Recently, Jordan Peterson recorded a message to Christian churches. He pointed out that they needed to be more inviting to young men who are tired of being treated as nothing more than privileged oppressors.
This video reignited an old debate: Is the Catholic Church not masculine enough? You look at Islam and certain Eastern Churches and see more rigorous discipline. This appeals to the male desire to sacrifice himself for a greater cause.
The Catholic Church has only a couple of days of fasting per year (it used to be more). You can now eat meat on Fridays outside of Lent. There are not as many mandatory prayers as in Islam.
But does all of this really make Catholicism less manly? Should the Church make things much more rigorous to appeal to more men?
Here are some reasons to be cautious about this.
1. It isn’t necessarily more manly to do something because you’re being forced to do it
Men need humility and it is a manly thing to submit to a Church discipline you don’t agree with.
But the Church shouldn’t have to force you to do everything. One of the beautiful things about Catholicism is that it keeps the door open for those who want to give more.
During Lent, you’re only required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. But there’s nothing preventing you from fasting at other times of the year, as long as it’s safe for your health.
And why do you need the Church to tell you to pray more? Be a man and start doing it yourself!
2. The Church is not only for the strong, but also for the weak
The Church’s role is to bring all people into union with Christ. But it also has to reach people where they’re at.
Let’s be honest. Many men are severely weakened by our modern consumerist culture. They’ll only be able to progress in discipline one step at a time.
The Church makes relatively few disciplinary demands to encourage the weak to keep moving forward. Once they make enough progress, they are invited to choose additional acts of self-denial to grow in holiness or do so under the guidance of a spiritual director.
The Catholic Church offers plenty of opportunity for men to sacrifice themselves. Just look at St. Paul, St. Thomas More, and St. Francis Xavier. The Church is full of men who underwent incredible persecution and even martyrdom for the faith.
Jordan Peterson is right: Catholic churches need to be more intentional about inviting young men into their fold. The salvation of these men — and the restoration of culture — depends on it.