More on Women-Men Mythology

Are men mything?

Charles inspired me to check the Chant Café, and I noticed a dissent from Cardinal Burke. Kathy Pluth takes exception to the good cardinal leveling the legal-eyed stare at liturgical problems and putting a label on it, writing his “negative statement that the Liturgy has been ‘feminized’ and under feminine influence is so bewildering and hurtful.” It seems to have divided the commentariat there somewhat. I hope they’re not heading into schism–so much for mixed choirs, I suppose.

Likely Ms Pluth pays more attention to Cardinal Burke than I do. I think a lot of conservative prelates, when they’re not getting into trouble, are uttering a lot of nonsense these days. The Café blogger, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense citing various saints and demolishing attempts to pin all-things-liturgically-bad on women. Or using an unfavorable adjective derived from the Latin femina, and we all know what that means, sans wink.

Why are men missing in Church? From priesthood, pews, and other places? One reason might be the blogosphere. Except for sites devoted explicitly to motherhood and chick-chat, most of the commentariats are packed with men. And I bet there are men lurking on female sites who are just dying to get a word in edgewise.

Why do we have fewer priests? Better screening, I would say. How many hands out there are raised for quality above quantity?

Why do men populate the pews more thinly than women? Maybe it’s in our nature. There have been studies. Despite the fact that more than seven-eighths of all declared saints are men.

What do many if not most people really think about lace on clerical men? Probably that it looks better outside of church, and on girls. Perhaps on women. But not always. Maybe traditionalist Catholics could consider something manly like leather.

We no longer live in simple times. I suspect the 1950’s were not so simple once you got to live in them. Treat with deep skepticism anybody who tries to give a simple answer to a complex problem. The easy and simple answer is to grow altar boys into priests. The more difficult route is to cultivate young men as disciples of Jesus, then invite them to discern a calling. Not just target the junior misogynists.

Charles, any thoughts?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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9 Responses to More on Women-Men Mythology

  1. Liam says:

    In the course of my reading over the decades, I’ve been struck by noticing that phenomenon of Catholic men not attending church as much as women long appears to predate the 1960s. By centuries.

    • I find this fascinating. What, may I ask, have you been reading?

      • Liam says:

        Too many histories to keep track of. And from well before the advent of the Internet. I should clarify that this phenomenon doesn’t seem to have been as common in the US.

        One pattern that recurred in the reading: men socializing outside the church while the rest of their family assisted at Mass.

        This is not unique to Catholics. John Walton of The Waltons series hearkened to a stock social type that also was known among Protestants.

      • Liam says:

        PS: Remember, it’s not until the 20th century that average Catholics received Communion on Sundays except at Easter. Priests didn’t even come down off the predella to administer communion to the faithful normally. Royals and aristos who had confessors and chapels of their own might receive more frequently. Even when average layfolk received, it would more likely occur after Mass or right after confession.

    • Melody says:

      Regarding women in the past attending church more often than men; it may have been that it was an occasion for them to dress up a bit and get out of the house, where the men were already out and about more and didn’t feel that same need. Of course I am not discounting genuine devotion.
      As to why the men didn’t go, I suspect the same reason is at work in why some young people today are rather disengaged from church life: they find Mass boring and tedious and would rather do something else (true in the days of the TLM as much as today). My next suggestion is not that we should make it more exciting and entertaining for them. A conversion of the heart is needed, in order for them to look deeper and appreciate what is really there. It is said that “God has no grandchildren”.

  2. A few thoughts.

    All this complaining about the Church being feminized is rather funny. Here I was, thinking the Church is a Bride and a Mother.

    As for men lurking on women’s blogs, your hunch is right on. One Traditional Catholic woman used to have a blog for single women. She had a huge problem with men commenting on the site and bossing the women around. She had to put up a note asking the men to respect the blog as a space for women.

    I also think that, in today’s world, men and women have far more diverse choices than in previous years. In the past, the priesthood gave men an opportunity for power, not just religious power, but social and political power as well. Now men who want those things have the opportunity to make other choices. (Is it such a bad thing that a man who wants power is more likely to become a politician than a priest?)

    I also think it is utterly absurd to think that men would return to Mass if the EF was reinstated. Traditional Catholics who think that way don’t know anything about men.

    • Liam says:

      On the other hand, there’s a neo-reactionary Catholic website whose blogger appeared to be stunned that the reading audience was overwhelmingly male.

  3. Thanks for giving props to Kathy’s reasoned and nuanced essay. I, too, found humor in the caricatures many were ascribing to C.Burke with contrasting ones bandied about on PTB by the likes of Chris Grady concerning cappa magnas, head dress and red shoes in addition to man-lace. When change is implemented I tend to think there’s generally a tipping point at which reversing said change is akin to trying to put toothpaste back in the tube, it simply cannot be done. For example it just broke in San Francisco that the new pastor of Star of the Sea parish had reportedly revoked girls/females from the ranks of servers. Uproar results. However, there was no context in the reportage as Fr. Illo, under the approval of Abp. Cordileone, is restoring the EF/TLM as normative practice at this one church. So, we don’t know, like Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story.”
    Gender politicking by anyone regarding “the priesthood of all believers” especially under the Pauline umbrella (“in Christ there is no Jew or Greek….”) only muddies up the discussions oof failing vocations. This isn’t about a “feminized or effiminate” Church, as the demographics of “us” guys serving in various capacities in this same Church disprove that errant notion. This is a crisis about power, privilege, prestige replacing purpose, promise and pastorship in our seminaries and rectories. Young boys can see through the hoopla, especially if their only encounter with a priest, if they’re lucky, is when they receive the Host once a week. When there are priests sipping espresso, crunching bacon and toast while reading the sports page in a rectory while one overworked Sri Lankan celebrant is surrounded by 900 souls and some EMHC’s for 15 minute Communion processions, that’s not a gender issue, that’s a justice issue. So, this guy agrees with Ms. Pluth that externals or what we call optics now is a very errant ways of perceiving truth.

    • Todd says:

      Well, Cardinal Burke’s interview was so full of wack, it’s hard to see how caricature was needed, let alone could fit in edgewise.

      The news reports Jim sent me about Star of the Sea did cover the TLM. Seems like a lot of people built up that parish only to have it deposited in the laps of Latin advocates. So sure: you can’t very well have girls serving in that environment. When the reporter asked if the parish was being set back twenty, thirty years, Fr Illo said no. But he didn’t concede it was 445 years.

      It looked to me like a little crack was opening up at the Café. And maybe a few menfolk don’t like looking a little more deeply than gender issues. Brains a-wasting, as KP remarked.

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