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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

war against the working male

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Apr 30, 2005

When you go to Mass tomorrow, take a look around you and notice what group is most conspicuously absent. Regardless of where on the face of the globe you are, the answer is obvious: missing are blue collar heterosexual males between the ages of 18 and 28.

Of itself that fact is unremarkable. It's probably true of most Christian denominations in every epoch -- spontaneous inclinations to communal worship are rarest among rambunctious young men without families. But let's do a thought experiment. Suppose you were a bishop, and suppose that you felt it your pastoral duty to REPEL such broncos as happened to stray into Mass on Sunday morning. Suppose your crusade demanded lowering blue collar male attendance from, say, 4% to less than 1%. How would you go about it?

You'd go in for full court stripe-to-stripe buzzer-to-buzzer gender bending. You'd choose your presiders from among swish counter-tenors. You'd coach them in theatrical prancing and homiletics. You'd pack the sanctuary with testy, power-suited women reading inclusive language in scolding voices. You'd choose the most sugary musical dreck you could find, and make sure it was performed in an unsingable register. You'd eliminate private space, forcing everyone into lots of touching and interpersonal contact. In short, you'd do exactly what our betters have done over the past 40 years to "renew" the liturgy, for which they ceaselessly congratulate themselves on their pastoral sensibility.

Now perhaps the Church believes it's a good thing that working men feel unwelcome. Perhaps bishops are possessed of some mystical intuition that welders and truck drivers and sheet metal workers -- should they be insolent enough to slip into Mass in the first place -- deserve to be firehosed with music they find repellent, language they find repellent, camp theatrics that make their skin crawl. Is the idea that, since roofers or firemen tend to be sexist, their discomfort is a salutary penance? Is the idea that, if they can't accept Marty Haugen, they don't belong in our Easter People anyway? Whatever the reason, we must admit that the "threshold of distaste" a normal working man must overcome in order to turn up at church and endure a parish Mass is almost conspiratorially high.

This week's Commonweal has two articles by Catholic academics entreating Pope Benedict to listen to his flock. And whom should he listen to? Catholic academics. We get the standard roster of upper middle class grievances. But in fact, if you consider the changes to Catholic life effected since the Council -- bracketing the documents themselves -- you see that almost exceptionlessly these changes have been made in response to the same constituency: prosperous Western liberals. Look at it this way. Take two non-Catholics on the fringes of their respective churches in 1965: a homosexual, Beemer-driving Episcopalian dentist, and a Baptist heavy equipment operator with a gun-rack in the back of his pick-up. Which of the two is more likely to have found his way into the Catholic Church in the meantime as a result of her "pastoral" initiatives? Which of the two is more likely to hear himself described as marginalized? Which of the two is more likely to find a hearing were the Pope to accede to our Commonweal authors?

Progressives would have us think they're being egalitarian in crying up an indisputably elitist agenda. Like the Cambridge matron who strikes a blow for world peace by putting an "Abolish Apartheid" bumper sticker on her Volvo, the rhetoric of inclusiveness allows one to mask self-indulgence as an imperative of justice. In fact, it's a dishonest yet socially acceptable way of excluding undesirables. It's not in doubt what the preferences of hourly wage-earners are. We know pentecostals have made huge inroads among blue collar Catholics; we know miners and steamfitters aren't flocking into the liberal churches; we know these churches have made zero accommodations in response. Let's call a spade a spade: the project of "Pastoral Inclusiveness" is designed to repulse all but the enlightened elite.

One prefers, after all, to celebrate diversity among one's own.

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