Women in the Liturgy; Women in the Church

One of the problems in dealing with underprivileged groups is that it’s pretty hard to say anything that doesn’t strike a chord of sensitivity. The valuing of the gifts of women in the Church is one of these third-rail issues that no man can handle quite delicately enough for every woman, sorry to say. That’s the cost of hegemony, I’m afraid, and hopefully one day bygones will be bygones.

In the meantime, recently two senior churchmen have said things that I think are somewhat unfair, on diametrically opposite sides of the same issue.

Pope Francis, who is actively promoting the legitimate rise of women in the Church, and who is eager to address a leadership imbalance that is really inexplicable on any reasonable criterion, nevertheless said something that I think is just a little problematic. In his characteristically colorful way, he spoke in positive terms about the outstanding women scholars who have recently been named to the International Theological Commission. Noting that there were more than before, and emphasizing that their presence was necessary, and also saying that there ought to be more, he nonetheless said that we are like “strawberries on the cake.” You can see that this was kindly meant–and if he had said that they were strawberry cake marbled in among the usual vanilla, no woman, I suppose, not the most sensitive woman, could possibly take offense. Different kinds of cake; feminine perspectives on reality; scholars among scholars. Not decorative, not adorning fruit, not necessarily more delightful than any other theologian, but real, true cake: this is what women are able to contribute to theology, I believe.

Given that understanding, I was baffled by the remarks of Cardinal Burke in a recent interview, particularly as the endless internet discussions surrounding the interview were crossed by the Adoremus Bulletin in an issue largely dedicated to the memory of one of the most powerful women of our times, Helen Hull Hitchcock. Here is a beautiful conceived and written article  in her honor by a diocesan priest and co-worker in their hugely successful campaign to restore the sacral language of the Liturgy. No one I know of has had more influence over English-language liturgy than she has. Which is one more reason why the good Cardinal’s negative statement that the Liturgy has been “feminized” and under feminine influence is so bewildering and hurtful.

Personally I am in favor of an all-boy altar server corps, because there is a certain age at which the polarities and fears between the sexes is almost insurmountable. Twelve year olds, for example. However, those conditions of fear should not be in place at the time of entering the seminary, and to the extent that they are, is there truly no remedy? Certainly these fears and hesitations can and must be overcome. Certainly there is some hope that a man who is called by God to the priesthood of Jesus Christ can overcome small hesitations, particularly when these hesitations would eventually become barriers to collaboration.

Because at heart, I believe, the problem is not about justice for women. The problem is justice for the Holy Spirit. Gifts are given as God wills, not according to our comfort or conventions. One of the first apostles was a Samaritan, and a woman. The Church is meant to benefit from the gifts that are given, and when truly arbitrary customs prevent this, then the People of God are missing out on what God wants to give them. For this reason I am very thankful for Pope Francis’ efforts to initiate a balanced view, in which the best candidate for a position–cleric, lay, religious, whomever–is not artificially excluded from consideration.

The Liturgy itself is a feminine act of worship, an act of reception. As the final chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church teaches, we are like the Blessed Mother, but on pilgrimage. She who prayed in the midst of the apostles prays among us now. Like the virgin martyrs and all the angels and saints, she is in our sanctuary.

The Church, as in the Song of Songs, is a “she”–and she has a Bridegroom.

69 Replies to “Women in the Liturgy; Women in the Church”

  1. But the priest at Mass is not "the Church"; he's alter Christus, the Bridegroom. His maleness is a sign. Others in the sanctuary are there in a ministerial capacity; they're the priest's other hands and feet as it were. Nothing is gained and much is lost by the introduction into the sanctuary of countersigns, of which the most disruptive may be females, no matter how reverent and technically competent they may be.

    Personally, I am in favor (when possible) of an all-men server corps, because it reinforces the solemnity of the liturgy and removes much distracting sentiment. Middle aged men are not very interesting to look at. Nor, if they're emotionally healthy, are they much interested in being looked at. When properly trained however, they are capable of executing their duties in a coordinated, dignified, but unfussy way that allows them to vanish from our attention. That is Romanitas.

  2. I think we might profitably return to the institution of acolytes, as far as that goes.

    In your first paragraph, Romulus, I hope that you are not suggesting that the Body of Christ has only male members, only male servants.

