Why don’t as many men go to church as women?

Today is the 50th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

What great fruits the liturgical reforms have produced!  Jammed churches, long confession lines, full schools, lots of weddings and baptisms, convents bursting, seminaries churning out priests as fast as they can be ordained….

Back in 1967 when the reformers were creating the Novus Ordo, an experimental “Missa Normativa” was celebrated for a groups of cardinals and bishops. After this Mass, Card. Heenan of Westminster remarked to the Synod of Bishops in Rome:

At home, it is not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men who come regularly to Mass. If we were to offer them the kind of ceremony we saw yesterday we would soon be left with a congregation of women and children.

There is a good post at Cream City Catholic, which originates in Milwaukee, WI.  He tackles the question of why fewer men go to Mass than women.

This article, appearing in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, discusses various efforts being made by Milwaukee-area churches (Catholic and non-Catholic) to attract men back to the pews. [Reason #12 for SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM!!] The concern is that men are, for some mysterious reason, [Not mysterious to me.] checking out from liturgy or other Christian services.


According to a statistic presented in the article, the male/female discrepancy is especially felt in the Catholic Church, where 64% of parish life is comprised of women.

So why are the guys MIA?

This is another one of those instances within our local Church where you have a lot of people who subscribe to the conventional wisdom scratching their heads and asking “Why? Why? Why?” when the answer is not particularly elusive. This really isn’t a surprise to me, or to many others. I recall attending Mass in Rome at a local parish and, unbeknownst to me when I entered, it was a “Children’s Mass”. Start to finish, the liturgy was replete with childish, Sesame Street-styled songs and embarrassing hand motions. As I scanned the pews, only two groups of people were participating: the small children, and the women, especially the older women. The men, from young to old, were standing there, stone-faced, arms crossed, totally disengaged. It was painful. The music and everything else was thoroughly emasculating. No self-respecting man would participate in that. And they didn’t. If this is what is meant by “active participation” on the part of the laity, I and lots of guys, want nothing to do with it. Run for the hills.

This phenomenon has been replicated ad nauseam in the United States as well.

Authentic masculinity has been knee-capped in our Church. [OORAH!] This trend is conspicuously apparent in our liturgical life, as any manifestation of authentic masculinity is attacked as boorish male chauvinism, old manifestations of discrimination and oppression from a Church that is “unfairly” dominated by an all-male hierarchy. (The article cites an example of a parish in the Diocese of Madison where the pastor insisted on only boys serving as acolytes. Predictably, he received tons of criticism as a result. Fortunately, Bishop Morlino backed up his priest.) [Do I hear an “Amen!”?] What’s more, many of the “liturgical planning committees” have been taken over by women. The embellishments of many church buildings often look like a Jo-Ann Fabric was detonated inside. Pastel ribbons, crafts, baskets, streamers, quilts…BOOM!

What I’ve often referred to as the “Oprahfication” of our Church has had a direct effect on the number of men who opt out of liturgy. Much of our Church culture has imbibed a pandering, touchy-feely, soft sofa approach to dealing with real challenges, and guys don’t dig that. Coupled with a de-emphasis on the Sacramental life, the Eucharist in particular, many men simply see no point in attending Mass if all they’re “getting” is meaningless psychobabble and Stuart Smalley motivational talks.


Dead on.

Vast swathes of the Church have been wussified.   Part of this is internal to the Church.  Part of this comes from the decades long war on boys and men.

I think a huge part of this comes from the fact that our sacred liturgical worship is massively screwed up.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, Our Catholic Identity, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices, Vatican II and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Supertradmum says:

    Card. Heenan’s quotation, which is popular and known to the trads in England, was right on. The Latin Mass spirituality is hard, challenging, intellectual, not easy, accommodating, or emotional. That most of the modern interpretations of liturgy have appealed to the emotions absolutely have brought down worship to the level of feeling.

    How can we prepare men for the priesthood, or for the hard life of a layman in the world but not of the world without the TLM?

    Thanks for sharing this article and your comments.

  2. Stephen Matthew says:

    There is a real issue with liturgy in this yes, that is very much a factor, but I think there are some other elements as well. Certainly there is some degree of a catechetical problem, too, which seems to involve content, style, and also expectations by parents (or lack of expectations/encouragement by fathers). There is also an aspect having to do with the spiritual life, most of the various sorts of models of spirituality of late, and the language of those, (and much of pop piety and devotions) are a poor fit in this time for men. How can men, for example, insecure in their own identity and masculinity, feel at ease with even many time tested Marian devotions? Likewise what modern man is drawn to the Crucified when he suspects himself of being a physical coward, who’s only first hand experience with violence is playing video games and backing down from bullies at the first threat?

    We can fix the liturgical problem with relative ease compared to the other parts, and so perhaps that makes it all the more urgent to fix at least that one element, but I fear the battle is so much larger that even if we fix that piece we have not yet seen the darkest hour.

  3. JARay says:

    I knew Cardinal Heenan when he was the Bishop of Leeds. In those days the Leeds Diocese was known as the Cruel See because he upset quite a few of his clergy by moving them around the diocese in order to stop them becoming too comfortable in one parish! He was generally well respected otherwise.

  4. acricketchirps says:

    Why don’t as many men go to church as women?

    Speaking from experience, the last time I went the church as a woman I never heard the end of it from my wife.

    Now I’ll go read the post.

  5. Ben Kenobi says:

    “insecure in their own identity and masculinity, feel at ease with even many time tested Marian devotions?”

