Another sort of masculinity

By Marlon De La Torre

North Texas Catholic



There is a beautiful testament written by St. Louis the King of France to his son around the year 1868 where he calls his son to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart and to keep away from everything that displeases God.” He encourages his son to embrace the trials God has permitted him to endure and bear them willingly with gratitude — these things are for his good and encourages him to be humble and thankful for the gifts God has given. St. Louis concludes his testament by bestowing on his son “every blessing that a loving father can give a son. May the three Persons of the Holy Trinity and all the saints protect you from every evil. And may the Lord give you the grace to do His will so that He may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see Him, love Him, and praise Him unceasingly.” (Acta Sanctorum Augusti 5 [1868] 546)

The significance of St. Louis’ testimony is that he is guiding and nurturing his son to utilize his gifts and talents as a man of God who would be a future king. These gifts of masculinity are precisely what St. Louis is encouraging his son to mature as he advances in life and prepares to succeed his father’s throne. This handing down of masculinity from father to son is a testament of how man naturally and morally embraces manhood and, I argue, provides an atmosphere of civility and morality for the family and community at large.

The Origin of Masculinity

The first time I noticed my son’s masculinity was at birth. He was born with distinctive male characteristics that established the foundation of how I was going to raise him, first as a child of God and second in his natural identity as a man. This maturation process would involve both moral and physical growth that would help my son know and understand his masculine traits. Moral identity was first and foremost what my wife and I stressed in raising our son and our children who followed. This aspect of child development was vital for our son to receive and witness during his early years of cognitive development.

With that said, my wife and I had slightly different approaches on how to raise our first born. My wife: to raise a good and moral son. Mine: to raise Maximus from the movie Gladiator. All kidding aside, both of our approaches parallel and complement each other. Each method proposes the development of a moral, disciplined gentlemen who would serve others before himself and place Christ above all else. These masculine characteristics are quite natural in boys in their development as men and are expressed in a myriad of ways cognitively attuned to the physical, emotional, psychological, and religious development that should take place throughout their lives.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes man as a moral subject by virtue of his freedom to act (CCC 1749). Christ’s disciples have put on a new man created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. By putting away falsehood they are to put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander (CCC 2475). The premise of these two articles identifies man as a moral subject calling him to a life in Christ. Inherent in the masculine identity is the willingness to protect the dignity of the human person, which at times would require the use of physical strength, and in turn would possibly lead to an outward act of aggression that would be morally justified, e.g., in defending the life of a person in need. This traditional attribute is not an ideology but a natural expression inherent in men. In a sense, behaviors such as discipline, competitiveness, outward physical activity, sacrifice, and bringing calm to a situation are gifts attributed to the masculine trait, where the principle aim is to help a fellow human being. 

Another Sort of Masculinity

Recently the American Psychological Association (APA) came out with their own self-prescribed guidelines on how to suppress traditional masculinity in boys and men that the APA deems harmful. If the theme of these guidelines doesn’t alarm the sensibilities of fathers and men in general, then the premise of their guidelines might. The reason the APA felt compelled to develop guidelines was to assist psychologist, therapists, counselors, and educators to recommend a cognitive restructuring of the basic identity of men and boys to accommodate current social gender mores and models. The APA (pg. 3) defined traditional masculinity as “Anti-feminine, achievement, eschewal of appearance of weakness, and adventure and violence.” What I find intriguing about these claims is how they arrived in developing an obviously narrow definition of traditional masculinity that begs the validity of the research behinds these claims.   

A premise of the APA, I argue, is an attempt to reprogram men to accept a gender ideology that views authentic masculinity as an enemy of social progress. An example of this is how the APA refers to “masculinities” rather than “masculinity” under its first guideline. The APA bases this descriptive on social and cultural norms that would affect how a boy or man would act out his own masculinity. Another example (pg. 6) states the following:

When trying to understand the complex role of masculinity in the lives of diverse boys and men, it is critical to acknowledge that gender is a non-binary construct that is distinct from, although interrelated to, sexual orientation (APA, 2015a). Heteronormative assumptions often falsely conflate sexual and masculine identity for men (Shields, 2008), as well as disregard sexual attraction and gender role adherence for those who identify as a sexual minority, transgender, or gender nonconforming (APA, 2015a; Nagoshi, Brzuzy, & Terrell, 2012).

The gift of authentic masculinity

God did not create man and women with a blurred sense of masculinity and femininity. The specific traits God invested in both genders complement each other in such a visible and distinct way that there should be no question as to the identity of masculine traits exhibited by a man and feminine traits exhibited by a woman. Both are intimate gifts to society that foster stability, unity, and charity when exercised under the proper context of their roles, especially within the development of the family structure. I would argue that the position to convince someone to eschew their natural masculine or feminine traits just so someone else would not feel offended logically goes against the very nature of how society learns to accept, embrace, and understand the development and dignity of the human person. Instead of addressing an issue for what it is, the APA would argue: change the person to alleviate the issue all together. This simply makes no sense. The Catechism I believe places this entire position into great context:     

Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie.

There is a beautiful testament written by St. Louis the King of France to his son around the year 1868 where he calls his son to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart and to keep away from everything that displeases God.