Printer Friendly

Identifying the Catholic men's movement.

When we think of the Christian men's movement we tend to think of Promise Keepers. Only recently has the diversity of the Christian men's movement(s) begun to emerge. Philip Culbertson (2007) points to the plurality missed by Kenneth Clatterbaugh's (1990, 1997) popular taxonomy of the men's movement outlined in Contemporary Perspectives on Masculinity. Culbertson identifies various streams of the Christians men's movement he argues share no common theology, spirituality, or goal. In this paper I highlight one such stream that has gone largely unnoticed: the Catholic men's movement. To a certain extent, Clatterbaugh's failure to identify the diversity of the Christian men's movement is to do with the passing of time. In the second edition of Contemporary Perspectives on Masculinity (1997), Clatterbaugh identifies the evangelical men's movement, exemplified by Promise Keepers, as a significant new strand of men's movement not present in the first edition (1990). Certainly in the proceeding decade we can have expected new strands of men's movement. But I believe Clatterbaugh missed a unique aspect of the Christian men's movement: men's ministry.

Men's ministries are a response to two forms of anxiety about the fading of men within the Church: either about men losing power in the Church as a result of increasing "feminine" influence, or a missiological anxiety that fewer men are being brought to Christ. Promise Keepers is, first and foremost, a men's ministry. When we understand that the Christian men's movement is the same as men's ministry we see that the contemporary evangelical men's movement existed well before 1990, and is based in the work of Edwin Louis Cole, who founded the Christian Men's Network in 1977 and wrote popular books with large sales such as Maximized Manhood (1982) and Real Man (2003). (1) Bill McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers claimed, "Edwin Louis Cole modelled the key essentials" (quoted in Andrescik, 2002). For an idea of the scale of men's ministries in the United States, Patrick Morley (2000), "Chairman and CEO" of the popular ministry Man in the Mirror, identified over 34,650 men's ministries. Morley doesn't include Catholic men's ministries in his figures, which is another example of the Catholic men's movement slipping under the radar.

In this paper I hope to achieve two goals. First, I intend to show how Catholic men have played a significant role in what is commonly perceived as the "Christian men's movement" and "masculine spirituality." Two of the most popular books written in what we might call the "Christian mythopoetic years" were written by Catholics: Patrick Arnold's (1991), Wildmen, Warriors and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible, and Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos' (1992) The Wild Man's Journey: Reflections on Male Spirituality. I highlight these books because they show that Catholic voices are far from marginal in the general Christian men's movement. Also, while my intention is to identify the "Catholic men's movement," these writers show there is a significant interaction with other streams of the Christian men's movement. My aim is more to identify a Catholic "flavor" of men's movement rather than engage in an exercise of reification about a singular, distinct Catholic men's movement. Indeed, my second goal of documenting the unfolding of an organized Catholic men's movement reflects this interaction. In 1996, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Marriage and Family identified the success of Promise Keepers and set out a Catholic alternative. As Catholic men's ministries develop from the Committee's initiative we begin to see some aspects that are unique to the Catholic men's movement. By examining both Arnold and Rohr and Martos' mythopoetic texts and the Catholic men's ministries we can see where Catholic masculine performances are repetitions of the wider men's movement and where they differ.

Catholic Mythopoeticism

The popularity of the mythopoetic movement in the 1990s found a complement in the general Christian men's movement. Among the early Christian mythopoetic texts was Gordon Dalbey's (1988) Healing the Masculine Soul. While Dalbey, an evangelical, pre-dates Robert Bly's Iron John (1990), he was heavily influenced by an earlier interview of Bly with Keith Thompson called What Men Really Want (Bly & Thompson, 1982), which was a prototype of Iron John. Numerous other evangelical books took up mythopoetic themes such as Stu Weber's (1993) Tender Warrior: God's Intention for a Man and later John Eldredge's (2001) Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul. But while they did not market themselves as such, two popular Christian mythopoetic books were written by Catholics: Patrick Arnold's (1991), Wildmen, Warriors and Kings, and Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos' (1992) The Wild Man's Journey. Catholic mythopoeticism is concerned with the classic mythopoetic themes of archetypes, fatherlessness, initiation, wildness/wilderness, male bonding and the feminization of society and the Church. Arnold's Catholic mythopoeticism is more conservative than Rohr and Martos'. Rohr, in particular, has remained popular over the years, publishing numerous books, including in 2005 a revised and expanded edition of The Wild Man's Journey. Looking at these two texts in isolation, Catholic mythopoeticism looks very similar to its secular counterpart, articulating a distinct anxiety about the slipping of men's power and promoting some rather one-dimensional (archetypal) models of masculinity.

Arnold's (1991) main concern is that, "Western culture and the Christian church are becoming more feminine and less masculine" (p. 51). In this context he is concerned for men's ability to negotiate the spiritual life: "It is widely assumed that prayer and spirituality are basically female enterprises, and that all but a few unusual men can relate to religion only in a peripheral way" (pp. 71-72). This is a curious conclusion given the preponderance of men in the leadership roles of all the world's major religious traditions. (2) For Arnold, the feminization of the Church is no accident: Men are under attack from certain feminist quarters from what he describes at length as "misandry" (3) at the hand of "gaialogians" (p. 56) who not only blame men for society's current ills but also, by referring to matriarchal societies, reinvent archaeological history to suit their gaialogical agenda.

