The year was 2011 and the Holy Spirit was working overtime on both the long and the short horizons of cause and effect. During the winter the Sierras were pounded with some of the heaviest recorded snow, but in northern New Mexico it had been a dry warm winter and it was about to go up in flames. The Forest Service waved us off from our planned early July expedition so when I told Fr Wilson he seemed resigned to a summer without an expedition. “Not so fast!” I said. “We can always go backpacking up in Colorado.” “Yes” he said, “We’ll spend the week laying the groundwork for the Theology of Masculine Spirituality.”
Colorado received more snow during the winter and wasn’t as dry as New Mexico. At the end of June I was in the La Garita Wilderness with a vocations director and his seminarians working on trails and manhood in the Twin Peaks Creek area. When we finished that hitch, I planned on picking up Father in Denver and we would head out into the Indian Peaks Wilderness for a week in the high Colorado backcountry.
I spent the night in Del Norte, got up early and prepared for a long ride to Denver and a midafternoon rendezvous with Father. Between the decades of the Rosary, sightseeing, coffee stops and restroom breaks I entertained myself with the radio scanning through myriads of meaningless talk shows and music performed by the false heroes of the secular music industry. By ‘chance’, I landed on a station that was broadcasting one of the regional games of the World Cup women’s soccer tournament with the world class U.S. team. The announcers were all men, one of who recently coached the team. I listened for a while. And then I heard the coach say something remarkable, shocking and unbelievable.
“Any good15 year old boy’s traveling team can beat the world champion U.S. women’s team.”
“Did I hear that right?” Yes, and it was quite interesting observing the reaction in my own mind in response to what I had just heard. “Can that be true? I can’t believe they are allowed to say that on the radio. That is really politically incorrect, even if it is true.” Then reason and common sense continued the dialog inside my head; “Well of course it is the truth. You’ve always known that men are athletically superior to women, you just haven’t heard how much. What could possibly be wrong about stating the truth on the radio?” This is the interior battlefield where the corruption of the culture strikes at our heel, enters into the backdoor and corrupts our common sense. And here it was displayed on the screen on my consciousness. This is why the battle for interior integrity is the most important; why Jefferson stated that "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." and Orwell, “In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
In the Denver Airport I waited for Father and saw an athletic young man at the yogurt stand. “Hey” I said to him “did you know that the US Women’s World Cup soccer team can be defeated by 15 year old boy traveling teams?” I watched for his reaction. At first he looked friendly and engaging though I could see that he was wrestling with his thoughts. Finally he peered at me with a look of near anger and disgust “Why you beating up on women, man?” With that he hurried off to catch his next flight, never imagining that I certainly had no intention of “beating up on women”.
While Father waited for his gear coming out of the belly of the beast, I got our Jeep from of the parking lot and drove to the passenger pick up area. In a few minutes we were on the road. “I’d like to stop at a church in Boulder first and see an old priest friend of mine, if you don’t mind?” Father asked. “Not a problem.” I replied, “Maybe we’ll stop in and get a bite to eat somewhere.” And then I added, “Did you know that the US Women’s World Cup soccer team can be defeated by 15 year old boy traveling teams?” “No way!” Father retorted as he looked at me smiling in disbelief. “I can’t believe that is true.” “It is true.” I said. “I just heard it on the radio broadcast of the World Cup women’s tournament. It was stated by a man who used to be the U.S. women’s coach.” Wow! That’s amazing. That’s huge! Who would’ve thought? I wonder why we haven’t heard that before?” “Yeh, I wonder indeed.”
On the way out to Indian Peaks, Father and I stopped at a Catholic retreat center, directed there by the Holy Spirit, where we were immediately greeted and interrogated by a lady named Brenda we nicknamed the Prophetess. “Who are you?” she asked while peering at us over her glasses through grey blue eyes. We told her about Wilderness Outreach and its mission with men. We told her that we were going to spend the next week discussing and laying the groundwork for the Theology of Masculine Spirituality. She leaned over the counter, her demeanor and magnetism pulling us toward her. “We really need that in our Church. Wait here!” she demanded, “I’ll be back!” Father and I looked at one another acknowledging that something was happening that was beyond our planning. In a few moments the Prophetess returned and handed us copy of Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World. “You will need this. I suggest you use this as a starting point for your discussions. This was written by Cardinal Ratzinger.” The Prophetess was looking over a distant forested valley pointing us toward a towering group of unexplored granite peaks, giving us a bearing for a trail that men had just started hewing out of the wilderness.
