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"Muscular Christianity" has been part of theAmerican Protestant scene at least since Sinclair Lewissatirized itin "Elmer Gantry."

Now comedian Brad Stine resurrects it withGodMen, a group of Christian men who want to give the one-two punch tothe feminization of religion and call men to emulate the "mean and wild" Jesus.

A link from the GodMen blog over toChuck Colson's blog verifies that good Christian homemakerswant church to be a place they can recoup and revitalize with femmy music and trappings.

And this has got to stop because it's forcing men to leave the church in droves. Men can't worship the way women do. They're different, dammit!.

Men'snatural, God-givenmasculinity is being stifled. Everywhere you look, men are the butts ofstupid-man jokes. Manliness is even seen as a "disorder," to be quelled with drugs likeRitalin.

Women and wives are God-given gifts, of course, but men need to make their influence felt more strongly in the Arena of Life. GodMen promises to revitalize men at events around the nation and let them speak in short sentences.

No, it's not a joke. AndI've heard Catholic men bemoan this very same thing. George Weigel has also raised the the red flag about the feminization of the church..

What say, guys? Is GodMen the answer to your prayers? (Thanks to M.L. for the tip on this item.)



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I wonder how a church that has an all male clergy all the way from deacons to the Bishop of Rome, the Pontifex Maximus himself (a title once held by Julius Caesar--no girly man he) could possibly be, or be thought to be, feminized. Is it because a lot of these guys like to wear dresses, even silk dresses. And Prada shoes! Could everybody please grow up and stop obsessing about externals.

Joseph, just to clarify, the beef about feminization seems to arise mostly at the parish level. Weigel, in one of his columns a few years ago in our diocesan paper, said that boys don't want to be altar servers when they see girls doing it. I also inferred that he believed some women had been too pushy about becoming EM's and lectors, making men feel marginalized.To my female ear, this all just sounds like a lame excuse to stay home and watch ESPN.

A priest in Connecticut announced recently that he would not allow girls to serve mass anymore for exactly the reason Jean says Weigel put forward. The boys lost interest when the girls were doing it too. The girls of the parish were invited to volunteer for classes in flower arranging and tending to the altar linens. One girl was quoted as saying she thought this was neat. (Sigh.)

In five or ten years coordinating and scheduling lay liturgical ministers I never saw anyone being too pushy about doing anything.I did observe a sort of generation gap, with a lot more enthusiastic participation from men of my father's generation (born 1915 - 1930, let's say) who were the original lectors in the early sixties (although I understand that there was some participation under the early reforms of Pius XII in the 50's??? -- but I'm not really sure what a dialogue mass was, but it's a neat name) not having many men in my generation (born 1945 - 1960). I suspect that may have as much to do with the discontinuity caused by the Bay Area real estate craziness as with any gender phenomenon.I did observe some dissatisfaction at the parish level with the "power" -- as if anyone doing the day to day work in a Catholic parish has any "power" -- that some of the typically female staff has in the parish or diocesan office, but I heard more of that from women than from men. And doesn't that have to do with a general difficulty in Catholicism with the idea of paid staff?By the way, not to be pedantic, "muscular Christianity," a movement which I rather admire, is earlier than Sinclair Lewis -- Theodore Roosevelt is in fact rather toward the end of the movement. And I remember from college library books with the bearded countenance of William Seymour Tyler, college president, geologist, Greek scholar, and (I think) the first man to introduce physical education to the American men's college, exhorting us "O paides, aneres estote."

The story was told back in the 1970s that Cardinal Madeiros, when asked what he thought of the ordination of women, replied: "Oh, Father, I would not be in favor of that. I fear that the Church would lose her masculine image."You figure it out.

