The Church has lost its manly spirit. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the recent protests at St. Francis Church in Portland, Oregon.
The ultra-progressive, borderline-heretical parish was recently assigned a new priest, Fr. George Kuforiji, who tried to restore theological and liturgical orthodoxy. For instance, the newly-minted pastor stopped using the gender-neutral terms assigned to God by the parishioners and instead began using Our Lord’s preferred pronouns: He, Him, etc. Fr. Kuforiji did away with folk music during the liturgy and took down a banner outside the church that said, “Immigrants and Refugees Welcome.”
A crowd of elderly parishioners took offense, and so decided to disrupt Fr. Kuforiji’s Masses. With a blistering lack of irony, these geriatric white SJWs drowned out the prayers of this African priest by singing civil rights songs. They’d refuse to kneel during the consecration. They’d shout out their own social justice-themed petitions when Fr. Kuforiji read the intercessory prayers.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Father refused to back down, and so they went over his head, appealing to the Archdiocese of Portland; Archbishop Alexander King Sample declared his full support for Fr. Kuforiji’s reforms. Now, the bluehead mob claims that the priest and bishop are “abusing” them with their orthodoxy—as opposed to their last priest, who really did sexually assault parishioners.
Archbishop Sample is right to stand behind his priest. He and Fr. Kuforiji ought to be praised for defying the mob. But the problem reaches far beyond St. Francis, Portland. Thousands of other parishes like it continue to lose parishioners and dwindle into nothingness. A weak response has inevitably led to a weak church.
As Bob Sullivan noted in these pages recently, there is a crisis of masculinity in the Church and no one seems to care. This is not so much because women outnumber men (which they do), but rather because a general atmosphere pervades so many parishes. The language, aesthetics, and priorities of modern Catholicism are all effeminate. The few men who dare enter the priesthood have to suppress their masculinity and find their “softer side.” If their homilies deviate from Oprah-like affirmations about being kind and “welcoming,” they get hell from the ladies on the parish council.
It’s important to distinguish effeminacy from femininity. While femininity refers to virtues particular to women, effeminacy is more an inversion of masculinity. An effeminate man is an incomplete man—one who has denied key aspects of his manhood. He is weak, lazy, and cowardly when he is made to be strong, hardworking, and brave. In their desire to fit in with the world, Church leaders have encouraged effeminacy in their clergy—and, by extension, their laity. Now we’re reaping the results: innumerable scandals, a disastrous shortage in vocations, and widespread mediocrity.
As a result, the typical Mass is less consecration and more validation, suffused with saccharine positivity and cheesy music. One may find it tacky, shallow, and boring—but never difficult. A man can attend Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation and still know nothing about the sacraments, prayer, or sin. He can be a scoundrel with no friends, no job, and nowhere to go—who spends his days playing video games and watching porn—and the typical parish priest will never make him question his lifestyle.
Our bishops are products of the same testosterone-sapping ecclesiastical culture. Hence their endless contradictory statements about marriage, homosexuality, salvation, migration, and politics. They may excuse this vagueness with nice-sounding words like “discernment,” “dialogue,” “encounter,” and “accompaniment.” In the meantime, men learn to tune this out and seek solutions outside the Church.
By contrast, Christ aims to clarify and give solutions. He speaks authoritatively and decisively. His miracles of healing, casting out demons, and the feeding of thousands are all done to make a point of Who He is and what He wants. The Pharisees and Sadducees did not set out to have Christ crucified because He asked uncomfortable questions like Socrates, but because He gave uncomfortable answers. And His greatest answer, the Resurrection, inspired the apostles to share the Gospel and ultimately die for it.
What we need is a return to the Ecclesia militans—the Church Militant, the Church as fighter. Most Catholics now equate Christian charity with both physical and spiritual pacifism. Not only does this turn off men who want to fight for something, but it also ignores the many evils that need to be fought. Real charity involves fighting immorality and error through constant prayer and meaningful action.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Pope Francis should call for another Crusade. It does mean that he should call out Muslim persecution of Christians, for instance, instead of welcoming ever-greater floods of Islamic immigration into Europe. In other words, he should fight the forces threatening Christians’ souls instead of problems offending his progressive sensibilities like climate change and border walls.
Parish priests can do the same by calling out sin in their own parish and confronting false Catholics. This is what a real man does: he fights to protect his family from evil. Christ scared the Jewish and Roman leaders of His time because He fought for His flock. He called out their hypocrisy and cruelty. He confronted the devil and battled with sin itself. And He did all these things so the men in His charge could take up His banner: “Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”
In losing their masculinity, Catholics are losing Christ. This is not a just a matter of revising the liturgy (though this would help) or hosting more men’s retreats, but of respecting and understanding Christ as a man—not a gender-neutral person.
Naturally, moving in this direction will likely push away many modern-minded parishioners who feverishly maintain the status quo. But those who stay can take heart that Christ lost such disciples, too. Nevertheless, with a few good men, He founded a Church that endured. It will continue to do so, as long as men today follow His example and embrace their nature.