Our Church is fast becoming an institution devoid of men, a patriarchy devoid of patriarchs—true fathers. So, what can be done? Men, it’s your turn to step up. This is your moment to take your rightful place as warriors in the battle. Women, we must let them fight this fight.
We’ve been writing for years about the crisis of manhood, and that crisis has come to a head within the past year, particularly in the Catholic Church. Now we write to call our men to be what God created them to be.
The faithful have been abused through a year of cancelled Masses, locked churches, and denial of sacraments. We have been harassed by ushers, segregated by diktat, unable to bury loved ones, and/or kicked out of Mass (sometimes with police escort) for not wearing a mask; we are encouraged to see each other as walking contagions, not as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Those not succumbing to this new normal are shamed as selfish and uncharitable for daring to question the unprecedented suspension of worship and freedom, which in many cases went, and still goes, far beyond what the state requires, even were we to grant that the state has authority in the matter.
As COVID-19 has run its course, the moral abuse from our clergy has increased. Those with reasonable prudential concerns about masks and experimental vaccines, including the morality of cooperating with the use of aborted fetal tissue in the testing, development, and/or manufacture of the latter, are now rebuked as violating the Commandments.
Children have been spiritually abandoned. Unreasonably robbed of sacraments, holy water, hymns, Christmas carols, celebrations, mourning the departed, seeing their neighbors’ faces, and religious education, it’s hard to imagine how their experience of the Faith is forming them, or what their future will be.
The faithful who want to worship as God commands are weary. We thought the bishops’ complicity in sex abuse, finally exposed in the Summer of Shame of 2018, was the watershed moment. We were wrong. The situation is not better today. It is worse. And as before, the bishops are to blame, this time by inappropriately imposing obedience (often through their subordinates, not directly) on purely prudential matters.
In a word, our hierarchy ran in panic at the first hint of danger, and then added a new form of abuse, for which (with few exceptions) they have neither apologized nor repented. We now have dioceses resuming Mass in the U.S. for the most part (not all!), but most with bizarre and arbitrary restrictions still in place, and the threat of taking it all away again still hanging over us.
Most troubling of all is the strangely naïve and imprudent cooperation with the state to pressure or require the faithful to accept the COVID-19 jab. Using their moral authority to persuade the doubtful, our clergy seem to see no danger looming as those who choose not to accept the vaccines will be relegated to a lower stratum in the new caste system—or outright banished. A soft dictatorship based on medical status is upon us, and our bishops are enthusiastically welcoming it.
We have had it.
To date, the bishops have gone largely unchallenged by those same isolated, abused, and neglected faithful. Sure, regular folks in the pews vent their anger and frustrations on social media, and a handful of bloggers, podcasters, and pundits are consistently calling out the bishops’ neglect and malfeasance. However, they are dismissed as traditionalists with an agenda or as simply lacking compassion.
As far as direct confrontation goes, many Catholic women (who tend to talk more—and write more) have made their concerns known to the bishops through emails and letters, but they are usually unable to penetrate the protective guard at the chancery. The self-righteous and condescending form-letter responses they receive in return are more of the same clericalism we were told was a thing of the past.
Our Church is fast becoming an institution devoid of men, a patriarchy devoid of patriarchs—true fathers.
So, what can be done?
Men, it’s your turn to step up. This is your moment to take your rightful place as warriors in the battle. Women, we must let them fight this fight.
Men, repent of the softness that enabled women to dominate in the Church. Then, gather your Catholic brothers, speak amongst yourselves, and decide what you must do. Your families are at risk. Speak to each other about the need for the bishop to hear from you that he must never again close our parishes or deny sacraments to the people. Talk to each other about what must be done to overcome fear so that the works of religion can thrive. Decide together how to protect worshipers from being seen as lepers by requiring and enforcing masking, isolation and separation, and vaccinations.
Follow the example of men in at least one diocese who went to the bishop’s office and met with him, presenting their written demands in person, speaking with him, as men to a man.
Some might object that our situation is still one on which we may compromise, on which there is room for overlooking what they say are small concessions. As we recall in the Old Testament Books of the Maccabees, many questioned the prudence of the Jewish men who refused to eat pork forced on them by the Gentiles. Compromising such a minor point of religion was a small price to pay for life, many thought, especially considering that one could easily pretend to eat pork and thereby escape condemnation.
Eleazar, aged and of noble presence, “welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, as men ought to go who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste, even for the natural love of life” (2 Maccabees 6:19-20).
Women, we must repent of abandoning our true femininity for a spurious place in the so-called halls of power. Let us urge men in a spirited yet womanly way to take the lead as their God-given masculine nature demands. Let us acknowledge that it’s time for us to step aside as our men take the helm.
We call on Catholic women to imitate the Mother of the Maccabees, who was “filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly reason with manly emotion” and eloquently urged her sons to resist the power of idolaters, knowing their terrible fate, but taking hope in the truth “that these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people” (2 Maccabees 6:12).
Let us be like that mother, who witnessed her first six sons grievously tortured and killed, then was tempted by the pagan king to persuade her youngest son to eat pork and live. She said to that son:
[H]ave pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers. (2 Maccabees 7:27-29)
Unlike the Maccabees, none of us faces certain, immediate death from COVID-19 by worshiping, any more than we do by going to the grocery store or eating at a restaurant. Of course, we all face death at any moment and must face that fact with fortitude.
A priest recently said of the U.S. bishops, that, with very few exceptions, we could not find a more effeminate group of men if we tried. What is effeminacy? Fr. James Mason calls it “The Forgotten Vice.” He explains, “St. Thomas includes effeminacy under the vices opposed to perseverance. It is from the Latin mollities, which literally means ‘softness.’ Mollities is the verb used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 which deals with the sexual sin of sodomy. It involves being inordinately passive or receptive. What St. Thomas means by persevering is when ‘a man does not forsake a good on account of long endurance or difficulties and toils.’”
Our bishops, as men, for the good of their own souls as well as the souls of their flocks, must be confronted and exhorted by real men, strong men, men not afraid to claim their masculinity.
This process is going to be uncomfortable for women; softness is part of our nature as a perfection, not as a vice. But it has to be kept in its proper place. In a time of just conflict, women must allow men to handle problems in their own manly way, and even encourage them if we see them slipping into cowardice.
God gave men their masculine nature for a reason, to protect and provide, even to the point of being willing to fight. We women and society have bred it out of them (perhaps with their acquiescence), but it’s time to repent and bring it back.
Republished with gracious permission from Crisis Magazine (April 2021).
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