Weigel et alii, including the Vatican, would have a certain heart attack reading "Good Catholic Girls", the best narration of the strong and talented women Catholics on record.Here is a story of Kung, apparently masculine, criticizing a timid Ratzinger, perhaps feminine. First mentioned here by Bob Nunz. Joan Chittister appears to be able to box your ears, the courageous Elizabeth Johnson is ever much the lady. Stereotypes are so misleading. And Title IX showed us some things.Did muscular Christianity begin with Constantine carrying the head of his rival through the streets of Rome? Until Vatican II Constantine's approval of Christianity was called "The Triumph of Christianity."So much for Jesus who said that it is in only dying that we live.

I think there should be more male CCD leaders, lectors, EM's and the like. I've seen my son, 11, become more confident and have fewer behavior problems since several male teachers joined the staff of his school. I think that lots of male role models outside the family are important for boys, and we should think about that more.What bothers me about GodMen and the Promise Keepers is that their "solution" to this seems to be to ask (or require) women to step back rather than to look for ways to work with women and bring more men into the church.The whole "women are gifts of God" phraseology is telling, I think. We are like trees, crops and farm animals--given to men as gifts and to be directed by them to their purposes.I would like to think that this is primarily a fundamentalist point of view, and not what Catholic men have in mind when they express concern with the feminization of the church.

Happy St. Pat's. Home from Sat. nightMass,wine, and a good meal and... on NPR, a lengthy "History of The Troubles.""Scary Men"...It's a short distance from men standing up to the evils around to terrorism.It's easy for a guy to characterize others as insufficiently manly - lacking"cojones" as we say in NM.I think of our Bishops (yes, blame the Bishops) in the sex abuse scandal -even poor George in Chicago, with his prostate cancer , sayin g, like Alberto Gonzalez, that he's responsible but just plowing ahead.Unfortunately, the demand for "manliness" is usually a call for what historically was the role men were cast in: in leadership,standing up for what's right and being genuinely accountable. That world is gone and 'Mascular Christiainty" strikes me as a quaint anachronism or, at least, what should be.

Is there something more to this than garden variety misogynism? Is this a zero-sum game? If men become more assertive must women become more submissive?Regarding dumb-male jokes -- they always struck me me as a response to the realities of male privilege regardless of merit.The GodMan site gives me the creeps. The guy in the picture looks like someone sitting down to dinner in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road".

Antonio asks: Is there something more to this than garden variety misogynism? Is this a zero-sum game? If men become more assertive must women become more submissive?Jean replies: That's the $64,000 Question, I think. There's an emphasis in these groups on bonding with other men through "manly activities." In the case of my male in-laws who are Promise Keepers, this seems largely to involve paint ball weekends, which seems to stem from and feed their already paranoid notions about the dangers of the secular world.But some guys have joined Habitat for Humanity or just get together to grill meat and talk about the woes of the world. What bothers me about GodMen is that they let in boys as young as 15, and I don't think having a lot of kids around is going to do much to elevate the level of maturity in these groups. In addition, most of these groups support male fidelity to family. Fine on the surface, but if you look at some of the "Christian marriage manuals," you'll see that there is a corollary responsibility placed on women to keep men sexually interested. Some of it strikes me as veering off into Stepford Wifery.

A couple of things on muscular Christianity -- Bill Mazzella, it's unlikely that a movement that goes back to Charles Kingsley and Thomas Arnold would have had much use for Constantine. Anyone who is curious should go read T Roosevelt's easily accessible speech On the Strenuous Life and find out just what activities those boys considered masculine. Yes, I find their idealization of warfare (and I think Matthew Arnold may have been worse than TR) somewhat appalling, but given the context of the New England elite volunteering to help free the slaves a little understanding may be in order.My personal experience of the inadequacies of current day men crystalized on a camping trip to Southern Utah with my son about ten years ago. The people at the campground told me they remembered us from last year, and I expressed surprise that they would given the number of people that stayed there in a year. The explanation was that they remembered me because I had been with my son and it was so unusual to see a father and son camping together. All those years of being taunted for my perceived effiminacy I'd thought that's what fathers did.

