The following is a verbatim transcription, slightly abridged, of a post from the blog of Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington. Because that website has been inaccessible for some hours, we reproduce the post here.
When I was growing up, my father would often exhort me to “be a man.” He would summon me to courage and responsibility and to discover the heroic capacity that was in me. St. Paul summoned forth a spiritual manhood with these words: We [must] all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ (Eph 4:13ff).
If the ladies will pardon me (for women have their own sort of strength), I want to issue a special summons to men, especially fathers, husbands, and priests. The summons is simple: be a man. We need men in these dark days, men who will heroically speak and act, men who will announce the truth and insist upon it wherever they have authority, men who will stop being passive fathers and husbands, priests who will stop “playing it safe” by remaining silent in the moral storm. Yes, be a man.
It has often been observed that men are rather disengaged from the practice of the faith and attendance at the Sacred Liturgy. Frankly, there is a reason—not a politically correct one, but a reason nonetheless. Most of the men I talk to find the Church rather feminized. There is much talk about forgiveness and love, about receptivity and about being “nicer.” These are fine virtues, all of them necessary. But men also want to be engaged, to be sent into battle, to go forth and make a difference.
After years of radical feminism, men are shamed for seeking to take up leadership and authority in their families and in the Church. It starts early. Any normal boy is full of spit and vinegar, is aggressive, competitive, and anxious to test his wings. But many boys are scolded, punished, and even medicated for these normal tendencies. They are told to behave more like girls and to learn to be nicer and to get along, etc. It will be granted that limits are necessary, but the tendency for boys to roughhouse is normal. The scolding and “socializing” to more feminine traits continues apace into early adulthood. And then there are other cultural phenomena such as the slew of “Men are stupid” commercials, etc.
Though many in past decades have sought to describe the Church as “male-dominated,” nothing could be further from the truth. Most parish leadership structures are dominated by women. And women do fine work. But the Church has done a very poor job of engaging men as men and equipping them to be strong husbands, fathers, and priests. Virtues related to bold leadership and the effective use of authority are in short supply whereas other virtues such as collaboration, listening, empathy, and understanding are overemphasized.
This lack of balance, wherein traditionally manly virtues are downplayed—even shamed—has led many men to become disengaged from the Church.
Even as early as 1885, Pope Leo XIII saw coming a softness that was infecting the times. In a document aptly named (and using a word too many clergy and fathers are afraid to use) Quod Auctoritate, Pope Leo said:
You know the temper of the times—how many there are who love to live delicately and shrink from whatever requires manhood and generosity; who, when ailments come, discover in them sufficient reasons for not obeying the salutary laws of the Church, thinking the burden laid upon them more than they can bear . . . perils everywhere abound. The great virtues of our forefathers have in large measure disappeared; the most violent passions have claimed a freer indulgence; the madness of opinion which knows no restraint, or at least no effective restraint, every day extends further; [and yet among] those whose principles are sound there are many who, through a misplaced timidity, are frightened, and have not the courage even to speak out their opinions boldly, far less to translate them into deeds; everywhere the worst examples are affecting public morals; wicked societies which We ourselves have denounced before now, skilled in all evil arts, are doing their best to lead the people astray, and as far as they are able, to withdraw them from God, their duty, and Christianity . . . Therefore those who speak to the people should lay it down persistently and clearly that according not only to the law of the Gospel, but even to the dictates of natural reason, a man is bound to govern himself and keep his passions under strict control, and moreover, that sin cannot be expiated except by penance . . . In order therefore that Our teaching may sink into men’s minds, and what is the great thing, actually govern their daily lives, an attempt must be made to bring them to think and act like Christians, not less in public than in private.
Not a bad summons to heroic and public witness to the faith! Not a bad summons to manly virtues like sacrifice, strength, insisting on what is right, meeting perils toe-to-toe, courage, speaking out, self-control, and so forth. The Church used to speak more often in this way. Today there seems to be only the goal of not hurting or offending anyone.
The disengagement of men from the Church has come to mean that many Christian men are passive fathers and husbands. They have not matured in their faith but remain in a kind of spiritual childhood. They are not the spiritual leaders in their homes that Scripture summons them to be (cf. Eph 5). If they go to Church at all, their wives have to drag them there. They do not teach their children to pray, insist that they practice the faith, or read Scripture to them. Too often, they leave this for their wives to do.
Thankfully, many men do take up their proper role. They have reached spiritual manhood and understand their responsibilities in the Lord. They live courageously and are leaders. They are the ones first up on Sunday morning leading their families to Church and insisting on religious practice in the home. They initiate prayer and Scripture reading and are vigorous moral leaders and teachers in their families, parishes, and communities. They are willing to battle for the truth and to speak up for what is right.
You see, the Lord is looking for a few good men. Are you a Christian man? Have you reached spiritual manhood? This is not the kind of manhood that comes merely with age. It comes when we pray, hear, and heed Scripture and the teachings of the Church. It comes when we live the faith courageously and summon others to follow Jesus without compromise. It comes when we speak the truth in love and live out the truth. It comes when we fear God and thus fear no man, for when we are able to kneel before God we can stand before any human threat. . . .
The general goal is to re-engage men as men, to summon them to discipleship as men, and to engage them in the masculine virtues that God gave them. [Matthew] Christoff [host of the New Emangelization website] has pulled together some information and written some interesting articles:
Becoming a Committed Catholic Man
The Catholic “Man-Crisis” Fact Sheet
The Catholic “Man-Crisis” and Why It Matters
The Casual Catholic Man
The Top Ten Reasons to Be a Catholic Man
Here are a few good websites for Catholic Men . . .
The Catholic Gentleman
Those Catholic Men