Arnold (1991) is actively dismissive of feminine modes of spirituality, claiming "God the Father represents human psychic maturation from a feminine matrix of undifferentiated primitive religiosity" (p. 214). We are left in little doubt about the kind of masculinity Arnold wishes to promote. Rohr and Martos (1992) seek less to attack women, rather to keep them (and atypical men) at arm's length. "This book is not for women. Nor is it for softies, wimps or nerds who intend to stay that way for the rest of their lives," they write at the beginning of The Wild Man's Journey (p. i). They make much of a supposed male/female polarity, which is described as, "the male-female antagonism" (pp. 12, 14) contrasting men as orientated toward action and women toward reflection (p. 5), perpetuating simplistic gender roles.

Beyond a concern for the feminization of society and the Church and an essentialist understanding of gender, Catholic mythopoeticism also intersects with the secular mythopoetic theme of Jungian archetypes. Arnold (1991) identifies common masculine archetypes but locates them within the bible. In particular, Arnold equates Abraham as Patriarch and Pilgrim, Moses as Warrior and Magician, Solomon as King, Elijah as Wildman, Elisha as Healer, Jeremiah as Prophet, and Jonah as Trickster. Following Bly, who wrote the foreword for his book, Arnold identifies Adam as "the first biblical Wildman" (p. 124). Rohr and Martos (1992) also locate the Wild Man (4) in God, various Old Testament prophets, and John the Baptist (pp. 33-39). Rohr and Martos' one-dimensional gender characteristics mixed with a discussion of the King archetype would be at home in the writing of Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette (1990, 1992), described by Michael Kimmel (1995, p. 5) as "the worst" of mythopoetic texts: "the feminine virtues are humility, obedience, openness, receptivity, trust, forgiveness, patience and long-suffering.... They are the kind of qualities a king wants all his subjects to have. If they do, his role is a lot easier" (Rohr & Martos, p. 132). But far from being a useful model on which to base masculine performances, archetypes are little more than "calcifications of a patriarchal world view" (Culbertson, 1993, p. 222). Various other mythopoetic themes are repeated, such as the "father wound," (Arnold, pp. 65, 94-96; Rohr & Martos, pp. 79-90) and the need for initiation (Rohr & Martos, pp. 49- 54).

Both Arnold and Rohr and Martos present a model of masculinity closely aligned with the regular mythopoetic men's movement and are subject to much of the same critique, including rigid gender stereotyping, misogyny, androcentrism, homophobia. and political, racial and economic naivety (Brod, 1992; Hagan, 1992; Ross, 1992; Kimmel, 1995: Schwalbe, 1996; Messner, 1997). (5) While their Catholicism is not the driving force behind their writing, they nevertheless represent a significant Catholic voice in the general Christian men's movement, providing a literary complement to the organized movement that gained momentum with the expansion of Promise Keepers. However, as the next section shows, it was Promise Keepers that provided the inspiration for the organizing of the Catholic men's movement and ministry.

The Organization of the Catholic Men's Movement

The Catholic men's movement has significant historical precedent. The Holy Name Society is a fraternal movement dating back to the Council of Lyons in 1274 and continues today with around 500,000 members in America. (6) The Knights of Columbus is another men-only organization founded in 1882 to act as a mutual benefit society and to encourage pride in American Catholicism (Kauffman, 1982). It remains an influential organization of 1.7 million members (7) and ranks among 15 groups comprising The International Alliance of Catholic Knights, (8) which operates in 27 countries. Another significant member of the Alliance is the Knights of Peter Claver, founded in 1909 and operating in 34 states and constituting America's largest African-American lay Catholic organization. (9) These, and other similar fraternal groups, while having a different brief to what we currently understand as men's movement and ministry, nevertheless indicate a tendency for Catholic men to gather in order to promote their particular interests.

The contemporary Catholic men's movement has close two-directional ties to Promise Keepers. Bill McCartney was raised Catholic and identified himself as such until a conversion experience at the age of 33, after which he remained sympathetic to the Catholic Church. Promise Keepers was always intended to be an ecumenical movement and welcomed Catholic men to its events. Mike Aquilina (1997, p. 10), editor of the Conservative Catholic Our Sunday Visitor, notes four keys ways Promise Keepers sought out Catholic participation: appointing the Catholic Mike Timmis to its board of directors, spotlighting at events Catholic evangelist Jim Berlucchi, hosting a "Catholic Summit," and amending its statement of faith, revising content deemed to be offensive to Catholics. David W. Cloud, founder of the Way of Life Literature, a "Fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry" has catalogued at some length the ways in which Promise Keepers has soiled its reputation by encouraging Catholic participation. (10) However, the more noticeable influence is that of Promise Keepers on the Catholic Church.