Father and I spent the next 7 days discussing, musing and debating, what it meant to be a man and how it was different from being a woman. As the campfire died down at night and with the brewing of coffee in the morning; In between Morning Prayer, backcountry hikes, building altars, and the Sacrifice of the Mass, we challenged one another and pushed one another about this important subject. We ventured into scripture and what little we knew of the social and biological sciences. We knew that a lot of work and research was needed in the arenas of faith and science. We knew that the trail of the journey of discovery into the Theology of Masculine Spirituality led through the battle of the science of sex differences and would lead not only to authentic manhood but to the threshold of the feminine genius, where both of us would be ‘strangers in a strange land’.
By October of 2012, to name just a few, I had read JPII’s original Theology of the Body and Fides et Ratio, Podles’ The Church Impotent and Stephen Rhoades’ Taking Sex Differences Seriously. In addition to these I was reading scores of scientific articles and studies by neuro scientists, medical doctors, psychologists, educators, social critics, and feminists, all who have a dog in the hunt.
But something else very important happened in 2012 that allowed for a robust collection of data for the study of the differences between men and women; the Games of the XXX Olympiad. Not the only one interested in this type of data, I stumbled onto Todd Gallaher’s 2008 Olympian Political Correctness and thought it a good short article for our fathers and sons weekends.
One might call Todd Gallagher a modern day George Plimpton. In the mid 2000’s, Gallagher was doing research for a book about professional athletes and the questions their fans have about them. His book would end up titled; Andy Roddick Beat Me with a Frying Pan: Taking the Field with Pro Athletes and Olympic Legends to Answer Sports Fans' Burning Questions. Along the trail of interviews with the athletes and the people who work with them, lying beneath the surface of the media reported athletic culture, he discovered the real burning question and a prickly debate; why were there still such large and enduring differences between male and female athletes? He turned over a few more rocks and found a robust data that showed and reinforced this great discrepancy. The facts revealed that the greatest female athletes in the world are on par with 14 year old boys and by the age of 15 the boys are surpassing them in performance. This was true in track and field, softball, hockey and you guessed it soccer; where the best in the world USA women’s team can beat 13 and some 14 year old boy traveling teams, but by 15 the boys own them. These differences extend into tennis “where the 203rd-ranked male player soundly defeated both Serena and Venus Williams in separate exhibition sets (6-1 and 6-2)”. They continue on into the finesse sports and games of putting, and even into pool where “Jean Balukas — possibly the greatest female player of all time — finished in the middle of the pack in men’s events in the 1980s; and Jeanette “The Black Widow” Lee — formerly the world’s Number One female player — told me, “You would not believe the amount of men, in my world, who can wax me.””
Like a good reporter, he kept following the trail, wondering all along why this wasn’t reported as common knowledge. He discovered Eileen McDonagh of northeastern University and Laura Pappano of Wellesley College, who seemingly oblivious to the mountains of data and results, continue proclaiming that male and female difference are the result of social conditioning. He found Kurt Fischer, an authentic scientist, and Director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, “who has been ridiculed and silenced by his superiors for presenting results that show innate differences between male and female.” On the bright side of things he found women like Cathy Young, a Russian born American journalist, who aptly summed up the strong arm tactics of the champions of gender equity; “There’s a whole establishment that’s invested in perpetuating the notion that there are not inborn differences between the genders athletically, and that any differences can only be attributable to sociological circumstances and societal oppression. They have a clear agenda to empower women through a distorted notion of equality but these people are saying things that are completely out of touch with biological reality.”
Unfortunately, Cathy Young is right. There is a whole establishment that is embracing, teaching and enforcing the lie of gender equity. These false ideas are assumed correct, pronounced by the media, taught in our public and private schools K-20, and enforced by local, state and federal agencies. As a result millions of people unconsciously accept these false premises as true and when the truth of reality shakes them out of their soma, a defensive, irrational and emotional reaction wells up from inside their confusion bursting out in some irrational primal scream.
On a Saturday evening in October the father and son teams were responsible for reading Gallagher’s article and reviewing the results and differences between men and women in the 2012 Olympics. It was a brisk clear night in a densely wooded ravine in the Ohio backcountry. We were tired and satisfied. We had spent the day clearing the trails of hardwoods with 100 year old crosscut saws. When I looked across the campfire I could tell that the young men were engaged in the subject and eating it up. They had never seen the statistics for the athletic differences between men and women. Even in their Catholic school education they had been harassed and pummeled with the unscientific and mythological garbage of gender equity. They knew in their hearts, minds, and bones that it was wrong but until that night they couldn’t put a face with it or a name on it. And then one of the fathers blurted out from his uninformed and wounded masculine being; “Why you beat’n up on women, man?” Not anticipating that response I sat there thinking how I would reply when abruptly his 17 year old son stated with authority; “Dad, you’re arguing like a relativist!” Truly there is reason for hope.