The vice of effeminacy

The vice of effeminacy

Father Todd has posted an article by the vocations director for his diocese that writes about the “forgotten vice of effeminacy,” especially in seminaries. Now, we’re not just talking about outward homosexually, but effeminacy, which is a way of acting that may or may not directly be related to sexual orientation.

Saint Thomas includes effeminacy under the vices opposed to perseverance. It is from the Latin mollities, which literally means “softness.” Mollities is the verb used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 which deals with the sexual sin of sodomy. It involves being inordinately passive or receptive.

He goes on:

An “effeminate man is one who withdraws from good on account of sorrows caused by lack of pleasures, yielding as it were to a weak motion.” Thomas states that this effeminacy is caused in two ways. First, by custom, where a man is accustomed to enjoy pleasures and it is, therefore, more difficult for him to endure the lack of them. Second, by natural disposition, less persevering through frailty of temperament, and this is where Thomas compares men with women and also mentions the homosexual act of sodomy and the receiver in this act as being effeminate or like a woman.

He says that while men or women may be infected by the vice of effeminacy, it is more perverse in man because women are more susceptible to this vice, just as drunkenness is more perverse when found in woman. It doesn’t make it better, just more perverse.

  • This reminds me of one of my pet peeves about the “Catholic” hospital where my son was treated for a year.  There was a nun there as chaplain for the children and she really annoyed me.  She and I had several discussions and she basically felt that empathy trumped Holy Orders.  Moreover she felt that empathy was really so important that of course women should be ordained.  I just really wanted the sacramental presence of a priest but she had more or less run them off.  This was her turf and they were not supposed to interfere.  But there was something wrong with them also that she could run them off and leave a Catholic child without a comfort he really should have had.  I’m sure the children’s cancer wards are hard but more *perseverence* would have been better.

  • A priest needs to be tough because he must exercise authority in the name of Christ; he must also be the kind of man who inspires the men in the parish to follow him in the name of Christ into spiritual combat.

    The popular, post-V2 concept of a priest is almost 180 degrees opposite from the Biblical concept, which is why so many men with vocations to the priesthood are repelled from it, if they aren’t weeded out.

    This is part of a broader cultural crisis in masculine identity, which is why the Church needs to adopt a thoroughly patriarchal style, especially in the liturgy.

  • When I was at Mount Saint Mary’s, the rector at the time, Bishop Kevin Rhodes, gave a rector’s conference on the issue of effeminacy and why it needs to be stopped.  After the conference I was so worried about it that I asked a good seminarian friend who is now a good priest in D.C. if I walked funny.  He laughed and said that I did not.  He said that the rector’s conference did not apply to me because there was nothing effeminate about me.  Thanks be to God.

    I think some guys are effeminate because they are nerds.  They are so intellectual that they never played sports, hunt, or fish.  Like Fr. James Masonsaid, the seminary should help these guys.  I know many great priests today who worked very hard in the seminary to be manly men.  After all, we are all called to be Fathers.

  • From the article : “I remember a seminarian from my dorm who, even though he was not athletically gifted, used to go out and practice basketball and softball with one of his classmates. He did this not so much for the exercise, but because he felt it would help him minister to the kids in the grade schools and high schools where he would serve as a priest.”

    At one parish I attended near Baltimore, there was a priest about my age (now 41) who exuded masculinity and played basketball at the weekly open gym at the Church – and he was pretty darn good.  And you could tell that the guys just loved him.  This priest now runs the grotto at Emmittsburg (Fr. Lombardi).

    He radiated the faith and was always surrounded by people – including us men.  Because he a guy we could relate to, not some limp-wristed wallflower adored by old ladies. 

    I’ve been back for now 7 years, and the only homily I’ve heard that mentioned homosexuality was when this priest took time to explain why the Vatican had to censure those dopes from New Ways (Gramick and Nugent(?)).  He stated that it was necessary to stop them from allowing the destruction of souls by their false sense of “charity”, which encouraged people to sin. 

    A true priest and a true man.

    Father Ethan, I’m in Harrisburg and you know that Rhoades is our Bishop now.  Oh, how glad I am of that!