In June 1996, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Marriage and Family published "A Perspective on Promise Keepers," which took note of the evangelical multitudes being attracted by a simple bible message to stadia across North America. The report states an unknown number of Catholic laymen and clergy had attended Promise Keepers events, and that the USCCB had dealt with many queries on the matter. Three particular reasons why Catholic men in particular might be attracted to Promise Keepers were highlighted: men having experienced Catholic charismatic renewal, thus being comfortable with the Promise Keepers setting; men seeking more traditionalist leanings; and men seeking viable men's ministry. While some notes of caution are sounded, the report ultimately sees Promise Keepers as a positive phenomenon, indicating a need to catalyze a similar Catholic revival, concluding,
 It seems better ... to become proactive in responding to men's
 spiritual issues rather than to be reactive to what Promise Keepers
 is offering. Let us focus and expend our energies on what we can
 offer distinctively from within the Roman Catholic faith tradition.

In July 1999, the USCCB Committee on Marriage and Family published, "Catholic Men's Ministries: An Introductory Report," that presented what such proactive responses might be. The report aimed to build on Promise Keepers' "tested and adaptable model for reaching, organizing, and empowering men in a religious context," yet "did not want simply to create a 'Catholic version' of Promise Keepers." (12) Two specific needs were identified for Catholic men's ministry: sacramental celebration and devotion to the saints, and ministry resourses that identified with Catholic history and tradition. This would require "a national network of men's ministries and a central clearinghouse for information, leadership training, program resources, and general coordination among the many groups." In other words, here is a Catholic version of the Christian Men's Network founded by Edwin Louis Cole back in 1977. The result was the creation of the National Resource Center for Catholic Men, now known as the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (NFCM). These concerns were confirmed and expanded in the 2002, "Catholic Men's Ministries: A Progress Report" (13) and a leadership manual entitled Hearing Christ's Call: A Resource for the Formation and Spirituality of Catholic Men. The success of NFCM may not look as extraordinary as evangelical men's ministries, but it is nevertheless noteworthy. NFCM lists over 100 affiliated Catholic Men's Fellowships across the Unites States. (14) Each of the fellowships may contain within them many, mostly parish-based men's groups. For example, the Greater Cincinnati Catholic Men's Fellowship lists nearly 200 men's groups within its fold. (15)

Intersections between the Evangelical and Catholic Men's Movement

Direct and indirect allusions to Promise Keepers can be found in various Catholic men's ministries. The concept of the "promise" is particularly popular. Catholic Men's Fellowship of California encourages participants to commit to the "Seven Promises;" (16) perhaps in an act of distancing these have since been switched to the Seven Principles. (17) Catholic Men for Jesus Christ use the same seven promises but call them the Seven Pledges. (18) Rhode Island Men of St. Joseph whittle the promises down to five, (19) and single out Promise Keepers when talking about mutual support with other ministries. (20) Men of St. Joseph (not to be confused with Rhode Island Men of St. Joseph) invite members to accept certain promises that bear a resemblance to Promise Keepers. (21) That Man is You! members commit to Seven Covenants. (22) Promise Keepers are also clearly echoed by the sizeable St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers who adhere to Eight Commitments. (23) There is certainly no shying away from Promise Keepers as a role model in Catholic men's ministry, nor any hesitance by Promise Keepers in welcoming Catholic men. In this respect men's ministry can be seen as a fine example of ecumenism, even if a cynical interpretation might suggest this is because men have found it easy to identify their commonality when faced with a perceived challenge to their status at the center of Christian life.

One crucial theme that characterizes the evangelical men's movement, of which Promise Keepers is a part, is servant leadership (Evans, 1994, p. 79; Hayford, 2001, pp. 63-64; Weber, 1993, p. 94) or "soft patriarchy" (Van Leewen, 1997; Wilcox, 2004), in which a man should act as the gentle leader of his family. This is also present in Catholic men's ministry, but is a good example of it containing a wider variety of positions than its evangelical counterpart. The 1996 USCCB report highlights servant leadership as a "point of caution." The report states that Promise Keepers
 seems to drift very definitely toward a view of the man as "in
 charge" (because he is a man) and urges him to "take back" from his
 wife the role of family leader. Nowhere in P[romise] K[eepers]
 literature does one encounter the careful treatment about the
 equality and mutuality of women and men as one would find in the
 teaching of Pope John Paul 11. (24)

Pope John Paul II's comments on this matter appear in his 1998 Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, "On the Dignity and Vocation of Women," which states, "all the reasons in favor of the 'subjection' of woman to man in marriage must be understood in the sense of a 'mutual subjection' of both 'out of reverence for Christ'" (section 24). (25)

Bill Bawden and Tim Sullivan's (1999) Signposts: How to Be a Catholic Man in the World Today is a workbook recommended by NFCM and is the most widely used text among Catholic men's ministries. Bawden and Sullivan are equally cautious in their references to servant leadership. They note from the start that these are confusing times in which "many sincere men are trying to reclaim aspects of their lives that in the past have been abdicated: spiritual leadership of the family" (p. 4). The lesson "Leading the Family" is, however, reluctant to employ the kind of language of evangelical servant leadership, focusing instead on passages from the Catechism (sections 2202-06; 2223) that refer specifically to the responsibility of parents to children, not husbands to their wives and children. Mutuality is again alluded to, asking the question, "in what ways might a father's leadership differ or contrast with a wife's leadership in the home?" (p. 85). Catholic Men's Fellowship of Pittsburgh carefully word their intention to raise Catholic awareness, "so single and married men can accept their God-given roles as individuals in families, marriages, and churches." (26) Men of St. Joseph talk about servant leadership, but within the context of men's ministry rather than the family. (27)

