Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

Facts (US numbers) and comments about the importance of fathers:

"Currently, only one in three children—and only one in five inner-city children—is in a home with a mother and father. Nearly 25 million children live absent or apart from their biological fathers.

“Children who grow up with their fathers do far better—emotionally, educationally, physically, every way we can measure—than children who do not,” notes family researcher David Blankenhorn. “This conclusion holds true even when differences of race, class and income are taken into account. The simple truth is that fathers are irreplaceable in shaping the competence and character of their children... [The absence of fathers] from family life is surely the most socially consequential family trend of our era.”

Indeed it is.

Here are some sobering statistics: According to the Center for Disease Control, Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of the Census, the 30 percent of children who live apart from their fathers will account for 63 percent of teen suicides, 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71 percent of high-school dropouts, 75 percent of children in chemical-abuse centers, 80 percent of rapists, 85 percent of youths in prison, 85 percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders, and 90 percent of homeless and runaway children. In fact, children born to unwed mothers are ten times more likely to live in poverty as children with fathers in the home.

The causal link between fatherless children and crime is “so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime,” notes social researcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. More to the point is the following comment from a counselor at a juvenile-detention facility in California, which has the nation’s highest juvenile-incarceration rate: “[If] you find a gang member who comes from a complete nuclear family, I’d like to meet him... I don’t think that kid exists.”

Concerns about marital infidelity, and the consequences for children, are not new. As Founding Father John Adams wrote in his diary on 2 June 1778, “The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families... How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?”

On this Father’s Day, all of us who have been blessed with children should pause not only to count our blessings, but also to commit ourselves to honoring those attendant obligations every day. We should examine the job we are doing as husbands first, then fathers. As my friend, Father Ted Hesburgh, observed early in his pastorate, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” Consider then the words of William Shakespeare: “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” And of Homer: “It is a wise child that knows his own father.”


Be bold! Be gentle!

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