One of the most outspoken prelates in the Catholic Church has set tongues wagging with his latest comments.
Cardinal Raymond Burke told a website called The New Emangelization: “I think there has been a great confusion with regard to the specific vocation of men in marriage and of men in general in the Church during the past 50 years or so. It’s due to a number of factors, but the radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalised.”
Cardinal Burke goes on to explain that, while “women are wonderful”, they are ubiquitous 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.”
He also blames poor catechesis, female altar servers and a loss of the sacred in the liturgy for the marginalisation of Catholic men. He concludes: “Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The feminised environment and the lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out.”
But if the Church puts off young men because they think it is too girly, then this reflects badly on men, not the Church.
The problems that Cardinal Burke identifies are an obstacle for women as much as they are for men. The Church should address them, but meanwhile many Catholics are taking the initiative and seeking out decent catechetical and spiritual instruction. Such spiritual enterprise demands and cultivates maturity and we should expect the same dynamism from both sexes.
An implicit difference in expectation is the glaring irony at the heart of Cardinal Burke’s argument: namely, that men are passive victims of radical feminism, bad liturgy and poor catechesis. It’s as if they are a sex who are done unto; totally enfeebled and powerless to fight back. Doesn’t this portrayal undermine the typically masculine capacity for chivalry and strength that Cardinal Burke also refers to?
We should also remember that many Catholic women do not welcome a preoccupation with radical feminist agendas either and they too are victims of an aggressively contraceptive and pornographic culture which breeds a diminishing number of men who are truly interested in life-long marital commitment.
Cardinal Burke states: “I recall in the mid-1970s, young men telling me that they were, in a certain way, frightened by marriage because of the radicalising and self-focused attitudes of women that were emerging at that time.”
I don’t think it is cynical to say that men are not quaking in their boots at the prospect of marriage because they’re scared of some women’s “self-focused attitudes”. More often than not, men are frightened of monogamy, commitment and “being tied down”.
It strikes me that “emangelisation” demands first that we raise our expectations of men by recognising that they are facing the same battles as Catholic women and crediting them with the courage to fight alongside them.