Matthew James Christoff: Hello, my name is Matthew James Christoff. Welcome to the New Emangelization Project. The New Emangelization Project is a call to confront the Catholic name crisis; respond with new ardor, expressions, and methods to draw men to our Lord Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.
If we wish to have a New Evangelization, there must be a New Emangelization creating generations of Catholic men who are on fire for Jesus Christ. Today I am speaking with Bishop Lee Piché, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Bishop Piché was ordained to the priesthood in 1984 at the cathedral of St. Paul following his theological studies at St. Paul Seminary. He holds a Master of Arts degree from the seminary, and a Master of Philosophy from Columbia University in New York.
Bishop Piché was ordained as bishop on June 29, 2009 by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt at the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Among Bishop Piché’s many blessings to the Church, Bishop Lee Piché has guided CatholicManNight, a parish‑based, Catholic men’s apostolate that draws men into deeper relationship with Jesus Christ through Eucharistic Adoration, Confession, and fellowship. Hello, your Excellency.
Bishop Lee Piché: Good morning. How are you?
Matthew: Good morning. I’m cold. It’s fourteen below today. Bishop Piché, I’d like to thank you for your continual encouragement, strong support, and the many prayers that you’ve given to us at CatholicManNight. On behalf of the several thousand men who have participated and been drawn to Jesus Christ in Eucharistic Adoration over the last four years, thank you.
Bishop Piché: You’re most welcome and I feel a little sheepish saying you’re welcome. I feel more like I should say thank you for your leadership, Matthew, in bringing that vision into reality and for fostering it and helping to see it grow. I just stand back and look in wonder at what the Lord is doing and it really is a work of God. It’s not our doing. It’s more the work of God. I share with you the same feeling of gratitude.
Matthew: It’s a beautiful fruit and I think it’s, in some ways, demonstrative of how men, laymen, can look to bishops and our priests and figure out a way to work together that is very effective. I’m sure, and there’s a number of men and priests that have been involved in this from the start under your guidance. I think we pretty much all concur that, there are different models that you could take. We’ve talked about some of these which are very clergy driven or very lay driven, you start to get division and separation but this idea of men looking to the clergy, our bishops, and priests to lead us but then be willing to step up and act. It just allows a rich feel for the Holy Spirit, we are very blessed and of course, we’re grateful to you.
Maybe Bishop Piché, we can start with a big picture of men’s Evangelization within the Church. We have a challenge in the Church today that so many people are falling away from the faith. The ones that remain are so very often, casual in their commitment to Christ, and His Church. This is particularly true about Catholic men. Can you maybe start by giving some reflections on how you see the state of Catholic men’s Evangelization in the Church?
Bishop Piché: Sure. I think Matthew, to understand more clearly what’s going on with our Catholic men, we have to put it in the context of what’s happened generally with the lay faithful. We’ve seen a marvelous flourishing of involvement since the second Vatican council with the lay faithful.
Part of that driven, quite frankly by a shortage of clergy but also driven by a new realization through the Council that the mission of the clergy as clergy, the ordained, is really to energize, to enliven, and to empower our lay faithful to carry out, that which is the broader mission in the Church, which is to be the leaven in the world, to be in the workplace, in the market place, in the home, in our schools, in all aspects of society; to be that presence of Christ Jesus who brings the love of the Father, who brings the Kingdom, who brings truth, virtue, and goodness.
Like Jesus compared His disciples to salt and the earth to stay or even reverse the process of corruption, which is the effect of Original Sin in humanity, this broader mission of being who we’re called to be, to be holy within the world, the sanctification of the individual, the sanctification of the family, and the community, the broader community is really the role.
I think what’s happened is that after the Council there was an initial flurry of activity. Then I think there was a little bit of confusion around, “What does getting involved in the Church mean?” There was, I think, a little bit getting off the track in the sense that a lot of men thought that, “If I’m going to be a good Catholic I’m going to have to be on the finance council.” “I’m going to have to be on the Social Justice Committee,” or this, or that, which are all good things.
Or “I’ll have to be a lector, a Eucharistic Minister,” and somehow involved in a visible way within the liturgical context of the Church. That left the vast majority of the faithful thinking, “What are we?” “We’re obviously not good Catholics.” That reinforces that negative self‑image, and then there’s this kind of lapsing into a casual relationship. I don’t think we’ve fully embraced that vision of what the Council was directing us to. But we are now, I think, in terms of this New Evangelization.
There was also this, I think it’s part of the human culture, and I think it’s probably been there for millennia, is that when men feel a very vital calling from the Lord to increase their faith life, sometimes they think that that means that they’re going to have get ordained. They’re going to have to enter into ordained ministry.
