More are beginning to realize how imbalanced our reaction has become to the pandemic. In the Catholic Church, many laity are asking why virtually all the world’s bishops are still denying them the sacraments, and on what basis they closed their churches when other essential services remained open. I saw a big sign at the local ice-cream shop last night: “this parlor is an essential service!” Ice cream might be essential, but the Eucharist is more essential.
One of my female parishioners was praying to God near a statue of St. Joseph the other day. She realized that “chastity isn't purely sexual. It boils down to the resistance of impulses that originate in weakness or fear. Why are we all wearing masks and being barred from God's house? Because we have a dearth of real men in our society who model forbearance and chastity. Women generally operate out of caution and fear, cousins to the maternal instinct. And most American men are now raised by women. Without that masculine balance, we see a country (and a world) paralyzed by fear, not practicing chastity, but embracing irrational impulses to control others’ behavior, and in turn, death.”
A woman, a mother, wrote those words. In her humility, she knows that women need men every bit as much as men need women. This pandemic has painfully revealed a social imbalance, an hysterical and irrational fear of the unknown. This prevailing fear is fundamentally an imbalance between male and female. We have too much female and not enough male. Doubtless many will react hysterically to these words, which proves a point.
Take that word “safe.” As a man, I wince every time I hear a man blithely say “be safe.” “Have a safe day!” “Keep safe.” Those are women’s words! We need women to balance the natural risk impulses of a man, and men should ensure reasonable safety for those in his responsibility. But a man who makes “safety” his supreme good cannot adequately provide for his loved ones or even himself. A man is biologically and emotionally built for risk, without which certain deeds cannot be accomplished. Winston Churchill did not say, when the rest of the world had submitted to Hitler, that England should stay “safe.” He said that Englishmen must enter a war they had little chance of winning. He led his kingdom in a desperate act of heroism when France had chosen “safety” above freedom and honor. The fact that the men of America have allowed themselves to become so fearful manifests a debilitating imbalance. Commercial and political interests, of course, exploit our weakness and fear. Why do we men not stand up to them?
Every time I check weather on my phone I get an alarming text: “Severe Weather: Storm Alert!” I look out the window. It’s lightly raining. I turn back to my phone and click the “alert.” It’s an ad for a weather app that will have lots more ads on it for handbags, Viagra, jewelry, and ‘Netflix originals.’ What’s truly alarming, if you will permit me, is how many of us give even a thought to the commercial media’s fear mongering. The Corona virus is real. The media’s publicity about the corona virus is not real. Who will hold commercial media to account for making money on “scaring the crap out of us,” as one Covid unit nurse told me here in San Francisco?
I have a dear friend, a mother of four children. Ten years ago she broke down in hysterics when I told her of a young man’s death. I was tempted to despise her weakness. The words of St. Paul, “why do you grieve like those who have no hope?” ran through my mind. But women are different from men. A woman understands life in a way men don’t, and men need a woman's understanding love. This woman had conceived, given birth to, and nursed four human lives, all of whom now have children of their own. She is surrogate mother to her grandchildren—she is the head of the house—because their fathers have failed them.
Men need women, and women need men. The social chaos generated by the pandemic calls men to step into the breach between reasonable risk and unreasonable fear. We must regain the natural and healthy balance between womanly caution and manly courage.