    Personally? As a convert? When’s the last time your parish sang the Lourdes Hymn? Marian devotions, like the Rosary are amazing. Most parishes I’ve seen tend to shy away from it. Why? I’m not sure. We hear constantly about the ‘lack of role of women in the church’, and yet they seem ashamed of Mary. Why aren’t we singing her praises every week? The reality is, it’s not about affirming the femininity of women, but about it’s antithesis – a replacement of the harder path with something – not quite so difficult. As for Christ crucified, not having any meaning for those presumably misbegotten Millenials engrossed in their gaming – we’re the same folks putting out the graphic abortion signs. Would your parish put that up or recoil in horror?

  6. JoyIsLikeTheRain says:

    I’m a man, and I would drag my kids to children’s mass to hear a homily like this:

  7. Imrahil says:


    That said, not as an ideal but as first aid: Many of these childish songs get quite interesting if you only sing them like this: loudly, for everyone to hear, but three octaves lower than the rest.

    I can’t prove it… But just try. Of course it totally prevents the intended sound. I wonder if that’s so bad.

  8. Mercyknight says:

    I could not agree MORE!!! This has been the major campaign with the Knights of Divine Mercy. We discovered long ago that men recognize their role as spiritual warriors and protectors when we celebrate Mass, Vespers, Adoration, etc. with the mind of the Church. Reverent and sacred liturgies help men to “get it.” In other words, they “touch” the supernatural and find God, and find His adversary as well. We have been doing all we can to arm these men with the spiritual weaponry capable of bringing down Satan’s strongholds over them, their families and the world. This begins with regular Confession.

    Go to knightsofdivinemercy.com and check us out. If you are in the area, come to our Night of Knights this Friday. Or come to our diocesan men’s retreat on March 7-8, featuring Bishop Morlino, Fr. Zuhlsdorf (and me).

  9. Priam1184 says:

    As a man who regularly attends the Ordinary Form I confess that it is a struggle, and of course it was done, and is still being done on purpose. I took a class at the University of Minnesota many moons ago that basically covered the history of Leftist radicalism in Europe and was taught by a quite open and inveterate Marxist. When we were talking about the nineteenth century the man kept referring to how the radical thinkers of the day (Marx, Engels, etc.) saw the women of that time as the main obstacle to their precious revolution. Because women kept the family together and worked within the household to maintain both the order and continuity of society. These ones constantly preached the radicalization of women as the prerequisite for their success. Well, the twentieth century accomplished this for them and it infiltrated the Church. Nothing has done more to damage the Western world than the golden apple of women’s ‘liberation’ tossed into the household, and this has infected the Church as well. The changes in the Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council seem designed to disrupt and annihilate the whole order of things in the Liturgy and the Mass by messing around with the roles of men and women.

    Last Holy Thursday I saw the two priests at a parish that I used to regularly attend ‘renew their commitment’ to the president of the parish council (not the bishop), a woman. [?!? GOOD GRIEF!] Even she looked nervous up there in that role. Feminized priests and women in roles that they were not made for have caused so much division and discord and made the Liturgy difficult to sit through if one has any notion of the right order of things. Though I will say that there are starting to be many moves back in the other direction now, slowly but surely the momentum has changed, though we probably won’t see the result in our lifetimes.

  10. Elly says:

    I agree, but I have also noticed that there are more women than men at the EF Mass I attend, although the difference isn’t as pronounced.

  11. Rachel Pineda says:

    “Much of our Church culture has imbibed a pandering, touchy-feely, soft sofa approach to dealing with real challenges, and guys don’t dig that.”

    Yeah well, women don’t dig that either. So how in the world did all of this happen?

    Before I became a Catholic I spent a lot of time researching the Church. I actually mourned the loss of the EF of the Mass almost worldwide. I asked my husband, a cradle catholic, WHY? He did not know. All he knows is that in the 70’s there were changes that happened to the Mass in his home parish so rapidly that his family packed up and moved to another parish with a more reverent Mass. Hopefully, and I assume it Providentially is, the wounds and bleeding out from these wounds is strengthening the faith of many people and we or future generations will see a spectacular renewal, even if it makes the Church smaller.

  12. dean24us says:

    While there many legitimate concerns a person could raise regarding Sacrosanctum Concilium, I don’t believe that this is one of them. Indeed, this isn’t even a Catholic-only phenomenon; I was raised in the Protestant denominations, and I recall noticing the disparity between male and female even as a child. Most (if not all) Christian denominations are seeing the same thing, and have been for quite a while. Google “why don’t men go to church”, and you’ll see all sorts of articles from pretty much every Christian denomination, psychological journals, and other religions ask the same question.

  13. dean24us says:

    That should have read “…noticing the disparity between male and female ATTENDANCE even as a child.” ;-)

  14. Pingback: The Wimpification of Catholicism | The American Catholic

  15. Why don’t men come to Mass?

    See the lovely pictures in the post above this one.

  16. albinus1 says:

    The Orthodox don’t seem to have this problem. If anything, according to Orthodox friends of mine, men are sometimes more involved in Orthodox parishes than women. Why? Because Orthodoxy is hard. Done properly, it’s challenging and difficult, particularly with all of the fasts spread throughout the year. Men respond to these challenges and want to work to rise to them.

    There is no reason why we can’t set a similar challenge for ourselves; our tradition is certainly filled with fasts, liturgical rites, paraliturgical devotions, and other things that can give people opportunities to challenge themselves. But we have, to a great extent, abandoned them.

    Look at this business of suspending the Mass obligation for holy days that fall on a Saturday or Sunday. Can’t ask people to go Mass two days in a row! That would be too ha-a-a-a-rd!. Or moving Ascension from Thursday to Sunday because, of course, we can’t possibly expect people to go to Mass during the week as well as on Sunday!