There hasn’t been a clarity about how to take that energy, that desire to be a disciple of Christ, to be more than just a follower of Christ, but to be a proclaimer of Christ. It’s that apostolic dimension of our discipleship, of going out into the world and proclaiming. It was largely let to the professionals, as it were.
I really think that what we need is an army of amateurs because they’re the larger portion of the Church. They’re the ones who have the passion. Amateur comes from the word for love, amatas, the ones who are on fire with the love for Christ, to go out and be that power in the world. Then what the clergy can do is what they’re properly ordained to do, which is to feed, to heal, to assist, to empower this lay faithful, the men in particular, to go out and do it.
Also, I have lots of other thoughts about it in terms of the domestic Church. The feminization of our culture today has robbed men of their particular role within the family, husband, father, paterfamilias, who really kind of stand in the role of a priest to his own family, the one who leads the prayer, the one who presides over the family meal.
All of these things have kind of gone by the wayside. That has created this sense of confusion, and grayness, and lack of clarity about the mission. I think that’s where our men are struggling today.
Matthew: Yeah, and the culture is so overwhelming in that regard. The other thing in some of the research that I’ve done, it’s pretty clear that men don’t know their faith. A large percentage of men don’t believe that they can pass it along to their children.
Eight out of 10 men believe it’s much more important the way you live your life than to pass your Catholic faith on, or being Catholic. These are stunning numbers. If you look at this passing on, 20 years ago if you looked at 18 to 29 year‑olds about 60 percent would consider leaving the Catholic Church. Today that number is 82 percent.
Young people have become much less passionate. I think it largely traces to the failure, or the casualness, of fathers. That’s statistically the biggest single influencer on a child’s faith, is the faith of the father. At the core of this, how do we light men on fire? If we can get them ignited, we can get the catechetical materials to them, and they’ll be hungry, and they’ll know what to do.
By and large there’s this inertia, this great inertia. I talked with Dale Ahlquist recently. He was saying that, “You know men are basically lazy. They’re happy to have the women leading everything, and taking everything.” How do we light that fire?
Bishop Piché: I believe that it’s going to have to happen, well, you made reference to the fact of the lack of knowledge on the part of the men. And I think, generally speaking to it, there was a period of time when our catechesis in the Church was a little off track, too. It wasn’t robust; it wasn’t full.
And, I know, because I was a part of that. That’s the kind of catechesis I received. It was well intentioned, but at the expense of, or in making the effort to try to make it accessible, it was, to use the expression, dumbed down. And some of the basics were there, but some of the really wonderful richness that gets people excited.
I have 21 nephews and nieces, and when they were young, some of them got into things like dinosaurs or this or that. And they could name all these different species of dinosaurs. And extinct species. And they’re experts on this. But you ask them, “What is transubstantiation?” Well, I’d like to say that my nephews and nieces knew what that was.
But a lot of kids, we just say, “Oh, that’s too much for them. You know, it’s too much for them.” So, there was this time of a lack of understanding of the faith. So, I think to come to know the faith, I’ve heard this said too by Jeff Cavins, that among those he’s met who have left the Church who have said, “I’m not being fed. I’m not being nourished by the Church.” He’s discovered that in most of those cases, if not all of them, they have never read the Catechism. They’ve never studied the… they’ve never had a taste, really, of the richness of the faith that we have. It’s such a wonderful symphony of Truth. To get our taste acclimated to that wonderful symphony.
But, at the root of it, I think, the key component is what I see replayed over and over again in the Gospel, and even before that, in the proto‑Gospel, in the Old Testament. The story of faith is the story of encounter. It’s the story of God meeting Man and when that happens, if the human person is open to that encounter, and does not run away from it or hide from that, which is what Adam and Eve did in the beginning, that God insisted, you know. When that encounter happens, that’s where the fire happens.
A lot of our culture today is, I think, we’re very technologically savvy, but I think we’ve lost a little bit of the taste and the hunger for intellectual understanding, to better our minds, to know our world, to know the mysteries of nature. And that includes, also, the mysteries of God. So, we might not engage right away in that regard, just putting the array of the Truth. It might be overwhelming for people. But if they can have an opportunity to meet the Lord in some way or fashion, on a retreat or an evening of reflection, that’s what that the CatholicManNight is all about, to put men in front of Christ and Christ in front of men so that they can have a heart‑to‑heart moment of conversation, and that He can reveal something of Himself to them.
