Friday, March 17, 2017


That there is a crisis of masculinity in the Catholic Church is well known. While liberals busy themselves fretting about the inclusion of women in Catholic ministry, the truth is for the past several decades it is men who have been left behind by the Church - left spiritually adrift in a religious culture that has systematically demasculinized worship and spirituality.

This demasculinization obviously has grave consequences in terms of male practice of the faith in general, but also in vocations to the priesthood in particular. It has been well documented that in many dioceses the priesthood is considered an essentially gay vocation and seminaries are stocked with homosexuals and effeminate men, while well-balanced, straight, orthodox men are shown the door. Michael Rose's Goodbye, Good Men is the must-read study on this problem.

I am happy to say that this is not the case in my diocese. My diocese has always had many more vocations than average, with fair numbers of ordinations on a regular basis (although still not where we would like them to be). Several of my former students are in seminary here, people I know to be of excellent character. A survey of priests in our diocese would show a large number of them to be on the younger side. Our bishop overall does a good job; he is a talented homilist who himself occasionally says the Traditional Latin Mass. Could things be better? Sure. But all in all, I consider our diocese to be fairly well off regarding seminarians, especially relative to other dioceses I have heard about.

Still, that leaves the question of the best way to reach out to Catholic men in general. It seems that if we are not demasculinizing men, we are going to the other extreme - appealing to the silliest masculine stereotypes about them. You know, the man as a beer-guzzling, sports-watching, barbecue-consuming, blue collar simpleton - a rugged, simple man who needs only to be drinking a cold one with his bros to find contentment. Like, men must either be assumed to be sensitive metrosexuals or else they are Hank Hill, Tim Allen, or Al Bundy. I personally find the latter approach as silly as the former, though perhaps not as destructive.

We recently had an men's conference in our diocese. I have no problems with men's conferences or anything; the Diocese of Lansing actually puts on some really good men's conferences, but look at the marketing piece for the event:

It seems to me that this promotion takes the approach I mentioned above -pandering to men through a kind of "pleased-by-beer-and-munchies" stereotype. When I saw the flyer, it kind of triggered the following thoughts:

I'm being a little bit facetious and over the top, but you know what I mean? It seems like the Church in general is just not quite sure how to market itself to men. If its not an overly emotional, feminized emasculated approach, its a kind of crude, stereotypical man-pandering, appealing to some alleged universal man impulse to thump my chest and drink a brewski.

Paradoxically, I believe the best way to market the Church to men is to...not try to market it to men. It has always seemed to me that the content of the Faith is such that it perfectly appeals to both the masculine and the feminine parts of humanity. As soon as we try to reduce what it means to be a man to certain cultural indicators - like BBQ, cold ones, and tattoos - we kind of miss something essential.

What do you think? What has happened to the Church's appeal to men? What is the answer?


Kathleen1031 said...

I think you're right. People are drawn to ultimate Truth, especially when combined with discipline and expectations. We want to belong to something bigger than ourselves, something that provides a true foundation for life. Direction, personal expectations, guidance, and limits, people never stop wanting these, unless they are actually oriented toward self-determination entirely. In that case, they would go Neo-Church or be an agnostic.
"Lameness" is a condition. It occurs when a target group is identified and sought after. Nobody wants to be pandered to, and this can be seen quickly with the teenage group. The problem is, the Church cannot actually contort itself to appeal to the secular interests of most groups, which is what they try to do. They "church up" secular experiences and seem to think that's the key. It's not. These efforts don't seem to go anywhere, because frankly, they are lame. It's hard to make Church "hip", and in fact, pretty impossible. You have to know that going in. Now Church can be awesome, inspiring, and blow your socks off, but it can't be cool. Kids know that after about age 13.
Give the people TRUTH, presented in a reverent, authentic manner. The rites and language of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form can't be beat at this.
I look around at the NO Mass. It mainly appeals to senior ladies, why, I don't know. But it's not going to appeal to most men, nor is it going to appeal to younger people.
The future is in the Latin Rite. It's got to be. The NO Mass is dying or dead, and getting more worldly by the day.

Konstantin said...

I don't know why men can't wear appropriate clothing in church such as a long-sleeved button-down shirt to cover up their tats, but I digress.

Maybe it's because Lansing is in Michigan and has a large blue-collar population, but to me this advertisement is pretty depressing -- black and white, metal font ... they have this at the factory all day long. And the guy looks like he's in trouble.

Men have been a problematic "target group" for the Church in the past. In the late 19th and early 20th century, spiritual writers here in Germany would have to appeal to men to overcome their human respect and fulfill their religious obligations. Back then it seemed to be more of an intellectual problem. You would get mocked because you were so backwards and still believed the priests' "fairytales".

Btw, did you attend or know someone who did?

