Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Traditional Mass and Men: a new Position Paper

The congregation at a Traditional Sunday Mass in St Bede's, Clapham Park
Over on Rorate Caeli I have publishing a new Position Paper for the FIUV (Una Voce Federation), on the Traditional Mass and men. Go over there to read it.

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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  1. "I can say with some confidence women typically make up about 45% of the congregation." This is roughly my sense, too, from travelling around the U.S. - it seems to average 40-50% women, on average. I can think of maybe two exceptions where it was less than that. I can also think of one where it was over.

    But the striking thing really is *age.* You will find an older cohort at almost any TLM. But you will also find a pretty complete age spectrum, one that skews young - and not just because there is almost always a number of young, large families. The last N.O. I attended was on a major feast day and of 200 people, I saw only a few children, one obvious father, and I could count the obviously under 30 men on one hand with fingers left over - and all but one were African exchange students. But there was an awful lot of gray and white hair, an observation I make without any disrespect.

    I shudder to think where many of these parishes will be 10-15 years from now, as the last Silent Generation and Baby Boomers really start to die off or retire away. Those were the last generations raised with any habitus of regular Mass attendance.

  2. Have you ever read Callum Brown's Death of Christian Britain? He chiefly comments upon evangelical churches, but his thoughts have wider relevance. The 'feminization' described by Callum Brown and other historians refers chiefly to the way that the evangelical church retreated from strong presence in wider public life, where male interactions were most located, and started to align itself closely with the domestic sphere of close communal and family life, especially as industrialization took men away from that realm (Charles Taylor speaks of a 'close symbiosis' between Christian faith and 'family values'). Faith focused on the private conversion and 'revival' and paid much less attention to public reformation of institutions and polities and established churches. It democraticized faith and transformed the church from a discipline-exercising polity with public authority to a voluntary association of saved individuals. The social space occupied by the Church became similar to that of a women's sphere.

    With this association of the church with the domestic sphere, piety, Brown argues, became feminized. The woman was seen as having peculiar moral authority in the central realm of the domestic and piety for men came to be associated with a sort of domestication. Women were regarded as possessing a sort of natural piety that men lacked. The woman's piety was placed at the moral heart of the domestic realm and the greatest threat to that sphere was the natural tendencies to impiety of men—drinking, gambling, sports, etc. Femininity and piety were closely aligned in the popular imagination. Men were the religious problem to which pious women were the solution. Women's religiosity and conversion were largely treated as matters of course, without little sense of struggle with serious sin or temptation. As Ann Douglas and others have observed of the American context, ministers and women joined together in moral crusades in the light print press to push for religiosity, but their literature was distinctively non-theological, anti-intellectual, and highly emotional and sentimental.

    The male realm was largely associated with impiety and stories of male conversion generally involved some sort of feminization. Men needed to become more emotionally demonstrative and sensitive, to commit themselves more fully to the domestic values of the faith, to operate in a more sensitive manner, to problematize the wider sphere of male activity, to abstain from key forms of male socialization, to recognize their peculiar moral and spiritual weakness compared to women, etc. They continued to function in the male realm—the ideal convert was someone like a soldier, for instance, whose masculinity was assured—but as one now connected to the domesticated piety of the church and women's spaces. The conversion involved the taming of the naturally impious man by feminizing him according to the piety that came more naturally to women—the pious influence of mothers and wives being especially emphasized—and that particularly belonged in the context of the home.

    Obviously, this can feel alienating for many of us as men. The Church continues to be peculiarly associated with the often sentimentalized domestic sphere and its values and fails clearly to address those of us who have little if any personal part in such a sphere. Its implicit model of piety seems to be skewed in the direction of women and lacks appreciation of virtues that are more typically weighted male. Its culture seeks to make us more domestic figures and gives little attention to the more combative and public modes of life, or to male sociability, which may be more immediate to us. Obviously, this is not universally the case, but it is the reality that many of us face.

    A less formal worship removes the Church from public space and aligns its more closer with domestic spaces. This is part of the retreat of the Church from public engagement, and also a part of its 'feminization'.

  3. The Catholic Church has a male priesthood. The male role in inherent in a healthy continuing Church.

    That male role has diminished notably in the post-Vatican II period. This has co-coincided with the collapse in the numbers of priests in the Novus Ordo form of the Latin Rite

    This form has undoubtedly feminised as part of the general adaptation to the secular concept of the female role. Readers, bidding prayer offerers, psalm singers, lay distributors of Holy Communion, and altar servers are now female majority activities.

    A part of the process is the elimination of the concept of the sanctuary

    This has contributed to the marked fall in the percentage of men attending Mass, particularly young men and teenagers, who are now rarely to be seen.

    The figures of male attendance at the EF form of the Rite indicate a much healthier Church.

    Now the conclusions to be drawn from these preliminary stats., is already clear.

    The future of the Church is likely to one of continuing decline in the NO form of the Rite and of steady growth in the EF form of the Rite. Church authorities must be recognising this although they most likely at present have no idea what to do about it. Perhaps time will sort most of it out and we will get back to a ( much smaller ) Western Church which is recognisably Catholic again.

    But what an awful waste of decades of time.

  4. Do you really want to attract men to Mass?

    It is easy, just you must apply sociology and Psycho-sociology.

    Or said with other words, do exactly what jews and muslims do:

    You must separate men from women (in other Christians churches, like the Coptic one, men are at your the left side (looking towards the altar), and women, to the right side.

    Still you will have an advantage:
    this will be the only place in UK where men can be men; (and women, women)

    Say that they do not come in crowds.

    Just wait when children accustomed to pray with men, grow up.

    Only boys that have received the first communion should be allowed to be with his father and elder brothers.

    Just try!
    The experience with the Catholic Church and the ravages of Concile, is that one thing is what we want; and another different thing is what Life give us.

    This is still aggravated with the bookish knowledge prevalent nowadays. Life observation, meditation and precaution disappeared through the drain.

    1. I have written about segregated seating here: