Those of us who gave up biological fatherhood to embrace the counsel of celibate chastity did so fully cognizant that we were giving up a good — and a great good — of standing in the place of God the Father in a created human family. We celibate men stand in a unique position to observe the challenges and the blessings that fathers receive. None of us would be up to the task of living our vocation if we had not been sufficiently “fathered” in our life. All of us, the more we learn and age, see the vital importance of the role of the father, not only in vocations, but also in the practice of religion, and in the the very stability of society at large.
There was a time when fathers were the lords of their households. St. Peter (I Pet. 3:6) approvingly points out that Sara called Abraham “Lord.” That time has ended for the most part. Women are expected to be feminists, and men are expected to be playboys. Feminists got their way in society (which is to become poor imitations of males) by extorting it from morally emasculated men. Men surrendered their lordship to the feminists in return for a life of ease and no-commitment sensual gratification. Abortion, birth control, and other pseudo-sacraments of popular lasciviousness are the quasi-religious rites that surround this dysfunctional marriage of the feminist to the playboy. These pharmaceutical rejections of paternity, and the responsibility it implies, are necessary for the feminist agenda. Without them, the modern woman could not have what she seems to desire the most: the worst of both worlds, that is, modern family life, and a career.
All this is taking its toll in a very tangible way: As of the 2010 census, unwed households outnumber married households. Cohabitation is now more common than matrimony. Currently, the divorce rate in America is around 50%. The age at which couples marry is on the rise, signaling an increasing delay to accept marital responsibilities. The abominable oxymoron of “gay marriage” has been given sanction by six states and D.C., with many other states allowing something analogous to marriage for homosexuals (e.g., “domestic partnerships”).
But what about us? We reject all that, don’t we? We hate these evil standards of the world that hates God and Mary — right?
I hope so. But we can all be affected — and must assume we are, to some degree — by the degenerate world around us. Therefore, let us do what we can and must to restore the pristine image of paternity to its rightful place. This implies a stern duty on men and women, but a duty we must joyfully embrace as a sanctifying and live-giving Cross.
There are many things that men must do to restore the image and reality of fatherhood. Most of them are outlined in the book we’ve recommended numerous times: The Three Marks of Manhood. There are also things that women can do to restore the image and reality of fatherhood. I offer three of these:
- Never — but never — contradict your husband in front of your children. I don’t mean politely correcting a minor error of fact in a way that will not detract from his authority. I mean a flat contradiction. On all matters of consequence, mother and father must strive to cooperate, ironing out disagreements away from the children. No privacy in the home? Go to the car, if necessary.
- But by all means, do not degrade the authority of the father by openly siding with his offspring against him. This is a particularly noxious form of the foregoing, with potentially devastating effects.
- Help your children to see and understand the good things that their fathers do. In the earliest years of your children’s lives, you have a virtual monopoly on their time. If your goal is to be liked more that Dad, you have an unfair advantage. But your goal is to have a good Catholic family, which requires the proper order of things. The more you detract from their father’s authority when the children are young, the more you will foment discontent of varying kinds in their later years. This could include disrespect, and even detestation, of you. The intelligence community refers to this kind of phenomenon as “blowback,” the unintended consequences of a covert operation.
I encourage ladies to consult Colossians 3:18 ff, Ephesians 5:22 ff, and I Peter 1 ff. The holy Apostles Peter and Paul say that a wife must “be subject to” and even “fear” her husband.1 Two millennia of Catholic tradition have not diminished the vigor of these words. Rather, the teachings of the magisterium and the beautiful examples of the saints have served to enhance and illustrate them.
All of the scriptural admonitions toward wives — and the dos and don’ts I’ve just offered — are accompanied by positive and negative obligations on the part of husbands. The demands on them are just as difficult, nay, more: for they are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, which is to say, even unto death.
The Church is a kingdom. Any kingdom made up of matriarchal households is in danger, for the majesty of the king will suffer in the minds of the people. Let us not detract from the Majesty of Christ the King, or of His Eternal Father, by a matriarchal undermining of kingship or fatherhood.
If a young man were to ask me how to pick a good spouse, I would advise him, among other things, to observe how his potential wife treats her father — and how her mother treats him. The behavior she learned growing up will most likely continue into her own marriage. My advice to girls, by the way, is similar.
“For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.” (Eph. 3:14)
- “Fear” here connotes respect and honor, as Christ “fears” His Father, which we know He does because He has the Gift of Fear in His sacred Humanity. ↩