Saturday, August 22, 2015


I have been at a major church three times recently for some pretty important occasions, and each time only women read, and every time the female 'music minister' sat enthroned above con-celebrating clergy as some sort of demi-bishop signalling to the people to turn their attention from the altar to her and join in the music, even when the celebrant sang things that would of themselves demand people participation, like "The Lord be with you". No, I didn't check, there might have been very good reasons for the exclusion of men from lay-ministerial positions but the fact it happened on three successive occasions just seemed to be making a point. Just so no-one can question my feminist credentials I only tend to use the Roman Canon and I always include those women at the end of the last list, chauvinists often just use EPII/III/IV, which only mention Our Lady. I don't know if this is what people mean when they speak of feminisation of the Church, actually I think it might go deeper.

Looking around my own parish I see a lot of men who want to be manly but don't actually know how to carry it off, the problem is mainly one of society, and the Church reflects society. However the Church does have the answers, as I said to one young man, after he had attended a friends raucous 'Gay Pride' party a few years ago and fled, 'If you want to know want to know what manly love is like look at the crucifix'. Jesus is always the answer, though we might not be yet be able to form the question.

Apart from sexual addiction or confusion misplaced manliness can often result in men acting out a caricature of what it means to be man, getting drunk, taking drugs, being 'hard', using or misusing women, being a bad a father, being incapable of commitment, even holding down a job. A couple of generations ago the majority of boys left full-time education at 15 or 16, and unless they joined the forces remained at home until they married in their 20's, girls followed the same course, maybe marrying a few years younger. Until the sexual revolution, if you were a man then you were also a father, responsible for protecting and supporting your own family. There has been plenty of talk about the effects of contraception on women, not much on the effects on men. I would suggest one of its effects, is that it makes men immature and afraid of facing responsibility.

In practice men have a hard time of it, loneliness and the lack of belonging seems to be part of the condition of men. Apart from conception they have no necessary part in contemporary family life. Tea at the Trianon links to a post by Mgr Pope who in turn cites an American survey on Helping Priests Become More Effective in Evangelizing Men.

Alienation is part of modern manhood, yet the Church should not set about alienating man. Christianity like Islam or Judaism is supposed to be a manly religion, at its heart is not only that God became Man - one with us, but in his becoming Man he also became a man, with a genealogy, a family, a name and even a trade, this very particular man was the very icon of God.

It has always been heresy, and it is on the rise today, it is to 'de-Incarnate' the Incarnate Word. We find this in the attitude that seems to say, "Though Jesus in the Gospel says, 'A man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery ... ', but the Eternal Word of God says ...", of course what is given as the Eternal Word is invariably Fr A, or Professor B, or even Cdl C. The same can be done with any doctrine: judgement, sin, baptism, the Eucharist, etc.

One of the constants in any revitalisation of the Church has always been the return to the Incarnation, the person of Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, therefore a return scripture, to the Gospels. What always accompanies this is a return to the fraternity of Jesus and his disciples, whether it is Augustine or Benedict, Basil, Norbert, Bernard, Francis, Dominic, Ignatius, Neri, Bosco or any of the other great Catholic evangelists, they gathered brothers to live out the Gospel, this seems to be basic to evangelisation, it is what Jesus did. The faith of the Incarnate God cannot be separated from 'brotherly love', and it has always been expressed in gathering men together, to deepen their relationship with Christ.

Whether now we should speak about gathering men and women together, I don't know, that is certainly what seems to be the trend in the West/North. Maybe I am a misogynist or maybe the key to evangelisation is evangelising men, this is what Islam does, this is what Jesus did, this what Copts decided to do in their great renewal under Pope Shenouda.

Certainly there seems to be a need to form men in the Gospel, and men today need Christ's healing, and men feel alienated from the Church. At the back of my mind is an old adage: evangelise a mother, and she will bring with her her young children, evangelise a father and he will bring his wife and his sons and daughters and they will remain faithful.

As the Church teaches the 'compatibility' but also the difference of men and women to not explore that and to take it into account in our pastoral strategy and teaching seems to be folly, it is after all that that this difference is not just about priesthood but also leadership, and Christological iconography.


Long-Skirts said...

