Over the last two decades, a sociological problem has jolted apostolates, conferences, even entire communities. This issue pertains to the misunderstanding of authentic masculinity. A recent article brought to light many disturbing trends among young men, including the rising affluence gap between them and their more successful female peers. The article bases much of its premise on the apparent lack of drive young men exhibit as the numbers of educational degrees are swaying more and more in majority to the female population. Joblessness among young men grows while more and more females are taking high up positions at some of the largest companies in the world. This isn’t to say that women should not be in these positions, but it does suggsest we should look at the problem of men who lack the drive necessary to strive for the same position.
Writers such as Christina Hoff Sommers and Helen Smith, author of the article above, claim that the problem lies much deeper than just a simple lack of motivation, instead that the issue might be arising from the way the young male is increasingly programmed to act. The authors posit the educational system now has two maxims:
"Out: structured, competitive, teacher-directed classrooms that best support boys’ learning and outlets for natural rambunctiousness, including conflict-oriented play like ‘Cops and Robbers.’ Last year, 7-year-old Coloradan Alex Smith was suspended for throwing an imaginary grenade at ‘bad guys.’ In: behavior-modifying drugs designed to make boys attentive and controlled."
This type of ‘bury the testosterone’ tactic has been grown over the past few decades and unfortunately has caused a cultural phenomenon where authentic masculinity finds itself marginalized and headed towards non-existence. As a young man myself I often feel the pressure to conceal my masculinity, as well as viewing the masculinity of my peers as ‘something ain’t right here’.
The forced ostracism of masculinity has caused a rift against the confines of the all-embracing arms of the Church as well. The Church teaching on the masculinity of the priesthood, echoed by Pope John Paul II (the man who wrote possibly the most exquisite prose on femininity) when he stated in his 1994 apostolic letter on ordination, that “the church's ban on women priests is definitive and not open to debate among Catholics.” a hardline statement from a man who embodied gentleness and compassion. The steadfast and unwavering teaching of the Church’s role of the priest is a bull’s-eye mark for those who wish to do away with the notions of masculinity and would prefer a hazy, laissez-faire sexuality among the culture. In her wisdom, the Church knows, without a shadow of doubt, that the collar belongs on men and bids them to take that vocation as well as the implications of gender very seriously.
This is one of the primary reasons that the Church is held in such disdain from the cultural elites. Masculinity is blamed for the problems of war, strife, and violence as opposed to its actual source: sin.
So, what do we do now? Is it too late for classic masculinity to find the surface and breathe once again? The article above ends on a hopeful note: “The answer is not to ‘raise boys like we raise girls,’ as Gloria Steinem suggested, but to recognize that, while the sexes are equal, they’re naturally different — and that’s beautiful.”
Without diving too deep into the murky waters of progressive feminism, the article at hand offers a prime example of the problem that comes when feminism focuses on an unrestrained need to bog men down rather than build women up with the dignity they deserve. With all of the nonsensical educational philosophies floating around regarding male rowdiness, it seems what sociologists might need to be aware of is the Church’s teaching on the male-only priesthood. The apostolic tradition of men leading the faith creates a community where masculinity should thrive and excel in the service of others. It's a very different color than the painted picture cultural philosophies spread.
The priesthood very well could be the beacon of hope needed for men like me who want to see a rehashing or renaissance of what it means to be a man. In the priest's role we find what manhood is actually all about, that being service to the Bride. In his collar of strength he gives his life day in and day out to the needs of his fellow man and the desires of his Bride, the Church. If only more men would look to this place of encouragement and follow in the footsteps of the great men who came before them, not fearing their testosterone but embracing it and letting its great fire burn within the heart of the hero we men are called to be!
Even as a married man I find reassurance and inspiration in the lives of these leaders of the spiritual battle. Perhaps instead of reacting in anger towards the collar that only graces the neck of a man, the culture should take a second look at what they represent and realize that that what they exemplify, men willing to give their lives for others, can heal many of society’s wounds and misunderstandings of masculinity. If the cultural elites who want men to become better servants decided to understand and appreciate what the priesthood is, then maybe we would start to hold them up as the exemplars of masculinity they are.