January 29, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Knowledge of basics about parenting and children’s welfare seems to be in short supply today. No less a personage than Pope Francis threw his two cents into the pot saying here that absent fathers are bad for kids (U.S. News and World Report, 1/28/15).
That of course is fine as far as it goes, but His Holiness, like President Obama and countless others who should know better, seems to think the problem comes down to — what? — the fecklessness of men, I suppose.
Pope Francis is urging fathers to be more involved in the lives of their children, warning that many problems adolescents run into can be traced to "absentee fathers" who are physically at home but don’t take time to actually be with their kids.
Really? I’ve been studying parenting and children’s welfare for 17 years and I don’t recall ever seeing a study indicating what the Pope seems to consider a given.
Does Francis know that fathers at home do almost as much hands-on parenting as mothers do? Does he know that they do that despite also doing considerably more of the working and earning in the family? Does he know that those two facts are causing fathers to be under increased stress both at home and at work?
He doesn’t seem to.
For that matter, does he know that fathers are doing that in the face of a worldwide system of divorce and child custody that routinely casts fathers out of their children’s lives in the event of divorce or separation? Does he know the role allegations of domestic violence and child abuse, whether real or imagined, play in those cases? Does he know about the anti-father/pro-mother bias admitted to by many judges and practiced by many more? What about parental alienation syndrome or parental alienation? Maternal gatekeeping? Paternity fraud?
Does he know about the minutiae of the child support system that unambiguously identifies fathers as little but sources of cash for mothers and children? Does he know that support is often set at levels fathers can’t pay or that they’re liable to go to jail when they inevitably fall behind?
Has he seen the seemingly unending stream of sitcoms, dramas, advertisements, etc. that depict fathers as incompetent louts, uncomprehending of the most basic aspects of childcare?
Does the Pope know the basics of how and when children attach to their parents? Does he know that no law anywhere requires a mother to notify the father of his child’s existence so the two can bond? Does he understand the trauma of divorce to a child when, all of a sudden, one parent is removed from his/her life? Does he understand that that sudden deprivation of a loved and relied-on parent is what’s so damaging to children? Does he understand that, against all that’s sensible and good for children, we intentionally separate children from one of their parents, usually their father, millions of times each year?
Finally, does he grasp the fact that, with all that and so much more, every country in the industrialized world sends a clear message to fathers — “You’re not important; you’re not wanted; you’re dangerous and incompetent.”? Does he know that message is sent in so many ways that men cannot help but receive it?
My guess is that the answer to every one of those questions is “No.” But if Pope Francis does know any of those facts, or all of them, I wonder what his Christian love for his fellow humans does with the information. Does it lead him to see fathers as, overwhelmingly, not the absurd and hateful stereotypes we see in popular culture, but as true heroes who daily battle every imaginable enemy to be the fathers they know they can be if the world will only allow it? Does he know that children need both parents?
Maybe we’ll soon see.
Francis acknowledged that his words were "tough" and promised during next week’s catechism lesson to speak about "the beauty of fatherhood."
Somehow I doubt that the Pope will acknowledge the facts stated above, or that his love for humanity will lead him to stand in fathers’ shoes awhile and see the obstacles they face in trying to care for and guide their kids. No, my money’s on the Pope’s message being one of those “tough love” ones like President Obama delivers on occasion. My guess is that we’ll learn from Pope Francis that fatherhood is really a wonderful thing and it’s too bad so many dads don’t care enough to realize the fact.
Again, we’ll see.
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#fatherlessness, #PopeFrancis, #maternalgatekeeping, #paternityfraud, #non-custodialparents