Gene:Did he really say O paides, aneres estote? No Hellenist he.

How sad that the boys don't want to be altar servers if the girls are. There are now girls' basketball teams, but I had not heard that boys now don't want to play basketball because it is a girls' game. As for men's and women's participation in church activities, my wife and are part of a Bible study group at our parish and I find it very mysterious that I am usually the only man there. Could it be that men don't want to read the Bible because they think it is ancient chick lit?

As to the question of whether there is an "anti-man" strain in popular culture ask youself this -Could a cell phone company have an ad where a man is looking for his Blackberry on a business trip and finds out his co-workers, two unattractive women, have hidden it as a "joke," and proceeds to beat them so that they must go to the emergency room? Loads of laughs right? I am not saying that this is the only strain in popular culture. There are others more damaging, like those that celebrate violence against women and the police, but it is hard to deny the existence of a whole genre of men as dolts, drunks, and abusers in television and film - Lifetime Movie of the Week anyone?Don't even get started on the Ritalin and education issue - I have seen and dealt with that first hand, and I can tell you when nearly half the boys in a classroom are doped up to moderate their behavior, there are serious problems in our system.As for the Church - facts don't lie. Attendance and participation by lay men is statistically much too low. I cannot speak to promise keepers. but I believe the whole Stepford Wives thing is a caricature. I am a participant in what I suppose you would call a burgeoning men's movement in the Boston area. Almost all of the the Catholic men I know in that movement are married to very strong and active Catholic women. In many cases, it was their wives who got them involved, and in others it worked the other way around.I think anyone who is honest with themselves will admit that men and women approach many of the most important aspects of life differently. Faith and spirituality are no different. The Church needs both lay men and women to be active. It is not about dominance and submissiveness. It is about differences and emphasis.

Yes, Sean, there are a lot of offensive "dumb man" jokes in the media, as I am reminded during nearly every commercial break in the nightly news by my husband.Yes, the numbers DO show men don't attend church as often as women. I agree that getting Catholic men back in church is "not about dominance and submissiveness." So what's the answer? I concede that Stepford Wifery is open to debate, but before you wave me off as a caricaturist, you might want to check out some of the fundie marriage manuals, in which you would find many suggestions that do not tally with church teaching about marital relations or, in my view, the dignity of the person.

Jean,As I said, I can't speak to Promise Keepers or fundamentalists in general or their marriage manuals - although I have found among those evangelicals I know very little of this mentality.I guess I object to the sort of knee-jerk response I see here. Three years ago I got involved with a group of men who were organizing the first ever Men's Conference in Boston. It was a great experience. The idea was very enthusiastically welcomed by people - men and women - in my parish. When I went to organizing meetings, I was shocked to find this was not the case everywhere. In fact, in a few parishes - and I will say it honestly - all from affluent and reputedly "progressive" areas - there was resistence. In one parish, I believe in Wellesley, the priest, at the urging of some women parishioners, refused to let their parish organizer put an announcement in the bulletin and wouldn't let him sign men up in the church buildings. The conference was allegedly sexist and . . . oh yes . . . misogynist. What made it all that much more ridiculous was that the parish had a women's prayer group!The fruits of this informal men's movement was the founding of dozens of men's groups - including in my own parish. The next year, there was not only a large men's conference, but a women's conference as well. Over 8000 Catholic men and women participated in the two largest gatherings of Catholics in new England since JP II visited here.Wouldn't it be better to engourage this development than to drag our Elmer Gantry analogies?

