Leon J. Podles :: DIALOGUE

A Discussion on Faith and Culture

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Preview of Book

December 5th, 2012 · 32 Comments

I am in the last stages of writing my new book, Meek or Macho: Men and Religion.

This is my current thesis statement:

Because of the influence of Aristotle, theologians thought the feminine was receptive and obedient, and that these qualities should also characterize the Christian, especially the laity, who therefore should be feminine, brides of God who submitted to God - and to the clergy. Men were often unruly and destructive, and they were told that not only did they have to obey laws that restricted their activities; these laws were designed to make them feminine, or at least behave like women. In addition, there was a strong voluntarist attitude: the laws of God were arbitrary and had to be submitted to without question.

Men rebelled. They did not want to sacrifice their hard-earned and precarious masculinity and their independence in order to be made feminine; they might obey rules and follow discipline that purported to make them masculine, such as military discipline, but would reject discipline designed to make them feminine. Men stayed away from church because the church told them to stop behaving like men and to start behaving like women.  Women therefore have outnumbered men in Christian churches for centuries.

Any reactions?

Tags: Meek or Macho

32 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Father Michael Koenig // Dec 5, 2012 at 7:54 am

    I can’t wait to read it Leon. I had not made the connection to Aristotle, though I remember in The Church Impotent you wrote about the feminizing teaching of St. Bernard.

  • 2 Mary // Dec 5, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Very interesting Thesis Leon!
    I must give this more thought. From a medical perspective though, I have concluded that pharmaceuticals in our water supply have definitely been influencing gender , mood and over all health. I have also heard from people who work in water treatment that only large particle bacteria are removed and that drugs eliminated from the body have found their way into our drinking waters resevoirs and streams for decades. In the last decade especially this was a recognized fact.We had specified procedures to dispose of all unused meds and directives to counsel patient’s to do the same.
    Humanity is definitely experiencing a diabolical attack of it’s own creation.

  • 3 Joseph D'Hippolito // Dec 5, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    The church went off the rails when it substituted a Hebraic world view for Aristotelian thinking. By the time that happened, however, the church turned the Hebraic world view into the crazy uncle of the family. The Catholic Church still feels the effects (viz. a viz. its attitude toward Israel, compared to Evangelical attitudes)..

    Leon, I don’t know if your book explores the connection between a Hebraic world view and the role of men in religion. If it doesn’t, well, you now have a subject for another book. :)

  • 4 admin // Dec 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    For almost two millennia, from the fall of Jerusalem to the foundation of the state of Israel, the rabbis decided that Jews needed to be non-aggressive if the nation was to survive. They managed to convince men and women (or at least a lot of them) that the most masculine thing in the world was studying Torah. Business was something women did to support males studying Torah, and gentiles wasted their time on war and sports instead of doing the macho thing, studying Torah.

  • 5 Mary // Dec 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Leon, Aside from the Torah do you believe the Talmudic teachings have also influenced masculinity in our society ?
    “The Agenda Behind Gender Bending”

  • 6 John Weidner // Dec 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I like it a lot. The theology should add some heft to your explanation of why things changed.

    “hard-earned and precarious masculinity.” Sounds like you are drawing upon Camille Paglia–I hope so. She’s the best I’ve found for explaining masculinity. I was just re-reading this… (Forgive me if I’m giving you things you already have or don’t want.)

    …The unhappy truth is that male homosexuality will never be fully accepted by the heterosexual majority, who are obeying the dictates not of “bigoted” society or religion but of procreative nature. All of us emerge from the body of a mystical female giant. Boys are swamped in the female realm. Note how mothers take male children into the women’s toilets: the boys are officially neuter and still part of the mother’s body. To progress into manhood, boys must leave the women’s world behind. In tribal cultures, men may kidnap a boy, slash his body with knives, throw him into a pit, or abandon him in the woods, cruel rites of passage still evident in the brutal, sometimes homicidal hazing of modern fraternities, which flourishes despite every effort to ban it. How many women students fall to their deaths while walking, drunk, on a balcony railing during Florida spring fling, or drown, stunned by a rock, when they dive off a cliff into a quarry at midnight?—an actual incident at Bennington, which killed one of my most attractive male students. Testing is integral to masculine development. The old epithets “mama’s boy” and “sissy” (i.e., “sister”) still harbor psychological truth…

