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“Be Manly” Catholic Mens Group Divides Croatian Society
The Balkans have become infamous for conflict, and religion has played a role. Yet now, a religious group known as Muževni Budite (Be Manly) is causing a divide within a Balkan nation. While many Western European Union member states have become very secular, the Catholic Church in Croatia still plays a significant role in society, which is concerning for those who want a more secular society in the nation. Currently, 75 percent of Croatians are against the group, while 15 percent support them. Opponents of Muževni Budite are concerned that women’s rights may be restricted if the group gains more support. The group can be described as a reaction to “wokeism” that has been spreading across Europe. The group intends to bring back masculinity, which has allegedly been disappearing from society. The group has attracted attention due to their public prayers, which include kneeling on the ground. The group has also inspired counter-protests which occur while Muževni Budite is assembled in public.
Controversial Views On Women
While European Union member states have varying limitations on abortion, Be Manly members want a complete ban on abortion. Group members also insist that women must dress modestly and refrain from having premarital sex. Critics such as Zvonimir Dobrovic who works with Dominio, a human rights group, are concerned about Be Manly protests being allowed to take place in public spaces due to the messages the group is spreading. At the same time, the first clause of Article 38 of the Croatian constitution states “Freedom of thought and expression shall be guaranteed”.
While at least one priest has independently spoken in support of the group, it appears that the Catholic Church in Croatia does not support the group. Ivica Mastruko who is a well-known sociologist in religious studies in Croatia, is optimistic about the situation and thinks that besides the lack of evidence that the church is supporting the group, the group will not be able to increase its influence.
The organization also rebuffs any claim that it attacks women. An example of evidence they use to prove they are not against women is the fact that they pray to the mother of all women, the Blessed Virgin Mary. The organization accuses left-leaning media of manipulating reality in order to paint members in a bad light. Instead, the group is focused on making better men, fathers, and husbands and being the spiritual authorities of their families. The group’s website has a page entitled “masculinity and fatherhood”. The website also has a page entitled “sports, nutrition, and exercise“, with the last post consisting of a YouTube video produced by a member of the group discussing whether or not Catholics can practice yoga.
While the organized public prayers may be mystifying, the group’s website posted an article earlier this year, in January, attempting to explain their motives. As many media sources have noted, many men in the group can be seen carrying rosary beads during these prayers. This is because the group publicly prays the rosary. The group initially started these public prayers in June 2022 in front of the Zagreb Cathedral. Due to renovation work on the cathedral, the group has had to relocate to Ban J. Jelačić Square. The groups state that they chose this location because it is not only the most important square in Zagreb but in all of Croatia. This gives them the opportunity to consecrate not only the square itself but the entire nation. They register the prayer with the police, and it occurs on the first Saturday of each month. On April 1st, the group not only prayed in Zagreb but organized public prayers in nine other cities; Karlovac, Osijek, Slavonski Brod, Split, Šibenik, Trogir, Vinkoci, Virovitica, and Zadar. The group advised participants to not make statements to the media as fame is not the purpose of the prayer.
Since 2020, Muževni Budite has been organizing an annual conference. The first two conferences in 2020 and 2021 were held online due to the pandemic, but last year’s conference was held in person. The 2023 conference is scheduled for April 29 to 30. Topics covered at the 2023 conference will include: “spiritual formation, spiritual battle, discernment of life’s calling, premarital and marital chastity, love and respect in relationships and marriage, education of children, leadership, and entrepreneurship, exercise and many others”.
While Ivica Mastruko may think that the Catholic Church does not officially support the group, it is clear that multiple priests are involved in the conferences held when looking at the speakers list for the 2021 conference still available on the website and again for this year’s conference. While the Catholic Church in Croatia may not be officially endorsing the group, since several priests are involved, this may help give “Be Manly” a sense of legitimacy. Considering how priests are also considered men of God, it may be difficult for the public to realize that these priests are giving their personal approval of the group’s activities and do not have the authority to provide the Catholic Church’s official position on Be Manly.
While the group is relatively small and a majority of Croatians currently disapprove of it, because it is understood that there is concern about the group, particularly considering how well-organized Muževni Budite is. Besides the website and monthly public prayers, the group is also active on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. While the organization might not like talking to the media, the group has been working to increase its public presence in Croatian society and even outside the nation for those who can understand Croatian. For now, Muževni Budite remains a relatively small group but this can change in the future.
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