Karl said...

Someone said that the Church has one small door and one big door through which most people enter. The small door is truth and the big door is beauty. Man or woman, it still is.

_ said...

The tattooed guy drives me nuts. I was under the impression that mutilating one's body was a sin yet I keep seeing Catholic men & women covered with tattoos... As a Catholic man who has kept his skin as God intended such advertisements have the opposite of their intended effect.

Jack said...

Restore the concept "Church Militant", a phrase not mentioned at all in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Restore the sacrificial nature of the Mass, get rid of women around the altar, restore Gregorian Chant (remove sentimental trash in general).

The first of these must come first. The Church lost its "masculinity" the same day it became squeamish about using words like "heretic", "schismatic", "apostate", "pagan". We all know when that day was.

Boniface said...

That's not fair, Nate. He could have gotten all those tattoos before his conversion or something.

I have multiple tattoos, btw.

Anonymous said...

Spiritual discipline and courage mark the Christian walk. Christian men and women should have a hardness about them. It just is more apparent when spiritual softness is present in a man.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh -- and seriously wonder -- when I hear that the Church isn't "manly" enough or doesn't appeal to men. There's a male-only priesthood as there has been for 2,000 years ; non-clerical religious vocations are open to men ; we worship a God-man ; we receive a God - man in Communion ; as clergy men make and enforce the rules, including the God-man who made the Divine Rules ; laymen serve in all types of capacities including teaching religious education & RCIA, ushering during Mass, Eucharistic Ministers, Lectors, Canon lawyers, administrative offices at all levels of the Church ; men have male-only groups like the Knights of Columbus or the Men's Club, etc. etc. etc. I wonder what the male reaction was "back in the day" when Jesus was around speaking to Samaritan women at the well and pardoning Mary Magdalen. Signed -- female

Anonymous said...

Female Anonymous wrote: "I have to laugh -- and seriously wonder -- when I hear that the Church isn't "manly" enough or doesn't appeal to men."

All the examples you list are seriously filled with fags and sissy boys. No man in his right mind would associate with such poofs.

Several years ago my local NO church bulletin came out a few years ago with a page welcoming the new "altar servers": 12 girls and 3 boys - all the boys were much younger than girls.

So I started weekly checking in on other diocese bulletins around the country week by week. Sure enough, it's common place: young boys want nothing to do with the life the Church. And that is where the "man problem" starts. It is in fact a boy problem. There are no role models. Fr. James Martin EsJay sure as hell ain't it.

Lasserre deVillier said...

Hey hey, BBQ and foam are pretty popular down here in Texas. And Tim Allen is actually funny as the conservative hero on Last Man Standing.

But I know what you're saying, Boniface. A return to Tradition is the only answer. Bring back the oath against Modernism! said...

I concur with "John Lamb" here above (adding the word "inquisition" to his
list, since my web site is! ;-)
Also, it's Leviticus 19:28: "[...] do not tattoo yourselves. I am the LORD."

Boniface said...

I think Tim Allen is pretty funny too. He's from my neck the woods so we're all very familiar with him up here.

Woody said...

Longer liturgies, more standing or kneeling, male only altar servers, no EMHCs, more emphasis on, and blatant acceptance of, traditional teachings and liturgical feasts, e.g. Exaltation of the holy and life-giving Cross, entrance of Mary into the Temple, etc. without denaturing qualifiers such as "in the old days they used to believe...", more fasting not less, and how about Saturday or Sunday Vespers? Oh wait, that's what the Orthodox and the better Eastern Catholics are doing...So long, got to get to Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil on this Third Sunday of Great Lent, the veneration of the holy and life-giving Cross. A good 1 3/4 hours at our local Byzantine Catholic Church.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Restore the Real Mass (Pre Pius XII Holy Week wrecking ) as normative and kill the Pauline Rite.

Fire ALL women who are head of Formation for Seminaries.

Fire ALL women who are Chancellors of Dioceses.

Order the "greeters" to tell all people speaking before Mass to be quiet because others are preparing for Mass.

Parochial schools separated by sex with NO women teaching the boys.

Restore gregorian Chant.

Put the new ecumenism on a rack and torture it to death.

Refuse to go to any "men's" event.

Boniface said...

Nuns used to teach boys all the time.

OreamnosAmericanus said...

Hardly your religion's biggest problem, slightly too much testosterone in an ad. Not only has Catholicism been saturated with estrogen --every local parish is really run by women-- but it has cast its lot with the Third World in the invasion of Europe and North America. How self-respecting men can support an organization dedicated to dismantling what their fathers built and putting their communities --and their women and children-- at such terrible risk, is beyond me.

Jane Galt said...

I think your bishop is trying to reach the guys discussed in this article.

This is a crisis. These men are ripe for conversion.