  3. Without question, the priest too is one of the faithful. But he is a special case, ontologically; he is a priest forever, and his "part" is with Jesus in a way that you and I don't share. This is why in my comment I was careful to specify "the priest at Mass", when he is unambiguously participating in the action of the Bridegroom.

    I am not opposed to a wider use of instituted acolytes, but many bishops would not agree. Nor is institution without its own problems, in men not preparing for ordination. Pope Francis has made a good point (more than once) about the unhelpfulness of clericalizing the laity.

  4. I always say that those who think women aren't involved enough in the Church needs to volunteer and join the ministries. Women are everywhere! And, the first Christian was Mary.

  5. Also, why does everything crappy or gawdy or irreverent, bad music and puppets somehow automatically become "feminine"? True feminism is reception, an openness, and a quiet humility, in the footsteps of Our Lady.

  6. Romulus,

    I didn't mean to ask whether the priest is a member of the faithful, but whether women are members of Christ.

  7. “Others in the sanctuary are there in a ministerial capacity.”

    I’m not sure any more what that means. Pope Paul VI’s Ministeria Quaedam, which abolished the minor orders and left simply acolytes and lectors, is painfully lacking in theory. Are non-priestly and non-diacaonal ministries an extension of the the laity’s common priesthood or are they somehow connected to the ministerial priesthood. Teachings of a tenenda let alone credenda sort on ministries are hard to come by. Sacrosanctum Concilium is virtually silent on these other ministries, and Lumen Gentium is silent as well. All I can find in the latter is, “The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.” Even the ministry of the diaconate was nuanced in Omnium in Mentem in order to make sure that the deacon’s role was not to be confused with the ministerial priesthood. The GIRM says that non-Gospel readings are “ministerial” yet a reader (lay–i.e. non ministerial priest) is to be preferred to a priest (a member of the ministerial priesthood). Until such a time as some sort of formal teaching on these ministries is published, it’s hard for anyone to tell anyone else they’re wrong.

  8. "One of the first apostles was a Samaritan, and a woman."

    I think you meant "disciples." Big difference.

  9. "True feminism is reception, an openness, and a quiet humility, in the footsteps of Our Lady. "

    Well said!!

    Now define 'true masculinity' and this discussion will have proper parameters.

  10. Well, there's feminization, and then there's feminization.

    I think what the good Cardinal is opposed to is the kind Anthony Esolen describes here: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/how-to-kill-vo

    Esolen asks: "The question that the assertion should not prompt is, “Would a feminized liturgy actually cause young men to turn away from the idea of the priesthood, in indifference, perplexity, or bemused contempt?” For example, would a sight of two priests twirling a-tippytoe like big-bellied ballerinas at an Easter Vigil service, along with a troop of girls waving scarves and sashes, for six minutes and more, to Aaron Copland’s arrangement of The Lord of the Dance, have any natural appeal whatsoever to the overwhelming majority of boys and young men who know to what sex they belong?"

    That's what we should oppose.

  11. The term "feminization" is imprecise at best. What Esolen describes is silliness, not femininity.
    To take ridiculous examples and slap the label of femininity is absurd.

    Or can such cluelessness be dismissed as specifically masculine, a product of masculinization? Of course not… tempting though that may be.

    The strawberry comment is odd, but I read it as being as sweet as it is clumsy. Maybe because I love strawberries? We have to laugh as we talk about these things, and the strawberry comparison might be a sweet starting point for humorous and fruitful (hehe) open communication.

  12. HV: I think the obvious reply here is Lisa's excellent question above. Why have all the liturgical weirdnesses of the last (groan) 50 years and counting been chalked up to "feminine influence?" Surely, clerics are in charge of parishes. And clerics are men.

    Aaron Copland: male.

    I will agree that liturgical experimentation and lady lectors were historically introduced at the same time–but I don't see the case for a causal connection here.

  13. This explains the masculine approach to liturgy very well:

    I also recommend the series of posts by Joseph Shaw on the problem of the loss of men in the church. Quite long, in several parts but very much worth reading and probably better use of your time than throwing one-liners at strangers in a comments.

  14. "The Liturgy itself is a feminine act of worship, an act of reception. "

    Not entirely. The priest/other Christ is 'the giver'.

