Cardinal Robert Sarah spoke at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. on May 17, 2016. In his talk, he spoke many truths, including:
“The family is natural preparation and anticipation of the communion that is possible when we are united with God…this is why the devil is so intent on destroying the family. If the family is destroyed, we lose our God-given anthropological foundations and so find it more difficult to welcome the saving good news of Jesus Christ: self-giving, fruitful love.”
Cardinal Sarah also stated:
“.all manner of immorality is not only accepted and tolerated today in advanced societies, but even promoted as a social good. The result is hostility to Christians, and, increasingly, religious persecution. Nowhere is this clearer than in the threat that societies are visiting on the family through a demonic “gender ideology,” a deadly impulse that is being experienced in a world increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism.”
Anyone who believes he or she is beyond the influence of Satan is engaging in a dangerous game of self-deception. Satan has already shown that he is so prideful, nobody is beyond his desires, not even the Son of God (Mt 4:1-11). Satan has focused his attack on the family and for the past century, the most aggressive attack has been on fathers.
Fatherlessness is an obvious problem nationwide. Less than 50% of American children under the age of 18 are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. Over 90% of single-parent homes are headed by a female (this is over 20 million children). When we look at children of single-prent homes and compare their decisions and circumstances to that of children who are raised in a home with a mother and a father, there are startling facts:
• 90% of homeless and runaway children come from single-prent homes;
• 80% of rapes involving violence involve perpetrators who were raised in a single-prent homes;
• 63% of youth suicides involve a victim who lived in a single-prent home;
• 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (14 times the average);
• 71% of high school dropouts lived in single-prent homes;
• 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from single-prent homes;
• 85% of all youth in state operated institutions come from single-prent homes;
• Adolescents from single-prent homes have been found to engage in greater and earlier sexual activity;
• Boys who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely than those in father-present homes to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity ;
• Children of divorced parents experience higher risks for a multitude of problems in the future, including a higher likelihood of getting a divorce themselves.
The grim statistics go on and on. No matter the angle or perspective, children suffer when they are separated from their father. When we talk about this terrible fact, people do not tend to respond with acceptance or a commitment to help the situation. Instead, we are criticized. People allege that we are attacking single-mothers, relegating children of divorce to a lower class and demonizing men who have gone through divorce or fathered a child out of wedlock.
In reality, we are speaking the truth in the face of evil. We also recognize those who have come through without falling victim to all the traps. The fact is a single mom will be much happier if she is united with a loving husband with whom to raise their child. Many children from single-parent homes have done well in school or as a graduate, but it is logical to conclude that this potential would be much greater if the child were raised by two loving and supportive parents. If a father was able to marry or remain married to the mother of his children he could avoid all the stresses and devastation inherent in divorce.
However fatherlessness is not limited to the total physical absence of the father. A child can experience many of the same effects of fatherlessness when the child is raised in the same home as his or her parents. A father’s over involvement to work or other activities can be as significant or nearly as significant as total physical absence. Emotional distance, addictions and psychological issues can be just as destructive.
Within intact families, many households involve a father who is too often inattentive, disengaged and unreliable. In many families who consider themselves Christian, the mother is the primary spiritual leader for the family.
The female spiritual leadership extends beyond the home. Even in Nebraska, where faith is more appreciated and more intentional than many parts of the country, many parish programs, apostolates, activities, events, etc… are supported and led by women. With the exception of Acolytes and altar boys (in the Lincoln Diocese) and the priesthood, all of which are exclusively reserved for males, some parishes are predominantly represented by women. While we need to be thankful that women have picked up where the men have walked away, we must ask ourselves, what would we have if the women would not have stepped in?
Yet, this is not the way Christ designed the Church. The Holy Family was Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Further, Jesus established His Church on Peter and the Apostles as servants to the laity. The North American family of today is looking less and less like the Holy Family and Catholics from coast to coast are asking too many women to step into the role of servant to the laity.
We see a higher level of male leadership in Nebraska families and in our Catholic parishes, but things are not looking as good outside of Nebraska, where Cardinals, Bishops , researchers and others are noting a significant absence of men in the Catholic Church. Cardinal Burke invited harsh criticism when he remarked:
“The Church becomes very feminized. Women are wonderful, of course. They respond very naturally to the invitation to be active in the Church. Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved. Men are often reluctant to become active in the Church. The feminized environment and the lack of the Church’s effort to engage men has led many men to simply opt out.”
Because of the strong leadership of our bishops, clergy and many Catholic families, we have survived many of the pitfalls of the sexual revolution and the deficient catechesis of the 70’s and 80’s in the Catholic Church. In fact, the vocations and ordinations in the Lincoln Diocese and the Archdiocese of Omaha are revered from coast to coast at a time when many much larger dioceses are lucky to see anything close to the vocations and ordinations that we see locally.
This being said, we have not been fully immune to the problems experienced in other parts of the country or the world. Mass attendance is much better in our parishes than in most others across the country, yet we have still experienced a decline.
Nebraska is rich with gifted, dedicated and effective priests and consecrated religious. Our Catholic schools are examples of excellence. When a Catholic school has a priest as its Chief Administrative Officer or Superintendent, has priests and consecrated religious as part of the teaching staff and has a lay staff which adheres to the teachings of the Catholic Church, everyone benefits.
But these things are not sufficient to protect our youth, our families and our faith from the aggressive and relentless assault of Satan. Satan is resourceful, deceptive and cunning. He is using the culture to lure people into his icy grasp and most Americans, some of whom sit next to you in the pews, don’t realize it.