Fr. Blake said:

"It has always been heresy, and it is on the rise today, it is to 'de-Incarnate' the Incarnate Word. We find this in the attitude that seems to say, "Though Jesus in the Gospel says, 'A man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery ... ', but the Eternal Word of God says ...", of course what is given as the Eternal Word is invariably Fr A, or Professor B, or even Cdl C. The same can be done with any doctrine: judgement, sin, baptism, the Eucharist, etc."


The Church
Is getting divorced
I’ll stay with my mother
Who’ll not marry another
The Church
Is getting divorced

The Church
Is getting divorced
Man wants to flirt
With all that’s in dirt
The Church
Is getting divorced.

Anonymous said...

Salve Pater.

Reading your first paragraph, which rang so true to my experience as well, and now approaching the conciliar liturgical reform in Bouyer's Memoirs with some choice and sad comments already made by him on what actually came to pass as liturgical reform; these made me realize how vexed that phrase actuosa participatio - "active/actual participation" really is.

Dare I say it (literally, dare!) but would that this phrase had never been written. So much destruction has been done in its name.


Pétrus said...

I am unfamiliar with these EP II/III/IV of which you speak.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Fr Hugh, My copy of Bouyer is yet to arrive - the problem with actuosa participatio is that for years it was always translated as 'active participation'.

Dare I be even more daring and say the problem is not the phrase but translation in general. I was struck this morning by 'kecharitômenê' render in Latin in the West since time immemorial as 'gratia', yet in this mornings Gospel is rendered as 'favoured'.

We must start schools to teach to teach Greek and Latin to overcome the need for the vernacular, which is always an approximation.

Solitary Sojourning said...


This post reflects everything that I want to convey but cannot because of my limited knowledge. I am a convert from a Eastern religion which was manly to say the least. My experience in the Catholic Church has shown me that any hint of masculine is likely to be put on the shelf while the feminine is being poured on countless men every Sunday. One of the things that I admire about Islam is how manly the faith is. From the Salat, to the brotherhood, to the constant fight against sin, they have something that we do not at this particular moment.

AndrewWS said...

A friend of mine took me along to a (my first even) recollection meeting of Opus Dei the other night. It was MEN ONLY. It dawned on me only quite some time after the event that I found this really rather a welcome change.

JARay said...

I too am sick of the feminization of everything. Everywhere we have female readers and female musicians. I used to hate sopranos but I could take a really good contralto. I have changed, but my sopranos have to be able to hit the note clearly and cleanly and not wobble around four or five notes with the true note being just one amongst a wobble. As a child I could not stand the singing of Jessie Matthews on the radio but I suppose that her name will not now bring any kind of singing to mind. She went on to read "Mrs Dale's Diary" for many years, (without the singing). But I digress!
For those men who like the company of men in true friendship, The Catenian Association has much to offer. Unlike Andrew I have never been to an Opus Dei meeting.

Paddy J S said...

God became Man - one with us, but in his becoming Man he also became a man, with a genealogy, a family, a name and even a trade, this very particular man was the very icon of God.

It has always been heresy, and it is on the rise today, it is to 'de-Incarnate' the Incarnate Word.

Sorry fr blake but in second quote which follows the first in passage here are you contradicting yourself? Or are these two seperate paragraphs.

Paul Hellyer said...

You said "the problem is mainly one of society, and the Church reflects society. However . . . ." This the problem. The Church should be above society not reflecting it. The Church should be a unique society, a light set on a hill . . .etc.

Paul Hellyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fr Ray Blake said...

What are you reading this on? Yes, if you look it is two paras.

Anonymous said...

I do get a bit tired at the recurrent whining over the "feminization" of the Church. The reason there are so many women and girls acting as sacristans, choir leaders, and servers is that the men and boys simply don't volunteer. And, I suspect, parish priests know this and this is why they proceed gently when someone is getting a bit above herself. They know that replacements are difficult to find.

I'm a volunteer sacristan myself, there are two of us men to four women. I've never seen it as a problem, perhaps because I spent my working life in a largely female profession, nursing. Incidentally, positions of power and authority in that profession increasingly go to men, but you don't hear the women whining about the "masculinization" of nursing.

I feel that we all just need to get on with it as people and not agonize over who has what external genitalia; it's the mirror-image of those strident ladies in the LCWR. To those who do have a problem with women around the altar, well, I'm sure Father would be delighted if you stepped up to volunteer for the work yourselves. And mumbling that you won't because of a "feminized" environment is a real cop-out ad the reverse of manly!

trimtummum said...