And just to be captured by the beauty of His being, His person, and the power of His personal affection and love for them. That, I think, is what would eventually lead to a greater hunger for, “You know, I want to know more about this Jesus. I want to know more about what He taught, what He did, what that means for us.” So that’s where I think we need to keep in focus.
Matthew: Well, if you look at our last three Popes, they were very emphatic about this idea of personal relationship. And, of course, the whole reason we started CatholicManNight is because you said that men don’t know Jesus, and that’s kind of how it started. The interesting thing, of course… one of the things, we’ll get to this in a second hopefully, there seems to be within institutional structures in the Church, a lack of awareness.
Not a lack of awareness, but a lack of emphasis on the need for specific things for the evangelization of men. So, within the USCCB, if we look at the things that have come out specifically for men, they’re limited. The various documents since Vatican II, that Catechesi Tradendae, Evangeli Nutiandi, they don’t mention men.
We look at the academic side, and we try to find research on Catholic men and what they’re thinking, our traditional Catholic institutions are not putting much of that out. And actually, most of the research that I’ve been able to find is through Gallup polls, which if you dig in far enough you can start to get the breakouts for men.
But one of the interesting statistics that comes out is the fact that 50% of men don’t believe it’s possible to have a personal relationship with God. Catholic men. Which, to me, is just a stunning, you know, how can there be anything more intimate than the eucharist? Very different than Evangelicals. And large numbers of men that leave the Catholic Church go to Evangelical churches, where that relationship is clearer.
But what, maybe just for a moment, you’ve taught and led and brought so many people to a deeper understanding of their faith. What are the differences you see between men and women in terms of their basic ideas about the faith and how you reach them?
Bishop Piché: I’ve never really reflected deeply on that. But, it’s interesting, because I think I could identify just a few things. And please understand that these are broad generalizations that don’t necessarily apply in every instance.
I think with men, because of the way we’re built, we’re kind of more results‑oriented. We’re driven to action, to do, to see something outside of ourselves that is the result of our energy and our effort, the building, the making, the fixing and that kind of stuff. And we feel like valuable time, the time that we have is where we get the greatest value and the use of that time, is if we have a product at the end of the use of the time.
Whereas I think what I’ve experienced in my interaction with women, and the spiritual life in terms of development, they are so much more quickly attuned to it’s not the product outside, it’s the product, it’s not even really a product, it’s an enhancement of the relationship between persons.
The kind of typical thing, let’s talk about us. And the man rolls his eyes, you know, I thought we talked about us two days ago. But the woman is attentive more to the relationship, and the need for building that, enhancing that, deepening that. And that isn’t necessarily natural. I think it’s a human need. I don’t think it’s foreign to the nature of humanity, whether one is man or woman.
It seems to be part of the complementarily of the sexes is that you have both an externally driven energy and an internally driven energy, and the two need to be somehow moved together in this dance of life.
That’s why I think why when you ask a priest does he do spiritual direction, does he offer spiritual direction to Catholics, and he’ll say, “Yes.” You’ll say, “To whom do you give direction?” “Oh, there’s about 15 women, and maybe 2 men.” There is a reason for that. I think a part of it is just being more attuned directly to that hunger for that intimacy with the Lord in prayer and friendship.
Matthew: It may have something to do with the way we talk about it. I mean, just thinking for a moment that when you think about relationship. That’s not something that in general, I mean this is being a man probably speaking, maybe I’m only talking for myself, that’s not necessarily the thing that would move me, but the idea of friendship, fellowship. Maybe part of the challenge is just making sure we use the right language for our target market, so to speak.
Bishop Piché: Yeah. I think that one of the key verses of Scripture for me in my own spirituality has been that verse during the Last Supper in John’s Gospel, John 15, I think it is, 14 or 15, where He says to His disciples, “I no longer call you servants or slaves, do I? I call you my friends, because I have revealed to you everything that My Father has told Me.”
There’s just that openness, that vulnerability of the Lord with His disciples, and that invitation to friendship. Yeah, I think that could appeal to men as a little less threatening, then “Let’s talk about the relationship,” but “Can we be friends? Can we have some fellowship? Can we hang out together, and just be with each other?”
Matthew: There’s a crisis in men’s friendships and men’s loneliness. There’s a whole cultural shift that’s been occurring, and men are more isolated. Women are too, but men in particular.
When you add on that, the idea that you’re kind of lost. Many people are having broken homes, and they’re not close to their father. They don’t know that way to male bonding. We get all confused about it. It’s going to the football game and going crazy, or going out and getting drunk, or whatever, these false ideas of friendship.
Bishop Piché: Right, and masculinity too, and then aggressiveness, and fighting, and that kind of stuff.
