There is a clerical crisis, and everyone knows it. Some say the problem is in Catholicism’s doctrine of an exclusive priesthood, which inculcates a spirit of irredeemable “elitism.” This “sin of clericalism” is but a means to make Catholicism more Protestant and egalitarian with regard to the priesthood. Others say the problem is the chaste clergy, others yet that there are too many closeted, or even open and active, homosexuals in the clerical ranks and controlling seminaries.
The various problems concerning the obvious crisis within clerical ranks often fail to miss a more fundamental crisis — a crisis that is symptomatic of broader Western culture, which has ripped the heart out of the Church and its sense of mission. The real crisis of the clergy is related to homosexuality, but homosexuality is, itself, a contingent outgrowth of the crisis of masculinity in clerical ranks. And masculinity, we are told, is toxic, deadly, and something to be overcome. On the contrary, our decadent civilization needs a return to true masculinity (which is fatherhood), which will also restore authentic femininity (which is motherhood). So does the Church.
Given the current impotence of the Church, it may be easy to see and criticize a sort of hyper-femininity therein. True femininity has also been corrupted, precisely because femininity and masculinity are dialectically united. Authentic femininity isn’t about compassion without sacrifice, love without rebuke, or openness without willing to learn or listen, as femininity is presented to us today. Our Mother is the shining example of genuine femininity because she is receptive to masculine initiative; she was open to divine fatherhood at the Incarnation and could be seen making sacrifices on behalf of her love for Christ, which led her to the foot of the Cross, where others hid in fear and shame.
The current feminization of the Church, which inculcates a corrupt femininity because it denies receptivity to true masculinity, only aids and abets in the culture of death sweeping the West and the Church. Fatherhood initiates life. Motherhood, and the Church is mother, receives and gives life. Fatherhood generates and protects life. Motherhood nurtures life to become strong and accepts growth into adulthood rather than vainly trying to retain perpetual infanthood. Masculinity and femininity, fatherhood and motherhood, work together. One needs the other and vice versa.
God is Father, and as the Catechism rightly states, “divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood.” It is this sense of fatherhood that has evaporated in the Church — and with it the call to adventure, protection, and sacrifice. The sense of doing battle has been replaced with the spirit of “compromise,” which is a telltale sign of decline and aversion to struggle and sacrifice.
The Apostle Paul tells us to put on the armor of God and do battle. Militaristic language runs throughout the Bible and is a root of Catholic identity and tradition for men. Indeed, many of the hagiographic stories of the saints are filled with the call to adventure, confrontation with evil, and waging war against dark spirits.
It is shocking and sad to consider the decline and fall of the clergy in this light.
From leaping into stormy seas and swimming to shore at the sight of Christ to being imprisoned, shipwrecked, and martyred; from journeying to new lands and cutting down pagan trees with axes to calling crusades and blessing soldiers as they fought to stop Muslim invasion, the clergy went from exuding the highest attributes of masculinity to becoming the imponent, soft-spoken, hypersensitive kumbaya-singers of today. From men and soldiers to effeminate psychologists has been the developmental trajectory of the clergy in the past century.
Rather than putting on the armor of God and confronting nefarious forces in the world and in parishioners’ lives, clerics invite practicing homosexuals to their pulpits to give testimonies of their faith which corrupt and distort the other parishioners to accept such “intrinsically disordered” lifestyles. When such sin tainted the sanctuaries of God in Christ’s day, He did not pontificate to his disciples on the importance of tolerance. Instead, He cracked out the whip and drove out the polluters.
Rather than venturing into the dark wilderness as soldiers of Christ to do tasks that men have always done throughout history, clerics speak of “compromise” and “peace” with perfidious and nefarious forces, as if peace with Satan were the ultimate expression of the Christian life. When tempted by Satan, Christ resisted. He cast out demons, as did the Apostles, rather than tolerate the presence of demons and the slavery they caused in others.
The de-masculinization of Christianity, and the emasculation of men in Christianity, is the crisis that has obliterated the sense of fatherhood and filial headship, and with it, a sense of the stern, the just, and the holy. It is no secret that men do not attend church. Why should they? Altars and pews are adorned with kiddy posters. The ambiance is out of a kindergarten classroom, with few programs dedicated to fatherhood and sonship — or even motherhood and daughtership, for that matter. Most children’s programs serve to emasculate young boys, neglecting to prepare them for adulthood and the need for the masculine archetypes of initiation and protectiveness.
The Church needs men. God needs men. Consider the great men of the Bible and the character they exhibited. Abraham. Jacob. Joseph. Moses. Joshua. Gideon. Samson. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Adventurers, judges, and warriors — or, in another word, men.
When Christ returns, He will do so in flaming glory. He will be wielding the sword of retribution and as the king of the world and just judge of mankind. God has always called men to become men, to embark on adventure, and to do battle against the temptations of the demons. If men will not answer the call, then, like Deborah, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Hildegard of Bingen, women must rebuke men to be men.
The de-masculinization of Christianity has touched the clergy and has gravely corrupted and compromised the priestly sacrament that the laity depend on. Rather than men joining its ranks, soft-spoken, sensitive, and spineless boys present themselves, only to receive no growth into manhood. Far from putting on the armor of God; dressing for battle; and wielding the axes, banners, and swords of the Christian struggle, these meek “shepherds” preach the ethos of compromise like the weak boy on the playground.
Now, more than ever, the Church needs men to swell its ranks and do battle for God like the saints of old and what the very language of the church on Earth, the Church Militant, implies. With that restoration, men and women both will once again be able to vigorously and courageously sojourn through the world to that heavenly Jerusalem.
Image: “The Return of the Crusader,” Karl Friedrich Lessing (1808–1880).
Paul Krause is a senior contributor at The Imaginative Conservative and has been published in academic journals and media outlets including Crisis Magazine, The Wanderer, The Remnant, Merion West, and Forbes Online. He holds an M.A. in theology from Yale and a B.A. in economics, history, and philosophy from Baldwin Wallace University.