Come to the Latin Mass in the traditional form. There you will find true masculinity.
The place of women is in the pews.
Men on the altar - priest and altar boys.
Islam may look like a manly faith. However this is an incorrect illusion.
Islam is in error so the manliness you see will be in error too. Don't be seduced by it.
The current confusions in the church make life hard for all of us but we must remain true to the Catholic Faith - if we want to live forever in Heaven with God.

John Nolan said...

Regarding translation, I've never been able to understand why the RSV (Catholic Edition) Lectionary isn't more widely used, since it has always been an option. Luke 1:28 has 'Hail, full of grace'. The Beatitudes have not been transmogrified into 'the Happies' (always grates on me). Since the ICPEL project seems to have stalled why not ditch the JB now?

Nicolas Bellord said...

I think most of our young people are idealists. They look for some ideal to follow and you see them following vegetarianism, environmentalism, LGBTism and a host of other isms. The Church needs to emphasise the ideal of marriage, the heroism of making vows and keeping them through thick and thin, for better for worse etc. A life long battle against sin with the aid of the sacraments with the final denouement of death. Will we get that ideal spelt out by the Synod?

It seems to me that instead we seem to be following the baleful influence of that madman Jean-Jacques Rousseau - the noble savage who impregnates a woman and then disappears from the scene, disowning his children, in his age putting them straight into an orphanage, to-day aborting them. And yet he is regarded as a hero of modern educational theory and as for his Social Contract that means the absolute sovereignty of Parliament who can enact whatever silly law they like and if anybody disagrees they are an Enemy of the People and worthy of the guillotine. For once I am with Voltaire who wrote to Rousseau:

"I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours. But as I have lost that habit for more than sixty years, I feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it."

Nicolas Bellord said...

John Nolan: I could not agree more! How silly can one get substituting 'Happy' for 'Blessed'. What fool wrote that?

Nicolas Bellord said...

Charles Dawson: The boys don't volunteer because they now see it as a girly thing. That is the problem throughout the Church.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Servant of God Fr Emil Kapaun (1916-19510m a real man:

Anonymous said...

I sometimes wonder if the vestments worn in the Liturgy do not contribute to th notion of feminisation.
I suppose some so-called "traditionalists" would be irate at the notion of changing them.

Fr Ray Blake said...

On the otherhand vestments could be about 'uniform', submerging of personality, conformity which seem to be masculine traits.

gemoftheocean said...

I wouldn't think the older vestments are a problem. More priests then!

Anonymous said...

Nicholas Bellord: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? In reality, girls were accepted as servers because not enough boys volunteered, and this situation arose before the abuse scandal surfaced, if my memory serves. No doubt, now, some boys will use girliness as an excuse, "Well, Father, I really would be willing to give up my free time after school/on the weekend to learn to be a server, and then to turn up regularly to the duty, only, you see, I would have to [gulp] vest and then stand in a long skirt next to a HORRIBLE GURL, and I can't be asked to do that."

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Paul Rodden said...

I am a revert, but was an Evangelical for many years.

Evangelicals simply didn't have this problem.
Men participated in congregational life as fully, if not more so, than women, and not because of a, 'women should be quiet in church', mentality. We (men) all talked quite openly about our faith and religious matters and prayed and studied together outside 'church' at least once a week in the evening. But, what's more, it had absolutely nothing to do with 'manliness'. They were just not highly toxic environments, unlike most Catholic parishes.

As someone with a background in Social Psychology, the topic is interesting - and reasons for it are pretty obvious - if one does some social network analysis. The trouble is, the Catholics who rely on the factors these analyses highlight, are also the main stakeholders/power-brokers. Therefore, the chance of change is remote. At best, it's a Sisyphean - rather than sissy - task.

I'm sure these factors are emptying congregations quicker than Modernism, and sadly Modernism is a toxic enough influence in the Church.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Unknown: I wonder if you could explain what you mean when you suggest that most Catholic parishes are a highly toxic environment - which I take it is a bit of hyperbole but I am genuinely interested in how Evangelical congregations differ. Having been to one or two Evangelical events I recognise there is a difference but cannot put my finger on it. What are the factors you mention in your final paragraph.