Heading into more traditional territory, Oklahoma Fellowship of Catholic Men, "aid men in becoming spiritual leaders of their families." (28) Catholic Men's Fellowship DFW say, "We seek to reclaim aspects of our lives lost in the world today, that is, spiritual leadership of the family, the ability to express love and emotion and live vital relationships with other men of God." (29) At the conservative end of the Catholic spectrum, St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers present a vision of servant leadership that could be drawn from many evangelical ministries, speaking of men's "leadership role within their own families." (30) Among their resources are Paul N. Check's "Wives, Be Subject to Your Husbands": The Authority of the Husband According to the Magisterium, (31) a large document canvassing numerous magisterial texts and theologians that demonstrates, "the husband's authority within the family.... It is something that God has willed for the good of the spouses." St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers is a significant ministry, but its position on servant leadership is not representative. In general, Catholic men's ministry either ignores the subject of servant leadership or treats it far more delicately than its evangelical counterpart.

Another key characteristic of evangelical men's ministry is sport (Balmer, 2000; Beal, 2000; Hawkins, 2000; Randels & Beal, 2002; Webb-Mitchell, 1997), and with it competition and winning. There are also instances of sport occurring in Catholic men's ministry. Reminiscent of Promise Keepers' appeal to sport, and actually a Catholic revision of a Promise Keepers title, NFCM resources include Geoff Gorsuch's Brothers! Calling Catholic Men into Vital Relationship, which employs the baseball diamond to represent the process of building relationships with other Catholic men. NFCM also encourage the reading of Danny Abramowicz's (2004) Spiritual Workout of a Former Saint, which tells of the former All-Pro wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints' battles with alcoholism and his path to Christ. Catholic Men in Action Prayer Group follow the sporting theme: instead of a group meeting they have a "workout" that follows the "stretch-out" (prayer), "warm-up/breathing" (praise and worship), "team work" (catechism, scripture readings), "lifting" (prayers and petitions for healing), and the "huddle" (refreshments and fellowship). (32) While not exactly sporting, but nonetheless what might be called a "bodily performance," e5 Men is an organization that focuses on devotion to wives through fasting. (33) But sporting imagery, and an inevitable focus on competition and winning, is nowhere near as present in Catholic men's ministry as evangelical. Bawden and Sullivan's (1999) Signposts refers to men who want "relationships with other men that don't have to flow from a mutual love of sport" (p. 4). Only one of the 52 Signposts lessons (p. 50) appeals to sport to communicate a message. In short, the two themes of servant leadership and sport, which go a long way to promoting an unsavory model of masculinity within evangelical men's ministry, are largely absent in Catholic men's ministry.

Underpinning these themes lies a fundamental difference in focus concerning evangelism and fellowship. Evangelical men's ministries by definition seek to evangelize. Catholic men's ministries place less emphasis on evangelism, seeking instead to minister to existing Catholics, hence the National Fellowship of Catholic Men. Fellowship, being with other men, is an important, but secondary focus for evangelical men's ministry, whereas it is of primary importance to Catholics. J. D. Castellini et al. (2005) examined the motivations behind "male spirituality" among Catholic men. Their aim was not to examine specifically Catholic attitudes, but 99% of those men questioned happened to be Catholic as the research was undertaken via attendees of NFCM conferences and retreats. Castellini identified the following motivations for men's involvement with spirituality that I have ordered in a way that arguably moves from the most spiritual to the least: relationship with God; faith/prayer community; self-awareness or relationship with self; isolation or existential emptiness; fear or grief; fatherson relationships; coping strategies; and male bonding or relationships with other men. The results showed, "the factor accounting for the largest portion of the shared variances was that of Male Bonding, or relationships with other men" (p. 52), precisely the least spiritual of all the motivations, and also a defining characteristic of the mythopoetic movement. A relationship with God is relegated to third place in the motivation stakes, second to self-awareness, indicating "that men have a profound innate need to be affirmed in their masculinity by other males" (p. 53). One can speculate that this particular locus on male bonding and fellowship suggests the Catholic men's movement is more closely aligned than the evangelical men's movement to the mythopoetic men's movement that emphasized similar bonding, or a sense of "communitas" (Schwalbe, 1996, pp. 71-100). (34)

