“Twelve Ordinary Blokes”

Is Christianity Too Feminine? Not according to British males surveyed by a Christian men’s magazine. Only eight percent complain about the Church being too feminine. But three in five guys are turned off by embroidery. So much for frilly surplices, pastel copes, and the magna cappa.

“Jesus recruited a bunch of 12 ordinary blokes before he began his ministry proper. They spent three years together doing stuff,” said Sorted’s publisher and managing editor Steve Legg. “He sat down and ate with them and built relationships,” Legg said, explaining how the church should go about reaching the male congregation.

It’s interesting that more men enjoyed singing than not. The survey favored “proclamational” songs over sentimentality. I’m not surprised at that. I wonder what sorts of things would be considered acceptable. Is it the text, something like Psalm 2? Is it the music and mythology? Something with drums, and “half” dancing? (The 52-48 margin for those opposed to liturgical dancing–not what one might expect.)

At my parish, the women’s group had a cookie bake the other night. But after reading this article, it got me thinking. We don’t really have any corollary men’s outlet at our parish, other than the Knights of Columbus. The KC’s offer a lot of service, and cook meals for some big events. Not quite the same tenor as gathering over a beer.

Some in the blogsphere have argued that traditional Catholicism and its trappings would be more appealing to men, but there’s no evidence men congregated in churches any more fifty years ago than they do today.

I wondered if manly religious folks would offer something like camo cassocks or clergy wear. I searched the web for fifteen minutes looking for stuff like that, but I found far more outlets for women’s clerical wear. And one guy (not the pope!) dressed in a white cappa with dark shades.

Real men, I suspect, want something with depth, not the peripheral frillery offered by the reform2 movement.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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4 Responses to “Twelve Ordinary Blokes”

  1. Todd:

    Just FYI, while madly doing research for a graduate course in the theology of the laity that I have to teach in just over two weeks (!!), I discovered:

    That there was tremendous lamenting about the “feminization” of the Church in 19th century France – when all priests and seminarians wore cassocks and Masses were all Latin and all Tridentine all the time.

    Part of it was the consequences of the Revolution. 10,000 French and Belgium priests were killed or forced into exile. Liberty, equality, fraternity was inextricably bound up with anti-Catholicism and anti-clericalism in most people’s minds.

    The French working class male left the Church after the first French Revolution and never really came back. There was alot of Catholic renewal and missionary energy – but mostly among the middle classes. And of course, the 19th century was the century of repeated revolution and counter-revolution (France went through 4 such cycles in 80 years) and the constant change in how the Church and State related.

    Another factor was that, simultaneously, after 450 years of insisting that true women religious must be enclosed, the Pope issued a ruling in response to a request from the Archbishop of Munich in 1749 which meant that women religious could now engaged in what we now call “active” work.

    This absolutely transformed religious life as women, after the revolution, established dozens of new “active” orders and for the first time in the Church’s history, women religious made up the majority. Catholics tend to think of this state of things as immemorial but it is actually less than 200 years old.

    So you have the simultaneous emergence of a whole new, widely accepted role for women in leadership and a large proportion of the male population who associated freedom and dignity with anti-Catholicism and have left the Church as a result.

    The two dynamics together resulted in a Church that must indeed have seemed more “feminine” than it had been in the past,

    The fascinating thing about all this research is coming across public laments by Pope Pius XII about the “crisis of priestly vocations” in the 1950′s. And to find that seminarian numbers in France dropped 50% between 1905 and 1919. When Church and State were rigorously separated in 1905, seminarians lost some of their distinctive perks. The result: Lost of men choose to do other things.

    There apparently have been numerous “vocation crisis” throughout the Church’s history – and the causes are many and none of them that I’ve encountered so far have been liturgical. It varies tremendously from culture to culture and era to era.

  2. Liam says:

    Sherry took the words right out of my fingers.

    The counterpoint, however, is that we had bevies of deaconesses in function before the council who were for most Catholics (at least in the US) the quotidian face of Church authority – that is, sisters of the educational orders.

    Anyway, the “survey” appears to be self-selected and the audience skewed given the new nature of the magazine and its target audience. Just in case anyone is paying attention.

  3. Liam:

    I may be mis-understanding you. Because of my research, my head is in about 1870 at the moment (those were the days) and my comments were about the perceived feminization of the Church in the 19th century.

    Of course, by the tine 1950 rolled around, the armies of habit clad sisters were an institution in nearly every parish, and as you point out, in the eyes of most lay Catholics, true feminine power figures. The idea that your average pastoral associate today is somehow more visible, or powerful, or more omni-present than yesterday’s sister is an odd perception. I wonder how that came to be,

  4. Liam says:

    Sherry

    You understand me perfectly. I should have been clearer I was simply jumping ahead a century (or, really, a half century and then a half century again).

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