The New Emangelization: The Catholic “Man-Crisis”
With its roots in Vatican II, the New Evangelization is a recognition that a crisis exists in the Church because large numbers of baptized Catholics have not been evangelized. So far, perhaps the most critical driver of the crisis has been largely ignored: there is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Until the Church comes to grips with why large numbers of Catholic men continue to leave the faith and why most of the men who remain lack passion for the faith, the New Evangelization can not thrive. Men are essential to the health of parishes and the passing along of the faith to children. Simply put: there will be no New Evangelization without a New Emangelization, in which generations of Catholic men are evangelized and lit on fire for Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church. The New Emangelization will be challenging, but starts with confronting the Catholic “man-crisis.”
The Crisis of Casual Catholic Men
Research confirms that American Catholic men lack of passion for the faith: there is an epidemic of Casual Catholic men (See detailed statistics at NewEmangelization.com/The Catholic “Man-Crisis” Factsheet). Most Catholic men believe that “how one lives is more important than being a Catholic.” Large numbers of Catholic men don’t believe that Catholicism has a “greater share of truths than other religions.” And only about 1 in 4 Catholic men believe that being a Catholic is “is among the most important things in life.” Clearly, Catholic men lack passion for the faith.
The lack of passion in Catholic men is a modern Catholic man crisis. The history of the Church, beginning with the Apostles, is a history of passionate Catholic men who were martyred, fought in the Crusades, built Western Civilization and evangelized the world. Today, in the post-modern America, there are pockets of passionate Catholic men, but they are small minority. It is also not a crisis with the manliness of Christianity: other Christian denominations attract passionate men. For example, Evangelical Christian men are more passionate than Catholic men: significantly more Evangelical men than Catholic men think religion is very important in their lives, are more certain about a personal God and pray on a regular basis. Men can be passionate about Christianity and being Catholic; but many men today are not.
Even more troubling is that Catholic men’s passion for the faith is decreasing. Comparing data over time, Catholic men’s certainty about remaining Catholic has dropped: 25 years ago, about 50% of Catholic men said they’d never leave the Church; today, only about 40% say they’d never leave. This means a startling 60% of Catholic men would consider leaving the Church.
Many men have already left the Church. Some 11 to 15 million Catholic men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church. Others, while still claiming to be “Catholic”, have stopped practicing the faith: a third of men who call themselves “Catholic” are not even members of a parish. Unchecked, the lack of passion in today’s Catholic men will most certainly lead to an even greater exodus in the future.
The Crisis in Catholic Men’s Catechesis
At the heart of the “man-crisis” is the fact that large numbers of Catholic men have not been catechized to the point of conviction in the Truth of the Church. Only half of Catholic men believe that the Sacraments are essential to their relationship with God. Only about a third of Catholic men believe that weekly Mass attendance or participating in the Sacrament of Confession are “very important”.
Catholic men also lack belief in the importance of Catholic devotions and practices. Only 30% of Catholic men believe it is very important to have a devotion to Mary and even less (23%) believe in the importance having a devotion to the Saints. Catholic men also lack a commitment to prayer: Only 37% of Catholic men strongly agree that, “daily prayer is important.”
Men know they don’t know the faith: less than half of Catholic men are confident that they “can explain their faith to others.” Apparently, they don’t care enough about Catholicism to learn their faith.
The Crisis of Catholic Men’s Practice of the Faith
Given the lack of catechesis of the Sacraments and Devotions, it is no surprise that Catholic men do not practice the faith. Sadly, only about a quarter of Catholic men consider themselves to be “practicing Catholics.”
The large majority of Catholic men do not attend Mass. Only about a third of Catholic men say they attend Mass on a weekly basis and men are dramatically underrepresented in the pews. Over 40% of Catholic men attend Mass “a few times per year” or “seldom or never.” The lack of catechesis is again apparent: 50% of men think that “Mass is boring” (they don’t understand the miracle of the Eucharist) and 55% agree that they “don’t get anything out of the Mass” (they believe the Mass is about them, and not the thanksgiving to Christ for His Sacrifice and the salvation of men).
Men also are not going to Confession. An astounding 3 out of 4 Catholics never go to Confession or go less than once per year. While breakout data is not available for men’s participation, it is likely that the lack of participation in Confession is even worse among men, because men are much less likely than woman to believe that Confession is important.
The large majority of Catholic men do not have a prayer practice. Less than 1 in 3 Catholic men pray on a daily basis. Almost half of Catholic men do not engage in a routine of prayer; praying only “occasionally or sometimes” or “seldom or never.” Without engaging the Sacraments and prayer in regular practice, at some point Catholic men cease to be Catholic.
Why the Catholic “Man-Crisis” Matters
The Catholic “man-crisis” matters, for the souls of men matter, the souls of children matter and the health of parishes matter.
The Catholic “Man-crisis” is an existential crisis for the souls of Catholic men. If the Church teachings are true, many Catholic men are at grave risk for their souls, for they are renouncing their faith or ignoring the their faith. Many have fallen into grave sin of pornography (some 60% of men view pornography on a monthly basis) while not turning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Large numbers of men are in mortal danger of their salvation.
Children are also at risk because of the Catholic “man-crisis”, for the faith of the fathers (or lack thereof) is passed along to their children. Catholic parents are doing a poor job of passing on the faith, especially fathers. Less than half of Catholic men even believe that it is highly important for their children to remain Catholic. And kids are learning the faith doesn’t matter: an astounding 8 out of 10 18-29 year olds would consider leaving the Catholic Church. New research by Dr. Christian Smith of Notre Dame shows that young adults are not returning to the Catholic faith after their wandering 20’s.
This failure to pass along the faith is particularly acute in young men. The lack of men in the pews sends a signal that it is not manly to be Catholic. A Notre Dame study concludes that the paltry level of men’s involvement in teaching the faith in parishes, leads large numbers of young men to turn away from the faith. With less and less men receiving the faith from their fathers, the pool for priestly vocations is likely to continue shrink.
Catholic parishes cannot thrive and grow without men. Only 1 in 5 men participate in any parish activity outside of Mass. Studies show that congregations with greater involvement of men are more likely to be growing. Given the growing exodus of Catholic men and their lack of involvement, it is likely that the American Church will continue to see the trend in parish closings continue. Healthy parishes need faithful Catholic men.
The New Evangelization is recognition that there is a crisis of faith in the Church. But until the Church acknowledges the Catholic “man-crisis”, why the “man-crisis” exists and begins to take action to address it, there is little hope in stemming the losses of the Catholic men and their children. To be clear, there can be no New Evangelization, without a New Emangelization, creating generations of Catholic men who are on fire for Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church.