Missing the Forest for the Trees: What is really killing the family
Father Dwight Longnecker is a Catholic convert and a rare married priest (he was an Anglican priest when he converted). Father has been a strong positive force in the Church, a priest with a heart for evangelization and catechesis and God-given gift of writing and speaking. Thank you Father!
However, respectfully, Father Longnecker has written a recent article where I believe he is missing the forest for the trees. In Father Longnecker’s article, “Ten Things that are Killing the Family”, he offers his take on what is causing the breakdown of the family.
While Father Longnecker has listed a number of contributing factors, perhaps societal pressures, I believe he is missing the bigger picture of why the family is breaking down. The article lists a number of contributing factors: Increased mobility, increased educational standards, suburban living, the loss of a living wage, no fault divorce, the invention of artificial contraception, marriage as self-fulfillment, the rise of feminism and homosexualism, poor catechesis on sexuality and relativistic morality.
These are environmental or cultural factors that are putting pressure on the family, but they are not the root cause of the breakdown of the family.
At the core of the breakdown of the family is the lack of evangelized and catechized Catholic men who are leading and protecting their families as priests prophets, and kings.
None of these 1o factors will defeat a Catholic man who is strong in the faith, nor would a number of these pressures even be pressures. There are plenty of Committed Catholic Men out there who are successfully defending their families with the help of the Trinity and Our Blessed Mother against the attacks of Satan.
The issue is not if the Enemy has bullets and that he is shooting them (Father lists his take describing the”bullets”), but the fact that the army of Catholic men are not committed, not trained and scattered. As a result, Catholic men and their families are getting slaughtered.
The real way to understand what what is causing a decline is to figure out how to stop the decline. What will counteract these factors are not counterpoints (e.g. we need to defeat feminism, or homosexulalism, or artificial contraception), but something very different.
What’s needed is Catholic men who are on fire for Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church.
The lack of sufficient numbers of Committed Catholic men is the root cause of the breakdown of the family, not the societal pressures that Father Longnecker describes. In this, Father has missed the forest for the trees; he is looking at contributing factors but not the root causes.
Given the ongoing research on the New Emangelization Project, I’m convinced that few in the Church have come to grips with catastrophic failure to evangelize Catholic men and the need for a robust, all-hands-on-deck emphasis on evangelizing and catechizing men.
A key note: Catholic priests are men too; there is a crisis in the Church because Catholic priests are men too, and many of them lack the interest and skills to evangelize other Catholic men. This is not a hypothesis: the New Emangelization Project has recently fielded a survey that was filled out by over 2000 men entitled “Helping Priests become more effective in the Evangelizing Men” and the results are clear: only a small minority of priests are actively evangelizing men. When priests evangelize men, men pray more, they go to mass more, they go to confession more and they have more and deeper friendships with men in their parishes. Stay tuned for a full analysis of the data in the coming months.
You can’t solve a problem if you confuse contributing factors with root causes; if you count the trees and miss the forest. It is key to expose this confusion of factors and root causes as we look forward to the next Synod on the Family in 2015.
To date, the New Evangelization has almost completely ignored the critical role of men in the family and the need to evangelize and catechize Catholic men. Unless the Synod gets serious about the Catholic “man-crisis”, the root causes of the “man-crisis” and what to do about the “man-crisis”, I suspect that much of what might come out of the Synod will yield little fruit.
There can be no New Evangelization without a New Emangelization, creating generations of Catholic men on fire for Jesus Christ and Holy Mother Church.
Catholic men! Pray for our bishops and priests and for all Catholic men, that they would recognize the Catholic “man-crisis” and make a New Emangelization the top priority in the Church.