    I would describe the liturgy as both masculine (Christ/priest) AND feminine (faithful/receiver). Thus, balanced. It becomes eccentric when one or the other is inordinately dominant.

    Chant, by no accident, is 'gender-neutral' in almost all instances.* Pius X was correct when he asked for music which was close to Chant, or based on Chant, as acceptable. That which is NOT cannot be 'sacred' music.

    The problem is this: what actions are 'gender-indifferent'?

    *Elsewhere, I described the "et unam, sanctam, catholicam" of Credo III as masculine. I hold to that.

  15. I grew up in Catholic parochial school in the 1960s. We had devout nuns who taught us and lead us in singing the Mass in Latin. Beginning in the 1970s, I was involved in pipe organ building, including servicing and tuning instruments. I was also always involved in liturgical music wherever I lived. I can tell you that "modern" women, some religious most not, had great influence over what happened during Mass. I often had to stop tuning for a children's Mass – led by the women (again "modern") leading the school kids, with the paid musician (e.g. organist) not being the least bit involved.

    I think Cardinal Burke's comments are spot on, but one needs to understand which definition of "feminine" he is referring to. Unfortunately, I don't believe most of main-stream Catholicism is even familiar with the traditional definition, but only the secular connotation of the term. I tend to doubt that he would have couched his remarks in the same way were he addressing Catholic intellectuals. He was responding to a mere reporter, and he knew who was going to be his audience.

  16. But "true masculinity" is not exactly what is at play in the liturgy either, but rather "filial masculinity" (though this may not differ at all from filial femininity) and not only "spousal masculinity". The liturgy is the work of the Son's grateful obedience to and honor of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, the Son who simultaneously sacrifices his life on behalf of his Bride, wedded to Him through the Holy Spirit. Tricky to keep all the parts in play.

  17. You have a point. Annibale Bugnini — also male.

    Clerics are male, and clerics are (supposed to be) in charge of parishes, but that isn't always the case; witness the sad situation of the former regime in the Diocese of Rochester NY, where there were priests in parishes, but the Ones Really In Charge were the "pastoral assistants".

  18. Yes, school Masses are a big problem, especially as they are formative of young people. And many school teachers and officials are women.

    On the other hand, the kinds of excesses at school liturgies are typical of all sorts of special ecclesial groups in which the congregation is considered, for no good reason that I can discern, incapable of participating without hand gestures and clapping. Cursillo, the charismatic movement, youth Masses at every level, the Neocatechumenal Way–for some reason evangelization is equated with silly liturgical practice.

    Like my colleague and friend Mary Ann Carr-Wilson (both laywomen, as it happens), I've successfully trained scores of children to sing Gregorian propers. So I've never felt the need or desire to treat children as incapable of good liturgy.

  19. I'm pretty sure, in the context, the Cardinal used "feminized" to mean "effeminized", possibly an even more provocative term, but well in line with many other critiques of post-reform liturgical practice.

  20. Interesting. A (British) Catholic chaplain in Afghanistan offered Mass in the older Form and found that the squaddies, who were two generations removed from it, appreciated it for its disciplined and soldier-like qualities. The touchy-feely and, yes, feminized liturgies which were the stock-in-trade of their home parishes had little appeal. I understand that US padres had the same experience.

    'Et unam sanctam Catholicam et Apostolicam Ecclesiam' is of course feminine in gender. But gender is a grammatical term which applies only to words; the natural distinction between male and female is of course sex. Those who fail to distinguish between the two are (wittingly or no) signing up to a political agenda which would deny the natural distinction of sex and replace it with an artificial construct (gender) which can be altered or 're-assigned' according to individual whim.

  21. Cut-quote which is spot-on:

    Even more central to masculine worship is the notion of the Transcendent. In deemphasizing in recent generations a concern with absolutes and ultimates, heaven and hell, and eternity and infinity, modern Christianity has taken a decisive turn towards feminine religion, which is typically interested in the immanent and the incarnational, in finding God in the small things, the everyday, and the mundane. These are genuine Christian qualities and mark the beautiful spirituality of a Therese of Lisieux or a Mother Teresa of Calcutta; without doubt, men also need such grounding emphases. These traits are not, however, essentially masculine in nature. As liberal religion stresses increasingly the immanent and "horizontal" dimension of faith to the exclusion of the transcendent and "vertical" reality, it inadvertently ignores the voracious appetite of men for the Great, the Wholly Other, and the Eternal.

