Men Are In Desperate Need of the Church

Our culture launches a brutal assault against men. It comes from two different fronts with seemingly contradictory attacks. The first is the radical form of feminism that has grown in prominence over the course of the last 40-50 years. This radical feminism spreads the narrative that men are sexist, pigs, brutish, predatory, inferior, barbaric and on and on. Social media is filled with these kinds of vile mischaracterizations of men that go after the jugular of masculinity. Watch closely in your favorite sitcom: the wife is usually the strong intelligent leader of the family while the husband is a bumbling idiot.

On the other front, we have a culture that is obsessed with hedonism in which men are told to lust freely after women, or men. Pornography is normal, as are things like masturbation, adultery, and promiscuity. The massive pornography industry, along with the advertising industry, has exploited and profited off of the visual tendency of men. These images are everywhere, from social media to television to grocery stores to billboards. It is impossible to avoid it. Lust isn’t just an issue outside of the Church, as much as we would like to think so, to our own detriment. This is happening in our own pews. Far too many of our brothers in Christ are waging a terrible battle and we largely ignore their struggles, either out of ignorance, because we have taken on the culture’s view of men, fear, naivete, or apathy.

The failure of finding authentic masculinity and femininity 

In the wake of Vatican II — while far too many people greatly misread, misapplied, and distorted conciliar documents such as Gaudium et Spes —radical feminism found sway within the Church. A great project to feminize the Church began, and while the Church needed to embrace authentic femininity, in many corners it has largely disregarded its own heritage and applied cultural principles of feminism as opposed to the theological understanding of feminism so beautifully taught by St. John Paul II in Mulieris Dignitatem and his Theology of the Body. Instead, many women took the helm on far too many projects and left men to their own devices; everything has to have a female touch and typical masculine traits are discouraged.

Everything needs a balance of authentic masculinity and femininity which find their perfection in the Blessed Trinity. God is pure spirit. The “He” is found in the relations of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity, not in a biological sex or gender (St. Thomas Aquinas). God has revealed Himself to us as a relation of Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Church’s understanding has always been that the sexes are equal in dignity by virtue of being made imago Dei, but differ at a biological and an ontological (the level of being, existence, reality) level in their masculinity and femininity. Both sexes possess masculine and feminine traits, but each of the sexes embodies these traits not only physically, but spiritually. Biological sex is also a reflection of spiritual realities. The Church is not either/or, she is a both/and in her teaching. The Church is the only vestige left that embraces authentic femininity and masculinity.

Men by virtue of their masculinity—and this is a great good—are defenders, protectors, providers, and deeply oriented towards ritual. I know this not only as a Catholic, but as a U.S. Navy Veteran. These traits are universal and, while our culture seeks to tear down the qualities that make men men, we have an obligation as Catholics to live in conformity to truth and reality. Men have a very distinct and crucial role to play in the Church. It is time we stop expecting men to be anything other then men. It is time to start allowing men to participate in the life of the Church through their distinct expressions of masculinity.

The cancer of pornography

On the other end of the spectrum is the repeated call for men to give in to their base desires through disordered sexuality. This ranges from the use of pornography for masturbation to adultery to promiscuity to homosexuality. In our culture, men are inundated with images that are meant to make them think of sex non-stop. Even a cursory reading of the daily news on the Internet can contain advertisements related to pornography. The grocery store checkout lines are stocked with magazines depicting scantily clad women, which may not meet the definition of pornography, but still carry a similar message about objectifying women.

I am going to say this loud and clear: Pornography is a problem inside the Church. It is not some far off distant problem. It is not the struggles of the “failing” Catholic man (whatever this even means) who barely goes to Mass or who is intentionally seeking to circumvent the Church or live a life of disobedience. No. There are many men who go to Mass, Adoration, pray the Rosary, are in ministry, are properly catechized, and regularly receive the Sacrament of Penance are struggling with this problem. And we are failing to help them because we keep it hidden, which only furthers the shame these men face. It is time to talk about the elephant in the room.

This is not an issue that is going to be resolved by our parish priest giving a Homily during a Sunday Mass. Nor can we point fingers at our parish priests and blame them for this epidemic problem. They have grown up in the same culture as our lay brothers in Christ. Many priests lament the lack of training or understanding in how to confront this problem within their flock. Yes, this issue needs to be discussed from the pulpit, but let’s not pretend that a Homily is going to magically help the men sitting next to us in the pews who genuinely want to be holy, but who battle mightily and fail at times against this form of sin. Lest we think ourselves superior, there are in fact heavier sins than those of lust, such as pride, anger, and avarice.