  • 7 Stephen // Dec 5, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    It sounds very interesting, Mr Podles, and I very much look forward to reading the book. It occurs to me, in passing, that the thesis might explain the situation in western Christianity, but not so much in Eastern Orthodox Christianity (where the influence of Aristotle, scholasticism etc. is much less significant). Regarding Orthodox Christianity and women, it seems to me, as an outsider, that while the Greek Church in western countries is dominated by women faithful, the Russian Church seems to have a higher representation of lay men. I would be curious to know why that it is.

  • 8 Mary Ann // Dec 5, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Well, I dunno about your thesis, but I do know that one reason clergy members are so stupid about politics is that they have no skin in the game. They have no investment in the future. They have no CHILDREN.

    The “orthodox”, in their institutional identification, go on about the eternal church outlasting everything so don’t worry, and the heretics only care about themselves. Between them, neither is caring about the present impact of things on the upcoming generation.

    One priest I know chuckled as a prof about the fact that seminaries were so bad from Curran onthat they actually taught situation ethics, but that now all is well. I not so gently reminded him that lots of people got hurt from 1968 to 2000. Families and children were destroyed. But, no, it’s all about theories. Behavior precedes theories.

  • 9 cm // Dec 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I tend to think it is the hellenization of pastoral ministry…the Jewish priesthood was thoroughly hellenized (aka pederastic) at the time of Christ, as were the Roman legions in Jerusalem. When Christ said for the women to weep for their children, He meant it literally. This hellenization triumphed when the women-fearing, overly ascetical holy men of the desert (read their works - they are quite like Jewish tales) morphed into the platonic-influenced celibates under Constantine - rejecting the body completely and exalting themselves as higher than the angels (per John Chrystostom). The laity were expected to follow suit. A major period of dandification was the 17th-century Counter-Reformation when foppish cardinals held to the same glorification they found in patristic writings and combined it with Jansenist hatred of the body and courtly aristo gentrification - lace and all. The new seminaries solidified this socialization and furthered this influence. Laity again were expected to follow suit. The romantic figure of the gentilhomme only grew from classicism through romanticism into the Alan Alda figure of our era. I have a theory that to the degree that men separate themselves and hate women, to that degree they remain emasculated, only because they are unconsciously conflicted because they are thereby rejecting their mother, a double bind. They can never separate from her truly out of guilt. my 2 cents.

  • 10 admin // Dec 5, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    About Orthodoxy:

    There is anecdotal evidence from travelers in the 19th C who were impressed by the number of men at Orthodox services.

    But Greek Orthodoxy seems to have been Westernized in that is congregations have become predominantly female, and Russia now shows the biggest gap of any European country between the percentage of men and women who believe in God. Communism in Russia was more successful at destroying faith among men than among women. Why? In eastern Germany, no one believes, and there is a small difference between men and women.

    About the Talmud:

    It certainly influenced ideas among Jews about was masculine, but had no discernible effect among non-Jews for centuries. For the past century it may have had indirect influence, through secularized Jews who still accepted a pacific model of masculinity.

  • 11 Father Michael Koenig // Dec 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    I recently read a book by a former soldier in the Russian army. The initiation and hazing of new soldiers there (as he describes it) is pretty brutal. Yet everyone passes through the same process and the guys hazing were themselves once hazed. I don’t defend it but I “get it”.

    Paglia and many others (including our host) write about the male need to flee mother and the feminine and to tried and proven as a man. The Russian writer tells of the friendships that were forged between soldiers (fighting in Chechnya). Men experience their closest bonds with other men when engaged in some common struggle that involves risk.

