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Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Sergeants' War, Part II.

You are probably thinking "Ooookay, Dale. Thanks for the history lesson. I think. What the @$%^ does that have to do with anything?"

Actually, it's aimed right at the weak part of Rod Dreher's piece, quoted below.

American Catholic family men are in a position analogous to those of the men of the 106th on December 18, 1944--we are fighting a sergeants' war. Just what are we supposed to do? My hands are pretty full trying to shepherd my little squad of five to safety in an increasingly-hostile world. In this daunting task, I've had almost no training and virtually no outside help. I went through RCIA, pre-Cana and I was instructed--sorta--on how to receive the sacraments.

That's it. And that's apparently supposed to get me and mine by, according to the powers that be. Because, as well all know, everything just keeps getting better and better. The war will be over in spring, and all that. The brass should know better--all the signs of a huge problem are there--but for some reason it acts like it hasn't a clue.

You're on your own--and good luck with that.

That's where Rod's call for a massive counterattack breaks down--quite literally, there's no division left to do it. As a result, any outrage is necessarily going to be sporadic and locally-organized.

The first thing that has to be done is to recognize the problem--and it starts with a realization that Catholicism probably has a bigger problem with its men than it does with its women. Yes, I know--male clergy and all that, man-centered, patriarchal, blah, blah, blah--but look at the pews. No, not a sewing circle with "No boyz allowed," but tilted more in that direction. If only one parent is there with the kids, it ain't going to be dad, 99 times out of 100. If Catholic men don't want to show up on Sunday, who's going to stop them? That's a longer term problem, and can't be addressed quickly.

What can be done is to start mentoring and discipling men who are there on a large scale--training for righteousness, as the evangelicals say. From the get-go: confirmation, RCIA, pre-Cana, marriage rehearsals, baptism or catechism classes for the kids--for whatever reason and whenever they manage to walk through the door. Because, odds are, you aren't going to have a second chance to reel them back in.

And we'd better listen very closely to the evangelicals, because they have essentially written the book on this sort of thing.

Many evangelical churches have strong pastors and men’s ministries that encourage manly virtues, and succeed in making men see faith and family life in a manly light—partly because they are not afraid to tackle controversial moral issues from the pulpit. Unfortunately, I would say that there are few Catholic churches in the United States that have pastors or men’s ministries that present faith or family life in a manly light. It is no accident that evangelical churches have higher rates of male participation than do Catholic churches. Priests and Catholic men need to rectify this by revisiting the life of Our Lord, and by embracing the array of manly virtues that he displays throughout the New Testament.

In other words, change the culture--here, the inner culture of American Catholic life. I'm convinced that the men in the pews are good men who want to do the right thing, they want to be faithful Catholics and solid family men. Men who are more than willing to be courageous defenders of the weak and opponents of the corrupt whenever the opportunity presents itself. They just need to be prepared for it and know they aren't all alone in the trackless forest. If you start equipping Catholic men for the various challenges and calls of Christian life, and mentoring them along the way, you probably won't get much of Rod's demand for righteous outrage.

That's because there will be far less call for it.

Is there such an organization out there? None of the comment box suggestions below really fit the bill. If there isn't, then one needs to be created--stat.

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