Matthew: Right. As part of this project, it’s interesting. I’m getting a chance to talk with lots of different people. One of the things that keeps coming up is as you mentioned, that going outward, that activity base, that product, and the physical aspect of men.
If you look at the last 50‑100 years, we become as men, the majority of men went from being agrarian and be working in factories and trades and stuff, to being technology workers, or different sorts. That lack of physicality is somehow I think affecting them. I don’t know if there’s a change in this over time.
There’s a study out, a little study from a 95‑year old Jesuit Priest from the Vatican, who looked at the confessional data for men and women. I don’t know how they got the data. They never say, but basically it’s disguised. By the seven deadly sins, he lists the top three sins for both sexes. For women it’s pride, envy, and anger. For men it’s lust, sloth, and gluttony. Very physical kinds of sins.
This is I’m sure no news to you, because you hear so many confessions. It’s interesting to me that part of men that they’re drawn into sin, because maybe their physicality is not being addressed in some way. Maybe that’s a hook into drawing them…
Bishop Piché: Yeah. I think that’s a very fair insight. In fact, I remember when we were doing our preparations for the Sacro Independence, in terms of spiritual direction. One of the kind of truisms we were taught in seminary was that when you’re struggling with the temptations against purity, lust, and so on, one of the best remedies is get out there and do something physical. Go exercise. Go for a brisk walk. Go to play some basketball. Do something physical, so that you have that outlet for that energy that you have, and it doesn’t then get off‑track into some other more destructive or immoral ways.
Matthew: Yeah. I can imagine…I mean, I’m sure there are things out there already, but I can imagine all kinds of things that could be appealing to men that you could build into something like this. For example, some kind of garden, a next to a parish where, “We’ve got to break the ground. “We’ve got to do this. We’re going to feed people.”
Bishop Piché: Men need that, and then they feel like they’ve accomplished something. In the process they can build the friendships that they need to support, but it maybe needs to be linked to some kind of activity together.
There’s a genius to the way that the Lord has set this whole thing up about “What does it mean to live the life of Christ?” and for all it’s the same. It needs to be to let Christ live in us, and to act out of charity always and everywhere.
For men the expression might be, “My charity is going to be going, and I’m going to be serving meals at the Dorothy Day Center or I’m going to be doing something…” So somebody that their hands are moving and their limbs are working, and they’re exerting themselves. Not just to focus on outcome of the physical activity, but to be mindful that in doing this, “I am trying to allow Christ to live in me, and to work through me.” So that there’s an integration of these processes.
Matthew: Yeah. Just activity without that connection to Christ and drawing in the Holy Spirit, it’s just one more activity that guys are going to say, “That doesn’t fit my schedule.”
Bishop Piché: Right. It’s got to be well‑integrated with the essence of what our life is in Christ. It just occurred to me Matthew, we mentioned before we started about we’ve got a lot of wonderful things going on in this local church.
We have CatholicManNight. We’ve got Argument of the Month Club. We’ve got Men’s Breakfasts, and so on, at parishes that draw hundreds of guys at one time. We’ve got an Annual Day for Men, and we have Recollection for Men, and so on.
Matthew: With thousands.
Bishop Piché: Thousands, yeah. I wonder if what we need to add is an Arm Wrestling of the Month Club. [laughs]
Matthew: I talked with a young man, an evangelist in Dallas named Jared Zimmerer. He’s a body builder. Not only does he do all kinds of other kinds of evangelization work, but he does basically power lifting and weight lifting, where he draws lots of men in that get into this. We have lots of different men, and that’s just one way. I was thinking maybe, “Gosh, what if we had a parish (diocese) wide workday?”
Bishop Piché: Oh, yeah. I have seen it around here at the Cathedral. The guys come out in the fall before the snow comes, and they’re out there. Man! They really go at it with the grounds, just all these volunteers. The men from the parishes come, and they do this great work.
I was thinking of some other things too, the rise in the popularity of Habitat for Humanity, and other kinds of things like that, building projects for the poor. Those are all wonderful efforts. I think we need to try to enhance all of those different things.
Matthew: That’s interesting. There’s a lot of thought here. As the project goes on, we’re going to identify those men that are doing that on whatever scale, and try to say, “How are you doing it? How does it work?”
I’d like to step back to the issue I alluded to a little bit earlier about the institutional Church, and the emphasis or maybe the not as strong emphasis to date on the importance evangelizing men. I wonder why it is. I speculate. I’ll just throw out my speculation, and you can tell me if it’s incorrect.
