Monday, March 06, 2006

Real Catholic men

My post on the Boston's men's conference, featuring the outrageous comments of Sean Forrest, drew a comment worth noting from someone who attended the event (and I appreciate the eyewitness account):

The Herald chose to focus on Sean Forrest, the least prominent of the four featured speakers. Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Dr. Scott Hahn and Fr. John Corapi each had a one hour session in the morning and second one hour session in the afternoon. The day closed with Archbishop Sean presiding over mass. Unfortunately neither Boston newspaper took the Boston Catholic Men’s and Women’s conferences seriously. The two days had almost 9000 attendees in total. I’ll provide one point of contrast to the Hearld’s story. Fr. Cantalamessa’s second talk of the day focused on Ephesians 5. He said that the husband’s call to love his wife is reciprocal; the wife must also love her husband. The wife’s call to be subordinate herself to the husband is reciprocal; the husband must subordinate himself to the wife. That is a small taste of the 2006 conference. Overall it was a very good event.

Now I must admit that I'm no fan of Scott Hahn--a former evangelical who has taken his biblical fundamentalism and applied it to the Catechism--but I imagine that the two priests probably offered decent content, having heard Corapi and read Cantalamessa. But the fact that someone with Forrest's message--basically that husbands should control their wives' bodies by "getting them off the birth control"--is disturbing in the extreme. Quite frankly, he made the case for why Roe v. Wade shouldn't be overturned! His message is patriarchy pure and simple, and it has no place at an official Catholic event, especially when dioceses systematically restrict more liberal Catholic voices on similar topics, Sister Joan Chittister, OSB being a case in point. What's good for the left is good for the right, and Forrest's message is indefensible as a Catholic position.

But here's my question for the conference planners: Granting that a Catholic men's conference is a good idea, why wasn't at least one of the keynoters a woman? Especially if much of the content focused on the relationship between men and women? Secondly, why does a "men's" conference need to focus so much on women? Isn't the purpose of a men's conference to focus on the particular spiritual experience, journey, and needs of men as men? This wasn't, after all, a Catholic husbands conference.

I hope, as the commenter argues, that the conference was indeed good overall, and I've no doubt the local newspapers completely ignored what good was offered there. But I still have to ask why Catholic men can't have a conference about being men, instead of focusing on how they should relate to, much less control, women. Not all men are married--we're not all even straight--and it seems to me that we need to work most on how we relate to ourselves and each other rather than worrying about how we're going to handle those uppity girls.

That's that kind of "men's work" that's desperately needed, as most male relationships are reduced to boss-subordinate or competitor at work and mere drinking buddy at the social level. Think about it, all you men out there, gay or straight: How many relationships do you have with other men in which you could talk about what's really going on in your life, much less what's going on in with you spiritually? Focusing on women is an excuse for not taking a good look at ourselves.

And my last, and I grant, meanest question: Why is it that not one Catholic man got up and left during Forrest's talk? Did not one of you feel that your wives were being degraded by a man who actually responds to women's criticism with an adolescent "you'll be back"? That's shameful in the extreme.

Any women out there want to sound off on this one?


At 5:28 PM, Anonymous ANR said...

Hm. Interesting that the men's conference focused so much on women and marriage. What's that about, besides uneasiness with those scary and rebellious people with (eek!) uteri? Doesn't sound very healthy to me.

I work for a church women's organization, and our conferences, programs, etc., very seldom mention men (except for Jesus and the apostles), marriage, or children. It's about *our* spiritual experience, not theirs.

(I got a call from a older man one day who was very apologetic and bashful and didn't want to seem critical, but he thought it'd be nice if we'd maybe talk a little bit about men sometime.)

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Bill Redmond said...

Hello again.

The Boston Herald's coverage focused on women.

Fear not, the men's conference did not focus on women. It did focus on topics of interest to men and to women, married and single.
- Spiritual warfare (Fr. Corapi),
- Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and prayer (Dr. Hahn)
- Repentance and spirituality within the family (Fr. Cantalamessa)

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love being Catholic and am so blessed by the beauty of teachings of this One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic... Body of the very Christ that won for us salvation and glory in the very presence of God.

I know that as I have matured in my faith (and continue to do so, I am very far from grasping and understanding the mysteries of Christ or his Church) I have struggled with many teachings of the Church. I have struggled, mostly because I failed to recognize the Goodness of God. I feared His "control". I have been blessed to learn that his "control", in the form of asking for our obedience... comes only from a desire to LOVE & PROTECT us. I have also learned that He, alone, knows what is good for me and for my life.

I have had to embrace humility first, and then obedience in order to see His love and protection in this light... no easy task, and one that I struggle to embrace on a daily basis. It is only from this perspective that I have been able to see the blessings of the teachings of the church.

The Church's live giving, and beautiful teachings on family planning and openess to life have been opened to me because of this perspective (which is also a gift). I have come to see that God only desires freedom and peace for us. Contraception (hormonal or barrier) desire not to give us authentic freedom, but a lie. The lie that we are in control, that our destiny is self defined... that fertility is a burden.

Married love is a force to be reckoned with, a powerful force of hope and love. In this vocation, we are called to BE Christ for our spouse, to lay down all that we are, as a complete gift of self.. for the "other", for our beloved, for the other half of the "oneness" we have embraced in marriage, and ultimately (like Christ's sacrifice) for the good of the whole world: married or unmarried, straight or gay... all of humanity. We cannot do this if we withold ANY PART of ourself; including our fertility. Birth control requires that we withold a part of ourselves, and in marriage, a very key part of ourselves... our fertility.

I would invite you who are troubled by this difficult, but none-the-less integral teaching of the Catholic Church to devote some time in prayer to reflection on the example of Christ and how his complete gift of self, through his passion, death, and ressurection, won for us the possibility of life, and life in abundance of joy, blessing, hope, freedom, and salvation.

He calls us to nothing less than the example he was willing to give in fullness, reserving nothing. In marriage, and, in all reality, every voction... we are called to nothing less, nothing.

When we are open to holding back nothing, to giving our whole self freely, then God can truly pour all that He is into us. Including the perfect love that casts out all fear, and give birth to true, free, and un-bounded joy. It is my hope for you, and for all humanity- that we may be open to the grace and peace of the love offered to us by Christ, through the very Church that he created... The Catholic Church. May the sweetest blessings of The Victorious Christ, and His Body... The Church, be poured over you, and fill you with the courage to lay down your very self in the vocation that you are called to serve Him in.


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