    Men respond to challenges, and the Catholic Church has largely stopped challenging them.

    Also, Orthodox priests have beards. I know that there is a difference in tradition between the East and West in this regard. But whatever else you want to say about bearded priests, they certainly look masculine.

  17. Robbie says:

    Why don’t men come to Mass in the numbers they once did? Simple. Mass has become a Dr. Phil styled hour of group help. The hand holding, the terrible modernist song choices, and the constant noise all go against the male persona. And this is evident with acolytes. When girls take over serving, the boys disappear. In my parish, it’s rare to see a boy as an altar server. It might happen 25% of the time, but that’s about it.

    As an example, I can speak about my best friend. He was born and raised Catholic, but he never goes to a Catholic Church. Some of that is due to his wife(!!!), but he’s told me, on more than one occasion, the Mass is just boring and lacks a sense of reverence. He chooses to attend a Protestant Church, infrequently though, that actually looks like a church on the interior, plays traditional hymns on an organ, and even says a few prayers in Latin.

    Sadly, I think the experimentation is about to make a comeback.

  18. Mojoron says:

    I really had to think back to 1967, one year out of high school and heading to the Fleet and possibly to Vietnam, mass was something that I was FORCED to go to when I was in the service. Before I enlisted, I was an altar boy, sang in the choir and sang in latin all of the parts of the mass including the mass of the dead. I cannot say that Novis Ordo drove me away, but I did see priests and my Sister of Loretto sister come home in 1965 and figured there was something happening. Then there was the predator priests who were just starting to come out of their lair, especially in Kansas City. After coming back into the church in 1997, by virtue of my Lutheran wife who said she would convert if I came back, God bless her, I actually find no dislikes of the current mass except for some priests who can’t seem to say the words right: “THIS…IS…MY…BODY…” Instead its: “thisismybodywhickwillbegivenupforyoudothisinremembranceofme” or give any semblance of a cognitive sermon. In the nearly 20 years I have been back, there has been zero sermons on abortion, birth control, death, heaven, hell, the importance of confession (I definitely give my age away on that one.) There has been ample sermons on the “bishops new deal,” ad nauseum, or why we should support bishops new push on immigration rights.

    While I would love to attend a Latin Mass, I’m afraid, though, that I would not make it a weekly event. I have a PPX compound not to far from where I live and I often wanted to go down there to see what all the fuss is about, but I’m afraid that I would be branded by the “real” catholics as a PPX’er. I still may do it, after all, If I can survive bombs, planes and bullets I can survive a PPX latin mass.

  19. Lin says:

    We go to Mass for the Eucharist and because we want to know, love, and serve God in this world and the next. I totally agree that we need to reform the liturgy, whether it be Latin or not, but we also need to have REAL catechism classes for all ages.

  20. prayerisouronlyhope says:

    If you can make yourself go to the SPPX Mass, I believe you will find the homily you are looking for. Our priest VERY regularly speaks on the importance of Confession (almost every Sunday) and discusses the Last Four Things often. We have a monthly Rosary at a local abortion clinic. I must confess, however, that he really doesn’t mention birth control very often. One look at the large families in our parish would be a good indication that it isn’t really needed – but he does talk about it occasionally.
    I hope you can brave the comments by the “real” Catholics you mention to at least give it a try.

  21. Stephen Matthew says:


    If you feel I was attacking Millenials, and feel the need to get defensive about it, that is a very interesting thing. I identified no particular generation or age group, yet I did write from the first hand experiences of living in a certain generation. Care to guess which one?

  22. prayerisouronlyhope says:

    On the other hand, these men may not go to Mass (which I doubt), but they are willing to protect the Church.

    (hope the link is okay, Fr. Z?)

  23. JacobWall says:

    Tonight I went to our evening Mass. It is our only weekday Mass, recently introduced by our priest. The priest keeps the Mass a little more “traditional” – no guitar, only traditional Catholic hymns, all dedicated to Our Lady. (I believe that this is because he has full control of it, unlike the Sunday Mass which is still subject to the desires of the choir and certain committees.) I don’t know what happened today, but the usual group of about 20 disappeared.

    There were 4 of us, all men – including the priest. No women. The other men were elderly. One of them simply did not do any of the responses. I believe he would’ve been quite content just to pray and listen, and not “actively participate.” The other never uses a missal, and mixes up the old translation responses with the new ones, and often responds at the wrong time, and with the wrong phrase. When he does get it right, he responds very, very quickly, and his loud voice booms over and disrupts the crowd of “normal” responders. (Today that “crowd” was only me, fighting to get the correct responses in at the right time over this gentleman.) I also don’t get the feeling that he is enthusiastic about active participation, and that’s why he doesn’t put in the effort to “do it right.”

    Yet, both of these gentlemen also show up an hour before Mass every time for Adoration and/or Rosary. When the rosary is not being prayed, they pray silently and reverently before Mass. They stay a brief time afterwards and pray quietly, leaving quickly afterwards, even when the church has groups of people standing around and socializing. When no one else comes on Wednesdays, they are there (always!!) Yet, as far as I can tell, they would be the last ones to go to the priest and ask him to change the Mass to their tastes. They’re there for other reasons.

    It seems to me that these two men are completely lost in the NO, but have managed to hold out stubbornly for last 50 years.

    If my impression was right, I believe all three of us would’ve been happier with something like the TLM, where we could just pray and focus on God. I should really say 4, since I know that this is the priest’s preference as well. The idea occurred to me that if this happens again, I should ask the priest to consider making the Wednesday Mass even a bit more traditional – perhaps even a TLM.