The Church has had such challenges within the popular culture about the masculinity or the maleness of priests, and male hierarchy, and to some extent without maybe as hesitant to say, “Look. We need a men’s evangelization effort on a broad basis.” I don’t know if that’s…?
Bishop Piché: Maybe, yeah. My answer would be out of speculation as well. I don’t know what the answer is. It’s very possible that it could be as you say a result of wanting to soft pedal the male thing. We’ve been criticized in the Catholic Church, especially for the male dominated hierarchical, top‑down, old boys’ network, kind of clericalization, that kind of thing. As a result, we unfortunately also inadvertently neglected the focus on evangelization for men.
I wouldn’t have gone that way myself to start with. I think, this is my own guess, is that it’s so obvious that when we talk about evangelization that we include men, that the men have to be a part of that, an integral part of that, that it’s such a given, that we never eluded to it as a separate category, it’s kind of assumed.
I think that’s maybe where we’re seeing now that we can’t do that. We can’t just assume. I do want to also offer a word of caution, that what we probably don’t want to be doing is saying that there has to be a separate evangelization for men, a separate evangelization for women, a separate evangelization for children, or start breaking down into categories.
What the Church’s vision of evangelizaton is it’s Catholic, which means it’s universal. It’s for anyone and everyone. Catholics, Christians I should say, in their very first beginnings, they indicated right from the start that they were a continuation of course from the Jewish faith, but there were some dramatic differences, one of them being that men and women worshipped together.
Still today when you go to Israel, for example to the Wailing Wall, the Western Wall of the Temple to pray, there are separate sections for men and women, which is fine. I think that’s fine and beautiful. That’s a beautiful tradition. Christ’s Apostles and the leaders right from the start said, “This is for humanity in total.” It’s not for just one group or another group.
While it is important I think to give attention to the specific audiences if you will, because every message or everything that is received, is received in the mode of the recipient, not according to the one who is giving the thing, however I am built, that’s how I’m going to receive it.
There are differences in the way that men receive. As long as we don’t setup two separate channels of going forward with evangelization, that there continues to be that very conscious integration of the community. It’s really for the family that we’re doing this ultimately, which is every member of the family.
That might also be part of the reason why institutionally we have not kind of memorialized men’s evangelization as a separate evangelization, it’s just evangelization. That’s probably what you’re going to hear from the institutional Church. You’re not going to hear women’s evangelization, or men’s evangelization, children’s evangelization.
Matthew James Christoff: …that’s true if we look across the documents. Of course, you know them. That’s the way they’ve been laid out. In fact, with the two documents, at least the ones I’ve been able to identify that are men focused, they were in the 1990s and they were focused on a reaction to Promise Keepers, which was drawing lots of Catholic men.
The basic response was, OK, there’s some real validity here, but there’s some things that are really missing. We need to draw men into a deeper relationship with the Sacraments, so their usage is really important. But we need to do it organically within a diocese and archdiocese as opposed to some big major program.
Of course, there’s some wonderful things going on. I mean, we look across the country and the National Conference of Catholic Men, I believe it’s called. We’re kind of helping sponsor these conferences like we have here.
But of course, the other, not the skeptic in me, but the one that sees there’s opportunity here is like, the numbers are still going down. Obviously, the things that we’re doing we need to try new things, try new ardor, new methods and expressions, with an emphasis on men. Men, they have differences.
I think most of the places where we do CatholicManNight, if you said you could get 75 guys to show up for adoration, they’d go, “Oh no, you can’t.” We do it, right, because it’s man‑focused. It’s almost a silly name, right? It’s a tongue in cheek name, CatholicManNight.
Bishop Piché: Right.
Matthew: Can you talk a little bit about, as we think about redrawing men in, two aspects? One is the Sacraments and how the Sacraments can help us draw men back into communion. Then, secondly, the role of the priest, the advice that you would give to a priest out in a parish, “OK. If you want to think about evangelizing men, here’s the things you should consider.” I know it’s generalizations, and every parish is different.
Bishop Piché: Well, you said it. I think for us, as Catholics, the place of encounter is Word and Sacrament. Well, I think that would be true of Christians generally. It’s a very strong dimension, also, of Lutheran faith, the Word and Sacrament. The other part of it is there’s a physicality to the Sacraments that draws us, where we can actually have a person to person, man-to-man experience with Christ in that Sacrament, the Eucharist for example, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We would never be able to accomplish this I don’t think, with such efficiency or effectiveness without the Grace that comes through those Sacraments the Presence of Christ there. Of course there’s a corollary to that, and that’s the calling forth of the faith in the individual man, and what I think is beautiful about the Sacraments celebrated in this way is that men reinforce other men when they see their brothers gathered in prayer, giving Adoration, and worship, and praise to Christ.
