The Casual Catholic Men

Matthew Christoff

What Are “Casual Catholic Men”?

There is a Catholic “man-crisis. Large numbers of Catholic men, while not rejecting the faith explicitly, have implicitly rejected the faith because of a lack of commitment.  They are like an empty suit; the clothes are there, but the man is not.

These are Casual Catholic Men, men who are casual in their faith.  Here, the word “casual” is carefully chosen: the etymology of the word traces to the Latin casualis, meaning “by chance” and from the Latin casus, meaning “chance, occasion, opportunity; accident, event”.  When speaking of persons, the word “casual” can mean the person is  “not to be depended on, unmethodical.”

Casual Catholic Men are “Catholic”  because their parents’ had them baptized or because a Catholic spouse drew them into the faith through marriage. Casual Catholic Men do not particularly care about the Catholic faith because for to them it is “nice” but certainly not necessary.

I had a wise old professor who said the most damning thing one could say about another man’s achievement was that it was “nice.” The professor was right: the word “nice” comes from the Latin nescius meaning “ignorant, unaware,” literally “not-knowing.” Telling someone that they are “nice” is not nice; it’s brutally truthful.  Casual Catholic Men are “nice”.

Manhood and Commitment

To be a Casual Catholic Man is to not be a Catholic and not be a man.  If one is not a believing and practicing Catholic, one is not a Catholic in the real sense of the word.  One is not part of the universal Church if one is not in communion with the Church, believing what the Church believes and practicing what the Church practices.

To use an analogy:  If a football player said he was a member of a team, but never practiced, never hung out with the team and never showed up for games, he wouldn’t be called a member of the team. In the military, one who deserts is considered AWOL (absent without leave).  A Casual Catholic Man is off the team; he is a deserter. And like the AWOL soldier who ultimately gets caught and court-martialed, the Casual Catholic Man will ultimately face something must worse than a court-martial: he will face the King of Eternity in the Final Judgment.

The Casual Catholic Man is not really a man. For at the heart of being a man is to do one’s best to live up to one’s commitments. A man who does not want to and cannot keep commitments is not really a man: he is a full grown boy, who hasn’t developed the maturity to follow through on the difficult and important things of life that require sacrifice and work. The Casual Catholic Man neglects himself and his salvation; he neglects his spouse and his children and their salvation; and he neglects Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church.  This is not manly in the least.

Manhood and Dependability

Returning to the meaning of “casual”, the Casual Catholic Man is Catholic by “chance or accident”, not through a sustained act of the will, without which the Holy Spirit doesn’t typically act. This Casual Catholic Man is “not to be depended on”, for he lacks both the knowledge and follow-through that counts when someone is needed to be counted upon.

The Casual Catholic Man’s limited knowledge of Catholic Truth is not worth much, for ignorance cannot confront lies nor make the case for Truth. The Casual Catholic Man’s lack of action in the practice of the faith offers no support to his wife, his children or the Church.

Sadly, the Casual Catholic Man’s greatest, but unrecognized, handicap is that he has nothing to depend on, except himself.  Depending on the undependable is like clinging to a punctured inflatable boat in a typhoon; sooner or later, you are going to sink into the depths. Each man’s typhoon, his personal appointment with pain, will come.

Certainly, there is “good” in the Casual Catholic Man, but there are no “good” people in Heaven, there are only Saints. And just as there is “good” is each man, there is a whole lot of “bad” in each man, due to Original Sin. Badness, unchecked, ruins everything.

For some Casual Catholic Men, the bad is a slow-moving cancer that will kill him sooner or later. For others, the badness is acute, though hidden; it leaves a festering trail of broken relationships and compulsive acts, which leave the man and those he has abandoned or harmed in torment.

Becoming Fully Catholic and Fully Man

The New Emangelization is a call to confront the Catholic “man-crisis”. If you noticed the New Emangelization logo, at the center of the “Man” there is Our Lord Jesus Christ. There is good news for the Casual Catholic Man: it is the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ loves each man completely, without reservation, and is completely willing to save each and every man, no matter how much the “bad” has metastasized in his soul.

All the Causal Catholic Man needs to do is to make an act of the will to become a Committed Catholic Man. This act is a soul-deep repentance for one’s sins, particularly the sins of omission that have taken Christ and His Church for granted.  This act of humble repentance, confessed to a priest who acts in “the person of Christ” (persona Christi; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1558), changes everything, for it opens up a man’s heart to accept the Holy Spirit and the life which Christ promises to give abundantly (John 10:10).  Those who accept Christ can be assured that Christ Himself will live in them (Galatians 2:20).

Don’t be an empty suit.  Don’t be a Casual Catholic.  Be a Catholic and be a man; be a Catholic man.

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29 thoughts on “The Casual Catholic Men”

  1. Pingback: Pastoral Sharings: "22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time" | St. John

  2. Jim (hillclimber)

    I find this approach very unhelpful. Many men were confirmed in the Church before they had any real understanding of what they were signing up for. What would you have them do? Where would you have them discuss their doubts? As confirmed Catholics, they are not going to go through RCIA. Is it so wrong if they show up to Church only for the sake of family unity? Let them hang around at the periphery! If we, who feel more committed to the Church, live lives of true discipleship, those on the periphery may notice. Like wild dogs encircling an encampment, the fire and food at the center may eventually draw them in. Don’t drive them away!

    1. Jim (hillclimber)….thanks for the comments. You bring up a very important point about men who really were not catechized…and have never really had a conversion experience. We certainly don’t want to drive them away! I recently interviewed Peter Herbeck of Crossing the Goal and Peter had some very interesting insights into exactly the kinds of men who you are speaking about:

      But just because some might find this kind of blunt presentation of their situation “unhelpful”, many will find it to be an eye opener. Most Casual Catholic men who I’ve encountered don’t give their faith much thought; when this is presented to them it can help awaken them…at least to add some cognitive dissonance that requires them to engage more. I’d also note that Christ is very blunt in many cases about the need for true conversion.

      But you are right…we (and I can assure you, I am speaking personally about me) are not the perfect people who are on fire for Christ…we are those who Christ has touched, sinners who are so very imperfect (again, I am a sinner) and simply try to do our best to love and cajole our brothers back to the fire and food.

      As to a more uplifting set of arguments, see here.

      I’d also note that those away from the faith can find a lot of resources to draw them back in if they are willing; Lighthouse Catholic Media offers tremendous resources…and for those who wish to be more systematic, the new Symbolon program from the Augustine Institute is fantastic!

      Bless you brother!

    2. Jim (hillclimber)

      Thank you for the response Matthew. What you say rings true to me. I can see the important role that tension and discomfort have played (and continue to play) in my own growth.

      I’m sure you introduce that tension in a very compassionate way in personal encounters. I think creating that discomforting tension in an impersonal online environment runs some risks, but I don’t know how to find the right balance. So, I take back what I said : I can see how your approach is helpful. I still just worry about it a bit 🙂

      Thanks for the additional link and references – I will take a look.

      God bless in your efforts.

  3. Mr. Christoff, I really appreciate this essay. So much here for the men, and also for the ladies, too.

    You have essentially helped me better articulate something I’ve observed throughout my life among men and women, both: that nice people aren’t necessarily good people, because what “niceness” often hides unless one cares to look more deeply is a lack of profundity and integrity. It can be ever so nauseating to see parents in general who care that their children are “nice” and “smart,” but not necessarily holy, brilliant, and wise. Catholic parents who are a subset of this category often fawn over their children’s “good grades” and how intellectually bright they are, but expect those children to be idiots when it comes to spiritual and theological matters. This sort of approach only produces what Anthony Esolen ever so astutely called “clever barbarians.”

    Some of my favorite bits: “The Casual Catholic Man neglects himself and his salvation; he neglects his spouse and his children and their salvation; and he neglects Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church. This is not manly in the least” and “The Casual Catholic Man’s limited knowledge of Catholic Truth is not worth much, for ignorance cannot confront lies nor make the case for Truth. The Casual Catholic Man’s lack of action in the practice of the faith offers no support to his wife, his children or the Church.”

    1. So very kind of you, WSquared. We do need speak truth, sometimes with bluntness (e.g. being nice is not really nice) and charity. Each soul needs to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide them to how to respond to those who are “Casual”; each requires different approaches, i find…but all must eventually be presented the Good News of Jesus; this is our calling from Christ.

  4. “the word “nice” comes from the Latin nescius meaning “ignorant, unaware,” literally “not-knowing.””

    I’m going to remember this one the next time some well-meaning parent tells their child something as imprecise and nebulous– and therefore wishy-washy– as “be nice!”

  5. One reason for a lack of interest in Church by men is the de-sexed translation of the New American Bible. Such translation seems to blend with the feminazi culture of the 60s and 70s. This is matched by the Scripture translations used at Mass.
    Although lectors and chalice bearers are firstly to be males – let me count the number of men helping (on one hand).
    Altar boys! Where are they?

    1. This came up just the other day. Our Sunday reading in the house has been, of late, St. Bonaventure’s Sunday Sermons, Vol. XII of the English translation of his works. He, in preaching upon the Parable of the Good Samaritan makes great emphasis upon the word “certain” at the opening of the parable “A certain man went down…” The NAB has it as, “A man went down…” Much of what St. Bonaventure says would not make sense without the employment of the adjective “certain.”

      Perhaps we can not really get going again without a considerable effort to regain familiarity with these original languages. Too much recent work has been compromised by shoddy assumptions and undue liberty.

    2. He goes on for several pages on this parable and I am, sorry to say, unable at this point to paraphrase it for you in such a way as to do it justice. So I will just have to reiterate my point: details matter.

  6. Ladasha Smithson

    Matthew I think the “man-crisis” is much… much worse than you make it out to be. It can be inferred from your article that men are becoming “casual” passively. I disagree, I believe the American man in general, not just Catholic men, are Actively changing themselves.

    If anyone wants to seriously look into the man-crisis, I recommend that they check out the works and videos of Karen Straughan. Mrs. Straughan has great insight to how the modern man feels. Also check out the book “Men on Strike” by Dr. Helen Smith.

    Men have complaining that they’ve been emasculated way before this came to fruition, yet because they are male we dismissed their feelings and told them to “man-up!”. Look at any Catholic message and see how “male problems” are mocked and not taken seriously. When men complain we need to take them incredibly seriously and be greatly concerned with what they are saying.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions; familiar with Dr. Smith but will check out Mrs. Staughan.

      I agree with your thoughts that men are actively choosing to turn away from the faith…there are a lot of drivers of the change. For a rich (but as yet, undistilled), set of discussions on the “man-crisis” in the Church and what to do about it, see this growing list of interviews with those involved with the evangelization of Catholic men at

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  8. “There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” and the Committed Catholic Man is as perplexed as the apostles who woke up a sleeping Jesus because they had such little faith in God. Get over
    the storm Matt, it’s part of the Church’s own doing and will eventually blow itself out.

    1. James,

      Thanks for the comment. If I understand, you believe that 1) there is a Catholic “man-crisis, 2) Someone who is a “Committed Catholic Man” and has concern about the “man-crisis” lacks faith, and 3) all Catholic should sit passively by with a staunch hope for the storm to blow over. And, it’s the “Church’s own doing.”

      I certainly can agree that there is a great need for hope in our Lord Jesus Christ and His victory. However, to suggest that Catholics should simply pray for hope and be inactive is inconsistent with what the Jesus Christ and the Church calls all Catholics to do. We are to look for the sheep who have wandered off and draw them home; each of us should be concerned to the depths of our souls that our brothers are being lost; we should “cry over Jerusalem” and pick our crosses like Christ to draw men to Him. The whole point of the New Evangelization is to actively seek to evangelize the “Casual Catholics”. Our Lord expects no less. The Church is not some “thing” that is separate, it’s us.

      Hope without the move to Charity (e.g. to draw men in love to Love itself, Jesus Christ) is not hope.

      My brother, each of us is called to reach out and evangelize our brothers and sisters, always (with your good point) with the hope that Jesus Christ will find ways for us to be effective.

      The whole point of drawing attention to the “man-crisis” is to like Jesus, wake up the sleeping apostles to hope, pray and make disciples.


    2. Well Matt, the answers are 1 maybe, while 2, 3 and 4 are definately yes. The new evange will only work under a most radical form of Catholicism. It really is time for all Catholics to go out into the world, roll up their sleeves like men and women and get physical with less emphasis on ritual and more on traveling. Jesus and his disciples walked thousands of miles. You never saw them in church and every where they did go was to procalim a new message. Of course, this can’t be done until Rome – thank God for Francis – revises its teaching strategy. Forget preaching sin. The new terms are ‘entaglement’ and ‘consequences’. The 12 steps of an AA program are like making the perfect confession and really can take a day or a lifetime to work out in matters that had serious consequences. It’s time to take those 20 + hours or so a parish church sits idle and to invite all of good faith and will in toparlez. Jesus preached opposites. Love your enemy. We have to preach that every faith
      is vital, that it works for those who practice it. You need to understand that
      not everyone is called to be Catholic. It’s as tough as trying to be a practicing Buddhist, Jew or Muslim. Your lament is what is now affecting most organized religions. Why ? As the Dali Lama said ” I’m afraid we may be seeing the end of religion.” Why ? There are only a handful of major faiths and after 2000 + years none of them ever did anything except compete. It’s time to put the
      puzzle pieces together. Just like Africa and South America fit like a glove if
      you deduce plate tectonics, so too does eastern deism with its reincarnation
      fit perfect with Catholic Purgatory. And the funny thing is if Rome ever used
      its power to make doctrine in this concept – that I believe is supported in the gospels – the enegmatic Orient would only conclude with a smile :. what took you so long. What a paradign shift that would create. The CC going into warp drive ( and how much humility would that show the world ) is what our Church will eventually do. And maybe then you will see the reemergence of a Catholic intelligentsia revival. I know this is hard for someone of your persuation to accept but the woeful statistics you lament speak for themselves. Think
      radical shift, least in some of these areas. And if you can not, punt.

    3. James: you seem to be unhappy with Catholicism and wish the Church to change its doctrine (e.g. forget preaching sin, deemphasize ritual, integrate AA spirituality, preach pluralism, integrate reincarnation into doctrine). My suggestion is to return to the teachings of the Church with humility or to move on to a religion/spirituality that is more to your liking.

    4. I have seen in many of the older books the idea of the assent of reason – conversion comes about through an ordered exercise of the reason. Reason can not be contrary to the faith, well ordered reasoning allows us to apprehend the Truth, Jesus Christ is the Truth, therefore reasoning (well ordered, that is) will lead us to an act of faith that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord.

      I bring this up because of your recommendation to James to find something more to his liking. To me, basing religion upon the fickle tastes of like or dislike is unmanly. The Catholic Church, has, in most times, applied the standard question, “What is true for all men with regards to their objective duty towards their creator?” I am not sure anybody has put it that way other than me, so using quotation marks might not be correct punctuation. However, a good deal of the lukewarm response among men can be chalked up to the setting aside objective-based reasoning in favor of the (disordered) predilections of the concupiscence. Essentially, we have had a revolution in the Church of the catered tastes of the patron middle class against the objective Catholic standard, true for all.

      My aunt doesn’t like to look at the crucified Christ over the altar. She prefers to see an image of the risen Christ. This is fine for private devotion, but theologically incorrect for the public re-presentment of Sacrifice of Calvary. However, the aunties of make up the majority in the pews and they will brook to contradiction.

      As an aside about the recent council: I think the bishops just caved in the face of having to endure another round of badgering by them. It is an exercise in frustration.

      Now FYI, James is a stubborn fellow, so, no matter what you say, he is likely to keep on keep’n on with his shtick. So good luck with him.

    5. Coldstanding. Thanks for the thoughts. I concur that basing one’s faith on fickle likes and dislikes is unmanly, for it is manly and virtuous to pursue truth and not one’s soft likes/dislikes.

      Some lack the ability to apply reason, due to a lack of facts/formation or intellectual disorders. Some lack the humility to put aside one’s own egotistical and false concepts of truth. Some are driven by sin and want to attempt to warp truth to fit their predications. In my own conversion, I had to come to grip with all three of these problems, through both the application of rigorous reason, unwanted (but very much needed) lessons in humility and the intervention of Grace.

      Sometimes, it is not possible to have a reasonable conversation with someone who is a Casual Catholic (or an agnostic, pluralist, etc.) given the lack of reason or lack of will to reason. Thus the challenge to someone who is a Casual Catholic to confront the discontinuity: commit to be Catholic and humble yourself to the Truth (reason of the Church) or face it that you have left the Church in your heart and mind.

      It’s a wakeup call.

      Bless you brother.

    6. Au contraire, Matt. I love Catholicism and will always thank and be grateful to the good sisters who taught us from grade 1 thru 12. We
      learned to think in ways converts (esp) have yet to master. Rigidity
      isn’t how the future church will grow a new generation of faithful. It
      is the continuing eccuminism of Vat 2 that will usher spiritual people
      who will graft fruits grown in other groves to those of the universal
      church. I’m sorry you are too old to dream, Matt.

    7. James. Why do you feel the need to be insulting (too old to dream)? Also, why do you feel at liberty to use a nick name for me (My name is Matthew, not Matt)?

    8. O come on Matthew, you called me fickle, unmanly, lacking in humility
      and unable to have a reasonable conversation. Do you bruise that easily?
      Since we do not get formally introduced in comm box settings why bring something like that up ? And it’s james, w/o a capital J. – for a reason.

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