Masculinity and catholicism : the leagues of the sacred heart in Belgium, 1900–1940
From the late nineteenth century onwards, concerns about men’s piety and the alleged incompatibility of masculinity and religion increasingly pervaded Catholic discourse. In order to counter that criticism, the Catholic clergy was willing to develop initiatives to improve and display men’s religious involvement. These Catholic initiatives have received little scholarly attention, and this article therefore focuses on the Leagues of the Sacred Heart for men, an all-male Catholic movement. More specifically, it examines the Belgian Leagues, one of the most successful branches of this male apostolate, and analyses the practices and discourses they adopted to attract a large membership. Focusing on this appeal to men, the article sheds new light on the importance of demonstrative Catholic masculinity and the uneasy fit between a hierarchically structured Church and the ideal of (male) democratic equality.