  24. vetusta ecclesia says:

    Boys become men. So do altar boys. It is rightly stated that where there are altar girls the boys disappear but it should also be said that in my observation while altar girls enjoy the exposure altar boys are aware that in the Novus Ordo there is, in fact, practically nothing worthwhile for an altar boy to do. Boys enjoy doing well drilled things properly and in teams. Only the Vetus Ordo, or a celebration of the NO as it was intended, can supply that.

  25. There are plenty of men in our parish. Mind you, we had a very conservative priest for 35 years, followed by a succession of 2 other very conservative priests. We have only boys serving Mass. We have a communion rail and are not afraid to use it. And our PP says Mass facing God.

    But apart from that, we rugged feministas run the show … of course …

  26. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I think we mostly agree that since the 1950s, our liturgy, our extra-liturgical prayers and devotions, and our presentation of doctrine have been very much watered-down, made insipid, made to pander to the popular taste. These changes, which it is claimed were put in place to make the faith “more accessible,” and which are supposed to reflect “compassion,” are, to me, not so much feminizing as infantilizing; they are subtle insults to the intelligence, taste, and strength of character of the faithful and of visitors; these changes seem to envision the members of the congregation as if they were small children who need to be engaged and entertained with smiles and lots of eye contact, and have their hands held and have bright perky shapes and colors to look at and fun peppy songs to sing. Nothing challenging – neither linguistically, musically, visually, intellectually, or spiritually. All accessible to a six-year-old.

    Women (some women) don’t seem to mind as much, perhaps because they are accustomed to being a part of an audience in entertainments for small children, where they act as chaperones, and might even put on the entertainments. As mothers, grandmothers, and teachers, women learn to shift easily and adjust well between the world of adults and young children.

    Men – many men, I think – have far less tolerance for religious proceedings which do not address them as full-fledged adults. I think men want to participate in proceedings that are characterized by a transcendent beauty that is inaccessible to mere children. I think men want to participate in proceedings which are intellectually challenging, which call forth the very best in them, proceedings that are require some years of training and experience to participate in well. I think many women want these things, as well, but, being women and more patient, are better able to cope with attending Mass, while not receiving them.

    I’m not sure I agree that the objectionable changes are so much “feminine” in character, as they are “infantilizing” in character, and that women are more willing to overlook this insult to their intelligence than are men.

    I could be wrong.

  27. pmullane says:

    Well, why would men come to Mass? Who gets told that they have to go? Not at my former Catholic School. When do boys have their masculinity praised, when are they nurtured? Where is the father figure, the role model? So many priests like to hang about with the ‘old women’ of the parish, rather than actively seek out the young men to speak to, learn their names, encourage and befriend.

    Honestly, for the uncatechised Catholic normal masculine heterosexual male, why would you get up early on a Sunday morning to hear:
    Women gossip;
    a gooey 70’s song;
    some prayers you dont undertstand;
    a reading that you’ve heard a million times before;
    some guy (who doesnt have to worry about the wife, the kids, paying the bills etc etc) telling us to be nice to kittens or say something nebulous about ‘our journey’;
    some woman getting up and asking us to pray that everyone is nice to each other;
    more flower power music;
    more prayers that go over our heads;
    something to eat, its like bread and stuff but I think its meant to be lieke Jesus or something but nobody believes that really, I dont get it really and I dont really think about it much but if I might as well go up and get some because the old lady who works with my mum is the eucharistic minister and might tell mum if I dont go;
    The priest guy reads soem notices, tries to crack a joke that all the old biddys guffaw at;
    More praying;
    More 70’s tye dye classics (hope its short);
    As soon as the music finished…….women (of both sexes) gossiping away.

    Honestly, what normal man would be interested in all that? But, none of that is intrinsic to the ordinary form, but to some extent is intrinsic to a suburban parish Mass. Brave priests have to re instill into liturgical worship mystery and awe, we have to preach truths, especially relevant truths, we have to introduce Christ to people and catechise effectively.

  28. PA mom says:

    I think that overtly emotional music has been a factor. It gets excessive to me as a woman sometimes, though I admit to being a more intellectual/less emotive sort of female. Especially when it is bad, high, screechy, off pitch… I appreciate that she is trying, but my husband does not.
    The lack of silence and stillness is likely a factor. My son prefers to be in Church when it is empty, quiet and still. He is clearly more attentive then, more introspective.
    And homilies? Obviously meat is good, but men also tend to have a practical streak to them. I cannot think of a sermon I have heard where fatherhood has ever been discussed, sharing the wisdom of the older fathers of the parish through the voice of the priest. I have heard a sermon on the state of husband once, I believe, by a married deacon, as was fairly appropriate, but I think a priest should still have something to add on other occasions.

  29. donato2 says:

    I agree 1000% that the Mass has been feminized and infantilized (and Protestantized). However, the prevalence of women at church long predates Vatican II. I know for example that even before Vatican II it was very common in Italy on Sunday mornings to see men chatting together in the piazza in front of the church as they waited for their wives and children who were inside attending Mass. I also remember that Karol Wojtla made a remarked in the early 1960s that religion was perceived as a “women’s thing” (this remark was made in a published talk that he gave at a spiritual retreat in Poland for youth). So something deeper is at play than the current state of the NO mass.