The solution is radical and counter-cultural

The answer to this problem will take time and it will be radically counter-cultural. It is time the Church starts calling men to heroic virtue and authentic masculinity. We must encourage and embrace the masculine roles of protector and defender of the home, the Church, and the nation. If men are going to win the battle against lust (and other sins too), and live the virtue of chastity, then they need to be taught that their battle is holy and it is in defense of their family. Men respond to calls to battle. Even to this day, every man I’m close to (my own husband, my dad, and others I know) respond to battle imagery. They respond to calls in which they are told to pick up their armor, sword, and shield in order to defend their family and Holy Mother Church from attacks from the Evil One.  Devotion to St. Michael—who is a powerful defender and intercessor—should be encouraged in men, as should devotion to Our Heavenly Mother and her most chaste spouse, St. Joseph.

When men engage in sexual sin, both inside of marriage and outside, they violate their very nature as men. St. John Paul II reminds us: “God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman.” Instead of protecting their wife, girlfriend, or acquaintance, they deeply wound her and bring harm upon her and their children, in the case of marriage. Mortal sin of any kind within a marriage opens up both spouses to spiritual warfare since by virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony they are one flesh. It is against the nature of men to inflict harm on those he loves and desires to protect. Sexual sin is a direct assault on masculinity and marriage. Since these sins go to the heart of what it is to be a man, they result in tremendous shame.

The call to heroic virtue and to live in accordance with the masculinity they have been given by God, allows men to discover the path God has given them in order to become saints. This path is different from that of women and there is nothing wrong with this truth. Men need a rallying cry to holiness from other men, especially from their priests who are their spiritual fathers. I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister in Christ, and former sailor, and while I can shed light on this subject from a female’s perspective, men need other men. Men need brotherhood. In the end, these changes will have to come from men themselves with the support of their sisters in Christ. We need to get out of the way and let them be men and we need to help them up when they fall.

These issues are complex, but a good beginning is to call men to holiness; remind them, and us, of what the meaning of life truly is: sainthood. The Church needs to encourage men to fight the good fight. To battle on against the enemy who wants to drag them off to hell. Have we forgotten what we are up against? We must arm men with the tools they need for spiritual warfare and help them to learn the virtues so that they can live them in their own lives and foster those virtues in order to respond to temptations. In living heroic virtue, men and women can learn how to overcome sin. We learn to overcome sin by fostering good habits, alongside regular reception of Confession and Holy Communion and a life of regular prayer.  When the temptation to act out lust strikes, men need to remember to be courageous so that they can protect the women they love and the women they are tempted to objectify and use for disordered sexual gratification.

I will not pretend that this is even close to a complete solution. I will leave the particulars to our brothers in Christ to work out as to what would help them live their masculinity fully within the Church. I do believe that the Church needs to return to preaching beatitudo as the purpose of our lives. We are made for happiness with God and that is achieved through a life of holiness. The moral life is oriented towards our happiness with God, not a set of laws to be followed blindly. It is a journey of love and a battle to be won. That doesn’t mean we will not experience epic or catastrophic failures. We will, but the point is to continue on fighting.

If pornography or other sexual sins are something you struggle with, then set up an appointment to talk to your priest about your struggles and receive the Sacrament of Penance. Seek advice on how to repair the damage it has done to your relationships and pray for fortitude (courage). God forgives all of our sins when we turn to him with a contrite heart. Shame, hiding, and self-loathing are from the Evil One. Christ wants all of us to return to the light that can only be found in Him. Turn to St. Michael for defense in your hour of need.

By

Constance T. Hull is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and a graduate student theologian with an emphasis in philosophy.  Her desire is to live the wonder so passionately preached in the works of G.K. Chesterton and to share that with her daughter and others. While you can frequently find her head inside of a great work of theology or philosophy, she considers her husband and daughter to be her greatest teachers. She is passionate about beauty, working towards holiness, the Sacraments, and all things Catholic. She is also published at The Federalist, Public Discourse, and blogs frequently at Swimming the Depths (www.swimmingthedepths.com).

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  • Kathy

    Thank you Constance for this important article!
    I have also been concerned over the years years about the abundance of attention in our world given to female topics as I perceive male issues ignored or avoided. i agree that we can improve discussion/preaching about our call to holiness and our unique God given/created virtues and roles should be affirmed and celebrated in our parishes and communities
    Thank you for your service from a retired navy nurse!

