Bill Bennett: America has a ‘man problem’
Masculinity Reduction Surgery
The common theme in both is that men in our society have forgotten what it means to be a man. Let's be honest here. A quick view of male role models in our society today easily proves my point. Turn on the TV and what do you see? Men are portrayed as either juvenile oafs, barbarians, drunks, womanizers, selfish, irresponsible, effeminate, or gay. I really have a hard time recalling any recent TV show that portrays a man as a responsible, strong, heterosexual father.
A quick search online will also reveal some eye opening statistics regarding men and fathers. The following excerpt is from WithoutaFather.com:
In the United States alone, 21.2 million children (26% of all children) are growing up in a household with only one custodial parent.1Click on the link above for more statistics on how children from homes without fathers are far more likely to live in poverty as well as fall into problems with the law and substance abuse.
Among Black children, 48.5% are growing up with a single custodial parent.2
5 out of every 6 custodial parents are mothers (84%), 1 in 6 are fathers (16%).3
But how do we as a society continue to respond to this? We keep our heads in the sand while politicians and Hollywood continue to tell us that traditional families should be redefined and that fathers aren't really needed anymore.
We need to look no further than St. Joseph and Jesus Christ for the ultimate examples of this. When we think of St. Joseph, we usually think of those statues and prayers cards depicting him as a humble and gentle foster father to Christ. What he forget is that he worked with his hands as a carpenter. He was probably a rugged man. St. Joseph was a warrior in that he risked his own life and gave up his job and everything he had to protect the Holy Family. How many men today would be willing to sacrifice their careers and comfortable lives today for the good of their families as he did?
Then there is Jesus Christ as an example of true manliness. Too often we hear that Jesus just loved everyone and practiced tolerance and forgiveness. While this is true, it also overshadows that Christ also boldly spoke out against sin and ultimately died for His bride, the Church. Let's not forget that while Christ was the model of compassion and forgiveness, He also was unafraid when He drove out the money changers who defiled the Temple. He also called the Pharisees a "brood of vipers", knowing that this could cost Him his life. Even in the face of His own execution, Christ stood their in front of those persecuted Him and never lost faith in the Father.
It is this type of courage and faith that sorely lacking from our world today. Too many men either don't care or have become too consumed with the things of this world. Not enough men are embracing what God is calling them to do which ultimately results in the crumbling of marriages, families and society.
I have been to various Catholic men conferences and men's groups and in each of these I notice one common characteristic. In most cases, the majority of the men either senior citizens or pretty close to it. I enjoy meeting them and I believe that they contribute much to our Church and the men’s groups. However, my concern is where have all the younger men gone? Why don’t we see them more of them active in groups like this? As a father of three small children, I have a hard time understanding why more men in my situation don’t want to get more active in their faith, not only for the sake of the Church, but for the sake of their families.
I have seen this with other Church groups as well. While there are some younger men present, the majority tend to be older men, usually 60+ years old. It seems that many fathers only attend weekly mass and are involved with really nothing else in the Church while others don’t attend church at all. A large number of them feel that it is the woman’s place to drag the children to church. I have heard some of these same men say they only attend on holidays and other occasions like weddings and funerals.
Then there is this report from Trinity College on the growing number of people in the U.S. leaving their denominations and identifying themselves as having no religion. The common denominator that I see here is that 60% of those with no religion, or “nones”, are men. Also, 70% of “nones” are under the age of 50, and 19% of all men in the US identify themselves as a “none”. The most disheartening statistic in this study is that 24% of those who say they have no religion are former Catholics and 35% of those who switched to being a “none” after the age of 12 are former Catholics.
What does all this tell us? It proves that there is a problem in the Catholic Church. We are losing people to a culture that tells them religion is no longer needed and has no value. Our Church is loosing a lot of good young men who are needed as priests, fathers, and soldiers in God’s army in the spiritual battle we are in. I have heard many reasons for this such as the sex-abuse scandal. But I think the problem is much deeper than that. In the article The New Catholic Manliness, by Todd Aglialoro, the author provides a strong argument for why the Church lost is sense of masculinity:
But one of the worst has been a subjugation of traditional masculine virtue: the concept of distinctly and properly manly Catholicism repressed, stigmatized, covered up, or otherwise forgotten for lack of practice. And the more “feminized” Catholicism thus became — the more its pews became recognized as the province of wives, children, and the effete — the more likely were men and their post-pubescent sons to stay away. All of this is making today’s Church, according to Leon Podles, author of The Church Impotent, “essentially a women’s club with some male officers.”
Podles theorizes that in the decades immediately preceding Vatican II, many men, “hardened by the horrors of war,” became priests and bishops, leading to a stereotype of the rough or aloof cleric, and to a style of catechesis that strenuously emphasized God’s fatherhood, strict moral norms, and a hyper-rationalized approach to theological questions. Meanwhile, the lay members of the Greatest Generation fell into a pattern of rigid, narrowly defined gender roles, of which men had uncontested dominance.