The Uniqueness of Catholic Men's Ministry

The 1999 USCCB "Catholic Men's Ministries: An Introductory Report" makes the primary uniqueness of the movement quite clear. It states a need for, "what many Catholics find 'missing' in the Promise Keepers experience, namely, sacramental celebration (Eucharist and Reconciliation) and devotion to the saints." (35) This need had been identified before the USCCB report. Among others, SacraMentors (36) was operating in 1996 and a previous incarnation (Men of the Upper Room) in 1993. (37) The power of the sacraments in Catholic men's ministry should not be underestimated. Speaking of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Maurice Blumberg, executive director of NFCM says, "seventy to eighty percent of the men who go to [NFCM] conferences go to confession there .... Priests tell me, 'They are really repenting; I've never heard confessions like this'" (quoted in Szyszkiewicz, 2005). (38) While not on the scale of their evangelical counterparts, Catholic conferences are nevertheless significant events. In 2006 there were 40 NFCM conferences (39) including Boston (5200 men attending), Detroit (3500 men), Cincinnati (3200 men), Pittsburgh (1400 men), and Worcester (1200 men). (40) This means a significant amount of men are going to confession at NFCM conferences who might otherwise fail to do so.

Devotion to the saints and Mary is also common among Catholic men's ministries. Clearly St. Joseph is a popular figure of worship, with many men's ministries following his name. (41) KEPHA, a fellowship of Catholic fathers and sons, talks at great length of its devotion to the Big 3: St. John Bosco, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. (42) Catholic Men for Jesus Christ dedicates itself to Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. (43) The rosary is also upheld as an important part of Catholic tradition, gaining particular attention from Men of the Upper Room (44) and Men of St. Joseph. (45) This dedication to a wider tradition can be seen in the most immediate link in the chain of authority. Evangelical men's ministries' primary concern is the pastor leading the church in which the ministry takes place (promise five of Promise Keepers). In Catholic men's ministry this focus generally switches to the Bishop of the diocese overseeing the ministry. The importance of tradition alongside scripture is also indicated in the Signposts workbook lesson Sacred Tradition, "even before the New Testament was written down and compiled, the gospel was being proclaimed and bishops were teaching new Christians about the truths of their faith" (Bawden & Sullivan, 1999, p. 42). Between the sacraments, worship of Mary and the saints, and a reverence of tradition, Catholic men's ministry bonds men with something deeper than scripture alone.

Another significant differentiating factor between evangelical and Catholic men's ministry is the treatment of money. In an evangelical context the pursuit of the dollar is encouraged as worthy. (46) There is a different focus in the Catholic men's movement, which remains rather suspicious of wealth. Even before engaging with the literature on this matter this theme is obvious. Most of the evangelical websites, even of relatively small men's ministries, have clearly been designed and maintained by professional web designers. These sites are often of unusual quality, sometimes expanded into multimedia resources. The Champions of Honor site, (47) for example, contains a 12-minute promotional video of such impeccable production it views like a Hollywood trailer. Catholic men's ministry websites, in contrast, often have a distinctly homespun appearance, as if maintained by Father Tony. The message of these Catholic websites is no less sophisticated, but clearly there is less money invested in them.

In the Signposts workbook, four separate lessons (Bawden & Sullivan, 1999, pp. 38, 56, 60, 64) spell out the dangers of money, whether it be seeking more income via promotion at the detriment of the family, profiting off ethically questionable business activities, or placing inappropriate value on material possessions. A further three lessons (pp. 112, 114, 117) reiterate a Catholic responsibility to care for the poor and less privileged in explicit ways: "In his encyclical on social justice, Pope John Paul II called on all Catholics to stand in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed--not just to help them, but to be one of them.... What is your parish doing to stand in solidarity with the poor?" (p. 112). The image of a men's group dedicating their discussion along these lines is a heartening one. If a particular preoccupation with the pursuit of wealth (and the power that comes with it) can be understood as a particularly masculine trait within the evangelical men's movement, its absence is an example of the Catholic men's movement being less "masculine." Various themes identified in Catholic men's ministries (e.g., less servant leadership, less sport, confession, adoration of Mary and the saints, less focus on money) all point to a "softer" way of doing masculinity than the evangelical men's ministries.


The Catholic men's movement is largely unknown to non-Catholics, yet it does influence the general Christian men's movement. Richard Rohr, who remains one of the most widely recognized voices of masculine spirituality, is a Catholic priest. Rohr also played a significant role in Christian responses to the mythopoetic movement in the early 1990s. In doing so he formed with other Catholics such as Patrick Arnold a Catholic mythopoeticism, which shared many of the concerns of the regular mythopoetic movement, namely the perceived feminization of society and the Church, fatherlessness, archetypal models of masculinity, and the need for initiation among boys in their journey to manhood.

Alongside Catholic mythopoeticism is a men's movement and/or ministry that shares some distinct commonality with its evangelical counterpart. Indeed, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops identified the success of Promise Keepers and called for a similar vision to meet the needs of Catholic men. This call resulted in the formation of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men, which acted as a central hub for Catholic men's ministries and source of resources in much the same way that Christian Men's Network did for the evangelical men's movement. Numerous Catholic men's ministries, fellowships, and groups were established that carried direct allusions to Promise Keepers, asking their members to bear witness to various promises or pledges. Other themes predominate in evangelical men's ministry can be identified in a Catholic context, such as servant leadership and sport. However, the middle ground of Catholic men's ministry is more moderate than its evangelical counterpart.

