Real men, Real women—Part I

Real men, Real women—Part I

[There’s so much to say about this great talk that I have split my observations into two parts. See the following entry for the rest.]

My favorite American bishop, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, gave an address to a conference of women recently that I think is very good.

Interestingly enough, he starts by talking about men, and specifically about men’s reactions to a screening of Gibson’s The Passion of Jesus Christ. He says that most of them men he knows who have seen the movie are profoundly moved and can’t get the film out of their heads for weeks afterward. Here is why, he thinks:

I think one reason men remember The Passion of Christ is because Jim Caviezel—who gives just an astonishing performance—shows us Jesus as someone who is absolutely real, both in the divinity of His person, and in the humanity of His nature, friendships and suffering. And that manliness of Jesus, that heroism, is something men can respect and love and want to follow.

I could not agree more. I know this has been talked about before here in St. Blog’s, but it bears re-visiting. I think that much of religion in America, especially in the Catholic Church, has taken on a feminine cast. Look at much of the religious art being produced today, or the new liturgical music. Don’t tell me that real men don’t like music or don’t sing; There’s a bar in Queens where the local firefighters gather every Friday night and sing “Danny Boy.” There are men cheering and dancing and singing in the seats at every professional sporting event in America. But the liturgy, as it is today, doesn’t touch the soul of many men. and neither does the meek and mild, gentle Jesus we have presented today, so emblematically portrayed by Robert Powell in Jesus of Nazareth. That Jesus is dreamy-eyed, out of touch, above everything. You can’t imagine him holding a hammer, working with St. Joseph in the workshop.

Chaput then says the other reason men remember The Passion is the image of Mary’s unconditional love for her Son, an image which reminds men of the unconditional love of their own mothers.

In our piety sometimes we tend to think of Mary as a “means to an end,” the vehicle God used to bring His son into the world. But God chose Mary not to “use” her like an instrument, but because He loved her. He saw in her the beauty and character of a woman who would freely and lovingly shape His son into the man He needed to be. We can’t understand Jesus outside the love of His mother, any more than we can understand ourselves outside the experience of our families.

He then locates much of the secular furor against the movie, not in an imagined anti-Semitism, but in a reaction against the faith of Mary displayed at the foot of the Cross, in her anguish that does not reject God, that maintain hers faith despite humiliation and powerlessness that is like Job’s.

The reason the secular world hates films like The Passion of Christ is because they persuade the heart with the logic of love. The reason the secular world seeks to reinvent or reinterpret Mary is because she’s dangerous. She’s the model of mature human character—a human being who co-creates a new world not through power, but through unselfish love, faith in God, and the rejection of power. [Emphasis in original

He then talks about the worldly rejection of such an ethic, which instead seeks power for the individual—such as the power of a woman to have an abortion—but the power is a lie, because as much as we pretend to have it, it’s never really ours. Oh sure, a woman can procure an abortion, but never without consequence, never without it diminishing her, humilating her, even if only subconsciously, and always with a permanent effect.

It’s the woman who bears the spiritual cost of an abortion. Not the doctor, not the researcher, and too often, not even the father. That’s the lie in sanitized language like “peace of mind” and “private decision.” The mother always bears the cost, because every mother is always a part of her child.[Emphasis in original]

Chaput hits at the underlying truth behind the lies of choice and the world’s conception of freedom: “Choice for its own sake is just another form of idolatry. Real freedom is the ability to see—and the courage to do—what’s right.”