    We are getting a lot of Christian Arab immigrants here in Canada. I’ve had a lot of contact with Assyrian (Orthodox) and Chaldean (Eastern Rite Catholic) Christians. I’m impressed with the number, masculinity and commitment of men in their congregations. Maybe Dostoyevsky’s prophecy “Salvation will come from the [Christian] East” will turn out to be true in more ways than one.

  • 12 admin // Dec 6, 2012 at 5:09 am

    Developmental psychologists agree that boys establish their own identity by separating from their mother and to some extent from the feminine world. But unless there is a loving father to identity with, the boy can become hypermasculine, totally unempathetic, and violent, as happens in the inner city where fathers are almost totally absent. A personality with no connection to the feminine is a sociopathic personality.

    But men also develop the strongest bonds among themselves when they share a struggle or adversity. Psychologists are uncomfortable with this, but it seems to be true. In wartime men develop emotional bonds that are often stronger than the bonds they have with their wives. Psychologists don’t like this because this insight was at the basis of fascism, and to some extent Nazism, which used the strength of male bonds to form a militarized society. But war is not the only stressful situation in which men bond.

  • 13 Anonymous // Dec 6, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Leon ,your statement here,
    “Psychologists don’t like this because this insight was at the basis of fascism, and to some extent Nazism, which used the strength of male bonds to form a militarized society.” Rings loud and clear to me.
    Decades ago ,we briefly sojourned into the SSPX
    ( only three months ) and that was enough,with no place to attend Sunday Mass due to Bishop selling our Byzantine Mission Church and clown masses in the local RC churches.
    The priest at the SSPX who, along with four others has now formed an offshoot , (SSPX of Strict Observance) had an organized ‘Commando’ unit of boys in the parish.
    I knew several of the mothers and fathers whose sons were in this “commando” group.
    The father of one of the boys made it his business to accompany the priest and the boys on several of their outings. He told me that the priest inducted the boys by challanging them to walk through snow and streams barefoot in the winter,ignore the posted signs by park guards and challanging them to walk a narrow icey ledge which bordered a deep gorge with nothing to grip onto.
    Apparently, this was common practice in the Society’s Camps for boys. Five boys died in the English Channel, who could not swim sent out by a Fr Cottard SSPX , in a plastic dinghy with no life jackets. He got five years jail time.
    The priest we knew here had to be rescued off of a mountain in New England where he ventured with a group of boys. He had no compass, some cans of spaghetti and the boys had only sneakers on their feet. They boys spent time in a hospital for hypothermia.
    There were many stories like this in the SSPX with the Commando boys.
    Interestingly, PBS had a five hour special on the Nazi Youth Corps. The very same activities were encouraged and the very same phrases were used on the boys that SSPX parents told me about, almost like they all followed a blue print written up by Hitler himself!
    These SSPX boys wore the very same outfits including the sweaters and berets, that the Vichy Malice wore under Hitler.Several boys died in the Missouri River at yet another sspx camp for boys. Finally the parents I knew became alarmed when the applications for camp included waivers they had to sign if their child should die or be injured while there.
    http://archives.weirdload.com/bcc/crimes99i2.html#fra ( scroll down to France)

  • 14 Anonymous // Dec 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Mary Ann, Forgive me but I am confused as to who the “orthodox”and the “heretics” are, to whom you are referring.
    “The “orthodox”, in their institutional identification, go on about the eternal church outlasting everything so don’t worry, and the heretics only care about themselves. Between them, neither is caring about the present impact of things on the upcoming generation.”

  • 15 Augusta Wynn // Dec 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Love the photo. These women look like bishops. Are they?


  • 16 admin // Dec 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    The one on the left is Katherine Schori, presiding bishopess of the Episcopal Church.

  • 17 admin // Dec 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Re the SSPX

    The French bishops do not think thatt the Vatican realizes how many ties there are between the SSPX and far, far right French groups.

