Friday, January 23, 2015

Does the Catholic Church have a man problem?

I had the majority of this blog typed and ready to go and I thought saved and then I accidentally closed out the window and lost a good portion of it so I had to rewrite some portions of the blog.  


It would seem that Cardinal Raymond Burke hates women if you listened to some people and their comments on the Cardinal's most recent interview with "The New eMANgelization" which is a part of the new Evangelization.  So I was at a meeting at my parish and was told, "did you hear what that Cardinal said about boys not wanting to do things with girls."  Of course when it's presented this way, one thinks, what, who would say that.  As I am of the opinion of trying to read the actual interview, I was pleasantly surprised when I actually read the interview 

I came home and searched the almighty Google for Cardinal Burke and the few sites that did come up led me to think, I wonder what he really said.  I tend to be skeptic of the media when they talk about the Catholic Church because, well they usually don't get it right.  I could not find what I deem a Catholic site that I trust to have the interview, until I found a link to the interview on Patheos When I saw this I thought ok, good a site I can trust.  So I went ahead and read the interview, and you should too as it's packed full of wonderful comments and that one comment that everyone is talking about is par for the course taken out of context.  

When I went to read the interview I was thinking "I usually agree with Cardinal Burke, what possible could he have said" as the way it was presented was as if the Cardinal had denounced all women and declared us unworthy and useless.  I did have my pastor's comment of "it's just a piece of it" deeply in the back of my mind, again I usually agree with Cardinal Burke.  So I went and read the whole article and decided that after I was ready to cut and paste sections that this was much longer than a tweet or facebook post would allow.  Thus this blog post was born.   


What follows below are the parts of the article that I cut and pasted in the italics and blue with my comments following.

"Everyone understands that women have and can be abused by men. Men who abuse women are not true men, but false men who have violated their own manly character by being abusive to women." 

As I read these lines I thought, why isn't this the line that's being reported, this interview isn't about women, but about men and how they can be much better than we let them be.  Yes, men can be abusive, as can women, but this statement packs so much more than "boys don't like to do things with girls."  

I kept reading and the next section to stick out was:  "The crisis between man and woman has been made much worse by a complete collapse of catechesis in the Church. Young men grew up without proper instruction with regard to their faith and to the knowledge of their vocation. Young men were not being taught that they are made in the image of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These young men were not taught to know all those virtues that are necessary in order to be a man and to fulfill the particular gifts of being male.

Making things worse, there was a very fluffy, superficial kind of catechetical approach to the question of human sexuality and the nature of the marital relationship."

I could not agree more with Cardinal Burke.  As a catechist, youth minister, evangelization person, and regular Mass goer I see this all the time.  It's not just men, but women too.  I am a product of a Catholic elementary school so my religious education came every day in school and at home.  Vocations are so important to the Catholic Church, but we no longer teach or say "yay, my son wants to be a priest" but instead, "what is wrong with you, are you sure that's what you want to do?"  At the Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University this past summer I heard the comment "As the father goes so does the family."  It was in reference to conversation to Catholicism but it is true on many levels for many things. 

We are afraid to teach that we are all made in God's image and likeness and that God created us male and female.  There is so much confusion about "I want to be this gender not the one I am."  God made us who we are and yet we are afraid to teach that, we are even more afraid to teach that evil and Satan exist.   Human sexuality is something that is no longer sacred or special, but something to be thrown around.  So many people are applauding decisions that basically tell God, sorry I don't like what you gave me, so I'm going to change it.  

We are afraid to teach many things but one of the ones that comes to mind is Marriage.  Marriage is a sacrament, a covenant between a man and a woman.  We tend to forget about Sodom and Gomorrah and that God destroyed them.  We are so afraid that we are going to hurt someone's feelings that we no longer teach the truth.  Yes it is a difficult topic to teach on but that's because the media has already blasted our children with what it thinks sexuality is.  Sexuality is much more than a person's gender, what a person wears, how they wear it, and how they act.  It breaks my heart that I come across as the mean and evil one because I am the one to say "gay 'marriage' is not marriage" I have to qualify the statement by restating Church teaching on how everyone is created in the image and likeness of God, and how we are all called to live celibate and chaste lifestyles if we are not married.  At least I know I am giving the teens actual Church teaching and I pray and hope that it sinks in or that eventually they will get it.  

The next comment that stuck out was this, which goes along with the above comments.  "We have gravely wounded the current generations. As a bishop, young people complained bitterly to me, “Why we were not taught these things. Why we were not more clearly taught about the Mass, Confession and traditional devotions?” These things matter for they form a spiritual life and a man’s character." 

I often look back on my childhood, which I am keenly aware wasn't all that long ago, and I see that my parents and teachers did teach me about devotions and other things in the Church.  I think, actually I know, God gave me graces as a child.  I often felt like I knew more about Mass than my peers and that could simply be because my parents took me to Mass every Sunday, no matter the weather. Seriously, we were like the post office, still are.  We do not teach devotions such as Adoration, novenas, the Rosary, Stations of the Cross and other Lenten devotions.  Christmas is all about how many presents we get and it's over in a day. We barely teach no meat on Fridays and why we do it and that it really should be all year long not just during Lent.

Mass is simply something we do when we feel like it, it's Christmas or Easter I have to go, it's what my parents want.  Confession is all but lost, no one feels or thinks they sin any more, but more on that later.  The comment "as the father goes, so does the family" comes to mind again.  I look at my parents, both Irish immigrants who attend Mass daily; they are far better than their daughter.  Dad doesn't or rarely misses a day, Mom is slightly more relaxed about it.  We have gravely wounded the current generations, my generation and the one that follows are so lost it's not even funny.  People don't ask me why I am Catholic, but anyone who knows me or gets to know me can tell that I wear my Catholicism on my sleeve.  I came to know and love my Catholic faith because of those that lived it out around me, and the majority of those people were priests that I met along the way.  We need to do more to teach the younger generation the devotions and traditions of the Catholic Church and how we do that is all part of the new evangelization movement.  

Here's the line that the media latched on to, but as normal have taken out of context.  
"The introduction of girl servers also led many boys to abandon altar service. Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time. I want to emphasize that the practice of having exclusively boys as altar servers has nothing to do with inequality of women in the Church."  

I read this line and thought, "oh this actually makes sense."  My nephew plays with my niece, but they don't do the same things. They like to hang out with their friends, my niece with the girls and my nephew with the boys.  It is natural, boys and girls are different and we no longer teach that.  Society as a whole is completely into the whole let them explore themselves instead of saying, boys are boys and girls are girls.  We live in such an overtly sexual world that innocent comments are often taken out of context and misconstrued.

When we first moved to New Jersey, all the way from the Bronx, New York and I saw girls altar serving I was confused as I always thought and still do that it was a boy who served Mass.  I understand that there was an altar server shortage and girls were brought it, but it still seems strange to me. I am not a fan of girls as altar servers, but I understand that most masses would not be covered without the girls.  Some of my friends, boys and girls have altar served and I have no problem with it.  I have heard so many priests say my vocation began when I was an altar server, and I feel that altar serving is a door way to the priesthood.  Burke's comments seem so insignificant when compared to the rest of the interview.

I actually found an article written by a former altar girl who says it far better than I could or can.  Go read it.


The question asked of Cardinal Burke was "Your Eminence, what has been the impact of this Catholic “man-crisis” on the Church?"  Burke's immediate response was "The Church becomes very feminized. Women are wonderful, of course. They respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church. Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved." 

He then gives examples and then launches into the girls as altar servers thing.  He's right on any given Sunday, at least in my parish, the cantor is female, the lector is female and most often the altar servers are female, not to mention that the majority of the extraordinary Communion ministers are also female, thus leaving the priest as the loan male in the sanctuary.  My pastor knows that I will jump to help out as needed, and yes that part of me comes from my mom more than my dad, but dad gives of his time too.  Burke goes on to say that if it seems easy men won't do it, which I can see and honestly he would know better than I would on that one.  

A lot of what Cardinal Burke said could be said for men and/or women especially the next part that stuck out.  "We have to be very clear with men about purity, chastity, modesty and even the way men dress and present themselves. Men’s behaviors and dress matter, for it affects how they relate to the world and it affects the culture. Men need to dress and act like men in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women and to children."

Often when we think of purity, chastity and modesty we put it all on the female population. Very rarely do we hear that men need to dress modestly, now granted a man typically wears a shirt and pants no matter what, so it's easy to lay the blame on the female population as our clothing options are far more extensive and cover far less than male clothing.

Each individual is responsible for how they dress and for how they think and act.  Now there are some females and males who leave nothing to your imagination when they get dressed. As I tell my confirmation students when asked what to wear for the sacrament of Confirmation, "no popping out of your tops or bottoms" and granted it is usually said to the girls as the boys are told to wear a suit or pants, dress shirt and tie at the very least.  The sponsors are told the same thing too, but I don't have much control over them.

