Amoris Laetitia 176: Absent Fathers

amoris laetitia memePope turns our attention to dad:

176. We often hear that ours is “a society without fathers”.

We hear it. But is it really true? Among Americans, fathers as a whole spend more time with children than their dads spent with them. That said, certain groups do have less father-contact than previous generations. Let’s keep reading Pope Francis, then I’ll chime in. Then y’all can discuss.

In Western culture, the father figure is said to be symbolically absent, missing or vanished. Manhood itself seems to be called into question. The result has been an understandable confusion. “At first, this was perceived as a liberation: liberation from the father as master, from the father as the representative of a law imposed from without, from the father as the arbiter of his children’s happiness and an obstacle to the emancipation and autonomy of young people. In some homes authoritarianism once reigned and, at times, even oppression”.(Catechesis (28 January 2015)) Yet, “as often happens, one goes from one extreme to the other. In our day, the problem no longer seems to be the overbearing presence of the father so much as his absence, his not being there. Fathers are often so caught up in themselves and their work, and at times in their own self-fulfillment, that they neglect their families. They leave the little ones and the young to themselves”.(Ibid.) The presence of the father, and hence his authority, is also impacted by the amount of time given over to the communications and entertainment media. Nowadays authority is often considered suspect and adults treated with impertinence. They themselves become uncertain and so fail to offer sure and solid guidance to their children. A reversal of the roles of parents and children is unhealthy, since it hinders the proper process of development that children need to experience, and it denies them the love and guidance needed to mature.(Cf. Relatio Finalis 2015, 28)

Some of this analysis is certainly true. Many men struggle with self-esteem. I know I have certainly asked myself, “Am I doing it right? Am I doing all I can or all I should?” A few personal observations:

  • In raising a daughter, consultation with my wife has been the most essential. I disdain celebrity parenting. I do read the occasional book. But the personal input from my wife has been invaluable. Parenting is teamwork, optimally. Guys, work the team.
  • Children enjoy the interaction with parents. They might bury themselves in tech, but in my experience as a pastoral minister, especially of college students, the honest engagement of a father is welcomed and needed. Guys, don’t sweat the bumps in a father-offspring relationship.
  • As a society, we have to look at the price public policy extracts from families. The eternal war on terror means that military men are absent for long periods of time from their children. The so-called war on drugs has resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of men. We can argue that war is a necessary evil and drug-addict fathers are worse than nobody. But these policies have an impact on children. Those children are just as innocent as the ones getting cuddled by suburban dads.

Any thoughts on this?

For your reference, remember that Amoris Laetitia is online here.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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