The very first Web Watch I wrote highlighted an unusual site, thenewemangelization.com, about “drawing men to Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church” and running an interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke, who claimed the Church has become too feminised, with “the goodness and importance” of men being obscured.
Catholicism does tend to be practiced more assiduously by women than by men, but this has long been so; over a century ago G.K. Chesterton observed that anti-Christians had a contempt for women’s intellect “for it was their great sneer at the Church on the Continent that ‘only women’ went to it”.
While there’s nothing new about claims that the Church is excessively feminine, it’s striking now to see such criticisms coming from within, sometimes in such bizarre forms as those flagged at patheos.com/blogs/withtheatheistsinthefoxholes.
A post entitled ‘Why are some Catholics “militarising” their Faith?’ cites real spiritual heroes from military life but raises important questions about Catholic men for whom the phrase ‘Church militant’ really just seems to mean ‘militant’, “who are obsessed with the trappings of war, the medieval Catholic Church, and overweening masculinity”.
Exhibit A for this study is a ‘Gun Metal Patriot Combat Rosary’, coming in a ‘Spiritual Ammo tin’ and exhorting Catholics to “use the most powerful of sacramentals by adding the Benedict Medal and Pardon Crucifix, which makes it a powerful spiritual assault weapon against evil forces”. It’s made a ‘patriot’ Rosary, apparently, by the inclusion of a little medallion shaped like the US to “Make America Holy Again”.
Exhibit B is the adoption of military terminology, with the US Marine Corps being a particular focus for this peculiar variant of ‘muscular Christianity’.
“It’s a weird blend of machismo and misplaced anxiety about their role in the world,” observes the blog’s soldier-author, adding that while real soldiers tend to find military life involves far more rules and paperwork than it does chest-thumping, those obsessed with certain aspects of militaria “like the militant overtones, the trappings of war without the fear of imminent and horrific violence” since “it makes them feel empowered by the perceived virtue of their cause”.
One obvious problem with this, he says, is the ‘otherism’ that a reduction of religion to spiritual warfare can entail.
“It allows the one side to paint themselves as standing in the absolute right; God is on their side (Lord, where haven’t You heard that before?); the Lord goes before them, so who can stand against them?”
Fathers, there are flies in my soup
While Twitter debate is often far from edifying, there can be occasional jewels there, and quite a few have been provoked by the decision by catholicherald.co.uk to publish a piece by Panagiotis ‘Taki’ Theodoracopulos entitled ‘The devout princess and the malignant Grey Lady’.
Containing anti-semitic slurs basic research would have shown as wholly unfounded, it provoked serious and furious responses from – among others – Dawn Eden Goldstein, tweeting from @DawnofMercy, and Rebecca Bratten Weiss, arguing at patheos.com/suspendedinherjar that “Catholics ought to have a zero tolerance policy for anti-semitism”.
Noting a couple of days later that the Herald subsequently featured an admirable piece by Sohrab Ahmari entitled ‘Why Taki’s views disgust me’, Dr Eden pointed out that the Taki piece was still unapologetically on the Herald website, and asked whether the aim is to present Taki’s views “as merely one possible valid perspective among many”. As one @rightscholar replied: “I’m afraid a plurality of perspectives approach that includes anti-Semitism and anti-papal sentiment is not very, um, Catholic.”
Coming off the back of this, Nathan Israel Smolin, who tweets as @CaptPeabody, wrote a fascinating January 2 thread on the “transformation among the normal suburban American Catholic intelligentsia since the election of Pope Francis”, while the Irish @RevDBH remarked a couple of days earlier that in recent years he’s found Catholic periodicals he had previously rated highly increasingly disagreeable.
“Reading them has been like eating soup & having to constantly pick flies out of that same soup,” he writes. “It doesn’t take too long to realise there’s something wrong in the kitchen.”