  • Richard Peck

    Thank you for this post. I hope it is read by many. You probably already know about the wonderful work of Bishop Thomas Olmsted in the Diocese of Phoenix, but if not, his admonition to men “Into the Breach” deserves wide attention. https://intothebreach.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/INTO-THE-BREACH-ROMAN-CATHOLIC-DIOCESE-OF-PHOENIX.pdf

  • Constance Hull

    Thank you for sharing, Richard! I have seen it, but I will take a closer look.

  • Constance Hull

    Thank you! I am relieved to hear that I accurately represented the “male psyche” based purely on observation as a female.

  • Constance Hull

    Thank you for your thoughts, Kathy! I think our service in the Navy has helped us understand this issue better than many in our culture who have only been exposed to destructive forms of feminism. Thank you for your service!

  • Lurker

    This is very true. To put it simply, Vatican II was super-gay and the modern Church is populated by effeminate men and masculine women. Real men are put off by this. And the current crop of male Catholic intellectuals act like cucks who again drive real men away.

  • Brian Ulmen

    Unfortunately our society is fast moving in the other direction – the demasculinization of our sons. Among the myriad examples readily available in the daily headlines is last weeks decision by BSA. The inclusions topic is much more complex than the convenience reason being touted. At heart is the removal of all things male-focused. Our society doesn’t want Men, its wants interchangeable humans devoid of uniqueness and special abilities. And the Church is complicit by continued support of such organizations that have fallen away from any semblance of adhering/supporting Church missions or holding Christian values. While on the surface the decision seems worthy, but the implementation and long-term results are anything but good – for our boys or girls. How do we help the Church implement programs to help our young boys become Men?

  • emmettcoyne

    My first reaction was “this is a humorous satire” from opening line, “Our culture launches a brutal assault against men.” And then noticed a woman author! Fake news?
    Again, underscores for me, that women are their own worst perpetrators of inequality.
    Males threatened? What planet is this lady living on?
    Males are the planetary problem. Who other than men have wrecked violence on the planet and continue to do so? As the gun lobby is wont to promote, guns don’t kill people, people do. Well, not actually people as males. Women are statistical insignificant when it comes to gun violence in particular, and violence in general. So, don’t ban guns, ban males!
    I would rephrase her opening salvo, “Men launch a brutal assault against culture.”
    Continuously, without pause, forever and ever, till they are tamed. Fat chance!

  • Kolly Kibber

    I find it impossible to disagree with a word you have written. But what you have written gives rise to other thoughts which, because they seem true, I can only add, thereby increasing the complexity. I will not add all the other ingredients which occur to me, but let the following be noted:
    1. The insights and claims of secular and atheistic psychology since the 1850’s have added much fog and confusion to the simpler ideas of purity and impurity. The difficulties arising from temptation are now “the inadequacies arising from neurotic guilt.” Increasingly, few people wish to give the impression that they are inadequate sexual neurotics – and this, of course, includes many clergy and Catholic academics. So what impression do they end up giving?
    2. If we recall the acceptable fashions in dress for women which prevailed up until the First World War, can we detect any change? Is this fact of any relevance? I believe it is.
    3. The invention of the camera in the 19th century has intensified our problems in this area much more than the invention of mirrors. . . or the spread of undiscerning literacy.
    The corruption and debauchery of the wealthy existed at a time where even they had the decency never to publicly proclaim their habits as virtuous. Hypocritical yes – but now they glory in what once they hid, and have effectively, and darkly, evangelised the world. They had easy pickings.
    4. And this is related to the first point – because many feared to be thought “prudish” and neurotically inadequate in this area , they often appeared relaxed about the problem, and emphasised social justice instead. Here they hoped to find common ground with inveterate enemies . . . and, perhaps, an easier ride for themselves.
    The fact is that this is the key problem, for it is to do with the very drives to procreate life itself. A non-existent creature is bound to find it difficult to be angry, envious or proud, deadly though such sins might be. The resulting confusion is so great than many humans now find themselves more unclear about their nature than any of the beasts they used to tend.

  • aptak

    Instead of ‘Men are in Desperate Need of the Church,’ I think a more interesting topic (and title) to discuss would be ‘The Church is in Desperate Need of Men!’

  • eb erbeck

    It is gravely concerning how the teachings shall continue. How are single Catholics to find like-minded others looking to go forward in life and marriage with? I know of two women in Illinois their late 20’s, very wonderful people, Christian and Catholic, intelligent, educated, funny, genuine who are not into the bar scene type scenarios. They fear they may never have the opportunity to fulfill their callings to be a wife and mother. Men have been so emasculated. Aptak – you are so right – but the entire WORLD needs Men!

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