  30. chantgirl says:

    I agree that the Stuart Smalley Mass style has turned away many men from Church (my own husband hated going to Mass before we found the EF), but there is a second roadblock- sexual sin. The number of men (and increasingly women) using pornography is staggering. Porn and the related self-abuse is an incredibly difficult habit for many men to break. How many have paid for an abortion or looked the other way when their girlfriend had one? How many have been using contraception in their marriages? These men would greatly benefit from the Sacraments, but how can the Church lure them back? Apart from having good Liturgy, it seems some John the Baptist style priests and preachers need to go on the offensive and go out looking for the lost. Call them to repent, and then give them access to the Sacraments. When they repent and come looking for the Sacraments, don’t short-change them with bad liturgy.

  31. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I won’t call you out – you know who you are:

    “Old biddys”?

    You’d better smile when you say that, pardner.


    Old Biddy who Packs.

  32. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Italics off

  33. pmullane says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae:

    Read in context – the opinion of your average young man about attending the average suburban OF parish Mass.

  34. Unwilling says:

    Several arguments here suggest that men differentially don’t attend because the liturgies are less than desirable. If it’s the fault of the liturgy, why would women like it any better?

    Forty or fifty years ago, roughly, I was spending 6 months at a Benedictine house in the Caribbean. I was surprised to see the sexual difference in participation on Sundays (when busloads came from the city to attend mass with the monks — N.O. in Latin). The women kneeled at the pews. The equinumerous men stood bunched around and outside the main doors, talking, joking, and smoking. Obviously, there was some cultural norm that had developed that sanctioned it (the monks did not like it and occasionally one would, vainly, exhort the men to come inside). It was not my role to address or even mention it. I cannot be sure why; but my guess is that the men did not believe — somehow the catechesis was effective with the women and not the men. Guessing.

  35. Dave6429 says:

    Is it time for a theology of masculinity for the New Evangelization? I THINK SO!

    Fr. Meconi asks, “How would the men of our parishes and in our pews be different today if John Paul had written the encyclical, say, On The Dignity of Man—Viri Dignitatem?”

    Read more and why in my blog here:


  36. I’d rather make this comment anonymously, only because I want it to be clear that I am not drawing attention to myself. Since that isn’t possible…

    First, agreed!

    Second, my personal experience in job hunting within the Church:
    On two occasions when I was barely considered for a position (one parish level, one diocesan), I chose to look into the credentials and experience of the persons hired instead of me. I did this to better understand what might make me a more desirable candidate.
    In both cases, my references were never contacted. I found that I was more experienced and more educated than the person chosen. In both cases, the person chosen was a young woman. I didn’t even get the courtesy of an interview. And it wasn’t as if I was grossly over-qualified for these positions either.
    While I absolutely do not claim to *know* why I wasn’t actually considered for these positions, and slightly younger, less experienced, less educated women were, I see no significant reason apart from gender.

    Even in fairly conservative parishes, it seems that positions are given to women over men as some nonsensical sort of reparation or apology for the fact that women can’t be ordained. While this may seem tangential, I think it stems from the same source.

  37. vandalia says:

    There are a couple of problems with this argument:

    First, it would be valid if there was a noticeable decrease in the male/female Mass attendance ratio after Vatican II. However, after reading through old parish bulletins (my parish has them bound and the collection dates from the 1870’s) the number of men (relative to women) attending Mass is higher from 1970-2013 than from 1870-1970 . (For most of those years, attendance at each Mass – broken down by gender – was reported.)

    Second, according to this article the level of male attendance is less than in protestant denominations. Now, my experience with protestant services is limited to skimming through the TV channels and hearsay, but it would seem these services are far more music-oriented, hands-in-the-air, touchy-feely than any Catholic Mass. So that data is not consistent with the theory.

    Now, I hate the touchy-feely stuff, but I also strongly believe that bad arguments are from the Devil.

  38. dholwell says:

    I have found that where the Knights of Columbus Council is strong, there is active male participation in the parish. It may be a chicken-egg question with respect causality, but the correlation is clear.

  39. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:




    Old Biddy who Still Packs.

  40. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:


    Oh! No! It occurred to me after I hit “Post” that “hey-four-roger” may be a hopelessly out-of-date expression. I googled it. It is.

    It means “OK”, and it’s Citizens’ Band Radio slang from the late 1970s. And it’s so obscure, it’s unGooglable.

  41. Supertradmum says:

    As to age groups at the TLM, I can say from experience in two states, that the vast majority of those attending the Tridentine Mass are between the ages of 1-35 and the second group are those ages 70-85 or so. I am the only one in my age group at the Mass I attend currently.

    Few Boomers and less Gen Xs. And, there are more women than men, sadly, even at the TLMs. In fact, the two times I attended St. John Cantius in the past month, there were more women than men.

  42. Dienekes says:

    Went to a Catholic boys’ boarding school in the late 50s. Daily Mass, Latin, Gregorian chant, great bells, monks that were MEN. A lot (algebra, chemistry!) didn’t stick, but the important stuff did, and I thank God it did.

    I don’t remember needing or wanting to get modernized, feminized, or sensitized, but SOMEBODY thought it was a great idea. When I got out of the service in late ’68 everything had already changed. The Mystical Body was kidnapped while we were looking the other way…

    In spite of it all I’m in “for the duration” plus eternity. But rather than ask why men stay away, we should be asking why they come at all. Because it sure isn’t easy.

    If they ever invent a working time machine–I’m outa here.

  43. Elizium23 says:

    Interesting observation about Knights of Columbus vs. participation by men. Especially to me, because when I joined the Knights at my parish in 2008, we had a quite active council which held a pancake breakfast every month, assorted fundraisers throughout the year, and had quite a few volunteers who were vigorously active in meetings and service projects of all kinds. Now with our past two Grand Knights our activity has dropped to an alarming nadir. Meeting attendance even dropped off. I am extraordinarily dismayed at this, being a young single man with a lot of volunteer time on my hands. I declined a nomination to be GK as I could not handle that. I am one person and I cannot save my dying council. It is very upsetting to me, but what can I do? That is our current trajectory. In the seven years I have attended my parish, though, I have not noticed an observable fluctuation in the overall participation of men. There is a pretty good balance of liturgical ministers who are both sexes. Plenty of men attend liturgies; while we may not be in the majority, we are well-represented. This year we transitioned to an all-boy altar server corps. The decay of the KofC Council is a pretty new thing. I hope against hope that it can be reversed. Time will tell what it will do to the overall male participation in parish life.

  44. PA mom says:

    Vandalia- the Protestant thing is different. There are strains of it which are far more practical.
    My husband barely raised Protestant attends Mass with us weekly. He likes Jim Bob Duggar, though and so I encouraged him to sign up from the website to daily inspirational readings. I have looked at many of them and find that they discuss specific ways of living in virtue, in identifying and letting go of sinful practices, applying the faith to business, to friendships,to marriage to parenthood… He is still reading them a year later.
    Practical and short.

  45. Dear Father Z & all,
    I shared this post with a Catholic guy (40-something) who no longer attends Mass with any regularity. His reply may be insightful, or may just be typical, but I thought I would share it for discussion’s sake:

    “I think real men who are intelligent and observant are turned away from mass and by the church by people who constantly focus on the “small minded rules”*, and who spend too much time judging other parishioners (or “fallen” Catholics) for a seeming breach of dogma. Real men know that Christ’s mission was to instill compassion, and to know that sinners can be saved … and forgiven … through mercy and not bludgeoning sinners about the head with rigid and inconsistent dogma.

    Speaking as a man, I am more drawn to the Church now when I read Pope Francis proclamation on this topic: “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”*

    I have felt this way a long time, and have frankly been frustrated by the absence of that mercy and compassion in those that focus on the trees (rules) instead of the forrest (God’s mercy). For Example, I was disgusted but silent when Pope Benedict launched a crackdown on American Nuns who were accused of letting dogma and doctrine take a backseat to their social justice work caring for the poor. Social justice, caring for the poor, compassion, forgiving one another, should be the target, and the rules should be designed to accomplish that target, not discourage it.

    You will see that It is that focus on Mercy, Compassion, Forgiveness that will bring all people back, not just men, and attendance is what the Church needs to spread the Gospel. I believe I know where you stand, but I disagree with Father Zuhlsdorf on this one. I have said out loud, “this Pope is going to get me back to Church.” I wouldn’t like a Church of Fr. Z.”
    (*”A Big Heart Open to God,” La Civilta Cattolica, September 30, 2013)

  46. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Bridget Theresa quoted a man of her acquaintance who said, “Social justice, caring for the poor, compassion, forgiving one another, should be the target, and the rules should be designed to accomplish that target, not discourage it. ”

    The gentleman being quoted reminds me of the Bolsheviks, who wanted to achieve true freedom and equality for all the workers. The Bolsheviks were committed to the notion that only a massive social, political, and economic revolution could bring about that justice, and that to delay or prevaricate on making the revolution was nothing less than to oppress the workers. “The rules should be designed to accomplish that target, not discourage it” was precisely what the Bolsheviks believed, too, and so, if a village assisted the army of their enemies, it was considered merciful on the part of the Bolsheviks to come in and to massacre and burn that village – men, women, and children – because that village had done something to oppose the Revolution (which was nothing other than to oppose freedom and equality for the workers). And similarly, to round up, shoot, and imprison all who stood in the way of the Revolution. Most merciful and compassionate.

    The Bolsheviks’ view was: There are no moral absolutes. Moral absolutes are for people who don’t know how to think for themselves. The rules need to be about making justice and equality available to everybody, not just to the few.

    And so under them, under Lenin, and under Stalin, we had a society that could pride itself upon being fair and compassionate . . . with hundreds of millions dead over a space of forty years.

    As for me, I don’t much care for man-made rules made up to bring about a more compassionate and merciful order. God has already given us His rules on this topic, as He has done about so many other topics – it’s just that we have often failed to observe His commandments on this topic, as we have done on lots of other topics, as well.

    That this congregation of sisters, or that order of friars, or this lay association wish to pick and choose from among which of God’s commandments they want to observe, leaves me . . . unimpressed. We have to observe all of them. All.

    Or we end up with chaos.

    No, thanks, just the same.

  47. jflare says:

    I must suggest that the gent who offered these comments may well have fallen away from the Church for a particular reason: He seems to like the idea of compassion, but doesn’t wish to abide by any of the rules that naturally follow from the Church’s beliefs.
    Put simply, I will never willingly attend Mass at a parish that tries to inflict this balderdash.
    It’s precisely because the Church DIDN’T focus firmly enough on “evil” rules when we were youngsters that so many of my generation have thoroughly loused up their lives.

    Whatever his desires may be, Pope Francis can’t change the fact that sinful intentions of many of the masses of people will bar them from returning permanently.
    One cannot seek to repent of one’s sins at the same time as one holds fast to those same sins.

  48. For Example, I was disgusted but silent when Pope Benedict launched a crackdown on American Nuns who were accused of letting dogma and doctrine take a backseat to their social justice work caring for the poor. Social justice, caring for the poor, compassion, forgiving one another, should be the target, and the rules should be designed to accomplish that target, not discourage it.

    I hear you, Bridget, but I think you’re missing the target a little.

    Social justice, caring for the poor, compassion, forgiving one another are not the target at all.

