masculine characteristic--compare Mother Angelica, for example, with the effeminate Cardinal Mahony. Nevertheless, it is masculine in that an absence of it in a man is conspicuous, especially in the eyes of other men. An absence of this characteristic in a man prevents other men from taking him seriously. And, since men need more to get them into a Church--which goes along with being more prone to a whole range of sins, as evidenced by the numbers of male rapists, porn addicts, violent criminals, etc.--the absence of this characteristic in priests and bishops has a greater impact on men.

Jimmy Mac

" One shady staple of gay culture is "cruising" for sex in public places—typically parks, public restrooms, and highway rest stops. It appears to be the quickest and most reliable way for an overheated gay man to find a partner for the purposes of satisfying his disordered sexual appetite in one manner or another. This frequently entails anonymous public sex, usually between consenting adult males who don’t know one another from Adam. "

Oh, do tell me more, RP! I have been gay for more than half of my life and most of the people I know don't do that, haven't done that, nor have any interest in doing that.

And what or whose experience are YOU drawing on, do tell?

reluctant penitent

JM,

I'll take your word for it that gay men are rarely promiscuous. However, there do seem to be many promiscuous gay priests. Just a few more examples from the article I cited above:

Father Larger’s case is—unfortunately—all too common. The few examples I cite in this column don’t even scratch the surface of this scandal. Nonetheless, consider:
Two weeks before the Cincinnati priest’s arrest in Triangle Park, Fr. Wladyslaw Marczynski, 42, was sentenced to ten days of community service for obscene conduct. The Michigan priest was arrested in a Traverse City park for engaging in a sexual act with another man. Fr. Marczynski was a pastor in the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan.
In May, Fr. Ronald Ashmore, ordained in 1976 for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, was arrested for exposing himself to an Indiana state trooper at a public rest stop along I-70. He reportedly told the undercover trooper that he was "cruising" for sex and asked the detective to join him behind the restroom.
Last year, Fr. Ed Greiwe, a member of the Crosier fathers, was cited for indecent exposure and disorderly conduct after exposing himself to a male undercover police officer at Pioneer Park in Blaine, Minnesota.
The Arizona Republic recently compiled a list of priest sex offenders from the Diocese of Phoenix. The list included Fr. John J. Hall, who was arrested in 2001 for public indecency and sexual contact in a public park. It was also revealed that Fr. Robert H. Kelly was arrested on public indecency sex charges twice while an active priest, but those incidents were never made public until last year.
In 1999, Fr. Robert Betz, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, was arrested in a public park for lewd and lascivious behavior, including masturbating in front of an undercover officer. …
Last year the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, made a similar argument for Fr. Charles Howell, who was arrested in 1998 on the same charge—masturbating in front of two men in a public park. At the time, Fr. Howell was associate pastor of Lexington’s Cathedral of Christ the King. Bishop J. Kendrick Williams, who later resigned after several sex abuse lawsuits were filed against him, directed Fr. Howell to obtain counseling and placed him on probation before promoting the convicted priest to pastor of St. William’s in London, Kentucky. According to a public statement released last year, the Diocese of Lexington claimed that Fr. Howell "underwent a professional evaluation that deemed him no threat to children, youth or the community," and that Bishop Williams, himself an accused sex offender, pronounced Fr. Howell fit for continued ministry.
Also pronounced "fit for continued ministry," was Fr. Wayne Ball, ordained for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia in 1989. After the priest’s arrest last December for lewdness in a public park located just two miles from his parish—Fr. Ball was caught in flagrante delicto in the back seat of a parked car with another man—Bishop Walter F. Sullivan told Richmond’s Channel 13 News that he has no plans to penalize the convicted priest. "I support him," said the bishop. "We’re not going to condemn him."
Does the Catholic Church really need priests who set out to solicit sex from male strangers in public parks and toilets? Does the Church really need bishops who "support" such criminal offenders, and pronounce the convicts to be "fit for ministry?" I for one, say unequivocally: no!

(http://www.cruxnews.com/rose/overexposure.html)

Michael Kremer

(1) Exactly what is the evidence, beyond competing anecdotes, for a gender gap in Mass attendance at US catholic churches?

(2) Deacon John: there are much more macho cultures than ours in which men hold hands and hug. There is nothing determinately or "naturally" effeminate in that. It's entirely cultural. And remember that Judas betrayed Christ with a kiss -- a gesture that would only make sense if men kissed one another in greeting.

Glenn Juday

"I think that, if there is a problem among men today, it is prolonged adolescence, not effeminacy. .... It's a set of problems often positively correlated to the high testosterone of young adulthood for males....."

