It has been almost 50 years since the New Evangelization was launched at Vatican II. Despite a growing enthusiasm for evangelization, there is a serious and growing Catholic “man-crisis” in the United States. So far, the New Evangelization is missing men.
The Catholic “Man Crisis”
There is a serious Catholic “man crisis”. One in three baptized Catholic men in the U.S. have left the Church. The majority (some 50-60%) of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”; men who don’t know the faith, don’t practice the faith and are not committed to pass the faith along to their children.
Worse, the percentages of these “Casual Catholic Men” have been growing during the past 25 years, particularly among the younger men. Unchecked, the “man crisis” will get much worse in the coming decades as the well-catechized pre-Vatican II men pass away and there are fewer new young Catholic men to replace them.
The Catholic “man crisis” matters because studies show that men are essential in the passing along of faith to the children. A key reason the Church is losing so many young people is that the majority of fathers are unwilling or unable to evangelize their children.
The New Evangelization is Missing Men
Despite the long-term exodus of Catholic men and the essential role of men in the evangelization of children, the Church has largely ignored the need to vigorously evangelize men.
The key documents of the New Evangelization are mostly gender-neutral. The key Vatican documents (e.g. Catechesis Tradendae, Evangelii Nuntiandi, the General Catechetical Directory) offer no guidance for the evangelization of men. Likewise, the USCCB key documents are missing men (e.g. Our Hearts were Burning Within Us).
The Church has prioritized the evangelization of women. Pope Francis has spoken of the need for a more robust theology for women and St. John Paul II issued the encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem and several other documents focused on women. The USCCB has also issued women-focused documents (Strengthening the Bonds of Peace and From Words to Deeds), established projects (Women’s Spirituality in the Workplace, Consultation with Women in Diocesan Leadership) and created a special women’s Issues and Actions on the USCCB website. The recent Instumentum Laboris released in advance of the upcoming Synod on the Family has a section on the role of women but makes no mention of critical contribution of husbands and fathers in the family or the Catholic “man crisis”.
These outreach efforts to our sisters in Christ are welcome; what is missing is a clear, robust and sustaining call to men. To date, the Vatican and the USCCB have largely ignored men. While there have been a growing number of diocesan men’s conferences in the US, these annual events have relatively small reach (i.e. less than 1% of the men in a diocese) and are unable to sustain momentum once the conferences are over. Though lay-led men’s apostolates have grown, so far most only reach small portions of men and are only tacitly supported by bishops and priests.
A Call for a New Emangelization
In 2013, the New Emangelization Project was launched to confront the Catholic “man crisis” and to build new ardor, methods and expressions for the evangelization of men. To date, “man-crisis” statistics have been gathered, dozens of top Catholic men’s evangelists have been interviewed and a large-scale survey of men has been fielded.
There are encouraging insights emerging from the project. Men require and respond to man-specific evangelization approaches. What’s missing in the New Evangelization is recognition by the Church of the critical importance of men in the Church, family and society and for the Church to make the specific evangelization of men a priority.
The New Emangelization Project findings are clear: if the Church wishes to have a New Evangelization, there must be a New Emangelization, creating generations of Catholic men who are on fire for Jesus Christ and Holy Mother Church.