    The Hitler Youth took over the Scout organization in Germany; the Scouts (I was an ast. scoutmaster) challenge boys, and every now and then there is a fatality. The outdoors are not a theme park; but we always took reasonable precautions and of course tried to follow the motto: BE PREPARED!

  • 18 Mary Ann // Dec 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    The “orthodox” are those who put themselves forward as orthodox Catholic clergy. The heretics are those who dissent from fundamental Catholic teaching on faith and/or morals.

  • 19 Joseph D'Hippolito // Dec 7, 2012 at 1:27 am

    Leon, when I referred to a “Hebraic world view,” I should have been more specific. I was referring to the Jews’ view of masculinity as based on the OT, before Jerusalem’s fall in 70 A.D.

  • 20 Anonymous // Dec 7, 2012 at 1:54 am

    Leon, The Vatican has to know that the Nazi Paul Touvier, was discovered hiding in the SSPX monastery un Nice, France in the nineties and that he survived on a monthly stipend for forty years from the Knights Chevalier de Notre Dame to which LeFebvre himself once belonged. The documents all came out in the war crime trial.
    A movie was made on Touvier entitled ,”The Statement” in which Michael Caine played the lead role.
    Nota Bene: They claim ArchBishop LeFebvre as the Grand Master below on this American site of the Order..

  • 21 Joseph D'Hippolito // Dec 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Why on Earth does a church organization like SSPX need a quasi-paramilitary “commando” unit? Does it hope to be strong enough to wage a coup d’etat? I can understand teaching boys how to be strong and courageous but the means are asinine and dangerous.

  • 22 TheAltonRoute // Dec 7, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    The SSPX probably couldn’t help but end up attracting assorted strange people of the extreme right. I wonder what is true and false about Lefebvre’s life. I’ve read some of his wrtings. In my opinion he gave very reasonable criticisms of Vatican II. What has happened with the SSPX perhaps is similar to what has happened to EWTN in the absence of Mother Angelica. Both the Catholic left and right are susceptible to gnostic heresies. I’m sure the SSPX and other traditionalist movements are no exception.

  • 23 Anonymous // Dec 8, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Coup d’etats were/are quite common in South America where the extremely poor were/are up against the very wealthy elitist class who see to it that their man or woman becomes Dictator.

    Aside from identifying with the Cristeros of Mexico, quite a few SSPX priests come from S America. Keep in mind too that the Rat Line re established a few German Nazis in this country.
    Carlos Urrutigoity who started the SSJ and was accused of pederasty in the Diocese of Scranton, was himself originally a priest of the SSPX. Now sheltered under an Opus Dei Bishop in Paraguay.
    Paraguay, like other nations on the continent, has an interesting history tied to Nazi fascism.

    Involvment in Politics seems to be a deadly brew for spreading Christian values.
    I believe Catholics would do well to study some of the newer Movements in the Church before they join .Find out just what the Founder’s political views involved, instead of taking it for granted that the sect is purely religious in nature because it calls itself Catholic.

  • 24 Anonymous // Dec 8, 2012 at 10:41 am

    It seems Fr Hewko and several other priests of the SSPX are now breaking away and forming their own Society with Bishop Williamson.They are taking some SSPX pew people with them who are under the misconception that this is all about preserving the Latin Mass. Sadly, yet again , Faithful Catholic are blind to the politics behind the entire matter.
    Sadly, I knew Fr Hewko to be a close friend of Fr Urrutigoity when he once considered joing him in the SSJ.
    Not unlike the Bosnian War where the Serbs and the Croats relived the politics of times passed under the guise of religion and once again the catholic laity is caught up in the politics of Hitler.
    I wondered also why it was that in the Romney campaign ,the Israeli flag was often seen being held up in the photos behind him .

    How is it that as Americans we cannot focus our patriotism on our own Constitutional values ?
    How is it as Catholics we cannot focus our Faith on what is Catholic Scripture and Tradition ?
    Politics has always been used as a tool to divide and conquer. Politics crucified Our Lord.