    Thanks!! That's good food for thought, written, as I understand the introduction, by a decisively Modern Jebby.

  22. Utter nonsense.

    St Francis and Brother Lawrence were concerned with the everyday and the mundane.

    Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity was concerned with the eternal verities.

    These are personal preferences. They are not differences between the sexes.

  23. The existence of counter-examples to a generalization does not, by that fact, make it utter nonsense. Is there a more considered way to examine the generalizations and evaluate them?

    Perhaps such questions ought to be approached as questions of psychology. That there are, de facto, differences between the sexes is easy to verify: they are one of the most commonly studied topics.

  24. Whatever differences there may be between the sexes do not account for modernity and liberal religion, Richard.

  25. Here's the meat of that matter, again:

    As liberal religion stresses increasingly the immanent and "horizontal" dimension of faith to the exclusion of the transcendent and "vertical" reality, it inadvertently ignores the voracious appetite of men for the Great, the Wholly Other, and the Eternal.

    Earlier I mentioned "un-balanced" (between 'masculine' and 'feminine') as the problem. I'll accept the proposition that there may have been a "masculine" tilt in Church history ad arguendam; but it's clear to the author (and to Cdl. Burke, and others) that there seems to be a 'feminine' tilt in the last couple of decades.

    In a similar vein, Pius X's call for "raising the minds AND hearts of the Faithful to God" is a call for that "balance". Music tilting one way or the other is problematic; mutatis mutandis, same with liturgical praxis.

  26. No doubt we woul agree on 90% of the ills of the Church. The main difference would be whether "femininity" or women in general are to blame.

    Yes, the Church has become too absorbed with the horizontal. But Rahner was a man. Yes, Church music overemphasizes feelings and the day to day. Brian Wren, David Hass, John Rutter: men. Yes, bare-walled churches destroy the sense of the transcendent. Rudolf Schwartz: a man

    It's too easy (and apparently fun, if I read your tone correctly), to take all of the things one doesn't approve of and blame them on the other gender.

  27. To be blunt, you do NOT read my post correctly.

    As mentioned above, it's not women who are (necessarily) behind all this. It's <i.feminization, which can be the product of men OR women, as you have demonstrated.

    It's my observation that all men have some feminine qualities and all women have some masculine qualities. That's not the issue. The issue is "feminization," and if you accept the premise of the graf quoted above (from the Jesuit), then "horizontalization" is 'feminization.'

    I don't really care who does it.

  28. In the interview you cite, His Eminence said:

    The Church becomes very feminized. Women are wonderful, of course. They respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church. Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.

    Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The feminized environment and the lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out.

  29. Kathy, having read this good post, I became turned-off by the increasingly ugly nature of your comments, which did you and what you have rightly argued for, no credit.

  30. I think what the cardinal was referring to was that it is the nature of women to "take over" or to "see a need" and fill it/ Isn't that what the Blessed Mother did at Cana? The trouble is that Modernism and the torturous 60s and 70s changing our culture so dramatically, there was an emasculating of men whereby many stepped aside. gave up their role as men and the vacuum was filled by women.

    A discussion could begin here on the homosexualization of the priesthood, but that's too much for right now. Leave it for another time. Could this also be what the good cardinal was referring to?

    On the subject of women priests, women do not need to be priests because of the power they already are endowed with. Men NEED to be priests in order to learn to be leaders and fathers and good shepherds.

  31. So you're not going to respond to the issue of "feminization" — which is the larger point of Burke's dialog.

    'S OK. Your sandbox. Wallow in it.

  32. I'm not sure I understand what you mean at all. I'm not seeing any ugliness.
    And if you're referring to the Lucy comment, I'd call that wit and not ugliness.

  33. I don't claim authority or territory in this discussion, so please continue the dialogue here as you'd like.

    I've heard this sort of thing before.

    "I don't mind black people. Some of my best friends are black. What I mind is blackNESS." (Discussion of criminality (!) follows.)

    "Women are often wonderful. But their INFLUENCE is bad for the Church."