Let me go out on limb here and claim that maybe this is primarily a heterosexual male problem.My parish is heavily populated with gays and lesbians with 2:1 weighting of men. There seems to be absolutely no problem with women or men on the altar or working on committees. The liturgy planning group has a gender parity of about 50/50. Ditto on the choir, the acolytes, lectors and eucharistic ministers. The head of the Pastoral Council is a woman; the head of the Finance Council is a man. The RCIA is run by a straight woman and the childrens program by a gay man.Gays and lesbians have dealt with these female/male issues for many years and, while we havent totally settled them among ourselves (exclusivity still exists within the more radical elements of our communities), in our parish we nonetheless have learned to get over it and get on. Maybe the feminine side of the gay personality helps sublimate wrong-headed ego issues, and the reverse for lesbians.We used to have mens and womens retreats but dont do that anymore. Now we have all-parish retreats.Our social functions are spearheaded by a man and a woman, both of whom are natural party organizers and who work famously as a team. But I could be wrong in all of this and just be blessed with membership in a truly unusually mature parish. But we Northern California urbanites tend to be that way, you know.

Golly, Jimmy, why didn't I think of that?!?!This has nothing to do with egos or power, or who chairs the finance committee.The point of men's movements are arising to meet a spiritual need and I think are generally a positive development. Maybe we emotionally stunted suburban cavemen just need a little extra help.

Sean, I resent the term "feminization" of the church as if women were at the root of the problem--which is the stance of the GodMen, who want to "take back" their "mean and wild" Jesus. I also fear what I see as "creeping fundamentalism" in Catholicism--a growing tolerance for conservative Protestantism because it votes the right way on some issues but whose teachings seriously undercut many Catholic traditions and values.Lord knows we need more men in church, but are women the problem? Ought GodMen be the model on which we run Catholic men's groups? Honestly, go look at the Web site.

(This is in response to Professor Gannon's 12:35 comment.)Looking up a little on Tyler it seems I partially conflated him with Edward Hitchcock (non-Amherst alumni will almost certainly not know these names, although they were big men in the time). However, the conjunction of Greek, geology, and physical culture and the connection with Protestant muscular Christianity (were there ever Catholic muscular Christians?) is almost certainly valid. I note that 19th century visitors to Lake Tahoe left remembrances of days spent by the lake in vigorous physical activity and "geologizing." Afficianados of the theory of moral decline of American culture will note that on that site currently visitors indulge in gambling, drinking, and casino shows. (I'm curious how much of the 19th century cult of geology has to do with Genesis or the quaint efforts to validate North American natural history against its European detractors,and how much was just plain enthusiasm for a new science.As to Tyler's Greek, my error noted above makes me think I may misremember after forty years, but I'm pretty sure about the aneres because I remember thinking it was a peculiar form. He may well have used the more standard Homeric este, however. In any case, he was by the standards of his day (born 1810) and time a quite distinguished scholar, which meant he taught young men, most of whom became ministers at least in his early days, and produced student editions of Demosthenes. I was interested to note in Calvin Coolidge's autobiography (too late I believe to have studies with Tyler) that he considered Demosthenes the reason for learning Greek.At any even, and here I'm probably writing for an audience of one (if that) the adaptation of the Homeric o philoi aneres.... to o paides aneres is pretty clearly an attempt at redefining manhood or how one becomes a man. I remember that in the famous Amherst English 1-2 in 1965-6 Theodore Baird routinely referred to his students as "boys." I don't know if that usage was still in effect anywhere else at that date.

Jean,As to the feminization of the Church, I think it is real, but I dont think women are a problem, or to blame for it. I think it is a natural outgrowth of the fact that lay women have, for a number of reasons, been more active in local parishes, and, frankly, men have been shirking an important responsibility. I dont see this as a competition or some sort of siege, but as one half of the laity stepping up to its responsibility and bringing a different perspective and different gifts to the Church.As to fundamentalism, I am far more worried about Catholics leaving the Church to join them than I am about them changing us. I think that politics have far less to do with this than you. That traditional Catholics and some evangelicals agree on some political issues, like abortion and traditional marriage, I dont see as a threat to the Church. Also, I am not quite sure what you mean by tolerance. As I have said before in other posts, when I hear these types of criticisms, I think it is ironic that the most active and popular apologists in America, the ones who are taking on fundamentalists about their hostility to the Catholic Church, are what you would call traditionalists or orthodox. Indeed, a few months back on this very blog in a post regarding the supposed lack of intellectual quality of JP II priests, a number of the self-identified progressive Catholics launched into ridiculing Marian devotion. In some respects, the very people I think you identify as tolerating this creeping fundamentalism are the only ones taking a stand against their anti-Catholicism.Maybe GodMen is a bit over the top, but the status quo isnt good either.Gene,There may not have been muscular Christian Catholics in the 19th-century Protestant sense, but I cant help but think at this time of year that good St Patrick is a fine model of a muscular Catholic.