We have let our idea of purity go from something that was good and wholesome to something that it now considered old fashioned and not wanted; the same goes for chastity and modesty.  Trying to teach teens about either of those is like taking down a brick wall with only a regular hammer.  Chastity is yet another old fashioned idea that they don't want but desperately need.  Chastity is not the same thing as celibacy, but so many people think it is.  We are called to live chaste lifestyles and if we're not married that means we're supposed to be living a celibate lifestyle.

Society tells us the less clothing we wear, the sexier we are. Some people will say that a women wearing any type of shirt that has writing that happens to align or go across her chest is not modest.  So does that mean that a guy wearing a shirt with writing on it is being immodest.  There is a double standard here mainly because of the media and what they portray as being sexy.  We need to find a middle ground between the two extremes and explain why we should dress modestly.

If men dress better and more carefully and allow women to do the same society will change.  Men need to acknowledge the woman who dresses modestly as sexy not the woman who's showing off everything God gave her.  I was recently watching a show, granted it was a reality tv show but it still proves the point, where a husband was disheartened by his wife using her body, by posting pictures of her half naked, to make money for the family.  There has got to be something better than that for men and women.

It was them mentioned that  "One of the frequent themes in the New Emangelization Project research is that large numbers of men do not understand the Mass. Men think that the Mass is feminized and they don’t really understand the powerful manliness of the Mass. This is particularly true of a majority of Catholic men who are Casual Catholic Men, men who are casual about their faith. This is critical because if a man doesn’t understand the Mass he can’t tap into the supernatural graces that occur in the Mass. A man who doesn’t understand the Mass himself certainly can’t teach his children about the Mass."  

Cardinal Burke responded with "Yes. One way to re-engage men is to restore the dignity of the liturgy. Men will respond when they see a priest reverently acting in the name of Christ. Men will not respond when the priest is putting on a show about himself. Offering the Mass in a reverent way has always attracted men throughout the history of the Church. It does today. We need to catechize men about the profound realities of the Mass. As I mentioned, catechesis has been poor, especially the catechesis of men. Catechizing men and celebrating the Mass in a reverent way will make a big difference. It is also clear that many men will respond to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the rite celebrated before the Vatican II Council reforms." 

I know Cardinal Burke is a fan of the Extraordinary Form he does say that neither form is better than the other, they are equal.  I have been to both forms of the Mass with the Novus Ordo, the ordinary from of the Mass in the vernacular, being the one I normally go to.  My experiences with the Extraordinary form have been special occasions, a wedding, a Church's anniversary, and a baptism, all wonderful in their own rights, but I'm more comfortable with the Novus Ordo, but that doesn't mean I'm against the Extraordinary form nor should any of us be, it is a beautiful liturgy.

Cardinal Burke is right, when anyone not just a man sees a priest reverently saying the Mass or acting in the Name of Christ they react differently.  I love my pastor dearly, but if you only see or focus on the one side that he seems to alway portray you'd really dislike him, hate is such a strong term, but I'm sure there are members of the parish that do hate him.  However if you watch our pastor say Mass or go to him for Confession, you see a completely different side of him.  The liturgist comes out at Mass, the human comes out at Confession but sides that he shows all the time to certain people.  When I watch him say the high holy Masses, Christmas, Easter, most especially the Triduum, it makes me fall in love with the priesthood and Catholicism all over again, every time.  This has nothing to do with him or me, but with God bestowing His graces on us.

I had to teach our parish RCIA program about the Mass a few weeks ago and I realized that those of us who go week after week so often simply go through the motions and don't understand and most often forget what it is that we are doing. There is so much in the Mass. I keep seeing this quote attributed to St. John Vianney "If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy." This is quite true, if we truly understood the Mass, we'd realize that we are watching Heaven kiss Earth and that Heaven will be one very long and happy Mass.  I read Dr. Scott Hahn's The Lamb's Supper and it truly changed the way I saw Mass.  I was able to see how Biblical the Mass truly is.  I also started reading Mark Hart's Behold the Mystery: A Deeper Understanding of the Catholic Mass and while I'm only four chapters in but I love it.  Both books bring the Mass to a different level, both bring high theology to a low theology level.

We're back to the whole lack of catechizes in general not just to men.  We no longer teach what Mass is and why we need to God.  Mark Hart in his book constantly reminds us that Mass is not for God for but for us.  We no longer teach that missing Mass is a mortal sin. We need better ways to catechize the flock, those that are in the pews and those that are not in the pews.


