The Need for New Ardor



The Institutional Church Needs New Ardor

Despite the prolonged crisis due to the significant exodus of men from the Church, Church’s formal response to the continuing loss of men has not been robust: there have been no sustaining man-focused efforts as part of the New Evangelization.  The major Church documents of the New Evangelization, including Evangelii Nuntiandi, Catechesi Tradendae, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the General Catechetical Directory do not address the uniqueness and importance of evangelizing males.  Surveying the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) website yields minimal recognition of the critical importance of retaining men or the evangelization challenges unique to men.  The document Go and Make Disciples, which aspires to be “a national plan and strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States,”[1] makes no mention of any special emphasis needed for the evangelization of men (or women for that matter).  Another comprehensive “Pastoral Plan”, Our Hearts Were Burning Within Us, also does not recognize the importance of evangelizing men.  While the “Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth” section of the USCCB website has a “Women’s Concerns” page with multiple entries,[2] there is not a single page specific to men.  Building a strategic emphasis on the evangelization of men is not yet a priority within the USCCB.

There was a brief, somewhat reactive, acknowledgement of the issue of men’s evangelization by the Church in the 1990’s.  For several years in the 1990’s, the USCCB convened an ad hoc working group of the Committee on Marriage and Family and the Committee on Evangelization to respond to the highly publicized successes of the Evangelical “Promise-Keepers” movement that drew many Catholic men.  The working group issued a several page report, A Perspective on Promise Keepers, in 1996[3] and issued similarly short report, An Introductory Report, in 1999.[4]  The working group concluded that the Church should applaud emerging Catholic men’s movements, and, while encouraging Bishops to support the laity-led efforts with personal participation as appropriate, the working group took a decidedly “hands off” approach.  The Introductory Report might have been better named The Final Report; since 1999, no further studies or reports have been released by the working group and there have been no other formal efforts by the Vatican or the USCCB to offer targeted approaches to the evangelization of men.

The Laity Needs New Ardor

The growing Catholic “Man-Crisis” in America and the issues of evangelizing Catholic men is also largely ignored in the Catholic academic world.  For example, The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University, a top Catholic research organization, has little interest in the attitudes and behaviors of Catholic men.  A review of hundreds of articles in The CARA Report, the major publication of CARA, does not yield a single article that specifically addresses the faith life, issues or practices of Catholic men.[5]  Several of the key academicians at CARA have recently released a number of books that purport to provide a comprehensive insight into state of the Catholic Church in the United States, including American Catholics Today and American Catholics in Transition.  Remarkably, while there are numerous references in the indexes in these books for issues dealing with “women”, “Hispanics”, “homosexuals”, “Democrats”, “Republicans”, “generational differences”, “young adults” and “Millennials”, there is not a single index entry related to “men” or “fathers.”  A review of the EBSCOHost site of academic articles found a dearth of research on the faith lives of Catholic men.  The Catholic “Man Crisis” is not yet a priority in Catholic academic circles.

In stark contrast to the lack of interest in understanding the issues related to evangelizing Catholic men, Evangelical Christians are very aggressive in seeking to understand and evangelize men.  Promise Keepers, the Evangelical-led effort, continues to draw thousands of men to large-scale events across the U.S.[6] In addition, there are many books written by Evangelical men that describe the uniqueness of evangelizing men: Why Men Hate Going to Church, Effective Men’s Ministries, Wild at Heart, The Man in the Mirror, From Wild Man to Wise Man, No Man Left Behind.  While it is beyond the scope of this paper to detail the very real differences in attitudes and approaches needed to evangelize men, the collective view of these authors confirm that a man-focused evangelization approach is both essential and urgent.  While some Catholic examples of focused men’s evangelization do exist, including Leon Podle’s The Church Impotent – The Feminization of Christianity and Father Larry Richards’ Be a Man,  Catholic efforts are minimal compared to Evangelical efforts.  The relatively “lukewarm” approach to evangelization of Catholic men may help explain why 60% of those Catholics leaving the Church and remain Christian become Evangelicals.[7]

[2]   United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “Women’s Concerns,” (accessed June 28, 2013).

[3]   United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “A Perspective on the Promise Keepers (1996),” (accessed June 28, 2013).

[4]   United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, “An Introductory Report (1999),” (accessed June 28, 2013).

[5]  Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, “The CARA Report – subject index for the CARA Report,” (accessed June 25, 2013).

[6]  Promise Keepers, (accessed June 25, 2013).

[7] “Faith in Flux,” 21.