  • I used to serve Mass at my parish in the evenings. The first time I did it for one pastor, we went to the sedilia, and as he sat down, I proceeded to lift the back of his chasuble to lay it behind the back of the chair, as I had always done “back in the day.” He told me not to do that again, because it was “too effeminate.”

    I understand what is being referred to in this thread, and I commend Paul N’s colleauge who took the time to learn sports for a more effective apostolate. But will our eyebrows be raised by a priest who foregoes tickets to the Knicks game for a night at the opera?


  • I have never been to an opera and I have no desire to go to an opera, however, there is nothing wrong with going to an opera.

    On the other hand, I have no desire to go to an NBA game either.  Give me football any day.

  • I agree with Charles Williams on the effect of an effeminate Church culture on vocations – our seminaries and vocations directors should set a vigorous tone that will help strong and determined men to self-select into the priesthood.

    It’s difficult (and I think we see evidence of that in some of the comments here) to distinguish between the Effeminate in the Thomist sense, and the Feminine. I applaud the possibilities opened up by Dom’s exhortation—more true strength, dedication, perseverence in righteousness, in the Church at large. [And, frankly, I’m tired of being able to immediately identify a Catholic radio station because of the soft-spoken and oversweet diction of the presenters.  Do you suppose this is an symptom of the same syndrome?]

    This evolutionary slide hasn’t taken place in a vacuum. One of the dynamics that has allowed the slide into inappropriate softness has been the lack of attention in the Church to the gift of feminine genius as John Paul II puts it. There is a proper and necessary contribution to the Church of feminine strength, insights and gifts. If we are oblivious to them, then our clerics are going to be twisted into knots trying to be all things to all men and women. It’s not about power; it’s certainly not about women’s ordination, God save us. It’s about honoring and using all of the wide variety of gifts the Lord has given to the Body, some of which are found in strong, Godly, persevering women.

  • “And, frankly, Ilipstick (check); colorful ascots and open silk scarves (check); singing when talking would do (check); or crying like a Magdalene every five minutes (check).

    Maybe we’re talking non-Sicilian Italians.  Lol.

  • I’m suprised the first opera reference made it past four posters before a shot was fired across the bow. It’s 98 degrees here in STL, the air is thick enough to cut with a knife, and right now anything amuses me.

    What determines masculinity? I guess one could assess one’s carriage. The way he goes about his affairs, how he addresses people, especially in mixed company. They’re all not Vincent Capodanno’s.  Some men’s constitutions are delicate. So what if they like opera? Others like the Irish Tenors – probably because of a common language. Who knows? That slight of build, fair skinned, soft spoken priest may be just as adept with a pipe wrench, the Daily Racing Form, or a tennis racket as he is with a violin bow. 

    Still, during formation, the seminaries should require some form of physical weekly activity. Not all are set to be rugby players, but some sort of physical activity should be encouraged and expected.

  • KMac,

    There was a time when they did that. My pastor tells me that in Boston they used to have required summer trips to a camp in New Hampshire where they would engage in all the usual manly outdoor pursuits. I’m not sure if they hunted, but they did other stuff like fishing and canoeing and the like.

  • I think there is a danger here of confusing superficial, culturally conditioned characteristics with the essence of masculinity.

    There is also a danger of discouraging young men who are not entirely sure of themselves.  Priestly formation should have as one goal instilling a strong masculine identity in young priests.  Younger men will not come to seminary with that kind of self-confidence.

    Think of the characteristics you would like to see in the young man your daughter might introduce as her fiance.  We would like to see a strong faith, courage, intelligence, leadership qualities, self-discipline but also patience, a gentlemanly consideration for others – especially the weak, tenderness, social graces.  He is a man who yields to the needs of others out of strength and at the same time will never compromise on his duty to God and his earthly family.  Now where on this list does an interest in football come into play?  I say it is marginally useful in certain parish situations.

  • Look at what the Marine Corps does with boot camp. They take boys full of either bravado or fear and it turns them into men, Marines ready to fight and die, if necessary, for their country.

    Should not our seminaries do at least that much? The seminary should be a forge that tempers raw steel into a sword of Truth, bringing the Gospel into the world.