    I did read the entire interview on the, ahem, New Emangelization website. I agree with the Cardinal that there is a serious need for fatherhood in our culture and in the Church, a breakdown of male influence and masculinity, and that the path of young men to adulthood is obscure at best and often impossible to find.

  34. Or to put it another way.

    I don't mind men. Men are wonderful. But masculinity is a pernicious force.

  35. "On the subject of women priests, women do not need to be priests because of the power they already are endowed with. Men NEED to be priests in order to learn to be leaders and fathers and good shepherds."

    If men NEED to be priests in order to learn how to be leaders, fathers, and good shepherds, then why on earth is the Sacrament of Holy Orders reserved for a special few? Why not ordain all men to the priesthood as the Mormons do?

  36. The main point I would like to make in this discussion is that the Church and society have actual, serious problems, and that making a false dichotomy within the Church is not at all helpful. In fact it is one of the problems that already exists and needs to be addressed in a rational manner instead of with easy generalizations.

    Furthermore, latching on to a theory like this and drawing energy from it is a feel-good distraction from the serious tasks at hand. We can't afford to waste like this the brains that God has given us for better purposes.

  37. From an essay on Leon Podles' "Feminization" book:

    In the Song of Songs and in St Paul (and elsewhere in both Testaments), we hear of Israel/ the Church being described as the Bride, and God or Christ as the Bridegroom. St Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) applied the idea differently: that one could think of the soul as the beloved/ bride and Christ the lover/ bridegroom; the feminine Church community, represented by Our Lady, became a model for the individual Christian. The immense influence of this idea meant that popular devotion began to suggest that a feminine role vis-a-vis God is appropriate to every Christian. This idea is a complete reversal of the attitude of Scripture, which describes the individual Christian as taking on the role of a son (and heir) of the heavenly Father, the Christian as a soldier, and as imitating Christ. The central metaphors of the spiritual life flipped, in this way, from male to female.<i/>

    See: http://www.lmschairman.org/2014/12/podles-on-masc

    So–again–maybe it's not ENTIRELY "reception/feminine", eh?

  38. The problem isn't femininity or women per se, which is why the term "feminization" doesn't fit. The problems stem from abdication of authority. In this vacuum, unorthodox women and men make power grabs and misuse or misapproprate authority given to them.

    Here's some corrective solutions:
    1) building teams of instituted acolytes at the parish level
    2) more orthodox and qualified women in leadership roles like music directors, teaching from university level to catechism teachers. This would help choke out the weeds of problematic or dissenting women. I think this is also what Pope Francis has in mind with some of his decisions lately. And I think this tactical savvy may bear good fruit.
    3) prayer for the right mix of people to fill helpful roles at the parish level. Encourage the men of the parish, without belittling the women.

    Choir directors know that men are often harder to recruit, and this can be seen in several volunteer areas. So, work and pray for more men to be involved. Give them great and manly tasks. This doesn't mean ignoring or putting down volunteer women, however. There is a way to have all or mainly all men and boys in the sanctuary and still balance all efforts in such a way as to maintain the differences among the sexes. In charity, we should be careful to respect everyone and allow faithful members of the Church to contribute at the levels appropriate to their skill and training.

  39. When the Novus Ordo Mass was still in "test market" mode, there was a cardinal (it may have been Siri or Ottaviani) who attended one for observation. The church was more than half full, and the breakdown was about 50/50 men to women. The cardinal is reported to have told his assistant that if this "New Mass was allowed to continue, in 20 years, there would only be women at these masses, that the men would not be impressed at all, and would not attend. Prophetic words. Most masses I attend run about 70/30 female to male. As far as the ills of the Church, I contend that well over 90% of those ills stem from Modernism and Liberalism (of which Feminism is the paid prostitute). And those ills are serious, indeed. Kathy, I think you are unfair to Cardinal Burke, and that your actions betray a certain amount of prejudice.

  40. I occasionally attend a Novus Ordo Mass in English. Everyone is chatting away before the priest even approaches the altar. When he does, you're in for an hour of being talked at or read to, either by him or by some lay person deputed for the purpose. There's a lot of to-ing and fro-ing but little in the way of ritual action. You are expected to make synchronized responses, but whereas singing in unison is a natural human activity, speaking in unison is not. What you do get to sing is all too often trite and repetitive – Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the high-igh-est (repeat at intervals). No peace, no quiet (what is called 'the Peace' is just another excuse for inappropriate social interaction). Five minutes after it's over you've forgotten everything you've heard.