    Leon, war is a tool that creates male bondings.
    Religion is a tool that is supposed to create peaceful community bonding..
    Both have been artfully subverted and blended by politics.

  • 25 Joseph D'Hippolito // Dec 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Find out just what the Founder’s political views involved, instead of taking it for granted that the sect is purely religious in nature because it calls itself Catholic.

    Excellent point, Anonymous. I’ve found that too many Christians (let alone Catholics) latch onto something just because it has a “Christian” or “Catholic” identity that’s skin deep. A lot of the infatuation w/distributism among Catholics fits that tendency.

  • 26 Anonymous // Dec 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I wondered about Lefebvre myself and read all I could find on the cleric.
    LeFebvre was consecrated by Leinart, a know Rosecrucian and a member of the Propaganda Due Lodge in Italy as documented in David Yallop’s book ,In God’s Name and elsewhere in the Italian Press reports concerning the 1981 raid on the home of the Vatican bankster, Licio Gelli, by the Italian police.
    While briefly attending an SSPX chapel I read the defense of LeFevre from the SSPX own publication,which pointed out that Lefebvre’s consecration as a Bishop was done by two prelates, as was the custom to avoid an Invalid /Illicit Consecration just in case one Prelate was a covert member of a Masonic Lodge and ipso facto excommunicated .They did NOT reveal that same Lienart also Ordained LeFebvre into the priesthood wherein, only ONE Bishop performs the Ordination.
    It seemed that the SSPX was a controlled opposition wo what they complained was an invalid masonically instituted Mass.All the while LeFebvre condemned Masonry. Was he duped and sincere or, was he part of something more sinister?

  • 27 TheAltonRoute // Dec 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Whatever Lefebvre was, I think the traditional Latin Mass societies in general have been used to corral dissenters into manageable groups where the more suggestible types can be preyed upon.

  • 28 Mary Ann // Dec 12, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Leon, the quest for explanations or causes can process backward and sideways ad infinitum. There are contributing factors to actions and to situations, but, ultimately, choice is choice. Free will is undetermined. Nothing makes someone do something bad except the person.

  • 29 caroline // Dec 14, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Getting back to Leon’s thesis statement, I wonder of he would apply it equally over the span of Catholic history? Was the feminization there as much in say the Dark Ages as in more recenbt times?

    Secondly, I am afraid that the Christian virtues were the “feminine” virtues from the beginning, not because there is anything inherently feminine about them, but because the least powerful people, the women had to practice them in order to survive. To practice them when you don’t have to practice them to survive, now that might be masculine and also the way they ought to be feminine.

  • 30 Anonymous // Dec 23, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Pope Paul the Sixth was just declared Venerable by Pope Benedict.His Cause was defeated in the late nineties when Cardinal Ruini asked Fr Villa to compile a dossier on his activities.
    Every Cardinal has now voted “yes” and he was just declared ‘Venerable” by Benedict.
    There is ample evidence on the web ,including a copy of an old news clipping from the seventies that Feemason and friend of Escriva and the head of the Magliana mafia Cardinal Poletti, declared a ‘Day of Consolation’ to publicly deny the allegations which were well known in Italy, most of Europe and certainly amongst the Hierarchy.

  • 31 Anonymous // Dec 23, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    correction……….Cardinal Poletti was the friend and Postulator for Escriva and friend to mafia head Enrico DePedis.,now deceased , who was recently exhumed and moved from beneath the Opus Dei owned St Appolinaire Basilica.
    Itialians still wish to know what “favor” was done for the deceased Cardinal by the mafiosa boss to warrant a burial with saints and Popes.
    That fact aside ….all the evidence collected by Fr Villa included the feminization of Paul the Sixth and the scandal that caused Poletti to call a Day of Consolation for the Diocese of Rome?

    In the late nineties


    and now .Buit why now?

  • 32 Joseph D'Hippolito // Dec 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Why now? Perhaps as a political statement against contraception and a libertine sexual morality, and as a way to butress the Vatican’s own positions? That would be my best guess.

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