Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Death of the Catholic Male

When reflecting on society today, Catholics often have a question. What went wrong with our society? Why do we celebrate a culture of hedonism and ultimately a culture of death? John Paul II attempted to answer this question in his general audiences which became The Theology of the Body. In the eyes of the pontiff, humanity began losing its purpose as individuals and as a society because they failed to understanding the meaning of their bodies. That meaning was man (in the sense of the human race) is called to be a “gift” to others. Whether it be our everyday actions or the marital embrace between a husband and wife, we are called to live a life of service to the other, and this meaning is revealed and carried out in the human body.

Since the visible victims of this lack of understanding are typically women, the Holy Father spent a large amount of time writing about “the feminine genius” and what an authentically feminine woman brings to the Church and the world. For one reason or another, John Paul II frequently left off at this point. Whatever the reason, I think the Church, both individuals and the institution, need to carry this step further. Ponder a question. Will a pope in our lifetime ever write about “the masculine genius?” To ask this question is to answer it. Where are the programs to bring more and more men into the Church, not just as priests, but individual Catholics? One could multiply ad infinitium the lists of women’s programs, but seldom men. The really interesting question to ask is why this is so. I believe there is answer.

We have witnessed in society and even many circles of our Church the death of the male and masculinity. This is not to say that masculinity no longer exists. I am saying that in increasing numbers, masculinity is no longer relevant to many. The goal of feminism was never to eradicate masculinity. Such a goal is truly impossible. While you cannot eliminate it, you can marginalize it. On this, give the feminists and the evil one credit: They have succeeded resoundingly.

The virtues that made masculinity what it is have declined. When they are taught, seldom are they taught in ways a man may find applicable to his life I would argue. This needs to change.

The feminist revolution did not just claim women as their victims. They were the visible victims. We can see directly the objectification of women. I submit that their true target and the one they have (so far) had much success against is destroying the masculine. To the modern feminist, it was never about the equality of women, just as the true communist cared little about the “working man.” Women were props in a larger war, a means to an end. The irony of this theory is rich indeed. Under the guise of ending the exploitation of women, they exploited women to even worse ends. What was that end?

That end was a full frontal assault on the very essence of our civilization, on the very meaning of our humanity. The target of that rebellion is the same as it has always been. That target is God. The principal mover was the Evil one, working behind the scenes employing subtleties within subtleties to accomplish his goals. The fact that some good was produced (women can vote, laws exist where a wife is no longer in legal custom the property of her husband, etc) one could say masked a greater purpose, just as the providing of sustenance in the garden of Eden (in itself not wrong) masked a great evil (Satan manipulating man into willfully setting themselves in opposition to God.)

I would argue the results of this manipulation have been even more devastating towards men in society. They are the unseen victims, and typically the unseen suffer greatest. When leaders refuse to stand, chaos ensues. Men, by their very nature, are meant to lead. Their general absence on this field has led to chaos in society. Their very absence is what made the sexual devolution possible. This battle must be joined.

So why aren’t men joining it? This is where I think a lot of popular commentators on TOB get it wrong. They seek to redeem sex, without redeeming the virtues that make that possible. They seek to baptize eros, without baptizing sacrifice. They speak of freedom, but seldom responsibility. Test this theory out. Go to the next TOB talk. While the speaker might be a man, the audience, especially those most enthusiastic, will be women. I have never had a man want to talk about Theology of the Body. I have had scores of female friends wanting to. While part of this comes from a misunderstanding (popularized by those like Christopher West) that everything is all about our relationship to the opposite sex (emphasis on the word sex in their eyes), I think there is something far deeper at work here. That absence is a frank discussion about true masculinity.

This outlook so far could be one of despair. Yet this need not be! Throughout the existence of the people of God, there have been great examples of men doing what men do, and calling us to do the same. We need to look at them and see what they can teach us. I’d like to do that here at Common Sense Catholicism. In addition to the other works, you will see here from time to time commentaries from the Scriptures and everyday life about how to reclaim that which has been lost.


  1. Kevin,

    I am a 60 yr old man, and there are three other men involved with me in putting on our TOB workshops. We've had over two hundred people go through our program, and a little over 40% were men.

    I've been involved in TOB for almost three years, and am very aware of how the culture has undermined masculinity. I am also very much in tune with male spiritual leadership and the responsibility of men to protect women, first of all from themselves. Many TOB men I know share that view. You just haven't gotten out among TOB activities in sufficient levels yet to encounter us fully, but we're here.

    Anyway, I was with you all the way in your well-constructed piece on the destruction of the male until you seemed to parrot the current unfounded anti TOB attitudes I've encountered in the Catholic blogosphere. I hope I'm wrong but I'll get a little into why I formed that impression.

    I know too many people who have brought their attitude towrds sex into line with Catholic teaching as a result of studying TOB - meaning embracing chastity, accepting Church teaching about homosexuality, all-male priesthood, etc. to take a negative view of the so- called "popularizers" of TOB. The term seems to be a perjorative when I've seen it used elswhere, and so I'm not sure how to take your use of it here.

    I myself can tell you that it was after reading a Christopher West book on TOB that I was transformed in my motives for maintaining my own chastity. I moved from being chaste to be in compliance with the law to being chaste because I finally understood God's plan for man and woman and wanted to be a part of that plan. Hence, chastity.

    Perhaps with a little more seasoning you may come to see more clearly how TOB offers a way out of the hyper-sexual culture. At the same time, my traditionalist brethren refuse to lift a finger to help folks needing to escape from it, except to condemn them. The overwhelming majority of the population is stranded in that culture of death.

    Admittedly, most of them got there in part because of decisions they made in ignorance and arrogance - as I did at one time - but it is the frankness of the "popularizers" like West in addressing people where they actualy are in their attitudes and practices towards sex that has led so many to finally eschew former behaviors and embrace Church teaching.

    Anyway, it's something to consider. Meantime, I embrace most of the line of thought you're developing about feminism and the undermining of masculinity. Keep up the good work.

    Phil Steinacker

  2. Hello Phil,

    First, thank you for your lengthy comment. Second, with all due respect, I believe your statements are why many of us think we do.

    To say that traditionalists (in this case, you can simply substitute that with those who disagree with the way you perceive TOB) really aren't lifting a finger to help anyone, basically condemning them to the culture of death. What have we done to merit such infamous recognition? :)

    For what's its worth, I find a lot of traditionalist approaches on these areas ultimately faulty, and at times even Jansenist. (mainly in your more "hardcore", or your sspx circles.) Yet the Churches traditional teachings aren't Jansenist, they are something beautiful.

    I don't have a problem acknowledging the fact that West has brought people to the truth. Even if he goes about it in I view a very poor way, he has many elements of truth in his stuff, and people will pick up on them. It's not just that West is popularizing things, it's that he is completely overlooking a lot of things, and many of them directly relate to the important task of understanding our human nature.


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