    What a contrast with the Low Mass I attended this morning! You can actually pray. You can ponder what you have heard without being deluged with yet another load of verbiage. You can recall the Epistle and Gospel since following them in Latin means the brain is engaged. I would hesitate to say that the garrulity of the New Mass suits women more than it does men, but I think I know what Cardinal Heenan meant when he heard the Bugnini Mass trialled in the Sistine Chapel in 1967 and opined that if adopted generally it would empty the pews of all but women and children.

  41. As to the mystery of the male/female imbalance, erhaps it might help to remember that women live generally longer than men, and that widows will outnumber widowers in every bingo hall and shuffleboard court: venues whose rules did not change radically in the 60s and 70s.

    Not to mention the dispropotionately large number of married women abandoned since no-fault divorce became the new normal. Those women are obviously more likely to be attending Mass than their husbands' second families.

    As far as devotion is concerned, I can only quote Jane Austen in the words of her greatest heroine: "The only privilege I claim for my own sex, and it is not an enviable one, you need not covet it…is that of loving longest…after all hope is gone!"

  42. Gender politicking by anyone regarding “the priesthood of all believers” especially under the Pauline umbrella (“in Christ there is no Jew or Greek….”) only muddies up the discussions of failing vocations. This isn’t about a “feminized or effeminate” Church, as the demographics of “us” guys serving in various capacities in this same Church disprove that errant notion. This is a crisis about power, privilege, prestige replacing purpose, promise and pastor-ship in our seminaries and rectories. Young boys can see through the corporate hoopla, especially if their only encounter with a priest, if they’re lucky, is when they receive the Host once a week. Should worthy priests venture away from their rectories and offices and interact with youth of both genders, and perhaps venture to recognize much less seek out potential vocations to personally mentor, then I might care what a bishop or a pundit cares to expound. Does be not afraid not count for priests in the wake of scandal?
    When there are priests sipping espresso, crunching bacon and toast while reading the sports page in a rectory while one overworked Sri Lankan celebrant is surrounded by 900 souls and some EMHC’s for 15 minute Communion processions, that’s not a gender issue, that’s a justice issue. So, this guy agrees with Ms. Pluth that externals or what we call optics now is a very errant way of perceiving truth.

  43. This is a fair point. "Sonship" in the Pauline sense is a hugely important Scriptural image of the Christian life. In the last two paragraphs of my blogpost I overemphasized the femininity of the Church, as if the bridal imagery were exclusive.

  44. Thank you!!! Cardinal Burke, in his interview, said that "men are attracted to precision and excellence" implying imolying that women like sloppy dreck. I'm sure he would never use the word "retarded" as a slur, or an ethnic name to mean inferior, but he certainly thinks "feminine" and "feminized" are perjoratives. There is no other reasonable conclusion than the man just really dislikes women.

  45. What evidence do you have for the assertion that men are more "transcendental?" What does that even mean? That statement is complete crap.

  46. Well, yah, if there is an abundance of priests in a parish rectory. But in THIS part of the country, that is not the case.

    Assuming that a 15-hour day is the maximum for productive time, and that there is a daily Mass, a school, and the usual administrative stuff–not to mention breviary time–the priest has a few hours left for parish council, parish trustee, liturgy committee, Christian Women, K of C, high-school CCD. Maybe.

    And that's if the priest lives "on campus."

  47. Dear Dad, forgive me if I wonder whether you addressed the major point of my observation. In my experience, in whatever region of this and likely many countries north of the equator, it doesn't matter if there are ten men or just one in a rectory. The vagaries of the last 50 years have radically altered the mindset and M.O. of the average priest's "raison d'etre." Your description of the daily schedule reflects an onerous expectation. That presumes that most of our priests will actually don that mantle. I don't wish to elucidate what I've observed over the years.
    Again, I regard the ponderment of "feminization" as a shibboleth. What exemplar might compel the Holy Spirit to plant the need to serve HMC in a priestly vocation, a "Father Flanagan" (Tracy in "Boystown") or "Monsignor Des Spellacy" (DeNiro in "True Confessions.") If the Spirit could move more men toward the medium away from the Spellacy model, and prompt them to be a prominent part of young men (and women's) Catholic culture, we just might get the ball rolling again. We have to "see" these men as holy men, 24/7, again.

  48. PS, speaking of film depictions, would that we had more "Father James" (Brendan Gleeson) of "Calvary" occupying the rectories.

  49. The problem is not the Church or society. It is the people in them…sinners! We have become so focused on personal desires and insecurities, instead of focusing on Christ and His mission for us. What needs to be addressed is the lack of faith, obedience, and prudent behavior of us instead of pointing out the possible misuse of "feminism" or "strawberries" by a Church leader. Stop being so sensitive, ladies, and just focus on the mission we've been given. Pray for and support our loved ones, priests and religious…don't criticize and nit-pick everything they do. And, forgive whoever made you feel less than a daughter of God….which is possibly why "feminism" and "strawberry" are bothering you. Peace and love to you!

  50. I'm afraid you may be missing the point. Yes, practice the virtues. Yes, forgive. Yes, don't be sensitive. All of this is good Christian advice.

    But we are not talking about hurt feelings here.

    We are talking about the future of ecclesial collaboration.

  51. I appreciate your support here, Charles.

    In my neck of the woods, the parish priests are extremely hardworking and dedicated to teaching, witness, and fostering all the vocations. So there is part of your argument that isn't universal.

    My personal prefence would be to avoid blaming any group, while simply moving forward in mutual respect and appreciation.

  52. I think it would be more accurate to describe certain cultural trends in church life as "anti-male" rather than "feminized": we can recall, for example, the editing of hymn texts to remove the word "man" as though it were an error — edits that remain in place in newly published hymnals even after the document "Liturgiam authenticam" vindicated the use of the word "man" and its analogues in other major languages such as "homme" and "uomo".

  53. I did not miss the point, but my experience in the last 3 years was seeing a priest run pretty hard to keep up–and he had a small parish with no school. I don't discount your experience, nor the all-too-real possibility of laziness. (Prior experiences w/direct observation goes back about 40 years, and those (3) guys were reasonably busy–but not nearly as pushed as the first one referred to above.)

  54. Good point about anti-male vs. feminization. As a Catholic woman, I'm also very grateful for Liturgiam Authenticam, and pray that those men and women who serve as editors of hymnals take note of that document.

  55. I still stand by my comment. When the men disappear, the women fill the need, the vacuum. The question is: Why have the men disappeared? And, it isn't that men die sooner, etc., (since women in the workforce and the stress and strains of dual careers/motherhood, women are feeling the crunch/illness and early death, too), it's that they have been emasculated and I go along with the comment about all the stupid gender machinations. (Rather than say the abhorrent "man" or "him" or "his" it's become so common to say e.g. "Each person will be allowed………on their final report…Or, the awkward "his or her." Even our English language Catechism was held up two years because of this; and, now, we have gone so far off the deep end of irrationality that there are those who contend there is no such thing as gender and one can make up whatever one wants to be! God help us from our pride and self-love!

  56. " [big-bellied ballerina] clerics are men.

    Aaron Copland: male. "

    Of a sort…. ;oP

    I remember reading a review of a book by James/Jan Morris which opined that James had obviously not wanted to become a woman, but to become a girl.
    I think much of what is complained of, by Cdl Burke, Esolen, et al, is not the feminine but the puerile; for which, IME, women have greater tolerance than men, not that they like it themselves.
    The chromosomal arrangments of any given purveyor of childish shlock is no more likely to be XX than XY, but staight men are probably more likely to drift away from an activity using it rather than, er… up with it to put.
    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  57. Feminism is no "paid prostitute"! Demanding political, economic and social equality is not immoral!

  58. Reading the comments here has made me depressed. In the 1/31/15 edition of the Wall Street Journal there is a story about two Muslim women in LA who started a women's mosque. (Apparently not uncommon in the Muslim world.) A 2013 report by the major North American Muslim group reports that typical Friday prayer attendance is 18% female. Surely that means there is something in islam appealing to men. I believe it's that our culture promotes three options for male identity: infantile, macho, metro-sexual. None of those options leads to a fully-rounded, healthy masculine identity. Sadly, in some segments of the Church, 18% might be the number of men in the pews. Can we all at least agree there's a crisis, and that it's in everyone's interest to address that crisis?

