I recently was treated to a reminder of just how completely the female imperative permeates our culture — at a Catholic men’s prayer breakfast, of all things. I’ve been mulling it over since then and thought I’d “share.”
First, the good points. Number one, it was truly a “men’s” (and teenage boys) event; no women (or girls) in attendance at all. That surprised me a little — I’d almost expect at least one whipped guy to bring his wife along to prove we weren’t planning to reverse the 19th Amendment or something — but it’s a fairly new event, so that hasn’t happened yet. It’s surprising how relaxing it is to be in the presence of only men. It’s quiet, there’s no drama at all, and everything just gets done.
It’s amazing how quickly 200 men can go through a buffet line. Even more striking was that I didn’t see a single guy go back for seconds. After I thought about it, I realized that was because they provided us with really big plates, so guys were able to take as much as they wanted — no wives around to say 8 pieces of bacon is too many. We got our platters, loaded them up, ate it all, and moved on.
There wasn’t much outright shaming language. I was watching closely for that and only winced a couple times. The focus stayed on making men better, not on beating them up, so that much was good.
So much for the good points; on to the rest.
We started with Mass. I won’t get into the problems with the new Mass except to say that many of the changes since Vatican II have been a direct result of having women more involved in church leadership and planning liturgy. The whiny dirges that pass for music, the de-emphasis on the Sacrifice and the over-emphasis on the “communal meal” aspect, the hand-holding during prayers, the push for more “participation” by lay people, the applause for everything from birthdays to having visitors — these are all the result of women (and effeminate men) trying to make Mass more welcoming, more fun, more “inclusive” for everyone. As a result, men left the church in droves during those years, and most of those who remained sat stoically through the silliness.
So you’d think that a bunch of men with no women around would dispense with the happy-clappy 70s music and the hand-holding. Well, not so much. It was all still there. I’d like to think that they just don’t know any better, but when I looked around and saw guys holding hands with their eyes closed, looking like they might shed a tear at any moment, it hit me: maybe they like this! Maybe they haven’t just been putting up with it; maybe they really enjoy this stuff.
After Mass and breakfast, we had our speakers, starting with our bishop. Now, our bishop is one of the good guys. He’s been a leader in speaking out against abortion and homosexual marriage and calling out politicians who use their Catholicism to get elected and then violate it in office. He’s talked about the martyrdom of the early Christians, and warned that we could be facing serious persecution for our beliefs in the near future. I honestly think he would go to the lions for his faith and to set an example for his flock. He’s no wuss.
And yet, when he started talking about the lack of men in leadership positions in the church, he had to include disclaimers about how there’s nothing wrong with women in leadership, that what we really need is balance. There weren’t even any women in the room, and yet he practically stammered when he got too close to saying that maybe it just might not be best to have women running everything. This man with the courage to face up to authorities who can — and someday may — send armed men to imprison or kill him for his beliefs, can’t tell a bunch of men that there are some jobs women shouldn’t do (except for the priesthood, which he jumped past very quickly). Then it hit me again: is he saying these things because he’s afraid to offend women, or does he really believe it? When he says what families and churches need is more “balance,” is he trying to get men involved so they can truly take their leadership back, or does he really think that a 50/50 balance is best? I’m not sure.
The second speaker was from a Catholic men’s group. I couldn’t figure out what their goal is, but apparently they get men together and get them excited about being men and doing things like “leadership.” It reminded me of groups like Promise Keepers, which got lots of men together vowing to be better men and fathers and….then what? What ever comes of it? Leading whom where, and to what? It occurred to me later that they’re following a feminine model. That’s how women resolve things, with the baby shower model: get a bunch of women together, and they’ll talk about babies or clothes or gossip or whatever else isn’t the issue, but when they leave they all know what the herd’s consensus is on everything. Men don’t work that way; if you want men to fix a problem, you have to do more than get them in a room and “inspire” them. They need actions to take, specific challenges to tackle.