Stirring up within their hearts that hunger to receive the Bread of Life from the Lord, from the hands of the Lord, which is His own body and blood. Think about His perfect and total gift of Himself to us on the Cross, to be mindful that He is alive, that He is risen, and that this is risen body that is with us. But then also to see the witness that is given.
Confession has two senses. Confess means I reveal my conscience to the confessor, to the one receiving, to the Lord, but it also means more like profession. It’s a confession of my belief that in the power that Jesus has over sin that He has conquered sin, and He conquers it in me in this very practical way. Then to see that happening with my brothers, it just builds, I think.
Matthew: Why do you think we have such low numbers of men attending confession? And the numbers are pretty stunning. 70 percent go less than once a year or never, and that’s the general population men are skewed even worse than that, and such low percentages attending or coming to Confession. What’s the…
Bishop Piché: Well, first of all there’s the natural human resistance to that kind of disclosure. You said earlier that one of the key sins of the Capital Sins, yeah, Capital Sins of women is pride. I think men are not far behind. There’s a pride that, “I don’t want to acknowledge that I’m in some in error or deficient or have failed.”
Matthew: These are what they said they confessed, as opposed to what they may have needed to confess.
Bishop Piché: Right. If they’re not going to Confession we wouldn’t know that. The pride is preventing them from going so you wouldn’t hear those. So, I think that’s part of it.
It’s just that natural need to be in control and to have to acknowledge that,” I’m not in control,” that, “I have these tendencies which are contrary to what I want to do, and I know they’re contrary to the law of God and they go against my conscience.” To have to admit that is very hard I think, maybe harder for men. I don’t know but that might be one thing.
Also, I think until recently, we did not see a lot of emphasis in preaching and in exhortation on the part of the priests to make better use of that Sacrament. I’ve found that in my parishes where I’ve really worked on that through a kind of coordinated series of homilies through the year and really explained the great benefit of it, tried to get people to look beyond the crisis moment of going in and blurting out your sins, which is what I think keeps everybody back.
But, to talk about how, once we have placed the burden of our guilt in the hands of the Lord and he takes that from us, the absolutely wonderful experience of new freedom and the joy of heart and the sense of clarity that is gained because sin blinds us. Sin makes us…
We’re kind of stuck in that hole, we’ve got to somehow break out of. Which, that’s why I think the encounter piece is so important, why the man the CatholicManNight got going is because they’ve gotten a glimpse of the face of Jesus and that face is delightful and it’s beckoning them.
It’s saying, “We could be closer. We could be a lot closer if you’ll trust Me,” right? And move into a relationship. And so, there has to be a reason why they would go to Confession that’s compelling, more than just some kind of intellectual argument, right?
Matthew: This hit me recently. It’s my hypothesis that, putting together two statistics, one is this scourge of pornography, which affects 65‑70 percent of men, including Catholic men. And then the other dimension is this lack of going to Confession.
And if you plot it out, you could do it on a little chart, there’s kind of three zones: There’s this, “You’re in mortal danger of hell” zone; “You’re in Purgatory” zone, based on how much you’re going to Confession; and then there’s a tiny fragment of, “You’re going right to heaven.”
Bishop Piché: The narrow path?
Matthew: Yeah, the infinitesimal path for most of us. But this idea of saying to a man…Men like…I think that men like directness. Just, where do you stand? Just plot yourself on this graph. Are you in this zone or this zone or this zone? Just face it. Don’t hide from it. I think because…It’s almost like I’m the eternal optimist.
I’m like, I think Satan’s overplayed his hand a little bit because pornography is so everywhere and so many people are involved in it. It’s not like pride where you can say, “Maybe I was a little bit prideful or maybe I was a little bit greedy.” Every man knows, very specifically, despite the fact that it’s hard to define what pornography is, they know when they’ve done it, right? And they’re hiding it, and they’re ashamed, and they’re out of control, and they’re addicted.
But so, to a certain extent, it’s like a huge leverage point I would think for us, if we can figure out a way to confront men with it, recognize that Confession is a step in the healing process. And it’s a long, long path but, the idea of just, “Get in the purgatory zone.” I don’t know. Does that…?
Bishop Piché: Yeah. That’s a way to approach it. That’s another reason why I think there’s been a decrease in numbers at the Church. The Church changed her tactics from before the Council to after the Council, roughly speaking, from one of threat and fear, “If you don’t do these things, you’re going to end up in hell,” to well, I wouldn’t say denial of hell, but the implication being that, “Oh, you don’t have to worry.”