Various themes are unique to the Catholic men's movement, including dedication to the sacraments and adoration of Mary and the saints. Certainly one would expect to find such themes within a Catholic environment, but it is noteworthy that these themes, which are generally perceived as more feminine, are in no way tempered in the Catholic men's movement. Catholic men's ministries rarely seek to "toughen up" Catholicism or Catholic men. The net effect is that Catholic masculinities are less inclined to the hyper-masculine and patriarchal models of their evangelical counterpart.

If it is possible to put to one side the fundamentally patriarchal nature of the Catholic Church and focus solely on the gender performances that take place within Catholic men's ministries, it is possible to conclude they allow for relatively diverse masculinities. However, there is little about Catholic men's ministries that actively promote diverse masculinities. The relative diversity is more a happy accident reflecting long-held traditions than a proactive campaign to challenge society's expectations about gender. For example, while not such an explicit advocate of servant leadership, Catholic men's ministries still hold up the traditional family as the exemplar model for society. There is little room for even the straight man who seeks to pursue a mindful and compassionate sexuality while remaining single and childless. There is even less room for a gay man, whether he chooses to remain single or committed to a long-term relationship. So despite being less troublesome than its evangelical counterpart, the Catholic men's movement is still a bastion of heteronormativity.


Abramowicz, D. (2004). Spiritual workout of a former saint. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publications.

Andrescik, R. (2002. November/December). Edwin Louis Cole: The legacy--1922-2002 [Electronic Version]. New Man, Retrieved from

Aquilina, M. (1997, July 20). Making new Catholic men. Our Sunday Visitor, pp. 10-11.

Arnold, P. (1989). In search of the hero: Masculine spirituality and liberal Christianity. America, 161(9),206-210.

Arnold, P. (1991). Wihtmen, warriors and kings: Masculine spirituality and the Bible. New York: Crossroad.

Balmer, R. (2000). Keep the faith and go the distance: Promise Keepers, feminism, and the world of sports. In D.S. Claussen (Ed.), The Promise Keepers: Essays on masculinity and Christianity (pp. 194-203). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Bawden, B., & Sullivan, T. (1999). Signposts: How to be a Catholic man in the world today. Ijamsville, MD: Word among Us Press.

Beal, B. (2000). The Promise Keepers' use of sport in defining "Christlike" masculinity. In D.S. Claussen (Ed.), The Promise Keepers: Essays on masculinity and Christianity (pp. 153-163). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Bly, R. (1990). Iron John: A book about men. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Bly, R., & Thompson, K. (1982, May). What men really want. New Age, 30-37.

Brod, H. (1992). The mythopoetic men's movement: A political critique. In C. Harding (Ed.), Wingspan: Inside the men's movement (pp. 232-236). New York: St Martin's Press.

Castellini, J.D., Nelson, W.M., Barrett, J.J., Nagy, M.S., & Quatman, G.L. (2005). Male spirituality and the men's movement: A factorial examination of motivations. Psychology and Theology, 33(1), 41-55.

Clatterbaugh, K. (1990). Contemporary perspectives on masculinity: Men, women, and politics in modern society. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Clatterbaugh, K. (1997). Contemporary perspectives on masculinity: Men, women, and politics in modern society (2nd ed.). Boulder. CO: Westview Press.

Cole, E.L. (1982). Maximized manhood. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House.

Cole, E.L. (2003). Real man. Southlake, TX: Watercolor Books.

Connolly, W. (2005). The evangelical-capitalist resonance machine. Political Theory, 33(6), 869886.

Culbertson. P. (1993). Men dreaming of men: Using Mitch Walker's "double animus" in pastoral care. The Harvard Theological Review, 86(2), 219-232.

Culbertson. P. (2007). Christian men's movements. In M. Flood, J.K. Gardiner, B. Pease, & K. Pringle (Eds.). International encyclopedia of men and masculinities (pp. 65-67). London: Routledge.

Dalbey, G. (1988). Healing the masculine soul: An affirming message for men and the women who love them. Waco, TX: Word Books.

Downer, P. (Ed.). (2001). Effective men's ministry: The indispensable toolkit for your church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Eldredge, J. (2001). Wild at heart: Discovering the secret of a man's soul. Nashville, TN: Nelson Books.

Evans, T. (1994). Sexual purity. In A.I. Janssen & L.K. Weeden (Eds.), The seven promises of a Promise Keeper (pp. 73-81). Colorado Springs, CO: Focus on the Family.

Farrell, W. (1986). Why men are the way they are: The male-female dynamic. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Gilder, G.F. (1981). Wealth and poverty. New York: Basic Books.

Gilder, G.F. (1986). Men and marriage. Gretna: Pelican Pub. Co.

Hagan, K.L. (Ed.). (1992). Women respond to the men's movement: A feminist collection. San Francisco: HarperCollins.

Hamer, D. (2004). The God gene: How faith is hardwired into our genes. New York: Doubleday. Hawkins, B. (2000). A critical reading of a Promise Keepers event: The interworkings of race. religion, and sport [Electronic Version]. Sociology of Sport Online, 3(1), Retrieved from

Hayford, J. (2001). The pastor's role. In P. Downer (Ed.), Effective men's ministry: The indispensable toolkit for your church (pp. 56-65). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Kauffman, C.J. (1982). Faith and fraternalism: The history of the Knights of Columbus, 18821982. New York: Harper & Row.