That was really the crux of the problem with the whole conference. If you say there’s a problem with “failed male leadership,” fine; I won’t dispute that today’s men could be much better leaders, much better men. I certainly include myself in that group. But if you’re going to get men together and teach them to be leaders, you’re going to have to do one of two things: either give them someone to lead, or explain to them why no one seems to want to follow them. Otherwise you get the guy all worked up and he goes home and says, “Hey, Honey, this conference was awesome; I’m ready to be a real leader for you and the kids.” And she says, “Great, you can start by leading this trash out to the curb.”
You can’t warn guys about that, or give them any specific actions to take, without talking about female rebellion. You just can’t, but no one went near that topic. Headship and submission in marriage are a package deal; you can’t tell a guy to go home and take more headship of his family without him taking power away from his wife. If you can’t explain that to him or tell him why it’s necessary, because you’re afraid of offending women or convinced that equalitarianism is correct, you can’t give him any tools. All you can do is get men together and pump them up with buzzwords, and then turn them loose, hoping good stuff will happen somehow.
Leadership is a zero-sum game, in a family or in any organization. If I’m the leader of a scout group, and you come along and insist on being the co-leader, that doesn’t give the group twice as much leadership. It divides the leadership between us. Men can’t re-invent themselves as leaders in their churches without taking it away from the women who currently hold it. Those women are not going to give it up gladly, so men who try are going to have a fight on their hands. To fail to even warn them of that, let alone to supply them with the proper tools, is setting them up for failure. It also doesn’t help to imply that women only took over leadership because men abandoned it. That makes them think that if men volunteer for leadership positions, women will gladly step aside for them. That’s a lie, and it will leave men confused and frustrated when they try and get rejected.
The last speaker, a priest, did hit some good points. He stressed that masculine men who try to fix the current problems will get no help from most of the Church hierarchy, so we have to depend on each other and other sources for that. But even he said at one point, when talking about how men need to get their priorities straight, that “the ladies get it.” The ladies don’t get it, any better than the men do — maybe worse. I didn’t get to talk to him later, but I’d bet (from his general tone) that he doesn’t really believe the ladies get it; but that’s the female imperative that we’re all breathing every day. If you don’t make a conscious effort to avoid it, it’s so easy to slip into that assumption that women are more engaged, more spiritual, more “together” than men.
On the whole, it was pretty disappointing, even though it didn’t get into the shaming I was afraid it might. The phrase that kept coming to my mind throughout the day was “playing dress-up.” I couldn’t figure out why until I’d had some time to think about it later, since you normally think of that as a girl thing. But that’s really what it was like: a bunch of boys dressing up for Halloween as cowboys, astronauts, or heroes; but at the end of the day the costumes come off and they’re back to real life, with no lasting effect. If you just put on the hat and spurs but don’t learn to ride the horse, you’re not a cowboy. And if we can’t even talk about how wild many horses have gotten or what to do after one throws you, we’re just playing dress-up.
The problems with marriage today, and the wider societal repercussions of feminism, are problems of both sexes. We could argue about which sex is more to blame, but I don’t think there’s any rational argument that can put all the blame on men. So there won’t be a solution that doesn’t put at least some of the responsibility on women. There certainly won’t be one coming from men who can’t even discuss women’s weaknesses.
I got to thinking about what a good men’s conference would be like. I think it would start with a speaker asking, “Okay, men, let’s have a show of hands: how many of you asked your wives if you could be here today? Okay, now how many told your wives you were coming? We have a problem here.” There has to be a discussion of what feminism has wrought in families, churches, and society. There has to be an explanation of biblical teaching on headship and submission. Most of all, tools must be provided for men to achieve their proper state in life. Each man needs to go home with a plan, at least one action he’s going to take to work toward the proper headship in his family or the proper leadership in his church or community. Specific actions, not just talk and emotions.
I think sometimes there’s a hope that if we fix men women will follow. If men all become masculine and dominant, women will happily submit to them, and over time the laws and mores will change back to where they should be. That sounds nice, because it means we don’t have to confront women about their behavior. But it’s a pipe dream. That may happen to some extent in individual relationships, but to expect it to happen society-wide is to ignore that women (like men) have a sinful nature, and part of that is rebellion against male headship. That’s never going to go away completely, no matter how manly men are. Besides, we’ll never get all men on board; there will always be some Pajama Boys waiting to cut us off at the knees, and the legal system is already in place to assist them. Making men so attractive that women can’t resist them, even if it were possible, isn’t the overall answer.