So then, Sean, what are we arguing about? That I seemed to be man-bashing in holding a Protestant men's group up to ridicule? Sorry if you took it that way.God bless the traditionalist Catholics who continue to rail against fundamentalism and the perversion of Scripture. That I am NOT a traditionalist Catholic and agree with them makes me what? Unpredictable? Inconsistent? I've been called worse.Today is St. Joseph's Day, Solemnity of the Protector of the Church. And good thing, too, now that I'm in it, eh? Probably another point we can agree on.No finer male role model, in my opinion.

Interesting discussion.I am esxtremely wary of "men's groups" like Promise Keepers as I think they are simply an excuse to retain patriarchy in Christianity. It is no surprise that these movements arise among the evangelical fundamentalists, who do truly believe that wives are subject to husbands in one direction only, and are disconcerted by the gains women have made over the past half century. I think of the the greatest legacies of JP2 is in his interpretation of Paul's language as meaning mutual submission. But the "menly men"don't like that. To be, that suggests an deep insecurity on their part. And, you know, any movement based on power not service is not an authentically Christian movement. I have a broader critique of "muscular Christianity" of course, the fusing on macho bombast with faith. War. Torture. George W. Bush. No more needs to be said!

Last post. I promise. Muscular Christianity may have indulged in bombast, athough most 19th century writing strikes us that way, but it certainly had nothing to do with "macho."I suppose if the TLS can cite Mel Gibson as John Buchan's ideal male Dot.Commonweal can make a few mistakes too.

The Boston Globe piece on the Wpmen's Confeence there yesterday (4000 attending) had two different takes: one, participants who support "life", the other, "diversity."That's good, because we need a universalist Catholic approach if we are to grow instead of being polarized.Muscular Christiainty might not be machismo - a special problem here in the Land of Enchantment, by the way.But it makes me think that the good Christian must be the good soldier - unthinking, unquestionably loyal and ready to follow orders.I'm still not sure what it means in terms of accepting responsibility when one screws ip. I don't find very good examples in our secular or religious leaders.

Jean,Not trying to argue, but I think I can summarize my objections to the characterization in the initial post as follows:- Almost all of the issues you present, I think tongue in cheek as "phantom" or "myths," are in fact real. We have unnecessarily drugged a generation of boys because we insist on treating traditionally male behavior as a disorder. The Church in the US has bought into this mentality, and our religious education and liturgy is, in fact, often alien and uncomfortable to men. I know, I was brought up on it and I can tell you having a middle aged religious sister sit cross-legged on the floor with you around a bunch of candles while you talk about whether you feel loved isn't terribly appealing for a 15 year old boy. To this day, I cringe at the words "weekend retreat." - Second is the implicit - and in many of the comments explicit - criticism that Catholic men who "buy into this" are somehow being co-opted by fundamentalism. This is just factually untrue. The men I have worked with in the Boston area are some of the most steadfast defenders of the Faith and critics of fundamentalism and its threat to the Church that I have ever met. At the same time, they may agree with them on some social issues, and respect some of their principles, but they are hardly ready to join with them. I will point out the irony that on the post regarding Fr Sobrino and Christology there are self-decribed "progressive" Catholics who either deny or question the divinity of Christ and the existence of the Trinity but few seem to question whether they are co-opted by the Unitarians. Thanks for reminding me of the feast day - I missed mass today because of a meeting - May Joseph's prayers and intercession help us all be better Christians and his example be an inspiration for all men and women.