Kimmel, M.S. (Ed.). (1995). The politics of manhood: Profeminist men respond to the mythopoetic men's movement (and the mythopoetic leaders answer). Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Messner, M.A. (1997). Politics of masculinities: Men in movements. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Moore, R., & Gillette, D. (1990). King, warrior, magician, lover: Rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine. New York: HarperCollins.

Moore, R., & Gillette, D. (1992). The king within: Accessing the king in the male psyche. New York: William Morrow.

Morley, P. (2000, September). The next Christian men's movement [Electronic Version]. Christianity Today. Retrieved from

Novak, M. (1993). The Catholic ethic and the spirit of capitalism. New York: Free Press.

Randels, G.D., & Beal, B. (2002). What makes a man? Religion, sport and negotiating masculine identity in the Promise Keepers. In T. Magdalinski & T.J.L. Chandler (Eds.), With God on their side: Sport in the service of religion (pp. 160-176). New York: Routledge.

Rohr, R., & Martos, J. (1992). The wild man's journey: Reflections on male spirituality. Cincinnati. OH: Saint Anthony Messenger Press.

Ross, A. (1992). Wet, dark, and low, eco-man evolves from eco-woman. Boundary 2, 19(2), 205232.

Schwalbe, M. (1996). Unlocking the iron cage: The men's movement, gender politics, and American culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Szyszkiewicz, T.A. (2005, July 3). Gathering his sons together. Our Sunday Visitor.

Van Leeuwen, M.S. (1997). Servanthood or soft patriarchy? A Christian feminist looks at the Promise Keepers movement. The Journal of Men's Studies, 5(3), 233-261.

Webb-Mitchell, B. (1997). And a football coach shall lead them: A theological critique of Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper. Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 80(2/3), 305-326.

Weber, S. (1993). Tender warrior: God's intention for a man. Sisters, OR: Multnomah.

Wilcox, W.B. (2004). Soft patriarchs, new men: How Christianity shapes fathers and husbands. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Wood, S. (1997). Christian fatherhood: The eight commitments of St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers. Port Charlotte, FL: Family Life Center Publications.


Victoria University of Wellington

(1) I have specifically chosen not to refer back to earlier Christian men's movements such as Men and Religion Forward Movement, Muscular Christianity, and so forth, as the type of networked men's ministry outlined in this paper is quite distinct.

(2) For a more scientific take on this, Dean Hamer (2004) noted that women did indeed rate higher on his application of Robert Clonginer's Self-Transcendence Scale (a yardstick for measuring spirituality), but that this may be down to their greater willingness to express their feelings than men (p. 36). However, when it came to the isolation of VMAT2 (the gene which Hamer connects to perception of the spiritual), he discovered the influence of the variant genotype was the same regardless of gender (p. 74).

(3) An earlier incarnation of Arnold's work (1989) focuses more on what he describes as "feminist Manichaeism." For a secular treatment of this see, Warren Farrell's (1986) "The New Sexism" (pp. 189-236).

(4) Different writers refer to the "Wildman" and the "Wild Man." I switch depending on con text.

(5) It should be noted that while Rohr continues to pursue a rather simplistic understanding of masculinity in his work, he has embraced a wider position than most in the world of "masculine spirituality." In October 2000. Rohr drew attention to himself by publishing an open letter of endorsement to Soulforce, an organization committed to equality for religious LGBTQ people (, retrieved February 20, 2007). Rohr's activities have even resulted in Los Pequenos de Cristo, a Catholic special interest group, compiling an Internet dossier of his conduct alleged to be incompatible with Catholic teaching ( Retrieved February 20, 2007).

(6) Retrieved February 20, 2007.

(7) Retrieved February 20, 2007.

(8), accessed 20 February 2007.

(9), accessed 13 July 2007. The Knights' influence is also strengthened by a Ladies Auxiliary, unlike some other fraternities. Thanks to the anonymous reviewer for bringing this organization to my attention.

(10) See numerous articles listed at, accessed 20 February 2007.

(11), accessed 20 February 2007.

(12), accessed 20 February 2007.

(13), accessed 20 February 2007. The report contains a Vision Statement for Catholic Men's Ministry: "We propose and commit to a vision of Catholic men's ministry that: fosters a spirituality in men that is Christ-centered and that moves men toward: ongoing conversion of oneself and the transformation of society: brotherhood and friendship in Christ; service in charity and justice; reconciliation; a Christian impact in the workplace; a loving relationship of mutuality with women: a consciousness of the history from which patriarchy has evolved; provides ongoing faith formation, for both leaders and participants, enabling them to share their personal encounters with Christ; nurtures the growth of Catholic identity in men in their many roles, e.g., son, father, husband, worker, disciple, minister, etc.; encourages men to take responsibility for their faith formation; incorporates diverse and inclusive Catholic spiritual traditions, expressions, and practices that are sensitive to the ethnic and racial mix of Catholic men; takes into consideration spiritual needs and experiences that are particular to men."