Just keep doing your best, and God is merciful. He’s a big marshmallow up there. He’s very soft and gentle.” We forget that that’s fault. The Lord’s mercy is very real and perfect, and the Lord’s justice is exacting, real, and perfect. The one doesn’t make any sense without the other.
Matthew: It’s interesting, because we look at the divisions, and they’re probably different ways of thinking about division within Church. We have basically those two polar errors, which is a focus just on doctrine and truth and just kind of a very self righteous, maybe.
Then we have this other side, where it’s total mercy and forgetting about truth. I think that, again, it took chart. Top right corner, which is truth and mercy, that’s where we’re called to be. In any situation, it’s almost like “Where am I? What am I thinking right now? I’m probably lacking for truth or mercy? What are the two…?”
Bishop Piché: We’ve vacillated between the two. Who is it? I heard it was…Oh, gosh, one of the wonderful men evangelist thinkers and analyst today. He does a lot of work with CEOs.
Matthew: Yeah. Patrick Lencioni. That’s exactly where I heard that, by the way.
Bishop Piché: Yeah, that’s where I heard it too. I’ve heard from that, the grid with two boxes, the four boxes. His realization was that to stay in that upper right hand corner, where you are giving emphasis both at the same time to truth and to mercy or forgiveness, understanding, is the only way to stay there is to accept suffering. Suffering is a component that…That can resonate with men, I think.
With men, some of the most popular films are the films about guys and war, the combat, unit, or Guns of Navarone and all that stuff. The one of the appealing things about it is what they suffered in order to achieve their objective. That can resonate with men, I think so, that to put them in touch with the suffering Christ to invite some of the…To walk with Him the way of the Cross can be very important.
Matthew: The other way of sacrificing for our children. Our children are at great risk. Most of us either don’t believe it or don’t understand it or deny it. There’s a whole angle for men to say, “Hey, how do we save our sons? They’re at risk.” If you look at statistics, they’re very serious.
Bishop Piché: At the same time, I’ve been seeing in the Church a wonderful blossoming of faith among our young people there. They may not be there in the vast numbers that we would love to see, but the ones who are there are very much on fire and very much desiring to grow in their relationship with Christ, and not all of them, in fact many of them may be coming out of environments where the parents were indifferent or even they have antipathetically to the Gospel.
Matthew: They’ve lived with it and so they know the hurt.
Bishop Piché: You mentioned earlier about the evil one overplaying his hand and that…I don’t want to try to get, in any way, shape or reform to the speculation about his tactics, because he’s have a different order and has a different level of intelligence that’s way beyond ours, but I would say, in response to your remarks about…What I thought you were saying was that there’s a kind of a parallel between the rise in pornography and the decline in Confession on the part of man.
That would be easy to explain in terms of just a psychology. You use the word shame. It is interesting to me. I’ve pointed to this at my own experience as well. Why is it that we’re more ashamed of things that take control of us in a way that it goes against our will where we are overcome by a wave of lust or libido or something. We do something, we go look at something that we know we’re not supposed to look at or we give in to those temptations, the sins of the flesh as we sometimes refer to them.
Why is it that we’re more embarrassed and feel more ashamed about that than when we deliberately and coldly commit an act of uncharity, a lack of charity against a brother or sister or do something that’s very cold and calculating where we…Or we don’t pay our taxes or something like that. I don’t know how many people who do that are ashamed, but we are ashamed of this, and I wonder if that’s the obstacle for men.
I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but apparently, when Our Lady appeared to the children at Fatima and revealed to them, they had this glimpse or vision of hell, and it just frightened them. Her instruction to them was “The sins of lust are a wide highway, and many are going to hell on that pathway, but it’s not the most direct path to hell. The most direct path to hell would be sins like pride, envy, hatred, those spiritual sins that are directly against charity.”
Whereas lust is an attempt, it’s an attempt to express love or to experience love or they’re looking for love, but it’s looking for it in the wrong place, and it’s giving in to our lower appetites. That could become mortally sinful because of the despair and loss of charity, but it isn’t the quickest way. It’s a broad way, and so many are going down that path.
In the sense of overplaying the hand is that if men were to take seriously a challenge that pornography and other sins related to it have become in our culture today and really say, “OK, I’m going to roll up my sleeves. I’m going to put on my gloves, and I’m going to go fight this particular sin in myself, and I’m going to do what I can to make some dent in the culture of this and to talk about.”
This is enslaving us, this whole phenomenon. It’s an industry in which some people are making many, many millions of dollars. They’re exploiting women, they’re exploiting men, they’re exploiting us.