Ironically, this brief spike in Catholic manliness may have contributed to its own downfall, for by the 1960s a counter-movement had begun. In families there emerged a widespread rebellion against “paternalistic” authority. Priests and religious strove for softer, more “pastoral” approaches. And according to Ron Bolster, director of the Office of Catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenville, religious education “began to emphasize methodology over content — the person being catechized over the object of catechesis.” The old regime’s stern and systematic approach to the Faith, with its “forced memorization, casuistry, rulers on the knuckles,” no longer served.
In many instances, Monsignor Swetland and Bolster both insist, there was a genuine correction in order, a worthy contribution from the “feminine” perspective to be made. But it all went too far, and quickly. (Consider as a parallel how the revolutionary affirmation-based child-rearing philosophy of Dr. Spock morphed into the coddling excesses of the baby boomers.) Suddenly a generation of men — both lay and clergy — that not long before had finally been able to admit that it was “okay to cry” became the Phil Donahue Generation: limp caricatures of sensitivity. Fathers — of families and of souls — lost their authoritative voice, or abandoned their responsibilities to seek self-fulfillment. Meanwhile, catechists, newly unchained from dry and rote formulas, soon reduced the content of the Faith, as Bolster puts it, to “Jesus loves you, now let’s make a collage.”
At this time, too, radical feminism stepped out of the universities and muscled in on the pews with its now-familiar list of demands, seeking (with considerable local success) to enforce a new, gender-neutral brand of “God-talk.” And also — let it not go unsaid — the Goodbye, Good Men generation of clergy entered active ministry, their male psychosexual identities malformed, inflicting on the Church everything from priests with squishy handshakes to the worst crimes of the Lavender Mafia.However, according to the article, the Church is seeing the beginning of a resurgence of manliness. In this new generation of priests and seminarians, we are seeing strong men who are orthodox in their faith and protect the Church as a man would protect his wife and family. Seminaries are targeting these men and bringing back the disciplines and practices that were lost after Vatican II.
This didn’t happen by accident, of course. Good seminaries are not simply enjoying a serendipitous influx of manlier applicants; they’re expressly targeting them. In what ought instantly to become the mantra of every rector and vocations director in the country, Monsignor Rohlfs tells how he seeks candidates who “exude a personality of quiet confidence and strength”; who demonstrate “an ability to relate to men and to fathers of families, as well as to children as a spiritual father”; and finally, “a spirituality that brings together the best qualities of a man.”We are also seeing watered down “touchy feely” catechism replaced with stronger more substantial teachings that challenge men. There are also more groups and ministries targeting men to bring them back to Christ through a more masculine spirituality.
This isn’t to stay that our job is done and the problems have been taken care of. We need more young men to step up and rebuild the Church. Strong Catholic men are needed to be the example of what it means to be a real man to the rest of the world. This is the only way we can keep this resurgence going. For too long this feminization of the Church has caused men to view it as a woman’s club. Its about time the masculine ideals of honor, discipline, and sacrifice were brought back. The reason the Church seems to be losing in its battles against evils such as abortion is because we have too many Catholics, men in particular, not even showing up for the fight. Can you imagine the impact on society if armies of young Catholic men banded together to make their voices heard on important issues? That would be the true change and hope you can believe in.
What is the most frustrating for me is when I speak to the older men at various Catholic men’s groups, they were orthodox in their faith and passionate about defending the Church. I haven’t seen that as much in many of younger men I have spoken with. Some are indifferent while others are critical of the Church. I find it easy to get discouraged and feel like I am alone is this fight. But it’s important not to give up. We need to do a better job of reaching out to younger men. They need to see that the Church is more than just a club for women and retirees. The need to see that men have a vital role in the protection of the Church and family. Pope John Paul II is credited for inspiring the strong masculine orthodox priests and seminarians we see today. Our job in the Church and in these men’s groups is to spread the Pope’s message to more men and invite them back to a Church that desperately needs them.
Through out 2,000 years of Church history, we have been blessed with countless male saints who can serve as role models of Catholic manliness for today’s generation. We have the examples, as I mentioned before, of Christ Himself as well as St. Joseph. There is also St Michael The Archangel, and St. Nuno Alvares Perreira, the warrior monk who led an army of 6,500 Portuguese soldiers to victory against an invasion of 30,000 Castilian soldiers. These are the true heroes that young men need to imitate and not the false images of manhood that society and even some in the Church have portrayed. When Catholic men come together as brothers with Christ before us, St Michael and St. Joseph, the terror of demons, beside us, and countless other saints behind us, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.
Through prayer, evangelization and as the Church corrects the mistakes caused by the abuse of Vatican II we will see masculine virtues return to the Church and more young men ready to step up and into battle for their faith.
For more on Manly Virtues in Catholicism, please read the entire article that I linked to above, The New Catholic Manliness, by Todd Aglialoro, as well as The Art of Manly Virtue from Catholic Exchange. Also please consider joining Men’s groups in your local diocese and inviting others as well.