More than 200 gather to understand how to re-establish their traditional roles in Church and families
Men are from Adam, women are from Eve, but the way society is being observed by Church leaders in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, that natural differential has become very clouded.
"Let's face it, the last 40 years have challenged men in a way our grandfathers never would have imagined," said Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, during the Man to Man dinner at St. Mary's Parish Feb 4.
Men from across the archdiocese attended the sold-out event to discuss how to re-establish the male role in the Catholic Church. According to Archbishop Miller, the state of male leadership has reached crisis levels.
"Why do men go to Church less frequently?" he asked.
The archbishop explained the observations made by theologians in both Catholic and Protestant circles. They noted that Christianity has become more feminine in its expression over the last few decades.
The archbishop summed up these observations by quoting Evangelical John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart:
"Society at large cannot make its mind up about men. After spending the last 30 years redefining masculinity into something more sensitive, safe, manageable, and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men. The result is gender confusion never experienced at this level in the history of the world. How can a man know he is a man when his highest aim is minding his manners?"
"Men's contribution is essential to the new evangelization," Archbishop Miller stressed. "We can't sit on the sidelines."
Archbishop Miller recounted the changing roles of men and women through his lifetime. He remembered that when he was a boy the roles defined by media respected men as the breadwinner, husband, and father.
"The change has become very sudden. The '50s male was described as benevolent, sometimes bumbling, but nonetheless the 'father knows best' figure."
Today, on the other hand, men are considered either too violent or too sensitive.
"The changing roles are very evident. The confusion is evident."
Archbishop Miller didn't go on a tirade against feminism, but he noted it had had "unintended consequences" for the role of men in society.
"Feminism came along and was fostered in a short period of time. This resulted in very different expectations of women, and, as a consequence, of men as fathers and husbands."
The archbishop said a lot of changes brought about by feminists were necessary. He quoted Blessed John Paul II, who wrote to the International Year of the Women Conference in Beijing, China, addressing the inexcusable conditions women had faced throughout the ages.
"Unfortunately Catholics are heirs to a history that has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. This conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. They have been relegated to the margins of society and subjected to servitude.
"This has prevented women from being themselves and has resulted in spiritual impoverishment of humanity. It is no easy task to assign blame for this, considering the cultural conditioning through the centuries."
Archbishop Miller commended this attitude taken by the Church, but added now that he's seen many of the changes addressed, men are suffering the consequences.
"By the '70s you started to hear things that you had never heard before."
He gave as an example men being encouraged to get in touch with their feelings, and said this weakened men.
"The answer for women was to seek power. Men became confused, leading to a sense of guilt."
He said cultural elites began to minimize the differences between men and women. While the biological differences were upheld, cultural differences were changed. He noted that society now avoids the domination of one sex over the other in the name of political correctness.
"The word 'person' became the term, instead of speaking individually of men and women."
He observed that these terms have obscured the culturally specific roles understood for men and women. This has clouded issues such as the definition of marriage.
"The differences between masculinity and femininity are not accidental; they go to the core of who we are."
Society's viewpoint has plagued the Catholic Church, according to the archbishop. He referred to Father Larry Richards, author of Be a Man and a leading figure on re-establishing the ale role in the Church.
"As I have been reflecting on masculinity. I have found that the problem in the last 40 years or so is that some new theologies have tried to make men feminine. This is one of the reasons men don't like to go to church.
"Men are not challenged to be better men. They have been challenged to be politically correct. Many of the men have become more feminine and women have become more masculine.
"There, I've said it; many have thought it, but it needs to be brought into the open. Men need to be men and women need to be women; we can't be confused. This is the will of God and this how He created us. I want to be the man God created me to be."
Archbishop Miller also quoted John Eldredge, saying that men now strive for the "lofty summit of becoming a nice guy."
"That's the model of Christian maturity: really nice guys," Eldredge wrote sarcastically.
The archbishop pointed out that males crave risk and adventure. He said the feminization of the Church could be a reason that men are turned off getting involved in a parish.
He recalled how he was drawn to his vocation as a teenager. He said at 17 he saw a picture of a priest with a caption that read: "Long hours, hard work, no pay."
"To a 17-year-old boy it was enormously attractive," he said. His statement was followed by loud applause.
He compared it to today, where not even Jesus has escaped feminism.
"One of the greatest images of feminism in the Church is the portrait of Jesus Himself. Jesus is portrayed as a feminized hippie. Is this healthy? Is this really what we want?"
While the archbishop believes God should be shown as a loving, caring, and nurturing figure, he said the hand-holding, emotionally fulfilling experience Mass turned into makes men uncomfortable.
"Men are more attracted to the faith if it is presented as the quest that it really is. Men want something challenging, gracing, and demanding. To reach men the Church should stress the costs and dangers of following Christ to the end. This is masculine spirituality."
The archbishop stressed that all of these developments are the reason for men's groups. He said men have a to come together and re-establish the proper relationship with each other.
"Men's groups are still at the beginning. There is something exciting about that. The Holy Spirit is raising up founders."
However, according to the archbishop, men need to reclaim their roles for the sake of the family as well.
"In families the lack of the presence of the father has enormous consequences, not just on society but in the Church."
He said that children have a far greater tendency to practice their Catholic faith if they come from a family where the strong Christian leader is the father rather than the mother.
"Fathers, you have the responsibility of seeing that your sons are shaped in the life of the Church. Your role is irreplaceable."
Father Gabriel de Chadarevian, OP, spoke at the end of the the dinner. He has been a leading voice in St. Mary's for male discipleship. He started a men's group at St. Mary's last October and called it "DNA" as a short acronym for Discipleship and Accountability.
"The focus of this group is to reclaim man's identity as men of God, and make them Disciples of Christ."
Father Chadarevian agreed with the archbishop on the need of fathers to reclaim their roles for the betterment of their families.
"Men are called to become great saints, heroes, and spiritual warriors, and fathers are the DNA of their families."