Nebraskans are not immune to Satan’s tactics. The things we see in California, Massachusetts, as well as foreign cities and countries, will happen right here in our cities and towns, our schools and in our homes, unless we learn how to defend our children, our family and our faith.
Who must lead this defense? Men… Even more specifically, fathers. While a small percentage of men have been great inspirations to others and have shown great spiritual and virtuous leadership, they are the exception to the rule. And because the intentional disciples are greatly outnumbered by the lukewarm and the cold, our children see a lot of the bad to go with the good. Our local priests have been powerful models of discipleship for our youth and this has boosted vocations. For some, a devoted and inspiring priest is enough to nurture a lifelong faith. But for others, and I think this accounts for the majority of Catholics, there is a need to see strong discipleship within the laity. Most will agree that in general, men have not excelled in this area for a long time. This has caused a loss of discipleship among the youth, at least those youth who do not receive the call to enter the seminary, convent or religious order.
Nebraskan men have a reputation for hard work, common sense and loyalty to faith, family and country, but we could use a refresher course in what this means in today’s culture. We need to start with our relationship with God.
We have all heard the statistics about how the father impacts the children’s faith in the family.
- If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2% of children will become regular worshippers, and 37% will attend irregularly. Over 60% of their children will fall away.
- If the father is irregular in Sunday attendance and the mother regular, only 3% of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59% will become irregulars. 38% will fall away.
- If both father and mother attend regularly, 33% of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41% will end up attending irregularly. About 25% of their children will end up falling away.
- However, if the father is a regular Sunday attendee but the mother irregular or non-practicing, the percentage of children becoming regular is 38% with the irregular mother and up to 44% with the non-practicing.
Fatherhood is extremely important for the future of the Church and therefore our state and our country. The good news is that there are a lot of men out there who want to be strong fathers. These men are interested in learning more about Jesus Christ. By reading this, you can consider yourself in this class of men.
These men want to be more involved leading their family and being leaders in their community, but some of them struggle to do this because they have not seen an abundance of strong male leadership in all aspects of their lives up to this point. They may have had a father who was an honest and hard-working man, but who rarely talked about Jesus Christ or prayer. They may have had a coach who taught them how to excel on the field or court, but failed to adequately translate that discipline to their life off of the field or court. They may have had a co-worker or boss who expected excellence and dedication when it came to productivity or achievement, but who lived a lifestyle that was inconsistent with the Gospel.
If to all of this we add the lies of our modern culture things look even worse.
- Parents are expected to showcase the successes of their children as though this makes the parents themselves successful.
- All children are either “exceptional” or “equal”.
- Pornography is warping the minds of men and boys.
- Money not only buys you love, it buys you happiness or at least makes life bearable…
Again, I could go on, but you get the idea.
Activists have spent decades convincing American men that we are not actually necessary. The leaders and now the remnants of the sexual revolution have waged a silent war on the family for over 50 years and we are now seeing the culmination of their efforts. Now our government, the entertainment industry, media and business leaders are doing all they can to blur the difference between the sexes, even the sex of children too young to ponder the differences themselves. The medical industry even tells us that it is good to sell the body parts of aborted children. All the propaganda tells us that family is oppressive, men are unnecessary, children are a burden and the body is meant for pleasure. Yet the new version of family presented in the propaganda (homosexual parents, single parents, even polygamous parents) are somehow good…?
The result is a one-two punch from Satan. How can we take the time to talk to Jesus Christ or study the actual teachings of the Church, when we lack role models and are inundated with propaganda designed to confuse, distract and manipulate?
Many young men admit they could be much better husbands and fathers if they could simply get their priorities in order. They just don’t know how to begin and they are constantly told it doesn’t matter.
Cardinal Sarah sees an insidious war on the family in our culture today.
“This is why it is so important to fight to protect the family, the first cell of the life of the Church and every society. It is not about abstract ideas. It is not an ideological war between competing ideas. This is about defending ourselves, children, and future generations from a demonic ideology that says children do not need mothers and fathers. It denies human nature and wants to cut off entire generations from God.”
Note the Cardinal’s use of “demonic” in his speech. This isn’t human ideas vs. human ideas. The assault on God’s design is demonic and you and your family are in Satan’s crosshairs.
David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1996), 19.
The Furthering Fathering Corporation, accessed January 8, 2015. http://furtheringfathering.
U.S. Dept. Justice, What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities? https://www.ncjrs.gov/
Jay Payleitner, 52 Things Kids Need From A Dad: What Fathers Can Do to Make a Lifelong Difference (Eugene: Harvest House, 2010), 17.
John Sowers, Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 36.
Mark E. Strong, Church for the Fatherless: A Ministry Model for Society’s Most Pressing Problem (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2012), 54-55.
Jay Payleitner, 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad: What Fathers Can Do To Make a Lifelong Difference (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2010), 17.
Meg Meeker, M.D. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, New York: Ballantine Books, 2007), 19-25.
Fiona MacCallum and Susan Golombok, “Children Raised in Fatherless Families from Infancy: A Follow-up of Children of Lesbian and Single Heterosexual Mothers at Early Adolescence,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 45, no.8 (2004): 1407-1419. Note: Although this paper attributes most fatherless issues to income and environmental factors, it establishes that there are identity issues in early childhood.
The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel. The study appears in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000.