Paul Rodden said...

Hi there, Nicholas.
Thanks for replying.

In a sense, it's not hyperbole at all, as we have to ask why people are leaving otherwise, don't we? Is it really that they don't like the Gospel? Or is it us, and we're just rationalising?

On the whole, the only places people don't like to be are where they are made to feel uncomfortable and, listening to lots of lapsed Catholics - as as I'm trying to do in our outreach for the New Evangelisation - congregations are, generally, uncomfortable places to be for one reason or another. I don't mean that in a sense of them finding the Gospel too challenging, but simply the insensitive and socially destructive behaviours on the human/interpersonal level within congregations. There's nothing as contrived as 'welcomers' with their cheesy fixed smiles, for example, is there? :) Also, parishes often communicate badly to outsiders or fringes - either 'transmit mode' only, or simply a lack - but they're even worse at listening.

This has nothing to do with what Voris would call 'Church of Nice'. Broadly, I agree with his critique. It's more about not being 'Church of Nasty'.

Evangelicals are NOT doing something. So, the problem is not what Parishes are NOT doing, it's what they ARE doing, that's the issue: and they have to stop doing it. So, I can't tell you what the 'it' is - what to do - as the 'it' is in refraining from doing, and so only available to a congregation's own frank and honest 'Examen' of itself. Every congregation is different too, but there are some common themes.

The reason I cannot talk about 'it' further is, from experience, congregations go straight into denial, rationalise, or 'shoot the messenger' who tells them uncomfortable truths about themselves, so they have to work it out for themselves for it to have any real, and lasting, impact. That's why I use the term 'Examen', because if you can do anything to turn a parish round, that'd be it.

Athelstane said...

Hello Charles Dawson.

"In reality, girls were accepted as servers because not enough boys volunteered, and this situation arose before the abuse scandal surfaced."

The push for female altar servers had nothing to do with a shortage of boys, and everything to do with a crusade for gender equality - one not unconnected with the quest for women's ordination.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

As Archbishop Elden Curtiss explained: "There is much media hype these days about the present and projected shortage of priests and its effect on the sacramental life of the Church. It is time to pay close attention to the dioceses and religious communities reporting increasing numbers of candidates. There have to be reasons for these increases that bear objective analysis from which some conclusions can be drawn.

I personally think the vocation 'crisis' in this country is more artificial and contrived than many people realize. When dioceses and religious communities are unambiguous about ordained priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines these calls; when there is strong support for vocations, and a minimum of dissent about the male celibate priesthood and religious life loyal to the magisterium; when bishop, priests, Religious and lay people are united in vocation ministry—then there are documented increases in the numbers of candidates who respond to the call.

It seems to me that the vocation 'crisis' is precipitated and continued by people who want to change the Church's agenda, by people who do not support orthodox candidates loyal to the magisterial teaching of the Pope and bishops, and by people who actually discourage viable candidates from seeking priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines the ministries.

I am personally aware of certain vocation directors, vocation teams and evaluation boards who turn away candidates who do not support the possibility of ordaining women or who defend the Church's teaching about artificial birth control, or who exhibit a strong piety toward certain devotions, such as the Rosary.

When there is a determined effort to discourage orthodox candidates from priesthood and religious life, then the vocation shortage which results is caused not by a lack of vocations but by deliberate attitudes and policies that deter certain viable candidates.

And the same people who precipitate a decline in vocations by their negative actions call for the ordination of married men and women to replace the vocations they have discouraged. They have a death wish for ordained priesthood and vowed religious life as the Church defines them. They undermine the vocation ministry they are supposed to champion."

Part of this effort has been the use of female altar servers. Many vocations have resulted from boys having served the altar.

Jacobi said...

The Church at present is secularising. Leaning towards the world, instead of showing example to the world. It, the Church that is, is making a profound error, one which Islam does not even consider.

So-called “sex equality”, as opposed to different roles, is an aspect of this and certainly in my parish has reached absurd levels. Hence the virtual absence of unattached males at Mass. What is more, there are not many unattached young females either.

There will be an inevitable swing back to the Cross, the Death and Resurrection of Christ, transferred by Him to the Apostles, Peter and their successors.

Lets us hope that for Western Catholicism, it is not too late!

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