Sean, I get sick of hearing priests wisecrack about keeping the homily short because there's a big game on ho, ho, ho, as much as you're sick of holding hands and talking about love with Sister Cross-Legged on the Floor.I agree that Ritalin is overprescribed, but it doesn't dope normal people; it hypes them up. I've also been down that road, and I'm not willing to say that Ritalin is wrong for everyone if other therapies fail, or only work partially, nor do I advocate doping a kid and not holding up your end by being extra vigilant about self-discipline.Respect the principles of the fundie men if you want, though I'm not sure which ones you refer to. The principle about being the head of the family? About having the right to discipline their wives by grounding them or taking away their driving privileges, maybe? Or spanking them? We're agreed that a weekend retreat is a cringe-inducing experience, especially the ones where they play Enya.

Gene,Last time I looked, "estote" was Latin, not Greek. The appropriate Attic Greek is "este".

Sorry about that. I know all about Greek este and Latin estote, but I was trying to remember a bookplate I saw when I was a second year Greek student and was rather taken by the strange form aneres and created a non-existent Homeric imperative in my aged brain.

Why do more Protestant males attend church than Catholic males? Is it the ceibacy of Catholic clergy or is it the Church's teaching on sex? These question go into the equation somewhere.Weekly Church Attendance All Men 32 percent All Women 44 Catholic Men 26 Catholic Women 49 Protestant Men 42 Protestant Women 50

Bill, I wonder if there is a "one size fits all" answer to this.Perhaps the teaching itself isn't the problem, but the way it is presented--or not presented at all, in the case of my parish.John Paul II and Benedict have both addressed eros, gender roles, and other issues that ought to be of interest to both men and women. But the only reason I know about any of them is because I read Commonweal. There was a real tippy-toeing around these issues in our RCIA program. When I turned Catholic, there were only women in RCIA. The whole marriage/gender/sex discussion was limited to whether we were in valid marriages, and that was discussed ad nauseum. But no whys or wherefores about the validity of marriage, the Catholic view of marriage or anything else was discussed openly.It was very weird.

Sean:Maybe we emotionally stunted suburban cavemen just need a little extra help.Sarcasm is NOT the most endearing or qualities, even among suburban cavemen. If they need a testosterone boost, I suggest that they join their friends around an ESPN broadcast and hoot and holler at a bunch of grown men acting like highly-paid cavemen.Way too many of us grew up in parishes with dos cojone-ed priests and found that quite lacking, particularly when they pranced around in semi-high drag on the altar and waxed euphoniously and interminably about the BVM.If you are looking for masculinity in your church, look at the results of what people do, not how they talk, dress or act.As far as being denizens of the suburbs, they should not despair: redemption is available even unto them.

I may have misread Jean Raber's post, but is it typical for RCIA sessions to include discussion of whether or not individuals were in valid marriages? In my experiences assisting with RCIA marriage was talked about as a sacrament and as a part of the Christian life, but the validity or not of individual marriages was reserved for the pastor and handled privately unless (as rarely happened) the question was raised by a candidate or catechumen.Also, is the all female group typical? We usually managed a more balanced group. I've always suspected that I first got involved because the program director was looking for sponsors and realized I was the only guy in the parish taller than my candidate.

Gene, you didn't misread my post. At the end of our very first Inquirere's session in September, the RCIA session, the leader took both of us aside and questioned us about when and how we were married. She said that if we hoped to become Catholics at Easter, any problems with our marriages we had to "get the paperwork started."I don't know whether the priest takes over if the marriages have problems, because neither mine nor my cohort's required special handling. One couple divorced during RCIA a couple of years later. The husband was supposed to be working toward an annulment, and there was a lot of scuttlebutt that he was pursuing it half-heartedly, didn't really want to deal with it. There were other problems there, and maybe they would have busted up eventually, anyway. But it takes an awful lot of self-honesty, even humility, to get through RCIA under normal circumstances. I can't help thinking that it woud have been better for that couple to have been handled differently, even if it was to be welcomed in their spiritual journey and told not to despair or get downhearted that it might take longer for them to get things squared away than Easter.

