|The congregation at a Traditional Sunday Mass in St Bede's, Clapham Park|
On this blog I have discussed related issues over quite a few posts; you can see them under the 'masculinity' label. It is a fascinating and, as far as I can see, an under-researched subject. I don't get the impression that many people in positions of authority in the Church want to hear about it. They are too caught up in the imperative to 'reach out to women' to notice that it is men who are the most alienated from the Church today.
The issue is ultimately related to the question of the role of men and women in the Church and in society, but it should be possible to make Mass less unfriendly to men without committing oneself to any very controversial views about those matters. There are a number of simple correlations which have been made over many years and ring true.
Men are put off by spontaneity; they like ritual.
Rather than express emotions to order, they are prepared to make objective personal sacrifices (fasting is an example).
Rather than focus exclusively on the horizontal (community), they want to see some reference to the vertical (the Transdendant).
The correlation is stronger with younger men; it is weaker with more highly educated men. Just look around you next time you go to a liberal liturgy of any denomenation, compare the experience, and the audience, with that of your friendly local mosque or Orthodox Jewish synagoge, and I challenge you to contradict the generalisation.
What, exactly, is stopping every priest and indeed Protestant minister in the West from noticing this and doing something about it?
It is a long story, with a number of sub-plots. One is Romanticism, which tells us that only the spontaneous and emotional is authentic. But one issue is certainly the fact that many feminists agree with the analysis, and actually don't want to see more men in church.
I was struck by the words of the resident feminist sister in a church where, after a lot of campaigning by mostly young men, a Traditional Mass was finally going to be celebrated. She saw one of the young chaps carrying some Altar Cards to put on the Altar. You shouldn't do that! she exclaimed. 'Because the girls won't go.'
It wasn't true, of course, plenty of ladies attended. After seeing a lot of figures for men and women attending the Extraordinary Form, I can say with some confidence women typically make up about 45% of the congregation. What is happening with the Traditional Mass is not the driving away of women, but the non-driving away of men, who account for only about 35% of the typical Novus Ordo congregation. This liberal sister was nevertheless perfectly correct to see a connection with the EF and the spiritual needs of men. And she hated it.
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