Masculinity Crisis?

The Phoenix archdiocese put together an interesting film. Watch it here. Some of my observations:

0.25: More tv than father-son time. That might mean a shift in the time spent by boys from, say, playing with peers. Still, this is a father’s responsibility: to play with their kids and otherwise build relationships. Then cultivate them through the years. That said, I recall a study a few years ago that suggested that on average, men today spend more time with their children than they ever did. Still, let’s not get cocky over that. Some guys score a big zero.

1.05ff: Some men don’t know how to be fathers, and it spreads to the next generation. Maybe the war on drugs and the war on immigration has played a part in that, especially for black and Hispanic guys prominently featured in this short film. On the other hand, maybe men of various stripes feel they have no responsibilities toward their children. Is it worse today than fifty years ago? It would seem so for minorities.

1.42ff: If there is a call to battle, I wonder if the call is better directed at the human interior. Before battling where blame is easily placed, the truth is that addictions seduce men away from responsibility. Wearing armor and taking up a weapon against an external foe is part of the action of a video game in a pretend world. What happens when the enemy is within?

2.20-2.29: A woman’s voice here–someone latching onto the meaning of a daily sacrifice. Not some heroic martyrdom with guns blazing.

4.20ff: The video addresses pornography, and suggests self-mastery. Sexual and other addictions certainly eat away at many men. Maybe most American men today. Self-mastery, though, is not always possible for an addict. For a confirmed addict, self-control is an illusion. Turning one’s life over to God (or a higher power, if you will) is the only way to recovery. I’m concerned that this video presents some choices as a moral matter. This isn’t always true. And it’s not always helpful.

6.02ff: I like the development of the need for a sense of community among men, and the recognition that individualism and isolation is part of our culture. They don’t present this need for community as filled by “small groups” by name, but small groups are presented in video nonetheless. Twenty percent of this video encourages strength in numbers–a very good impulse.

8.15ff: I certainly like the notion of men gong to Mass and taking their families to Mass.

From the YouTube summary:

Michael Phelan, director of the Marriage and Respect Life Office said, “Historical circumstances have periodically devastated families, but we have never seen the disparagement of masculinity and fatherhood, or abandonment of men’s responsibilities that we are seeing now. It calls for an unprecedented response from the Church.”

While I’m skeptical on just how much “disparagement” is really out there, I think one aspect we men can certainly examine is how much this crisis is self-inflicted. The usual scapegoats–female altar servers, same-sex persons, feminism, the educational system–are cited way too often. If we’re real men, maybe we don’t need to blame others or cast ourselves as victims. When we indulge work, alcohol, drugs, sex, food, porn, tv, sports, and computers that is our own fault. Nobody else’s. That seems like a hill big enough that needs conquest in the millions, long before we look to put the culpability on people outside of ourselves.

The real movement on this initiative will have to take place on the parish level, in small groups, and with personal commitment of men. From my personal experiences and what I’ve seen in parishes, I can suggest some concrete steps to take. I’m assuming most of my married readers here are already going to Mass with their families and taking time to engage with their children. Beyond that:

  • Daily prayer, no matter what one’s state in life may be. Fifteen minutes early in the day.
  • If one is already praying regularly, then an annual retreat. Cursillo, diocesan, whatever is offered. Then get involved as a team leader and bring other men to retreats.
  • Some weekly small group, even if that’s an early morning coffee with just one other man. Small group material is all over the Church these days. It’s a big thing for many publishers. Find good leaders–this is key.
  • Parish groups like the Knights might like to consider making men’s gatherings a priority. If one is a leader in such a group, then other men might be waiting for a good example.
  • Self-mastery may be a challenge. If after confession a man finds himself sliding back into old behaviors, and that is a consistent frustration, I would advise adding a 12-Step group. I wouldn’t overlook that a movement detached from organized religion might have some significant personal insights for a man of faith. In other words, you need all the weaponry you can find.
  • If you are serious about steeping into the breach, stay away from politics. These days, it’s a rabbit hole. If a man has serious problems, don’t expect the government, its political parties, the clergy, or some outside entity to solve them. Our problems are our own.

What did you think of the film? Will men be moved by it? Does it convince you?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Commentary, film, Ministry. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Masculinity Crisis?

  1. Liam says:

    FYI: That video was released months ago.

  2. The Waz says:

    Straw men set to swelling music always gets me giggling. Couldn’t finish it.

  3. Atheist Max says:

    Here is the ‘Masculinity’ crisis:
    Men once did simple factory jobs or physical labor. 50% of men grew up doing practical work in factories which did not require much education – for excellent pay. And women could stay home and raise the kids.

    Now, those kinds of simple jobs are gone overseas. Household incomes have dropped 12% in the last 15 years despite women going to work.* It is the first time in American history where the next generation has worse prospects than the last generation. Disparity of wealth and regressive taxation is adding to this crisis by stripping the lower and middle classes of all buying power.

    Advanced degrees and professional jobs are not an option for 50% of men. And even they are having problems because they are seeing their sons, dads and other men failing around them.

    We are overdue for a liberal resurgence to fix this. It is entirely solvable.

    Meanwhile, Religious retreats are just private parties. I’ve been to two such retreats in my life.
    I don’t see what they could possibly accomplish as they don’t address any of the above problems.

    • Devin Rice says:

      The statement that “we are overdue for a liberal resurgence to fix this. It is entirely solvable” is a bit simplistic. Protectionist measures and increased minimal wage laws (which I am in favor) do not take into account our future computer/machine overlords. Machines can’t take over all jobs (skilled or unskilled) but they are increasing taking over unskilled jobs and reducing the numbers needed in even skilled occupations.

      Self-driving cars have the potential to take over the trucking industry but may not. But self-check out machines will most certainly reduce the number of employees in stores with in 10-15 yrs. Simple computer programs offering advice may decrease the need of some minor doctor’s, dietician visits. Etc.

      A few years ago my job replaced the hand mailings with an automatic machine for all correspondence requiring less labor.
      The Atlantic ran a (perhaps overoptimistically) story about the topic.

  4. Atheist Max says:

    “Sexual and other addictions certainly eat away at many men.”

    There is no evidence sexual addiction is a real thing. Look it up. It is an imaginary problem.
    Besides, food addiction (specifically carbohydrate and sugar addiction) is the real crisis in America – not sex.
    600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year. 70,000 die of Diabetes.**
    Sex kills nobody. And let’s be honest, masturbation and pornography probably save marriages – and if you are a married man or woman you know exactly why that is.


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