From 4 to 7 February 2015 the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture hosted a conference on “women’s cultures: equality and difference.” The conference got off to a rough start because of the sexist and women-denigrating images used in the Pontifical Council for Culture’s promotional materials.

On Valentine’s Day 2015 Pope Francis is “creating” twenty new cardinals. Some older cardinals, and perhaps some new ones, have expressed anxious concerns about the “feminization of the church.” Certainly news reports and news images about the pope’s up-coming meeting with cardinals new and old reinforce that alarming situation. (See image below.)

To correct the situation in the church, I strongly suggest that the Pontifical Council for Culture host an international conference on “Men’s Cultures: Equality and Difference.” Perhaps the Leadership Council of Women Religious would be willing to coordinate this worthwhile project…….

By adjusting the female/male language a bit, they could use the same agenda as was used for the women’s cultures conference. It would look like this;

1) Between equality and difference: the quest for an equilibrium
An historical overview through cultural anthropology and sociological analysis to outline the condition of men in different cultures today, especially men in difficulty. Referring to the categories of reciprocity, complementarity, diversity and equality, this is a reflection trying to avoid the two risky extremes of this process: uniformity on one hand and marginalization on the other.

2) “Generativity” as a symbolic code
Beginning with the fundamental steps of generativity (desiring, bringing to the world, looking after and letting go), this is a reflection on the ways of “giving life” beyond paternity.

3) The male body: between culture and biology
The body expresses the being of a person, more than an aesthetic dimension closed in on itself: the reflection is on the value of the male body and its communicative force and the relational ability of men. Other aspects won’t be overlooked: freedom of choice, aggression against men’s bodies, domestic violence, commercialization, reduction to a unique model of being.

4) Men and religion: flight or new forms of participation in the life of the Church?
The reflection looks at the spaces proposed to men in the life of the Church, and if men are made to feel welcome in light of specific and changed cultural and social sensibilities. The pastors will ask themselves whether the way men participate in the life of the Church functions today.

Happy Valentine’s Day……



  1. Dear Jack,
    of course I share your point of view on the subject,mostly because it’s coming from the mind of a man and a theologian! But I am very sceptic and do not expect any deep changes on the topic for the future. Parhaps because of my past experience in the field: when still working in the’90s ,the Institution I was working for, decided to improve the policy on the genders and promote a greater equilibrium among men and women workers.After many meetings the result was that the men – widows had to benefit of the reversibility of the spouse’s pension…
    In any case: thank you very much for your support to the cause!

  2. Absolutely brilliant, Jack. By “putting the shoe on the other foot” so to speak, the Vatican’s efforts to “speak” to women is clearly exposed as insulting absurdity.

  3. After a week of dreading what I would hear next about the Council on Culture, this is one of the best things I’ve seen (and all it took was a process of find-and-replace, so to speak, of the pronouns…) Many thanks! S.R.

    1. I find the “find and replace” process very helpful at times. A bishop friend could not understand my arguments in favor of inclusive language so I took one of his pastoral letters full of “man, men, mankind,” and on the first two pages of his letter I changed all nouns and pronouns to feminine nouns and pronouns and sent it back to him. He was furious and found what I had done “disgusting.” Some guys just don’t get it….

      Many kind regards

  4. If the RCC Hierarchs find it difficult to substitute “male” for everything they have said about “female” roles in the Church (= path towards salvation), then they haven’t absorbed the message of the Incarnation very well at all!! (God became human, yet remained Divine)….

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