I think reading blogs like this and Dalrock in particular have helped me start looking at women like I look at children in that they are tougher than you think, and you can often set a tone with them to which they will respond. (I’m not saying that women are tougher than men or anything like that, just that they will rely less on emotional outbursts if they are less likely to be deferred to because of the threat of said outbursts.)
I view it like the 3 year old who falls and looks around to the adults (who are too often clutching pearls) before crying. If you leave them alone for a hot second, they will deal with the pain of the fall much much better than immediately rushing to them every time they face adversity.
I am trying to be more and more firm around women and I think once you get over the shock of a woman ‘offended’, you better equip yourself to set a proper expectation of conduct and they are less likely to act like snowflake princesses.
As a cradle Catholic raised by two similarly situated parents (albeit ones catechized prior to VII), I share your dissatisfaction with the modern US RCC’s support of marriage. I think that the vast majority of the priests today do not believe in anything that remotely resembles traditional Catholic marriage based on male headship. There is simply too much esoterica surrounding ‘mutual submission’ (I will confess some ignorance on this topic but will proffer that I have never heard anyone be able to explain it succinctly.
I have suspected for some time that a Catholic men’s conference would be like this, so thanks for putting that to rest Cail. This is all disappointing, but not shocking.
I’ve listened to audio of talks from Catholic men’s conferences that were very good, so I had some hope. Those were invariably done by traditionalist groups, though, while this was….not.
WOW! This was a fantastic post! I remember thinking about the exact same thing when i used to go to those meetings. Sitting there and listening to what they have to say and yes it is very inspiring but like you said then you go home and reality comes back!
Why are we so afraid to talk about ourselves without feeling like we are disrespecting women? Needless to say i stopped going to those meetings as i really got nothing out of it just inspiring stories and that was about it.
Maybe one day there will be someone who will stand up and tell it like it is and bring all of us men together so that we can be ourselves again!
Great post Cail!
I am so sorry.
Cail, look for an FSSP mission parish – you won’t regret it. No kumbaya and the monthly men’s meeting is spot on. Our last men’s conference, which brought in a lot of people from outside the parish, shocked, shocked! the visitors. No women! No modern music! Latin! No shaming men; breakouts on raising sons and daughters; etc.
Cail that was a great post. I agree with pretty much everything you said here. I am so sorry that breakfast (listening to those speakers) was largely a waste of your time but I thank you for sharing what you heard from that waste of time.
When he says what families and churches need is more “balance,” is he trying to get men involved so they can truly take their leadership back, or does he really think that a 50/50 balance is best?
In a word, “Yes”.
@Cail, excellent post. As one who returned a few years ago to the Catholicism of his youth, but with newly opened eyes, I’m still disappointed that the crucial messages to men that the true Catholic faith espouses still get lost in the shuffle of female leadership in our parishes. Even in men-only environments.
@Aquinas Dad, what is FSSP an acronym for? Is there a website for it? A listing of FSSP parishes that I might search for one close to me? If no such list exists, what criteria would I need to evaluate parishes if I have to go searching from parish to parish?
@Random Angeleno: FSSP is the Latin acronym for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, a society of priests who exclusively offer the sacraments in their pre-Vatican II forms. The local FSSP parish pretty much saved my faith when the progressive silliness in my diocese had pushed me to the point where I was about to say, “That’s alls I can stands, I can’t stands no more.”
@Cail: I’d chalk it up to many of the lay men just not knowing any better. I don’t want to derail the post, but everyone keeps telling me that the Novus Ordo can be celebrated reverently. That choice of words – “can be” – correctly implies that in most cases it is not. Catholics who can remember the old Mass are getting pretty long in the tooth now, and it’s difficult to overstate how fiercely most bishops dislike all the trappings of the pre-Vatican II Church.
I can sympathize with how gun shy most priests and bishops are when it comes to criticizing women. Women pretty much run the Church at every level that doesn’t explicitly require Holy Orders. If Father gets a little too bold in preaching about Ephesians 5, then the feminists at the parish will complain to the feminists at the chancery. Father will get called downtown to be scolded for how divisive and unpastoral he is. If he keeps it up, the diocese will banish him to hospital ministry, or wherever it is they think he’ll have the least chance of offending their wealthy donors.