Now the joy of being Catholic is that we have the sacrament of Confession, but we're lacking in that department too.  The comment and question was proposed "The Sacrament of Reconciliation has also been abandoned by the vast majority of Catholic men. Only 1 in 50 men go to Confession on a monthly basis. Some 80 percent of men don’t get to Confession even once a year. Combined with the epidemic of pornography, especially among young men, large numbers of Catholic men are in mortal sin. How can the Church reintroduce and emphasize the need for men to go to Confession?" 


The line that stuck out the most in that was "Some 80 percent of men don’t get to Confession even once a year." This is shocking, but not surprising.  Cardinal Burke's answer begins,  "Until men understand that there is Sin, and what Sin is, and that Sin offends God gravely, they will not go to Confession. Men need to have an encounter with God, with our Lord in the Sacrament of Penance to confess their Sins, express their sorrow, and receive His forgiveness. Men are not going to Confession today because there has been a denial of Sin. There was a period after Vatican II where many were promoting the idea that there weren’t any serious sins."

We no longer teach sin, so it's not a surprise that my generation and the one that follows think that sin doesn't exist or that it's okay to not go to Mass for any reason.  Very few realize that missing/skipping Mass puts them in a state of mortal sin, meaning they have completely cut themselves off from God.  We fail to teach about one's eternal soul, Heaven and Hell and where we can end up.   People are not going to Confession because we have failed in catechizing them.  Society has told people that sin and evil do not exist so it's no surprise that people think they don't need confession. We've been taught that we can just confess directly to God and now have to worry about it.  Much like the Mass, the Sacrament of Confession is not for God but for us.  Randomly on my facebook feed an article called Inside the Confessional: What's Is It Like for a Priest? so I read it and it like the books I read on the Mass allowed to see Confession differently.  I know that I don't go to Confession nearly as much as I should, but I do try to fulfill my "requirement" of once a year.  I was lucky that in college there was a retreat offered each semester, along with Penance services offered during Advent and Lent.  When I graduated I was lucky that my parish offered Penance services during Advent and Lent, the parish has sense taken the Lenten Penance service away as the Diocese offers the Sacrament of Confession every Monday during Lent.
So we can't say that the sacrament isn't offered.  Society still tells us that there are no serious sins.  Again I often become the bad guy for trying to teach actual Church teaching. Again, my hope is that something sinks in to the teens and adults that I teach.

The last question that was asked was "What concrete advice would you give to a priest to help him evangelize men and dramatically increase the involvement of men in a parish?" 

Cardinal Burke answered with, "First of all, be manly yourself. In other words, cultivate your own manly qualities, because the priest is first and foremost the spiritual father; he is a man. You need to have manly qualities of selflessness, chivalry and discipline to avoid situations improper for a priest. A priest must have the manly confidence and credibility to be a spiritual father to his flock, giving clear firm guidance with kindness and charity.  Secondly, I’d advise priests to give special attention to men and to look for ways to draw men into the life of the Church. It is easier to engage women because our sisters tend to be very generous and talented.   But the Church and each priest needs to make a determined effort to draw good Catholic men into whatever activities there are in the Church. It is essential to the New Evangelization." 

We tend to forget that our priests are human, just like us, they are not perfect.  At an evangelization directors meeting, the priest who was the Vicar of Evangelization at the time said that when he told pastors that "they were responsible for all the souls in their town not just the Catholics ones," that they would look at him like he was crazy.  What is said is true of all us, we're all responsible for each other, we should be worried about one another's souls.  In reading The Lamb's Supper I can across the line "Now, we can understand why we call priests "Father" and the pope our "Holy Father" - because they are other Christs, and Christ is the perfect image of the Father."  If we remember that our priests are our spiritual fathers, we might treat them differently.  So often I hear people complain about our priests in ways that one would never complain about their biological father.

I can hear the complaints now that the priests are paying more attention to men than to women, but Cardinal Burke brings up many great points in that while women are great for the Church and without our biological and spiritual mothers we would be lost.  We have lost our biological and spiritual fathers and we need to get them back.  So many times I can look back on my life and spiritual journey and see that yes, the sisters that taught me were wonderful and a great image for vocations, but more often it was the priests that I met that truly helped form me.

The Church not only has a man problem, but also a women problem, a people problem, and a secular media problem.  Cardinal Burke's comments are not in anyway offensive to women, but men should take note as should the women in the Church.

As the Father goes, so does the family; it would do us well to educate our young men and remind the rest of us of what Catholicism is really about.