(14) 24f017dfd05d3a014&MID=0005, accessed 20 February 2007.

(15), accessed 20 February 2007.

(16) In Frederick Picciano and Thomas Greeley, The CMF Resource Guide for Developing Parish Based Men's Ministry, p. 9: 06Final.pdf, accessed 20 February 2007.

(17), accessed 20 February 2007.

(18), accessed 20 February 2007.

(19), accessed 20 February 2007.

(20) "Rhode Island Men of St. Joseph: Men of St. Joseph Pilgrim's Guide, p. 14:, accessed 20 February 2007.

(21) Dedicate your life to the Lord; grow in Christian discipleship; live with integrity and honesty; be faithful to your primary vocation; meet together with brothers,, accessed 20 February 2007.

(22), accessed 20 February 2007.

(23) Affirming Christ's lordship over our families; following St. Joseph, the loving leader and head of the Holy Family; loving our wives all our lives; turning our heart toward our children; educating our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord; protecting our families; providing for our families; building our marriages and families on the "rock" (Wood, 1997).

(24), accessed 20 February 2007.

(25) documents/hf_jp_ii_apl_15081988_mulieris-dignitatem_en.html, accessed 20 February 2007.

(26), accessed 20 February 2007.

(27), accessed 20 February 2007.

(28), accessed 20 February 2007.

(29), accessed 20 February 2007.

(30), accessed 20 February 2007.

(31), accessed 20 February 2007.

(32), accessed 26 August 2006.

(33), accessed 20 February 2007. While regular e5 men fast for their wives for one day per month, the testosterone level is raised in e5 Special Forces. whose members take on additional fasting days for other women who may or may not be known to them. Testosterone aside, while e5 focuses primarily on wives, its attention is also to "all women sinned against by men ... and in general for all women," which is as profeminist a statement as one can find in the whole Christian men's movement, e5 also gives special attention to Mary via the e5 Sons of Mary group [ to mary.htm, accessed 20 February 2007].

(34) Castellin's findings also ask some interesting questions about how "masculine" and "spiritual" masculine spirituality actually is. Of the motivations Castellini identified, only two (relationship with God and faith/prayer community) can accurately be described as spiritual. All the other motivations could equally be discussed in exclusively non-spiritual contexts. Of the motivations Castellini identified, only two (father-son relationships and male bonding) are uniquely "masculine," and neither of these count among the two motivations that are uniquely spiritual. In Castellini's findings, at least, there is no single variable that is at once uniquely masculine and spiritual.

(35), accessed 20 February 2007.

(36) While affiliated to National Fellowship of Catholic Men. SacraMentors now welcomes women.

(37), accessed 20 February 2007.

(38) Confession itself may subvert the more rugged masculinity seen in evangelical men's ministries. Seeking forgiveness through prayer alone between man and God is a typically solitary business, lending itself to a "go it alone" masculinity. Confession necessarily involves another man and actual vocalization of the perceived sin, a type of talking therapy which is less rugged.

(39) 81a09c29f7&MID=0006&Year=2006, accessed 20 February 2007.

(40) 481a09c2917&MID=0064=&News_ID=31&Pos=, accessed 20 February 2007.

(41) Including, among others: The St. Joseph Center: Men of St. Joseph; Rhode Island Men of St. Joseph: and St. Joseph Covenant Keepers.

(42), accessed 20 February 2007.

(43), accessed 20 February 2007.

(44), accessed 20 February 2007.

(45), accessed 20 February 2007.

(46) As William Connolly notes, "the right leg of the evangelical movement is joined at the hip to the left leg of the capitalist juggernaut. Neither leg could hop far unless it was joined to the other" (2005, p. 874). It is commonplace for evangelical men's ministry leaders to flaunt their business pedigree to confirm their ministry leadership; indeed leadership is often spoken of using business terminology. For example Patrick Morley is described as "Chairman and CEO" of Man in the Mirror and his biographical details refer to his past business success [ accessed 20 February 2007]. Similarly, Phil Downer, editor of Effective Men's Ministry (2001) boasts of his success in practicing law and for a decade being president of Christian Business Men's Committee (, accessed 20 February 2007). It is in this light that the International Men's Network runs the "Wealth Producers" seminars which give "permission" (even IMN put that word in adverted commas) to be wealthy (, accessed 20 February 2007). Another explicit connection between conservative evangelical masculinity and money is the work of antifeminist, free-market evangelist George Gilder in books such as Men and Marriage (1986) and Wealth and Poverty (1981). Of course, Catholics engage in this type of thing as well (see, for example, Novak, 1993), but to a noticeably lesser degree within men's ministries.

(47), accessed 20 February 2007.

Joseph Gelfer, Department of Religious Studies, Victoria University of Wellington.

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Joseph Gelfer, Department of Religious Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, P.O. Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand. Electronic mail:
COPYRIGHT 2008 Men's Studies Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Gelfer, Joseph
Publication:The Journal of Men's Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2008
Previous Article:A profeminist approach to African American male characters.
Next Article:Researching the halted paths of male primary school teacher candidates.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters