Last week we took note of the January/February issue of Touchstone magazine, which features an important special section, "Return to the Father's House: God the Father and Human Fatherhood." There is much to be grateful for in this issue, and I urge you to pick up a copy of the magazine. But there is also cause for puzzlement and regret, in the prominence assigned to the views of Leon J. Podles, who—with the imprimatur of his fellow senior editors—introduces the special section, framing the entire discussion, and contributes an essay, "Missing Fathers of the Church: The Feminization of the Church and the Need for Christian Fatherhood."
Podles's essay summarizes and builds on his book, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Western Christianity (1999). Both the essay and the book are exercises in conspiracy theory. The conspiracy is something called "feminization." What this means, precisely, is not easy to determine. Podles cites statistics and anecdotal evidence about church attendance (about which more below) as evidence of feminization. He writes that
Psychological studies have detected a connection between femininity in men and interest in religion. There may even be a physical difference. Among men, football players and movie actors have the highest testosterone level, ministers, the lowest.
What about magazine editors? Perhaps Podles should suggest a test to see if he and his fellows have the right stuff.
He adduces the contemporary crisis in fatherhood as further evidence of the effects of the feminization of the Western Christianity, a centuries-long rot the beginnings of which
can be dated rather exactly. Suddenly, in the thirteenth century, during the lifetimes of St. Dominic and St. Francis, women ...1
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