Only a man can be a father. Many people will argue that men and women are basically the same, and can and should do the same things. Essentially they think that members of the sexes can be treated as interchangeable cogs in the ever-spinning wheel of civilization.
But only a man can father—only a man can be a father.
The ideal father protects his children from bad while providing for them what is good, while they grow up. Growing up is the process of learning to distinguish good things from bad things and right choices from wrong choices. Fathers are supposed to teach their children how to do this. Fathers are supposed to help their children develop their ability to master themselves, to tell themselves “no” when they need to.
Good fathers constantly say no. This is how they guide us, guard us, and grow us up. “No” is a good word. Because bad things exist in the world, fathers must say “no” all the time. Our Father in Heaven told us “Thou Shalt Not” about several things. (Consequently, far from resenting the Commandments and the Church’s moral prohibitions, we should love and thank the Good Lord all the more for having told us not to do certain dangerous things!)
But children don’t like to be told no. However, that is often the only way that they can restrain themselves from doing something that they ought not do. It is essential to have a solid background of “no” in order to be prepared for adult life in a law-abiding society. It is imperative for being able to live a faithful Christian life. Fathers who do not teach and train their children to master their desires and whims are tragically derelict in their duty. Sometimes the tragedy is publicly apparent, as can be seen time after time in the news.
You knew this was coming: yes, I am going to argue that it is fatherhood that has been lost above all else in the Catholic faith in the last fifty-plus years. Whether we’re looking at the heartbreaking reality of Catholic men not being spiritual fathers to their children (by not attending Mass with them and not modeling a faithful Christian life), or witnessing the tragedy of our priests and bishops not being directive teachers of the truths (dogmas and doctrines) of the Faith, it is plain to see that strong, manly fatherhood has all but vanished from Catholic life.
Consequently, what we are seeing in our parishes nowadays is equivalent to toddlers running wild around the house, in complete disorder and chaos, because their absentee father allows them to make up their own rules and do things their own way. In no way are they competent to take care of themselves, much less step into a position of authority.
Fortunately and unfortunately, we are all like children to God. And, because of the authority He has given them, we are like children to our priests and bishops, too. A priest should be like a father—a father who says “no.” However, it is rare to see a priest who says “no” in his preaching and teaching to many deeds that the Church teaches is evil. Parishioners often don’t want to be told “no” to cherished sins and favorite false ideas. After all, it is human to want what we want, and to reject anything that tries to dissuade us.
True, and sad, I bring this up because I want each of my readers to understand how important a fatherly “no” is. May each of you value the fatherly shepherds who say the hard things that are not popular, easy, or cool. When you see a father bringing his children to Mass, cheer inwardly and resolve to pray for him and his family. Statistically, his children are likely to persevere in the Faith, and are probably going to be the face of Faithful Catholics of the next generation.
And to any of my male readers who are Catholic—remember that you are called to fatherhood in our Faith in some way, no matter your vocation or state in life. If you have children under your care, train them well. Use the word “no” to grow them strong and self-disciplined. Heaven knows they will need it in this fallen world! If you have no children, or they are all grown, you must use the fatherly “no” to take a stand against disordered politics, errors in your parish, and variously in relationships with family, friends, and coworkers. We must all reject evil—but the buck stops with you gentlemen. With God the Father as your model, stand up for all of us and be a man, be fatherly: say “no.”