    A personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and working our way to Heaven to be with Him forever because we are so in love with Him, is the target.

    What we do here and now determines whether we get there, or we don’t.

    If it was all about social justice, caring for the poor, etc, that would exclude a lot of frail elderly and disabled people from the Kingdom of Heaven, because they just can’t do that kind of work in a practical way. If it was all about “feeling” compassionate, that would exclude a lot of people with developmental disorders and autism, because they can’t manage that very well.

    But really, it’s all about OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. And this is open to anyone, any time.

    Your male friend doesn’t really have a relationship with God. He may think he does, because he thinks about the word ‘compassion’, and possibly rates himself more highly than us awful hypocritical church-going folk who believe in dogma and stuff like that.

    And yet, does he really have a relationship with the REAL God? Or just a pretend God, a figment of his imagination, who is endlessly forgiving even when we aren’t sorry for what we’ve done?

  49. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I wouldn’t say “no relationship.” Us hearing God’s call to care for one’s neighbor is important to God. It’s just not the full story.

    (And of course, frail people praying to God on behalf of their poor neighbor is also practical, and the government doesn’t fund that even a bit.)

  50. bookworm says:

    There’s one nagging question I have with regard to Cardinal Heenan’s reported assertion that the “experimental” liturgy which became the Novus Ordo would appeal only to women and children.

    My late father, born in 1923 and with plenty of experience of the pre-Vatican II church, had little if any use for formalities of any kind. He disliked wearing suits and ties — he called them “monkey suits” — and preferred blue-collar work. Although he was a Knight of Columbus for more than 50 years, he never had any interest in becoming Fourth Degree because he didn’t want to have to wear the fancy “getup”. He preferred paper plates to china and would eat just about anything set before him as long as it was edible. He owned only used cars and didn’t care what they looked like as long as they got you from Point A to Point B. In general, he was not the kind of guy who would fuss over anything and he always valued practicality over aesthetics.

    He was a faithful Mass-goer all his life, until he became too infirm to continue. I never had the chance to ask him what he personally thought of the switch from the Tridentine Mass to the Novus Ordo — he didn’t like to talk about religious matters or other personal subjects openly — but I suspect that he either didn’t care or actually preferred the switch to English and the simpler, more prosaic prayers. Why would someone like him — and there were, and are, surely a lot of other Catholic men like him out there — think that dropping Latin and all the extraneous “smells and bells” “wussified” the Mass? If anything I’d think they regarded the keep-it-simple approach as MORE “manly”.

  51. ASD says:

    My favorite line from SC § 22.3: Quapropter nemo omnino alius, etiamsi sit sacerdos, quidquam proprio marte in Liturgia addat, demat, aut mutet.

    A translation that is not slavish: Say the black, do the red.

  52. The Masked Chicken says:

    BridgetTeresa’s friend said:

    “Real men know that Christ’s mission was to instill compassion, and to know that sinners can be saved … and forgiven … through mercy and not bludgeoning sinners about the head with rigid and inconsistent dogma.”

    It appears that he does not know Christ’s mission, at all. His mission, most certainly, was not to, “instill compassion, ” what ever that means or, even to show that sinners can be saved through mercy. In fact, if one compares Jesus’s first and last public statements, his mission is clearly defined:

    [Matt 4: 12 – 17]
    Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee;
    and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Caper’na-um by the sea, in the territory of Zeb’ulun and Naph’tali,that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
    “The land of Zeb’ulun and the land of Naph’tali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–
    the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”
    From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

    [John 18: 37]
    Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”

    In fact, Jesus speaks 10 times in Scripture about repentance. Now, one repents back to sound dogma.

    Let me be blunt. Let me be clear. Let me speak to that man: compassion, alone, will not save you. Mercy can save you, but only if God is able to recognize His own mercy in yours, but, in order to show that particular mercy to others (that belongs to God) through your own life, you, first, have to know what the nature of that mercy really is. It is not social work; it is not, “being good,”; it is not simple benevolence. Even the pagans do as much. Jesus was quite clear:

    [Luk 6:32-35]
    “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
    And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
    And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
    But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.

    It is true that Jesus ate with sinners, but he did not eat with them expecting them to stay in their sin. What physician goes to visit a sick patient and does not expect him to take the cure that he leaves with him?

    Jesus said: [Matt 21: 28 – 32]
    “What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
    And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went.
    And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.
    Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

    For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.”

    All of the compassion of a Christ is aimed at either repentance – a restoration of the bond of sacred charity between God and the man – or the preservation of it. Jesus could be blunt. He could be severe, even. For the sake of, “compassion, ” would you be willing to tell a man to pluck out his eyes?

    I, strongly, suspect that you need to really seek to understand the nature of Jesus’s compassion and his mercy and how they are coincidental with his dogma before you continue in making judgments against who you speak.

    Jesus said:
    Luk 17:3
    Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him;

    Compassion without dogma is mere sentimentalism. Compassion is part present and part future, part is and part if. Jesus looked at the rich young man with compassion, but, then he said [Matt:10 – 21]:

    And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

    Your compassion is useless unless it leads the person you serve to follow Christ, at least a millimeter better than they did before. Follow him, how? Christ walks in a straight line, with all of the mountains ahead of him made low and all of the valleys filled in. It the bulldozer of dogma that makes the paths smooth and straight and even if you hold the gas can filled with compassion in your hand, the landscape will never be cleared for the City of God unless you, first, put the gas in the bulldozer and turn the key. You can have compassion without dogma – it is limp; you can have dogma without compassion – it is brittle, but you cannot have Christ or His Church without both.