As long as adolescence is assumed to be equivalent to irresponsibility, we are at risk of repeatedly fostering and producing a defect we have come to accept. Young men readily seek out and follow authority they have come to have confidence in. They are capable of, even willing, to make great sacrifices for authority they respect. And the authority of a wise, involved, caring father who has high expectations of them can motivate them to great height of acheivement, especially moral acheivement.

I earlier asked people to think about the missing element in contemporary American Catholic parishes that fosters male underrepresentation. OK. Where are the elements described above, and are there enough of them?

TSO

Some say that homosexuals are less likely to be orthodox Christians because they are at a natural disadvantage in the sense of having extraordinary demands placed on them in order to be faithful to the gospel. I wonder if there are similar in kind (though obviously not in degree) with respect to men. The essence of Christianity is receptivity and relationship, and both come more naturally to women.

Liam

TSO

But even if one were to grant that for the sake of argument, one would similarly have to grant that men as a whole have had over most of human history compensating advantages. You'd have to work both sides of the ledger, as it were....

Glenn

There are young men (and women) capable of responding to leadership, but I think our culture's leadership has been in a crisis of confidence for two generations - this is a pattern that extends far beyond the Church in the US and the West. Another reason I don't see the liturgy having much to do with it as a cause nor as a solution. It's hardly unprecendented -- it's a fairly regular occurence in cultural lifecycles (even withour resorting to theories of decadance). Doesn't make it something to embrace, of course. The current administration had an opportunity to make the War on Terror a more broadly shared and deeply felt national burden, but shrank back from it (understandably in secular political terms -- people forget that, despite the Greatest Generation, the homefront in WW2 was not a harmonious beehive but there was a considerable amount of pushback about the kinds of sacrifice being made, and the GOP started profiting from this discontent as early as the elections of 1942). That's just a secular example that comes readily to mind.

Puzzled

So why are there more men than women in singles groups?

Glenn Juday

Dear Liam,

“There are young men (and women) capable of responding to leadership, but I think our culture's leadership has been in a crisis of confidence for two generations - this is a pattern that extends far beyond the Church in the US and the West. “

Certainly. However the reasons all seem to me to converge ultimately in the institutionalization of the Protestant revolt. A divided western world decided that open combat over the religious issue was worse than simply living without a unified and undisputed supreme religious paradigm as an undergirding of culture, institutions, and life in general. The previously unthinkable became the preferable. Uncertainty and unknowability passed from tragic consequences to positive goods – the source of western vitality through the questioning spirit. Finally, the advantages of explicitly rejecting any moral authority that did not appeal to an individual became obvious. The question is not why there is now a crisis of confidence in the entirety of western culture and institutions, but why it did not happen sooner.


“Another reason I don't see the liturgy having much to do with it as a cause nor as a solution. “

If my reasoning above is correct it has everything to do with the liturgy, in fact, ultimately it has to do with nothing else.


“It's hardly unprecendented -- it's a fairly regular occurence in cultural lifecycles (even withour resorting to theories of decadance).”

There is something to be said for cyclic worldviews – they are common (pervasive almost), and have a certain empirical support in history. However they stand in stark contrast, perhaps the starkest contrast, with the Judeo-Christian worldview (specifically Christian eschatology). The very notion of progress, of final judgment, of sin, redemption, of eternal afterlife with eternal consequences, of growth in holiness, sanctifying grace, baptismal rebirth, redemption, atonement – all these grow out of Hebrew or Christian revelation and distinctives. And they all are based on the premise that we play the game once and it’s for all the marbles.

Of course, in salvation history and the life of the Church there is a clear pattern of covenant breaking, sin, rejection of God, a call to covenantal fidelity (prophecy), warning, punishment, chastisement, and renewal of the faithful remnant. But there seems to be an amplification through history in which the stakes get bigger and bigger. And, if we believe Christ, there is now one institution in the world that will persist and cannot defect from teaching the Truth despite its members. The Church. So again, we come back to the liturgy. If the crucible of our common Faith life is the liturgy, then defects or omissions from the liturgy are serious matters indeed.


“Doesn't make it something to embrace, of course.”

Of course.

brucerealtor@verizon.net

Washington Dignity, a worship service for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual [whatever that is] & transgendered catholics, held in an episcopal church, is 98% men & unlike suggested in another blog, gay is not equal to feminine. Any woman will surely acknowledge that going in drag, is not their life [or so it seems -- life can be a real drag now & then], but with a 98% masculine attendance rate for the last 15-20 years, we have ourselves wondered where all the women are.

Indeed, where are all those supportive of these ministries who want to attend a 6 pm mass, since only mass is later and that's only by a half hour.

Kevin Jones

"So why are there more men than women in singles groups?"

I'd wager it's because men stink at this kind of social networking.

Dunno about singles groups as a whole, but at the National Catholic Singles' Conference there were at least two girls for every guy.

Liam

Glenn

The ideas you cite to the "revolt" all arose under the older liturgy. Hence liturgy is not the cause.

John Heavrin

"...I have been gay for more than half of my life..."

What were you for the other half, Mr. Mac?

Boko

Carlos-

Are you sure you're talking about Opus Dei? Do they even have seminarians? Are you maybe thinking of the Legionaries (the "El Padre" reference makes me think so)?

Tony

Since "effeminacy" is ulimtately a sophisticated way of saying "gay," are we just preparing for another round of purging gays from the seminaries and blaming gay, again, for a Catholic problem that has nothing to do with gays? When will the scapegoating end?

Actually effeminacy is not a way of saying "gay". I have seen tons of gay men who are not effeminate.

Priests are called to be spiritual fathers of their parish. This implies a decided masculine outlook.

A man is asked to put aside the idea of a wife and children to become a priest. This implies a desire for a wife and children or at least an understanding of what it means to be a Catholic husband.

A pastor needs to be able to decisively lead his parish. It doesn't mean being a fascist and ruling his parish with a dictatorial iron glove. It means having a specific direction and goal for his parish after having listened to the opinions of his flock, consulted with his bishop and prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance.

I would venture a guess that in the parishes which model the most silliness, the pastor has absconded from his position as leader and has left it to lay people (with the composition of parishes being mostly women, well... that means it will probably fall on the women of the parish). He relegates himself to a "sacrament machine", showing up and saying the words that bring Jesus to the flock that is acually controlling the direction of the parish.

We need less men like this, and we need more men like bishop Finn in KC / St. Joseph Missouri.

And Jon, the "churchy" men in our parish are quite manly, and we're in the process of taking the lead on adult catechesis in our parish.

Ken

Fr Ethan:

Since "female altar servers" were permitted, have there been ANY sightings of altarboys? Since this "special dispensation", altarboys have joined Bigfoot in the realm of cryptozoology.

Barry:

Well, they do call Islam "The Real Man's Religion". I worry that as Christianity becomes more feminized, its hypermasculine historic rival will become more and more attractive.

No one in particular:

You know how all this builds Dan Brown's street cred? DVC must be true; the churches are all filled with Mary Mags singing their love songs...

P.S.

Check out this Murrow guy's website, www.churchformen.com .

Ken

So why are there more men than women in singles groups? -- Puzzled

Because single Christian women already have their perfect boyfriend/lover/husband. His name is Jesus.

Liam

Ken

While have long attended parishes that do not use children for service at the altar, I do visit parishes elsewhere that do use them, and boys have always been up there with the girls. And the boys still seem to have the same tendency to drift off and goof that they did when I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s (and my older sibs in the 1950s (if anyone had told us that altar boys were more likely to become priests, we would have had conniptions of laughter at the thought -- if anything, altar service sometimes seemed to be a way to punish the more unruly boys -- especially for the early Mass assignments). The girls are no exceptions to this now, either.

I am aware that others report this dearth of boys, but I have not witnessed it other than parishes that have *eliminated* children from altar service.

Jimmy Mac

" What were you for the other half, Mr. Mac? "

Wondering, running, avoiding, trying to be a good little straight boy, etc.

The first half was a long, long, LONG time ago and, in a small midwestern town, being what you felt you are was a tough thing to do.

And, of course, my parish priest was VERY helpful. Condeming me to hell on a regular confessional basis made it much more difficult to not confront the truth and get on with my life. Denying being gay is not the same as not being gay.

Liam

Btw, Ken: Who other than you calls Islam a "Real Man's Religion"?

Judy

I would describe today's average priest in the words John Knowles used about a charecter in his novel, Peace Breaks Out.

"He had...an overall air of not wanting to cause, be involved in, witness, or even hear about unpleasant scenes."

There are no unpleasant scenes in the pulpit either. Even if there are hard saying in the Gospel, the averaage priest ignores the hard saying and preaches on God's unconditional love and/or His limitless forgiveness and mercy. Over and over and over like the recordings that play in airports about watching your luggage and not leaving it unattended. The average priest is an expert at turning theological lemons into lemonade. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. No wonder a lot of men would rather stay home to watch athletes attempt to kick each others' you-know-whats. At least the athletes are willing to take physical risks.

At times, I feel the average priest is hiding behind the Church's skirts so as to avoid taking the hard positions that our Faith requires us to take. "My mommy, won't let me preach on abortion, contraception, co-habitation, homosexuality etc".

The laity are doing the heavy lifting while Fr. is running a franchise.

Glenn Juday

Dear Liam,

"The ideas you cite to the ‘revolt’ all arose under the older liturgy. Hence liturgy is not the cause."

If you have taken this interpretation, then I have not communicated clearly.

The desire for reform of corrupt practices in the Church was the initial impetus for the Protestant revolt. That desire may be properly said to have been a product of the "old " liturgy, insofar as it took the notion of God seriously, with offenses against His justice, majesty, and holiness as serious issues demanding a serious and even structural response. This is a point well into the zone of common consensus.

But, of course, many factors converged to escalate the initial goals and ambitions of the various parties in the actual effort to change the Church. Dead-handed non-implementation of reform spawned rage. Zeal for a "return" to holiness was superceded by intellectual pride in which a fundamental flaw in Christianity was unearthed only after 1500 years of waiting for people intelligent enough to discover it.

But movements at least as divisive had happened before. Institutionalization of division in Christendom came from implementation and survival of secular regimes providing temporal protection for complete religious novelties. These were subsidized by seizure of temporal assets of the Church (a “pure” profit activity) and accomplished with growing popular approval by broadscale distribution of effective religious polemical writing via cheap moveable type printing.

It should be noted that the newly separated Christian bodies were nearly all rigorists, with strong appeal to men because of their emphasis on the very factors we are discussing as – well, as attracting men to Christianity. And further, as an empirically verifiable fact, the older forms (plural) of the Roman Rite reflected and exposed substantially more of those attributes of God in the liturgy than does the Mass of Paul VI (as revised to date).

My thesis is that indifferentism, if not complete religious apathy, is an inevitable destination of the path that starts with the premise that the fundamental religious truth in and of Christianity cannot be known, or is so explosively likely to lead to war that it is best ignored. The cultural milieu that emerges from this perspective is bound to lack self-confidence in its fundamental worth once the premise is taken all the way to a conclusion. The older forms of the Roman Rite liturgy don’t accept this premise about the unknowability of Christian Truth and the acceptance of all who reject it at all, and reflect a view of God with all His attributes intact.

Annalucia

``Btw, Ken: Who other than you calls Islam a "Real Man's Religion"?''


Dunno about Ken or anyone else but I call it the religion designed by a bunch of antisocial 16-year-old boys. Free rapes for the guys, burqas and stoning for the women - what's not to like? (Except for the prohibitions on booze and cigarettes, but those don't seem to weigh them down too heavily.)

Liam

"Zeal for a "return" to holiness was superceded by intellectual pride in which a fundamental flaw in Christianity was unearthed only after 1500 years of waiting for people intelligent enough to discover it. But movements at least as divisive had happened before. Institutionalization of division in Christendom came from implementation and survival of secular regimes providing temporal protection for complete religious novelties."

I agree with this, especially the last 2 sentences. I also would argue that people forget that probably a majority of the elements of the Church pushing for reform *stayed* in the Church. To concede (usually by silence) that reformer=Protestant is to concede a major falsehood. There were elements in the Church that found Trent very disturbing; it's but one reason it took so long.

""And further, as an empirically verifiable fact, the older forms (plural) of the Roman Rite reflected and exposed substantially more of those attributes of God in the liturgy than does the Mass of Paul VI (as revised to date)."

Even were I to concede that for the sake of argument (I am not yet persuaded it is so), the fact remains that the bulk of Catholic men would have been unaware of that at the time, at least until literacy became more widespread in the lower and working classes with greater education in the later 19th century (and I am not even discussing literacy with Latin -- but just the spread of literacy and prosperity to afford a vernacular-Latin missal -- which, btw, were as common until the 20th century when Pius X heavily promoted understanding and active participation in the liturgy). You see, I am the guy who posits St Pius X as the sacramentally and liturgical revolutionary with whom Vatican II's reforms need to be understood to get a better sense of intent and trajectory. But that's a separate discussion.

Liam

That should have been "NOT as common"...

Carlos

Boko,
Yes, thanks for catching that. It was male numeraries. Btw, Opus Dei does have a very quick process by which it ordains some of its male numeraries as priests. Because the numeraries regularly take theology classes, they can move to the priesthood rather quickly.

"El Padre" is just the Spanish title for St. Josemaria. It is on the tomb in which he was buried before he was moved under the altar at their church in Rome.

John Heavrin

Fair enough, Mr. Mac. Most gay people insist that they were created gay, and you seemed to be implying otherwise, which took me aback.

Brigid

Richard Rohr was really the first to deal with the issue of men and the Church.

More here: http://www.malespirituality.org/masculine_spirituality.htm

Of course, we all know he is no *darling* to many in St. Blogosphere but, hey, try to be open to what he has to say esp. about elder men teaching younger men.

Peace.

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