Does the last part of this thread belong in the discussion of the Pope's statemen ton the Eucharist. You'll recall that if you're in a "bad marriage" you can't gp to Communion, but that every diocese should have sufficient staff to man their tribunals.What's problematic is that many folks don't accept this approach and do what they want anyway. We've already hashed out at times the problem with this as well.The continuing evolution of marriage canon law (and the focus on legalism and legal process) has not ,to my mind, helped the proclamation of the real goals of the sacrament.Granted what's been said in recent posts here about mandatory celibacy, not to mention the import of the Eucharist, the credibility of the current Vatican approach creates many credulity problems.

About whether the last part of this thread, for which I am in part responsible belongs here, other than my prediliction for wandering for the topic, I might say that the reason I brought the point up (other than the question being of interest in its own right) was my surprise that an RCIA program was handled as it apparently it was. I'm much more used to RCIA focusing on the kind of stuff Benedict discussed in this essay and his first encyclical. Benedict seems to understand that people will believe or practice Catholicism on the basis of inter alia their faith in the sacraments, and "validity of marriage" may follow from that. I can't imagine anyone coming to the church because they want access to the marriage tribunal, and oh the Eucharist would be nice too.

Bob and Gene, I guess I'm missing your point. Big surprise, eh?Perhaps to bring it back to the men-in-church issue, most of the men in our RCIA seemed to be in it to keep their wives happy (or shut them up). A few were having personal crises and RCIA was suggested as a way to explore their lives.Men who go through RCIA usually don't end up being regular attendees at Mass. Is it a gender thing, as Sean and the GodMen suggest in different ways? I continue to to wonder.My husband volunteers for RCIA and says the women leaders talk too much. (I've been through the program, and I agree, but maybe only because that kept ME from talking more.)He also says that the male candidates don't really want to talk too much, either.And that's all I can get out of him.

Ms. Raber (apologies if you prefer Mrs., Dr., or something else -- not to mention apologies to all who feel that I'm hijacking a thread), You're not missing my point, you've just had quite different experiences. As to men in RCIA just to make their wives happy, I'm pretty sure that the group I work with (and most of the parish priests) would simply have told them not to join the group, go to Mass as they were interested, read, pray -- and come back if and when they thought the time was right. Many of the men I knew in RCIA were Protestants/Non-Affiliated/Buddhists married to or marrying Catholic women, but all had reached a decision to explore it on their own. The gentleman I first sponsored had been married to a Catholic woman for about fifteen years, attended Mass on a regular basis -- and came to RCIA when the time was right. In one more extreme case the marriage was more than fifty years old when the husband decided the time was right.I can't imagine suggesting RCIA as a way to "explore your life," or deal with a personal crisis -- it's sounds like joining the priesthood so you will stop being gay. This is a little different from people with debilitating problems (alcoholism in particular) who want to join the Church, suspect they will fail once again, but commit to giving it their best efforts.Why would anyone go through RCIA if they weren't committed to going to Mass regularly, what sort of RCIA team would recommend to the parish, and what sort of priest would receive them? Think it over and come back if you decide your ready -- it's like marriage, if the guy makes it clear he has no intention of being faithful or making a lifelong commitment or expects his wife not to have children so she can give him more attention my experience is that priests can and do "Just say no."Both in California and now in Oregon I am familiar with people who attend Mass and participate in parish life for many years before they decide to take the RCIA leap -- maybe that is less accepted in other parts of the country?It may be something of a class thing? Our male candidates tended to be college-educated professionals (one guy with a Ph.D. in religion and a reading knowledge of Greek, which I could vouch for, and Chinese, which I took on faith), while the women seem to have been more diverse in background.I suspect that any RCIA team that had me on it was not likely to hear complaints that the women talk to much! Also, there were many years of continuity with the core group, and many of them knew each other from outside church and community activities, which may have helped.I don't recall that men were more reluctant to talk than women; my impression was that the reluctance to speak was more associated with painful personal backgrounds. But almost always we noted that as the year went on the group meshed and found their way to talk with each other, with the team, and with the priest in charge.And we were typically blessed with very effective priests to run the show from the background, even if at times there was some friction between the way the new Parochial Vicar wanted to do things and "the way we had always done it."Oh, and getting people to talk is a real art -- that's why it always seemed like a diversity of approach, presenter, and subject matter was so helpful, because you never knew what would engage any particular individual. Finally, watching catechumens/candidates and their desires and needs to ask certain questions to a priest gave me a sense of just what value those gentlemen bring to church life.Apologies for moving away from the originally set topic, but there is some content here on men and Godmen.

Gene, do you think men and women need to be treated differently in RCIA? Not to keep hammering on these stereotypes, but do women need a more talky, huggy kind of faith formation (from Sean's Sister Hold-a-hand). And do men need less talk and more information they can silently digest and decide in their own heads while they have a nice cold long neck?I don't know. Seems that's where the GodMen are tending.Is there a socio-economic element in RCIA? Or "class" as you call it? Oh, yah, you betcha.In my rural part of Michigan, most of the readings are way above the heads of most RCIA participants. Missing meetings for deer hunting and bowling league commitments is pretty par for the course (not to mix my sports metaphors). And the leaders always wanted to get things wrapped up in no more than 60 minutes.Also, you may address me as Jean or Your Intellectual Magnificence. Either one is good. :-)

Your Intellectual Magnificence,Strangely enough, the Upper Peninsula is the home of my ancestors, but I have never been in Michigan in my life. My godfather did retire to live out his final days alone in Traverse City.I don't see why men and women should be treated differently in RCIA -- isn't the assumption that husbands and wives will need to talk about their faith together? I'm suspicious of a faith that is mulled on in silence and not articulated. I know I'm hyper-educated but when I worked in facilities one of plumbers, not a native English speaker, saw the small crucifixion picture on my desk and asked if I loved Jesus? Since I couldn't deny that, we ended up having quite a few religious conversations and he told me about a retreat center he went to near the old mission in Jolon every summer with other mostly Hispanic blue collar workers.I don't any particular brief for the GodMen, but the Opus Dei meetings I attended nearly 30 years ago, and Sean H's group from what I make of it, don't seem like that kind of thing. But my challenge remains to channel that kind of energy into parish activities, of which RCIA is one of the most vital.In fact the RCIA participant who declined to participate in sessions that were too talky-huggy in one of our groups was a woman, an attorney as I recall.If the readings are beyond the group, it may be that the team needs to get more flexible. At least the Sunday gospel readings should be accessible to everyone and they're almost always a good start to discussion. Which may beg the question (as I think I did for years) just what you need to know to become a Catholic -- certainly the Creed and the Lord's Prayer and some Mass texts are a good place to start?If you don't like "class," which I use only as a shorthand, at least the socio-economic- educational element was probably the most troubling one in my experience with RCIA and the one we had the hardest time dealing with. Which to my observation, along with the related issue of Hispanic and Filipino immigration (remembering that in California the Mexicans were there first) is the biggest problem in the post-Vatican II American Church, and perhaps one that Commonweal readers need to be particularly sensitive to. Apologies to Mr. Gallico and anyone else offended by the preachy, high and mighty tone of that, but I think the point is worth making even if I make it badly.

Gene, where in the UP?? I lived in the Sault for many years. Traverse City is full of retired auto execs now. Sad sad sad. They all wear LL Bean sweaters and Sperry Topsiders, and walk around looking vaguely yacht-y, whether they have a boat or not.

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