    The Chicken

  53. stephen c says:

    to bookworm – , in my experience, almost all men are like your father,and would prefer a blue collar job. The majority of men I know who do office work only do it to provide better for their families; also, leaving family provider considerations aside, there are a few who believe their skills were needed as teachers or small business managers or legal advocates or doctors, and a few are in office work only because they are not healthy enough to work outside. Anyway, the priest at a traditional mass is repeating skilled tasks and appears to be engaging in more of a blue collar activity than a priest at anything but a very reverent modern style mass. From a theoretically purely female point of view, all the back-and-forth responses and emoting at a less than reverent modern mass may seem like the most simple thing in the world; from an exaggerated male point of view, the forced social interactions and unpredictably timed encouragements to enthusiasm and emotion at such a mass seem complicated and unfairly tailored to one of the two human sexes, and not the masculine one.

  54. jflare says:

    “… in my experience, almost all men are like your father,and would prefer a blue collar job.”
    et al

    Whoa! When I first read that comment, I first had the thought that something had gone VERY badly wrong. I find that such a view seems to me to mostly reflect..not a preference of men at large, per se, but rather an unfortunate view of life. at large. I’d say we’re dealing with a view that comes from improper education and training, and/or a lack of sound mentorship.
    When a man views his job and religious practice solely as a means of survival, then yes, he likely WILL consider suits, Latin, and “aesthetics” as utterly worthless. He won’t be interested in an office job that will involve more complications. On the other hand, if he views his job as a vocation, as also a means of promoting the Kingdom of God, then the picture may change quite dramatically. In this view, the business suit–and “manners”–becomes a means to establish credibility, the aesthetically pleasing nonsense becomes something that has a legitimate value, and the Latin becomes several things. A means to understand the Church in Her own language without translation troubles, a means of understanding law, science, and your priest more thoroughly, and even a means of reading the Bible in a different language, so possibly a slightly different perspective.

    Concluding my rant then, I don’t agree that most men prefer blue-collar jobs. I think they prefer roles in life that allow them to find meaning.

    Certainly this doesn’t mean that vernacular has no use, that suits should always and everywhere be required, or that aesthetics always have meaning besides looking good. It DOES mean though, that

  55. Torpedo1 says:

    At The Masked Chicken,
    May I quote you to a friend? I’ve been trying to make this point for a while and you lifted what I wanted to say right out of my head. I won’t use your comment until you give me permission.

  56. Imrahil says:

    As to the discussion begun with the dear @BridgetTeresa’s comment,

    Real men know that the opposite of rules is not mercy. Certainly not.

    The debate is between rules and freedom. Christ came to give us freedom, and he gave us rules and confirmed existing ones; and I’m not going into comment on the relationship of both here. (Though, obviously, rule is rule, and cannot be talked-away by an apply to freedom. Here, though, is the debate.)

    Mercy only can come in when there are rules, and someone failed to to obey them.

    There are two approaches possible: either say, “God just is so hard”, or, “look more closely and it isn’t so hard after all”. Whoever payed me the undeserved honor to read a comment of mine knows my preference; but here I want to say that some other approach is certainly not possible. It is to somewhat excuse the (supposed) hardness of God’s (supposed*) commandments by “but He is meeerciful”. Well, I knew that before. Make me think I could have done it, and then, at least for fear and because it is a commandment, I’ll be ashamed for not having done it. Then I’ll ask for mercy, about whose availability I knew before.

    [*I say “supposed” for the commandments not to insinuate that God did not command as He did, but because not every commandment presented as such in evangelizing talk actually belongs to this category.]

    Maybe women (and maybe Protestants, who seem to have made it a key of their theology) can abide by the idea of impossible tasks and still manage to be ashamed of not fulfilling them and beg for mercy. I say this because it is, in my limited experience, indeed mostly women who say things like that.

    I digressed a bit (and understand anyone who says, the thought is a bit late in coming). Anyway…

    the debate is between rules and freedom, not rules and mercy.

    As to small-mindedness, let us first inquire whether the rule exists. If so, it obviously cannot (in the only possible sensible sense, which is the exaggerating vice of the virtue of justice) have been small-minded. If not, we can inquire whether the error came from small-mindedness, but I somewhat think the term will then serve little purpose.

    If, on the other hand, we have not made these inquiries, let us avoid the term, for it would not then be anything but a killer argument.

  57. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear Torpedo1,

    Of course, you may use the comment. You know, I just realized that there are no copyright laws in Heaven.

    The Chicken

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  59. Ben Kenobi says:

    “If you feel I was attacking Millenials, and feel the need to get defensive about it, that is a very interesting thing. I identified no particular generation or age group, yet I did write from the first hand experiences of living in a certain generation. Care to guess which one?”

    I’m going to guess you’re a boomer around 65 or so, close to retirement but not yet, given what you have to say about those younger. Take a guess for mine.

  60. Ben Kenobi says:

    Imrahil, I stopped reading that comment at ‘mercy’. The reason he isn’t attending is because he doesn’t believe in God. He’s a secular humanist. The fact that some men don’t attend mass isn’t necessarily the fault of the mass. Changing doctrine to ‘bring in the lost’, is a fools errand. There is no point to bringing the lost home if the corrall is left open.

  61. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Ben Kenobi, thanks for your answer…

    I’m sorry that “mercy” seems to be a “liberal” code-sign. It should not be.

    The sense I meant was, imho, clear from what I wrote. You are certainly not forced to read that.

    That said, I do not know the person the dear @Bridgettherese spoke of. If you do, you’re in advantage, there. Of course it is possible that people don’t believe in God; if they don’t appear at Mass, then, it’s but entirely logical.

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