Marko Ivančičević said...

This kind of advertisement is cringeworthy.
So is the aristocratic or crusader larping among some traddies.
Just, freakin', be a Christan worthy of the name and that's it...everything else is just accidental.

Anonymous said...

I know it has been covered extensively by others here, but again most of the problem is solved by going back to the old liturgy. This is not a throwaway line - I have seen it with my own eyes. I have been going to the Latin Mass since the late 90s - I am now married with 3 young children. We were recently blessed with the old Mass moving much closer. The parish has the NO and the Latin Mass. On the first day the Latin Mass was almost at capacity in the small chapel. Many young familes attend. In contast the Sunday morning NO is about the same number yet they are in the main Church, and are about 90% female and 80% grey haired. There is something at the old that is not present at the new, something that you want to conform to, learn about and unite with. You know that you are in contact with something holy and sublime, something you are completely unworthy of and yet you still want to be there. This desire is completely absent for me at the NO, in fact I find it repulsive because it one way or another it serves up the "I'm ok you're ok" heresy. I could go on and on but I'm sure you understand what I mean.

JM said...

The answer is NOT marketing. It gets results but lacks integrity. I saw it in the world of CBN. Alluring, but leaves an awful hangover and little nutritional results.

James Joseph said...

The new liturgy basically sucks so we dress to the level of suck.

Same thing happens in the military. If tradition is lost then why bother?

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Boniface. Yeah, but Sisters aren't women in the modern sense of the word as their primary identify is not female

anonymous said...

I cry a lot about the church I became a part of in 1999. I became Catholic via NO. Nine years later after "suffering" all sorts of strange things-- a nun who said one day I would be confessing to her, a grandmother and life long Catholic who told me she didn't understand why the Pope didn't allow abortion, a band called "team Jesus" "playing" at Mass, a woman belting out a hymn sounding like a sexy song at Mass, the non stop talking and raucous laughter before Mass while you are praying before the Christ crucified, the scantily dressed- men and women, etc etc....then by accident I met someone who went to the Latin Mass and was home. And I was happy there for six years...then inexplicably I fell away.. now I cry in the back of a church that is Catholic but is more Protestant than a Protestant church...and the altar is overrun with women...girl altar servers and Eucharistic ministers...and the choir (Amazing Grace? Really? We sang that in the Methodist Church I grew up in)... I think in five years women will be ordained and that will be the last time I am at Mass. I see the Church going into a direction that I have no interest in...namely it will look and be the secular world...I don't blame men for not participating...and why would boys want to serve with all the girls...all of this of course causes a loss of vocations and is breeding a group of disaffected women who will want to be priests. It all appears to be an "inside" job. I am venting as I spend time in the confessional about my criticisms. And I question whether anyone really cares if the Church falls apart...or has fallen apart...I sometimes think that I have entered a surreal universe where I was called to be Catholic but I cannot find the Catholic Church. Once I heard that the plan to destroy the Church could be accomplished by destroying the modesty of women (Totally done!) And make priests and nuns into gourmands and social workers.

Boniface said...

That's so sad. It really is.

However absolutely none of it gives you any excuse for falling away. If you fall away because of things like that, your faith is weak. Use your sorrow and anguish to purify your soul and coin steadfastly to the cross.

anonymous said...

Yes you are correct.. there is no reason ever to fall away...the Cross should be at the center not all the other.

Firefox29 said...

Look I think while there may be some merit in what you are saying, I wouldn't fret much about it. Frankly, we men have been subjected to the hyper-feminized liturgy with guitar-strumming and syrupy, feminine hymns for decades now. What's wrong with men trying to get a little balance by promoting something unmistakably masculine ? I think you'll find the vast majority of men far prefer a hyper-masculine image to promote a Catholic event, rather than what we've had to endure at the hands of most Catholic parishes.

c matt said...

What's wrong with men trying to get a little balance

Problem is, balance is rarely achieved by going to the other extreme. Picture a tight-rope walker with that long stick - trying to over-correct generally causes more trouble.

Kathleen pretty much nailed it - men or women should not eb the focal point for marketing, Truth should be. The tag line from X-files would have been better - The Truth is Out There. This ad looks more like something advertising an MMA cage match or monster truck rally. I do like beer and BBQ though. Keep that.

Boniface said...

C Matt said:

Problem is, balance is rarely achieved by going to the other extreme. Picture a tight-rope walker with that long stick - trying to over-correct generally causes more trouble.

Yes. This was the point of the article.

To McFadden (Sr.) said...

At Mass, during the "Holy, Holy, holy" I visualize Our Lord riding into Jerusalem on His little donkey, riding to His torture and death willingly and I think, "There is a man!". I think traditional art and portrayals of Our Lord's masculinity have not done justice to His human courage and toughness.