|Judas' payoff, and a lamp for those going to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane|
1: Leon Podles' argument about masculinity.
2: How Podles thinks the Church became feminised in the High Middle Ages
3. Doubts about Podles' historical argument.
4. The role of Rationalism and Romanticism in confirming the feminine image of the Church.
5. The liturgy, and a solution to the problem.
I think this is an immensely important issue, so I'm going to devote a few posts to it; this one, and then some more after Christmas. In this one, I'm just going to give Podles' most basic claim, about how masculinity works. It is quite simple, fits into many obvious facts about culture, and has huge implications.
It can be expressed in three easy steps.
1. In order to attain some standing, respect or acceptance in a community, an individual needs to make some kind of contribution to it. Especially valued, obviously, are valuable contributions make at the cost of great effort, pain, and risk to life.
2. Women are able to make such a contribution in a way which is not open to men: through childbirth. This isn't all they can do, obviously; what is important is that it is not open to men. Men can't give birth. In the normal course of things most women who reach adulthood will go through childbirth, and even today this is a very big deal in terms of effort, pain, and risk. Their contribution to the community, and the community valuing them as a result, is assured in this way. To an extent, even the possibility of childbirth puts women through pain and bloodshed: again, this is not something open to men.
|Judas' kiss; St Peter's sword and the severed ear.|
That's the argument. Everything you've ever heard about 'girly' men makes sense in this context. In this context men have (in some sense) a fear of being subsumed by the female realm, because that would be the end of their self-understanding as men and the respect and value they attain as men. Masculinity, manhood, is in this sense not a biological inevitability, but an achievement; it is achieved by the kinds of experiences which can be described as initiations. Risk to life and limb in hunting and in warfare are the most obvious examples, but of course it can take many forms. This kind of risk-taking activity is something for which men are both equipped physically and mentally, and disposed to. Even tiny boys display behaviour connected with it. As a matter of objective fact men are overwhelming represented in high-risk professions and sports.
This kind of biological, psychological, and sociological fact is something which we ignore at our peril. Podles' next argument is that the Catholic Church in the West, and the Protestant churches, have become 'feminised' to the extent that men fear that close association with them is a threat to their hard-earned masculinity. And that this is why Christian church congregations in the West typically contain more women than men.
|The hand which strikes Jesus before Caiaphas; St Peter's cockerel.|
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