Saturday, August 06, 2016

Feminisation of the liturgy: letter in the Universe

A Traditional Sung Mass in Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, celebrated
by Prior Cassian Folsom of Norcia.
This weekend the Catholic Universe is publishing a letter by me. The have illustrated it with a charming photograph of altar boys - not a photo of mine, I don't know where they got it.

The article which occasioned my letter noted that the parents of 'poor white boys' did not tend to turn up to parents' meetings at schools. This is one sympton of a truly massive problem. Belinda Brown gives a talk about the effect on boys' interest in eduction of one-parent families here.

I read with interest Leon Spence's article on the education system's failure with regard to poor white boys ('Society has to address problem of poor white boys' education', 22nd July). While implicitly blaming parents, however, he fails to note the effect on boys in general of the feminisation of both the curriculum, and of the teaching profession itself. A recent report by the OECD notes that boys do better in anonymous tests: consciously or not, teachers discriminate against them.

The Church faces a similar problem. The recent British Social Attitudes survey's sample of 2,000 people did not contain a single young man (18-25) who attended Catholic worship at least once a week, and revealed that, overall, men make up only a third of Catholic congregations.

Much has been written of the 'feminisation' of Catholic liturgy; the disappearance of altar boys is one obvious example. Other aspects are more subtle, like the emphasis on spontaneity, over-emotional 'signs of peace', and a general lack of mystery and reverence. By contrast, the Traditional Latin Mass attracts both sexes in roughly equal proportions.

Sociologists such as Mary Douglas and Anthony Archer also noted how the reformed, English Mass appealed more to middle class Catholics, by moving away from ritual towards a verbal form of participation.

The working class fathers of families, who were once the backbone of Catholicism in the UK, have thus been hit with a double whammy. It is time the Church stopped being part of the problem of disaffected poor boys and men, and became part of the solution.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw
The Latin Mass Society

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  1. It seems to me that following Vatican 2 the Church itself encouraged feminism, not only by the introduction of girl servers (which tended to put off the young boys with a probable future drop in vocations to the priesthood) but by allowing female readers. The question of the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion is a separate question. It has been postulated that the introduction of girl servers was intended to increase vocations to the religious life but this can be seen as a spectacular failure when looking a female religious orders (other than the traditionalist ones).
    Over many centuries it was accepted that service at the altar & nearness to the mystery of Transubstantiation was a great means of attracting boys to the priesthood & yet boys have been dissuaded from serving as (largely) they see the introduction of girls as a feminising influence.
    The Church itself (through some bishops) seems also to be dissuading young men from entering the seminaries by insisting that even men in their early 20s are "too young & immature" to begin priestly formation.
    We need to get back to a time when the priesthood was looked upon as one of the most important graces granted to men by becoming a Alter Christi & this will not be done by feminisation of the Church.

    1. But as often as not, at least in my experience in the UK, there are no servers at Mass. Further in the old days when each priest said Mass alone there were many more opportunities for boys to serve Mass which I for one certainly appreciated. To-day with less priests we have concelebration which doubly reduces the opportunities.

    2. Dear Nicholas. Isn't your response simply confirming what I have said? Looking logically, there are fewer priests because there have been fewer male altar servers & more priests concelebrate or do without servers because the OF liturgy not only allows but also expects concelebration.

  2. A point I have variously made before: in the Novus Ordo there is very little for servers to do, though functions frequently are invented to suit the number of servers and/or "serviettes" available. In the usus antiquior there is prescribed ritual for the server also. Getting this sort of thing right appeals to boys and is a source of satisfaction and feeling of achievement and self worth.

  3. Let us also not forget the moral standing of the Catholic church now lies in tatters following the abuse scandal. The catholic church now comes under the category of 'dodgy'.

  4. 'A general lack of mystery and reverence'...surely this has nothing to do with 'feminisation'..but everything to do with use of the vernacular and the misunderstanding of what the mass actually is...also the lack of contemplative prayer within the lives of the congregation

  5. See this post: