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Shall We Cancel Father’s Day?

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Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ - published on 06/16/15

Why can't we admit that we all need fathers?

There was a time when if you wanted to annoy someone, you could just say, “Merry Christmas!” Now it seems that if you want to get people really upset, you can say, “Happy Father’s Day!”

I say this because of a message I recently received from someone close to me: “Rant for today. I want to publicly thank my husband for being one of the most loving, compassionate and dedicated fathers I know. Today I helped out in the oldest of my two daughters’ first grade class while the kids were making cards and filling out questionnaires about their dads for Father’s Day. Out of 29 kids about 7 could do it without help or getting upset. The poor teacher had to go through questions like ‘Well, how often do you see your dad? Is there an uncle who helps? Well, does your mom have a friend? Is it a man?’ As I helped the kids fill out the sheets there were SO many who obviously had poor relationships with their dads, if any at all. So many children wouldn’t check the box for ‘Dad hugs me’ or ‘Dad plays with me.’ 3 of the kids were shaking and teary eyed. I am overwhelmed with sadness. My husband doesn’t have a 9-5 job. I’ve seen this man come home to have supper with his family, put the girls to bed, go BACK to work and then get up after a few hours to have breakfast with us and take them to school. He’s left meetings to go to a reading of the children’s book, ‘Stone Soup’. He’s seen the movie ‘Frozen’ 700 times. He’s had bows in his hair, glitter on his nails and has made cardboard armor. I got on my knees in gratitude.

Men, please understand how important you are. Kids NEED BOTH of their parents!! Be loving! Be involved!! I was heartbroken. When I told my husband he cried too. I did not expect that so many cultures have inactive dads. One mom said to me ‘Well shame on the school for bringing out an activity that would be hurtful to the kids’ and I said ‘NO! Shame on US for allowing our culture to have broken families!’ I’m gonna go squeeze my kids and write my husband a love note. Rant done.”

Rather than an awkward silence, we need to have an honest, thoughtful, lively and prolonged conversation about men, fatherhood, the needs of children to have both a mother and a father (Pope Francis said that children have a right to both), and the ill effects of growing up without a father (Churchmilitant has a concise summary of those effects). Why might people be reluctant to have that conversation?

If we consider the evidence in favor of the indispensability of the natural family, the role of fathers in the raising of children, and the God-designed goodness of masculinity, then certain cultural forces will be embarrassed or otherwise discomfited. Misandry, the hatred of men as men, is a many-headed hydra. Certain types of feminism, both secular and religious, have nothing good to say about men. Christina Hoff Sommers documents the cultural animus against our boys and young men. Fathers are popularly portrayed as buffoons (“Homer Simpson”) and young men are derided as advocates of “.” The phrase, “male privilege” is often asserted in popular and academic circles, enjoying the status of an unquestioned and unquestionable fact (cogently challenged recently by ). If we take seriously the claim that masculinity is good and fatherhood is indispensable, then the basic claim of popularized gender theory, namely, that gender identity is fluid and ultimately does not matter—must be called into question (as Pope Francis has done repeatedly).

The story I began with about first graders crying when asked about their father’s love is both a snapshot of a vast problem and the sounding of the alarm in response to a catastrophe galloping out of control. Many different forces have conspired against masculinity and fatherhood; countless families and children have suffered physically, emotionally and financially as a result. (See “

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CatholicismParentingPope Francis
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