Matthew: Our children.
Bishop Piché: Our children, yeah. Just almost mind boggling. It’s mind bogging to me.
Matthew: We need a mission. I think that’s your point about going out and doing something. Maybe that’s another insight here, is that the institutional Church or within parishes or whatever, we need to be explicit about what do we want you to do. You need to do something and we need you.
Bishop Piché: It’s not the only thing, but it’s one of the key components, right? It’s a particular challenge, a particular urgency in our day.
Matthew: Because men rally. I mean, they typically rally if they feel threatened and they challenge, especially with their families.
Bishop Piché: But to get back to the idea of how God in His mercy and His omniscience, the wisdom that is so far beyond our human understanding, that He can even use these weaknesses, these sins to lead us to Him.
If men were to take seriously the threat that pornography and sins of lust are in their lives and sins of anger and sins of impatience or whatever, the three that you mentioned, sloth. To really combat them and use the Sacrament as it was offered to us as a means to fight these things, but also, to use fellowship to fight these things.
Look at the humility that would grow in our men. Humility that would not be this shy, retreating into oneself and demeaning oneself and saying, “Well, I’m just a piece of garbage.” That’s not humility. But the humility to say, “I can’t do this on my own. I need the Lord and I need my brothers. I need help.” That humility will be the salvation of these men. In one swoop, the Lord will defeat lust, pride, envy, all of them, the whole list of the seven fold deadly sins.
Matthew: I had the blessing to hear Father Jacques Philippe this week, he was here. I know you know that. He spoke specifically about the first Beatitude, the importance of spiritual poverty, which is the core to everything, which is humility.
I know we’re getting tight on time here. I was hoping maybe just one last question before we stop. Which is, what advice would you give to parish priests as they think about the evangelization of men? I’ll just leave it at that. What guidance?
Bishop Piché: Well, I think a good number of our priests are already well aware of the fact that if we’re going to reach the men, we’ve got to speak their language. We’ve got to offer things that are going to appeal to the way men think and feel. It’s got to be, like you said, attractive to men as men, and not to be afraid of that.
Also, I think for parish priests today, I know as a bishop now, I’ve become far more aware. I hope I’ve remained aware of, in my Episcopal work of the life in the parish, what it’s like to be a pastor. I was a pastor for at least 10 years, 12 years.
The demands on a pastor’s time are just beyond what can humanly be done. I think the key here would be to identify, if you can, don’t think, “OK, here’s another thing I’ve got to do.” But rather, “Here’s an opportunity that, if I can identify some leadership among the men in my parish.
There are these tools out there, CatholicManNight is one of them. Others of these models that you’re going to be doing some research about and trying to do some networking on and make available. That there are these tools out there that, you can put them in the hands of these men and give them the basic, say, here’s what we’re after. We really want our men to know Christ. How can we do that more effectively? Just give them encouragement.
You give me all this credit for CatholicManNight. We sat at, it was this very same table.
Matthew: Yes, it was, in the rectory here.
Bishop Piché: A few years ago, and you asked the original question. “Why are men so casual?” I said, I think it may have been the Holy Spirit nudged me and said, “Well, they don’t know Jesus Christ yet. If they could know Christ, they would become much more serious about that.” That was the beginnings of CatholicManNight. Well, I’ve been to, what, five, six?.
Matthew: At least.
Bishop Piché: Over the last, but it’s been like four years now?
Matthew: Four, fifth year, yeah.
Bishop Piché: So maybe once a year. I mean, that has, what I guess what I’m telling our priests is that you don’t have to be doing all this time. There’s some investment to being there for Confessions for a while. But as I’ve always experienced, you might dread going in because of the amount of time you’re going to be spending and you feel like, oh, I could be doing. But I don’t think you can be doing anything better than giving the one two punch to the old devil.
Matthew: You see the faces of the men waiting for Confession.
It’s interesting what I kind of gained two things here. One is I just want to reiterate the point of your guidance and your endorsement and direction about the way we should think about it. Men respond, certainly to a bishop, but also to our priests. I think for a large stint our priests maybe don’t recognize that if they ask men to do stuff, men will do it. I mean, they will respond. Not every man.
But the other idea of maybe every parish needs a men’s evangelization council or something to say, OK, look, the priest can’t do it. He can direct it and guide it but there has to be some people that are focused specifically on that maybe.
Well, I’m very grateful for your time today. I’ve been speaking with Bishop Lee Piché, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul, Minneapolis. Thank you, Your Excellency.
My name is Matthew James Christoff, and if you’d like to learn more about the New Emangelization Project go to NewEmangelization.com.