FSSP = Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri (The Fraternity of St. Peter). Catholic Latin Mass from the pre-Vatican II rite with full permission of the Curia. Women in veils and skirts, men in suits, etc. No receiving in the hand. The priests either come from the FSSP seminaries or appeal to be accepted; I know for a fact they do things such as, oh, tell a woman ‘your divorce was frivolous; you are barred from the sacraments until you return to your husband, remarry, and submit’ [well, that is at lest what she complained about on FB as she swore to never return]. No women on the altar.
When I am travelling and must stop at a non-FSSP parish 9 out of 10 times I am stunned by how feminine it is. Not at the FSSP.
the main page is – http://www.fssp.org/
the ‘find a place’ for the US is – http://www.fssp.org/en/messes.htm#USA
Thanks, guys. I do attend an excellent FSSP church, but we weren’t hosting this. We may do so in the future.
RA, here’s a list of churches that offer the Latin Mass. They’re all licit, in communion with Rome. If you don’t have an Latin Mass church in your area, there will probably be one parish where the traditionalists in your area tend to congregate, and that one will have the least modernist goofiness. Look for one where at least a few women wear veils and you see people taking Communion on the tongue.
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So now I’m long-in-the-tooth, am I?
I was raised in a strict RC household. I won’t say that I loved going to church but I found the unequivocal moral rules and the Latin rituals very comforting–a rock to cling to as an uncertain teenaged boy.
Then the mass switched to English and became touchy-feelie. In 1970 I gave up on the Roman church (I was in 9th grade). I haven’t been back since, except for funerals.
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Interesting post Cail, though it leaves me with the question of what is so much more ideal about a mass said in a language few can understand. More grandeur maybe, but the Scriptures call us to know our Lord, not just stand in awe of ceremony.
What makes a specific song more holy (or whatever it is you are aiming at)? Is a direct Scriptural base sufficient? Is it the music style?
You stated “Leadership is a zero-sum game, in a family or in any organization.” What are you defining as the “reward” in this case? I have been in Scout leadership in many capacities and a single leader is definitely not sufficient. I would strongly argue that many leaders operating in their proper sphere is far better than a single strong leader. That would not be a zero-sum, though it could depend on exactly what the measurement is, which is why I ask.
The biggest question the post left me with was what you believed should have happened? What can and should such gatherings do to be proper in your eyes? Could they ever be and still live in the world or are you just a good critic with the ability to critique many things?
I am not saying everything was good. I can’t tell that, especially since I was not there. It has been years since I faithfully attended a mass. (I ultimately left when I was convinced it deviated from Scripture – close, but not close enough as my grandfather’s funeral reminded me of.) I don’t say that to argue, just to note where I am coming from.
I certainly share your disgust with much of what is going on today in and outside of God’s Church (the worldwide body of Christ). I just thought these questions were outgrowths of what you said.
Brad, thanks for your comments, and sorry it took so long to approve them. You’re pre-approved now.
I felt the same way after writing that post: I didn’t really offer any solutions, and that’s frustrating. I’m not sure there are any, or at least I’m not sure that kind of gathering can be fixed as-is. I know what it needs: traditional, unapologetic, masculine Christianity. But if you introduce that, a lot of the men will flee and the conference won’t happen in the first place. Other men might come, but it’ll be a smaller group, and the original group won’t be reached. But maybe they can’t be. What my friends and I are talking about is starting smaller, just getting a small group of men together for prayer and discussion, and not trying to make an “event” of it, at least at first. If it’s only 3 of us, that’s okay.
On “leadership is zero-sum,” I didn’t mean that you never need more than one leader in an organization. Obviously sometimes you need a hierarchy of leaders with sub-leaders to handle different things, and sometimes you might want multiple leaders who take turns. But whatever “leading” needs to be done, it gets divided up somehow among the leaders. If you have one leader, he does 100% of the leading. If you have two, each does some fraction of it. So if a group of women is running a church, a man can’t become a leader without the women giving up some of their power. It’s not like there’s extra power lying around that they aren’t using that he can have. (Maybe it would have been clearer if I’d talked about power instead of leadership, but it’s the same idea.)