  59. The liturgy itself is a feminine act of worship?? Give it a break. And forget the hegemony meme. Jesus Christ acts through the priest in what Benedict XVI (another hegemonist?) names "the love song to the Father." No femininity there. And, yes, the liturgy has been thoroughly femininzed. Everywhere I go I see majorities of women as lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and altar servers. Not a great encouragement for red blooded males to take up the Way of Rabbi Yeshua. Why is it that the sanctuary and the altar are such great attractants? At his last seder meal on earth, when it came time to wash his hands and forearms before eating, Jesus put the whole procedure on its head and took the opportunity to wash the feet of his disciples, showing an entirely different way based on service and self-abnegation. Feminine virtues. Tough to get males to buy into those. And females, apparently.

    These are areas where I believe we need to feminize the liturgy. Women around the sanctuary? Forget about it. Take a look at the rates of continuing practice of their Catholic faith when the mother is the only communicator of it to their children. Depressingly low. Contrast that when Papa is involved and takes responsibility for leading his family spiritually. A world of difference. At the creation of the human person, Genesis uses the singular abstract noun (adamah); when speaking of creating the two sexes Genesis uses the plural (otam). Absolutely equal humanity and dignity. Quite different sexes (and roles).

    One vote for Cardinal Burke here. Not burka, btw. Burke. And, yes, I'm married. And three pretty independent daughters among the kids.

  60. I certainly agree that there is a serious problem, but I do not agree that the blaming or subjugation of women is the way to resolve that problem.

    Fatherhood is certainly one way to resolve the problem.

  61. Is it possible that Cardinal Burke was using the term "feminized" to mean influenced by what might be characterized as the secular feminism and not the feminine quality?

    CB's word "feminized" as in my first definition is tremendously appropriate at my parish. From the church decorations (ala Crate and Barrel wood fencing, burlap bows, tree silhouette candles on the altar) to the prayers of the faithful "that local, state, and federal government agencies ensure that every child experiences the joy of reading," or "for the bus drivers, mail carriers, librarians, and garbage men who work tirelessly in serving our community." It smacks of 1960s utopian communist nonsense which takes the beauty of femininity and turns it into shrieking social justice warrior "for the chilllllddrennnnn" feel good emotionalism. Finally, Father is treated by these feministas as if he only needs to show up, that he's incapable of taking responsibility for the direction of the parish.

    Also, the altar girls are awkward, seem bored, don't seem to take serving seriously, lack the rigidity and order for serving. There's also no good female footwear/attire combination which complements a cassock and surplice, and a ponytail only makes it even more ridiculous.

    My last gripe is with women reading the readings which either contain the voice of God or the voice of another male character. There's a reason that in movies, men play male roles and women play female roles. It's not real convincing in When Harry Met Sally to have Megan Fox play Harry. Likewise it's adds jut another degree of confusion to have a woman read a reading which includes speech from a male in the Bible.

    None of the above reflects true womanhood, the reflection of Christ's love, the gentleness and tenderness inherent to woman, especially in our Blessed Mother. The "feminized" church distorts and perverts those traits exemplified by Mother Mary and instead seeks to right an oppression in the liturgy that wasn't ever there. The result is a distorted sense of the relationship between man and God, as well as a distorted understanding of the beauty of woman.

  62. Nearly all staff at any given parish are female. Nearly all organization leaders at any given church are female. Nearly all teachers at any given Catholic school are female. The only male in any of it is the priest, and he's often transferred every few years and doesn't want to rearrange things in time to move on to the next parish.

    Aaron Copland is not exactly the picture of healthy and functionally ordered masculinity.

    I'm just spitballing here, but there are more than a few women who put up a fight with Father if he tries to change something in a manner they don't appreciate, which causes headaches that Father doesn't want to deal with. It's a sad situation, but it happens. Many people (even the priest) often don't understand which person is the head of the parish.

  63. No fault divorce. It was first signed into law by Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California, after Jane Wyman divorced him.

    Also, statistically, wives file for divorce far more than husbands do, so there goes your theory of married women being abandoned.

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