There are a lot of reasons for Latin in the liturgy (and even Vatican II reaffirmed Latin’s pride of place, and was promptly ignored), but one simple one is that the word “catholic” means “universal.” A liturgy that is practiced in the same language everywhere makes us more Catholic. It also eliminates the problem of trying to have accurate translations in every language. The English translation has been through several revisions in just 40 years, and still isn’t good.
Reasonable points Cail.
Why latin though? Would Koine Greek be more universal and closer to the original text in that case?
The challenge I see is that you can end up disconnecting people from the context and content, which is more of a danger than having some go off the rails. The RCC went off the rails itself with a lot of its practices at the time of the Reformation. Latin mass was the only way then I believe and it didn’t stop the corruption.
Though one thought on the English version: I would agree that a lot of the translations are only useful to a very limited extent, but that doesn’t mean that keeping it in a language almost no one understands is better. Do you read Latin? Do you read Greek? Hebrew? Do we have to teach people those languages before they can understand things or do we need to always have someone telling them what something means? The latter seems very prone to corruption even if letting people loose has problems too.
Hope this doesn’t beat the horse too much.
Nice blog. I came to you from Vox’s site. Keep up the good work.
This weekend I’m attending my second men’s retreat since joining a Chuch of Christ. We don’t have female elders; no women speakers during any worship functions. Our “preaching minister” (or pastor) and other ministers are pretty good at emphasizing submissiveness to the women and duty to the men.
I use to attend Episcopal services with my mother. The sermons were too “everything’s all right.” Now they have a woman preacher. =\
I count myself lucky.
You’re only presenting part of the problem. If you want to change anything in a church, not only will you face upset women, you’ll also face upset MEN. Remember those guys you mentioned who like weepy music, hand-holding prayer time, and “balanced participation”? They’re just as invested in the status quo.
[I got to thinking about what a good men’s conference would be like. I think it would start with a speaker asking, “Okay, men, let’s have a show of hands: how many of you asked your wives if you could be here today? Okay, now how many told your wives you were coming? We have a problem here.”]
A church that we visited for a while had a men’s retreat. This is a “modern” church but one that prides itself on having the men do masculine things and having men in positions of leadership. But I just about fell out of my chair one Sunday when they threw up a slide advertising the he-man, masculine men’s retreat during the service. The marketing tagline for the retreat was:
X Church Men’s Retreat
“Make the time. Your wife says it’s OK!”
No, I’m not kidding. Someone actually thought long and hard and was proud of that slogan. Shortly after than one of the men in the church was pressuring me to attend and he had the gall to say to my face: “Come on, make the time. [my wife] says it’s OK!”
I just stared at him without saying a word for about 15 seconds, then excused myself. My wife later commented, “I think he felt the temperature in the room drop about 10 degrees at that point.”
I think I’ve stumbled on something that seems to be effective on feminists and others arguing for equality of the sexes. Equality of the sexes seems to be the default assumption that leads to the playing dress-up mentality in men. They’re reluctant to take the lead or to presume they even have a right, since they really believe men and women are equal.
The easily-understandable and irreducible truth is that men and women aren’t equal. Because if they were, they would be, there would be no “struggle for equality” and history would look very different than it does. Then the feminist will say, “So you really think women are INFERIOR to men?” And the answer is, “Obviously. If they were equal to men, they would be equal to men, and history would never have developed as it did. Women have always and everywhere, in every culture, been subordinate to men. And even in the modern West, a woman’s freedom depends entirely on the largesse of men. A woman’s freedom in America is just as dependent on men allowing it as a woman’s freedom in Saudi Arabia.” This kind of gives a rock solid, immovable foundation for a man to stand on when people start talking about equality or trying to shame men for “oppression” or some women for accepting “oppression.” Even if the sexes by law had everything equally meted out and balanced, man is primary and woman is secondary. She is always dependent, her freedom always contingent on the permission of the male sex.
How the hell when the old latin mass switched to english it suddenly became feminized. I mean there a plenty of manly songs sung in english yet the church is the exception to that.